Pulling Back the Curtain on Physical Intimacy

Looking through red curtains

The past several Monday’s have gone very fast and have, for a better word, exposed some of the honest truth about physical intimacy in a marriage. Comments we have received runs the spectrum: “Thank you for discussing a topic on marriage that churches seem to shy away from.”  “Appreciate your honesty and candor. This is an important issue that seems to be brushed aside and avoided by most pastors.”  “You are wrong to be spreading these ideas. Sex is strictly for procreation in a marriage, nothing else.”  “Thank you for allowing me to feel sexy and giving me permission to enjoy sex.”  “Keep your comments to yourself, you will only increase promiscuity by your posts!” “By sleeping naked this past week, my husband and I for the first time in our marriage have enjoyed our time between the sheets like never before.”

So, you see, we are causing a stir and making people think again about physical intimacy in a marriage.  Whether it be good, bad, or just convicting…people are thinking. That’s good.

This now leads us into this day’s post. Communication is key when it comes to fully enjoying each other’s bodies as well as enjoying an active sex life as husband and wife.  However, too often we shy away from asking the key questions that will allow us to grow in our physical, sexual intimacy with one another. We are too embarrassed to ask and very embarrassed to respond truthfully. To those reactions, I say “STOP!”

It’s time to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone. It’s time to become transparent with one another. Genesis 2:25 says it clearly, “The two were naked and not ashamed.” They were completely vulnerable before one another. They were transparent and had no shame for being so.  As husband and wife, we should be the same. The questions will be difficult at times but our hope is that they will first encourage each of you to open up emotionally which in turn will allow you to open up physically. Treat these as conversation starters, modify them to suit your marriage, pick and choose what you wish to discuss; however, please don’t try to rush through all of them in one sitting. That’s not what they are for. It’s important to ask these questions so as to learn more about your spouse. These will help you be a student of your spouse.  Don’t get upset and try to “readjust” their answers, instead, explore the answers, listen to your spouse and grow! Also, final instruction, answer in complete and clear sentences, don’t give vague answers because you are embarrassed of the answer as well as give specific answers.

So here are 30 Sex Questions to Ask Your Spouse:

  1. Where is your favorite place to be touched that isn’t sexual to you?
  2. When I initiate sex, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
  3. What is your favorite way for me to initiate sex?
  4. How do you usually try to let me know you are in the mood for sex?
  5. What does sex mean to you?
  6. Describe your favorite memory of us having sex.
  7. Where and how do you like to be touched the most during sex? Why?
  8. Where do you not like to be touched during sex and why not?
  9. Describe something you’d like to try, regarding sex, which we haven’t tried together.
  10. Describe something we have tried before, regarding sex, which you’d like more of.
  11. How often would you like to have sex, ideally?
  12. What do you think about during sex?
  13. What’s your favorite position? Why?
  14. Would you rather have sex with the lights on or off? Are you afraid of having sex with the lights on?
  15. Does being naked in front of me make you uncomfortable? What can I do to make you more comfortable?
  16. Are you happy with how long we spend on foreplay? Would you like more or less?
  17. Are you happy with how long we spend having sex? Would you like more or less?
  18. What is your favorite foreplay activity?
  19. If there was one thing you’d like to improve about our sex life, what would it be?
  20. What is your favorite thing for me to say during sex?
  21. What activity gives you the strongest, or longest, orgasms?
  22. Describe what an orgasm feels like to you.
  23. Describe what it feels like to you when I have an orgasm (physically or emotionally).
  24. What is the most important part of sex to you? Why?
  25. Is there someplace you’d like to have sex that we haven’t already?
  26. Would you rather have sex in the morning or in the evening?
  27. Would you rather give oral sex, receive it, or neither? Why?
  28. What do we do in bed that you never thought you’d participate in?
  29. Which one of my body parts are you favorite? Which one of your body parts are your favorite?
  30. Name one thing that really turns you on.

 

There you have it. Here is our list of 30 questions. You may have additional ones and you may think that these are 29 too many. Either way, the key here is to communicate with your spouse. Talk to them and begin to open up to one another.  Be transparent with one another and don’t be ashamed of the answers.

 

Joe & Kerry

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN!” 9 STRATEGIES FOR A BETTER PARENTING JOURNEY 

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN TO ME!”

