7 Tips For Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage

by David Peach | That word communicate is a fancy word for talk. Remember when you used to do that without having to raise your voice? Pay attention to your spouse. Intentionally put your book down when they are speaking. Listen to what they have to say.

Thinking about when you were dating should bring a smile to your face. You were young (at least younger than you are now). You had fewer pressures in your life and you could focus more time on the one you loved. If there were other important things going on, they only seemed to get in the way of your dating relationship.

Now, a few (or several) years later, it seems that everything is turned around. You have more pressures with work, hobbies, social activities and less time to spend with your spouse. Your marriage seems like it gets in the way of everything else you have to, or want to do.

Ignite a flame in your relationship again. If a flame seems a little too ambitious to you, start with just a spark. After implementing these tips I hope you remember what attracted you to one another back those many years ago.

Respect

When you first got married did you ever think that you would treat your spouse as poorly as you treat your own brothers or sisters—those people you were forced to live with and knew every fault they had? Yet here you are a few years down the road and find that you treat your own siblings with more respect than you have for your spouse.

Your siblings come to visit and you offer to get them something to drink. You hold in your bodily noises when they are around. You call just to chat. What about your relationship with your spouse? Do you still show them the respect you did when you were dating? If not, get back to those days when you valued your spouse more than your own family.

Dress nicely when you go out. Let other people know it is an honor for you to be with the one you love. Speak kindly. Listen to one another again.

Spontaneity

Do things just for fun. Be random. Play. You don’t always have to act your age. When was the last time you invited your spouse to the back seat of your car to kiss in the mall parking lot? As a complete surprise you can arrange with your friends to take the kids for a night and you sweep your spouse off to a hotel across town.

Communication

That word communicate is a fancy word for talk. Remember when you used to do that without having to raise your voice? Pay attention to your spouse. Intentionally put your book down when they are speaking. Listen to what they have to say.

Compliment one another. Find something nice to say to your spouse. Then find nice things to say about them to other people. This honors them and communicates to others your affection for the one you love.

Public Display of Affection

It is perfectly acceptable to hold hands in most cultures. But have you held hands lately? When my wife and I were dating we were in an environment that did not allow dating couples to hold hands. How thrilling it was each time we did get a chance to sneak in a little squeeze. Sometimes we recreate that feeling by acting like it is taboo as we hold hands underneath our Bible during church.

Why do we think it is cute for teenagers to act like a married couple out in public, but somehow think it is disgusting for a married couple to act like teenagers? There should certainly be limits to what is done in public as a sign of respect to other people, but maybe a little bit of public affection would do your marriage good.

Dating Again

Plan some time alone with your spouse. A date doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be intentional. If you just go out to eat at the same place you go every Thursday evening, that wouldn’t necessarily be a date. But if you would ramp up your wardrobe, show obvious respect to your spouse and throw in a little PDA (public display of affection) you could be surprised as to how exciting the local fast food joint can be once again.

Gift Giving

Gifts don’t have to be elaborate. It could even be as simple as a random card with a nice note about how you are thinking about them. My wife was cleaning out some files yesterday when she found some cards that we had given each other years ago. Though these gifts didn’t have monetary value, they still brought a smile to our faces as she told about some of the things we wrote to one another.

A gift can be something simple, but it should be well thought out and given with purpose.

Studying One Another

I was around an older couple recently and witnessed a hilarious conversation. The wife said something about her husband liking a certain food. He said to me that he really didn’t like it, but he tolerated it for her sake because he thought she liked it so much. She was shocked and was genuinely surprised by this revelation. She hated the food but only made it because she thought he liked it.

What things are you doing because you think your spouse likes it, but you never took the time to find out the truth? Of course you can’t know until you ask them and start studying them like you did when you first met. In fact, it can be a fun game to go to an event and pretend you don’t know one another. Ask each other questions like you are meeting for the first time. You might be surprised that what you thought was true, or what may have been true 20 years ago, isn’t the case any more.

I hope these 7 tips for keeping the spark alive in your marriage will inspire you to spend some quality time with the one you love this week and for many years to come.

David PeachDavid Peach has been in full time missions work with the Deaf since 1994. He has started several deaf ministries in various countries and established a deaf church in Mexico. David now works as Director of Deaf Ministries for his mission board. David has written numerous articles on What Christians Want To Know! Read some of them in RSS feed here.



