Archive for October, 2013

If Not Self-Esteem, Then What?

Culturally, we are told that if we could love ourselves more that would solve most of our life struggles.  Jesus said that the starting point of discipleship was to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23).  Culturally we are told that we must love ourselves before we can love anyone else.  Paul said that we must count others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

This can lead to much confusion as Christian try to harmonize these two sets of instructions.  The article below seeks to provide guidance on the subject.

Start with this reflection.  What kind of word is self-esteem: noun, verb, or adjective?  Is self-esteem more like that word power (noun), strong (adjective), or weight-lifting (verb)?  Is self-esteem something you want (noun), an description you want to be true of you (adjective), or a way to pursue something (verb)?

The article below introduces the idea that self-esteem is a verb.  It is a theory concerning human behavior that instructs people (rightly or wrongly) on how to pursue things like confidence, identity, security, purpose, and wisdom (nouns).  The question is, “Does self-esteem provide a path that will help us arrive at those destinations?”

If you are intrigued and want to consider the matter further, you can read SELF_ESTEEM_article_Hambrick.

Tweets of the Week 10.29.13

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Dealing with Regret (Video Post)

Regret always begins as an opportunity; hence the disappointment. There was something we wanted to be an enduring part of our life that disappeared, was forfeited, or was lost. Regret is never just a moment, but a painful and pivotal change in our life story.

When we neglect mourning the hope that birthed our regret or focus exclusively on the moment in which regret began there are two negative consequences: (a) whatever guidance we receive feels light-weight and cliché, and (b) we miss most of what God has been, is, and wants to do.

In this presentation I walk through the life of Moses in light of his most regrettable moment (Numbers 20:1-13) to illustrate how God’s works redemptively in the midst of the things we regret most deeply.

Presentation Handout: EQUIP_Dealing with Regret_Notes

Dealing With Regret from Equip on Vimeo.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Emotions” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Suffering” post which address other facets of this subject.

Common Challenges to a Healthy Marital Sex Life

This post is an excerpt from the mentoring manual that accompanies the upcoming “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar.

Appendix B

This seminar has been designed to counter the leading cause of sexual difficulty in marriage – a poor education about how sex works; either physically and relationally. Hopefully at this point you have a clearer understanding of the marital environment and physical process necessary to cultivate a satisfying sex life.

But sexual education alone will not guarantee a satisfying sex life; even the effective implementation of a good sexual education cannot make this guarantee. There are factors outside of being an informed and skilled lover than contribute to a satisfying sex life. In this appendix we will divide those factors into two categories:

1. Sin Variables – Factors that interfere with a satisfying sex life for which you bear personal responsibility. In this category we will provide initial guidance and recommendations for guilt over past sexual behavior, the effects of pornography on marital sex, and adultery.

2. Suffering Variables – Factors that interfere with a satisfying sex life for which you do not bear personal responsibility. In this category we will provide initial guidance and recommendations for the effects of having been sexually abused, the experience of pain during sex, infertility, and impotence.

Sin Variables

The transition of sex from forbidden to frequent can be difficult for many couples. This difficulty can be compounded when one individual or the couple has participated in pre-marital sex; creating an association between sex and guilt (“I’ve done something wrong”) or sex and defiance (“Nobody is going to tell me what I can’t do.”).

These associations often make it harder to enjoy marital sex. In effect, when these associations are present pre-marital sex felt like an adventure (i.e., a trip into the forbidden) and marital sex feels like a trip to the grocery (i.e., an expected, normal routine of life). Here are some suggestions if you believe past sexual behavior is diminishing your present marital sex life.

