Category Archives: Family

Video Summer Series Update : The Videos Are Ready!

families

For several months now, we have been letting you know about the Video Summer Series. If you are unfamiliar with what this is (or just need a refresher), here is what we wrote previously:

In our first post, written on December 23, 2013 we shared the “Big News” about the Video Summer Series, letting you know that it would be a series of 10 videos, each 20-25 minutes in length, that would be available for free for congregations to use anytime they wanted. We also released the theme, “Building Godly Families,” and the list of 10 speakers.

In the follow-up post from March 5, 2014 we let you know that the recording of all 10 videos was done and we were entering the editing process. We also shared a few pictures from the two-day recording process.

Today, we are thrilled to let you know that the videos are ready! Thanks to the great work of the Gospel Broadcasting Network, Chad Landman, and Shane Williams, the videos are now ready to be downloaded and viewed.

Keep in mind that all this is free for you to use, thanks to the oversight of the Lebanon Road church of Christ, and generous gifts from other congregations. All we ask is that you register, so we can keep up with how and where these videos are being used.

One common question is, “Do these have to be used for a summer series?” That answer is “no.” While we envisioned that usage (and Lebanon Road plans to use them that way), you can use these videos for any setting you think they will be helpful. We have heard from places that plan to use the 10 videos in a Bible class setting, and another that plans to use them later in the year for a winter series. Feel free to use them however they will most benefit your congregation–but please use them!

To give you an idea of the quality of the videos, we are pleased to present the first one on our blog. You can also see this video on the Video Summer Series website without registering. (The other 9 will be available for free. All we ask is that you register, and you will be sent a code to a private page where the videos will be located. If you have already registered, you should get that information later this week.)

So, enjoy this first video by brother Steve Higginbotham, then head over the Video Summer Series website and register your congregation to use these very helpful and timely materials!

(video not playing? Click here to watch on the Video Summer Series webpage.)

Two Blogs You Need to Check Out, Even Though They are Closed

Lebanon Road is a wonderful place to be. Our members are so kind, and the support given to each other is remarkable.

A couple of years ago, our congregation went through a series of tragedies that could have broken us. However, with faithful elders and an infinitely faithful God, we did our best to work together through a series of heartaches. While I’m certain that not everything we did was “just right,” I think we can say that we did the best we could.

I will not go into too many specifics, but two who were involved in some of these tragedies decided to blog through their grief and healing. The situations were very different, but they both decided to write about experiences, both good and difficult. While the writing styles are different, both reflect a heart that stayed true to the Lord through tragedy.

In recent days, both of them decided to stop their blogs. Though they are friends, they didn’t decide to do this at the same time; it just worked out that way. However, both of the blogs, though there will likely be no new content, are pages I think you should check out.

The reason is simple: by seeing these words, you see into the mind and heart of someone you know. While you may not know someone who is going through a difficulty like these two were, you know someone who is hurting. Getting even a glimpse into a hurting heart can help you be the support that person needs.

Here are the links, and a very short description of the background:

Five Minus One. This blog was written by a mother who had a stillborn child. That son, though he died at birth, is still very much a part of this family, and she shares that through her blog articles. While she writes from her perspective (of course), you will also see the faith of her husband, and the work they did with their daughter, and (now) their newborn daughter. Her grief was (and is) very real, but you will see a lot of joyful breakthroughs in her writing, as well.

Everyone’s Having Babies, but I’m Getting a Divorce. Written by another young adult lady, this page was penned by a woman whose husband simply walked away from their marriage. Her grief, anger, and confusion are found in her many posts. As with the other blog, though, you also see glimpses of hope and joy. Likely, you know someone who has been through divorce or separation, and this page will help you get some idea of what feelings are present–and continually swirling–as they are devastated by this news.

Each of these two sites never held to a “posting schedule,” per se, but they wrote on a fairly regular basis. With the wonders of the Internet, I hope these sites will be available for a long time to come, but in case they are not, I hope you’ll take a little while to check them out and be touched by what these two ladies shared with the world in the midst of difficulty.

It has been humbling to see their faith, but not just on their respective blogs. As one who has had a very (very) small part in seeing them continue to walk with the Lord through their grief, I am honored to call each of them “friend.”

May their tribe increase.

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“Can We Go to His Grave?” : Helping a Child Process Grief

He died a few weeks ago, and we knew his death was coming. He had been ill for some time, and we had both called and visited with him. Of course, it was still sad, and we miss him, but his passing was not unexpected.

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Then, out of nowhere, just a couple of nights ago, our eight-year-old starting crying as she said her nightly prayer to the Lord. Her tears were out of missing this elderly man who always gave her a hug and handed her candy. So far as I know, she hadn’t cried since the day we found out about his passing, but now she was sobbing as she thought about him.

It took nearly an hour for Leah and I to get her calmed down and to sleep. But, in the midst of that crying, she asked both of us, “Can we go to his grave?”