As a Children’s and Families Pastor I’ve seen a lot of different personalities and temperaments over the years. I’ve seen kids who have faced significant life challenges and show incredible resiliency. On the other hand, I have witnessed children burst into tears because they didn’t catch the ball in gym because they’ve rarely been allowed the opportunity to try and to fail in life. I’ve witnessed so many parenting styles that look good on paper but fail miserably in the long run.

When we as parents try to make things “comfortable” for our children, when we focus on “fighting” their battles for them, when we “shelter” them to the point of emotional stagnation…we begin to set up our children towards failure as they approach adulthood.

Instead, we as parents need to take time to invest into our children and guide and facilitate them in a positive and loving strategy towards emotional, physical and spiritual maturity. This takes sacrifice or our time and of our agenda. This means that we will place a priority on allowing our children to shape our souls as we in turn parent them as God guides us.

1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE:

Your actions are the biggest influence in your child’s life. They are looking to you to see how you interact with the world and respond to life situations. If you tell them to be kind but they see you demeaning the waiter when your order is wrong, they are more likely to follow your example than heed your advice. If you tell them that God is a priority in your life, yet they see you make excuses for lack of Bible study or not going to church as a family. “But we have an important tournament for you to compete in…” Know that little eyes are watching and YOU set the example of what your children will grow into. 

2. FRAME REQUESTS IN THE POSITIVE: 

Instead of saying, “Don’t hit!” say, “We use gentle hands” or “Hands are for high fives.” Current research states that when we frame our requests in the negative, most kids will only actually hear “hit” and disregard the “don’t.” When we frame requests in the positive we are not only telling them what NOT to do, we are telling them what TO do as an alternative. Your tone will also go a long way in making sure the request is not only heard but applied. Remember to Interact not Overreact.

 3. FOLLOW THROUGH:

In the heat of the moment, we’ve all threatened consequences we have zero intention of actually following through with. When you start a sentence with, “If you do that one more time…” whatever comes next must be practical, reasonable, and connected to the offense. When we don’t follow through, our children see no reason to stop what they are doing. If our follow through is unreasonable they lose their trust in us. Our response must be proportionate to the situation and act as a firm boundary to encourage positive choices in the future.

4. GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL:

Yelling across the room will rarely generate the result you desire. Kids are often so wrapped up in their activities, they’re often not intentionally ignoring you – they really don’t hear you. If you want their attention, turn off any competing electronics, crouch down, look them in the eye, and make your request.

5. CALL OFF THE RESCUE MISSION!:

Let natural consequences play out. Not doing their homework has a natural consequence of low grades. Not putting their toys away in time to go to a playdate has a natural consequence of not being able to attend. Constantly bailing your children out of difficult situations creates a false sense that someone will always be there to clean up their mess when they make poor choices. More importantly, it inhibits their ability to cope with bigger life challenges. As parents we never want to see our children suffer, but allowing them to solve their own problems will equip them with the self-confidence necessary to manage difficult situations in the future.

6. PROVIDE CHOICE WHENEVER POSSIBLE:

When we demand compliance, kids are more likely to rebel. Engaging in a power struggle is rarely effective and often damages your relationship. Instead of demanding they wear the outfit you picked out, give them a choice between two. Instead of demanding they clean up their room this minute, set a reasonable amount of time in which to clean it up. I’m not inferring that you should always give choices in every situation, there will be times that there is only one option and that’s the one they need to follow. What I’m trying to convey is that by seeing what situations: menu selections, clothing, play/activity options-These are great times to strengthen your child’s ability to make good decisions. Remember this, don’t Lord over your children…Love over your children instead.

7. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS:

Kids are not little adults. It’s unreasonable to expect that they will never make a mistake or be anything other than the perfect child you had envisioned from their inception. It’s up to you as their parent to recognize that they will mess up, and love them through it anyway. Practice unconditional love on your children and recognize their current emotional and physical abilities.

8. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES:

When children don’t know what the rules are, they will continue to push up against the boundaries until you tell them what’s okay and what’s not. They were born to do this. Expect it. Plan for it. Kids feel safe and secure when they know where the line is and exactly what will happen if they cross it. I use the picture of a highway and guardrails. Initially, our children need to be on a one way road with super high guardrails. Then as they get older, the road becomes a two lane road then in time becomes a 3 lane to then even a four lane highway, all the while maintaining the guardrails so they will not go over the edge. Establish those boundaries, those lanes and guardrails for your children today.