  • Be honest and talk about it. Silence always echoes and multiplies any sense of guilt or shame we experience. If your spouse brings this concern to you, do not dismiss it with, “But sex is okay now.” Instead, hear your spouse and walk with them towards the experience of forgiveness.
  • If your past sin was with your spouse, then confess to one another and seek God’s forgiveness together. Allow this to start or reinforce the pattern that the two of you will openly talk about your struggles and take them to God.
  • Realize God forgives and restores. God wants you to have a satisfying sex life. God has no desire for you to experience a life of guilt, awkwardness, and inhibition about His gift to your marriage. You are not being a “good Christian” by punishing your past sin with present guilt. Christ died for you to be free from that.
  • If guilt and a sense of emotional restriction continues talk to a pastor or counselor. You must be more committed to knowing God’s freedom than you are living in your guilt. As you speak with a pastor or counselor, they may put God’s forgiveness into a better perspective, they may counter the lies you tell yourself in a new way, or their warmth towards you may simply be a more tangible example of God’s disposition towards you.

A common struggle for many spouses (not just husbands) is pornography and masturbation. These activities have many negative effects on a marriage: promoting selfish sex, generating the fantasy of an ideal and all-knowing lover, portraying sex for purposes other than covenant-bonding, robbing your sexual vitality from times with your spouse, and many more.

Another struggle that impacts many marriages is adultery; having an emotional bond with a member of the opposite sex that is greater than the one you share with your spouse, or any sexual activity that exists with someone other than your spouse. If either pornography or adultery has impacted your marriage, here are some suggestions.

  • Be honest. You will never be more pure or feel more loved than you are honest with your spouse. Beyond the sexual offense, the lying and deceit may be more damaging to the marriage. It allows you to believe, “If my spouse knew, he/she wouldn’t love me,” which fuels your fantasy escape and sabotages your marital efforts.
  • Do not try to deal with this alone. Shame causes most couples to deal with sexual sin alone. This is a mistake. Seek out a pastor or counselor to help you walk through the needed marital restoration.
  • “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery” (www.bradhambrick.com/falselove) is a seminar designed to walk you through how the gospel guides you to freedom from sexual sin. It is a study that can be done in conjunction with a pastor, counselor, mentor, or accountability group.
  • “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin” (www.bradhambrick.com/truebetrayal) is a seminar designed to walk you through the process of recovering from the impact of your spouse’s sexual sin. It is also a study that can be done in conjunction with a pastor, counselor, mentor, or accountability group.
  • For additional guidance on how these forms of sexual sin impact a marital sex life and what recovery looks like, chapters 26-29 of Doug Rosenau’s book The Celebration of Sex are recommended.

Suffering Variables

Sin is not the only thing that disrupts a satisfying marital sex life. There are also many ways suffering impacts a couple’s sex life. This means that you do not necessarily need to repent if sex is not what you hoped it would be.

The lack of a good sex education and the (often) presence of a bad sex education is part of this suffering. We live in a day when there is more mis-information about sex than accurate information. Parents and churches frequently do not prepare people to enjoy the gift of sex as God intended. This seminar is an attempt to alleviate that form of suffering.

Another unfortunately common form of suffering is the experience of sexual abuse (one in four women; one in six men). When sex has been a weapon used to violate you it can be hard to experience sex as a gift meant to bless you. If you have experienced sexual abuse, then here are several suggestions.

  • Realize this was not your fault and the shame you may feel is not yours to own. Likely you have been silenced, blamed, and shamed so this may be hard to accept. But it is true.
  • Share your experience with your spouse. You may choose to watch or read some of the resource below first, but an important part of you being “fully known and fully loved” in your marriage is the assurance that your spouse does not love you any less because of what happened to you.
  • Do not try to deal with this alone. Sexual abuse is a complex experience. Some of the emotional dynamics may change when you get married, when you have kids, when your kids have their first sleep over, etc… Developing a relationship with an experienced counselor to guide you through these experiences is important.
  • “Hope and Restoration After Sexual Abuse” (www.bradhambrick.com/sexualabuse) is a seminar designed to overview many of the common experiences of sexual abuse. If you have not told anyone of your experience it can be a safe first step towards feeling understood so you can feel safer to talk to someone about your experience. It is also a good resource for your spouse to watch in order to understand how to best love and support you in light of your experience of abuse.
  • On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Langberg is an excellent book on recovering from the effects of sexual abuse.
  • Chapter 24 of The Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau discusses how to navigate many of the challenges couples face in their sex life while one of them is processing their experience of sexual abuse.

