Is it Wrong to Live Together Before Marriage?

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Is it Wrong to Live Together Before Marriage?

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, PhD

Q:  I have been in a live-in relationship for a number of years. We have recently been following your love and respect advice because of a crisis, but we are not married and have no marriage plans (due to a lack of trust issue regarding a one-night stand that my boyfriend recently committed). I am a New Believer and am wondering from a spiritual standpoint as to how my relationship is viewed by God’s Word. My boyfriend feels that splitting up is not necessary, but I am not sure. Can you shed any light on this for us?

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Dr. E says:  Thank you for honestly sharing your situation and your heart.

I’m glad you asked about how this is viewed by God’s Word. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Jesus is saying that Abba Father is there and He has spoken.

What does God say?

The question is simple. If God is there and He has spoken, has He revealed His heart on your situation?

Note what God is saying in His revelation to His people in the book of Hebrews:

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Notice the two words: fornicators and adulterers.

Adultery is understood to be sex between two people who are married to someone else.

Fornicators are those who are not married and are having sexual relationships, which includes those living together and having sex. That is not approved by Abba Father and He will discipline according to Hebrews 13:4.

This does not touch God’s heart in a positive way.

Research supports the Bible.

Not surprisingly, research supports what the Bible says. God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us commands not to burden us, but to help us. He wants what is best for us. When God says “No” he means, “Don’t hurt yourself.” He is not saying no out of meanness or a desire to punish. He is saying no because it is for your own good and for the good of your relationship.

So what does the research say? According to a new report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, individuals who have multiple sexual partners and those who live together before marriage report poorer marriage quality. The study suggests that “a relationship based on immediate sexual gratification may hinder people’s ability to assess the quality of that relationship.”

Additional research studies also support this conclusion. Researcher Jason S. Carroll, Ph.D. writes an informative article on Slow But Sure: Does the Timing of Sex During Dating Matter? He refers to his study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology.They found that couples “who wait until marriageto have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20% higher), better communication patterns (12% better), less consideration of divorce (22% lower), and better sexual quality (15% better) than those who started having sex early in their dating.”

These percentages are significant! Yet, more people live together before marriage than those who don’t.

Is anyone listening?

The National Marriage Project report also reveals that “couples who did not make a clear commitment to marriage prior to moving in together were less likely to report high marital quality. This may be because cohabitors are more likely to ‘slide’ into marriage, rather than making a firm decision to wed.” The longer a couple lives together, sharing housing, belongings, pets and friends, the more daunting a break-up can be, “sliding” them into a marriage that is more one of convenience than one of real commitment.

The culture changes but God doesn’t.

Many of these studies cite trust as being an issue in cohabitation. That’s not surprising. If a couple is not willing to commit to one another in marriage yet can have sex, why should they be faithful to one another? This could be playing out in your situation since your boyfriend has had a “one night stand.” Women especially think that they can love a man into wanting them exclusively. But if the commitment isn’t there before sex, what is the likelihood it will develop after sex?

The research is not in your favor.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has warned us. When there is conscious and willful sin, the Spirit of Christ is quenched and grieved which results in God’s loving discipline.

Yes, we live in a culture that treats marriage lightly and even laughs at holy matrimony. But, God has not changed His mind.

God loves you and wants to bless you!

God loves you just as you are – don’t doubt that. But God loves you so much He refuses to be indifferent to your present condition.

He intends to speak to you about changing.

I recommend you seek out a group of believers in Christ who can mentor you and come alongside you as you grow in your new faith. God wants to bless you!

Emerson

How Do You Say “No” To Your Child?

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How Do You Say “No” to Your Child?

By Emerson Eggerichs

How do you say “no” when your child asks for something she or he does not need?

Here are some of my thoughts:

How to say no

1. Say “no” with firm but gentle resolve.

2. Say “no” with a careful tone of voice.

3. Say “no” by redirecting.

4. Help the child see that sometimes “no” means “wait.”

5. Say “no” by negotiating.

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For an expansion on the above points and to watch the video, go to the author’s blog post

If you would like to speak with a life-coach or a counselor about your struggles as a parent, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.

Friday Funday

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Here’s a little humor for your Friday to make it a funday.

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Watching 5 Hours of TV a Day Could Kill You

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Watching 5 Hours of TV a Day Could Kill You in a Very Specific Way

By Michael Harthorne

Here’s a study to make you get off the couch. Researchers from Japan’s Osaka University found that watching more than five hours of TV a day can make you six times more likely to suffer a fatal blood clot, the Telegraph reports.

