Good news about church marriages and why

Church wedding

Contrary to some reports, a careful review of marriage statistics by a Harvard trained researcher, Shaunti Feldhahn, has good news about church marriages.  It reports that the divorce rate for people who practice Christian faith together regularly may be as low as 15-20%.   For those who also did not co-habit before marriage, the rate may be as low as 5-10%.    It makes a huge difference if we practice our faith together by attending services regularly.   Here’s the link.

http://www.charismanews.com/us/44398-church-divorce-rate-way-lower-than-anyone-thought

Why might this be so?  Here are a few of my ideas.

  1.  Submitting ourselves weekly to God’s Word read and expounded and participation in personal and cooperate prayer gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to whisper in our minds and hearts the little corrections and admonitions that we need to help us to love one another well.  Proper Christian worship combats pride, selfishness and materialism/greed/sensuality.
  2.  The group atmosphere and the teachings affirmed by Christian churches shape our personal values in the direction of solving our marital issues,  valuing our spouse,  learning to say ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I love you,’ and other such skills that strengthen relationships.  In short, the Bible teaches us to love.
  3.  Relationships within the community provide friendships, often assist in life’s stressful crises and model marital success.
  4.  Often pastoral care and coaching from church staff or trained lay persons is valuable to individuals or couples going through hard times.
  5.  The marital success stats of Christian couples are more evidence that God lives in and among his people.   God is with us!  God is blessing his people with peace.  The first fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence is love (Gal. 5:22).

 

Having a Mom and Dad is best for children

Research has repeatedly shown that children of same sex relationships are at much greater risk in so many ways.  Here is one of the more recent and largest studies to come up with that result.     As a corollary, helping Mom and Dad keep together and do well as a couple needs to be one of the goals of the church’s ministry.    If heterosexual marriage were doing better as an institution,there would be much less gender confusion in our culture.

“A new study published in the February 2015 issue of the British Journal of Education, Society, and Behavioural Science appears to be the largest yet on the matter of same-sex households and children’s emotional outcomes. It analyzed 512 children of same-sex parents, drawn from a pool of over 207,000 respondents who participated in the (US) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) at some point between 1997 and 2013.

Results reveal that, on eight out of twelve psychometric measures, the risk of clinical emotional problems, developmental problems, or use of mental health treatment services is nearly double among those with same-sex parents when contrasted with children of opposite-sex parents. The estimate of serious child emotional problems in children with same-sex parents is 17 percent, compared with 7 percent among opposite-sex parents, after adjusting for age, race, gender, and parent’s education and income. Rates of ADHD were higher as well—15.5 compared to 7.1 percent. The same is true for learning disabilities: 14.1 vs. 8 percent.”   from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14417/

 

 

An excellent essay opposed to gay marriage

From the pen of Pastor Jim Garlow, a Wesleyan pastor from California, and now a national leader in the battle to preserve Biblical values in our country, comes a tremendous essay explaining the consequences of the state’s adoption of gay marriage.  I highly recommend it.  It is one of the clearest statements I have read concerning the reasons why states should not allow gay marriage.  I agree whole-heartedly with Dr. Garlow.   I have heard him speak several  times and read some of his writings.  He is an absolutely brilliant historian as well as a great pastor. 

http://torenewamerica.com/index.php/garlow-on-the-prop-8-ruling

Book recommendations for marriages in troubled times

Last Sunday I finished the series of sermons called Kitchen Table Talks on Relationships.  As I was studying for the series and reviewing various sourcebooks, I was thinking about which ones to recommend to couples who were going through difficult times in their marriages.   My wife and I know from personal experience that marriage is not always easy. But we also know that with God’s help, and determination to see it through, couples can come through rough waters with a better marriage than before.   To help couples who are currently in those tough moments, here are three book recommendations.   

Making Love Last Forever by Gary Smalley (Word Publishing, 1996)  In this easy-to-read book, Dr. Smalley handles some difficult topics such as unresolved anger, deep hurts,  disappointed expectations,  marital communication and personality differences with insight and Christian wisdom.  Taking his advice seriously will help couples get back on track.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work  (Three Rivers Press, New York, 1999)  This is a different kind of book, an extremely practical and behavior-oriented book in which the author shares his research in predicting divorce and helping couples avoid it. He describes how he predicts whether a marital conflict will resolve the problem 96% of the time after only listening to 3 minutes of it.     I was skeptical until I began to read the signs he looks for, one of which is the presence of the deadly four horsemen:  criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.   I knew from personal experience with couples and from other reading that he was being very insightful and his work would be helpful.   