A third way suffering can affect sex is through pain. When sex is painful it means something is wrong; not with you morally but physically. Pain is the alarm system of the body like guilt is the alarm system of the soul. When you’re hurting go to the doctor, like you go to God when you feel guilty. There is no reason for you to feel shame. Allow God to care for you through the expertise of a OBGYN or other relevant physician.

“Painful sex does not get better by ignoring it or trying to play through it. Often, it further traumatizes and creates more sexual difficulties (p. 285).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

  • In addition to seeking assistance from the relevant medical professionals, chapters 22 and 23 of The Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau are recommended for additional guidance.

A fourth experience of suffering that changes the experience of sex is infertility. Most couples do not think about the possibility of having children every time they have sex. But when a couple struggles to conceive, then they do begin think about it each time they have sex. What is not happening (i.e., conceiving a child) begins to overshadow what is happening (i.e., celebrating their marital love).

  • Chapter 25 of The Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau provides excellent material on (a) the common misconceptions and hurtful advice given to couples experiencing infertility, (b) how to walk through the medical testing, (c) considering medical and adopting options, and (d) how to protect your marriage on this journey.
  • “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” (www.bradhambrick.com/griefseminar) is a seminar designed to help individuals process their experiences of grief; not just the traditional grief of losing a loved one to death, but also less commonly considered griefs such as miscarriage and infertility.

A fifth experience of suffering that impacts sex is impotence. This is a highly common struggle, especially in its episodic form, which has a tendency to become chronic when men fixate on it.

“All men will struggle with getting or maintaining an erection at some point. Fatigue, alcohol, medications, and performance anxiety are common causes. The key is not to panic because that would just compound the problem (p. 36)… The surest way to become psychologically impotent is to worry about erections rather than enjoying the moment (p. 249).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

Medication has allowed for significant alleviation of erectile dysfunction.

“Remember that Viagra restores the capacity for an erection, not libido… The impotence pill reminds us again that a healthy marriage and intimate lovemaking are about connection and not penetration. It’s not about the penis, but about the person and the ability to relate intimately (p. 254).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

If impotence or erectile dysfunction is impacting your marital sex life, consider the following suggestions:

  • Do not mistake “good sex” with the ability to sustain an erection or ejaculate. This sense of failure will inhibit your sexual ability to a degree much greater than whatever physical challenge you may be facing and rob your marriage of a continued sense of romantic closeness.
  • Grow in your understanding of the complexity of impotence. Chapters 20 and 21 of The Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau offer excellent guidance on this subject.
  • Seek medical advisement. It is important to identify or rule out contributions from low testosterone levels, blood pressure, prostrate difficulties, or glandular malfunctions (especially the thyroid).
  • Seek counseling from a reputable Christian sex therapist. Once medical causes are ruled out, the emotional relational aspects of arousal and climax are the remaining variable. Performance anxiety about sex is the leading cause of psychological impotence. A trained and experienced counselor can help you understand and overcome the effects of anxiety and insecurity upon your sexual performance.

Conclusion

The purpose of this appendix was not to answer all of your questions about sexual difficulties, but to give you guidance on what next steps you can take to overcome whatever challenges are interfering with a satisfying marital sex life.

The main piece of advice is, “Don’t struggle alone.” Too many couples either (a) continue to do the same things over and over again hoping for a different result, or (b) give up and do nothing; both of these options result in sex being a subject that hinders your marriage rather than contributing to its flourishing.

Hopefully from the larger seminar and this appendix you have received two things to enable to reach out for help more effectively.

1. A vocabulary and example of what it means to more freely and openly talk about sex.

  2. Direction on specific resources (seminars or books) or helping professionals (counselors or doctors) who are most appropriate to help you with the given struggle you are facing.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Initiating and Declining Sex in Marriage

This post is an excerpt from the mentoring manual that accompanies the upcoming “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar.

