Christian Marriage Counseling in Tampa, Florida — Ask Dr. Ron

Considering going to marriage counseling? What kind of counselor do you want? Choosing a marriage counselor can be like trying to choose an ice cream flavor at an ice cream shop. There are so many choices!  Are you a Christian? Do you want counsel from a Christian values perspective?

Faith-based, Christian marriage and family counseling, for those who embrace Christianity, is a choice that will give you the best of psychology combined with truth from God’s Word. This is a holistic approach that incorporates effective proven therapeutic strategies with proven Truth. This is the type of counseling offered at Tampa Family Resources, Inc. You can call 813-679-3275 to request a counselor. You can log onto www.tampafamilyresource.org and fill out a counselor request form on our counseling page.

The use of the word “psychology” in the same sentence with Christian counseling causes tension in some believers, but before you quit reading, hear me out.

There is no question that there are some faulty elements with secular psychology. However, Dr. Archibald Hart, a clinical psychologist, says, “You cannot judge secular psychology today by where it was 30-40 years ago. Today it is more scientific, not philosophical. It insists that therapies have empirical evidence to support their effectiveness. Furthermore, a number of strategies now have emerging focus on the same important issues that our Christian faith promotes—the therapeutic value and necessity of forgiveness, importance of faith & hope, eternity, and an introduction of virtues like honesty, and character.”

To address only the psychological part of your being without the faith aspect can leave you trying to navigate the choppy waters of marriage and family without the wisdom promised in God’s Word. God chooses to work in our lives as we bring our issues to Him in prayer and apply His Word to our daily living choices. God wants to guard your heart and mind with His peace. (Phil 4:7) God promises to continue to work in you until the day you enter eternity complete in Him. (Phil. 1:6) Our counseling is designed to support your faith journey and assist you in applying biblical strategies to your daily choices. We offer in person and skype or FaceTime appointments for your convenience. Call 813-679-3275 to book an appointment.

To address counseling from a “spiritual” perspective without the practical, daily application of Gods’ Word and the effective use of proven therapeutic strategies creates a dualistic approach. Dualism is the practice of separating the spiritual part from the physical part of a person. When a counselor does this, they just focus on the spiritual part of their client, as to them, the physical part is unimportant. This is dangerous! What’s wrong with this approach? I like the way Dr. Hart answers this question, “Well, to begin with, it creates something called ‘splitting,’ where the believer’s life is so neatly compartmentalized into the spiritual versus the physical or emotional. Believers then live two independent lives.” That’s why a pastor can preach on Sunday, walk out of the pulpit and have an affair on Monday and not feel any guilt about it. His life is so compartmentalized; he just shifts from one compartment (spiritual), to another compartment, (physical).

Effective counseling treats the whole person. Counseling that fails to address the whole person does not produce life change. You seek counseling because you are seeking help with life change. Contact us today. Call 813-679-23275 or log onto www.tampafamilyresources.org and fill out a counseling request form located on the counseling page of our website.

 

Ask Dr. Ron — What is the meaning of “God’s Will?”

Ever struggle discerning God’s will for your life on a certain matter? Join the club, as most, if not all of us have, like Jacob of old, wrestled with the will of God for our lives. Where should I go to college? Whom should I marry? Where should I work?   Taking a “word picture” approach, the word will is like a kaleidoscope. You know, one of those tubes you look into while you turn it and the colors inside change from one set of colors and shapes to another.  For example:

  • When you make a choice, no matter how great or small, you are revealing your will.
  • You have heard someone say, “That child has a very strong will.” Here is yet another color of the word will demonstrated by the behavior of a child in order to achieve his/her desired goal.
  • Then, we have all heard of a final Will and Testament, or a Living Will, which are a legal documents giving a person, (after their death or incapacitation), the power and authority to make certain decisions concerning themselves, their family and their property.
  • Then there is the big one, God’s Will. We’ve all heard the preacher say, “God desires to reveal His will to each and every one of us.” We scratch our heads and think, “I wish He’d give me a “burning bush” demonstration like he gave Moses!”

One of the keys to finding the will of God has to be wrapped up in the word submission.

In Matthew 6:10 Jesus said these words to His Father, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

You see, by His very words in that prayer, Jesus modeled for us that the first step to finding God’s will is submission.

