Fun and Needed Marriage Advice For Men

Standard

The man gave names to all livestock
and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.

(Genesis 2:20)

Adam names three categories of animals: livestock, birds and beasts. It says he named all of them. There are 8.7 million species named today and 30,000 more than don’t have names. For Adam, this is going to take a while. He’s going to wait for his bride for a good amount of time.

And then, in the same verse, we find one of the greatest understatements of the Bible: 

But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:20)

Here’s the hypothetical scenario going on between God and Adam:  

God: I love you, Adam, I do, but you need a wife. You need a close friend.
Adam: Whoo, yes! Let’s talk about that.
God: How about an blobfish?
Adam: No, no thank you.
God: How about a rhino?
Adam: God, it’s got horns. That’s not good.
God: How about the cow?
Adam: How about no.
God: What about a monkey? You want a monkey in white dress?
Adam: …………

God’s going to make the woman and bring her to Adam as his wife, his helper, his best friend.

What does the first woman look like? We have no idea, but, compared to the options Adam has, she’s gotta be amazing no matter what she looks like. If Adam is looking at the woman on one side and has a snapping-turtle alligator on the other side, Eve is the choice 10 times out of 10. 

Compared to the aardvark, she’s amazing.

Here’s where I’m going with this: 

Men, your standard of beauty is your wife. 

Hey husband, question for you? Who’s the most beautiful woman in the world? 

It’s your wife. 

There is not another woman on this planet more beautiful than your wife. 

With Eve, we don’t know if she’s tall, short, voluptuous, skinny, redhead, blonde, brunette, bald, light skin, dark skin, and, after sin enters the word, we don’ know if she’s loud or quiet, harsh or sweet, lazy or hard-working, vindictive or gracious. 

We don’t know what she is. We just know she’s better than the gibbons. 

Women don’t come from man, but from God. That’s why they’re great. They are God-sent. 

Now, not all women remain great. According to the book of Proverbs, some women are crowns and some women are cancers. A single guy’s prayer is to marry a crown, not a cancer. To marry a godly woman, not a selfish, angry one.

But no matter who he marries, she needs to be the standard of attractiveness to him. Not a Super Bowl halftime show, not a porn star, not a co-worker, not an old girlfriend, not a flirtatious neighbor – his wife is the standard of beauty. 

My wife will ask me, Are you going to think I’m attractive when I’m 70? 

My response: Baby, when you’re 70, I’m going to be into all things grandma. I’m only going to be about white hair and slow movements and The Price Is Right and going to Florida a lot and eating dinner at 3:30pm and taking our pills together. 

I’m gonna be all about my 70-year-old, beautifully-wrinkled, grandmother wife. No matter her age or ailment or attitude or shape or look – there is not another woman close to being more gorgeous to me than her, inside and out. 

Husband, the standard of beauty is your wife. 

God’s answer to Adam is, You don’t like the goat or the anteater as a choice for a lifelong partner? Okay, I’ll make you a lady. 

To bring Adam his fitted mate, God chloroforms him.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall
upon the man, and while he slept took one of
his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

(Genesis 2:21)

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s head to show the woman is above him. God isn’t a feminist. 

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s foot to show the woman is under him. God isn’t a chauvinist. 

God takes out a rib to show the woman is a helper alongside to him as he will be a helper alongside her. God is showing that any relationship worth having is one that involves mutual sacrifice. 

The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man
he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2:22)

There are 8.7 million different species of animals. Adam names them all. That’s exhausting physically but what’s more exhausting was the emotional toll of Adam searching for his best friend and being disappointed 8.7 million times. 

And then God brings her to him (cue the R&B music). 

God creates the first woman, which means God makes the first marriage.

This is the first wedding because it feels like God the Father is walking Eve down the aisle toward Adam. Some of you didn’t have a godly father – neither did Eve. But Eve had God, who is a Father to the fatherless.

God walks her down the aisle like the father, and He gives her away. He officiates as the first pastor at the first wedding ceremony. It’s perfection. The man needs to say something, though. Adam needs to say something. He needs to comfort his wife. He needs to show her he will be there for her. 

The reason Adam needs to speak? Eve has had a big day She got created. She meets God. She’s naked and is going to her wedding. For most girls, that’s too much for one day. Most girls would pass out. 

She’s going to meet her husband. First person she’s ever met. He’s going to need to say something. 

Here’s what Adam does: He sings to her.

Women love guys who can sing. Trust me. We lived in Nashville for 7 years. If the guy can sing, the girl is blind to a lot of his flaws. He could have a criminal record, live in a tent, be illiterate and the girl still says, But he played me a song. I love him so much.

It works every time. 

Adam sings a love song to Eve in the Hebrew language. The first recorded words we have in human history before sin enters the world is song. Some have the theory (it’s just a theory) that humans sang every word until sin came. We didn’t start talking until we sinned. Maybe that’s why people are so moved at musicals, because we were meant to sing through life. Maybe that’s why children sing and hum while they play. We were meant to sing through life. 

In your Bible, what Adam says is in compositional form. It’s poetry, and in Hebrew, this song rhymes.

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:23)

Men need to be careful what they call their wives, what they call their daughters. If a man degrades his wife with mean names, not good. If he chooses to uplift her with corny monikers, it’s sweet and life-giving. I call my wife Baby Cakes. I call her, Gorgeous. If you call her those things, they’ll never find your body. Those are names for me to call her to uplift her. 

Adam sings, At last! At last! After going through all of those animals and not finding someone to be with and love and play and laugh – I’ve waited through all the animals, at last! She’s here!

Men, on your wedding day you were saying, At last! 

Men need to go back to that time when they were acting head over heels in love. God brought you your wife, at last! Speaking of weddings, here’s a familiar verse:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and
his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they
shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife
were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:24-25)

First thing for a single person to do: leave your mother and father. 

Next, get married. 

Marriage is for men, not for boys.

A lot of immature males think, If I get married, that’ll make me a man. Nope, it won’t. Be a man first. Prepare yourself now. Read your Bible. Pray. Work hard. Give generously. Serve others. Then, get married. 

The big things in this verse are: move out of your parents home, get married, and have sex in marriage. Jesus said this. Paul reaffirmed it. Moses wrote these verses in Genesis. Those are three big guns: Jesus, Paul and Moses. They all three tell boys to move out of home, marry wisely and then have sexual union. 

Human history began with a wedding. In Revelation, at the second coming of Christ, Jesus is our groom is coming for us, His bride. History began with a wedding and it will end with a wedding, and in the middle, our weddings and our kids’ weddings are the closest we get to the picture of what eternity with God will be like for those who believe in Jesus.

