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Number of unwed mothers skyrockets because of wimps and barbarians

Number of unwed mothers skyrockets because of wimps and barbarians

New U.S. Census data shows that the number of births out of wedlock in Oklahoma is up. Way up. In fact, some 40 percent of births in Oklahoma in 2011 were to unwed mothers, which is higher than the national average. This represents a significant challenge and opportunity for churches in Oklahoma, which remains one of the most churched states in America.

While an increasing number of churches realize we should minister with and to single mothers, there has been a cost to the removal of stigma to out-of-wedlock births. Namely, more children are being born into broken homes.

Expectations matter. The script for those desiring children used to be, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage.” Today, shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo too closely reflects the reality of women becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

The biggest loser in this equation of out-of-wedlock births is children. A close second, though, is the mothers who raise them. Coming off nearly Scott free are men, who sleep around and take no responsibility for their offspring. We have, in a way, catered to the barbarians in society. We have lost the whole idea of a “shotgun wedding.” This must change.

First, let’s face the fact that this is mostly the fault of men. A woman cannot become pregnant without a man, and the pool of guys out there is getting worse and worse. In his 2004 essay, “Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphey Brown,” Terrence O. Moore predicted we would see what we are seeing ten years later. Moore examined societal attitudes about single mothers, when Vice President Dan Quayle criticized fictional TV anchor “Murphey Brown” for purposefully becoming a single mother. Moore argues that Brown’s son would grow up to be one of two extremes, either a wimp or a barbarian.

Boys without fathers, as it turns out, often trend toward one of these extremes. By God’s grace, a single mother can raise godly children, but it is an uphill battle. Therefore, the church must respond in love by supporting mothers who are single, by telling men who abandon women and children they are living in sin and encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions, and by a recommitment to God’s best for a family, having a mother and a father.

Jesus, while compassionate to the woman at the well (John 4), did chide her for living with a man “who is not your husband.” Our Lord forgave her and restored her, as well as set her on a new path for life. Part of her old, sinful way was cohabitation. The church should not be afraid to tell women and men that God does not want them to have sex outside of marriage, nor does he smile upon cohabitation. God is not trying to spoil any fun. He is trying to protect us from ourselves.

Until a fundament shift in expectations occurs in society, we likely will continue to see the unwed birth rates climb. God’s people, though, can be accountable for our own and our actions. Let’s pray that we will take this Census news as a wake-up call and compassionately help young adult Christians stay on the best path.

The grass is never greener (married edition)

The grass is never greener (married edition)

This month, I have been divorced for 5 years. Before that I was married for 5 years. I say that as a reference to you before you read any further. I don’t claim to know much of anything about having a successful relationship or tips on how to make a marriage work. However, as I said, I’ve lived half my adult life married and the other half single. So I have perspective on both. I’ve reached through the fence a few different times, thinking the grass was greener and turns out it’s not.

Here are my thoughts on this dilemma, today directed to the married folks….

For whatever reason, I’ve recently had conversations with several good friends (both guys and gals) about marriage and divorce. Not sure if it’s in the water or it’s something this storm is bringing in or what. But it’s a trend that disturbs me because of my personal experience with divorce.

As I said from the top, I have no advice that you can implement that will change your married life overnight. But what I can give you and what I describe to everyone I meet with about this topic is this.

Here is a picture of what your life will be like if you decide to get divorced…and specifically to those of you with children.

  • Be prepared to rarely; if ever tuck your kids in at night.
  • Have a lot of Kleenex the first 3 years. You will need them.
  • Get your story ready to deliver to your kids when they ask you why you left their mother/father.
  • Alone. Lonely. Defeated.
  • Say good-bye to waking your kids up and dressing them for school every day.
  • Get ready for most people to look at you differently.
  • Depressed. Discouraged. Constantly.
  • Get your profile pic ready for the dating site of your choice.
  • Get prepared to watch other women…. “mother” your children, dress your girls, love what was your spouse.
  • Embarrassed. Insecure. Distraught.
  • Don’t forget how many kids you have, because every potential suitor will ask. Then walk away.
  • Buy a football for the guy who will be teaching your boy how to throw it.
  • If you do find someone, get ready to be asked to pick one. Them or your kids.
  • Just be primed to say “it’s ok” when your kids call you the wrong name. Yes, I mean not mom or dad, but the other “persons” name.
  • The “rings” will come off, the lawyers will control everything and you will be served papers. Publicly.
  • Pick out which Christmas mornings you want to spend with your kids. You no longer get them all.
  • The thought of love will be sickening, yet you’ll long to have it back. Many will search for it for years with other people.
  • Failure. Desperation. Darkness.