So, let’s push the “pause” button for a moment and ask ourselves the question,

“What is my level of submission to God?”

Something to think about . . .

Ask Dr. Ron — Decisions Decisions

Decisions decisions, so many decisions I don’t know which one to make.  Throughout our lives all of us are faced with many, many decisions.  Some decisions are minor like deciding what to wear today.  Other decisions, however, are so important that they impact a person’s life forever.  Like, should I marry Tommy or Johnny?  That’s huge!

Have you ever felt a little bewildered about having to make decisions?  I sure have.  Remember the old saying, “She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not?”  Have you ever picked a yellow daisy and then plucked the petals one by one hoping to find some kind of answer for your life?  That’s a very unreliable way to come to the right decision about anything.  Another unreliable way is making a decision based on our feelings.   Why?  Because our feelings change.

Let’s define the term decision making.  “Decision making is a process which includes making choices and judgments about attitudes or actions.” (J.Hunt) 

Decisions we make are always an act of our will and always involve either our mind or our emotions. 

I heard someone say once, “Wise decisions are made by discerning the will of God.”  Do you think God wants us to find His will on any given matter, or do you think that He plays hide-and-seek?  Maybe He enjoys keeping us in the dark concerning a particular decision we need to make? 

I believe that God delights in revealing His will to anyone who is willing to do His will.   Psalm 40:8 says, “I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.”  Are you willing to do God’s will?

Join me next time as we grapple with the question, “What is the Meaning of God’s Will?”

Ask Dr. Ron — What About the Frequency of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage?

FullSizeRenderIMG_7570_1024I read recently that one of the top 10 issues in marital relationships is the frequency of sexual intimacy. As a marriage counselor for over 30 years I would have to agree.

Married couples periodically stop having sex for all kinds of reasons: resentment, exhaustion, stress, power & control, physical challenges, boredom, you name it.

Since God created marriage in the first place, and created men and women as sexual creatures, let’s see what He has to say about sexual intimacy.

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

God makes it clear in this passage that sexual intimacy is to be reserved for the “marriage bed,” or between a man and woman who are legally married to each other. I know this rubs against what the practice of our society is today. The typical concept is “no one in their right mind would marry someone without seeing if they are good in bed.” This approach is kind of like buying a car. I’ve heard people say, “Who would buy a car without driving it first?” All I can say about that analogy is that it is very disappointing that the sacredness of the marriage union is compared to the purchasing of a vehicle.

God uses different metaphors for marriage . . . Prov 5:15-20

15 Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? NASU

Wow! “Cistern,” “Well,” “Loving hind,” “Graceful doe,” now that’s some graphic word pictures for you! You see, God is all about sex under the umbrella of the marriage covenant.

As far as frequency goes the writer says, “at all times,” so, whenever you do have sex. He doesn’t really address how often does he?

Paul writes the following verses that can apply to frequency of sexual intimacy.

1 Corinthians 7:4-5 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” NASU

In the marriage union neither the wife nor the husband is an “island to themselves.” They are “one flesh” as Genesis 2:24 reminds us. Therefore, to use sexual intimacy as a “weapon” or punishment by withholding it is never honoring to God. On the other hand, to demand sex every day is not a realistic expectation as well. There needs to be both balance and agreement between the husband and the wife concerning this sensitive issue.

Finally, considering sexual intimacy from a physical and emotional standpoint, the ironic thing is that having sex is a great way to relieve all the stress that is preventing you from having sex. If a lack of sex becomes an additional source of stress, it actually compounds the problem. To break a sex slump, try eliminating all the sources of stress in your partner’s life. Do the dishes, clean the bathroom and send the kids to Grandma’s. You may be surprised by the effect a clean and quiet house has on your partner.

Try it . . . what do you have to lose?

Ask Dr. Ron: What about disciplining my children?

FullSizeRenderIMG_7570_1024Once you have kids, they introduce 18+ years worth of excitement and turbulence into your marriage. Kids spill stuff, break stuff and sometimes even steal stuff. The life of a parent can often feel like a constant struggle to get children to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, wash their hair, and for crying out loud, put their clothes back on!

So what’s your parenting strategy going to be? Are you going to be the cool, fun mother or the “just-wait-until-your-father-gets-home” mom? Differences in parenting philosophies are one of the top 10 common marital problems that couples are facing today.

