The Downside of Cohabiting

The New York Times ran an article this week showing what Biblical counselors and pastors have always known: couples who cohabit before marriage are less satisfied with marriage and more likely to divorce than those who do not. Several of the illustrative stories include people ending the marriage after 1 year even though they had cohabitated for years before getting married.

Here is the article: The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage

One of the biggest problems is that those who cohabitate tend to start with convenience in mind, not a successful marriage. Eventually it becomes a “good idea,” so they go through with it without any real reason for marriage or even thoroughly thinking through the ramifications.  It becomes a purgatory of sorts that is not really married but not really not. There are reasons why marriage is outlined in the Bible the way that it is. If you try it other ways or try to distort it, it will not work. It is hard enough to make it work the right way.

Another key piece of insight was that many couples spend more time preparing for their wedding than their marriage. In my experience this is true for many people, especially those who do not take the time to do thorough premarriage counseling.

This is why premarriage counseling is so heavily emphasized here at Biblical Change. It makes a huge difference. It is better to build a solid foundation than to try to rebuild it later. When I do a wedding we make sure that it is a good ceremony, but we spend more time working on the relationship side of things, whether that is what they actually want to do or not.

Marriage and premarriage counseling are the most popular services we provide. Please contact us if you are interested. We can do premarriage for you even if you already have someone else to officiate your ceremony.

Response to How People Change

(I am a huge fan of this book. Shortly after it was published, I used it to lead an intro to counseling bible study/class for lay counselors. I have heard that they have since developed it into a program with that purpose, but I have yet to use it)

Response to How People Change by Paul Trip and Tim Lane

What struck me most as I read this book:

Overall, this book is an excellent resource on the Christian life. I am considering including it (definitely aspects of it) in the discipleship materials at the church where I end up working.

The gospel counterfeits that were presented in the first chapter were a good summary of how we tend to try to replace the truth with our own idols. The fact that many of these gospel replacements start out with pure motives is amazing. Most of issues listed here are either aspects of the gospel, or based on appropriate responses to the gospel.

There is a story on pg 31 which tells of the author “resolving” an issue with his wife so that he can go watch a game on TV. I found this humorous, but also very real-life. It made me think about how many times I “behave appropriately” without actually meaning it, in order to accomplish something that I want to get done. Or to make myself appear to be a better Christian than I actually am. It is amazing how possible it is to take something that honors God (like forgiveness) and turning it into something bad (lying to your spouse).

The idea that people are “meaning makers” is a very important one. We are blessed that God has given us this capacity and drive. Sometimes it almost turns into a curse. We always want an explanation as to why we are going through difficulties. This appears to be a source of many of our stresses of life, but it also allows us to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

Pg 40 – “dreaming is never moral neutral because the dreamer is never morally neutral.” It is amazing that even our dreams can easily be captured by sinful desires. This makes sense, since we are sinners and it is easy for sin to take over any part of our lives. This caused me to think more about my thought life. Most times that this phrase is used, I think of controlling lustful thoughts, but it is so much more than that. We should control all of our thoughts.

In a human marriage, both partners bring assets and liabilities. But in our marriage with Christ, he is all assets and we are all liabilities. This way of wording this is slightly different than any other way I have heard it said before (although this could be a result of my upcoming marriage and actually thinking though all of that). There is nothing good that we bring to Christ. Nothing at all.

Pg 135 – “The Christian life is a state of thankful discontent or joyful dissatisfaction.” This is an amazing statement. I hope it will be often quoted when this book becomes a classic read. We are to be thankful of where Christ has brought us, but dissatisfied that we are not any further. We need to work on more growth. It is almost bittersweet, in that regardless of how much we grow; there will always be room to grow. What I find to be the most frustrating is that any time I think I have been doing well in a particular area; I have a tendency to run back into that same area of sin.
Some implications for thinking and ministry:

I will definitely include teaching this material in my church. I am already recommending it to friends to read.

It is very easy to replace the gospel with something that should flow out of the gospel. I must be watchful so that I do not let theology or works or any other response become the focus in my life.
Care must be taken to avoid righting a situation just for personal gain.

Our goal should be to understand that sometimes there really is no real reason for something to occur, other than the fact that it is part of God’s plan and that we must trust in him. This can be very difficult and sound almost trite at times, but as the understanding and relationship with God grows, this will actually be a sufficient “meaning” for the situation. Even if it takes a while to get there.

All aspects of thought life must be brought under the scrutiny of the gospel.

We need to live with the understanding that everything good we have or are is a result of our relationship with Christ. We bring nothing good to the relationship.

We must live constantly growing better, even though we cannot obtain perfection. This can be difficult, especially if we are prone to pragmatism. We cannot be content with where we are, but we understand that we are there only as a result of God’s grace.

Movie Review: The Heart of Texas

Generally, the movies that I find to have the most redeeming qualities tend to be found by most Christians to be irredeemable. What I mean by this is that most of the movies I find to have a quality story with the potential to have a positive impact are typically shunned (more fun of a word to use than “boycott” since the religious implications), largely due to language, violence, or sexual content. I am not saying that I prefer for movies to be more on the adult side, but that generally the “clean” movies lack a quality story or a solid message that is not obvious from the beginning. For instance, one of my favorite movies from recent years was Gran Torino (I will have to review that one soon, but it does not lack in the language department!).

