4 Groups Most People Are Like (Be Like the Few)

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The books about the historical life of Jesus in the Bible are called the Gospels. There are four of them. Each book is written to a different audience in mind. With four different contexts and four different authors, we have access to different accounts of Jesus’ life. 

The only miracle Jesus performed that is in all four Gospels is the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9; John 6). There must be something significant for each Gospel writer and the Holy Spirit to include this account in the limited pages of their biography of Jesus’ earthly life.  

The miracle of feeding 5,000 men (adding women and children it could’ve been 15,000 people) occurred by Jesus praying over 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and then seeing it multiplied to feed throngs of people. You would’ve thought Jesus’ little ministry up to that point would’ve let to a mega-ministry.

It didn’t.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and those in our lives from the 15,000 people who came to hear Jesus preach and be fed by Him and how we do not want to be like most of them.

1. Very few people care about their soul and eternal life more than they care about their body and this life. 

Why do 15,000 people leave their homes, travel to be around Jesus early in His ministry? Yes, some came to hear His wisdom. Some came to feel His love. Many came to see a miracle. Many came to have their bellies full. 

As long as Jesus was extending their physical life, they were interested in Him. 

We can be exactly the same. 

As a church leader I have access to the prayer requests of people. By far the prayer requests are more about physical health than about spiritual health. 

Think about how we treat our day. We exercise. We try to eat well. We drink water. We shower. We get our bodies ready for the day. We constantly are thinking about our physical health.

We seem to care more about the condition of our physical body than our spiritual soul. 

While feeding those who have come to be near Jesus, He saw their true motivations. 

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. [John 6:26-27]

2. Very few people are loyal no matter what. Most people are bandwagon fans. 

My youngest child is a bandwagon fan. When watching a sporting event, she will pick the team that is winning and when that team begins to lose, she will switch to root for the other team that took the lead and it’s back-and-forth like a ping pong match with where her loyalties lie. 

The crowd that comes to see Jesus, they had heard about Him healing people. They had heard about Him turning water into wine at a wedding. They had come from afar to be fed by Him miracuosly. They heard His life-changing teachings. It should’ve been enough. And yet we see right after the feeding of the 5,000: 

At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. [John 6:66]

Bandwagon fans. 

Faith in Jesus is not about believing in Him so you get what you want. Faith in Jesus is holding onto Him especially when you don’t get what you want. Very few are loyal when God doesn’t meet their expectations.

[Side note: Be aware of your complaining nature. In John 6:61, before all of these followers desert Jesus and give up on Him, it says “Jesus was aware of their complaining”. Complaining is a step toward giving up on Jesus.}

3. Very few people see that there is more than enough evidence to believe in Jesus. 

On top of the water-into-wine miracle, on top of healing people of ailments, on top of teaching like no one had ever taught, on top of WALKING ON WATER and CALMING A SIGNIFICANT STORM – people still didn’t believe Jesus was Who He said He was (God Himself). 

After Jesus takes a Jewish boys lunchable and feeds thousands with it, the crowds still demand more. 

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? [John 6:30]

This is after Jesus fed them miraculously. 

When we doubt God, we have these thoughts of, “God, IF You are real, IF You are loving, IF You are good, IF You are powerful enough, THEN do this for me

No. We have more than enough evidence of God moving in our lives already. We need to keep our IFs out our prayers when speaking of God’s charatcter. He IS real. He IS loving. He IS good. He IS all-powerful. 

4. Very few people would follow Jesus if He showed up in person today. 

Here is what Jesus said to the crowds the day after feeding and teaching them: 

But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. [John 6:36]  

If it happened then, it would happen today. 

God is pursuing people so vigorously today to show skeptics His love and His providence and His blessings, but even physically sending Jesus again there would be people closing their hearts and minds to true life itself. 

What about you?
Do you care more about your physical body than your spiritual soul?
Are you a bandwagon Christian when God doesn’t give you what you want? 
Do you still doubt in God’s love and goodness when things don’t go your way? 
Very few people do. 

The gate to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few find it. [Matthew 7:14]

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

5 Mindsets to Suffocate Your Fears

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Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4-7]

With so much going on in our lives, with our loved ones and our country, there is much to be fearful of. It seems like the only thing that is not unprecedented right now is the anxiety many people are experiencing daily. 

Here are five mindsets to starve your fears: 

1. Look at life like it’s a railroad track, not peaks and valleys.

One of the self-inflicted ways we harm our attitude and perspective on how things are going is by putting our life in good seasons and bad seasons. We talk about mountains and valleys. It unconsciously affects our emotional outlook of whether or not we have a happy mood (good season, mountain peak) or a negative mood (bad season, valley). 

When we believe we’re in a valley season, we neglect to appreciate the good in our lives. 
When we believe we’re in a peak season, we become unaware that a trial is on its way toward us.

Rather than looking at what is happening in us, to us and around us as highs and lows, we need to look at life like it’s a railroad track. Railroad tracks have two sides to them heading in a parallel direction. 

Instead of seeing life as a series of good seasons and bad seasons, our perspective should be that good and bad are happening congruently at the same time. There is always something to be thankful for and there is always a difficulty to be working through. Keep one eye on each side of the tracks.

Having the discipline to see the good track with our view of things alongside the bad will take away the oxygen for anxiety and fear to breathe. Thank God for the good, trust Him when it’s scary.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! [Philippians 4:4]

2. Decision-making needs to come from the rudder, not the sails. 

Anger, out of fear, is the emotion we have when we can’t control the things we want to control. 

Pride, out of insecurity, is the emotion we have when we’re excited about how our lives are going. 

Too many of our decisions are coming immediately from our emotions, and the majority of those impulsive choices are damaging our relationships and the reputation we want those watching our lives to have of us. 

Our emotions are more like the sail of a boat than they are like the rudder. We feel fear, we feel anxiety, we feel out of control and we react right away, like sails do when the wind hits. 

When the pressured storms of life hit, instead of permitting our emotions to drive us where we go, we need to let reasonableness and wisdom direct our responses to what is going on. Instead of our decisions being the sails taking us immediately where the wind goes, they need to be viewed as the rudder of a ship: steady, secure, even-keel, stable. 

Being considerate of how our words and actions will be viewed by God and others allows the rudder of faith to drive our lives rather than the sails of emotion. 

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. [Philippians 4:5]

3. When fear is felt, make the Indiana Jones switch from panic to prayer. 

Remember watching the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones desired to take a small golden statue? If he just took the statue, an ancient alarm system would trigger a huge boulder to roll over him and make him Flat Stanley. 

To trick the alarm system, with steady hands he quickly takes the golden statue and then replaces it with a bag of sand (which, I don’t know why he thought the weight would be the same as gold is so much more dense than sand is) – but the quick switch is what I want us to focus on. 

The second that panic is felt, we need to switch it to prayer. 

When fear is felt, our heart races and becomes heavy as gold. Our mind flies through all of the hypothetical possible dangers of what could or could not happen. We become paralyzed and miss out on the adventurous, joyful life God has in store for us. 

Whether the fear felt is real, or whether it’s a lie, it needs to be switched out and prayer needs to be done immediately so the large boulder of anxiety doesn’t flatten our faith in Jesus. 

Freaking out is not a fruit of the Spirit. 
Non-Christians freak out. 
Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.
Christians pray and trust God.  

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. [Philippians 4:6]

4. Treat prayer like ordering from a fancy menu: be specific. 

My tastebuds are not fans of three ingredients: onions, mushrooms and coconut. When I take my wife out on a date to a fancy restaurant, the majority of the meals have the three ingredients I don’t love. 