This is a blog, not a paper, so I am going to skinny it down to 3 ingredients that need to be included in every couple’s approach to parenting their children or stepchildren.

Ingredient #1 – Love

Both partners must be permeated with love for their children. 1 Corinthians 13:4 reads, “Love is patient, love is kind . . . .” Yet all of us who have been parents for any length of time have experienced how quickly we lose our patience and kindness towards little Johnny who has been an absolute terror. Of course the word for “love” in this passage is the word agape, which is the highest form of love filled with both sacrifice and selflessness. Pray and ask God daily to help you to agape your children.

Ingredient #2 – Unity

One of our Founding Fathers, John Dickinson said this about our nation, “United we stand, divided we fall.”  What holds true for a nation holds true for the home as well. In Mark 3:25 Jesus said, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

The children must see a united front or they will divide and conquer. I tell my counseling clients, “It is as if our children come with little antennae that are tuned to pick-up the vibes of disunity. As a result they will pit one parent against the other. Has this ever happened to you? It is critical that parents get on the same page and are so united that no child can sever that unity. Healthy communication will help parents develop a united front.

Ingredient #3 – Consistency

Remember those little antennae that your kids came with? Well, they not only pickup disunity, but inconsistency as well. As parents, we must get to a place of solid consistency in parenting our children. One of the best ways to arrive at a place of consistency is to sit down in private with your partner and talk out and then write out your action plan. This plan should include clearly defined expectations and positive consequences. Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus when he wrote in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” There is nothing that will provoke a child any more than when a parent is inconsistent in their parenting skills.

Adding the three ingredients of love, unity, and consistency to your approach in parenting may make an amazing difference in the outcome. Try it . . . what do you have to lose?

Ask Dr. Ron: What about the Money? . . . Financial Stress in Marriage

 

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IMG_7570_1024Money may be the thing married couples fight about the most. As a matter of fact, one statistic tells us that the #1 reason why first marriages are ending in divorce is financial stress.  This financial stress is triggered by things like reduced income/same expenses, divorce, poor money management, underemployment, gambling, medical expenses, saving too little or not at all, no money-communication skills, student loans, credit card debt, and financial illiteracy.

We know that God takes our finances seriously as He has a lot to say about them in the Bible.

For example, in the New Testament Jesus says more about money issues than He does about Heaven and Hell combined!

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the young pastor Timothy tells him, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs,” (1 Timothy 6:10 NASU).

Let’s be clear here, Paul is NOT saying that money is evil, sinful, and wrong. Rather, he is warning Timothy to guard from getting emotionally attached to money. This is where the troubles begin. I think what Maxine Marsolini says in her book, Blended Families, is spot on when she writes, “Money—the very word wells up emotion in us. I marvel at how easy it is to become defensive over money issues. There is nothing we possess (outside of love) that is not impacted by money. Next to health, most of us recognize the almighty dollar as life’s biggest necessity. It’s time to mentally redefine money. By defining money in its truer sense, as a tangible resource and practical tool given by God to be used as a medium of exchange through which our family’s daily needs and even occasional desires are met, we give our currency a non-emotional identity.

By removing our emotional attachment to money we can scrutinize our actions, set goals, and see where we lack sound structure with personal finances.”

So strong is the pull of money, that Paul says some have “wandered away from the faith” as a result of their love for it. The thought here could be that Paul knew of some who walked away from receiving saving faith because of their love for money; much like the Rich Young Ruler who walked away from receiving Christ, (Matthew 19:16-22). Secondly, Paul could be telling Timothy that some believers have walked away from a close, growing relationship with Christ and as a result have lost their fruitfulness. Either way the results are very negative, because they have “pierced themselves with many griefs.” The bottom line is that greed leads to sorrow and grief in anyone’s life.

When it comes to marital finances one of the biggest solutions to money problems is to talk about them. Be forthright and honest about things like your debt and adopt a policy of transparency when it comes to purchases.

I highly recommend taking the class Financial Peace University as it covers every area of finances and has been successful in helping reduce financial stress in many marriages.

That last thing we want to do is to give the enemy one more foothold in our marriages and families to “steal, kill, and destroy, (John 10:10).

Ask Dr. Ron: So, What about the In-laws?

