Promoting Marriage

July 22nd, 2015

By Sheri Mueller, licensed professional counselor, and Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Broken FamilyIn my practice, marriage is being questioned by Christian clients and considered dispensable, and even optional, by others. Christian universities have counseling students debating the merits of living together outside of marriage, believing there are no pitfalls to what the culture is telling them, even when research clearly supports otherwise.

The greatest benefit to married mean is health and the greatest benefit for women is wealth. In addition, children are most protected and thrive in intact families. Contrary to media portrayals, married couples report greater happiness, greater physical safety (i.e. less domestic violence), better mental health, and a more satisfying sex life than their unmarried counterparts.

Statistics report that marriage is declining and optional to bear children. This correlates with immense financial stress. Marriage is also believed to contribute to the stability of neighborhoods, when fathers are frequently involved in the lives of children

Simply put, everybody wins when marriages are strong. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1943 advised a couple on their wedding day: “It is not your love that sustains your marriage, but from now on, your marriage that sustains your love.”

We have three objectives:

1) Address the need for premarital counseling and training churches.
2) Provide a network of classes and services for couples to enhance their marriages.
3) Advocate and build strong marriages in McHenry County.

The McHenry County Marriage Initiative is intended to be a community-wide outreach accessible to all who share the vision and mission to promote healthy marriages. We are hoping to eventually align with over 300 marriage initiative programs throughout the country. We also hope to promote programs your church is using to strengthen marriages.

We would like to collaborate and work as a team in building a community-wide outreach with all who share the vision and mission to promote healthy marriages. Would you be open to attending a meeting with other pastors in the area? And, would your church be willing to host a meeting?

A Mediation Model for Christians

January 25th, 2015

Jesus was fully immersed in the identity, experiences and perspective of both God and man as mediator between the two. So for mediation to be successful, each has to identify with the experience and perspective of the other, overcome strong emotional states, and consider all options to bridge the gap. “Each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

Remember, neither side is without fault. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God repeatedly commands his people to seek and pursue peace (Psalms 34:14; Jer. 29:7; Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 7:15; 2 Cor. 13:11; Col. 3:15; 1 Thes.5:13; Heb. 12:14. He also promises to bless those who do so (Psalms 37:37; Prov. 12:20; Mat. 5:9; James 3:18).

God’s sovereignty is so complete that he exercises ultimate control even over painful and unjust events (Ex. 4:10-12; Job 1:6-12; 42:11; Psalms 71:20-22; Isaiah 45:5-7; Lam. 3:37-38; Amos 3:6; 1 Peter 3:17). The biblical examples of Joseph resisting the same temptation David failed to resist resulted in suffering for both, but God used both greatly. God will remain present in our suffering and accomplish good through our trust in Him (Isaiah 43:2-3).






Divorce and Remarriage: A Redemptive Theology by Rubel Shelly

The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

Hope in the Face of Conflict by Ken C. Newberger

What Does the Bible Say about Divorce?

July 26th, 2014

By Dean Whitfield

I believe in the inspired inerrancy of Scripture in the original manuscripts and all that implies; which includes that (1) Scripture does not contradict itself (Luke 16:11), (2) Christ fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17), (3) our God is a god of logic, not confusion (I Cor. 14:33), and (4) the truths of Scripture are available to everyone without prior need of special education or intellectual capabilities (II Tim. 3:16-17; Jas. 1:5).

Any discussion concerning the divorced and the church must of necessity begin with an understanding of God’s position on divorce. Read the rest of this entry »

The Twelve Steps for Christians

July 19th, 2014

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

path of stones on the waterSTEP ONE is about recognizing our brokenness.
We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from God – that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time” (Rom. 7:18).

List all the enticements of the substance or behavior in question.
How was it manageable, and then become unmanageable?
What were the warning signs that it was becoming unmanageable?
How did you justify the continued use of the substances or behavior?
List all the consequences of the use of the substance or behavior in question.
Why did it take so long to see that it was unmanageable?
Are you one hundred percent convinced it is unmanageable?
Are you one hundred percent convinced you are powerless to control it on your own?

STEP TWO is about the birth of faith in us.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

How often do you ask for help, or turn to someone you can trust? How about while you were growing up?
How do you view God? Punishing? Accepting? Noninvolved? Nonexistent?
Who or what has influenced your view of God?

How does this view compare to the story of the welcoming Father (Luke 15:11-24)?

11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

STEP THREE involves a decision to let God be in charge of our lives.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Rom. 12:1).

What would prevent you from turning your life over and trusting a Higher Power?
How is God working in your life now?
How would you finish the statement, “I’m only loveable if . . .. “

“My wounds are my teachers. I am open to their lessons. I embrace my past.”

“Trusting life comes from making some meaning of who we are, of what we are all about. When we confront shame, we become aware of emptiness, a spiritual hunger. Our attempts to fill this hunger with controlling, compulsive behaviors only lead to pain and remorse. Carl Jung was aware of this compulsive “filling of the void.” He wrote to Bill Wilson, the cofounder of AA, saying that he though alcoholism was the search for wholeness, for a ‘union with God'” (Merle A. Fossum and Marilyn J. Mason, Facing Shame: Families in Recovery).

STEP FOUR involves self-examination.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lam. 3:40).

STEP FIVE is the discipline of confession.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16).

STEP SIX is an inner transformation sometimes called repentance.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet” (James 4:10).

STEP SEVEN involves the transformation or purification of our character
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

STEP EIGHT involves examining our relationships and preparing ourselves to make amends.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” (Luke 6:31).

STEP NINE is the discipline of making amends.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (Mat. 5:23-24).

STEP TEN is about maintaining progress in recovery.
Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Cor. 10:12).

STEP ELEVEN involves the spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives” (Col. 3:16).

STEP TWELVE is about ministry.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” (Gal. 6:1).

(Bible verses translated from The Message).

Is My Marriage Over?

June 21st, 2014

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Couple Facing DivorceStatistics show that more and more Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s are divorcing. Why? Read the rest of this entry »

What to Ask Your Partner Before You Marry

May 31st, 2014

How well can you answer these questions with a long-term view? Read the rest of this entry »

Making Marriage Work

November 12th, 2013

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Conflict between man and woman standing on either side of a doorAs a marriage and family therapist I have learned techniques to help marriages and family relationships work. Read the rest of this entry »

How Can Christians Stay Married

March 4th, 2013

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

At times people think about how problems would be solved if they were married to someone else. Some problems may be solved this way, but it also is true that we carry our response to problems from relationship to relationship. John Gottman, a leading marital researcher, gives this example:

Read the rest of this entry »

Effective Listening

October 26th, 2012

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

What are some criteria for effective listening in the Bible? Some seek to correct more than connect when “listening” and find the discussion frustrating. Use the following as a checklist to accomplish effective listening:


Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Mindfulness

October 19th, 2012

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Christian Mindfulness“More than 100 million American adults who describe themselves as Christian contend . . . they are still searching for clarity regarding their purpose in life (George Barna, Maximum Faith).” Is there a connection between awareness of God and self-awareness? As one form of awareness goes up, does the other go down? Or does awareness of God and self-awareness work together? John Calvin writes, “The knowledge of God and that of ourselves are connected. Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” Read the rest of this entry »