For many married couples initiating sex can be an awkward moment that leads to conflict or hurt feelings. They’re not sure what to say. They fear being rejected. They want sex to be “special” but most of the moments they’re both home together are “normal.” They don’t want to seem demanding. They want their spouse to “just know.” They don’t want to interrupt and their spouse is always doing something else. They’ve tried and been told their attempt was crude or unclear.

This may begin to sound overwhelming, but there are few simple points to keep in mind when initiating sex with your spouse. Taking a few minutes to talk through these with each other can prevent a great deal of awkwardness and hurt feelings over the course of your marriage.

1. Use Mutually Honoring Language or Actions – Do not refer to sex with terminology that is offensive to your spouse. That is a turn-off at the moment you’re striving for a turn-on. Do not grab or grope your spouse in ways that are unappealing to him/her. That makes your touch a threat at a time when you want it to be welcomed.

As a couple, discuss the kind of language that is comfortable and appealing to use when initiating sex. How many ways would the two of you complete the invitation, “Do you want to… have sex… have a date… make a rendezvous… dance… enjoy one another?” If you don’t like these phrases, that’s fine. Their purpose is to break the ice and help you come up with your own (variety is good, as long as it’s mutually agreeable and understood).

2. Be Clear – A lack of clarity in your request is a great way to make initiating sex an uncomfortable experience. Generic questions like, “Are you doing anything right now?” when you’re interested in sex are bad. If you’re spouse says “yes” (which will be most of the time) you’ll hear him/her say “no” to sex and feel rejected. When they finally realize you’re pouting and you finally explain why, an extended time of hurt feelings will have passed; making initiating sex feel like an “emotionally dangerous” thing to do.

One of the benefits of having agreed upon language to initiate sex is that it adds to the clarity of an attempt to initiate. Ambiguous requests are a form of game-playing that expects your spouse to read your mind. They are unfair and are easily avoided with a few minutes of intentional conversation.

3. Invite Don’t Demand – Questions honor; expectations dishonor. “Are you interested in…?” or “Would you like to…?” are much better introductions initiating sex than “Let’s…” or “It’s time to…” Consider the fact that even when God offered you all the pleasures of Heaven, He still invited you to accept it (John 3:16) instead of forcing the invitation upon you (Mark 10:22).

However, if you know your spouse is interested in sex, then a more assertive initiation can be a way to show your enthusiasm. This playfulness rooted in an awareness of your spouse’s desire for you reveals a level of sexual maturity; knowing each other and resting in each other’s acceptance should result in occasions for this kind of confident seduction of one another.

4. Have Realistic Expectations – Don’t let your sexual imagination ignore the realities of your spouse’s life and skillset. Initiating when you know your spouse is exhausted is rarely a loving thing to do. Expecting an eloquent initiation from a “spouse of few words” is unrealistic. While both of you should be willing to sacrifice and stretch yourselves to please the other, love does not make untimely or against-another’s-nature requests.

A responsibility that each of you share is to manage your life so that you are regularly available to your spouse. A blessing each of you should want to provide to your spouse is the willingness to grow in areas that are important to your spouse, but unnatural to you. But these things should be a gift you give each other, not a tax you exact from one another.

5. Be Balanced as a Couple – Both husband and wife should regularly initiate sex. The ratio does not have to be precisely 50-50, but it also shouldn’t be 80-20. Both initiating sex and responding affirmatively to the initiation of the other are unique ways to love each other. You each should be able to bless the other with both responses: pursuing and responding. This maintains a balance in confidence and voice for both of you.

Consider this parallel to initiating sex; worship is the balanced experience of love drawing us towards God and the awe-struck suspense of being allowed into His presence. Both experiences are needed for worship to occur. The more both are present the more intense our worship. Initiating sex carries both of these dynamics; we are drawn by love towards our spouse, yet there is the suspense (e.g., anticipation) of requesting an intimate encounter. The more both are present, the more enjoyable our sexual encounter will be.