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IMG_7570_1024Over many years of marriage counseling I have had a plethora of questions like the following:

  • My mother-n-law gives us NO privacy, what am I supposed to do?
  • My father-n-law tries to make financial decisions for us, how should we respond?
  • Our parents like to tell us how to discipline our children, what’s up with that?

Whether it’s your nosy mother-n-law, or a father-n-law who thinks he can help you with your finances, relationships with in-laws can trigger some serious tension in your relationship.

First, remember that you are not alone in this situation. Most marriage relationships suffer from time-to-time with stress brought on by in-law relationships. You are not the first nor the only couple this has happened to.

Second, recognize that it’s very easy for you to be critical of her parents, but not as easy to see the stress your family causes her. The point is this; we often have “blind-spots” in certain areas of our lives.

Third, apply the marriage principle God unveils in Genesis 2:24 where He gives this critical instruction to ALL married couples,

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” NASU

The first step in applying this principle is the “leaving” part. The closer your partner’s family is the harder this is sometimes. Unfortunately this is not a step that you can just decide to “skip.” It’s impossible to “join” something new when you have not “left” something else. The word picture portrayed in this first step of “leaving” is that of loosening the grip on something, or in this case . . . someone. So, God isn’t telling newlyweds here to sever their relationship with their parents. He isn’t suggesting they never see nor talk to them again. That is not the “leaving” He is talking about here. He is, however saying, you need to loosen your grip on dad and mom, stand on your own two feet, allow you and your partner to make decisions that before may have been made by your parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask parents for advice after to say your “I Dos.”

The second part or step in this principle is the “joining” step. God says after one has left the parents, he/she is to “be joined” to his wife or her husband. The word used here has the idea of catching someone by pursuit and then clinging to them. Certainly the physical consummation of the marriage is involved here, but it goes beyond just physical union. The new husband and wife must also get on and be on the “same page.” Just to mention a few, here are several areas couples need to get on and stay on the same page about:

  • Finances
  • Raising the children
  • Marriage roles
  • Communication / Conflict Resolution
  • Relationships (personal & family)

Although these two steps (leaving & cleaving) are both sometimes more of a process than a push-button act, when the leaving & cleaving are pursued God promises, “they shall become one flesh.”

So, when any married couple is determined to obey Genesis 2:24 and become one flesh, that is their greatest defense and antidote for the many “in-law issues” they may face throughout their marriage.

Ask Dr. Ron — What if I don’t “feel” like Forgiving?

FullSizeRenderIMG_7570_1024Several years ago a wife made the following statement to me, “But I don’t feel like forgiving him for what he did,” speaking about something her husband had done.

Have you ever felt that way towards someone? I sure have.

The problem with you and me having that feeling is that first and foremost forgiveness is not so much a feeling, but rather, a choice one makes.

God, in His Word tells us to forgive others.

In Matt 6:14-15 Jesus is preaching His Sermon on the Mount when He said these words, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” NASU

These verses infer a critical importance for choosing to forgive others who have hurt us don’t they?

Another important reason for choosing to forgive others would the consequences of choosing not to forgive.

The writer of Hebrews says this in Hebrews 12:15,

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” NASU

It’s important to remember some other “Nots” about forgiveness:

  • Choosing to forgive is not saying that the other person did not wrong you.
  • Choosing to forgive in not making light of what they did to hurt you.
  • Choosing to forgive is not forgetting the wrong the person did to you.

Rather, when you or I choose to forgive someone for the wrong and hurt they have caused us we are choosing not to hold that wrong or hurt against that person any longer.

Paul gives us the damaging “domino effect” of not choosing to forgive others in Ephesian 4:31,

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. “ NASU

In verse 32, Paul follows this landslide of self-destructing behavior with the antidote for all of it when he says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” NASU

Choose to forgive someone today . . . it’s cleansing and freeing!

 

Can Someone Steal a blessing God intends for me?

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IMG_7570_1024A client recently asked this question: “Can someone steal a blessing from you that God intended for you to have?”

Short answer: No

First, let’s define the term “blessing.” Webster defines the term this way: “approval that allows or helps you to do something; help and approval from God; something that helps you or brings happiness.” Those of us who claim to a have a spiritual relationship with God don’t typically believe in “luck,” or “fate.”  We believe that God is sovereign (possessing all power and control) over the universe He has created. Therefore, we believe that He bestows many different kinds of “blessings” on those created in His image. Blessings can be spiritual, financial, physical, material, relational, etc., but we believe we receive these “blessings” from the hand of a loving, all-powerful God.