When I order, I have to be specific on what I want and what I don’t want. 

Let’s say a waiter came to my table at a nice restaurant and asked me, What would you like? How weird would it be if I just said: Food. I want food. The waiter can serve me better the more specific I am – AND – I can enjoy the experience better the more specific I am. 

When praying to God, we need to be very specific. Being specific doesn’t invite God to know what we want, He knows what we want before we even ask, but what it does is it allows us to see the specific ways God will answer our prayers the more we drill down what we want exactly. 

Also, Scripture teaches us that we don’t get because we don’t ask. The more generic we are in our prayers the more vague of a timeline the answers will arrive. 

I don’t want us to treat God like He’s a genie, but sometimes the specific desires of our hearts needs to be laid out in articulate, exact requests. 

When fear rises up, replace it with prayer. Specific prayer. Tell God exactly what you need.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. [Philippians 4:6]

5. Finding God’s peace means being in God’s presence.

Anxiety, worry, depression and fear are not from God. If those emotions are reigning in our hearts and minds, God’s presence will feel far away.

Our God has the ultimate goal to guard our emotional life like a soldier. 

Sometimes during nights where we can’t sleep and our minds are full of fear, sometimes during moments in the day when we feel shaken due to what’s going on that we can’t control – we need to acknowledge the presence of God – out loud. 

Simply saying, I refuse to be afraid. I welcome You, Lord, I welcome Your Spirit, I welcome Your truth, I welcome Your power right now in this room, in my heart, in my mind, for my future. 

And then being in the presence of God, you will find the peace of God. 

Light drives our darkness.
Truth drives out lies.
Perfect drives out fear.  

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:7]

This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

The Three Types of Marriages

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When a romantic relationship is starting out, what gets things going are fun dates and making memories combined with butterflies of infatuation. 

If the dating relationship leads to an eventual marriage, fun dates and making memories take a back seat to working a job, stressing over bills, running errands daily, tending to kids constantly and trying to not be taken down by the constant piles of laundry

The norm of many marriages is that dating fades away when marriage begins. 

I’m under the conviction that dating can become evenbetter after marriage begins. 

(To clarify, I’m not talking about dating like a fancy night out with your spouse. Dating is pursuing the love of your life each day, getting to know them, learning to serve them).

As a Christian I’m also under the firm conviction that God is the one who infuses a marriage to be the amazing relationship it’s intended to be. 

God can make your heart full of joy even when there is disappoint in the marriage. 

God can give you discernment even when there is confusion in the marriage. 

God can give you a grateful heart that finds something in the marriage to be thankful for when there is complaining and arguing. 

Our culture is full of people whose lives seem plentiful when in reality there is so much lacking.

They have money, possessions, basic needs more than met, trips, hobbies and countless friends on social media. 

What they are lacking is a quality relationship of love, unity and peace – a relationship best found in Jesus first and a spouse second. 

Each spouse should examine where they are at in one of the three types of marriages: 

(1) A Shoulder-to-Shoulder Marriage

In a shoulder-to-shoulder marriage, the couple looks together. In fact, they accomplish much (individually). They have an outlook on the world that is ambitious and they get a lot done. 

The problem is, while they are getting a lot done (at work, with the kids, with a hobby, serving in the church), they aren’t soulmates living life together. They’re roommates living life apart. 

A shoulder-to-shoulder relationship shows the person you’re with that you care more about where your day is headed personally than where your relationship is headed together. 

This type of relationship is selfish. 

(2) A Back-to-Back Marriage

This is when the marriage reaches a dry season of either arguing frequently over a deep-seated issue or even more serious where there is little hope going forward. 

Instead of dealing with the issue face-on together and admitting fault humbly with a strong will and accountable plan to improve, the main issue neglects to get dealt with. 

A back-to-back relationship shows the person you’re with that the best version they fell in love with was the person you were while dating before marriage as you regress in character and commitment when it comes to improving the relationship. 

This type of relationship has settled. 

(3) A Face-to-Face Marriage

These people can’t get enough of their spouse when they stop to think about how grateful they should be. They are consistently pouring encouragement and question-asking into the person they promised their vows to. 

A face-to-face couple prioritizes date nights (no matter how old they are or how old the kids are). 

A face-to-face couple intentionally thinks, How can I thank them for making me a better person and what areas can I help assist them become a better person? 

This type of relationship is sacrificial. 

This type of ideal marriage doesn’t just appreciate the other with eyes of hearts since the euphoric feelings of romance are perpetual. But, even in times of disagreement and let down,  a face-to-face marriage doesn’t ignore each other in life, nor do they combat each other when there’s an argument. Instead, they remain face-to-face (not yelling), but continuing to work on the marriage to the point of love, unity and peace. 

Here are three pieces of advice to have a face-to-face marriage if you find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder or back-to-back. 

STEP ONE: Learn to enjoy being with one another more than you enjoy what you are doing apart from one another 

Choose the relationship over personal goals, work/task responsibilities and interests. Be aware of what you prioritize in your heart, schedule, excitement and dreams. 

STEP TWO: Learn how to quickly and gently put water on a relational fire (rather than gas). 

Choose humility, pray for patience, pursue forgiveness rather than grudge holding and anger. 

STEP THREE: Work intentionally at what cultural values you both want in the marriage while seeking the guidance of other godly married couples. 

Think about how Hollywood shows a couple sleeping in the same bed together. Those who sleep back-to-back are assumed to be arguing. Those who sleep shoulder-to-shoulder on their backs look fine when there could be so much more of an intimate, qualitative relationship. 

When we see a couple sleeping face-to-face, holding each other, that’s what people yearn for when it comes to the closest human relationship one can have (I’m not saying you should sleep face-to-face with your spouse, I’m saying how it looks on the big screen is a close and intimate and that’s how it should look daily while awake with your spouse). 

In your marriage, what is the issue you have been ignoring as you allow yourself to be distracted by your day (where are you shoulder-to-shoulder)? 

In your marriage, what is the issue you have been continually arguing over that needs to be dealt with, killed and buried (where are you back-to-back)? 

Finally, what married couples you know who have a face-to-face marriage and what can they teach you? Who are the couple with faith and joy and grace and abundant support and energy for the other? 

And by the way, where are you with Jesus? Are you mad at Him (back-to-back), disinterested in Him and very interested in you (shoulder-to-shoulder) or are you pursuing Jesus as earnestly as you can (face-to-face). 

Because we are His bride, He pursues (dates) us every day, and one day soon we will see Him face-to-face. 

Thanks for reading, you are so loved!

Z

The One Thing I’m Quitting This Year

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It’s the year 2021? That’s difficult to fathom. Doesn’t that sound like science fiction to you? It wasn’t too long ago when it was Y2K and we were all huddled down in our storm shelters with our water jugs, RME’s, generators, flashlights, canned food, our Kings James Version Bibles and we were afraid our computers were going to shut the world down and send us back to the Dark Ages.

None of that happened and then you blink and it’s 2021.

The more New Year’s Days that go by the more we realize how fast life really gets.

Around the start of a new year I have the same cycle that happens: I start evaluating myself. I evaluate where I’m at and where I want to go, who I want to strive to be. I make a list of goals and initiatives for the upcoming year, inviting others to encourage me and hold me accountable. This process is referred to as resolutions.

Some are tangible goals that are tracked rigorously and some are intangible goals and are sought after through accountability.

A tangible goal: I will exercise 4 days a week in 2021. 