That being said, The Heart of Texas is one of the best movies about forgiveness, redemption, and truly exhibiting Christlike behavior. Even if you are not a Christian and think that we are all hypocrites, this movie is worth watching (Most people are hypocrites, Christians just tend to have a larger percentage than most. Or at least brag about not being one the most, which makes it worse.).

I don’t want to go to in-depth because spoilers are awful, but it is the true story of a family in the heart of Texas who deals with one of the worst tragedies imaginable. I watched this with a group of friends. Many of the women left and everyone, including our tough, manly men, teared up. The unimaginable occurs. Definitely a need-to-watch.

Here is the official link. Amazon.

“Stop it!”

How many Christians who are hostile to Biblical Counseling view Biblical Counseling. Though I have been tempted a few times . . . . .

Review of Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat

This article is a review of a book that goes in depth on marriage and sex. As such, this is probably not appropriate for an audience who is young or not married.

Review of Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat

By Caleb Horn


Ed Wheat, M.D. is a retired family physician. He has also been involved in Christian marriage and pre-marriage counseling for many years. He has written several other books as well, Including Love Life for Every Married Couple.

Due to the subject matter and the nature of the internet, I am not going to be as descriptive as the book is. This review refers to the 3rd edition of the book.

Wheat goes into great detail about the physical aspects of the marriage relationship (sex; there, I said it!). He is very descriptive of how everything works, including going in depth about technique. There is a section of the book dealing with common problems, including a chapter focused on the most common physical issue for both husband and wife.

One of the other most useful sections is one that talks about different options for birth control (a strong anti-abortion stance is taken), including various methods and the effectiveness of each, which is very good to hear about from a doctor (the most recent edition is 1997, so a few of the newer methods are not included). It is very clearly communicated that since this can be such a hot-button issue for many believers, it should be discussed by the couple during engagement. He clearly defines his stance: “As I discuss various methods with you . . . please understand that I am not recommending these methods, but only giving you medical information. Family planning in a private matter for which you and your partner must take full responsibility. The decision is yours. You must determine if you want to use an artificial means of contraception, a natural method of avoiding pregnancy, or no method at all.”[1] This is a good stance for Biblical Counselors to take since it does not force personal opinion onto counselees. It is a good idea to use a good resource like this since most of us are not medical doctors, and even if we are, we are not functioning as the counselee’s doctor. Like many issues, this is one that should be discussed between the counselee and physician.

In the same chapter is an area that deals with tips for getting pregnant, and the following gives advice for how to enjoy each other while pregnant without endangering anyone’s health.

Another useful section of the book deals with STDs. Unfortunately, this issue is much more common in Christian marriages than it used to be (As a side note, the best way to not get an STD is to not have sex until you are married! Even though there are many greater reasons to make that choice, this one should be enough of a factor by itself. But from my experience in counseling and ministry, very few individuals choose the same path that my wife and I each chose as a teenager. Most people don’t believe us either. But yes waiting till you are married, is all it is cracked up to be!!! Her doctor loves seeing her since she is so low risk and has none of the issue listed in this book. It is a great benefit when you are pregnant, as well).

There is also a helpful Q&A section dealing with anything not covered in other areas.

Biblical Critique/Practical Application

Aside from Biblical Principles of Sex by Dr. Bob Smith, this book is the best Christian resource available on the subject of sex (try as we might, no one has been able to convince Dr. Bob to write a full-length work on the topic).[2] All of the other books I have found on the topic so far as very psychologies. [3]

The most useful sections of this book are the ones that focus on the physical. Some of the spiritual/emotional areas are more Christian psychology than Biblical advice (he even quotes a couple of Christian psychologists here and there).

The most useful chapters are: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. These are really the only chapters which should be recommended.

Chapter 3 is almost useful, but does have some self-serving thinking. Chapters 9,10, 16, 17 should be avoided. It is a better idea to skip these chapters since those topics are better covered by Smith

In pre-marriage counseling, the best time for this book is toward the end, maybe a week or two before the wedding. Being a guy and knowing how guys are, it is best to not give an extra stumbling block of temptation earlier than necessary. It may work for the future wife to read it a bit earlier. The couple should also be advised to have their own copy and take it with them on the honeymoon for reference if needed (as previously noted, a lack of experience here is a very good thing and should be the goal!)

Where is work needed?

Ideally someone would write a book including both the physical aspects and a Biblical understanding of the other aspects of the marriage relationship (spiritual, emotional, etc).

Until then, counselors must be diligent as always verifying the biblical accuracy of the resources we use, including sometimes picking and choosing which part of a book to recommend.

[1] Wheat, 165


[2] Dr. Robert Smith is a adjunct at BBGST and taught some of my classes. He is also good friends with the gentleman who did our premarriage.

[3] Most notably The Act of Marriage by LaHaye, which even the title shows a gross misunderstanding of the marriage relationship.

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