“Many Christian women believe that sex is a gift from God, but even so, they can’t give themselves permission to revel in the sensual pleasures of married love. Why? Because in their minds, the words godly and sensuous do not go together. Their definition of a godly woman does not include words like sexual or sensuous, and so in their quest to become godly women, they have denied their sensuousness (p. 13).” Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus in Intimate Issues

However, this begs a second question about initiating sex, “How do we respond if our spouse declines our invitation? How would we lovingly decline our spouse’s invitation? How do we protect these moments from becoming part of a negative cycle in our marriage? If my body belongs to my spouse (I Cor. 7:3-5), is it ever permissible for me to decline my spouse’s invitation to sex?”

“Please don’t use God’s loving guidelines as weapons against each other. Some husbands and wives club their mates with this passage and say things like, ‘If you don’t have sex with me tonight, you are sinning.’ The real sin is theirs because they usually have never taken the time, loving kindness, and energy to make changes needed to appeal to their mates romantically… Remember, making love is about giving—not demanding… On the other hand, are you too fatigued or busy or inhibited to have sexual relations regularly? You two are missing God’s plan for marriage and the enjoyment of one of His avenues for increasing intimacy (p. 5).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

Here are some suggested guidelines for these questions. Resist the urge to consider them “rules.” Instead view them as a conversation starter. As you read through them, discuss with your spouse, “What would this principle sound like in conversation for us?” and “How has / would neglecting this principle negatively affected our marriage?”

  • Only decline for important reasons. The perfect moment doesn’t occur very often; at least not often enough for a satisfying sex life in most marriages. There will be times when you are too tired or have an intense headache, but most often the disruption of declining your spouse’s initiation (e.g., hurt feeling, second guessing yourself, conflict) will be greater than the effort required to engage an enjoyable sexual encounter with your spouse.
  • Resist interpreting a decline as rejection. For some reason we are prone to think “no” means “never” when it comes to sex; we hear “I don’t like you” in “Not tonight.” Part of this is understandable; whenever we are disappointed about an anticipated pleasure it is hard to be objective. But when we do this, we are unfair with our spouse’s intent. We also undermine the future enjoyment of sex by creating conflict over an activity (i.e., sex) that is dependent upon closeness and vulnerability for its enjoyment.
  • Pair a decline with an affirmation. “Honey, I love you and want to be with you, but I wouldn’t be able to participate as fully as we both would like if we tried right now.” This kind of reply has both a direct affirmation (e.g., “I love you and want to be with you”) and an indirect affirmation (e.g., “I want to fully participate”). Even though we are not at our physical or mental best when we would decline, we do not want to be lazy in these conversations by neglecting to pair an affirmation with our words.
  • Pair a decline with another time. “That sounds wonderful, but if you give me 30 minutes I will be much more engaged.” Or, “I would really like to, but what if we got up 30 minutes early in the morning so we’re both rested.” Or, “I like the idea, but the kids are at a friend’s house tomorrow and we could be a bit more expressive with our love in an empty house.” Offering an affirmation and alternative time helps your spouse resist the temptation to interpret your decline as rejection.
  • If you are declining frequently, initiate frequently. If you find that you are frequently declining sex because of how you feel (fatigue or health), become the spouse who initiates sex more often. Find the times that are optimal for you and pursue your spouse. This shows your spouse that you are interested in sex and helps to create a rhythm for intimacy that is more conducive to the rhythm of your shared live.

“The only sexual life a Christian spouse can legitimately enjoy is the romantic life a spouse chooses to provide. This makes manipulation and rejection ever-present spectators in the marital bed. Anything denied physically becomes an absolute denial, because there is no other legitimate outlet (p. 194).” Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage

GCM Evaluation: Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

How do you feel as we get ready to talk about sex? Nervous, excited, guilty, awkward, self-conscious, aroused, or tired of me asking question and ready to get the conversation started? Surprising to many people, the first step towards a great sex life is the ability to talk about sex. Sex is a “team sport” and communication is essential to anything involving the synchronization of two people’s bodily movements (not to mention schedules and emotions).