Weddings done in a godly way have affection, commitment, hope, joy, song, laughter, celebration, feasting, friends, dancing. That’s heaven. 

It’s why we love to go to weddings. Don’t you love it when people who love each other get married? Isn’t it a great day and a great party? There’s something in us that just loves that moment. It’s because that’s where we come from, that’s where we’re going.

Some of your marriages are not good. They are not Genesis 2. They’re more Genesis 3. You’re more roommates than you are best friends. There’s little trust. There’s little forgiveness. There’s no singing. There’s little laughter. Pray and figure it out because marriage is amazing when sin is dead in our hearts. It’s up to you to lean on God for a better marriage.

It’s up to single people to be pure and grow up and marry wisely and it’s up to married people to become one and forgive. It’s up to you. Just as God was saying to Adam and Eve, Here’s your choice, life or death. You make the call. It’s up to you.

Thank for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Practical Steps for Thriving Relationships

Standard

Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.

Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us. 

Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.  

We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.

I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen. 

(1) I will act, not react.

We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful. 

Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down. 

I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking. 

Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying. 

This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM. 

But he wasn’t going to talk to her. 

He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning. 

In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM. 

He’s missed his flight. 

He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up. 

Point for the wife. 

Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]

It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react? 

Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?

Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Apologizing.
Asking clarifying questions.
Speaking calmly. 

When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them. 

Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always 

These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident. 

And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell. 

Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently. 

Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical. 

It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago. 

As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical. 

In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume. 

All of this is acting, not reacting. 

(2) I will focus on the good things in you. 

Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person. 

Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life. 

Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship. 

We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it? 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [Philippians 4:8]

Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse. 

In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up. 

Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.

This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:

Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become. 

The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them. 

(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.

We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us. 

One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.

Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount. 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]

As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person. 

If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.

People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them. 

Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others. 

Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like. 

I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me. 

Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Laying the Foundation for Better Communication in our Relationships

Standard

Recently I was at a fast food joint, catching a bite, replying to emails. About 15ft from me, at a smaller table, was a girl, age 12, 13ish, with a smartphone in her hands. She was playing a game. Across the table was her brother, age 9 or 10. Brother was asking the sister if he could play the game she was playing. 

Sister said, No. 

And the boy lost his soul.
He didn’t just lose his mind. He lost his soul. 

He said these comments to his sister,

I hate you!
You’re the ugliest person in the world!
I wish you were dead!

Their dad was at the same table reading the news on his phone. Just sat there.  

And so did I. 

That sister/daughter isn’t going to forget those words.

Simply stated, words are powerful. 

The tongue has the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21)

The words that we use during the week have the ability to bring encouragement into our relationships, or to harm them. 

Show me a relationship that no longer exists and I’ll show you people who either said words that harmed someone or didn’t say words that would’ve healed and brought life.

I want to share 5 ideas on how we can better care for each other, to help our communication at home, at work, at school, with friends, even with God. Here’s how we lay that foundation: 

(1) Speak Affirmation.

Why is it easier to complain than it is to be grateful? Why is it easier to tear down than it is to build up? Why is it easier to take and take and take without ever giving back? 

The ping-ponging of hurtful words can seriously damage a relationship, whereas constantly choosing praise and affirmation towards others can change their life and grow you closer together. 

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)

It’s a husband who plans a date night with his wife. He sets up the sitter, gets the reservation, gets dressed up with her,  they’re out to eat and it’s good food, laughing, and at a point in the conversation, the husband stops, pauses, looks at his wife and says, I want you to know how amazed I am at you. You do so much to take care of us. 

It’s when a mom speaks to her kids before dad gets home from a long day, and she says, Daddy works so hard for us – let’s hug him tightly and let him know how loved he is when he comes through the door. 

It’s when a parent chooses to praise their kid, not when it comes to their grades, or their athletic or artistic ability, but the parent praises the godly characteristics in the child. They were scared but they trusted God. They were picked on, but they chose kindness. They saw someone lonely and included that person. They were patient when they needed something. They were grateful with no ulterior motive. 

On social media mom and dad are posting about their kids non stop with. Look what my kid did!. Look what my kid can do! God’s like, That’s awesome, great job. I’m more interested in who your kid is. Praise the goodness that is in them. 

Every time I’m ordering food, I let the person behind the register or the waiter/waitress know I am thankful for them. I say, Thanks for working today.– And they’re always taken back by that simple comment because no one thanks them. 

How is your discipline of appreciation at work? 

How is your gratitude toward the coaches that mentor your kids? 

How is your gratefulness toward someone you think of in your past who really inspired you to be more than you thought you could be? Write them a note to say thanks.

Bring affirmation into each room you walk into. Think, How can I improve this person’s day with my words? 

Because words are powerful. 

(2) Show Affection

I learned a 3-step way to appropriately show affection to the people in my life.

A look. A word. A touch. 

A parent looks their child in the eye, they speak a word of encouragement, they give them a hug. 

At the office, you look a coworker in the eye, notice them, you let them know how impressed you are with their work, give them a high five or a fist bump. 

A look. A word. A touch. 

A husband walks in the door from work. He looks at his wife, says, I can’t believe I get to come home to you each day. And he kisses her as the kids watching throw up in their mouths. 

A look. A word. A touch. 

Okay – those are the first two words to improve your relationships – affirmation, affection. Those are not natural – you’ll need God’s help for it to become routine – affirmation and affection. 

(3) Ask, “And then what happened?

These could possibly be the four most romantic words ever spoken.  

It’s when a husband makes great eye contact with his wife, and says, No way! And then what happened? 

And she’ll say, Well, after I couldn’t find a parking spot, I finally make it in to Trader Joe’s. But I couldn’t find where the almonds were. 

And the husband says, You’re kidding! And then what happened? 

Yes, it will take up more of your day. If you ask this question to your co-workers who want to tell you about the dream they had or your child who want to tell you about something funny at school or the friend who had an interaction with their in-laws, yes, it will take up more time.

But you’ll be known as someone who intently listens and cares about people. 

When you don’t just want to know the highlights, not just the cliff notes – but you are interested in every single detail – it shows you think they are important to you. 

(4) Speak the truth in love.

In each of your relationships, there comes a moment where you need to communicate what they need to hear. Each relationship is two imperfect people who at some point are going to have a rift, usually based on something someone did. 

The closer you grow with someone, the more you’ll be exposed to a harmful habit or perspective someone might have.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

We will speak the truth in love. We will do it gently, not judgmentally, not in a holier than thou way – but because we love them and don’t want them to harm themselves.

