4 Things That Will Wreck Your Marriage If You’re Not Careful

No one intentionally sets out to wreck a marriage. Everyone wants your marriage to work, at least at first. That’s why weddings are beautiful and divorce proceedings aren’t. When counseling couples about to get married, I share with them four things that can wreck their marriage if they’re not careful.

1. Family of Origin – How you saw your parents interact is going to be the default mode for how you treat your spouse. If your home was broken or dysfunctional, then that is a hurdle that you can overcome but needs to be dealt with. If you never saw a healthy marriage growing up, you don’t automatically learn how to have one just because you put a ring on someone’s finger. None of these issues are deal breakers, but an unhealthy family of origin means you’ll most likely to need to talk to someone professionally over a period of time to unpack your baggage and leave it behind you.

Family of origin also includes your current extended family. There can be family dynamics that aren’t conducive to a healthy marriage. Parents that are too involved, brothers or sisters stirring things up. If you’re in a remarriage, there may even be family members rooting for your spouse to fail. All of these issues can be a detriment to your marriage.

2. Money – There is no scientific number, but I believe that 85% of all spousal arguments have to do with money (or specifically the lack of money), and that percentage might be a little low. I don’t care how much money you make, there never seems to be enough to go around. In every relationship there is usually a saver and a spender. The spender has the power in this regard because his or her ability or inability to make sound financial decisions will either strengthen or strain the marriage. Unfortunately, if you and your spouse fight about money, you’re absolutely normal.

Poor financial decisions early on in marriage can lead to lingering debt that only increases as the number and age of children increase. Strong financial stewardship and shared guidelines are necessary for a marriage to overcome money issues.

3. Sex – Sex is a huge issue namely in that it’s something that couples rarely feel comfortable talking about. Typically the complaint is that sex is not enjoyable (her) or there’s not enough of it (him). Your sexual past, previous relationships, any abuse that might have happened earlier in life, pornography addictions, can all contribute to an extremely frustrating and unsatisfying sex life.

But unlike money, which seems to be much easier to talk about, sex is a taboo subject. So the frustration builds silently, creating an intimacy barrier that can hinder any marriage. Couples need to find a safe place to talk about their sexual issues and frustrations, whether just the two of them or with a counselor. Couples need to explore all of the non-physical issues that can contribute to a less than satisfactory sex life (including diet, sleep, stress, emotional health, spiritual health, relational connectedness, mutual respect, etc).

4. How You Fight – All couples are going to fight. It’s normal and natural for two strong-willed people to have differences of opinions. The problem is when couples don’t fight fair. In each marriage there’s usually one side who wants to talk and talk and talk through a problem and one who wants to shut down and avoid the issue. The talker gets frustrated by the lack of response from their spouse, which compels them to talk more, which causes the spouse to further withdraw, which . . . (you get the picture).

Just like in basketball you have fouls, you and your spouse need to establish ‘fouls,’ agreed upon rules of how you will and will not resolve a fight. And that’s the goal, to resolve a fight. If couples can’t resolve a fight, those arguments can eventually pile up into a mountain that can become unscalable.

QUESTION: What other things can wreck a marriage?

What Russell Brand Got Right About Porn

A fan of popular culture will recognize the name Russell Brand, British comedian, one-time husband of singer Katy Perry, infamous partier and admitted porn addict. His life plays out like a frat party gone off the rails.

And yet last week he came out with an incredibly coherent, detailed, and researched based rant against the evils of pornography. Trying to turn over a new leaf, Brand is amazingly candid about his own struggles with pornography. Communicating the evils of pornography in the lives of young men, he uses his own life as a harrowing example.

If you or anyone you know struggles with pornography, I never thought I’d say this in my life, but you should listen to what Russell Brand has to say. He’s not a Christian and his views on sex stray from the biblical view (sanctity of marriage), but as a public personality known for his past enthusiasm porn, this turnaround will hopefully open a lot of eyes. His rant is up to 2 million views already and rising. It’s rare to see a celebrity show such transparency. Who knows what God’s doing in his life!

