Marry Someone Who Will Call You Out In Love

‘Hey, I meant to tell you something.’

It was just a kind, casual comment. But years of experience had taught me that my wife had something important to say. Something I probably didn’t want to hear.

Without warning, I felt like I had two people inside of me.  The first was a ninja, ready to dodge any incoming criticism. (And maybe launch a counter-attack).  The second knew she loves me and had learned her criticism always makes me better.

I didn’t know who was going to win.

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Are You Friendly Distant?

How We Keep People At Arm's Length With A Smile (And How To Overcome It)

On a warm autumn day, for five minutes or so, we talked about our lives.  Our jobs, our kids, our weekends, and (of course) the football game later that day.  It was enjoyable, and we sped off with a smile and quick goodbye.

As I drove home, though, I felt a strange dis-ease about our interaction.  It was friendly and nice.  There was no tension.  And there was some back-and-forth.  It’s not like my friend talked my ear off.

But, our time together still felt empty.  We had held each other at arm’s length with a smile.

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9 Topics You Absolutely Need To Cover In Your Premarital Counseling

So, you’d like to get married.  You’ve heard that premarital counseling is a good idea. (Good call.)

But not all premarital counseling is created equally.  How do you make sure you cover the things that matter most?

happy young couple in field of yellow flowers

Photo by Micah Camara

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Should You Date Someone Outside The Faith?

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #1

‘Well, I’m in a relationship now.’

After over 15 years in ministry to college and (now) graduate students, my wife and I often hear this when we ask how they’re doing.  Our first response is to rejoice, remembering how thrilled we were on our first date.  Very few things in life are more exciting than a relationship that’s heading toward marriage!

At the same time, relationships are anything but easy, so we need to learn from those who have gone before us.  While my wife and I don’t have anything like a perfect marriage, we’ve had a little experience (since 1998) now.  Many older couples have poured into us.  And – somehow – a number of couples have told us our marriage and counsel about relationships has benefited them.  So, as promised, this is the first post in a new, monthly series about important topics to cover as you think about saying ‘I do’.

(To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can sign up right here.)

Before we dive into those key areas, though, we need to pause and ask a more foundational question:

Is this relationship one that you should even be in?

My stepdaughter's socks are channeling Flickr's logo colors Lee Bennett via Compfight

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How Can I Experience God More Personally? (Final Part)

Drawing Closer To God In A Way We Might Not Expect

Sometimes, we need to look for answers in unexpected places.  Like when we’re having a hard time experiencing God personally.

In the last few posts, I’ve been talking about this struggle that we all experience.  None of us feel as close to God as we want to, at least most of the time.  It’s so easy to just give up and accept it.

To begin changing that, in my first post I suggested we bring the hardest things in our lives to God, while my second mentioned three ways reflecting on God’s character and work better can really help.  

While I hope those posts are helpful, I think it’s pretty obvious that talking to God honestly and biblically reflecting on him and what he’s done are good ways to move toward him.

In this last post of the mini-series, though, I’d like to tackle something I’m not sure we think about much when our relationship with God is kind of crusty.  So instead of ringing the doorbell, let’s try a back door approach.

Non-descript back door

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Worthy Quest: In Search Of Real Community Among Men

Why We Struggle With Real Friendship And What It Looks Like

Today we’re going to start with a little quiz.  Our theme is community, but that’s all I’m telling you for now.  Ready?

What do all these have in common?

  • John Wayne
  • toddlers
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • tigers
  • The Grinch

Stumped?

These are all examples of people, animals or creatures who think they can do life on their own. John Wayne saved the day, single-handedly, in every movie he starred in.  Toddlers are infamous for declaring that ‘I do it myself’. TR, one of our most famous presidents, is the poster-child of ‘Rugged Individualism’.  Tigers spend their entire adult lives on their own.  And the Grinch lives high up on a cliff, in seclusion, far from Whoville below.

I’d like to add one more ‘creature’ to this list:

The typical, American male.

Like the characters from our quiz, us guys tend to think that we can do life on our own.  Without being in the sort of rich, deep community God calls us to.

In most cases, it’s not that we consciously believe not having ‘real friends’ is fine.  It’s more that we just don’t see it as a pressing need and don’t actively pursue it very hard.

Maybe you’re one of those guys.  Or, maybe not.  Either way, we can all benefit from pursuing community with other men more deeply.  So let’s take a look at why we struggle, and what real, biblical community looks like.