7 Tips for Living Together Happily 

by Kat Kennedy | Treat each other to little simple things you know will be loved. Living together has shined a light on each of our strengths and weaknesses, bad habits and destructive behaviors but also allowed us to gain a new kind of closeness that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

I’m no relationship guru by any stretch of the imagination but rather a regular girl who’s compiled a list of seven savvy tips for keeping cohabitation with my significant other light-hearted and fun.

Generally speaking, we find a positive correlation between length of relationship and the more serious it becomes. Somehow time makes us prioritise other things over fun, laughter, and dreams, and we wind up bitter, resentful, and neglected before we know it. This isn’t necessarily across the board – it hasn’t been in my relationship, for example – but it is possible that as the two of you sink into routines, you will edge further and further away from those spontaneous little moments that you had when you initially kindled your romance.

Living together has been a whimsical journey, but it has also been eye-opening and challenging. It has shined a light on each of our strengths and weaknesses, bad habits and destructive behaviours but also allowed us to gain a new kind of closeness that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Every couple is unique, but I’ve got seven solid tips for you today that can give you a strong foundation upon which to build a dream life together. Just like a pizza: if the base is good, you don’t have to worry about much else.

1. Spend quality time together 1 or 2 nights a week. When we first decided to share our space, we were worried we might get bored with seeing each other so much, but in fact the opposite occurred. We fell into the trap of co-existing without spending any quality time together. We’d return from work, eat dinner at the same time and then part ways, us each working or studying solo for the duration of the evening. By the time we’d climb into bed, all energy had been sapped, and we realized we were never getting the best of each other. Now, we make it a point to put work aside a couple nights a week and linger at the table after dinner, prioritising catching up on life.

2. Monthly dining indulgence. Before we lived under the same roof, our date nights would often revolve around cooking for one another or going out for a bite to eat. While it’s great to have our own kitchen now, we still make a point to indulge once a month by planning an evening out at a favourite or new restaurant and treating ourselves to some delicious food and ambience.

3. Alternate cooking for each other throughout the work week. After a long day, coming home to dinner ready and waiting is like a warm embrace. Cooking for your partner infuses your meal with love and care, and there’s no simpler way to spark a smile or appreciation than to help each other out.

4. Keep communal areas clean. It is inevitable that you will get, ahem, closer when living together; It’s a lot less difficult to hide bad habits! But while you should, of course, be able to feel at home, we make it paramount in our house to keep joint areas like the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room clean. The dining room is pretty much mine, stacked with notes and books for working, and Jonny has his music room filled with his medley of instruments. In these spaces, we know we can delve into our own realms and be free to live how we want. But in the joint areas, we maintain strict no-clutter and no-dirt policies. If you live dirty, you feel dirty, and for us, we are both in the best head space when we are keeping on top of the chores. This translates into our relationship. I mean, think about it; it’s not particularly alluring cooking up a romantic meal together in a crusty kitchen, is it? Or climbing into a bed piled up with clothes, food wrappers and whatever else!

5. Treat each other to little simple things you know will be loved. Once you live under the same roof, you’re both involved with the bills, the necessities, and the chores. Treating each other to little surprises reminds one another that you care. This can be a funny note, a baked good, a plant, or whatever brings an instant smile on your partner’s face. It doesn’t have to cost a penny, and it can still be heartfelt.

6. Have a joint pot of money for shared resources and share the job of doing them. While talking money is anything but sexy, being respectful of each other’s resources is. There is nothing worse than feeling that you’ve been taken for a ride, so it’s important from the get-go that you’re on the same page. Split your bills in a way that both parties are happy with, and have a shared pot for food money. Set a budget and stick to it, saving the need for any disagreements or hard feelings. We’ve also found that it works best when we both split the food shopping; this way it feels as though both of you are getting to make choices about what to eat. It’s a simple thing that makes a big difference.

7. Have monthly reviews. We joked about having a monthly review around about 30 days after we moved in but actually found it to be really useful. It gave us a chance to reflect on what we had enjoyed for the previous month, as well as any concerns that had been brought up and were worrying either of us. We now find it really easy to express how we’re feeling about things, remembering the importance of affirming positive experiences to the other party as well as being honest about what isn’t making us so happy. Practicing this each month makes it easier to be comfortable with being open and honest without sparking conflict.