An intangible goal:  I will become more of a patient person in 2021. 

New Year’s resolutions can be divided into two categories. On one side we say, Here are the things I need to start doing: I need to start eating better. I need to start going to the gym. I need to start managing my money wisely. I need to start getting to church consistently. 

In the other category are things that we need to stop doing. I’m going to stop eating dessert so much. I’m going to stop speeding on the highway. I’m going to stop cussing. I’m going to stop drinking so much. I’m going to stop being so obsessed with politics.

We have both categories: things we will start this new year and things we will stop this new year.

Most are aware of the spectacle of the New Year’s Eve celebration on Times Square in NYC, when the ball drops at midnight and you kiss on the lips the person nearest to you.

I’ve attended the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration. While it was fun to be there and meet so many people from around the world, it wasn’t the most enjoyable fun arriving at 4:00PM for a spot, not able to leave for 8 hours, having to urinate in a gatorade bottle in front of thousands of onlookers while it’s freezing outside. And once the ball drops, everyone scatters and runs like a zombie apocalypse started on 42nd Street.

There is a lesser known day that occurs in Times Square of New York City a few days before New Year’s Eve every year. It’s a Latin American-inspired day called: Good Riddance Day.

The idea behind, Good Riddance Day is you are to take all of the letdowns of the year – the stress and pain and the unmet expectations – and you bring them to Times Square to get rid of them and clean the slate heading into the new year with a fresh mind and a renewed heart.

You show up at Times Square in late December, you receive a black Sharpie market and a piece of paper that has words printed on it saying: I’d like to say good riddance to……..and there’s a blank space after for you to finish the sentence.

You can put a photo there of a former job you no longer have. You can put an old credit card statement there that has been paid off. You can write something in, like, I’d like to say good riddance to rooting for the Detroit Lions.

Thousands of people attend this Good Riddance Day. They take their year-long, sometimes life-long regret up to a large industrialized paper shredder and they let go of the paper and shred it and the surrounding people cheer and clap. It’s a symbolic way of saying, This is what I’m letting go of, this is what I’m getting rid of before the New Year. 

One year I attended Good Riddance Day. It was a fairly new event then and I was very nosy. I kept looking at other people’s paper because I can be rude and intrusive like that, in a curious, insensitive way. One lady next to me was crying so I asked her what she wrote on her paper and she held it up to me in tears and it was the name of a guy.

Damon.

She said, This is the name of an old boyfriend of mine and we broke up two years ago but I can’t fully get over him and I can’t stop thinking about him and I can’t stop looking online at what his new life looks like so I’m going to shred his name today and move forward.

I’m thinking, You haven’t been able to get over this guy for two years after you broke up, do you really think writing his name down on paper and shredding it is going to be deep enough to heal you? 

I didn’t tell her that. I just hugged her and asked if I could pray with her. She said, No thanks. I’m an atheist. She was very polite about rejecting my offer. She chose the paper shredder instead to help heal her.

As good-intentioned and therapeutic as an exercise like Good Riddance Day can be, I just don’t think it goes deep enough. It doesn’t get to the root of helping what we need to let go of.

I’ve got many tangible goals for this year of things I need to start doing more of. I’m going to run this many miles. I’m going to read this many books. I’m going to go on this many date nights and daddy-daughter dates.

But I’m also going to stop doing something. And it’s just one thing. I’m stopping cold turkey. I’m not going to do it ever again and I’m asking my family and closest friends to hold me accountable.

I’m going to stop complaining. 

Forever.

It’s over. I’m done being a chain-grumbler. The pre-ghost-of-Christmas-yet-to-come Ebenezar Scrooge and the Grinch-like heart I’ve had for far too long is dying and a perpetual grateful heart begins in 2021.

It feels most days I ask my daughters to stop whining without holding myself accountable to the innumerable amount of complaints I commit. From facile complaints like wifi being too slow or food not tasting great to more serious complaints of life not going the way I think it should, I’ve been addicted to grumbling.

If you love Jesus you need to know complaining is a sin. It’s offensive to God.

Do everything without complaining. (Philippians 2:14)

There’s no clarifier or asterisk. It’s not, Do everything without complaining, unless you’re tired. Unless you’re getting a divorce. Unless you’ve lost your job. Unless your metabolism is low. Unless your car breaks down a lot. Unless you’re in a pandemic. Unless. Unless. Unless.   

Do E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G without complaining. (Philippians 2:14)

Do you complain?

Of course you do.

I’m not talking about little complaints here and there. I’m talking about trending complaints. What are the things you keep complaining about? If you don’t know, your spouse/closest friend/co-worker/child is dying to tell you what you continue to complain about.

Complaints usually rise up out of unmet expectations. The weather is awful. That’s because your expectation is for San Diego weather. The traffic is horrific. That’s because your expectation is to get to where you were going smoothly. The government is wicked. That’s because your expectation is to have a Congress and Oval Office full of the Holy Spirit when in reality they are just full of themselves.

Pay attention to your trending complaints – in you and in those under your roof. Get it out of your heart. Get it out of your home. The more you complain, the less you’ll be grateful, the less you’ll trust God and the smaller of a legacy you will have.

Psychology 101 is when you stop doing something you must replace it by starting something. If you want to stop smoking, replace it by starting to exercise. If you want to stop watching so much TV, replace that time by reading or journaling.

We must stop complaining. It leads to no where beneficial and keeps us treading in our negative, self-pity pool of water we choose to waddle in. If we stop complaining, what do we replace our thoughts/attitudes/words with?

Gratitude.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Do everything without complaining and instead be thankful in all circumstances. The verse above says that this is God’s will for you life.

Those who want to make a difference think of extravagant things like starting an orphanage in Africa or a non-profit to help the needy in America or writing a book. They want to make a difference where so many people notice.

How about we make a difference so our God notices? And for that to happen, I’m going cold turkey on not complaining and I’m going to replace it by being thankful.

How radical would it be for me to be thankful for traffic? Then I get to pray or process my day or think about my family. How radical would it be for me to be thankful for slow wifi? Then I get to be thankful for the life God has given me where I get to have wifi in my warm house with my warm clothes on while drinking my warm coffee. I have a great life.

I know friends who are thankful they have cancer because it has forced them to not take any day for granted with their loved ones, to love people more than possessions.

I invite you to join me. No more complaining. Let’s leave our pre-school mindset and venture into spiritual maturity. Be thankful for all you have, the good and the bad. Let’s lovingly hold our family and friends to the standard of no whining as well. We’re better than emulating Mr. Potter (Not Harry, the guy in It’s a Wonderful Life). Let’s emulate Jesus, who said a lot of words that are recorded, not one of which is a complaint.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year. 2021 is going to rock.

Z

Why You Shouldn’t Talk About Jesus This Holiday Season

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Years ago I was serving in a church in Tennessee where a male leader in the church wanted to meet with me. 

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

He had told me that he and his wife just had the worst Thanksgiving of their lives and it was all of their adult daughter’s fault. 

At Thanksgiving dinner, their daughter informed her parents that she was a lesbian and had been for quite some time and was seriously dating a female significant other. 

And both mom and dad lost their minds in anger/fear/judgment. 

There was shouting. There were derogatory remarks. And their daughter ended up leaving the Thanksgiving holiday, mid-meal. 

As she grabbed her coat and purse, her dad yelled out, You’re going to go to hell, you know that!?!

The father telling me what took place was being this brutally honest with me, and not because he felt shame for how he reacted to his daughter’s news of being gay, but because he thought he was preaching to the choir. He thought I was with him in the way he reacted. 