It’s a worthy quest.

Cowboy overlooking valley, as if in search for life and community Bill Gracey via Compfight

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How To Pick A Holy Fight With Your Wife

Early in my marriage, I was afraid of my wife.

No, not physically.

I was afraid of challenging her.  Of rocking the boat.

Here’s how it went.  Maybe you husbands (fiancés, and boyfriends) can identify.

  • I’d notice a pattern in my wife’s behavior that needed to be challenged.
  • Option #1 (my first, and usual, response) – I’d be afraid of challenging her, stay silent, and grow resentful.  Oh, and feel like a coward.
  • Option #2 – Eventually, after I got bitter enough, I’d call her out in anger.
  • Option #3 – In other cases, she could see my bitterness, ask what was going on, and I’d either respond with Option #2 or kinda sorta bring things up in a mousey way.
  • Then we’d have more conflict about the way I handled it.

Good times.

My wife brought her own issues to our marriage, but that’s not the point of this post.  The point of this post is for us men to own our issues with conflict, understand what’s going on, and take steps toward the healthy conflict that will help our marriages (current or future) thrive.

30s couple fightCreative Commons License Adair733 via Compfight

What’s At Stake

It’s easy to feel like conflict just isn’t worth it.  But in a fallen world, it’s unavoidable and essential if our lives are going to be all that God is calling them to be.

And yet, in the moment it can feel like death, so we need some serious motivation to engage in what I’ll call holy fighting.  There are probably more, but here are three important reasons to pick a holy fight:

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6 Early Marriage Hurdles & 9 Ways To Clear Them

The early days of marriage are awesome.  You get to wake up every day with your best friend, experience physical intimacy and enter into everything you’ve been waiting for.

But it’s not all butterflies and violins.  Many couples go through some really deep waters during their first few years together, trials they were not expecting.  In this post, I’ll talk about the hurdles you can expect, and how to handle them so that your marriage continues to thrive.  (Pro Tip: even if you’ve been married for awhile, a refresh never hurts!)

Hurdles Universal Pops via Compfight 

When the honeymoon is over – and sometimes before – the challenges of being married start to surface.

My wife and I had a really tough time our first few years together.  We had some conflict before the wedding, but afterwards it got worse. Much worse.

We argued about which way to put the toilet paper on the rack.  Whether or not we’d turn inside-out laundry right side out.  How much time I’d spend on my studies.  How often we’d see our extended families.  How much time we’d spend together and apart.  And… you get the idea.

The hardest part, though, was that we didn’t expect all of that.  Older, battle-tested couples told us that it wouldn’t be easy, but looking back we didn’t really believe them.

6 Early Marriage Hurdles

But you don’t have to be as naive as we were.  Here are some of those early-days-of-marriage hurdles you can anticipate.  Later, I’ll talk about how you can handle them in a way that helps you move forward, together.

(A quick note: remember, these are some of the hurdles.  Marriage is filled with blessings and (speaking from experience) totally worth it if you find the right person!)

1. Preferences.  When you live together, you find out that you do things differently.  These aren’t issues of right or wrong, but little things you’ve taken for granted (like the toilet paper) when you were single can become surprising annoyances when you have to work a bunch of them out with someone else.

2. How much time you’ll spend together.  Almost invariably, one person needs more alone time than the other.  It gets tricky to work out how you’ll spend discretionary time you’ll spend together.

3. Differences in how you spend money.  When you get married and share finances, all of a sudden this area comes into focus.  Early on, my wife was much more generous than I was, and we had some conflict around that.  With limited resources, how we spend money reveals our differences in priorities, which can be painful to work through.

4. Disappointment from experiencing the other person’s flaws.  The key word here is ‘experiencing’.  Before you’re married, the other person’s weaknesses and flaws can annoy you, but now there’s no escape!

5. Not getting the other person’s best.  When you were dating, both of you put your best foot forward every time you were together.  More than you probably realized, you were trying to impress each other and willing to do the kinds of things that make a relationship great.  Over time, the real you (in all your glory and weakness) gets revealed.  Part of this is good, part of this… not so much.  But, it happens.

6. Arguments and conflict.  When you put two sinners together, fighting of one kind or another is bound to happen.  If you grew up in a home where conflict was avoided or swept under the rug, this can be especially discouraging.