Honestly, I have no idea why this man’s memory suddenly reappeared in her mind, or why it was so strong. I don’t know what caused our daughter to want to travel to his graveside (which we will do in coming days), and even take something there.

But this episode made me evaluate a little bit about how a child processes grief. While I am certainly no expert, here are three things this time of tears made me realize.

1. Every child is different, even in grief. My son cries when someone dies, but then he rarely is emotional beyond that initial news. Our daughter, though, will sometimes cry at a funeral, or (as we found out the other night) several days beyond. Both are okay, because every child is different and will process grief in a different way.

2. Children have very strong memories. Most of us know that, but sometimes those memories “come out” at seemingly random times. There was no reason (that we can think of) why our daughter would be so touched on that night by this man’s memory, but something obviously brought his life to her little mind. We need to let a child remember.

3. Comforting a child is difficult. When a faithful Christian passes away, it is not that difficult for an adult to find great comfort in the fact that the individual is at rest and in the hands of God. While we still hurt due to our loss, we can grasp that concept and find peace there. Not every child can “get” that, at least not to the same level. For most children, they just know they hurt, and it is difficult to find the words that will bring peace. Sometimes, it’s not words; it’s lots of hugs.

This night also made me remember something as a minister, and that is that I need to pay special attention to children at funerals. Sometimes, they get lost in the shuffle, and they could use a hug or kind word.

QUESTION: What are some things you can share to help a child who is trying to process grief? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Photo background credit: Steven Depolo on Creative Commons

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10 Things You Can Do to Start a Family Devotional Tonight

One of our most popular posts of the last few months was also the longest. It was a transcript of a lecture I gave at the annual Bible Lectureship at Freed-Hardeman University. The post, which can be found here, shared many practical things to keep in mind for leading a family devotional.

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But maybe you are still on the fence. Maybe you know you need to start a family devotional, but you are still afraid of actually making that first step.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be a giant leap!

No matter the age of your children, there are several things you can do that will get the ball rolling on making the family devotional a regular part of your life at home. Just to help you get started with ideas, here are 10 that you can do tonight with little (if any) preparation. Just pick one and have your first family devotional tonight!

1. Read the Bible. No, not all of it in one night. But pick a favorite Bible story, or choose to read through a book over the course of a few nights. Currently, we are reading the entire New Testament (a chapter or two at a time) for the Parade of Winners event at Lads to Leaders, but you can choose to read something much shorter.

2. Memorize a verse (or two). Pick one you already know, but help you kids memorize a great verse. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great one to start with. Spend 5 or 10 minutes each night for the next week memorizing this passage together. Maybe start a “verse of the week” devo idea, and you’ll learn 52 (or more) each year, as a family.

3. Reuse Bible school materials. If your children regularly attend Bible classes, chances are you have drawings, coloring sheets, or even crafts lying around that go relatively unused. Use them! Let your kids talk about the Bible story again, then read the Biblical text that goes along with it.

4. Have on object lesson. What spiritual things come to mind when you look at a table? A television set? A door? A salt shaker? Simply pull out an object and talk about how that thing makes you think of God, Christ, the church, or some other spiritual concept. What a great way to help your child look at the whole world through the eyes of eternity.

5. Take a creation walk. Instead of walking just to “get fresh air,” go out and talk about the wonders of God’s creation. Let your kids pick up leaves, creepy-crawlies, or whatever else and talk about how wonderful it is that God made everything with purpose and design…including the feet you are walking on!

6. Make a prayer list. Let your kids help you come up with some things to thank God for, some people they know are hurting, and other things that are on the hearts of your family. Spend serious time in prayer, and make sure to mention–specifically–the people, events, etc. your children listed.

7. Have a service night. Kids love activity, so why not make your devotional all about serving others? Raid your pantry and make some gift baskets to take to a neighbor’s house. Create some cards out of cardstock for a church member who is sick. Spend the time showing your kids how to make a phone call to someone who is ill or hurting.

8. Sing. Family devotionals are a perfect time to not only sing the songs your kids love from church, but to instill in them the wonderful old hymns of the faith. You don’t even need a songbook. Just open up and sing a handful of favorites, praising God together.

9. Play a simple Bible game. There’s no need to buy one, either. Make it up. Ask trivia questions and let the kids move across the rug with each right answer. Or grab a sheet of paper and play a version of Hangman with short Bible phrases.

10. Make Bible art. Let the children draw their favorite Bible story, or create a sculpture out of Play-Do of something from Scripture they love. Then discuss this together, reviewing the Biblical text to help everyone remember all the details of the story.

By the way, did you notice that none of these things costs a dime? These are all things you can do tonight with little-to-no preparation and you don’t need any money. All you need is the dedication and courage to step up and start your very first family devotional.

Will you?

QUESTION: What are some other easy ways to start your very first family devotional? Share some suggestions in the comments!

