Is cohabiting for Christians?

According to the 2010 census, approximately 45% of the households in America are unmarried. Since 1960, the number of cohabiting couples has increased by 10 times. In fact, today, most couples who get married have cohabited first. Sadly, this trend is also reflected in the Christian community. On any Sunday, our churches are filled with couples who live together as husband and wife who are not married. It seems that most of us are confused about the spiritual realities of this way of life. Obviously, these are people who need to be welcomed into God’s house and shown the love of Christ, however when we don’t teach them the biblical truth about God’s standard of marriage and sexuality, we imply that their lifestyle choice is acceptable in God’s sight. This leads to normalizing cohabiting as an acceptable lifestyle practice within the church. So, I hope to lay out a clear, concise reply to this growing problem.

Most cohabiting couples I have spoken to offer several reasons for their choice to forego marriage. Each one is based on human logic or emotional pain from an ugly divorce. Their general attitude stems from several thoughts including, “How is a piece of paper going to make my relationship better?!” or “ I did the marriage thing and it was too painful for me to tie myself to someone else again!” or “I saw what my parents went through when they divorced so I want to test the waters first and make sure we can make it in marriage before we get married.” and finally, “ God knows my heart and He loves me unconditionally so He is ok with it.”  However, the all important question is, “ Can a person be in a right relationship with God and cohabit at the same time?”

At this point, it is tempting to discuss the history of events leading to this trend, statistics that verify that this is a faulty and risky plan, and logical arguments for marriage and against the idea of cohabiting, but those don’t address the real concern. The real concern is how God views this lifestyle. Is He really ok with it? Does He care? Is He indifferent? Does He just love and accept us unconditionally no matter how we live our lives or are there consequences for violating His commands? The only answers that matter are found in His Word… the Bible.

Making Positive Change

This week, I want to encourage you to embrace positive change in your life and family. It seems that we tend to resist change and stubbornly insist on holding onto to our comfortable patterns of life. We are often “stuck in a rut”. I once heard it said that a rut is really a grave with the ends blown out. Being stuck in a rut is not a good thing. Life requires change. Our marriage relationship requires change. Our relationship with our children requires change. When we resist positive change, we are hurting ourselves and those we love.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new.” As followers of Jesus, we should expect to always be in a constant state of growth and change as He transforms us. Galatians 5 gives us a listing of the the characteristics that define the old person who lived according to the flesh, as well as a list of the characteristics of the new person who is living in step with the Spirit. So, as we pass through life, we should be always seeing ourselves better and abandoning the ways of the flesh to be more in step with the Spirit. This requires change.
In order to be a better marriage partner, we need to change. In order to be a better parent, we need to change. In order to mature as a follower of Jesus, we need to change. So, when we insist on staying in our rut and refuse to embrace change, we are hurting ourselves and those we love.
This week, I want to think about the components of positive change and how to navigate through change. The first step in change is to

Putting Strife out of your Home

This week, I want to encourage you to put strife out of your home. Strife is a destructive force that seeks to enter and poison all human relationships. Strife is the seedbed of conflict and it can destroy relationships. Strife includes competition where one is always trying to prove that they are better than another. This proving involves put downs, criticisms, complaining, and a hesitation to forgive. Strife originates from pride and insecurity. A person who works in strife is often referred to as being contentious. This simply means that this person is difficult to get along with and is constantly stirring up fights and arguments. This word also carries the idea of debating and arguing one’s case as a lawyer would do in a court of law. So, a person who is contentious is one who is prone to arguing and debating for long spans of time in order to win their argument, prove their superiority, or simply gain a place of power over someone else. The contentious person is always in an argument with someone.
Strife is a powerful force for evil in the world. Strife can destroy marriages, break apart families, destroy communities, ruin churches, or even tear apart nations. Worst of all, strife can open the door for every kind of wickedness and confusion and prevent us from experiencing God’s blessing in our lives.
Disagreements and even arguments are an inevitable part of family life, but we need to be very careful how we handle these. If we are not careful, strife can set up residence in our homes and create destructive patterns. We need to be careful how we handle our thoughts and emotions.
The Bible is filled with warnings about strife, commands to avoid becoming contentious, and guidance on how to overcome this enemy of all that is good. This week, we will take a quick overview of this important subject.