The study, presented to the European Society of Cardiology, shows men and women between the ages of 40 and 79 who watch more than five hours of TV a day are twice as likely to suffer a possibly fatal pulmonary embolism from blood clots than someone who watches less than 2.5 hours of TV a day.

But that goes up to six times more likely when looking at people younger than 60.

“Leg immobility during television viewing may in part explain the finding,“ says one of the researchers, whose study tracked 86,000 in Japan over 18 years. The danger is that blood clots can form in a leg vein and prevent the flow of blood to the heart. This was the first study to look at prolonged TV watching as it relates to blood clots — important in the age of binge watching, notes theIndependent — but researchers say a similar connection is likely with playing video or computer games.

In a press release, researchers said binge watchers should follow the same guidelines given to those on long airplane flights: stand up, walk around, and drink plenty of water.

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For help with motivation to get up and get moving, contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to schedule and appointment with a coach or a counselor.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

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5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

By Jeff Robinson

It wasn’t the first thing to enter my mind, but it might have been the second: How am I going to tell the kids?

The doctor had just laid out the cold, hard truth: “Your friend, Ken, has passed.” Ken was a dear family friend, a man my kids adored. A longtime staff member at the church I served as pastor, he died suddenly—at the church building, in the midst of his work. A heart attack ushered him into the arms of his Savior in an instant on that overcast fall morning. I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. The congregation was stunned. My children, who “helped him” regularly at the church while I sat in meetings, counseled members, or worked on sermon prep, would be most stunned of all. I planned my talk with them carefully and broke the sad news that evening.

Death Visits Again

Our family faced death again last week with the sudden departure of my stepfather. Like Ken, he clearly loved Jesus and sought to please him. Gratefully, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). When the news came, my wife and I were again faced with delivering the sad news to our four children who range in age from 7 to 13.

As a pastor, I always found serving as the messenger of ill tidings particularly difficult. It’s even more tricky, though, when you’re telling young hearts whose ability to grasp death and all its implications is limited. Do we soft-pedal death, referring to it in vague, non-threatening terms? Or do we speak of it straightforwardly as we might with another adult?

My wife and I have found neither approach to be helpful. Obviously, how much and precisely what you say will be much different for a younger child than for a 12-year-old. Still, there are basic biblical realities they should all know.

Here are five fundamental truths we’ve explained to our kids when death has visited closely.

1. Death and judgment are coming to us all.

Sadly, death is part of our fallen world, and the Bible doesn’t shrink back from this truth. Psalm 139 tells us God has numbered our days. Since the Word doesn’t dismiss this truth as “overly negative,” neither should we.

Our family once had friends who never spoke to their kids about negative news items, such as natural disasters or 9/11. They made it a rule never to discuss death. I believe this is unwise. By avoiding bad news, parents set up their children for unreasonable expectations and stark disappointment. This approach subtly, even if unintentionally, communicates that life on earth is ultimate. Worst of all, it fails to provide a rationale for why the gospel is such good news. Every day brings us one step closer to that final day, and our children should be aware of that fact.

There is also a judgment awaiting every one of us (Heb. 9:27). I want my children to know that, as the great Southern Baptist pulpiteer R. G. Lee (1886–1978) put it, there is coming a “payday someday” for the way we have lived on earth (2 Cor. 5:10).

2. Death is not the way it is supposed to be.

This biblical truth is what makes death particularly sad. Tell your kids that death is an intruder in this world, that the first Adam’s sin opened the door through which the curse of death entered. Cornelius Plantinga’s book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1994) is a compelling resource (for adults) to help you put more biblical meat on the bones of this doctrine.

Further, explain to your children that this is why we are sad when someone dies. In our mourning, through our tears, we are admitting there’s really no such thing as death from natural causes.

3. Death for the Christian is to be with Jesus.

In Philippians 1, the apostle Paul toggles back and forth between whether it’s better for him to leave this world to be with Jesus or remain in it to advance the gospel. He then writes: “To live for me is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). In a culture that does all it can to stave off any hint that humans will grow old and die, this is a deeply countercultural truth. But for the believer, crossing the chilly river of death is the pathway to paradise and pleasures that defy the descriptive ability of human language.

4. Death will one day die.

Give your children the unfathomably good news of 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When the “already” collapses into the “not yet,” death will be history, and this is cause for rejoicing. This is a choice opportunity to commend Christ to your children, to urge them to flee to the cross where death was defeated and mercy is found.