Fighting for Your Marriage by Howard Markham, Scott Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg  (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1994)   This book has become a classic for its description of four negative patterns that are very harmful in a relationship, patterns that must be avoided if marriages are to be healed. The authors describe the patterns well including case study examples, explanations, and practical advice as to how to change the pattern.  The four specific patterns are escalation, invalidation, withdrawal and avoidance, and negative interpretations.  When these patterns are present in the emotional interaction in a marriage they are very destructive and need to be fixed in order for the marriage to recover. This book can be very helpful in eliminating these four patterns.

Recommended Books on Respect in Relationships

In this morning’s Kitchen Table Talk about Relationships, JoAnne and I discussed how important it is to respect other people.   The apostle Peter wrote us in the key verse for the morning, “Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17 NIV).   I was asked after the message about the books I recommended.   So I thought I would list them here on my blog.  I know they each one will be helpful to anyone who reads it.

Recommended Books on Respect in Relationships

Author(s)

Title

Publisher

Emerson Eggerichs

Love and Respect

Thomas Nelson,  2004

Gary Smalley and John Trent

The Gift of Honor

Thomas Nelson, 1987

Gary Smalley

Making Love Last Forever

Word, 1996

 

 

July sermons will be about relationships

Marriage has so much potential yet most marriages also experience a good deal of pain on the way to forging a better way.    What are some typical causes of this pain?  What can be done to bring healing and find lasting satisfaction and love?   I just finished planning the series for Sunday messages in July.   When I was at family Camp earlier this week, I felt led to focus on human relationships especially marriages during this month.   Since marriage is something we don’t do alone, we need the input of our spouse to get a well-rounded perspective.  I have invited my wife to join me on the platform for this series for Kitchen Table Talks about Relationships.   Like most couples, we’ve had our up’s and down’s in 42 years of marriage.  Our hope is that we have learned some perspectives that can be helpful to others.    I invite you to join us for this series.

Kitchen Table Talks about Relationships

Date

Title

Text

A Suggested Hymn

July 8

Respect is Essential

1 Peter 2:11-3:8  

Make Me a Blessing (389)

July 15

Dealing with Our Anger  

Eph. 4:25-31

What a Wonderful Savior (531)

July 22

Understanding Personalities Helps

Romans 12

I’ve Found a Friend (521)

July 29

2nd Mile Living 

Matthew 5:38-48

Spirit of God, Descend…(86)

A well-written and thoughtful article on religion and politics

It isn’t every day that you run into one of those.  But this definitely is one.  The distinctions it draws between separatism, fusion, and critical engagement are well thought out and wise.  If only more Christians understood the need to be critically engaged in the current debates in our country!

http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/123701709.html

Continue reading “A well-written and thoughtful article on religion and politics”

My Results of Fasting and Prayer through Pray & Act

I have been participating in the national Pray & Act emphasis led by Jim Garlow and Chuck Colson.  October 30 marked the formal end of this forty-day fasting and prayer effort on behalf of sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage and religious liberty.   While some key leaders such as Jim Garlow were on a liquids-only fast for the entire 40 days, everyone was asked to fast in some way as health requirements and God’s leading dictated.   Daily emails and attached video clips have edified and inspired participation.

Prayer & Action

My fasting commitment was one 32-36 hr fast (water/apple juice/tea only) per week.    I have completed that and have decided to continue it until the week before Thanksgiving.  I have not talked about my fasting, but have decided I needed to write about it for an example. Other actions included signing the Manhattan Declaration, praying much in public and private about marriages and our country, becoming more knowledgeable on political candidates, blogging about issues such as sanctity of life and sanctity of marriage, standing up in the annual Life Chain demonstration, speaking for the causes in public messages and prayers, and voting with them in mind tomorrow, God willing.  