Five for Friday (8.8.14)



Here are a few articles to keep you learning through the weekend:


8 Ways the Enemy Attacks Church – true words of wisdom from Thom Rainer.

Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity – great perspective!

Marco Rubio: Intolerance in the Name of Tolerance is Hypocrisy – grateful for a politician to stand up and say this.

Don’t Overthink It: The Power of an Invitation – if we truly ‘got’ this truth, our churches would never be the same!

The Single Man’s Journey to Sexual Happiness – I wish all of our single men could read this!

Five for Friday (5.9.14)

Enjoy your Friday!

Sex, Millenials, and the Church: Five Implications – Good insight into the next generation by Thom Rainer.

Leadership Lessons from Marvel – For all the comic book fans out there.

8 Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do – Must read for every married couple!

The Subversion of the Southern Church in the Civil Rights Era – Painfully accurate assessment.

Sunday is War! – Great perspective for those of us who show up to church each week.


11 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth It

6.7.13A few days ago my local newspaper listed the names of those getting married and those getting divorced. Want to guess the score? 18 marriages, 38 divorces. Too many marriages are ending in divorce. The past two posts I talked about why marriages fail and how to improve your marriage. Today I’m giving you eleven reasons why marriage is worth fighting for.

1. A deeper love than you’ll experience anywhere else. There is an intimacy and transparency that I’ve only been able to find in a marriage. It’s one of the truly deep experiences that all humans should have.

2. You’re truly ‘known’ by someone committed to you. Marriage involves a vulnerability, as you open up your deepest self to someone else. But in this act of knowing and being known, there’s an innate longing fulfilled.

3. Lifelong companionship. If you do marriage right, your spouse will become your best friend. You can’t spend that much quality time together and not become best friends. God created us to live in community. Our spouse is ground zero for that.

4. You have a ‘help’ mate. It’s amazing how opposites seem to attract. My wife and I are perfect examples of that. She helps me where I’m weak, and I help her where she’s weak. She helps me achieve so much more than I could have on my own, and I help her do the same.

5. Spontaneous moments of pure joy. There are moments when I’m overwhelmed with love and joy. Most of the time, it’s in connection with reflecting on the blessings of God through my family. None of that would be possible without my spouse. She’s brought me more joy than anyone else on the planet.

6. Transforms your character. I tell people that my wife has been married three different times to three different people. They’ve just all happened to be me. Marriage is such a catalytic event that it will naturally change you. If done right, marriage will change you for the better.

7. Spiritual growth. Marriage has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a deeper dependence on God. It’s only with his help that I can be the husband and father that I need to be. The daily challenges of marriage have been one of the primary opportunities for me to grow spiritually.

8. Legitimate sexual fulfillment. Think of the gratification of sex without the guilt, without the shame, without the unintended consequences. When expressed in marriage, sexual fulfillment can reach its fullest potential.

9. Gives you a better picture of Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul inextricably links the union of marriage with the union of Christ and the church. To know one is to know the other. As you progress in marriage, you get a better understanding of the sacrificial love that Christ has for the church.

10. Best evangelism tool. Connected to the previous reason, since marriage and Christ are so connected, when you have a strong marriage, it’s an incredibly vivid picture of Christ to the world. A vibrant marriage will always be one of your best evangelism tools to the world.

11. Leaving a healthy legacy for your kids. Studies have consistently shown that kids do better in life when they grow up in an environment with a strong marriage. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a healthy marriage. Give them a better chance at success in life.

QUESTION: What other reasons would you add? What’s the best part about your marriage?

image courtesy of my wife’s Facebook account

11 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome

On Monday I started a series of posts on marriage in honor of my eleven year marriage anniversary. Today is part two, on 11 Ways to Make Your Marriage Awesome. In no way do I claim that this list is exhaustive or comprehensive. These are simply eleven things you can do to improve your marriage. Hope it helps!