I’m sure you can add to this list, but these are some of the things you can expect after tying the knot.

The Million Dollar Question

But the real – the million dollar – question is this: What do you do about all the problems?

This is not an philosophical exercise.  You entered into marriage with great expectations, but it’s waaaay harder than you anticipated.  You’re frustrated, discouraged and sad.  What difference does following Jesus make?

These are the things that helped my wife and I, and the things we share with the couples we meet with.

1. It’s totally normal to have disappointment and conflict.  In fact, if you’re not having any a few months into your marriage, you should probably go see your physician: you may be on your deathbed.  When two people who are deeply committed to themselves come together, there’s bound to be some eruptions.

2. Look for God’s work in the challenges.  God has called you to this marriage and promised to be with you.  ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) applies to your marriage, too.  Instead of wishing whatever’s negative would disappear yesterday, start looking for what God is doing in you and your spouse.  For example, when my wife and I were fighting daily, God showed me he was exposing how much I wanted everyone (especially my wife) to like me.

3. Look for the issues of your hearts.  In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus makes it clear that he’s ultimately concerned with our hearts – our innermost selves.  In marriage, as with the rest of life, we tend to look at what we see.  The clothes left on the floor, money spent on frivolous things, an inattentive spouse.  But Jesus says that all these things come from a heart that is ‘evil’ (see Mark 7:21, 23).  When we own that and seek God’s forgiveness and healing, then our behavior starts to change.

3. Pray.  We prayed before we got married, but the early challenges we experience there show us how much we really need God.  Let that lead you to ask for God’s help, on your own and together with your spouse.  It does wonders for your trust to see Him come through time and time again.

4. Listen first.  When someone calls us out, our first response is to be defensive.  God tells us to do the opposite: ‘let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’ (James 1:19).  When we look for what’s right in what our spouse is saying, we become more like Christ, they feel loved, and our marriage flourishes.

5. Seek forgiveness when you blow it.  Like listening, this is difficult, but oh-so-important.  Don’t let an offense just fade away… it doesn’t.  Ask God to help you be truly sorry for what you did, then go and confess it as soon as you reasonably can.

6. Rely on your friends.  Throughout the entire bible, God makes it clear that we need others to do life well.  Make sure you’re really connected with other married couples who can understand what you’re facing.  Let them in on your joys and challenges and ask them to do the same with you.

7. Find an older, godly couple.  Make sure you have an older couple who can encourage you, share some wisdom, and (above all) model for you that God is faithful in the ups-and-downs.  Bonus tip: don’t be afraid to get biblical counseling if you’re stuck.  My wife and I benefited immensely from this.

8.  No magic bullets.  The American poet Robert Frost famously said, ‘The best way out is always through’.  He was right.  The only way to get out of your early marital struggles is to go through them.  One conflict, one forgiveness, one listening, one undeserved act of grace at a time. But if you’ll be faithful in the little moments, they add up and you and your spouse will be transformed.

9.  Remember what marriage is all about.  If those first days of your marriage feel like a mash-up of Disneyland and being lost in the woods, remembering the meaning of marriage is like the North Star.  It keeps you on track and serve as a point of reference when life gets disorienting.  Remember: your marriage will make you happy at (many) times, but that’s not mainly what it’s for.  God’s main purpose for your marriage is to be a living, breathing picture of God’s love for us (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So there you have it: 6 early marriage hurdles, and 9 ways to clear them.  I hope that your early days of marriage are filled with lots of bumps in the road so that you see God at work and become more like Christ, together with your spouse.

Let’s live it out: What hurdle are you facing most intensely right now, and, what would help you start to overcome it?

7 Surprising Reasons Your Wife Doesn’t Want To Have Sex With You

“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”

     – Author Robert Byrne

So today we’re going to talk about something really important to men.

Sex.

In fact, research shows clearly what the quote above suggests indirectly: that sex is the most important part of marriage for about 80-90% of men.  (No doubt many of you wives can confirm this!)

Despite Hollywood’s portrayals, though, sex is also one of our biggest areas of frustration.  For most couples, there’s a difference in sex drive, with guys typically wanting it a lot more than most women.

But you already know that.  This post is about 7 surprising reasons our wives may not be as interested in sex as we’d like them to be.  And, what you can do about it.

To help you go deeper in this challenging area, I’ve put together a (free) list of 17 outside resources. You can get it at the end of the post.