Kat Kennedy is an explorative writer and advocate for sustainable living. She’s a proud ‘third culture kid’ who is passionate about houseplants, vegan baking and outdoor adventures. You can read more of her articles on her blog, Sphynx Kennedy, or keep up with her on Instagram @sphynxkennedy.


Why Your Destiny Is Directly Linked to Your Sexual Purity

by Dr. Doug Weiss | Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus.

There is a direct connection between your sexual behavior and your destiny in Christ. God has designed you and me to do amazing things for his kingdom, and our level of sexual purity will determine how useful we are. Sex and destiny are linked. This is why the devil works so hard to ensnare you in sexual sin. His goal is to neutralize you through immoral sexual behavior, thereby making you ineffective for the kingdom. And after 20 years of counseling men on this issue, I can tell you this is evidence that the devil is scared of you. Yes, afraid. Here’s why.

We have all seen great men of God excelling in the Lord and moving toward global impact, only to succumb to sexual sin. Suddenly, all they can do is watch as their ministries, families and reputations crumble in shame. Had these men prepared themselves to fight against sexual sin—been transparent with others, sought counsel, remained accountable—we would still benefit from their ministries today.

As I like to say about the devil, if he can seduce you, he can reduce you. There are examples of this throughout the Bible, especially regarding sexual temptation. Our biblical forefathers’ and mothers’ responses to temptation had a direct impact on their fates. Just look at Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife, for example, in Genesis 39:7–10:

After a time, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “My master does not concern himself with anything concerning me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my charge. There is none greater in this house than I. He has kept nothing back from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” She spoke to Joseph every day, but he did not listen to her about lying with her or being with her.

Joseph said no and stood his ground. His response cost him his job and almost his life. He was thrown in jail, but he refused to compromise his integrity for a moment of pleasure. You are probably familiar with the rest of Joseph’s story. He interpreted dreams for Pharaoh; then in a single day; he went from an imprisoned man with sexual integrity to being the second-highest leader in the greatest nation in the world.

Had Joseph failed this test, he could have easily been disqualified or killed earlier in his life after Potiphar found out about it. That one sin would have caused the death of millions by famine, because he would not have been where God needed him to be in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and tell him to store crops for food. Sexual purity is what maintained Joseph’s destiny.

What about you? What’s it going to be? Will you fight and take a stand? Or will you give in and forfeit the Lord’s calling on your life?

The devil tried to stop me through a series of emotional setbacks. My father and mother abandoned me at an early age. I fell into the traps of sexual abuse, drug addiction, pornography and promiscuous sex. Looking back, I can see that the devil was rightfully concerned that I would figure out God’s purpose for my life and pursue my calling in the Lord. Thankfully, I did. By God’s grace, I was able to recognize the wonderful life He had planned for me, which caused me to give up all my addictions and give everything back to Him. As a result, I have seen God gradually increase my influence through major media outlets and a robust international speaking platform. I now see men saved and set free from sexual sin everywhere I go.

And that’s my point. Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus. I believe it is God’s desire to expand your influence for His kingdom. He can make it happen if you will remain faithful.

Now is the time to get clean. Your family, friends, church and even nations are waiting for you. I could give you hundreds of examples of men caught up in pornography, adultery and other improper sexual behaviors who decided to repent, become accountable and build a support team. As a result, they began to help others and change the world.

You are God’s solution for someone or something on this earth. He lives in you, and He has given you special gifts unique to your personality. You are a great warrior, and the enemy attempts to scar warriors early in life. Beyond your guilt, shame or desperation is a heroic, epic story only you and God can write.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books, including Clean. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at heart2heart@xc.org.



Chaste teens significantly less likely to be depressed

Concerned Parents Report | The researchers found that when compared to teens that are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed (images: Pexels).

When compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed. Also, when compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.

According to a study written by The Heritage Foundation, teenage sexual activity is an issue of widespread national concern. Although teen sexual activity has declined in recent years, the overall rate is still high. In 1997, approximately 48 percent of American teenagers of high school age were or had been sexually active. Every day, about 8,000 teenagers in the United States become infected by a sexually transmitted disease. Overall, roughly one-quarter of the nation’s sexually active teens have been infected by a sexually transmitted disease. The problems of pregnancy and out-of-wedlock childbearing are also severe.