I was only with him in two ways: One, I loved him because God loves him. Two, I also have had moments where surprising news came to me from family and I did not react well either. 

May Christians have the continual prayer that while we can’t control the comments of those around us, we can still choose to respond to their news in a God-honoring way. Self-control, kindness and gentleness are fruit of the Spirit that never go bad. They are always ripe. 

But I was not with him on how he thought Christians should treat those in the homosexual community. To him, his daughter became an enemy. In an instance what was going to be a great family memory turned into an us-verses-them relationship. 

Fast forward a year later, a couple weeks before Christmas. This same dad comes into my office still stressed and still angry. 

At this point I hadn’t seen him in a year – at all. After our meeting the year before, I asked him to step down from church leadership unless he was going to apologize to his daughter. He refused to apologize and left the church abruptly, blasting me on social media. 

But he reached out to me again 13 months later, and since I wasn’t a legalist like him, since I believe in the action of grace, I was willing to meet. 

He told me that on Christmas Eve his daughter was going to marry the woman she had been dating for over a year. He and his wife had been invited to the wedding (which was in a state that permitted same-sex marriage at the time). 

The wedding was two weeks away and he and his wife had not made travel plans. Not only had he not talked to me in over a year, he hadn’t talked to his daughter in over a year (his wife had a few times).

They weren’t going the wedding of their child. 

His reasoning was this: If he and his wife attend the wedding of his daughter to another woman, then he would be sanctioning what he considered their lifestyle of sin. 

I asked him if he had ever been to a wedding before. Obviously he had. 

I asked him if each wedding he attended, if he knew all of the shortcomings and sin of both the bride and groom-to-be. He obviously hadn’t. 

But he attended each wedding. He dressed up, bought gifts, supported the couple, had a good time. 

I told him that not attending the wedding of his daughter would be something he would regret for the rest of his life and that it would sever their relationship.

I encouraged this father to view his daughter through the lens of God the Father. I wanted him to see how God still pursues people even when they run from him. And I reminded him that his judgmental sin put him on the same level as any sexual sin he assumed his daughter was doing. 

Two weeks later, he didn’t attend the wedding. 

I don’t know if this father and his daughter have reconciled to this day, but think about how the holiday season feels each year for this family. When Thanksgiving comes, the memory of a daughter crying on her way out of the home as her dad yells she’s going to hell will be felt every year. 

On Christmas Eve, the memory of her parents not willing to attend her wedding will be felt every year. 

This is why I do not talk about Jesus around the holiday season. 

It’s not just Jesus I don’t talk about around the holiday season. It’s anything political. It’s anything racial. It’s anything personal that is a historical bad memory in the family. I prayerfully vie to be all smiles and support and acts of service no matter what this time of year. 

The holidays are a very sensitive time that any topic that polarizes (which the topic of Jesus does), is going to be a lose-lose situation. 

Civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou said this: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

What is more important than talking about Jesus around the holiday season is being Jesus during the holiday season. 

If your loved ones feel rejected and depressed, give them a listening ear taking some serious one-on-one time for them to make sure they definitively know how loved they are. 

If your loved ones have hurt you in the past, let them know you forgive them and that you’re always with them. 

If your loved ones have news that surprises you or opinions that you adamantly disagree with, there is a time and a place to state your case and the holidays are not the time to do it. Usually our first emotional response in conversations of disagreement are not the most God-honoring responses that we have. 

They will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. They will never forget how you made them feel.

Choose acts of humility and service over acts of having to be right this holiday season.

There will be more than enough of opportunities to talk about Jesus, share the Gospel, pray with someone, share a Bible verse, speak truth, invite a loved one to worship throughout the year (and if a loved one is asking about Jesus willingly, yes, please shout the Good News from the mountain tops), but when someone isn’t in the humble spirit to hear about Jesus, the holidays are definitely not the time to bring Him up. 

But the holidays are definitely the time for Him to show up through you.

Jesus says that your love for one another will prove to those watching that you are a Christian (John 13:35). 

It won’t be your opposing comments. It won’t be your opinions of disagreement. It won’t be your frustration. It won’t be your obsession to be right. It won’t be your addiction to control others. And it won’t be your hope for a perfect holiday season in the way you expect it to go. 

It will be your love. 

Think back to the father who refused to attend the wedding of his daughter. 

When she told her parents that she was a lesbian and had been FOR QUITE SOME TIME, that meant it was brand new information to her parents but something she was scared or uncomfortable to bring up to her own Christian parents. 

That’s heart-breaking. 

That tells me there wasn’t a culture of grace and belonging no matter what someone does or who they view themselves to be in this household. Instead of love, there was fear. Instead of compassion, there was control. 

One daily action I have been doing every morning is praying through the fruit of the Spirit over the day at hand. 

The 9 fruit of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Each morning I have been praying specifically, God, give me Your joy so I can give it to others. Give me Your patience so I can give it to my children. Give me Your gentleness so I can be gentle when things don’t go my way. Give me Your self-control when my emotional responses want to bring separation.

The reason these fruit are from the Spirit is because you cannot manufacture them on your own will-power. And since the holiday season is already an emotionally-charged time of year, trying to approach holiday events with others on your own strength with no preparation of prayer is going to be disastrous. 

Run through the fruit of the Spirit in earnest prayer before any holiday gathering this year and prepare yourself to be Jesus. 

You can’t control what others say or what news they give, but with the Spirit’s help, you can react like Jesus to whatever conversations occur. 

Thanks for reading, you are so loved. 

Z

7 Questions to Ask for Men and Women Wanting to Marry (A blog series on dating, 4 of 4)

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[This blog is the fourth and final installment in a series of blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. Read the first blog and second blog and third blog to catch up]

This last blog on dating is for the following: 
– If you are single and desire marriage
– If you desire to raise godly children who plan to marry
– If you have friends who are single and want to marry

I’ve got seven questions for both sides of the wedding aisle, different questions for men and women to chew on and think about while they pursue the lovely blessing of marriage. These questions hopefully will remove some blinders people have while dating and also prepare some to intentionally seek out God’s will for their aspirations of love, intimacy and commitment.

7 Questions For Men Wanting to Marry

  1. Are you overlooking a good woman in your life right now (those who are shy, those who are a single mom, those who have been divorced)? Instead of looking for Miss Right, should you prayerfully see that Miss Right In Front of You is waiting?

  2. In your life, are you honoring God above all? Then, do you honor her? Then, do you honor her family? Then, do you honor her friends?

  3. Is the girl you are pursuing modest in her appearance and her social media posts? (1 Timothy 2:9)?

  4. Do you display a leadership in front of her and a prioritized love for her that inspires her to follow and trust you?

  5. Is her character noble (Proverbs 31:10-31)?Is her character something your mother would love? Is her character something God approves? Can you see the spiritual attraction over the physical attraction? Or does she have the worst qualities listed in the book of Proverbs (unfaithful, loud, quarreling, nagging)?

  6. Can you both agree on the path ahead? Can you provide the lifestyle she expects? Can you support the calling she has in life? Do you see her supporting the commitments you currently have? Can you welcome her family as your family?  
  1. Do you want your daughters to be like how she is right now and do you want your sons to marry someone like her?