[optinlock id=”4″] 1. Kay Arthur.  The Truth About Sex: What The World Won’t Tell You & What God Wants You To Know.  Similar to Burk’s book in that it interacts with cultural views of sex and provides God’s view on it, but from a woman’s perspective.  Kay Arthur is a respected bible teacher.  (Book)

2. John Bettler.  When The Problem Is Sexual Sin.  The context is counseling someone struggling with sexual sin, but it’s enormously helpful for anyone struggling with this, too.  Bettler presents a simple ‘pyramid of lust’ that helps you trace the sexual sin we see to the deeper, far more important non-sexual sins we don’t.  (Article)

3. Denny Burk.  What Is The Meaning Of Sex?  Interacts with our culture’s views on sexuality and helps us develop a distinctly Christian perspective on it.  (Book)

4. Tim Challies.  Sexual Detox: A Guide For Guys Who Are Sick Of Porn.  Challies runs a thoughtful, popular blog that’s well worth checking out.  Here’s a teaser: ‘Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of us want to stop just a little bit less than we want to keep going. The problem isn’t knowledge-it’s desire and ability… that means you need more grace… and then you need to behave in faith that God will meet you with grace as you act to cut off the porn and begin the reset’.  (Book)

5. Matt Chandler.  The ‘Good News’ About Sex.  From Relevant Magazine, this piece talks about how sex within marriage can point us to Christ and the gospel.  Getting this right goes a long way toward helping us with a lot of the challenges I mention in my post above.  (Article)

6. Matt Chandler.  The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex & Redemption.  Chandler is a popular preacher and super-direct and practical, which I appreciate.  Follows the Song of Solomon in very practical ways.  You can get a study guide or audio book version, too. (book, study guide, audio book)

7. John Freeman.  Hide Or Seek: When Men Get Real With God About Sex.  Helps husbands (and men in general) make progress in this difficult area without getting overwhelmed.  His goal is to help you take the next step and encourage you, even if you’ve failed again and again.

8. Tim Keller.  Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.  Another fantastic read that exposes the false promises sex offers us, and what – Who – is much, much better.  (Book)

9. Tim Keller.  Sexuality & Christian Hope.  A classic Keller sermon: he shows why traditional and modern views of sexuality fail, and how the Christian faith gives us something far better.  (Sermon)

10. CJ Mahaney.  Sex, Romance & The Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs To Know.  Using the Song of Solomon, Mahaney puts sex in its larger context and also helps us focus on what it means to romance our wives in general.  (Book)

11. A Man & His Marriage (33: The Series).  Put out by Men’s Fraternity, a curriculum I’ve gone through (in part), this series is all about revitalizing your marriage and touches on sexual intimacy, in addition to other foundational things like the role of sacrifice in marriage, obstacles to a healthy marriage, and friendship in marriage.  Available in paperback, individual session video downloads, and an optional workbook so you can apply it.  Includes contributions from leaders I respect like Paul Tripp.  (Book, video downloads (individual or series), workbook)

12. John Piper.  My Wife Doesn’t Enjoy Sex.  In this episode of ‘Ask Pastor John’, Piper responds to a man asking about how to respond to the fact that he and his wife have different levels of sexual needs and enjoyment.  He goes through 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and provides a ton of wise, practical nuggets about how to handle this situation.  (Article, audio)

13. John Piper.  Sex And The Supremacy Of Christ.  This book actually has contributions from lots of popular authors and speaks to everyone: men and women, married and single.  I love the way it connects sex to Christ and helps us think about it in from a much bigger perspective that changes the way we approach it day to day.  (Book)

14. Paul Tripp.  Sex and Money.  A great read that unpacks why we struggle so much in these areas, how the gospel sets us free, and provides practical advice for moving forward.  (Book)

15. Ed Wheat.  Intended For Pleasure: Sex Technique & Sexual Fulfilment in Marriage.  Title pretty much says it all.  A ‘classic’ designed to help you with the more practical aspects of unselfish, physical intimacy in your marriage.  My wife and I have read and can recommend.