For many couples the most beneficial thing they will gain from this chapter and the next will be a conversation guide. Hopefully, the content will be informative and stimulating, but what they really need most-first is a series of positively-framed prompts to have some awkward but exciting conversations they may only try to have when one of them thinks “the moment is right” and the other is not so sure.

But even when there is agreement on the frequency and initiation of sex, communication is paramount to a healthy and thriving sex life. Talking about sex should not just be educational (i.e., learning what your spouse does and does not enjoy), but also arousing (i.e., part of the foreplay and building of a healthy sexual tension between husband and wife which adds to the climax of intercourse).

“Many couples find it uncomfortable to initiate sexual conversations and openly discuss individual needs and desires (p. 16)… Great sex is based on mature lovers who can be honest with themselves and with their mates. They are self-aware and assertively communicate (p. 17).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

Pause for a moment. Do not read the next paragraph before writing your answer to the following question. What are the three sexiest, most stimulating organs of the human body?

  1. ____________________       2. _____________________  3. ____________________

If you grasp the significance of the answers to this question, it will revolutionize how you understand sex. The quality and, probably, the quantity of your sex life will increase dramatically. Your ability to be creative during love making, avoid the ruts of ho-hum routine sex, and ability to build a wholesome anticipation for your spouse will grow.

  1. Your Brain. Without imagination sex becomes one more thrill ride that progressively loses its impact the more you do it. If we wait until the first kiss to think about sex, it probably won’t be that fulfilling. Positive anticipation of sex may be the best “technique” for keeping life in your marital sex life.
  2. Your Skin. When the “touching” and attention in sex is reduced to breasts, butt, penis, and vagina those four notes don’t make a rockin’ sex life; especially for women, whose biological arousal system is not as immediate as men’s. But for both genders the positive sexual tension that is built through taking the time to stimulate through touch is important for a maximally and mutually satisfying climax.
  3. Your Ears. Sex is the celebration of a shared life; not merely a few minutes of cardiovascular recreation. Listening to each other is a huge part of knowing what you’re celebrating through sex. Sex without listening is like throwing a birthday party for a deceased relative. There may be cake and balloons, but you leave with a feeling that something was missing.

We want to approach this chapter like a healthy married sex life; not rushing to the conclusion, allowing time for exploration, but with a few “quickie” points interspersed throughout. That means in these two chapters “getting to the end” is not your objective, but instead your goal is conversation about what you’re reading.

“Many loving couples never talk about sex together. This is sad, because effective communication is at the heart of falling deeper in love in creating a truly passionate marriage. It isn’t easy to create a comfortable sexual vocabulary or develop the ability to dialogue about lovemaking… Lack of sexual communication can be disabling, though… It robs them of the great aphrodisiac because talking is very sexy (p. 86).” Doug Rosenau in A Celebration of Sex

This chapter will flow into the next chapter. In this chapter we will discuss sex from anticipation to non-erogenous touching. In the final chapter we’ll discuss sex from erogenous touching through afterglow. No couple will follow every recommendation in every sexual encounter, but if one of these recommendation is consistently neglected it would negatively impact a couple’s sex life.

Here is the evaluation from this section of the upcoming GCM: Intimacy seminar to help you assess this aspect of your marriage: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_Sex

Tweets of the Week 10.22.13

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Seminar Preview — Finding Your Confidence, Identity, and Security in Christ

Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, Lack of Confidence, Constantly Second Guessing Yourself, Lack of Purpose, Doubt of God’s Love, Feel Like a Constant Failure, Self-Doubt, Putting Others Down to Feel Better About Yourself, Jealous of Other’s Success, Awkward When Receiving a Compliment, Constantly Thinking “If Only…,”

Lack of Contentment, Always Comparing Yourself with Others, Easily Embarrassed, Fear of Failure, Fear of Rejection, Acts Differently Based on Peers, Social Anxiety, Will Not Stand Up for Self or Convictions, Assumes People Are Upset with You, Always Apologizes, Fearful When Trying New Things, Has a Hard Time Resting In God’s Grace

What if I don’t like myself?  What if I am dominated by the thoughts that others are better than I am?  What if I just don’t feel like I know who I am or what I have to contribute?  What if I have been condemned and berated and begun to believe the nasty things that were said about me?  What if there is someone else I would rather be, and I am simply not that person?  What if I compare myself to every person in the room and always think I come up short?