5. Death is something we must all think about.

I don’t want my kids to obsess or become paralyzed in fear over the specter of eternity. That said, 18th-century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards provides an excellent example of the necessity of ruminating on death, even at a young age. Granted, Edwards was much older than my young children when he wrote his famous resolutions, the seventh of which reads: “Resolved, to think much on the brevity and how short one’s life is (Ps. 90:17).”

Edwards understood that life is a vapor, and that death should motivate us to live for another world. Tell your children that for those in Christ, our best life is later.

What About the Death of Unbelievers?

What do we say to our children about those who seem to have died in unbelief? This is even trickier but presents a key opportunity to discuss eternity, both heaven and hell. We should be no less clear about hell than was our Lord, who spoke far more in the Gospels about judgment than about paradise.

Whether I’m speaking to adults or children, I always avoid weighing in on the eternal destiny of one who appears to have died in unbelief. Of course, I make clear that anyone who would be saved must come to God through faith in Jesus. But we’ve told our children (and I’ve told family members of unbelievers) that the deceased person is in God’s hands—a righteous and just judge who always does the right thing. I don’t put it this way to avoid or minimize the reality of God’s wrath; it simply keeps me from the seat of eternal judge.

Though there’s certainly much more that could be said about death, our kids need to be prepared—in age-appropriate ways—for life in a world captive to sin and death. And they need to be shown why the good news of God’s rescue mission in Christ, and his victorious war with death on Calvary’s tree, is good news indeed.

3 Tactics to Avoid Being Controlled by Your Emotions

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3 Tactics to Avoid Being Controlled by Your Emotions

Feelings Are Not Meant to Define You

By Brent Flory

Each of us have been through a painful situation where we have heard a sentence that takes our breath away. A moment that emotionally tore you apart.

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“I think we should stop seeing each other.”

“You’re fired.”

“I’m leaving you.”

“Why are you so stupid?”

It took me about thirty years to admit that I’m an emotional guy. I’ve had to work hard to learn how to deal with my feelings well, and that is an ongoing process for me. Especially as a person who likes to take risks, I have to keep a grip on my emotional life or I can get overwhelmed quickly.

Hopefully you do well handling stressful circumstances and the emotions that arise during them. However, you may battle to not let your feelings get the best of you. No person is fully in one camp or the other, we each fall somewhere on a spectrum in how skillfully we handle our emotions. And if you’re like my toddler, where you fall on that spectrum may vary significantly depending upon when you last ate something.

To become a person who processes their emotions effectively, you must know that you are much more than your feelings. You can learn to gain mastery over them.

3 Tactics to Dealing with Feelings More Effectively

1. Learn to pause when something triggers you emotionally.

When something hits us deeply on an emotional level, we can react immediately without thinking through the possible consequences. Training yourself to pause creates space to consider your options when you’re in an emotionally difficult scenario.

If your significant other hurts your feelings and you pause before responding, you have the opportunity to choose to relate to them in a way that won’t make the situation worse. You can ask them to clarify what they said, share your interpretation of what they told you, or say that you need to go on a walk before you talk further.

Creating space to process your options instead of responding out of sheer emotion can make a world of difference in your relationships.

2) Identify the emotion you’re feeling.

There is a tremendous difference between being overcome by anxiety and being able to say, “I’m feeling anxious right now.” If you can accurately pinpoint what feeling you are experiencing, you now have a choice in where you go from here. When you understand what is happening inside of you, you have the power to make a decision that can lead to a better outcome than allowing yourself to be driven by your emotions.

3. Question your interpretation of situations.

When your boss says, “great job on the project,” you can beam with pleasure at her assessment of your performance. Or you can burn with anger at her insult. It’s all in how you choose to interpret what she says.

Your beliefs about yourself and your boss will shape how you think about what she says to you, and how you choose to reply to her. Our interpretations can be inaccurate, and can lead to gross misunderstandings in our relationships. Stopping to question your interpretation of an interaction can lead to a very different result than automatically trusting your initial take on it.

Everyone can get better at handling their feelings with some work. Learning to pause, identifying your emotions, and questioning your initial interpretation of situations will grow your ability to effectively process your feelings. These are skills that will pay you dividends in every area of life, so start working on them today.

Identity and Work

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Are you struggling with your priorities and are finding your work identity is going to your head or heart?  Contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach.

Friday Funday

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Want to add some more joy into your life, give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or a counselor.