So, with that in mind, can someone steal a blessing God wants and intends to bestow on me?

Let’s take a look at a more complete answer, as there is an Old Testament story that speaks to this subject. The story is about a pair of twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac. Their story is found in Genesis beginning in chapter 25 and goes like this: Isaac was 60 years old when he had Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn, and being born first back in those days meant you received the blessing of the firstborn, which was called the “birthright.” At the death of the father, the firstborn would normally receive a double portion of the estate over his siblings.

In Genesis 25:27-34 we find the story of Esau selling his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob. He sold it for a bowl of stew. So, Jacob did not steal the blessing of the birthright, but rather, Esau, as verse 34 tells us, “despised his birthright” and sold it to Jacob.

Next, the story of Esau and Jacob continues and near the end of their father Isaac’s life he calls Esau in to bestow a blessing upon him. In Genesis 27 we find the story of where Jacob literally deceives his father Isaac and steals the blessing that Isaac was going to bestow on Esau. Jacob dressed up like Esau and deceived Isaac, who, by the way was legally blind at this point, the although he sounded like Jacob, he was in fact the oldest twin, Esau. Isaac placed his hand on Jacob’s head and bestowed the blessing of the firstborn on the youngest.

Now, push the pause button . . . I know what you are thinking . . . See here’s an example of where someone can steal a blessing that God intended for someone else to have. Well, here’s a question for you? Did God intend for Esau to have that blessing? Before the twins were born God told Rebekah who He intended to bestow those blessings on in Genesis 25:23, “The Lord said to her, Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” NASU

You see, God never intended for the firsborn, Esau to receive the blessings normally bestowed to the firstborn. In His sovereignty, God intended for Jacob to receive the blessing even before the twins were even born.

So . . . remember this . . . when God intends to bestow a blessing on you, no person, nor the devil himself can steal what God intends for you to receive.

Ask Dr. Ron — Do I really have to stay in a miserable marriage?

 

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ConsideIMG_7570_1024r this statement, “I’m miserable in my marriage. This can’t be what God wants for me because He would want me to be happy, right?”

First of all, let me say that you are not alone. There are many many married people who are presently “miserable” in their marriage. So, what are your options? Your first option is to do nothing and stay miserable. Second, you can throw in the towel and divorce your spouse. Third, you can take some steps to resolve the feeling of being “miserable.”

For the sake of time and space I want to address the second option of divorce as it is a very popular choice in our society today. You could choose to divorce your partner and thus rid yourself of that “miserable” existence.

Since God created marriage in the first place, let’s consider what He has to say about this option.

How does God feel about divorce?

For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel. . . .”(Mal 2:16) NASU

Then, Jesus in Matthew 19 reiterates His strong feelings about divorce.

Matt 19:3-7 — 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” NASU

So, Jesus says the essence of God’s plan for marriage in general is for husbands and wives to stay together, much like the wedding vow . . . “til death do we part.”

For those times, however, when it just doesn’t seem possible to continue the marriage relationship the bible mentions two exceptions that allow for divorce:

The first exception is infidelity, which Jesus mentions, in the same passage. Matt 19:7-9 continues,

7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” NASU

The second exception is desertion, which is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.

1 Cor 7:15 Yet if the
unbelieving one (husband or wife) leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.   NASU

One area of great concern in many marriages today is the area of abuse. When one partner is habitually abusing their marriage partner, in essence, the abuser has deserted or abandoned the marriage covenant. There is no verse in the Bible that tells the victim of abuse to stay in an unsafe environment.

The enemy of marriage, Satan, is all about “stealing, killing and destroying” in your marriage. Feeling “miserable” is not biblical cause for divorce, but he would like for you to feel that way. I believe that God can change the miserable feelings partners have in marriage. He wants to replace them with abundant contentment, joy and peace.

Jesus said in John 10:10b, “. . .but I have come to give you life, and give it to you in abundance.”

Why don’t you allow God to change your marriage from a “miserable” one to an “abundant one beginning today?”

Why not take that 3rd option I mentioned above and give us a call?