In 2000, about 240,000 children were born to girls aged 18 or younger. Nearly all these teenage mothers were unmarried. These mothers and their children have an extremely high probability of long-term poverty and welfare dependence. Less widely known are the psychological and emotional problems associated with teenage sexual activity. This particular study examined the linkage between teenage sexual activity and emotional health. The researchers found that when compared to teens that are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed. They also found that when compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide. In addition to its role in promoting teen pregnancy and the current epidemic of STDs, early sexual activity is a substantial factor in undermining the emotional well-being of American teenagers.1

1Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide, The Heritage Foundation, June 2, 2003, pp. 1-8.



Protect Your Teen From These Unequally Yoked Relationships

by Patricia Bootsma | The worst parenting regarding dating is no boundaries—little input or leaving it up to the child to flounder through those years (the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. – Getty Images/Jill Giardino)

Outside of the decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and live a surrendered life to Him, the next most important decision made will be who one chooses to marry and share their life with. In 22 years of full time pastoring, I've seen too many Christian young people derailed from their destiny by marrying someone who did not share an equal commitment to Jesus. The Apostle Paul gave the directive to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).

Yet, I believe there is another form of being unequally yoked. That is with believers who do not share the same level of passion or pursuit of the heart of God, or who may not share a common vision or goals for life. How can we as parents help guide our children into making the best decision for a life partner?

Hopefully, as Christian parents, we are training our children in the value of living our lives with a biblical worldview. This includes prioritizing the Great Commandment of radical love for the Lord above all else (Matt. 22:37–39), obedience to Him that leads to fruitfulness (John 15:10), living a Sermon on the Mount lifestyle (Matt. 5–7) and a biblical view of relationships.

Two Views of Courtship

The biblical view of dating or courtship is very different than that of our modern cultural norms. In the biblical model, an interested young man would request permission from a girl's father to pursue the possibility of a relationship with the intention of a life-long commitment to her. Any pre-marriage relationship was under the oversight of the father, family or even the church (synagogue).

Courtship was about enjoying one another's company, often with family, friends or in groups, with a goal of determining if it was God's will for the other person to be one's future husband or wife. Commitment happened before intimacy.

By contrast, today's form of dating has little or no oversight by families and is more about "playing the field" with multiple partners with little or no intention or commitment to pursue marriage. Dating relationships are common (even expected) in ages as young as 11 or 12.

Since the oversight of a modern dating relationship is generally left to the couple, there are more opportunities to fall into temptation and not walk in purity. There tends to be much time spent alone. Emotional and physical involvement is expected. Intimacy happens before commitment. Having multiple dating relationships is like having multiple mini-divorces which can shatter hearts, shake confidence, plunge one into depression and awaken love before its time.

We have instructed our children in the biblical view of dating or courtship. We have asked them not to engage in the modern process of dating. We are happy for our kids to hang out in groups with friends, go to coffee shops for conversations that build friendships or help them get to know someone.

However, if a man pursues one of our daughters romantically with a more serious intention of dating, we have asked our daughters to have him request permission of my husband, John, and I to court or biblically date our daughter. Our permission would only be granted if this is one John and I would consider someone our daughter could marry.

Similarly, for our son (we have one son and five daughters), we asked him to speak to us first before pursuing a girl so we could share a unity that the girl is indeed "marriage material," and we all have a witness from the Lord to proceed.

Besides the obvious issue of no physical intimacy until marriage, we have asked our children not to kiss until engagement. But simply put, do not kiss before getting a ring, and do not take your clothing off until after the wedding. The question should never be, "How far can I go in physical touch and actions before it is too far before marriage?" The question should be, "How can I honor God and His person in my actions, maintaining utmost purity?"

I have appreciated the teachings of Lou Engle in his booklet Nazirite DNA. Basically, a Nazirite call (see Num. 6) has to do with setting aside time in one's life to seek the Lord, be consecrated to Him and not be distracted by things like dating. Our three oldest children took a Nazirite vow for periods of their lives to focus on the Lord and not pursue relationships. For example, our son did this for the duration of his high school years. Parents can encourage their children to not be caught up in culture's push for premature dating but save themselves for God's best.

What If It Seems Too Late?