16. David White.  Sexual Sanity for Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture.  I know Dave personally and can vouch for his experience in this area.  He’s direct and gets where guys are coming from.  (Book)

17. Lauren Winner.  Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.  My wife has read this one, and it’s very honest about topics like being pure before marriage, masturbation and the perennial ‘how far is too far before marriage?’ question.  Helpful, too, though for couples fighting for purity and monogamy in their own marriage.  (Book) [/optinlock]

By the way, guys, if you’re not married yet, this post is for you, too.  I had no clue about most of these things and had to learn the hard way.  I hurt my wife along the way big-time, too.  You can avoid a lot of that by learning from my mistakes.

If you are married and experiencing some frustration in your sex life, putting some work in on one or more of these areas will help.  And, more importantly, bless your wife, too.

 

Disagreement Hertje Brodersen via Compfight

So here you go, seven surprising reasons your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you.

1.You’re not spending quality time together.  There are a million different reasons for this.  You (and/or your wife) might be working too much, for example, leaving little time or energy left for each other.  If we’re not regularly slowing down to talk about important things and share our hearts, our wives won’t feel connected to us.  Which means they won’t want to connect physically, either, because they don’t compartmentalize their lives like we do.

2. You’re not getting enough sleep.  If you’re not getting enough sleep, your sex drive takes a nose dive.  Same thing for women.  (Oh, and it makes you dumber, more forgetful, more prone to serious accidents, and look older, too.  But I digress).

3. You’re being a jerk.  Jesus treated men and women differently.  He blasts the Pharisees and calls out his 12 disciples (all men) routinely, but almost never does this with women.  He will challenge them – like the woman at the well – but he dials back the intensity of what he says. When we follow his example – and I’m still learning to – our wives feel cared for.  And that translates into more openness toward sex.

4. You’re giving into porn or an impure thought life.  Sexual sin is an absolute disaster for your sex life (see Proverbs 9:13-18, for example).  My wife and I do premarital counseling for couples and this comes up all the time.  Guys who are into porn or don’t harness their minds in this area are comparing their wives to airbrushed women who don’t really exist.  The results are guilt, shame and diminished desire for their wives, all of which leads to less – and less satisfying – sex.

5. You’re making sex all about you.  It’s so easy for us to put the focus on our pleasure.  To get lost and ‘forget’ (= not intentionally choose to) care for our wives during sex.  So it’s no surprise when they gradually lose interest and resent it.

6. You’re scared.  You’d never guess it from movies or TV, but sex is scary.  In the best sex, both of you bring all of who you are – without anything (literally) – between you.  And that’s really hard because we know we’re flawed.  We’re no longer in the ‘naked and unashamed’ position that Adam and Eve found themselves before they fell (Genesis 2:25).  And so we’re always hiding,  just like they did after their relationship with God was broken (Genesis 3:8).

For us guys, one of the ways that shows up is being tentative during times of intimacy.  If we’re not fully finding our identity in belonging to Christ, we’ll be scared of being fully present and failing in the bedroom (and everywhere else, really).  Of taking the small risks and initiative that go a long way toward really connecting.  And that can leave our wives thinking that we’re not all that interested in them (like #5), even when that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

7. You’ve forgotten what marriage and sex are all about. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul tells us that marriage and the gospel explain each other, something I’ve posted about before.  When people look at the way we relate to our wives, they should be reminded of the way God relates to us.  As Tim Keller puts it in this excellent article, ‘The Bible views sex not primarily as self-fulfillment but as a way to know Christ and build his kingdom’.  The only way to consistently make loving choices in the bedroom is to internalize that on a growing level.

I’m Convicted!  But What Can I Do About It?

If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling seriously convicted right now.  At least, I hope you are.  For most of us guys, putting our wives first in this area is way easier said than done.

We’ve spent a lot of time on the potential problems, but I want to move forward with you in a very practical way that leaves you encouraged.  Not overwhelmed.

Here’s my recommendation.  I’d love to hear any other ideas you have down below in the comments.

  1. Scan through the list above and identify the biggest problem for you.  (Maybe it’s something else).
  2. Have an honest conversation with God about it, confessing anything you need to.  Our confession should include both deeper (‘heart’) and practical elements.  For example, if my times together with my wife tend to focus on me, I should confess that but also the deeper selfishness and fear that’s driving it.  This takes courage, but brings freedom.
  3. Based on what you identified above (#1), think and pray about what change would look like.  If I said being scared is my biggest challenge, I can picture trusting God and being okay with trying something that doesn’t work.  It doesn’t have to destroy me.  And I can take initiative instead of waiting for my wife to always come to me.
  4. Let a friend know and ask him to pray for you.  Not only for accountability, but for encouragement.  Change is hard(!), so we should ‘exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (Hebrews 3:13).  Getting real with others helps us stay true to Christ – and our wives – for the long haul (see Hebrews 3:14).