Develop a Culture of Love in your Family

This week, I want us to think about the importance of creating a culture of love in our homes.
In Matthew 24, Jesus stated that at some point lawlessness would grow in intensity and the love of many would grow cold. I believe that as followers of Jesus, we need to be intentional and deliberate in our pursuit of love. When you think of this warning by Jesus in terms of the measure of real faith spelled out in 1John 3:14 which tells us that love is the evidence of authentic faith, we need to be vigilant about growing in love. It seems that Jesus was warning us that when lawlessness and offenses grow, we are in danger of allowing our love to grow cold and callous. I’m not going to list all the growing evidence of lawlessness, offenses, and injustices… I think those are self evident. I want to focus on encouraging you to guard and grow love in your heart and home.
I think the place to start is by thinking about love vs hate. In 1 John 4, we are told that God is love. Everything in the Kingdom of Heaven works by love. Love is the core principle of God’s Kingdom. The Bible refers to it as life.

Handling Conflict

This week I want to explore some ideas that will be helpful in dealing with conflict in marriage and preserving unity.
Conflicts are a natural part of life because everyone approaches life a little differently. So, first of all, I want to dispel the false idea that conflict means that you married the wrong person and the solution is to go out searching for the right person. This is a very prevalent idea that is destructive and very wrong. When two people live together sharing every aspect of life in a lifelong commitment, conflicts will arise. The solution is not the fantasy of a life that is so ideal that conflict is absent, but rather learning how to handle conflicts constructively.
Have you noticed that conflict between married couples is a major topic of comedy in our culture? Stand up comics like Tim Allen have made a fortune from talking about marriage conflict. My goal this week is to help us learn to approach conflicts in a more healthy way.
When we distill most conflicts down to their basic form, we find two people who have opposite ideas about something and each is convinced that their idea is best and that the other idea is not best. This quickly transforms into a debate over which one is

Staying Together through the Storms of Life

This week, I want to talk about strategies that will help you hold your marriage together when the circumstances of life are pulling you apart.
First of all, I want to remind you that marriage is God’s gift. I know that during especially stressful times, it can become difficult to remember that. God gave marriage to humanity for several reasons:
Marriage provides the security that lasting love brings. All of us need to be loved and understood. Marriage is intended to meet that need in a secure way that is lifelong.
Marriage provides companionship that helps us overcome loneliness. God created us with a need for a close companion to share life with. We need someone who will know us deeply and accept us completely. Marriage is God’s answer to that need.
Marriage provides someone to help us through life. Life is difficult and challenging. God created marriage to provide someone we can count on to help us through life.
Marriage provides someone to help us grow as disciples of Christ. Marriage is the ultimate environment for spiritual growth. As marriage partners, we see each other more fully than anyone else does. We see each other’s flaws, weaknesses, and strengths. We can pray for our mate when he or she is struggling. We can remind him or her of God’s promises during times of fear and doubt. Most importantly, we can help him or her get up and start over after they fall.
God intended that marriage would provide someone to meet your emotional, relational, and physical needs.
My wife and I have been married nearly 37 years and we have travelled through many seasons of life. When we first got married, we were very naive, thinking that we could face anything we encountered with ease because of our love for each other. However, we soon discovered that life can throw you some challenges that make you feel like you are being ripped apart. In these times we learned

Planting Generosity in the hearts of our children

I want to talk a little about cultivating an attitude of generosity in our families. Our culture is saturated with a constant desire for the latest and greatest thing that will supposedly bring us real joy. We stand in line for the newest devices or video games when there is nothing wrong with what we have. The truth is that if we aren’t careful, our clamoring for the newest thing will prevent us from participating in the a practice that brings real joy … generosity. When we are generous, we are imitating the nature of Jesus who generously gave His life so we could have our sins forgiven and be rescued from slavery to sin. Generosity has the power to change a life and set that life on a new trajectory. Generosity has the power to release us from selfishness. Generosity has the power to change groups of people and whole communities. All of these possibilities lie hidden within you and me and our children! Let’s determine to become intentional in releasing generosity to see what God can do through it!
Proverbs 11:24&25 say: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more;another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”.
I recently read this story. There was once a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won first prize. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned the farmer’s strategy for growing winning corn. What was it? Simply this: the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why” said the farmer, “don’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.
The first step in developing a lifestyle of generosity is