Some people claiming to love Jesus have loved Him for a very long time, but the reason their spiritual growth has hit a ceiling is because they don’t speak the truth in love in their relationships. They don’t like conflict, they don’t want to share truth because it might offend someone. 

Conversations where truth will be shared shouldn’t be done impulsively, or passive aggressively. It’s when you care about someone, they hurt you or they’re hurting themselves, and you write down clearly what you want to communicate with them in love, and then you meet with they and stay on script.

If you are close to someone, and you’re not sharing truth with them, let me ask, Do you really love them? 

If we want the best for them and it’s their lust or their drinking or their greed or their gossip or their lying or they’re walking away from God – and we ask them about what’s going on, do we love them? 

Truth without grace is mean.

It’s not worth being right if you’re going to be rude about it. 

The flip side is the same result,

Grace without truth is meaningless.

When you love someone, you’ll have multiple opportunities where you’ll need to share truth with them, with grace. And I hope you have someone in your life who will do the same with you.

(5) Prayer.

If you take the first four ways to improve your relationships, and rely on your own strength, you may make your relationships a little less complicated, but you’ll regress at some point.

We need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily to improve ourselves and as a result, our relationships. It takes prayer. 

Do you pray for your spouse?
Do you pray for your parents?
Do you pray for your children?
Do you pray for your boss and their leadership?
Do you pray for your church?
Do you pray for your non-Christian loved ones? 

You fight and wage war. You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. (James 4:2)

Without prayer we will fight in our relationships. With it, God will give us what the relationship desperately needs. 

God needs to be involved in the relationship. 

You could pray silently, sure. But when you are with a loved one, and you grab their hand or put your hand on their shoulder, and you pray out loud with them,  you are signally that God is involved in this relationship. 

Prayer is an intimate act. It might be awkward at first, you might be embarrassed you don’t pray out loud with the people you’re closest to currently, but it takes the relationship deeper because it gets God involved.

Even if you think you can’t pray, I’d rather you pray poorly than not pray at all. Ask the person you’re in a relationship with, a sibling, a child, a classmate, a friend,  ask them what they need prayer for. 

And the people you’re with this week, they’ll know you don’t just hear them, you understand them. They will know you love them enough to get God involved.

Affirmation. Affection. And then what happened? Truth in love. Prayer.

Add these into your daily life and you’ll be known as a person who effectively communicates with others, and deeper than that, someone who will love those around you in ways very few have.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

13 Statements on Dating and Christianity

Standard

Whether you’re 40 and single, or 16 and single, if you desire to be married, that desire is good and it’s from God, so align your emotions with what God wants for you, and not what everyone else is doing. 

Here are 13 biblical values I see when it comes to dating and Christianity: 

(1) Take Advantage of Your Singleness.

If all you do while you’re single is sit around a dream about marriage and romantic love and constantly search for it, you’ll miss out on what God wants to do in you right now while you’re single. I feel strongly you should finish your education before marriage – and get your theology firm about God before marriage. Give your time to travel and go on church mission trips and work hard hours in your career and pay off any debt you owe. Don’t waste your single years away.

(2) Don’t Pursue a Serious Relationship Until You’re Mature Enough to Marry. 

The movies and books and our friends are all about LOVE LOVE LOVE, vying to find that Prince Charming and that happy ending, but there should be a lengthy period of time in everyone’s life where we’re not thinking about crushes and romance and finding a spouse. 

You should be preparing yourself for marriage. Some single people need biblical counseling to overcome a habitual sin in their lives – whether it’s pornography, or lying, or stealing, or substance abuse – so they can mature as a Christian. 

If someone is a new or immature Christian, or if their just moving out of mom and dad’s home, or if they’re just getting into their career and this “bill paying” thing they’ll be doing  until death – these are all good reasons to delay a serious relationship until maturity happens. 

Until someone is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of marriage, they shouldn’t be in a romantic relationship. Instead they should be using their energy and experiences to mature. 

3) Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High or Too Low. 

Setting your expectations too low in a potential mate may lead to you making the worst mistake of your life. You’ll be miserable, and you deserve better. I don’t like it when people settle for just anyone due to low confidence, or because all their friends are getting hitched.

Now if you set your expectations too high, that can be futile as well. There was a period of time in my single life where I was only going get married to the actress Natalie Portman. It kind of narrowed my options down and had I stuck with it that silly expectation, I’d still be single and miss out on the person God wanted me to marry. 

I’m not a fan of Christian singles having a long list of what they’re looking for in a lover. I think making a list of what you’re looking for in love is idolatrous because it’s just made up of what you dream about over thoughts of Jesus. And that list is probably someone just like you instead of finding someone different from you that you can learn to love and serve. 

4) Don’t Even Think About Having a Romantic Relationship With Someone Who Doesn’t Love Jesus.

If Jesus is truly the center of your life, then a non-Christian won’t understand who you are, what you value, or even how to treat you the way God wants them to. 

If you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about Jesus, then arguing over their sin will be a mess because they have no standard of morality outside of their own worldview. 

Now, you can and should have non-romantic, evangelistic connections with non-Christians. Introduce your unbelieving female friends to Christian girls. Introduce your unbelieving male friends to Christian boys and pray for them date Jesus first before they date you.

If you’re in a marital relationship with an unbeliever, pray, pray, pray for them, be a Christ-like example to them, and keep your commitment to them. But know there will be difficulty because you submit to God and they don’t.

5) You Should Only Be in a Dating Relationship With One Person at a Time. 

The goal of a Christian who isn’t called to be single is not to be someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s to be married. 

I can’t stand the act of cheating. And even if it’s mutual to date around, it’s straight up mean to date multiple people at once, making them compete for your affection and attention. 

I also think being in numerous relationships at once is better preparations for adultery in the future and not a covenantal marriage. 

6) He Should Initiate and She Should Respond.

Any serious dating relationship should begin beautifully, and that beautiful genesis should be a man taking the brave step to kindly requesting an opportunity to get to know the woman better. 

Any Christian woman going out on the prowl herself needs to drop hints, but not initiate. Guys are dense, yes, but she shouldn’t become the leader.

7) Get Your Head Out of the Clouds and Notice Who God’s Put in Front of You. 

I get this feeling that Christian singles dream of some mythical person to be with when there are great single Christians in their church, or at their work, or somewhere right in front of them. In God’s plan, faithful awesome people are right in front of you. And while the girl shouldn’t chase the guy, she can put herself directly in front of him. 

This is what the Old Testament book of Ruth is all about. God providentially put Ruth in Boaz’s field, but they weren’t together until Ruth considered the counsel of older believing women, got all dressed up and put herself in front of Boaz, not to chase him, but get in his way so he noticed her, and it ended up being one of the sweetest love stories in all of history. 