9. FORGIVE OFTEN:

Kids make unadvisable choices every day. By extending grace and forgiveness you are teaching them empathy. It doesn’t mean there aren’t still consequences. It just means that you’re not going to define them by the mistakes they make. Kids need to know that you’re not going to hold their poor choices over the their heads for the rest of their natural life. Learn to let it go, and let them move forward. And likewise, if you need to ask forgiveness from your children, and you will-I promise you that, then seek forgiveness from them. You will be reflecting Christ in such a genuine and loving way.

Parenting is about the journey. It’s not a straight road, and you’ll have to take several detours along the way. If we as parents do our job right, seeking God at every turn and twist, allowing His Spirit to speak to us during those scary times where we feel we are traveling next to a cliff, then our kids will enter and engage this world just a little bit better than the day before.

Joe & Kerry

3 Keys for Your Boys in A Sex Saturated Culture

 

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The first time I saw a Playboy magazine, I was about 12 years old and hanging out at a friend’s house. My buddy had covertly collected a secret stash of magazines under his bed. He had gone to great lengths to acquire the contraband, and his bedroom stash became the stuff of legend among our adolescent crew of hormonally-driven friends.

I had been brought up with parents and church leaders who taught me about the sacredness of sex and the dangers of objectifying women. Still, my raging hormones and weak willpower got the best of me and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the airbrushed images. Those magazines became a “gateway drug” of sorts and ultimately led me down a dark road towards more graphic pornography.

I’ve been porn-free for a little over two decades, but I’m still living with some scars in my mind and my marriage. Thankfully, God’s grace and my wife’s love (plus some important accountability measures) have helped me escape from the grip of porn.

Kerry and I know we have a sacred responsibility to our children to teach them about sex and protect them from all the ways the misuse of sex can harm them. We raised two daughters; however, we also know what we were praying for and longing for in a man for our daughters.

So let’s share with you parents raising sons. The first step is obviously teaching your sons to have a deep and abiding respect for women, but respect alone isn’t enough to help them overcome the bombardment of visual temptations out there. If you’re looking for some practical ways to get started, here are three simple ways parents of boys can equip them to live with sexual purity in a sexually-saturated culture.

3 keys to raising boys in a sex-crazed culture:

1. Don’t just have “The Talk;” have many talks about sex and purity.

Instead of having one big talk about the birds and the bees like many of our parents did when we were growing up, open up an ongoing, healthy dialogue about issues related to sex and porn. Ask questions and encourage your son to ask you questions too. Be as transparent as possible in your responses. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect, but they need you to be real. If you want some practical tools to help guide you through those conversations, check out Jonathan McKee’s book, More Than Just the Talk.

2. Try to understand your son’s thought process.

If you’re a man raising boys, you already know all about the male thought process and mental wiring that makes visual temptation so powerful, but your son is living in a different world than ours, so keep the dialogue open to learn how he’s thinking. If you’re a mom and you’d like to understand more about how and why males react so instinctively to visual images of sex and sensuality, I’d encourage you to read the new book, “Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men”, which is written by Craig Gross and Shaunti Feldhahn. The research in the book is eye-opening, and their insights made me think they’d somehow installed hidden cameras in my brain! This book and accompanying video series could help you understand your son—and your husband, too—on a new level.

3. Monitor every screen in your home.

The average kid sees porn by age eight. Sometimes, kids are exposed to porn on accident, and other times, they’re deliberately looking for it. Parents must be constantly vigilant by setting parental controls, downloading porn-blocking software, and using every tool at our disposal to protect our kids from unwanted images. Know where your kids are going online and let them know you’re watching. Tell them what’s off limits, but also follow up by inspecting. Kids aren’t usually as interested in what you expect as they are in what you’ll inspect. Remember this bit of advice, Don’t Overreact-Interact when you discover your son viewing pornography.

As you get started…

You may be intimidated by the thought of even beginning these conversations with your kids. That’s completely understandable. I think we all feel that way at first. This aspect of parenting is indeed one of the most difficult, but also among the most important. As parents, we must conquer or own fears and feelings of inadequacy to give our kids the help they desperately need.

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone, because there are many great resources to help you and your family. Don’t be passive in this process. Be present. Your kids don’t need you to have perfect answers to all their questions, but they need you to be present and transparent with them. If you’re willing to do those things, and to use the tools and resources at your disposal, you will navigate these complex issues with great success.

 

Joe & Kerry

3 Things God Will Not Do in Your Marriage…

Kerry and I truly believe that most people who live on this earth as Christians/Followers of Christ desire to conduct their marriages per the principles set forth by God, and we appreciate that. The Bible is full of instructions and guidelines to help point you in the right direction for a joyful, Holy union. The question is, though, do we always get it right?