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7 Questions for Women Wanting to Marry

1.  Do you get excited when thinking about helping him as you join the course of life he is on (Genesis 2:18)?

2. Does he have the resolve to stay faithful to God and strong for you in tough times (2 Timothy 2:3)?

3. Is he considerate and gentle with you (1 Peter 3:7)? Scripture’s role of the husband as the leader of the home isn’t that he gets to make decisions as a dictator for his wife and kids. That’s a gross misinterpretation. He needs to be considerate on what his wife thinks. Where she thinks the family is headed. Being considerate and gentle go together. A husband who is angry with his wife is one who doesn’t consider her thoughts or feelings. 

4. Will he make a godly father (Psalm 127:3-5; Ephesians 6:4)?

5. Does he have the maturity and the commitment to be a one-woman-man (1 Timothy 3:2)? Does he understand that lust, laziness, pornography, cheating, emotional and physical affairs have no place in a marriage? Does he see that love is not merely a feeling when things are good, but a covenantal commitment no matter what? 

6. How valuable does he make you feel? In a serious, dating relationship heading toward marriage, you should feel above all other humans and responsibilities in his life. He should consistently show you that he loves Jesus passionately (not say it, show it), and then there’s you. You should have no doubt that you are the apple of his eye. He should lavish you with time, encouragement, prayer, gifts as you see you are a priority to him. 

7. Do you want your sons to be like how he is right now and do you want your daughters to marry someone like him?

Thanks for reflecting on these, passing them on to loved ones and for taking the time to read all four blogs on dating. What’s going to uplift and improve our culture is not another politician, election or crisis. It’s going to be a gracious, loving uprising of strong, godly households. This is done by intentional, prayerful dating. 

You are loved. 

Z

7 Principles For Single People Wanting To Date (A blog series on dating, 3 of 4)

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[This blog is the third installment in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. Read the first blog and second blog to catch up]

There are four types of relationships when it comes to dating today, and three of them are acceptable for Christians. 

  1. Prearranged marriage. 
  2. Courtship. 
  3. Christians dating. 
  4. Non-Christians dating. 

In any of these scenarios of pursuing marriage, I want to give seven principles for single people. 

1. Utilize your current singleness for God (Philippians 2:3-4)

Single people desiring marriage can give in to two temptations that will harm the work God wants to to through them. 

One: They will be so consumed with wanting to date, wanting to be engaged, wanting to plan a wedding, wanting the kids and the picket fence that they waste their years of singleness. 

Two: They will choose to be selfish in their season of singleness. 

These temptations really go together. If a single person is being lazy, or selfish AND they’re always thinking about wanting to marry, there’s going to be long-term harm if they do end up choosing to marry. 

Marriage is sacrifice. A single person needs to be using their singleness as a time to serve God, serve the church, serve co-workers and neighbors and those in need. A single person will never have more time and opportunity in their lives to serve others than right now in their singleness. Marriage and children bring beautiful distractions that limit the amount of self-sacrifice that can be done toward others. 

Singleness should also be a time where a person is leaning on the Holy Spirit and Scripture and Christian community to mold them into a more godly person, which prepares one greatly for marriage. This means no to pornography, drunkenness, drugs, grudge-holding, promise-breaking).

2. It’s not wise to pursue a relationship until you are ready to marry (Proverbs 18:22)

Each parental unit in the household will have their own guidance on when their children can start dating. This should be done with prayer and conversation with godly people and not done with what culture is doing or what the child’s friends are doing. 

There’s no where in the Bible where it gives a certain age on when someone should be married, so there’s definitely not an age given on when someone can start dating. 

Who and how someone dates is more important than when they date. 

When I say that Christians should not pursue a relationship until they’re ready to marry, I really mean until they’re ready to commit fully to one person. They don’t have to by forever committed to the first person they go on a date with. The point of dating is to search out what godly and lifelong characteristics are valuable to you.

Problems occur when someone in dating wants a greater intimacy than what is wholesome in God’s eyes and doesn’t want to commit to much. Those who simply want to date around and be physical with others while giving no concern to commitment long-term aren’t ready to find or enjoy a spouse. 

3. It’s healthy thing to not set your expectations too high or too low.

My heart breaks for the person who worships romance and marriage and they basically want to find Jesus to marry, not giving any room for sin or defect or flaws in the other person. They won’t find Jesus to marry (even though He should have their heart above all). Sometimes Mr. Right is Mr. Right In Front of You but you’re dismissing that person because they’re not perfect. Your bar is too high. 

My heart also breaks for the person who doesn’t see the value and worth God has instilled in them, so they settle for any person to be with long-term. Even if the person is destructive or if there are obvious character defects that loved ones warn about, they are staying with that person. They’ve set the bar too low. 

We won’t find Jesus to marry but we shouldn’t date the devil either. 

Yes, you deserve someone godly to serve you and lead you closer to Jesus, but no, you don’t deserve anyone ungodly to use you and belittle you and let you down continually. 

4. Never date a non-Christ-follower (2 Corinthians 6:14)

In our household there are two daughters. My wife and I encourage them to not say the words never or always. When they express what is wrong they will say, You always side with her, or, You never let me play outside. Of course those aren’t factual. They’re over-exaggerations based on emotion.

But, when it comes to God’s Word, if God uses always (He will always love us) and if He uses never (He will never forsake us), then it’s time to use those words too. 

God tells His people to not (never) be emotionally and physically intimate with non-believers. Not because Christians are better than non-Christians, but because there are severe issues long-term when one side worships Jesus over all and the other side worships someone or something other than Jesus. 

And notice I didn’t say, Never date a non-Christian. I said, Never date a non-Christ-follower

Just because someone is in church doesn’t mean they’re in Christ. 

It’s when a girl says, He’s so cute and so funny and he likes me and he told me that his grandma used to take him to church once in a while and he’s cool with me loving Jesus. 

Not gonna fly. They need to be in Christ. The love for Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit should be oozing out of them.  

5. He should initiate and then she should respond. 

In the biblical roles for men and women in marriage, men are assigned the role of leadership. This is not to say that women don’t lead (my wife leads me), or that women don’t have leadership skills (the church leadership team where I serve has more women than men). This isn’t to say men are more valuable or have greater importance in the marriage. Both spouses are equally, worthy, spiritual beings. 

But in dating, men should initiate and women should respond. 

Biblical evidence of this is the creation order in Genesis 2 (Adam is created first, he speaks first to Eve) and also, 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and Ephesians chapter 5. 

The guy should approach the girl (or ideally, her father first). After there’s a friendship, after there’s prayer, after there’s visible evidence of fruit of the Spirit and a servant-heart toward others, after he’s ready to commit to one person to date and hopefully marry, he should initiate. 

A girl is best suited to lean on God’s goodness and sovereignty as she prayerfully waits for a godly man to initiate a relationship with her. 

Now, does this mean a woman never tells a man how she feels? Because men are dense. They need help connecting emotionally. They need help realizing what signs she is giving him.  

I know this: God is sovereign and powerful. If it doesn’t work out for a girl with a particular guy because he didn’t see the signs or the beauty in her or wasn’t ready to commit – whatever the reason – God knows what is best for us and will orchestrate someone better in the future. 

We can trust Him with the things that are most important to us. 

6. Feel free to utilize technology wisely (internet dating) (Proverbs 4:23)

What technology has done to many young people is devolve them into not knowing how to have a conversation. They can text a bit, use emojis, film a Tik-Tok, but their phone has become such a desire, it’s like their fifth appendage. 

With not knowing how to talk (and with the dating scene being pretty sparse because you probably aren’t going to find the guy/gal for you long-term that God wants at a bar or a club), and, with many churches not being relevant or not caring about the next generation (since the churches are getting older and older), there aren’t a lot of millennial or Gen Z options to date at a lot of churches, it can be dismal out there.