8) Choose to Use Technology Wisely. 

Stop looking at images dealing with pornography. That’s stupid and destructive. If you’re addicted to that, find a Christian friend to truthfully hold you accountable. 

If you’re texting the opposite sex inappropriate statements, stop it.

If you’ve got pictures on social media that will cause someone else to stumble, take them off. Use technology wisely, as if Jesus is sitting next to you. 

9) Invest Yourself in a Dating Relationship Only if You’re Completely Attracted to Them. 

Duh, right? You should get excited and feel some butterflies and be attracted to them if you’re going to date them. 

But attraction is more than someone who is hot and rich and hot. Attraction to a person must mean you’re attracted to the whole person. 

Are you mentally attracted to them? Do you enjoy talking about faith and deep topics and like learning from them? Married couples could do well to remember their first few dates where it was all about learning about one another. Some of y’all cute married couples have stopped learning about one another. We never fully know God or our spouses on this side of heaven, so keep having great conversations. 

You should be financially attracted to one another so you both can agree on the kind of lifestyle you dream about. If their bank account is unattractive to you and that matters, that’s what I mean by being completely drawn to them.  

Above all you should be spiritually attracted to them. Do they inspire you by how much they love Jesus? By how much Scripture they know? By how loving and giving they are to others? By how pure they’re committed to being because they love Jesus more than they love their hormones? 

I’m “integrity attracted” to my wife – I love watching the Holy Spirit work on her through the time she gives to God through reading the Bible. I love watching the Holy Spirit work through her to help others. 

I’m “ministry attracted” to her as well, watching her be the church and serve others. 

10) Only Get Serious With Someone Who Agrees With You on Primary Theological Issues. 

As you get to know them better, get to know their theology better. It’s not enough to marry someone who calls themselves a Christian. If you want peace in the home, both sides need to have the same theological convictions. 

For my wife and I, here’s what I mean: We both agree the Bible is God’s Word – that every syllable is from God’s mouth.

We both agree that God is Trinitarian – Father, Son, and Spirit. We both agree that the Son, Jesus, lived a perfect life and died for His imperfect creation. We both have a protestant view of Scripture. 

We both agree on gender and family roles from the Bible – not from the 90’s, or the 50’s, or from our parents. The husband leads, the wife follows, the husband loves, the wife respects, and the children are a blessing from God. Our children aren’t ours, they’re God’s, and God has allowed us to care for them in a loving way to lead them to Christ. 

We both agree that baptism is a command to obey from Jesus and that means a body under the water and back up, not sprinkling. We both agree that elders who lead the church are holy men, not women. From day one of our marriage we have never missed a tithe (givingi God 10% of our after-tax income) which shows God we also view money as something we borrow from God and use for Him and the church and others.

We both agree Christians are to be in the world and not of it. We look forward to being around sinners and loving them, but not participate with them in their sin…..I could go on, but be sure you’re having these important conversations, and if there’s a core disagreement, don’t overlook it. Get into Scripture together and you’ll find that conversation might lead to a break up, or for y’all to grow in your faith together and become more knowledgeable about God. You should be allies with your potential spouse on core values, not enemies – plus, raising the children is good this way, and going to the same church as a whole family is beneficial. 

11) Protect Your Heart. 

Getting to know someone takes time, so let’s not say “I love you” on your first date as you’re pulling into Micky D’s. Protect your heart. 

If you give your heart away too quickly, you’ll find yourself trying to make the relationship work and be heartbroken in the end. It’s a momentous act to give your heart away, but it should only be done in the act of marriage.    

12) Marry Someone Who Will Enjoy Every Season of Life With You. 

I love my wife more today in my 30’s than I did in my early 20’s. We’ve grown through dating and working and moving and adopting and parenting and home buying and loving the church and I’m stoked about what’s coming our way next in life. I want to grow old with her. Don’t just think about how fun they are now, or how your wedding would be, or sex, try to think ahead for once at what every season of life.

13) Don’t have any sexual contact until marriage. 

Single Christians, whether teens or older, are prone to ask the question, “Where is the line on how far is too far?

This question irks my tater. How far is too far? The question is sinful because it’s asking how close can you get to sin without asking how close can you get to Jesus?

Ephesians 5:23 says, But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity….because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Not even a hint.

Massages don’t lead to prayer time. Being alone with the person you’re dating at night doesn’t lead to putting more clothes on. Not even a hint. 

It’s possible for single Christians to avoid sexual sin. It’s possible by the power and wisdom of Christ to remain pure. As theologian John Piper writes, “theology can conquer over biology”. It is possible to remain pure. 

Put Jesus above all, raise your children to love Him above all, and if you desire to please Him and pray, you’ll find love.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Zach  

What a Husband Would Know If He Studied His Wife

Standard

What’s been known since the first sun ray was ever felt by Adam and Eve is that women are different than men. Women have an entirely unique, separate, complicated, woven-together way of looking at things, processing events, expressing emotions, responding to circumstances. Men need to study up on it.

What should be studied by men is to read and digest passionately everything the Bible has to say about marriage and everything the Bible has to say about women. One verse is:

Husbands must give honor to your wives. 
Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. 
(1 Peter 3:7)

The King James Version of this verse says husbands should treat their wives, “according to knowledge,”  meaning, any information a husband can get his mind on about his bride, he should do it. He never knows her enough.

From what did she learn in her Bible time to her thoughts about the last episode of, “This Is Us,” to her dreams and goals right now to how her coffee date with a friend went to how’s work going to what her fears are to whatever thought is in her mind. Study her.

Pursue her, woo her, ask her questions you did before you were married. Communicate with her throughout the day. There are few things she would want more than for you to get your PHD in getting to know the most beautiful creature God has created for your fulfillment in this life.

The husband should have notes in his wallet or phone that are, “things she doesn’t like” and “things she loves” and “things not to say” and “things to check in on.” Each husband should be able to write a 20-page term paper on the research they’ve done on their wife.

Here are some things the husband would know if he studied his bride:

What the word “nothing” means. 

Husband: Hey honey, what’s bothering you this evening?

Wife: Nothing. 

Husband: Okay. But you’re kind of washing those dishes in an aggressive manner. What’s wrong?

Wife: Nothing! 

”Nothing” does not mean nothing to her (and all the wives said, amen).

”Nothing” means, “figure it out Sherlock”.

It means, “I’m upset but I can’t put my finger on why right now so let me wash these dishes”.

Sometimes it means, “nothing to do with you”. Sometimes it means, “try harder and I’ll tell you”.

Sometimes when she says “nothing”, she’s saying “how dense are you? Do I have to write it in the sky for you?”