1. Pray together every day. This simple spiritual act will cover over a multitude of hurts and bring you together in ways you never thought possible. Try it for two weeks and see what happens!

2. Get the kids out of the bed. If you’ve got young kids, you know what I’m talking about. They’re going to want to sleep with you. Don’t let them. Wives can use it as an excuse to avoid intimacy. You need that time together, alone. Even if you’re just sleeping. Kick them out.

3. Talk to each other for five minutes everyday. It doesn’t even have to be incredibly deep talk. Talk about your day. Talk about what happened in the last 24 hours. Amazingly, even a little communication on a regular basis can go a long way.

4. Turn off the TV. Television can be an incredible detriment to your marriage if you let it. It will suck up all of your available time, steal your attention and energy, and dry up your conversation. If nothing else, get the tv out of the bedroom. Don’t allow your free time to be consumed by tv.

5. Get on a budget and stick with it. This is for the “spenders” in the family. Money problems are the number one cause of fights between couples. You want a happier marriage? Get out of debt and stick to a budget. It’s amazing how many issues this will clear up.

6. Get rid of the porn. Husbands, your casual addiction to pornography destroys the intimacy you could be having with your wife. Your wife will never measure up to the make-believe standards that pornography creates. Pornography isn’t harmless. Get rid of it.

7. More sex. Wives, I know that the way God created males and females are different, and I know that your sex drive will typically be dwarfed by your husband’s. That’s no excuse to be passive in your pursuit of romance. Initiate. Pursue. A healthy and regular sexual life is integral to a happy marriage.

8. Date each other. Have a date night twice a month, minimum. Once a week if you’re able. You two need to pursue each other romantically, outside of the bedroom. What did you do when you were dating? Don’t lose that.

9. Surround yourself with other strong couples. You need mentors. You need strong friends with healthy marriages. If the only people you interact with are couples with dysfunctional or broken marriages, that dysfunction will rub off on you. Hang around with people with the type of marriage you want to have.

10. Forgive, a lot. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other human being on the planet. That’s what you get for marrying a sinner. The only way to release the toxin of bitterness is to forgive, often. There are slights and hurts that your spouse may never apologize for. Forgive them anyway. That’s what Jesus did for you on the cross (Jesus juke!).

11. Toughen up. Throw out the idea of marriage you see in romantic comedies. That’s a myth. Marriage is tough, tough work. It’s not for the faint of heart. Marriage will challenge you more than almost anything else you’ll experience in life. Toughen up. Roll up your sleeves. Get in there and fight for your marriage.

Friday we’ll finish with 11 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth It.

QUESTION: What suggestions would you add to this list?

7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every High Schooler

I recently had the privilege of speaking to our teenagers at Mt Vernon Church. In that talk I shared “7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every High Schooler.” Here are the seven things:

1. Once you graduate from high school, you’ll be amazed at how little you care about those high school friends you spent so much time trying to impress. I guarantee you, you’ll look back at all those hours wasted trying to impress the ‘cool kids’ as wasted time. Don’t give into peer pressure to impress people you won’t really care about five years from now.

2. Drinking doesn’t mean you’re cool; it just means you have a problem making dumb decisions. The alcohol industry spends $2 billion a year in advertising getting people to drink. Why? Because they want you to become addicted (which means more money for them). If you’ve got a mom or a dad who drinks too much, I know that you don’t think it’s very cool that they’re wasted all the time. But I guarantee you, they probably thought they were the ‘cool kids’ in high school because they broke the rules. Don’t go down that path. It’s not worth it. 

3. 98% of your high school relationships won’t last past college. The average marrying age (in MS) is 26 for guys, 25 for girls. Chances are that your high school relationship won’t be the person that you marry. So don’t act like you’re married! Don’t ditch your friends, don’t change who you are. Most importantly, don’t give up pieces of yourself that you intend to save for your real spouse one day.