Absolutely not. As broken humans we will fall short, and God gets that. The goal for wives is to strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman or a Genesis 2:18 bride, or for husbands to treat your wife as Christ treats the church, owning Genesis 2:15. We all need practice, and that’s fine. But there are some instances that just absolutely go against scripture. These things we must not do if we really want a marriage that honors the Lord.

It’s easy when you fall to call it God’s will, or to imagine God’s hand at work in your life when you crumple under sin. There are some things, no matter how much God loves you and directs your life, that you cannot do in His name. With that said, Kerry and I would like to share with you 3 Things God Will Not Do in Your Marriage…

 

Although the Lord has power over your life He will not do these things in your marriage.

1-God will not lead you to adultery.   So say you’re unhappy in your marriage. Then suddenly you meet this nice fella (or lady) at work. They’re a wonderful Christian, a great listener, and really seems to care about your feelings. Unlike your spouse.

You start eating lunch together, spending time pouring out your heart on break, and the next thing you know you’re having romantic feelings. This person is so right for you! It must be God! God has placed this perfect person in your path!

No No No No!!

If you are married God will not place an opportunity if front of you to tarnish the union you have sworn to in His name. When He says what I have put together, let no man separate; He means just that.

2-God will not lead you away from your spouse.   Perhaps you and your spouse have ended up on two different planes. Maybe you started the marriage on the same page, but now you are different. It’s possible you have deepened your relationship with the Lord, and your spouse has not. In that clash of differing spiritual/relational levels there is strife in your marriage.

God does not lead you to divorce, and while it is important to be equally yoked, the Lord does not favor the severing of marriage. One flesh isn’t something to take lightly, so when differences and difficulties arise divorce is not the right answer.

We will never claim to be perfect, nor will we hide our past. Kerry has suffered the scars and shame of divorce growing up as a child. Although each time her parents remarried, they shared to their children that this was the one. However, each time the pain remained. Don’t disillusion yourself that divorce is the answer; however, know that God turns His back on one who is divorced.

The point is, God doesn’t condone divorce. Can He forgive someone who has suffered through divorce? We truly believe so. We also believe God forgives all His children who come in honest repentance and urn from their sinful ways. Can He heal someone after divorce? Absolutely!

But does God lead you away from your spouse? No. Never. That’s not God. I’m sorry.

3-God will not change your spouse for you.   This is a hard concept to accept. It’s always what we cling to when marriage gets hard. When our spouse is difficult and calling it quits is on the forefront of our minds we hold tight to the old adage that God can change their heart for us. And He can. But He won’t.

Let us clarify.

God will not change your spouse for you. But He will change your spouse for His glory. What I mean is this. Many, many times when we are at odds with our spouse we pray in a certain way.

We pray, “God, make my wife be more attentive to me.”

Or, “God, make my husband be a better provider.”

“Notice me more.”

“Compliment me.”

“Get a better job.”

Maybe even, “get off his lazy butt.”

What do all these pleas have in common? Me, me, me.

Listen, God loves you. God wants you to have a marriage that reflects His love and holiness, and to have a spouse who treats you like you deserve to be treated. In fact, He commands such treatment in His word. But God wants you to treat your spouse as they deserve also, and that starts with desiring the best for them.

You must desire change for your spouse not simply for yourself, but for their benefit. You should desire that your spouse grow closer with the Lord not so that your life will be easier, but so that their life will prove more abundant. Your job is to desire God’s best for your spouse, not desire how God can make the relationship best for you. Allow God to finish the work He began in them long ago.

Pray for your marriage. Pray without ceasing. Just understand that while God does want to answer your prayers, that He wants most for your heart to be right. He honors selfless prayer. He honors marriage. He honors growing His relationship with you and your spouse collectively while also strengthening the bonds of marriage. Kerry and I will daily ask each other, “How can I pray for you today?” This sets in motion a selfless prayer request that is focused on what your spouse is needing, not what you desire.

So God can change hearts, and He can turn your spouse’s heart towards Him, and in that change them. But He’s not simply changing them for you. Understand that.

However…The good news is that while God may not do these three things in your marriage, there’s plenty of great things that He can do! When hope seems lost, Christ can. When your marriage seems to be failing, God can heal it. Keep your eyes on Him, trust in His promises, and align your daily, personal walk to one that honors both Him and your marriage.