This isn’t molecular biology or astrophysics, right?  It’s just the normal things that help us become more like Christ, applied to the area of sex.  The key is follow through in all its boring but-oh-so-important forms.

Over time, we will change and experience the blessings that God wants for us – and our wives – in this important area of our lives.

Let’s live it out: What’s the biggest obstacle in this area of your life?  Share it with us in the comments below.  I’ll go first!

[optinlock id=”3″]Here’s that list of 17 resources I mentioned in the post, organized by author’s last name.

1. Kay Arthur.  The Truth About Sex: What The World Won’t Tell You & What God Wants You To Know.  Similar to Burk’s book in that it interacts with cultural views of sex and provides God’s view on it, but from a woman’s perspective.  Kay Arthur is a respected bible teacher.  (Book)

2. John Bettler.  When The Problem Is Sexual Sin.  The context is counseling someone struggling with sexual sin, but it’s enormously helpful for anyone struggling with this, too.  Bettler presents a simple ‘pyramid of lust’ that helps you trace the sexual sin we see to the deeper, far more important non-sexual sins we don’t.  (Article)

3. Denny Burk.  What Is The Meaning Of Sex?  Interacts with our culture’s views on sexuality and helps us develop a distinctly Christian perspective on it.  (Book)

4. Tim Challies.  Sexual Detox: A Guide For Guys Who Are Sick Of Porn.  Challies runs a thoughtful, popular blog that’s well worth checking out.  Here’s a teaser: ‘Every Christian guy who looks at porn wants to stop, but many of us want to stop just a little bit less than we want to keep going. The problem isn’t knowledge-it’s desire and ability… that means you need more grace… and then you need to behave in faith that God will meet you with grace as you act to cut off the porn and begin the reset’.  (Book)

5. Matt Chandler.  The ‘Good News’ About Sex.  From Relevant Magazine, this piece talks about how sex within marriage can point us to Christ and the gospel.  Getting this right goes a long way toward helping us with a lot of the challenges I mention in my post above.  (Article)

6. Matt Chandler.  The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex & Redemption.  Chandler is a popular preacher and super-direct and practical, which I appreciate.  Follows the Song of Solomon in very practical ways.  You can get a study guide or audio book version, too. (book, study guide, audio book)

7. John Freeman.  Hide Or Seek: When Men Get Real With God About Sex.  Helps husbands (and men in general) make progress in this difficult area without getting overwhelmed.  His goal is to help you take the next step and encourage you, even if you’ve failed again and again.

8. Tim Keller.  Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.  Another fantastic read that exposes the false promises sex offers us, and what – Who – is much, much better.  (Book)

9. Tim Keller.  Sexuality & Christian Hope.  A classic Keller sermon: he shows why traditional and modern views of sexuality fail, and how the Christian faith gives us something far better.  (Sermon)

10. CJ Mahaney.  Sex, Romance & The Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs To Know.  Using the Song of Solomon, Mahaney puts sex in its larger context and also helps us focus on what it means to romance our wives in general.  (Book)

11. A Man & His Marriage (33: The Series).  Put out by Men’s Fraternity, a curriculum I’ve gone through (in part), this series is all about revitalizing your marriage and touches on sexual intimacy, in addition to other foundational things like the role of sacrifice in marriage, obstacles to a healthy marriage, and friendship in marriage.  Available in paperback, individual session video downloads, and an optional workbook so you can apply it.  Includes contributions from leaders I respect like Paul Tripp.  (Book, video downloads (individual or series), workbook)

12. John Piper.  My Wife Doesn’t Enjoy Sex.  In this episode of ‘Ask Pastor John’, Piper responds to a man asking about how to respond to the fact that he and his wife have different levels of sexual needs and enjoyment.  He goes through 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and provides a ton of wise, practical nuggets about how to handle this situation.  (Article, audio)

13. John Piper.  Sex And The Supremacy Of Christ.  This book actually has contributions from lots of popular authors and speaks to everyone: men and women, married and single.  I love the way it connects sex to Christ and helps us think about it in from a much bigger perspective that changes the way we approach it day to day.  (Book)

14. Paul Tripp.  Sex and Money.  A great read that unpacks why we struggle so much in these areas, how the gospel sets us free, and provides practical advice for moving forward.  (Book)

15. Ed Wheat.  Intended For Pleasure: Sex Technique & Sexual Fulfilment in Marriage.  Title pretty much says it all.  A ‘classic’ designed to help you with the more practical aspects of unselfish, physical intimacy in your marriage.  My wife and I have read and can recommend.