Internet dating becomes a viable option to meet people. Let’s allow God to use technology for redemptive good. 

Your trust should not be in a dating site. Your energy should not be spent on a dating site that is only for hook-ups or good times. You don’t need a good weekend, you need a good legacy. 

Just be cautious as you sift through online options. You don’t want physical attraction to be primary, you want to prayerfully seek the character and heart of the person you might go on date with. As Proverbs 4:23 states, guard your heart. 

7. Only invest in a relationship with someone you are attracted to completely. 

You should be attracted to them physically, yes. You can be attached to how talented they are, sure. It’s fine if you like their success, though that fades (so does beauty and talent). 

There needs to be a mental attractions (you think highly of them). 

There needs to be an emotional attraction (you trust them and feel safe with them). 

There needs to be a spiritual attraction (they love Jesus more than you or anyone/anthing else).

There needs to be a gifting attraction (you see your spiritual gifts and theirs combined well together to do ministry).

When the two become one, it’s not just sex. It’s not just living other. It’s not just having one bank account together. It’s everything. 

It’s views on marital roles, on parenting, on gender, on spiritual disciplines – everything, on how time away from work is spent. 

For the final post in this mini-blog series on dating, we’ll ask each man and each woman 8 different questions when it comes to them dating. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

2 Blunders Made By Single People Who Date (A Blog Series on Dating, 2 of 4)

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[This blog is the second in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children. The first blog can be read here.] 

If you are single desiring marriage, you are not alone. You might feel lonely at times, but you are in the majority of American adults right now. 

There are more adults who are single right now in America than there are adults who are married. This is a first in the history of America, where the adults who are single are the majority. 

Now, the majority of people will eventually marry.
Nine out of ten people do. 

When it comes time to get married, the man is on average 30 years old and the woman is on average in her late 20’s. 75 years ago, the average age to marry was ten years less than it is today. Young adults are prolonging their commitment to marriage, which has led to much sexual sin and cohabitation. 

It’s also led to more time to think about marriage. Which means there is more time for single adults to put the prospect and hope of marriage on a throne it shouldn’t be on. 

For single Christians hoping to be married in the future, and for dads and moms wanting to raise godly children, let me share the two big mistakes I see single people making:

Blunder #1: I desire marriage so strongly that I worship it. 

Those who idolize the concept of marriage have a stress-free, worry-free, romantic, Disney-like picture of what marriage is like. 

That’s not realistic. 

The gap between the fantasy of marriage and the reality of marriage is quite the chasm for this person. 

The more a single person worships the idea of marriage (meaning, it’s what their heart wants more than anything, it’s what they constantly think about, it’s what they’ve spent their life desiring), when marriage is worshipped, immediately that person becomes someone who is codependent. 

Those who idolize marriage are the ones who always have to be in a relationship. They cannot stand the thought of being single. They feel less-than if they’re not dating someone. Their greatest fear is not marrying and instead of celebrating friends who do get married, they are jealous and bitter. With each boyfriend or girlfriend they have, they turn that person into a functional savior. Their heaven is the wedding altar. 

When a single person worships the idea of marriage, when falling in love sits on the throne of their heart, here’s the danger with that: You will overlook the faults and flaws you and the person you are dating have.

When all you think about is marriage, you’ll be blind (or choose to ignore) glaring personality deficiencies and unhealthy habits just to get to the wedding day. 

This mindset leads to long-term issues, because when the wedding day comes and goes, the faults and flaws remain, or, outside of Jesus, get worse. 

Marriage is a starting line, not a finish line. 

This blunder usually is tripped over by women. 

Recently I was counseling a young woman in her late 20’s who is overwhelmed by her being single. She is full of anxiety over the fact that she isn’t married and doesn’t have any children. In our hour together, she said the words I’m single six times. Instead of Jesus’ love defining her, her identity is: not married

Through some questions I asked, she relayed that she feels miserable while she doesn’t date and feels like she’s on Cloud 9 when she does. She said by the second or third date with someone, she’s picturing having kids with the guy and seeing how his last name fits with her first name. 

This tells me she is rushing the process, controlling too much, not letting go of this idol to be married and probably smothering the men she gets to know. 

I’ve said it before, and it’s true for those who idolize marriage: Chase after happiness and you’ll never find it. Chase after God and happiness will find you. 

Blunder #2: I detest marriage so strongly that I condemn it. 

The other mistake single people make isn’t idolizing marriage, it’s demonizing it. 

In this extreme, the single person doesn’t have a euphoric picture of marriage, they have a very dismal, miserable view of it. The chasm for this person is the horror stories of marriage they’ve seen and have heard verses the hope for a wonderful relationship they could hope toward. 

While the worship of marriage leads to an unhealthy codependence (save me, fix me, always love me), the condemning of marriage leads to an unhealthy independence (I don’t need anyone, look what I can do). 

This perspective of detesting marriage leads to a more self-centered lifestyle. The single person thinks they will get the most joy out of being by themselves, when, Christ-followers know we find ourselves by serving God and others. 

Not to saying people who have a bad taste in their mouth toward marriage don’t date. Sure they do. They reflect the desire that God has made us for companionship. It’s just, while they date, they severely focus on the person’s flaws and faults (most of the time exaggerating them). They inherit the role of being a bad prophet predicting that this is the reason it wouldn’t work out long-term. 

While the person who worships marriage ignores the flaws in a dating partner (no truth), the person who detests marriage focuses too much on the flaws in a dating partner (no grace). 

Rather than pushing a good relationship along, they push it away. Deep down inside they want to meet Mr./Mrs. Right, but their fears and unrealistic standards of a marriage partner keep them from pursuing Mr./Mrs. Right In Front of Them

This blunder is usually tripped over by men. 

While counseling a single young male in his early 30’s, he confessed a daily involvement with pornography and a periodic involvement with pre-marital sex. I asked him who he was having sex with and he told me it was typically girls in their early 20’s. 

I asked why he thought there was typically a ten year difference between him and the girls he chose to pursue and his response was, They’re not thinking about settling down. They’re more fun

While he wasn’t worshipping marriage, he was worshipping pleasure. He was worshipping temporary acceptance. 

He went on to talk about how awful his parents marriage was, how ugly their divorce was when he was 15 years old and how stale his friends marriages are today. He condemned any idea of tying the knot.

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For single adults, and parents raising children, we don’t place dating or marriage or sex or friendship on the throne, and we don’t place those things under our feet and stomp on them. If desired, marriage is a beautiful gift, and if done in a godly fashion, it’s such an amazing adventure with your best friend. But it can’t be worshipped and it can’t be spit on. 

I firmly believe that when you are focused on God above all, placing Jesus on the throne of your thoughts, words, actions and dreams, He does, in His timing, give you the desires of your heart. 

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

A History of Dating (A Blog Series on Dating, 1 of 4)

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With my oldest daughter turning 9 this month, which makes me realize she’s halfway to moving out of the home, and also, with the numerical increase of millennials and generation Z’s being led to the church I get to serve, the topic of dating wisely has been on my heart. 

[This blog is the first in a series of four blogs on dating for single people and for parents raising children.] 

To kick off this blog series on dating, it’s probably a healthy first step to understand how fast the dating process has progressed (I should say, how it has regressed). Here’s a history on dating: 

History of Dating

In 1896, the word dating was first used as lower-class slang for prostitution. To date someone meant you were soliciting a prostitute (I see patterns today in culture where modern dating still includes some sort of prostitution).  