Content or Discontent…Where Do You Stand

 

ContentBe Quiet, not disturbed. Having a mind at peace with God’s unfolding plan. Easy and satisfied so as not to object or oppose His will.  1828 Webster’s

Last week in our Monday evening small group we were discussing the sins we purposely feed to fill the insatiable lusts of the flesh.  We began to identify the sins we feed: anger, lust, lying, gossip, apathy, and pride to name a few. However, we all agreed that the “Gateway Sin” that leads to these in majority of our lives is Discontentment.  We are not satisfied with where our lives are or where they are going. We are discontent with our marriages, our families, our jobs, our faith…and the list continues.

When we feed this “discontent” in our lives, this sin of selfishness, we launch towards other sins and begin to feed those as well. We are discontent with our spouse so we seek out others who will satisfy the selfish desires of our flesh. We are discontent with the way our life is going so we get angry at that life and our anger becomes the character that everyone sees.   We are discontent with our character and we begin to gossip or spread little white lies to make our character look better than those we speak about. We are discontent with God and we pull further away from His word and His truth.  Remember, Lucifer was discontent with his position in Heaven and thus pride took control of him.

So now that we have defined discontent, how do we turn from sin and turn to God? First and foremost, turn to God. Spend time in prayer, spend time in His word, spend time with those who are daily seeking to grow in an intimate relationship with Christ.  Begin to own what Paul teaches us in his letter to the church at Philippi. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4-7   Notice that we are to rejoice IN the Lord: His presence, His love, in Him.  We are to be in prayer and daily communication with God through His Word. His peace, God’s Peace, will guard and protect our hearts and mind from discontent.

However, this takes action on our part. We must choose to seek Him with all of our heart mind and soul. We must daily practice the Truth and step towards Christ. It is during that journey that we will learn to be content in Christ and Christ only.

Paul begins to close his letter to the church at Philippi with words of contentment, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:11-13

Seek God to reveal to you your discontentment today and begin to seek Him first daily to be filled with His Peace.

 

A Growing Bond-Servant of Christ,

Joe

More Than a Parent’s Rage…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4  
In our Sunday morning Bible Study we have been going through the book of Ephesians, applying its principles and instructions into our marriages and families, as well as into our personal lives. These past two Sundays we have spent time in one verse from Ephesians, 6:4. 

Verse 4 instructs us not to “provoke or exasperate your children.” The Greek word for provoke is parorgizo. This simply means to provoke to wrath or to exasperate another. Both wrath and exasperate come from the root word anger. It would not take too much of an in-depth study of human and family behavior to shed some basic insight on how we might exasperate our children and provoke them to anger. We so often will see this as an extreme outburst towards our children, an uncontrolled momentary burst of anger, then it’s done. However, as we truly step back and evaluate our parenting, we may just see this picture of “provoking and exasperating” in the minutia of our everyday parenting. The following examples will give us a good starting point for understanding the command that Paul shares with us in verse 4. This is not an end all list, nor is it meant to “guilt” you as a parent or grandparent. Take time in prayer and reflect on the following list, take time to ask God to reveal to you as to which of those 8, or maybe you have another one, you are in the habit of doing towards your children.  Ask God to help you stop in that behavior/action and then move towards reconciliation with your children and then begin a new path of Biblical discipline and instruction in the Lord.  

1. Overprotecting Children: Parents who do everything for their children and do not let them gain any degree of independence or self-determination.

2. Over Disciplining Children: Parents who overly restrict where children can go and what they can do, who never trust them to do things on their own, and who continually question their judgment. Certainly, a proper amount of this is necessary. We are talking about overdoing it.

3. Expecting More Than The Child Can Ever Perform: Perfectionistic parents for whom the child’s performance is never good enough.

4. Expecting Less of Them Than They Can Perform: Parents who discourage the child’s decisions and dreams—never approving, affirming, or encouraging.

5. Failing to Sacrifice for Their Children: Parents who make the children feel as though they are an intrusion and burden.

6. Verbal and/or Physical Abuse: Parents who abuse their children, either by actions, negligence, words, or attitudes.

7. Legalism: Parents who use the Bible, religion, or God to browbeat the children into behavior that is not required by scriptural teachings.

8. Imbalance: Parents who fail to balance affirmation and discipline, who affirm without discipline, who discipline without affirmation, or who do neither.

These eight things will provoke a child to anger; they will exasperate a child, and we would be well-advised to avoid them.

Joe