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Photo credit: Jeff Noble on Creative Commons

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Everyone Pitches In : Why Work Isn’t Bad for Your Kids

Last Saturday was beautiful. The weather was gorgeous, and we actually had a day at home. So, we took advantage of it all and planted our garden. We had prepared the ground earlier, but it still took about 2 hours to get everything in the ground. (Now if we can just keep it alive…)

everyone pitches in

You may have noticed the use of the word “we” in that opening paragraph. That “we” was not just Leah and me. It was all four of us. The kids pitched in at times, too, and helped us get several different kinds of veggies in the ground.

Now, some people read that and are considering calling the authorities on us. Yes, we made our kids use tools like a hoe or trowel. Yes, we made them help dig holes in the dirt. Yes, we made them place seeds or put plants in the holes. Yes, we made them help us water everything when we were done.

Were they great at it? Nope. Did they want to quit? Quite a few times. Did we get frustrated with them? Of course. But they worked, and we think it was good for them.

Some may ask, The kids work? Why would we do such a thing to our kids?

It’s because they are part of a family, and we refuse to allow them to not learn what it means to contribute to the overall success of our home.

Far too many children just get everything, and mom and dad spend every waking moment at the beck and call of their children. Meanwhile, the kids contribute nothing to the home.

Don’t believe me?

Check your family calendar. How many evenings and/or weekends are spent running your children from one of their activities to another, while you are exhausted from working to provide the fuel, registration fees, uniforms, meals, etc. for all these trips?

Open the closets in your bedrooms. While I do think kids need nice clothing (and modest clothing for sure!), how many of the clothes in their closet are there just because the kids “got tired” of what they had, so we bought them something else to appease them? Oh, and they didn’t pay a dime toward the purchase.

Take a little tour of the bedrooms, playroom, garage, and yard. It might be eye-opening to see the amount of “stuff” your children have that they don’t play with or use, and have never shown real gratitude for, even though they didn’t pay for it. And what are mom and dad doing? Often, they are already budgeting for the next toy.

In reality, having our children pitch in is helping to grow in gratitude and humility. We do not have to run a boot camp to help them in this area, but just giving a child whatever he/she wants certainly doesn’t help things. A few chores and other ways to help around the house instill the right kind of pride in their young heart.

So, look around your house. What have you just been doing instead of “letting” (making!) the kids help with? Make it age-appropriate, but challenge them. At the least, they can clean off the dinner table, straighten their room, and do other daily tasks like these.

Or…you can have a garden!

QUESTION: What are some tasks your children help with around the house that build character in their young lives? Share your suggestions in the comments!

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Photo credit: Oatsy40 on Creative Commons

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A Bad Marriage is Overlaid with Good Intentions

Okay, so the title of this post isn’t as catchy as “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” but it gets the point across.

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It is easy for a marriage to have a shiny exterior, where everyone on the outside thinks things are just fine. Under the smiles, though, there is rottenness and bitterness at every turn.

Your marriage may not be that negative, but it could be headed that way. How? Too often we can talk about what we “intend” to do with our spouse, but we don’t do it. All those intentions, without action, could be rotting the inner strength of the relationship.

Now, I’m not talking about something that costs a ton of money, or that both of you know you simply cannot do in this season of life.

Instead, I’m just talking about some fairly simple things, but ones that so often get pushed down the road out of a time-crunch, disinterest, or a simple lack of care.

What would be some of those things?

I know I should take my wife out on a date, but we’ll get to it one of these days. Right now, we’re just too busy.

We have talked about going on a marriage retreat with the church group, just for a tune-up, but that’s for people who really need help.

It’s been a long time since I cooked his favorite meal “just because,” but it takes so much effort to put that meal together.

My son has a dozen ball games this season. I’ll get to one eventually.

I’ve got all the time in the world to go on a date with my daughter.

I know he likes it when I wear that to bed, but I’m just so tired at the end of the day.

We would start family devotionals, but we take the kids to church. Isn’t that enough?

She knows I still love her. I don’t see the use in getting her flowers (or a candy bar, cup of coffee, etc.) so often. After all, we’re trying to pinch our pennies.

Do you see how these things are not “big” items, but how they can reveal an inner problem in the marriage? We’d like to do them…sometime. We’ll get to it…someday. It’d be nice to…but…

And all the while, our marriage is not as strong as it should be, and we can’t figure out why.

Let’s quit having good intentions, and let’s do something! Show her you don’t just intend on doing something for her, but that you are doing something for her. Show your children your love and care by actually doing something with them. Show your husband your respect for him by doing something you’ve intended to do, but haven’t done.

It may not seem like a big deal, but it will help your marriage not just look good from the outside. It will help the inside of your home be truly strong.

QUESTION: What’s something you need to quit “intending” to do and start doing? Share in the comments!

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Photo credit: Courtney Dirks on Creative Commons

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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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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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