Teaching our children to respect others

I want to spend some more time considering qualities to instill in our children. It is crucial for us as parents to notice when teachable moments arise and seize upon them to instill valuable life lessons in our children. It is so easy to get into auto pilot and let these opportunities pass by unnoticed. So, I hope these simple thought provoking reminders are helpful.
We need to help our children learn to see the value in everyone and treat them with respect and dignity. This quality was one of the cornerstones of Jesus’ life. In fact, it was this quality that landed Him in conflict with the religious leaders of His day. So, if we are going to be Christlike and pass that on to our children, this must be a big part of our lives as well.
Jesus understood that every human is of great value in the eyes of God. It is here on Earth that people become de-valued by other people for a variety of reasons. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how we should embrace this truth, let’s refresh our memory about how Jesus demonstrated this by reviewing a few stories.
In Luke 5, Jesus calls one of the most hated people in all of Israel to join His inner circle…

The Gift of Wisdom

I want to talk about being intentional about preparing our children to do well in life. Obtaining knowledge is important and helpful in life, however obtaining wisdom is far more important. In addition to knowledge and education, we need to impart wisdom to our children. Most of us want our children to grow to become wise adults, but we don’t think about how to help that happen. So, I thought it would be good to spend a little time exploring this concept.
The place to start is by considering what wisdom is all about. Education is about facts, theories, and developing certain skills through math, science, and language arts etc..These things can become the foundation for a career. Knowledge of these things can prepare one to become a doctor, engineer, architect, teacher, etc. However, a successful career alone does not define a person as a success in life. The news often reminds us of this. Take a minute to think about some people who were qualified and seemed to be on their way to great things, but were suddenly shot down because of unwise decisions … teachers having inappropriate interaction with students, a doctor imprisoned for illegally using his right to prescribe drugs, a successful professional who develops life wrecking substance dependency, or the celebrity who wrecks one marriage after another leaving a trail of broken hearts. It is great to educate our children to prepare them for opportunities in the future and it is great to help them develop their talents, but without wisdom, their life will be filled with pain and trouble.

Get a Handle on Anger

I have observed that too many families are struggling with the painful effects of out of control anger. Husbands, wives, and children are trying to cope with the pain that uncontrolled anger brings. Many times, they spend most of their lives trying to recover from it. So, this week, I want to help you understand how to get anger under control. The Bible tells us that anger in itself is not sinful, rather it is a part of the likeness of God in which we are created. In fact, God gets angry. The issue is learning to control anger in a way that is not sinful. Ephesians 4:26 tells us not to sin in our anger because it makes a place for the devil to wreak havoc in our lives.
I have noticed that this problem has crept out of the privacy of homes and has begun to become a public problem. In the past, most people were embarrassed by what they might say or do as a result of uncontrolled anger so they made a point of keeping it hidden and behaving respectfully in public. However, in the past few years, this has begun to change. It seems that most people are no longer embarrassed by their uncontrolled anger. It has become common for us to come into contact with rage-aholics nearly everywhere. We see them on the highways, in line at stores, at our children’s sporting events, and everywhere. Their behavior is crude, disrespectful, scary, and sometimes violent. The time has come for each of us to make a decision to keep anger under control in our lives and families. I hope to offer you several suggestions that will help this week.
Today, I want to offer you the first principle to help you get anger under control. Our actions that result from anger matter. When a person explodes in anger, they often feel that they can’t help it or that it is ok because they are simply expressing themselves. In fact, some people have become convinced that angry explosions are a part of who they are and those who love them simply have to accept that as part of the package. However, the truth is that