Deeper Renewal

I have found some things happening that I did not expect from my prayer and fasting commitment.   First, I have felt a greater closeness to God in prayer and a stronger identity with his cause in the world.  At the same time, I am hungry for more of Him.  Second, I have found myself praying more at times that were not particularly scheduled times of prayer – just talking to God about the issues on my heart – crying out to him for needs that came to my attention or that were impressed upon me to pray for.   Third, I noticed as I and we as a congregation and people across the nation prayed for God to uphold the sanctity of marriage in our nation, God moved mightily during these forty days to expose deep needs in marriages in our own church.  We felt the fruit of this overall effort.  I have had multiple opportunities for counsel and correction.  These are opportunities for me but especially for the couples involved.  That is one reason I am continuing the fast.  I see the need for much more healing of relationships by God’s power.  I believe this period of prayer and fasting was a big part of why these breakthroughs are happening.   God is answering prayer for the sanctity of marriage.

Why I Signed the Manhattan Declaration (Sep 8, 2010)

 

Today I decided to sign the Manhattan Declaration.   The time has come for Christians to speak out strongly in unison about these values that are essential without clouding the picture with denominational exclusives and sub-culture preferences.   I was very drawn also to the way the declaration’s preamble linked the causes we are speaking out about today to some of the high moments in the history of Christianity.  Indeed, when I sign it, I do have a sense that I am standing in the greatest strands of Christian tradition.

I signed, first of all, because the three causes are ones with which I wholeheartedly agree.

  1. Every human life is a creation of God from conception and is to be respected as such.   As the Psalmist writes, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps 139:13-14 NIV).  Every day God gives us until our natural death is a gift of God, and comes to us with “good works prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).   This is the Christian way and has nothing to do with country or politics.  Its truth stands prophetically opposed to any government at any time in history that covers its hands in violence and bloodshed, whether obviously or more silently by implication.
  2. Marriage is defined as a covenant union of one man and one woman for life.   It cannot be defined otherwise and be the same product.   It began in the Garden of Eden.    It was blessed by Jesus with his own presence in Cana.    It is a covenant that God uses to illustrate the relationship of Christ to the church (Eph. 5:25-32).   It has been under assault for years and now is in critical danger of official redefinition.  I believe that Christians need to stand together in the way they live, and pray about and stand up for the Bible’s idea of marriage.
  3. Lastly, religious freedom is a precious gift that came to us in our country because so many from so many different faiths were part of our fledging nation in its beginning.    They recognized that freedom of conscience was a divinely assumed parameter of Scripture.   So they made it a pillar of our system of government.   Today it is under direct attack by the “politically correct” crew.    What is not being made clear in our country today is that our Christian faith is the only safe foundation for our freedom.   Other great world faiths have not resulted in the potential for tolerance of diverse faiths that American Christianity has.   We need to recognize that preserving our Christian heritage is essential to the continuing of our freedom of religion.  

 

These three causes truly need our support today.

I do not need to repeat the work of the declaration.   But let me add that in my work as a minister of the gospel, I have seen the decline of marriage from several angles.  It is frightening.   Divorce is more frequent.   Promiscuity is a way of life especially among many twenty-something’s.  More and more children are born outside of marriage.   The number of marriages I have personally been asked to perform has fallen steadily over my years of ministry.   Today, many want to teach an outright falsehood by suggesting that somehow homosexual unions are the same as heterosexual.    If they were, why do homosexuals often imitate the heterosexual pair?  If they were, why don’t statistics concerning happiness come out equally well?   And today, we are in danger as pastors of not being able to say how we feel about that subject and others as has already happened in Canada.   This is just one reason why we need to speak out in defense of religious liberty. 

The success of these causes will require a unity across all brands of Christian faith.

It is high time that we became more creative in answering Jesus’ prayer for our unity.  “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn 17:23 NIV).   I think all of us recognize that part of the reason for the powerlessness of the church in today’s world is its divisions.    To take one small example, if a media person wanted to call someone to represent the church on a given issue in a given city, who would they call?   The truth is, we couldn’t even advise the media what to do ourselves.   There are probably three ministerial associations at least; and the largest churches are often not even represented in them.  No wonder we have so little voice.   So the Manhattan Declaration gives Christ’s Church a chance to come together across all those artificial lines and speak out with one voice.  I want to be part of that.  

You can speak out too.

If you have been impressed to check up on the Manhattan Declaration with a view to joining in yourself—and I hope you have—I have added the website to my blog roll.  The sign-in process is simple.  You do not have to join the community to sign the declaration.   Let’s work together to stand up for truth!