If you find yourself asking these kinds of questions, then this seminar is for you.  Our culture tries to answer these questions with unending self-affirmation, however, if we struggle in this area we simply do not believe them.  This seminar provides pfizer soft viagra a foundation for a satisfying sense of confidence, identity, and security rooted in something more stable than positive thinking-the created design and unending love of Christ.

Saturday November 9

Chapter 1. If Not Self-Esteem, Then What?

Chapter 2. A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Identity 

Chapter 3. A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Purpose

Saturday November 16

Chapter 4. A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Confidence

Chapter 5. A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Security

Chapter 6. A Portrait of Christ-Honoring Wisdom

Registration Information

FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE, IDENTITY, & SECURITY IN CHRIST
Part One:  Saturday November 9, 2013
Part Two: Saturday November 16, 2013
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 pm or 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

 

Encouragement Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Hard Conversations

This post is an excerpt from the mentoring manual that accompanies the upcoming “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar.

Encouragement does more than teach and motivate; it writes, or at least reinforces, a story. To come full circle, back to where this chapter began, the marital sound bites that we use to tell our “marriage story” (most often without realizing it) are our compliments and our grumblings.

During neutral or good times it should now be clear how to reinforce the gospel narrative through our words and thoughts. We give God the credit for the good things in our lives and we train ourselves to notice and give weight to His blessings even in the midst of mundane events.

What remains to be done in this chapter is to demonstrate how the gospel narrative is able to allow us to be honest about each other’s disappointments and failures while not detracting from an ever increasing closeness within a marriage. Let’s examine each of the four major themes of the gospel in order to see how they can still generate an encouraging story when the topic to be addressed is unpleasant.

1. Creation: We realize we only have the standard and expectation of “good” because God is good and He made our world (including marriage and our spouse) to be good. If life were random or built purely on a “survival of the fittest” evolution, then the expectation that life would be “good” would be irrational.

Allow your points of failure or disappointment to be a reminder that it is a blessing that we have a good God who created us to be good people and live in a good world. The fact that our hearts are calibrated to want and pursue good is a blessing that is easy to take for granted. Praise God the compass of our conscience is set to desire to the true North of God’s goodness.

This is part of God’s grace which should shape the story of the disappointments and failures we face and perpetrate in our marriage. Even when we disagree on how love could/should be expressed in our marriage, we are blessed to want love more than power, unity more than dominance, and relationship more than isolation.

2. Fall: But the preceding paragraphs are not always true. They may represent what we know to be right and what we want to want, but we do not have to look outside ourselves to see that life does not match the ideals of our own conscience. This is where many of us get appalled and draw back from relationships because of the fear of being hurt or insecurity of being found out.

For Christians the presence of sin should be expected, not a surprise. We do not believe that people are good, and there must be a reason people do selfish things. It is when we are surprised at sin that increases our sense of being threatened. You can see an unknown man in a mask with a knife in a haunted house and the experience is much different than if he’s in your home. The first you expect and are merely startled. The second you don’t expect and are traumatized.

The absence of shock gives you the opportunity to respond to sin differently. Whereas the “rose colored glasses of love” would mean your ideal marriage story is crumbling; the gospel allows us to grieve the presence and be hurt by the impact of sin without feeling like the narrative has turned tragic. It also reminds us that the presence of sin is not the final scene in our story; it’s only the second of four.

3. Redemption: We see a greater goodness of God in His redemptive work than we do in any other aspect of creation or history. We can take good things and make lesser good things; turning trees into paper or used paper into recycled paper. Only God can take bad things and make them good. For this reason, Christians believe that broken things restored by God can have a greater glory than something that has never been broken.