I don’t share these intimate details in hopes of you inviting me to a pity party. In fact not all of these examples and emotions are from me. The list is more of a culmination of examples from my life and dozens of other divorced men and woman whom I’ve counseled. Friends who thought the grass was greener elsewhere. So why do I share? I share these specifics in hopes of slapping some of you across the face with the reality that will be your life if you break your vows. Five years after divorce I still deal with several of these issues and emotions on a weekly basis. Now, my life is what it is today and I believe God has grace that covers a multitude of sins. And that I am living proof that God does and can restore and make all things new. But it comes with a price, a very brutal and often times painful price that few people fully realize.

My message is this. Single or married. The grass is NOT greener elsewhere. You are where you are for a reason. Take charge of your marriage, claim your contentedness and grab some gratefulness for your situation.

Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5

But most of all forgive and love. …. just like you have been forgiven and loved.

Read the singles’ edition of this post here.

Defining Marriage

Defining Marriage

If you’re like me, your head is virtually spinning from all the talk, Facebook icons and pithy slogans surrounding the gay marriage debate.  As the Supreme Court faces a difficult decision that could send shockwaves throughout the cultural and religious landscape, it is not the argument on both sides that I find disturbing, but the conversation it seems we are not having.

The difficulty I see in taking arms for or against redefining marriage is that while people are talking about the re-definition, no one is talking about the definition.

So why add one more voice to the confusion?  My aim is to help Christian readers define what it is we are actually defending.  For those who will immediately dismiss my argument, I want us to recognize the fact that what we are differing over is not an emotive or equality issue, but is a division over biblical authority.  What is being missed in large part on both sides of the debate is the understanding of marriage’s original definition and why some are so stalwart in opposing a re-definition.

This is not about “hate,” cultural neanderthalism or tradition.  For those who believe the Bible is the true word of God, we trace marriage back to the very beginning.

“The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  – Genesis 2:20-25

From this passage, and the preceding creation account, we see that God is a God of separation, boundaries, and order.  He separates light from dark.  He separates land from sea and provides boundaries for both.  He creates creatures for sea and creatures for land.  He creates man and woman.  He gives order, roles, and purposes.

Then the God who creates separation, boundaries and order performs a startling act.  The one thing he reunites after separation is the man and woman in the act of marriage.  God brings the woman to the man (v. 22).  There is covenant language (v. 23).  There is a pronouncement made (v. 24).  The woman is then called his “wife.”

For Bible believers, this is the gift of marriage initiated, ordained, and purposed by God.  This is the definition of marriage.

Biblically, marriage is to be a life-long covenant (Mal. 2:16, Matt. 19:6) between male and female (Matt. 19:4) and should not be separated (Matt. 19:6-8).  It contains boundaries for the sexual relationship (1 Cor. 6:16).  This purpose cannot be fulfilled by a male/male or female/female relationship (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:25-32) nor in a human/animal relationship (Lev. 18:23), nor incestual (Lev. 18:6-17), or polygamist (1 Tim. 3:2, 12).

This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, there are biblical boundaries for marriage.  Ultimately, Paul sums up the purpose of marriage in Ephesians chapter five.  He says the marriage relationship is given by God as a representation of Christ’s relationship with the church.  It is for mutual building up, humble service, love and respect.  He again quotes the Genesis 2:24 passage as Christ does in Matthew 19:5 referring to the male and female counterparts of the marriage relationship.

This is what marriage is.  It is the genesis and definition.  I did not make it up.  I did not define it.  If you find it objectionable, you are not bound to participate in it.  You have all the right in the world to say, “If that’s marriage, then I don’t want it.”

The difficulty stems from the fact that the government has borrowed the term “marriage” to offer governmentally sanctioned privileges such as tax breaks, hospital visitation and the like.  The issue is, while these are governmental rights attached to marriage, they have nothing to do with marriage itself.

The government is free to give rights to whomever the government wishes, assuming the government is free to bequeath those rights.  But the government has no right to alter the definition of marriage any more than it has the right to redefine baptism.  This is because neither marriage nor baptism are given by the government.  Their parameters are given by God.  Therefore He stands as the judge and standard-bearer.

Whether or not the government should afford the civil privileges to a gay couple that they provide for heterosexual couples is an entirely different debate.  However, the government cannot call those rights “marriage” or redefine the term to have civil implications that are not, or were not, originally attached to it nor coincide with its Author’s intent or design.  They should not be officiated by a minister, but a senator or government official.  They are not ordained by God nor do they honor Him as they are not in line with His purpose and design for what the Bible defines as marriage.  It is something else entirely.