The Parlor With Her Mother and Father and His Shotgun

In the early 1900’s if a young couple wanted to get married, here’s how it would go down: Dad and mom would have a front room in their house called a parlor. There would be some nice chairs, maybe a piano, some big paintings on the wall. 

If dad and mom had a lovely daughter who was near the age of marriage, they would make a list of qualified, approved male suitors who earned the right to be interviewed by the girl’s parents. A letter of acceptance would go out to the young men stating something like, Congratulations, you’ve been approved to interview with us to court our daughter.

After receiving this invitation to interview, the young man would clean himself up, put on a suit, comb his hair, get rid of foul body odors and he would go to the girl’s house, sitting in the front parlor. Dad and mom would sit with him, and the girl would sit in the back of the room (this was social distancing before it was a 21st Century trend).  

Dad and mom would then drill the young man with questions, Do you love the Lord? What are your intentions? Do you have a job? Are you ambitious? Are you gracious? Do you have goals? Are you a drunk? Do you own a Bible? Can we see your Bible? 

They would have this conversation to get him thinking seriously, they would feed him some small snacks and tea (not dinner, they don’t want him hanging around too long). Later on, if he was a healthy prospect in the parents eyes, they would notify him again, and through more interviews, if he was deemed worthy, he could talk to their daughter, maybe end up marrying her. 

This was a long process where the young man would have to come onto her family’s property, play by her parent’s rules, and the young man and the young woman weren’t even permitted to be alone together. Dad was always watching. With a shotgun in hand. And a whisky. A loaded shotgun.

Women’s Magazines

But then something happened in the early 1900’s women’s magazines started gaining steam in popularity as they were put in the hands of these young women wanting to marry. The Ladies Home Journal by the year 1910 had over 1 million subscribers. 

Instead of a young lady taking wisdom on what a godly woman is and looks like from their Bible, or their mom or grandma, or their church, now they’re getting advice and looking at pictures from magazines who are saying that this is what a woman should look like, this is fashion and sexuality. These magazines still exist today, they’re very popular and are in every grocery check out line. Have you read through Cosmo or Vogue? There aren’t a lot of Bible verses in them. They teach you how to break all the commandments from God while spewing lies on how to get a good man. 

Women started reading these magazines and they began thinking, Oh, maybe I don’t show enough cleavage. Oh, I need to listen to my desires and my heart over my God. Oh, I need to sleep around to have fun and see what I like. This is what’s called normal. Now I get it.  

Growth of Urban Cities

What happens in the 1920’s is that urbanization became exciting and contagious where everyone is moving to the city and working in the city. Since the city is full of creative and hard-working people who need an outlet, the entertainment industry exploded. There’s restaurants and movie theaters and dance halls.  

What happened is young ladies were being taken away from their home to go eat, drink, dance with boys the parents don’t know. There’s no, dad and mom get to know the boy in the parlor of the girls home anymore. Today if you watch the ABC show The Bachelorette, the girl’s parents aren’t meeting the aspiring boys episode 1. The girl is making out with boys in episode 1.

The Automobile Takes Her Away 

This process of going from the woman’s domain (her parents house) to the man’s domain (wherever he wants to go) picks up fast in the 1930’s with the mass production of the automobile. Young men buy cars, they pull up to the girl’s house beep beep, honk the horn, the girl comes running out of the house and drives away instead of the boy parking his car and visiting with the parents on the front porch or in the front parlor room. 

He takes the girl out on a date where she spent all day trying to look pretty and attractive and her heart is involved with this boy so she’ll go where he takes her.

A little later on, the young man begins to realize, Wow, I are spending a lot of money just to go on a date. I bought a car, a few suits, and I’m picking up the tab at dinner and at the club, and I’m not getting anything in return. 

There became this uncomfortable pressure from the boy onto the girl to neck/make out/go too far/have sex. Because after all this spending of money and time, at the end of the night the girl saying, thank you wasn’t enough for these guys. 

This is where I believe dating became a form of prostitution. The guy pays for the entire evening, and he unfairly expects physical affection in return.

The guy would insinuate that the girl owes him, that there needed to an exchange, money for affection. Some of ladies reading this have felt this pressure so what the women came up with was this term going Dutch, apparently the Dutch are very cheap people, and it’s where both sides of the date split the check. Women everywhere declared, Tonight I will pay for my own steak and he can’t touch me. 

The Feminist Movement

The 1960’s come along and the feminist movement begins to grow and gain an audience. And their cause was this: we want women to be treated like men! The shortcoming with this movement is that men don’t treat other men that well. There was a day where if a woman walked into the room, all the men would stand up out of respect, open the door for her, seat her nicely but feminism said, treat us like men, well, as men, we don’t stand up for you, we don’t compliment you, we use you, rip you off, lie to you, hurt you. 

The Sexual Revolution

Next comes the sexual revolution in the 60’s and 70’s (to be truthful, the first sexual revolution occurred in the 1920s, so don’t let your grandparents tell you it’s the hippies fault on why sex is so casual today).

Another sexual revolution happened in the mid 1960’s where young adults basically spent 7-8 years completely naked. The clothing manufacturers in the 1960’s-70’s declared bankruptcy because no one was wearing clothes.

Sex goes from being a committed intimate act to a hobby with not much emotion involved, there’s an increase in sexual diseases and pregnancy outside of marriage. 

With this revolution came their scripture: The first Playboy magazine was issued with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. With each risqué issue, there’s no dad or mom on the cover with them, no Bible, no clothes and Playboy and Penthouse go from behind the counter to on the shelves and now we’ve got women investing in magazines on how to make your man happy, and we’ve got men addicted to pornography, investing in the lie that this is what all women should look like and what they should do.

With all of this sleeping around we were given birth control pills and condoms and other contraceptives but people were still getting pregnant before marriage and before maturity so in 1973 our country legalized institutional abortion. 

The marriages are falling apart because lusting eyes and flirting tongues and an improper view of each other was the norm but it was still considered just fine. In 1974 the lawmakers in America passed the edict of no fault divorce. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault, we’ll just say it didn’t work out and go date other people.  

Dating Today

Today it’s been magnified times ten with sleeping around before marriage and divorce after marriage and parents not raising godly children in how they date. Even young adults not being faithful to God in their 20’s.

80% of  Christians ages 18-29 years old are having sex before marriage (Not 80% of young adults, 80% of so-called Jesus-followers).

In just a matter of a few generations, we have this meltdown in culture and very few are saying, Hey, this isn’t working. I’m still broken and lonely and empty. Maybe we should repent? Maybe we should go back 100 years and see what was working then? We just keep trying solve our own mess with protection, abortion, divorce, lazy parenting, avoiding the Bible while all this time we should’ve just brought our mess to Jesus and let Him cleanse it and show us the right way to have an intimate relationship. 

In 1970, 36% of Americans were unmarried. 
In 1980, it went up to 39%. 
In 1990 it went up to 41%. 
In the year 2000, 44% of American adults were unmarried. 
And today it’s at 51%

People aren’t getting married because their parent’s marriage or divorce scared them, and if they can sleep together, live together, play house, and get some of the benefits of marriage without having any of the obligation or commitment that marriage requires, they’ll do it.

Sex used to be just for married people. Then it was, oh, but we’re engaged, we’re gonna for sure get married so let’s have sex. Then it was, we’re dating and we’re serious. And now people just have sex with anyone. The term friends with benefits has come along. Personally, I’m friends with a lot of people, only one of those friends gets benefits from me and that’s my wife. Benefits to me are like medical and dental and retirement and when McDonalds brings the McRib back each year. Not sex.