4. Every sexual mistake you make now destroys intimacy with your future spouse. I know you’re curious, I know you’re tempted, and I know that all those Hollywood actors make pre-marital sex seem cool, but don’t do it. I’ve counseled with hundreds of teens who’ve made sexual mistakes. ALL of them regret it. How many people do you want your future spouse to sleep with before they get to you? Then behave in the same way.

5. You’ll start acting like an adult when you want to. Adulthood is a choice. Adulthood is not automatic. You don’t become an adult when you turn 18, 21 or even 30. You become an adult when you start acting like it. The myth of adolescence has lured generations of Americans to waste decades of their lives. I know some 14-year-olds that are more mature than 35-year-olds. Adulthood is a choice.

6. The most important ingredient to getting ahead in life is hard work. It’s really that simple. Most people don’t have the determination and discipline to see things through. So that I don’t get lumped in with a former presidential candidate, I won’t say that 47% of Americans are lazy, but the principle behind those remarks isn’t that far off. If you want to get ahead in life, work hard. Most people aren’t willing to put the time and energy into it, leaving more for you.

7. God wants to use you RIGHT NOW to change your world. Many of the world’s revivals have been started by teenagers. Who says the next one can’t be started by you? I love what 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Live that out, and watch what God does through you.

To All the Single Ladies Out There

Being a youth pastor for ten years, I’ve got a lot of “daughters” that I view as practically my own. Some are married but many are still single. As a protective dad, here are seven things I wish I could say to all of them (inspired by Perry Noble and his blogs on the same subject):

1. You’re a princess. I don’t mean this in the spoiled-rotten, get-whatever-I-want sense, but in the sense that God sent Jesus to die for you. As a follower of Christ, you’re now a daughter of the King. You’re a princess. If you ever doubt you’re self-worth, remember that the King of Kings died for you. That makes you awesome.

2. Since you’re a princess, wait for a prince. Set your standards high ladies. If almost anyone meets your requirements for a boyfriend, then your standards are too low. Remember, you’re worth the wait. Don’t give yourself away until your prince comes.

3. If a guy asks you to compromise your purity, he’s not a prince. He’s a pig. Your prince will honor you and respect you as a daughter of the King. If anyone ever pressures you to give up your purity for a relationship, then he doesn’t respect you. He just wants your body. He’ll use you and discard you. Don’t be fooled!

4. Just because you screwed up doesn’t make you a screw up. Some of you are reading this and you’ve already messed up sexually. That doesn’t mean that you’re unworthy or no longer valuable. It just means you made a mistake. God still loves you and is pursuing you with a relentless love and overwhelming grace.

5. “I’m lonely” or “I’m getting older” are never good excuses to settle for the next guy that comes along. Wait for God’s timing. It will always be longer than you want, but it will always be worth it. Trust me.

6. If you’re not happy single, you’ll never be happy married. Find your contentment in Christ. As awesome as your husband will one day be, he’ll never satisfy you as Christ will. If you find your contentment in Christ now, then you’ll be content in your marriage. But if you look for your husband to provide the happiness that only Christ can provide, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.

7. Purity starts now. Wherever you are in your purity journey, make this the day that you renew your purity to God. If you’re in a sexual relationship, get out of it. It’s not God’s best for you. Renew your purity to God and watch Him do amazing things in you.

Praying for all of you!

image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Do you ever wish a pastor would shoot straight about sex? Not the pie-in-the-sky sexual idealism that preachers rant about and many people break by the time they graduate high school. I’m talking real truth about the sexual messes that too many people find themselves in. If so, then this book is for you.

Real Marriage is a somewhat controversial book in Christian circles, not because anything in there is unbiblical, but because Mark Driscoll ventures into sexual issues that some consider taboo. Driscoll doesn’t venture here to be shocking or to make headlines, but because as a pastor he ministers where his people struggle. As a pastor to thousands, he’s encountered numerous stories of heartache and pain associated with sexual episodes. So, this book is him being an incredible pastor: taking the real-life struggles of people and shining the light of Scripture on them, to help them find a way out.