If you are for so-called gay marriage, hopefully this article provides some clarity on the discussion and its terminology.  If the idea of marriage repulses you, you are not obligated to submit to it – just don’t use the term to describe something it is not.  Biblical marriage is not simply “traditional” marriage since it is not tradition that gave us marriage.  Biblical marriage is just that: biblical.

I believe we can aim the discussion more precisely when our terms are properly defined.  When we are borrowing words and remaking boundaries that are not ours to make, the shouting match ensues and no one comes across clearly in a shouting match.  May we be able to approach one another with love even as we disagree.  I do not hate gay people.  I am not afraid of gay people or homosexuality.  What I do object to is anyone, gay or straight, misusing the institutions or words of God for their own agenda.  Let the comments ensue and may they be graced with as much tolerance and love as we seek for ourselves.

The grass is never greener (single edition)

The grass is never greener (single edition)

In April, I will have been divorced for 5 years. Before that I was married for 5 years. I say that as a reference to you before you read any further. I don’t claim to know much of anything about having a successful relationship or tips on how to make a marriage work. However, as I said, I have lived half my adult life married and the other half single. So I have perspective on both. I’ve reached through the fence a few different times, thinking the grass was greener and turns out it’s not.

Here are my thoughts on this dilemma to us single folks….

Whether you’ve been married before or not….whether you are in a “serious” relationship or not, God does care about you. As much as we may think this entire world is created for those happily married folks prancing around holding hands and making-out in front of us, God actually did create this world for single people too.

I know, I know. Married people seem to have all the perks. They’ve got the built in cuddle buddy, the partner to go to the movies with, the encourager waiting for them at home after a tough day and the cook when you’re broke and hungry (not to mention the lover).

But here is the reality from where I see it, and I am not saying this is good or bad, just that it seems to be the reality. Most married people, if they were honest, would say they often think about what life would be like if they were single. They have the same “grass is always greener” thoughts about being single that you have on being married.

Single people want to be married and married folks want to be single.

So how do we overcome this longing we feel, the hurt it carries with it and the jealously that teems inside?

For me it comes down to two things. Gratitude and Contentment. Finding one, if not both of these characteristics in every aspect of our life as a “single” person, can give you a freedom and purpose for this season of your life.

Simple in theory. Excruciatingly difficulty to dwell on in reality. But here are some verses I’ve found that may help you really grab on to the truth that God does have a plan for this single season you have found yourself in.

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity. Philippians 4:11-12

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

A tranquil heart is life to the body, But passion is rottenness to the bones. Proverbs 14:30

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you, He’ll promote you at the right time. 1 Peter 5:6-7

If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. Job 36:11

But godliness with contentment is great gain. Psalm 68:3

Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Hold on to these verses on the days where all you want is to have the “perfect” marriage and family that your neighbor has or when you are at the next wedding longing to know when that day will come for you. Grab on to some gratitude and thank God that you have the freedom that being single provides for you today. I can assure you that if you are following God’s will for your life, the freedom you have been given is specifically in place for you to accomplish something great, to learn something new about life, to grow up, to mature in your decision making, to gain more perspective or maybe to discover something you never knew about yourself.

Look, I know being single sucks. I get it. Trust me, I really do. But I can tell you with 100% confidence that I am single right now for a reason. God is not surprised by it and He will not let it go to waste. But I have to trust Him; my faith at times has to exponentially grow. As I do this and walk through season after season without a partner I become more and more content that God is in charge and I am not. And that feels good.

I’ve had my stint running my life and I didn’t do so well. So for now, I am striving for contentment and gratitude in my singleness. Purposely taking action to control my contentment, live in gratitude and preparing myself for the next season of life. One I hope comes with a smoking hot wife….

Read the married version of this post here.

The Marriage Triangle

The Marriage Triangle

Before we were married, I heard the illustration that marriage is like a triangle and the closer you each get to God, the closer you will grow toward each other.

And I liked that.  Neat and tidy and hopeful. But after seven years, I’m not sure marriage follows neat little formulas.

Now I think it’s a little more like a kite with two strings. And we’re each holding one and God is our wind; it wouldn’t even stay up in the air without him.  But still we wrestle.

We give it too much slack, that marriage kite, and it soars away too far, each of us busily managing our own isolated strings.  No one tames the wind or the Holy Spirit and we start to snap, crackle, and pop under the strain of that distance we’ve allowed.

So we have to draw it back in, winding our way back to each other and a safer place. And sometimes, like last week, we’re just mad and we jerk angrily at the slack, wrestling words and folly.

But we don’t let go, and God and the wind and Holy Spirit keep blowing, and it’s a triangle after all.

So we keep on flying that kite.

And it’s beautiful.