Dating Advice You Actually Need

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Dating Advice You Actually Need

By Derek Rishmawy

I’ve been working in youth ministry in some capacity for roughly eight years, and this is one of the most common questions I’ve fielded from young Christians: “How can (insert boyfriend/girlfriend) and I have a Christian dating relationship? How do we keep it centered on Christ?” As often I’ve heard it, I still love the the heart behind the question. A couple of youngins’ get to dating, and they want to “do it right.” They realize that God is concerned with every aspect of our lives, including our romantic involvements, so they’ve resolved to have a “Christian” dating relationship and sought guidance.

Realizing that practical steps matter, most often they want tips or steps they can take to build their relationship in Christ. “Should we call each other and pray daily? What about a devotional? Should we buy a devotional and go through it together? Maybe have a weekly Bible study?” If the young man’s of a theological bent, he shows up with a potential 10-week preaching series already outlined. (Protip: this last one is definitely not a winning approach.)

At that point, one of the first things I usually tell them is that there’s really no “biblical theology” of dating tucked away the book of Relationships 4:5-20. There are some rather obvious tips like praying for each other in your daily devotions, encouraging each other to read the Scriptures, setting appropriate boundaries (emotional, spiritual, and so on), and pursuing sexual holiness. But aside from that, there’s no real, hard-and-fast rules about this sort of thing.

Still, over the years I’ve come to see that there is one key mark of a maturing relationship centered and continually centering itself on Christ: both of you are absolutely committed to each other’s involvement in the local church.

4 Reasons to Be in the Pews

“Go to church? Really? This is your big dating tip?” Yup.

For some this point might seem counter-intuitive. As I already mentioned, couples often get this idea that to be truly “spiritual” they should start interweaving their spiritual lives into one. This can actually become a problem, especially because you’re not actually married. These devotions together can develop into a couple-centered spirituality that begins to replace the church-centered relationship with God that the New Testament actually prescribes.

No, if you want your significant other to actually grow with Christ you will encourage each other to regularly worship because you want them to:

1. Sit under Real Preaching. I don’t have the kind of space necessary to speak of the manifold benefits of sitting under regular preaching, but I’ll list a few. First, it convicts of sin and humbles us before Christ. A heart that doesn’t submit to listening to the law will be hardened against any call to repentance—that’s the death-knell of any godly relationship. Second, it reminds us of the gospel. Unless regularly reminded of the grace of Christ, the heart will begin to sink into sin, go into hiding, and find its deepest affirmation in things other than Christ—like an idolatrous focus on your relationship, for instance. Third, the Word of God truly preached brings us by the power of the Spirit into the presence of Christ. Finally, we need to hear an outside word that we can’t quickly rationalize, twist, distort, or ignore.

2. Meet with Other Believers. You also want your significant other to have communion with the body of Christ outside of your own relationship. If your relationship becomes the center of their faith, the main and only encouragement they have in Christ, something has gone wrong. Who is there to support and encourage when you’re having a bad day, or when your relationship needs a check because it’s gone off the rails into sin? What happens if you break up? Even the best married couples need other, godly voices speaking wisdom, conviction, comfort, and healing grace into their lives. Indeed, I don’t know a single godly couple who would tell you otherwise.

3. Receive the Lord’s Supper. Whether you’re a Baptist, Anglican, or Presbyterian, you want to be regularly reminded that Christ alone is the source of spiritual life—he died, rose again, and our union with him is the only true food for your soul. We need to feast on this truth regularly, or we will be tempted to draw strength from other, lesser sources, like your own relationship.

4. Worship God Alone. Our souls need worship. Yes, everything we do under the sun is worship. Work is worship. Play is worship. Sleep is worship. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that the corporate gathering of the people of God, in receiving the supper and lifting our voices in song, prepares and shapes the desires of our hearts to focus on God throughout the whole week. If for no other reason than avoiding the danger of your significant other turning your own relationship (or you!) into an idol, you want them weekly pouring out their hearts in praise to their true Redeemer and Savior.

Did you note the developing trend in the four points above? All four stand on their own as solid reasons to be committed to gathering (and being a member of) a local body. Yet all four play an important function with respect to your relationship to each other. First, they do the negative work of preventing the greatest danger in any “Christian” dating relationship—no, not sexual sin, but the human tendency to make an idol out of the beloved. Usually this idolatry justifies sexual sin and so many other relational pathologies. Second, they do the positive work of setting your eyes on Christ and his completed work in your life. In fact, you avoid relational idolatry by setting your eyes on Christ in practices and relationships in the local body.