That begs the question of Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” and is met with the answer of Romans 6:2, “By no means!” That would revel in the brokenness instead of celebrating redemption.

Relationships, especially marriage, afford us the opportunity to do more than witness God’s work of redemption; we also get to participate in it. We are not fans in the stands of God’s grace, merely cheering on what is going on “over there.” We are in the huddle participating in the play being drawn up by our great Player/Coach who graciously involves us in the restoration of those we love; and them in our restoration.

4. Glorification: If the story stopped with perpetual redemption it would eventually become dissatisfying. Being forgiven is wonderful; the thought of inevitably needing to be forgiven is discouraging. Forgiveness can be powerfully romantic (hence the adage “fight hard and make up hard”), but the expectation you’ll unescapably be hurt in a way that requires forgiveness becomes a turn-off.

The gospel does not leave us in the hamster wheel of redemption. We will enter eternal rest (Hebrews 4:3-9). God will not exhaust us with a good thing we cannot sustain; He is the Good Father who does not provoke His children until they become discouraged (Col. 3:21).

As we maintain encouragement during times of disappointment and failure by contextualizing these experiences in the larger narrative of the gospel, we can rest knowing these are momentary struggles – the short chapters before the gloriously eternal concluding chapter (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Do these four points tell you how to respond when sin or disappointment affect your marriage? No. Not if you want a script to read to yourself or your spouse for every potential unpleasant circumstance the two of you will face. We can begin to see the question is not realistic.

Do these four points alert you to when your thought life is going off-script with the gospel narrative for your marriage? Yes. When you can discern when you are leaving the gospel narrative you can reach out for help before the new-false narrative becomes entrenched. The earlier you can root out a false-narrative the easier it is to resist.

Which of the four themes of the gospel tend to get distorted most when you face hard times?

What are the areas of your life, that when negatively impacted, most tempt you to leave the gospel narrative

Part of what we see in the gospel narrative is that it begins and ends in paradise – the Garden of Eden and Heaven. These are two pictures we see of life and relationships as God intended. The goal of every narrative is to lead people somewhere. Let’s look at Genesis 1 to learn one more thing about where the gospel narrative intends to lead us.

Read Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 25, and 31. Notice the restraint of God’s language. He was content to say His creation was “good,” even for the pinnacle of His creation He only said “very good.” There is no use of words like better, best, or other superlatives. God was not competing with other creators. God was not even competing with Himself. We often get lost wondering, “Is our marriage better than [name]? Are we doing better than [name]? Does [name] do conflict better than we do?” We lose the basic question – is what we’re doing good? When this happens we invariably leave the gospel narrative for either pride or insecurity.

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy (Seminar Videos)

The videos below were taken from the live presentation of the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar. For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

This seminar is part of a series of “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage” seminars that also includes:

If you are interested in the pre-marital mentoring program built around these materials, you can find everything you need at www.bradhambrick.com/gcm.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

Chapter 1.
What Makes Intimacy Difficult?
The Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Things We Rarely Discuss

GCM-Intimacy01 from Equip on Vimeo.

Chapter 2.
Understanding Our Differences
An Essential Part of Lasting Romance

GCM-Intimacy02 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation One: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_Differences

Chapter 3.
Living in THE Love Story
Experiencing God’s Greatest Message In Life’s Greatest Blessing 

GCM-Intimacy03 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation Two: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_The Story

Chapter 4.
Sex as One of God’s Gifts for Marriage (Part One)
Learning to Skillfully and Unashamedly Enjoy Foreplay

GCM-Intimacy04 from Equip on Vimeo.

Evaluation Three: GCM_Intimacy_Eval_Sex

Chapter 5.
Sex as One of God’s Gifts for Marriage (Part Two)
Learning to Skillfully and Unashamedly Enjoy Intercourse

GCM-Intimacy05 from Equip on Vimeo.

Appendix BCommon Challenges to a Healthy Marital Sex Life

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.