The average age of a man on his wedding day today is 30.
For females it’s 28. 

In 1960, the average age of a man on his wedding day was 23, and the bride was 20. 

In Europe, they don’t believe in marriage anymore because in some countries you can get married and have a 3-4 year relationship and then the marriage license expires like a driver’s license. 

We need to admit this culture isn’t working. This culture is a lie. People are not complete and happy without Jesus. People are not fixed by doing whatever they want. We need an alternative. We need a different way to live. We need Jesus. We need the Bible. We need to get back in the parlor with the dad and mom (which, dad and mom need a godly, committed marriage to showcase). 

If culture and our natural desires lead to destruction in relationships, how are young adults to be while dating and what wisdom are parents to give to their children when it comes to dating?

This is my attempt in this 4-part, mini-blog series.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

When Unborn And Born Babies Die, Do They Go To Heaven?

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As a church leader I have been given access to hurting families who have gone through the tragedy of losing a young baby, either through a miscarriage, a still born birth, a premature death, SIDS, cancer or a horrific accident. I mourn with those who mourn. 

As a father who has two living daughters, and four babies who didn’t make it to full term pregnancy (one miscarriage, one still born and two premature infants who died within a day of being born), my wife and I have those who choose to mourn with us (for those who are unaware, more of our faith journey can be read here).

The instances of abortion, miscarriages and the death of a baby raises an important question (a biblical one, in fact): Where do dead babies go when they die?

This has been an old question in the entire history of the church. In the first century, infant mortality rates were high, and as it does today, it caused great anxiety for moms and dads who were wondering about the eternal destination of their dead child. 

An old school scholar named Irenaeus (130-201 A.D.) taught that the reason Jesus became an infant was to save infants. However, in the early first century church, baptism was legalistically tied to salvation. This meant if your unborn child, dead child wasn’t baptized in the church, they were destined for hell. The Catholic Church has extended this teaching up to today. 

To me, this is a stretch at least and superstitious (unbiblical) at most. Parents who want their children baptized so that they can be saved is off the biblical radar. There is nothing magical about the water when someone is baptized. Baptism doesn’t save anyone. Jesus alone saves. It’s a faith in Him as Lord and Savior that alone saves.

The Age of Accountability Doctrine

Growing up in the church, I was wrongly taught the unbiblical doctrine of the “age of accountability”. This unhelpful teaching says that someone is not responsible for their own sin until they reach an age of reason (and yet when I asked questions to church leaders about what that age was, there was never an answer).

What confuses me about the age of accountability teaching is it seems to say that a child goes to bed with no moral responsibility and then they suddenly wake up the next day accountable for their desires, words and actions. 

The psalmist writes, “For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5). 

Once our heart is beating, we have moral responsibility and it grows in us emotionally as we grow physically. Those who teach age of accountability teach it as a light switch that just turns on one day. Rather, it’s more of a dimmer switch where the more we grow the more we are illuminated of what is right and wrong. If Jesus grew in wisdom as He grew in strength, so do our children (Luke 2:52).

If your church wrongly teaches the age of accountability doctrine, show them some of the Apostle Paul’s last recorded words where he writes, “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15).

What I Teach My Children and My Church

With the loss of a baby, people not only need answers but they need love. They need prayer and compassion and a presence of friends and a listening ear. As a husband to a wife who asks questions about the triplets who were in her body for 21 weeks and then were delivered too soon to survive, this is a very personal issue. I cannot provide the theology to satisfy the grieving emotions myself and parents who have lost precious children. God’s Spirit will mend wounds. God is good. Jesus saves. Grieving parents should long for heaven, and here is some theology on why they can look forward to seeing their baby (pending the fact that mom and dad are believers in Christ as Lord and Savior). 

As a leader in my family and a leader in the church I get to serve in, here’s what I teach: 

(1) God Can Relate to Us Emotionally and Physically (Hebrews 4:15)

It’s taught frequently in churches (and rightly so) that Jesus became a man. But first, He was a baby. Before that, He was an infant in His mother’s womb. I take great comfort in knowing Jesus can identify with my wife’s miscarriage and her still born birth. 

I also take great comfort in knowing Jesus felt the emotional pain of losing a loved one. He hurt when hearing His cousin John the Baptist was executed. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He Himself experienced death. For Him to come as a baby means He can relate to our humanity at every stage of human development (from unborn to adult). 

More than answers (which is what parents of dead babies want), God’s provides His presence and His love (which is what parents of dead babies need). 

(2) God Can Save Babies From the Womb (Psalm 22:9-10)

Did you know this? Psalm 22:9-10 speaks of God leading a baby to trust Him while the child is breastfeeding. It speaks of the baby serving God as Lord from the moment they are born. 

Further examples of God calling babies to be His are found in Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Isaiah 49:1-7. Both prophets, messengers on God’s behalf, were called by Him when they were in their mother’s wombs. On top of that, so was John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) who was promised to be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of Elizabeth. 

(3) Jesus Loves the Little Children Whether Born or Unborn

The word for child (brephos) that is used speaking of Jesus being a baby in the womb of His mother Mary (Luke 2:12) is also the same word used when Jesus asked for the little children to be brought close to Him (Luke 18:15). 

In the same chapter in Luke (18:17) He instructs His disciples that His kingdom (heaven) was custom built for young children who will be with Him forever. This historical picture of Jesus inviting children to be with Him is a deep solace to parents who have lost a baby. I weep joyful tears when I think about Jesus holding my four dead babies on His lap waiting for my entrance into heaven. 

(4) There Is a Biblical Example of a Deceased Baby Being Saved (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

King David had a baby who died very young. The child was born sick. David’s leaders of faith prayed with him over the child and the baby survived seven days and then died. On the same day David chooses to go into the house of the Lord and worship Him. When he returns home after praising God he chooses to eat and try to move on with his life. It’s at this point he tells his friends that he knows he can’t bring his dead baby back into his life but rather he will focus on the fact that he’ll go to his baby one day (2 Samuel 12:23). 

This account gives me great hope and even assurance from David’s faith that dead babies are ushered into the arms of the heavenly Father in heaven. 

(5) God is a Good, Good, Perfect Father (Psalm 103:13)

Even as a leader in the church I have no idea who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. My role on this planet is not to judge anyone or determine their eternal destination after death. My role is to simply love people with the grace God has shown me. I can hope. I can trust. I do not know for sure.

God the Father alone determines which children He permits via spiritual adoption into His family. It’s His choice alone. Not the parents of a deceased baby who need false hope. Not any church leader trying to say nice words to a grievely family. It’s the Lords’ choice. 

And that’s very good news. 

I trust the Father God who pursued me, saved me by His grace, through His Son and has sealed me forever in His care, so, yes, I also trust Him fully to do what is loving and merciful and compassionate to do what is best with the babies my family has lost. 

I am a dad who worships a heavenly Dad Who brings life where there has been death. 

I am pro-life (more here). I am in anguish over the 50,000 abortions happening each year. But I have faith that all of those 50,000 babies each year are ushered into heaven, praising Jesus forever (when, in reality, had all 50,000 babies been allowed to be born, some would grow up rejecting Jesus and not in eternity with Him).

In the end it’s God’s decision to welcome dead babies into heaven or not, but from what I believe about God’s character, what my faith has seen in Scriptural references and in the trust I have in God’s hesed (unconditional) love, I am eager to spend eternity with four children I didn’t have the honor of raising in this life. I am eager to weep no more as Jesus wipes the tears from my eyes. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z