16. David White.  Sexual Sanity for Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture.  I know Dave personally and can vouch for his experience in this area.  He’s direct and gets where guys are coming from.  (Book)

17. Lauren Winner.  Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.  My wife has read this one, and it’s very honest about topics like being pure before marriage, masturbation and the perennial ‘how far is too far before marriage?’ question.  Helpful, too, though for couples fighting for purity and monogamy in their own marriage.  (Book) [/optinlock]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better Than Chopped: 1 Easy, Fun Date Night Idea

Without work, our relationships grow stale like month-old bread. We put our best foot forward at the beginning, but over time we can take each other for granted and start getting lazy.  One way this shows up is in our date nights – if we do them at all.

Global Knife and TomatoCreative Commons License Jack Zimmermann via Compfigh

I’ve noticed this inertia in my own heart.  My relationship with my wife was good, but I wasn’t being creative like I used to. So, I decided it was time to shake things up. (You can adapt this for any relationship, though!)

Enter the Better Than Chopped Date Night. It’s a friendlier version of the popular TV show that worked really well for my wife and I. I think you’ll like it, too.

Before getting more specific, here’s the big picture. You and your wife (or boy/girlfriend, or friends) cook together, with two twists that make it a lot more fun. You (1) incorporate certain must-use ingredients into what you make, and, (2) get it done in a certain amount of time.  (It’s just like Chopped in that sense).

Because you’re not competing against each other, these limits create a friendly pressure that should inject some much-needed fun and unpredictability into your relationship.

Here are the details.  It’s super-flexible, so you can adjust to taste (your own relationship and circumstances).  Don’t forget to keep the preferences of your spouse (or whoever) in mind as you plan.

  1. Schedule it.  Find a time you’ll both (or all) be available and relatively relaxed.
  2. Create some anticipation.  I told Sharon I had a fun, in-home date night planned for us a few days out.  She loved the element of surprise.
  3. Plan it out.  You can do nearly anything – any meal, appetizers, desserts, drinks, whatever.  It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be depending on your interests and time you have.  I opted for one appetizer and one meal because we only had an hour and a half.
  4. Go shopping.  Once you know basically what you’re doing (see #3), you can shop for the ingredients you’ll need.  Picking up a random, must-use ingredient or two will take it to another level.  (If you want to keep the theme of the date a total surprise, you might want to hide everything after you’ve bought it, though).
  5. Clean your kitchen.  Pretty self-explanatory.  Bonus points: empty the dishwasher, too.
  6. Set it up.  You’re almost there!  Place the must-use ingredients in a basket(s) and cover them so that they can’t be seen.  Since we were making both an app and main course, I used two baskets, one for each.  I also managed to keep the setup a surprise; your call.
  7. The reveal.  After everything is ready, bring your spouse/date/friends into the kitchen and explain.  I told Sharon that we were doing a friendly version of Chopped.  One of us would cook the app; one of us would cook the main course.  She could choose which basket she wanted.  Each of us had to incorporate the ingredients in our chosen basket into our dish, but we could use anything else from the kitchen, too.
  8. The execution.  Pick a time limit, set a timer to make it more fun, then go!  This is the best part of the date.  We ran into each other, dropped things on the floor, wondered how we were ever going to pull it off and wound up extending our own time limit.  It was one of our best dates ever.
  9. Eat!   After you catch your breath, sit down and shared what you’ve made.  Not only the food, but the memories, too.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the 9 steps.  It’s really pretty intuitive and you can make them even better by adjusting them to your own situation.

Looking back, this date was a real win for us.  My wife felt special because I had put a little effort and creativity into our relationship.  It felt great for me to experience again that it may just be possible to rise above our noisy, busy lives to keep our marriage a real priority.  And all without leaving our lives or spending a ton of money.

Now, it’s your turn.  With a little thought and effort, you can show God’s creative, surprising love to the people around you, too.

Question: What date night ideas have worked well for you in keeping your relationship fresh?