The book itself is broken up into two main sections: marriage and sex. The first section is helpful, looking at men and women in marriage, and marriage as friendship. As a Christian husband, I loved reading this bit of research, “Churchgoing husbands express more positive emotion to their wives, are more attentive to their marriages, serve their wives more, take more time for date night and time together, and invest more in their wives” (58).

The book really starts to steam up (pun intended) with the second section on sex. Here’s the value of the book: Driscoll deals with the raw and messy sexual struggles of real-life Christians today. Teaching at a marriage conference, Mark and Grace Driscoll encountered the brutal reality of what couples struggle with. Here’s what they encountered as people came up to talk with them: “Women who were molested as children, weeping so hard they could not breathe; husbands who had been caught, yet again, viewing porn; a married couple who had not had any sexual contact in more than a decade; a woman who had sex with her husband twice a day and was still unsatisfied, wanting more; a few couples who had been married more than a year and were still virgins; one woman who had not told her husband she had dozens of partners before they met; a wife who asked if her husband was guilty of raping her; and a Christian couple who wanted to know if they should keep watching porn together” (107).

As uncomfortable as it might be, situations like this exist in too many marriages today. Preachers like me get off too easy if we simply stick to the “don’t have sex before you’re married” message. That works if you’re preaching to teenagers, but what about the rest of us? What about those who have already made mistakes? What about those who are still trying to put together the pieces of a broken sexual life? What about those who are scarred from childhood experiences too horrific to recount? What about them?

As a pastor, Driscoll wades into the mess, rolls up his sleeves, and tries to help people find a way out. He and his wife are open about their sexual experiences growing up and how it negatively affected their marriage. Neither of them were virgins when they were married, and Grace was the victim of sexual abuse growing up. Their story is one of redemption and hope as they found healing and wholeness in Jesus. Grace’s willingness to open up about her sexual abuse as a child is invaluable for the millions of girls who suffer abuse growing up. Because of the stigma attached to it, too many girls don’t deal with the pain of it and carry that into their marriage. Grace’s journey points to the reality that sexual abuse does affect sexual intimacy with your spouse, and unless it’s properly dealt with, it will poison your marriage.

Chapter Ten raises the most eyebrows with ultra-conservative Christians, because Driscoll ventures into taboo territory and tries to apply biblical truth to areas that ‘good’ Christians aren’t supposed to talk about. Titled “Can We _____?”, he looks at eleven different categories of sexual reality that couples encounter today, including masturbation, anal sex, oral sex, role-playing, and whole host of other things that Christians want to know about but don’t feel comfortable asking. Because there is no sexual checklist in the Bible, Driscoll applies three scriptural principles to all of the categories and helps couples get scriptural truth applied to their sexual questions. While uncomfortable, this chapter is invaluable to a Christian couple just trying to get some answers to real-life questions. I applaud his bravery for venturing into such a taboo area and treating the issues with dignity and respect.


1. Your sexual past has in incredible impact on your marriage. Through page after page of research and real life stories, Driscoll brings to light the convincing reality that sex always has consequences. If engaged in the wrong way, it can be devastating to a marriage.

2. Christian couples deal with sexual issues just like everyone else. Although everyone looks clean and dressed up on Sundays, they deal with sexual issues just like everyone else. I’m incredibly thankful for a book like this that tackles these issues head on.

3. The pain of sexual abuse is real. Grace’s story of abuse and its after effects are too often repeated in society today. My heart breaks for girls who are first victims of abuse, and then victims of shame that prevents them from finding help.

4. There is hope and healing for every sexual issue in Jesus. Greater than the pain of sexual mistakes, the light of Christ shines through this book as Mark and Grace continually point to the wholeness that anyone can find in Jesus.

5. Pastors need to talk about this more. Although many of today’s sexual issues aren’t specifically mentioned in Scripture, there are biblical principles that can bring hope to millions of people struggling with the consequences of sexual sin. We just have to be brave enough to walk towards the mess.