It means everything but nothing. Figure out what it is.

Women are annoyed by things that guys don’t even notice. 

For example, my wife does not like it when my toenails are longer than they should be and I’m cutting her legs while sleeping next to her.

Or, how many times have I gotten dressed in the morning and go in to kiss my wife good-bye and she’ll be like, “What are you wearing? No way. Try again”.

Husband, you are doing something that annoys her, and she loves you dearly, but still, study her, watch the eye rolls and the sighs and the “ewww” and ask what you do that gets on her nerves so you can stop doing it.

Romance is born in preparation and sacrifice, not in convenience. 

Too often men get cheap and/or last minute on romance.

Husband: Hey honey, I was thinking, let’s forget cooking tonight and go out together, just you and me. 

Wife: Really? Okay! Where are we going?!

Husband: I passed this new all-inclusive buffet on my way home that looked decent.

L O S E R.

Bill Hybels, a pastor in Chicago, tells the story of wanting to do something nice on his anniversary. After having a pretty packed day, there in his neighborhood was a guy walking around selling flowers. It was an amazing opportunity, the flowers are right there, just roll your window down and by flowers for your wife. Now he’s on easy street, he’s going to make her day, he walks in the house and his wife asks, “Where’d you get those flowers?”.

Husband: Um.,I bought them through the car window just 1/4 mile away. 

Wife: How much did they cost?

Husband: $4.99 plus tax……… 

Plus tip…….. 

L O S E R.

Your wife wants you to go three towns over and spend that money on her favorite flowers to show her the statement that THESE flowers are what you think about her.

You can’t get a deal on romance. It’s never on sale. There’s not a shortcut to it. It comes from planning and from sacrifice where “I was thinking about you all week. I’ve been waiting to surprise you all week” is seen and felt.

Husband: I set this up last Tuesday for you, sweetie 

Wife: You were thinking of me last Tuesday!!!!!!

Husband: YES. I. WAS. 

Sex should occur on a great day in the marriage, not be the fire escape from a bad day. 

If a husband ignores his wife and has neglected her and has emotionally injured her, a cold hand reaching over the bed at 10:35PM is not going to fix all of that. Let the impulse go. God’s mercies are new every morning. Apologize and try to do better the next day.

Sex is important for intimacy and has a lot to do with trust, but it doesn’t solve much when it comes to an argument or a reoccurring issue in the marriage. Don’t make it an escape out of the conflict.

Genuine compliments are never wasted. 

Baby, you look amazing today,, and, Where did you get that dress, it looks so good on you, and, Wow, you’re hair looks great today! and, Look how hard you work, and I’m amazed at how selfless you are, and, I’m so thankful God brought you into my life. I’d be a mess without you, and, your character inspires me.

Why aren’t the husbands constant with the compliments?

There are those men who have the mindset of: I met her, I wooed her, I wed her, on our wedding day I told her I loved her and when I change my mind I’ll let her know. Until then she should know I love her. 

Some husbands are like, When my wife does something new with the hair or wears new shoes or earrings, I don’t even notice.

Okay……….

And yet you know your favorite sports team’s first loss in 2004 happened on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions and they went 13-3 that year losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, or something like that, right?

Why do husbands know pointless stats about sports? Because they study it. They pay attention. Your wife only has about 15 outfits. Go stand in her closet for 10 minutes and then when a new one shows up, you’ll know.

A free tip because I want marriages to thrive:-When you notice a new item of clothing on her, this is not a compliment, That’s looks good, how much did it cost? 

Are the husbands complimenting their wives? Are they getting exciting about the outer and inner beauty of their wife or does something else have their excitement? Let’s genuinely compliment the woman God has blessed us with, men.

A little help goes a long way. 

Hey babe, I’ll clean up dinner tonight, you go take a bath or catch up on your reading. You do so awesome with our children, I’ve arranged an evening out with your friends and I’ll be watching the kids, helping them with the homework, getting them ready for bed. 

Or a husband could say: Maybe if you could point me in the general direction of where we keep our vacuum, I’ll sweep the place. Could fold some laundry.?

A little help goes a long way.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
(Proverbs 3:27)

Study your bride. Do not stop dating her. Do not stop serving her. Do not stop learning about her.

Or, you can take her for granted.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

7 Questions for Each Gender to Ask Before Dating Someone

Standard

Happy Valentine’s Day. For those dating, it can be romantic. For those not dating, it can be lonely. For those married, it can be forced or enjoyable. For the husbands who didn’t know today is V-day, hope the dog makes room for you.

Love is in the air around Valentines’ day and that means stupid is in our hearts. Our emotions and desires can deceive us.

Below are 7 questions every Jesus-loving male needs to ask when looking for a godly woman to marry (questions for women to ask are after these 7):

7 Questions Christian Men Need to Ask Before Dating Her: 

  1. Are you looking past a good woman already in your life?

Examples of good women who are possibly near you: widows, shy women, single mothers, older in age. Sometimes a woman’s character is as refined as gold due to the difficultly she’s had to go through.

  1. Do you you look forward to being around her?

You have to read Ecclesiastes 9:9. With stress at work jobs, expenses, with dealing with your sin and with the pain of the let downs of others, it’s a good wife that will help you enjoy your time on earth. You should like being with her and trust her more than anyone. If she’s hot but she annoys you, move on.

  1. Does she dress modestly?

A woman who dresses in a revealing way may be arousing to look at, but do you really want everyone else lusting after her? Do you really want your future/current daughters to follow her example? A wise man ready to date knows the difference between a good time with a girl and a good life with a girl (see 1 Timothy 2:9). Choose a good legacy over a momentary feeling.

  1. Will she let you lead when needed?

The Bible calls the Christ-following husband to sacrificially lead his family. The wife must agree with his Christian values, she must trust him, and she should respect the way he seeks her advice on decisions. There will be conflict if she does not naturally follow Jesus and you. There will also be conflict if she’s following Jesus and you’re not.

  1. Is her character noble?

Check out Proverbs 31:10-31 and you’ll get what I mean. You want your daughters to emulate her. You want your sons to marry someone like her. Is God approving of her thoughts/speech/actions/love? Does she fill you with joy by the way she prays, worships, serves and even how she responsibly interacts with other men?

  1. Can you provide for the standard of life she expects?

If a woman isn’t satisfied with the income you make, move on to someone who loves you more than money or possessions. Biblically, the man is responsible for the financial and material needs of the family. If you work hard, tithes well in worship, invests wisely, and saves money, then it’s perfectly fine to spend money for memory-making with your spouse (see 1 Timothy 5:8).