Warning and Encouragement

To cap off my dating advice, I’d like to offer a warning and an encouragement. First the warning: If you enter the relationship and suddenly stop going to church, pray less, and read less, that’s probably a sign it’s not heading in a godly direction. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that if your relationship is a serious drag on your commitment to obeying Christ’s commands to gather with the body, this is actually killing your relationship with Jesus, and is therefore, by definition, not a “Christian” relationship.

Does this mean you should break up immediately? Maybe. Maybe not. It does mean you have grounds for thinking it through with care. Certainly there’s room for some repentance.

Finally, the encouragement: Men, make it your aim to be the first to encourage your sweetheart to be involved in fellowship with other believers, and the last to feed any desire to cut off from corporate worship. Be as diligent about carving out time for corporate worship as you are in carving “alone time” (the benefits of which should probably also be up for debate). Women, you want a man who has solid, healthy relationships with other men in the body of Christ. Be as jealous for his time with body as you are about his time with you.

Ultimately, remember, you’re not the point of the relationship—Jesus is. Point each other to Christ and let Christ knit you together as he sees fit.

Being Alone Is Scary, and a Great Use of Your Time

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Being Alone Is Scary, and a Great Use of Your Time

Why Creating Quiet Space for Yourself Is Crucial to Your Well-Being

By Brent Flory

When I was younger I used to think that extroverts liked people, and that introverts disliked people. Since I mostly enjoyed people and didn’t want to be known as antisocial, I quickly learned to identify myself as an extrovert.

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It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that my definitions of extrovert and introvert were way off. It isn’t about whether or not you like your fellow human beings, it’s all about how you get energized. This understanding gave me the confidence to begin to admit that was I an introvert because I desperately need time alone to recharge my batteries.

Did you know that whether or not you identify as an extrovert or introvert that time alone is vital for you? I doubt many people would strongly disagree with that idea on the surface.But how often do you intentionally spend a chunk of time being away from others in a quiet place?

When taken to the extreme, noise pollution can affect your sleep, your heart, your mental health, and your school, work, and social performance. However, most of us don’t mind noise when it isn’t overwhelming. Rather, many of us crave noise and seek to surround ourselves with it.

Do you constantly listen to music in the car, or when you are walking? Do you have the TV on all the time, even if you aren’t watching what’s on it? Are you checking your phone incessantly for new emails, messages, or social media updates?

What drives us to envelope ourselves with sound and stimulation at all times? Is it really that you need constant noise, or are you trying to avoid silence?

I think for many of us, it’s the latter. We avoid spending much time being alone. After all, we knowsolitary confinement can cause people great psychological harm. Yet I don’t think we steer clear of time alone because we fear losing our mental health.

You refrain from spending quiet time alone because:

1. You fear being alone with your thoughts.

Many people avoid time alone due to a fear of experiencing loneliness while being away from the crowds.

2. You aren’t being productive.

If an activity isn’t getting things done, then you tend to think it’s a waste of time. This is a mindset I tend to subscribe to myself.

Despite these and other reasons we try to not spend time alone, there are many better reasons as to why we should spend time by ourselves.

Why You Need Quiet Alone Time

1. It gives you time to think.

How much of your life is lived being reactive instead of proactive? Slowing down and stopping gives you a chance to think about your life, where you are going and what you want. The fast track isn’t a great path to be on if you are heading for a brick wall. It’s well worth taking the time to ponder whether you are moving in a direction that is truly fulfilling.

2. You can get clarity.

Tough decisions you have to make can become very clear when you take time to sit and think them through without being bombarded by constant noise and stimulation.

3. Creativity is sparked.

I’m not very creative when I’m stressed out. Odds are neither are you. Creating space gives room for the creative juices to flow.

4. It reduces anxiety.

Being perpetually confronted by noise takes a toll upon us. Slowing ourselves down, being in nature and lowering our noise intake can also decrease our anxiety levels.

A friend shared several months ago that his doctor ordered him to spend time in nature because his health was failing. The doctor was giving sound advice. Time in nature is healing.

I’m not saying you have to go on a seven day backpacking trip. It can be as simple as getting away for an hour to go for a walk in a local park. Regardless of how or where you spend the time, being alone and quiet is good for your health, physically and emotionally.

Investing in being alone in a quiet spot can improve your performance, your health, and give you more peace. Make a commitment to spend thirty minutes after work in a quiet place for the next week. It’s a small investment that could make a massive difference in your life and career.