  1. Is she like ANY of the ungodly women God cautions against in the book of Proverbs?

Does she nag a lot? Does she embarrass herself in public because she’s loud and want attention? Does she argue a lot? Does she gossip about others? Is she a flirt? When your testosterone has calmed down, exhale and try to objectively evaluate her life. (read Proverbs 27:15, Proverbs 7:11).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _

For the female perspective when seeking to date, below are 7 more questions for her to ask about him. Both of my daughters are going to be trained to ask these questions when they turn 37 years old and are given permission to date the close to alien-form species referred to as the human male:

7 Questions Christian Women Need to Ask Before Dating Him:

  1. Will you support him and join him where he’s headed?

1 Corinthians 11:9 says you are equal to your husband, designed to be his helper. If he’s in the military or in sales, to where he’s gone a lot, and you don’t want that, then he needs another career or you need another suitor. If he’s got dreams where they’ll be a lot of long hours and little pay up front, or, if his plans are perpendicular to what your goals are headed, it could be problematic.

  1. Is he courageous enough to remain strong in tough times?

I’m not sure what year it started but when did males start being born without a spine? He should be tender with you, but tough for you. When financial trouble comes, will he be a steady rock for the family that gets two jobs or cuts the budget or trusts God? Will he be there when you are ill? When there’s a tough pregnancy? When there’s tragic heartache? Too many men cower/hide/give up/freeze under hardship. You want to marry one who won’t. He will need to show his faith to you and his fear to God to be strong.

  1. Will he be responsible for the family?

If he isn’t, he’ll be an awful husband and father. He must ensure that you and his children are close to Jesus, well loved, encouraged, and prepared for adulthood. If you’re the leader of the relationship, you deserve better. Please don’t settle. Trust God, move on and pray for someone who can lead you spiritually and emotionally.

  1. Is he gentle with you and thoughtful toward you?

Any man who doesn’t ask what you think and how you feel about decisions needing to be made is selfish and inconsiderate. It’s a huge red flag if he is abusive in any way. While dating, he’s trying to impress you. If he’s bad now, it will only get worse once married (See 1 Peter 3:7)

  1. Do you believe he’ll be a godly and loving father?

Does he love children? Is he selfless daily? The only way a man can be a good father is if he’s unselfish. Does he take time to pray and read the Bible (that’s what develops selflessness)? What takes up his energy and time: living for others or living for his desires? (See Psalm 127:3-5, Ephesians 6:4)

  1. Does he have the qualities that make him a 1-woman man, committed for life?

The elders at your church must set this standard. The dude you want to date shouldn’t be the porn-guy, or the flirt-guy, or the “has lots of girls as friends”-guy, or the “dates lots of women at once”-guy. Or even the “compares you to other women”-guy. When he loves you alone, you will have his heart, his mind, his eyes, and his wallet. If you question his loyalty, he’s not fit for marriage (see 1 Timothy 3:2).

  1. Because you are precious and valuable, what will he sacrifice to be with you?

A man should fight to be with the woman he loves. Too many women make it too easy to be caught. He should overcome obstacles to be with you so you know he treasures and values you. Jacob had to work for 14 years to be with Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

It’s not my intent to cause any break-ups to happen after asking these questions, but it is my intent for godly dating to occur so healthy marriages raise healthy children who date wisely and in that way God’s kingdom can thrive as we emulate His amazing love toward others.

Thanks for reading. You are so loved.

Z

Dating and Racism

Standard

In each discussion worthy of opinion, debate and persuasion, we should aim to bring as much harmony, history and humility as we can into each conversation; especially if we are Christians. I don’t want to win an argument while fragmenting a relationship doing so. I don’t have to be right if it means being unloving. I can choose maturity and disagree without being disagreeable.

With that foundation laid, I want to jump to the topic of interracial dating and marriage. And remember, we can disagree and I still love you.

God has blessed my wife and I with two daughters we were given via infant adoption. Our eldest is Caucasian, born in Joplin, Missouri. Our youngest is African-American, born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As a family we purposefully chose racial diversity to be in our household. We want to be a family of unity, not division.

As parents, and as Christians, my wife and I will display a consistency of colorblindness when it comes to relating to the many beautiful people God has placed in our lives. We want to open our home for all kinds of different individuals. When it comes to our daughters choosing friends, dating (after age 35), loving on neighbors, roommates, we want them to try to see everyone as God does. As a family we will continue to recite and believe Galatians 3:28, which says:

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are ALL one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

From cover to cover, the Bible repeatedly shares God’s view of humanity and that view is:

We are all different, but we are all equal.

Even though each one of us are very different, God loves each one of us the same. He commands the church/Christians/people who love Jesus to love all people in the same way He loves them.

Knowing it’s a great possibility one or both of my daughters choose to interracially date or marry, I want them to know most conflict in romantic relationships and in marriage is not due to the color of someone’s skin. Marriage rises and falls based on whether or not we allow the selfishness in us to hang around and expose itself.

Selfish people struggle in marriage while selfless people thrive in marriage. 

If you want your children to have a vibrant, life-giving, joyous marriage when the time comes for them to seriously date and get engaged, it’s got nothing to do with the color of skin on who they date. If the person they date is selfless, the marriage is going to thrive.

If our oldest daughter, a Caucasian, came to me later on in life when, as a family, we agreed she could begin dating (so when she’s 35), and said, Daddy, there are two boys I could seriously date. One boy is Caucasian, and he’s pretty selfish, talks about himself a lot, how great he is. The other boy is Asian. He’s pretty selfless. He talks about Jesus and encourages me a lot. Any advice on what I should do? I hope I say, Honey, we don’t care about race in our family at all. Spiritually, we are a color blind family. After some time in prayer, if the boy who loves Jesus and encourages you is who you say he is, enjoy getting to know him, after he passes the Old Testament quiz I give him. And he also better have a job.

Any boy wanting to date either of my daughters must have the two J’s in his life: Jesus and a Job.

If God were to bring a Caucasian young man, who loves Jesus and has a job, to date our youngest daughter, an African-American, I wouldn’t even think color or interracial. If he’s selfless because of emulating Jesus into his daily life, I would bless and oversee her dating him. I don’t care if he’s white, I care if he’s holy.

Growing up in Cincinnati, a racially-charged city in the 90’s, my best friend for 8 years was Maurice  Bowden. He’s black. I’m white. Who cares. I loved him dearly. I didn’t want to go a day without seeing him. He had an intriguing imagination, a wonderful family and a great knuckle-ball pitch in backyard whiffle ball. If ever I was told I couldn’t be Maurice’s friend because of his skin color, I would’ve looked at you like you were the dumbest person on the planet.

Racism is stupid.

Racism is one of the stupidest things we’ve ever come up with as humans.

Also on that list is the Snuggie.

Racism is stupid. To think that I’m better than someone else, just because of the color of my skin?

That’s like saying, Because I was born in the first week of June, I hate all people who aren’t Geminis. I had no control over what month I was born in and I had no choice in what race I was going to be. If I did, I would’ve probably gone with Samoan.

Three months after adopting our youngest daughter, an African-American, we were at the County Fair with some friends. While eating some ice cream, a woman, with her teenage daughter, both Caucasians, were near our table. They began oohing and aahing over how precious our baby girl was, while also being curious about us adopting her (like asking what country from Africa she was from. I said, The country of Virginia).

The mom then asked, What’s her name? I replied, Israel Cate, and she said, Thank God you didn’t name her one of the crazy names those black people name their kids. 

Thank God? 

Those black people?

Christians just don’t think like that. If they do, that’s not what Christianity is.

Christians look at character, not color. 

Christians view people as God does: valuable, amazing, talented, smart, beautiful. Created in His image.

The church should be a reflection of what heaven is going to be – one day, God will redeem the earth when Jesus returns to take His people home and all languages and races and personalities will gather together in the same place. The church should be that.

Heaven is a place that is completely void of racism. A man named John, who had lived and traveled with Jesus for three years, describes heaven this way:

I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. (Revelation 7:9)

If that is what heaven will be like, that is what the church should strive to look like.

Children and student ministries in every church should have different races.

Adult small groups and classes in the church should have different races.

Church leaderships should have qualified different races.

Our children should date Christians who have character, who have Jesus and a job, and color doesn’t matter.

Our kids should make friends, no matter the race.

Families should pray about the prospect of adopting, no matter the race.

Adults should respect and support bosses, neighbors, family of different races.

Christians should intentionally open up their homes to those different than them to break bread, learning from and loving on each other.

Make that a goal this year: prayerfully seek how you can bring the void of racism in heaven into your home/neighborhood/church/life. You won’t regret it. We are all different from each other but bringing that difference together is called being Christ-like.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

3 PRACTICAL GOALS FOR SINGLES (3 OF 3)

Standard

For the first time in American history single people households outnumber married people households. If you’re not single currently, you have single friends and family, your kids are going to be entering single adulthood if they’re not there already. They’re an important, valued group the church should not ignore.

I have a deep love for singles, wanting them to thrive and live wisely.  I want to humbly offer three practical goals singles can steadfastly commit to. The first two practical goals for singles can be read here and here. Here’s the third practical goal for singles to get serious about:

STAY OUT OF BED. 

I’m not talking about sleep being overrated. You know where I’m headed with this.

Paul was of the first leaders of the early church. He was single. He wrote 31% of the New Testament that we know of since the book of Hebrews is up in the air with no certainty on who authored it (although I would love for time to reveal a woman wrote Hebrews). Anyway, Paul lived during the 1st Century. Much of his writing was to a sexual culture that was worse than what we see and hear about today. It was worse then.

Back then, this whole idea of human sex-trafficking was legal and permissible. Back then, men literally owned women. Women were owned by men for their sexual pleasure and for slave-work. The moment a man got tired of a woman he was with, all he had to do was go down to a pagan temple providing prostitutes and slaves for sale and trade his wife in for someone else.

This is not the kind of culture God intended but this the kind of culture the church was born into.  Paul writes these words in an attempt to reorient culture back to Christ:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18) 

This isn’t saying that sexual sin is worse than other sins to God. God views anything sinful on a linear level. Some sins have worse consequences in our lives, but God views sexual sin like He does gossip and greed. There’s not a separate category to put sexual sin in. It’s not worse than other sins, but it is different. It’s a different level of damage.

Think about it. If you make a bad financial decision, you accept the reality, pay it off, take a credit hit, get an extra job, downsize or file for bankruptcy. You move on. You might have some regrets, but you venture forward.

There is something about sexual sin that haunts us and stains us and it follows us into every relationship we enter into. It has a way of negatively sticking around. Sexual sin doesn’t just affect our emotional state, it affects our body and our soul. It’s just different. Sexual sin is a soul violation.

When you engage in that, outside of God’s desire and boundary of marriage, you do things more than just to your mind. It’s more than just pleasure. It’s pain that will hang around forever – yes it will be forgiven by God, anything is, and He can sweep it away in His mind, but for us, in this life, it’s pain that hangs around forever. It’s different.

What would we expect God, our Creator and Lover of our soul, to say about something that could be damaging to us long-term? He says, RUN! Stay away from it because God knows if given into, it will hurt what good we have and harm what good awaits us. That’s wisdom for Christians and non-Christians alike. But then he takes it up a notch.

Then he talks to just followers of Jesus. If you believe Jesus rose from death, if you believe He’s God, if you were baptized into the water to confirm your belief in Jesus, you are no longer your own decision-maker. You now beautifully adhere to Jesus in all things. The very Spirit of God lives inside the Christian and you take the Spirit into every conversation/relationship/choice you have.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Jesus-follower no longer belongs to themselves. When we sing, I Surrender All, that includes giving Jesus our body, it includes giving Jesus our sexual desires. Not just our sexual sin in the past, but we give Him the right to choose how we act and what we desire going forward.

Dating today is all about the chase and impulsiveness and conquest and when you don’t get what you want (what you wrongly think you deserve) you move on or get angry.

Some of you ladies feel like you have to give in to what can be considered modern-day prostitution where he pays for dinner, pays for dessert or drinks, pays attention to you and then he expects you to pay him back with favors he defines.

Ladies, you owe no man anything. Jesus has bought you, honor Him with your body. If you have to do something outside of God’s boundaries just to keep a man around, that’s not a man you’re with, it’s a little boy who’s not full of Christ, but full of selfishness.

Ladies, if you feel like you have to give in to keep him around – if that’s your mindset – my advice is that you take a year off from dating – a year – just to right your mind and search God’s Word out on your true identity and what godly way He lays out in store for you to live. Maybe you need to choose purity for an extended amount of time, staying away from temptation.

Maybe it’s time for parents of children who are dating to make sure they are being pure with the person they hang out with. Don’t assume they’re being pure, set God’s standard for them and lovingly hold them accountable to honoring God, not their desires. Talk to your them today to be pure because you don’t want their soul to be damaged.

If you’re in a relationship currently and you’re living together before marriage, don’t be afraid to find the research yourself or talk to others who have been there: Cohabitation does not increase your chances at a happily ever after. It decreases it. I’m not sure why people prolong marriage, but I want to encourage you to move out to honor God, test the relationship living in separate homes and have a more solid marriage in store if it works out.

My encouragement, whether you live together pre-marriage, or are in sexual sin while dating someone, or are sleeping around – take time off. Back away. Be abstinent. Pursue Jesus so you can think clearly.

I am praying daily that the men who get to pursue my daughters will be men who honor them and honor Jesus; men who think about a good legacy, not a good time.

Jesus says something in Matthew chapter 5 that we could spend days studying together and still not get the richness He provides. He says:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Do you see the connection? There is something about moral purity that allows us to see God and what He is up to clearly.

How many of us know the opposite of this? I do. When you’re living in moral impurity – when you’re hiding and scheming and lying and cheating and lusting it’s like you’re living in a fog. You don’t know who you are or where you’re going. You might even blame God for how life is going because you can’t see Him clearly. He’s there, you’re just sinning so much it’s fuzzy.

No wonder single people who sleep around or live together before marriage get cold feet when thinking about marriage. They think, I don’t know if she’s the one. I don’t know if he’s Mr. Right. Sometimes sparks are there. But it’s up and down. The person I like is great some days and then they’re really hurtful other days. Thoughts like that breed little trust and give minimal stability and security.

We can’t see clearly because of impurity in our daily lives and Jesus says He will make us pure from our past, we will rely on His example, teaching and strength to be pure going forward and then we’ll be able to attain the clarity around us we desperately crave.

Get out of debt. Clean out your closet. Stay out of bed.

Thanks for reading You are loved.

Z

3 Practical Goals for Singles (1 of 3)

Standard

For the first time in American history single people households outnumber married people households. If you’re not single currently, you have single friends and family, your kids are going to be entering single adulthood if they’re not there already. They’re an important, valued group the church should not ignore.

I have a deep love for singles. I want them to thrive and live wisely. So over the next three weeks I want to humbly offer three practical goals singles can steadfastly commit to. Here’s the first practical goal for singles to get serious about (even though these goals are for everyone):

GET OUT OF DEBT.

Did you hear someone say, Amen! It was Dave Ramsey. And it was your mother.

If you’re single, it will never be easier for you to get out of debt than it is right now. My mindset while single was,  But I’ve got to live it up now. There’s so much fun stuff to buy and do and places to visit. When I get married, I’ll have someone help me with this debt thingy.

In the overwhelming majority of marriages there is one person who likes to spend and one person who likes to save. Getting out of debt after marriage is more difficult, so please get a plan and some accountability from a loved one to deal with it now.

I’m talking about school loans. Some people have a student loan debt that is like a pet, it’s been following them around for years. Start hitting that hard now.

I’m talking about the loan you took out to get a car that brought a big time payment. Pay that off aggressively.

Some singles have multiple credit cards. One day you walked into a store and was asked if you wanted to save money by opening up a credit card and you were like, that sounds awesome. You got a credit card and it saved you like seventy-five cents on your purchase that day. What a memory that was. Now you’ve got credit cards that you turn to when your eyes want something or when the bottom falls out and the savings aren’t there.

Get out of debt now, because it will linger and follow you into your next relationship and longer-term, if you don’t put a plan and a commitment together to be frugal and debt-free, then spending and piling up debt will follow after your future children as they enter into adulthood because you didn’t teach or show them how to handle spending (I apologize for the length of that run-on sentence, you may need to read it again).

Poor financial habits now will turn into poor marriage financial habits later.

Here’s another reason to get out of debt: If you’re dating and you’ve got a lot of debt that hasn’t been dealt with, it will make you less attractive to the person you’re getting to know across the restaurant table. She might think your car is really sweet right now and fun to ride in until she says I do and starts having to pay for it. He might laugh at your jokes right now but the tears will flow like Niagara Falls when the credit card bill comes in the mail.

Eventually the single  person has to introduce their personal debt into a serious relationship. At some point you are going to have that conversation, if the relationship is deep and means something. Just like at some point while dating you’ll need to discuss your spiritual background, discuss your sexual history, discuss the brokenness you’ve gone through, talk about dreams you have – you’ll have to introduce your finances. That’s IF the relationship means something. Dating someone won’t last if it’s based on lust, binging on Netflix together and avoiding necessary conversations. It’ll be easier to bring up the debt attached to you if you’ve been working on paying it down.

Married couples are not off the hook here. Here’s a trend I’ve noticed about married couples after being in counseling sessions when the truth comes out: one or both of you in the marriage have a secret credit card that your spouse doesn’t know about it. (Some married people reading this just stopped breathing).

You’ve got your separate little card you buy all of your odds and ends with and it feels meaningless and harmless, but the problem with that is marriage is two people becoming one in all things: one home, one bed, one faith, one bank account and having a secret card practices deceit. It’s no different than having a secret crush at work or a secret drink at night.

Practicing how to hide things from your spouse slowly kills a marriage and damages a legacy.

If you’re hiding anything, come out into the light with it. Choose what is right over what has been sidestepped for too long.

Here’s a main reason it helps Christians to get out of debt: to be a Christ-follower is a calling to be generous in all things, to be a part of a church that loves needy people, loves the community, and wants to make an impact around the world. Each Christian is invited  to generously be a part of these things. But if you’re in major debt, it’s more difficult to trust God and give sacrificially to others when frivolous bills are coming in.

Each time Whit and I have new friends over for dinner they nosily walk around our house and look at our pictures. When they see pictures of the children we financially support monthly around the globe and ask about the commitment to what sponsoring a child in need looks like, the consistent reason I hear over and over from others on why they couldn’t sponsor a needy child monthly was because there was debt strangling them.

I try to correct them gently: Debt isn’t strangling you. Selfishness is. No cable or no Starbucks or no new clothes or no sporting events or smarter grocery shopping may free someone in debt to be generous – but I get what they were saying – because the umbrella of debt is over someone’s head, it scares them to be generous back to God and to others around them.

When you decide – I am getting out of debt  it not only frees you up to be a more responsible spouse and parent one day, but you are also freeing yourself up for God to use you in a big way to get someone else in need of hope one step closer to Jesus.

So let me give you this advice: Get out of debt. Take it and ask for help or leave it and log onto Amazon.com. We’ve all struggled with this, let’s decide we’re going to get out of it and hold each other accountable to it.

Whether you’re married or single, your church and Christian friends should have conversations about struggles. If not then your church is just a social club avoiding needed discussions to help you become more like Jesus. Let’s get deep with others, let’s show our wounds and struggles and have others help us.

That’s the first piece of advice, get out of debt. The second piece of advice I can give to singles and to our next generation will be available next Wednesday (and it’s going to get a bit more intense).

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders. – Romans 13:7