What about parents of children already dating or those who have already 'gone too far' or for those who messed up themselves in dating relationships before they became parents? Well, I know firsthand what that is like since I had multiple unhealthy dating relationships before I met and married my husband.

The prayers of my mother proved very fruitful to help guide me. Upon seeing the error of my ways, the Lord purified me, cleansed me and forgave me of my premarital wrongs. While engaged, the Lord spoke to my husband, who was a virgin when he married me and was struggling with my previous dating past, saying, "Do not call unholy what I have made clean." We have now shared 27 years of a healthy, happy, glorious marriage.

The worst parenting regarding dating is no boundaries—little input or leaving it up to the child to flounder through those years. Stay strong your boundaries, have a consistent prayer life for your child to marry God's choice for them and give honest, loving input. Keep communication lines flowing as much as you can. Encourage your child that the Lord will repeatedly confirm a romantic relationship that is of Him. Perhaps they could speak to other spiritual leaders to seek advice or even listen to godly friends.

While speaking at a conference internationally, I was billeted in the home of leaders of the church. I was appalled to find out these leaders allowed their son to sleep with his girlfriend in his room in their home. They didn't want to confront him because they were afraid he would leave. I felt the spiritual oppression in that home due to the parents' unwise choice to let "anything go" in their home. I would rather have a child move out and face the consequences outside of my oversight than tolerate willful sin in the home that I have authority over.

Single parents such as single moms trying to help a son navigate dating years could reach out to mature men in their church family to help provide male spiritual leadership and friendship to their son. Parents with children who have already gone too far can teach and model the value of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus—starting over and not accepting any lies that now they are "dirty" or "trash." There is forgiveness, freedom and healing in Jesus.

Parental Blessing

In the blessing ceremony we have held for each of our children at age 13, among other things, they signed a covenantal commitment to sexual purity including abstinence until marriage. The ceremony is similar to a Jewish bar mitzvah, but in the Christian form is a bar (for a boy) or bat (for a girl) barakah, which means "son of the blessing" or "daughter of the blessing."

When in a courtship relationship, which we are all agreed on as Christian parents with our children, we also ask for a written and signed dating commitment. It includes activates to pursue (such as encouraging one another's spiritual vision, being actively involved in ministry, going to prayer meetings together and reading the Word together) as well as activities to avoid (such as kissing before engagement, being in compromising situations, watching movies that stir up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled, drinking alcohol together, being alone in a home). In order to be accountable to uphold these standards, the couple should submit the written and signed commitments to parents and those they view as mentors.

Very importantly, and before all of the above, the prayers of a parent for the guidance of God to bring their child into the marriage relationship He has for them is of utmost importance. We began these prayers regularly after their birth.

Of our six children, three are married, and three are still teenagers. I'm delighted to report that of our three married, our daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law are outstanding, godly young adults. They were our children's first dating relationship, first kiss on engagement and first sexual encounter at marriage. They have complementary passion for Jesus, live with common vision for the future in walking in destiny and are abundantly happy in marriage.

In regards to dating—there is a higher way. Let's choose God's way.

This summer teens are invited to "Awaken to Christ. Run with Others." at Awakening Teen Camps. Join hundreds of teens for times of corporate worship and biblically-sound teachings in a safe and fun environment at Awakening Teen Camps.

Patricia Bootsma, with her husband, John, gives pastoral leadership to Catch the Fire Toronto Airport Church. She is the director of the Catch the Fire Toronto House of Prayer and represents the province of Ontario to the Canadian Prophetic Counsel. Patricia travels both in North America and internationally, ministering prophetically and helping believers to walk in passion for Jesus and live out the fullness of their destiny. Patricia and John are the parents of six amazing children.



Differences Between Modern Dating and Biblical Dating

Scott Croft | Looking for a completely countercultural path to marriage? Here's how to apply God's Word to dating, finding a spouse and getting married. (soul mate for Christians)

The system today's young men and women have inherited for finding and marrying a future spouse leaves a lot to be desired. We often hear complaints from readers about the confusion, hurt and sexual sin they've encountered despite their best intentions. Many want to know how they can go about getting to know someone and eventually getting married without getting hurt or compromising their faith.

At Focus on the Family, we've offered a range of resources and expert advice bringing biblical principles to bear in this area. Some of the messages we've presented have taken the position that Christians can apply their faith in such a way that they can still work within the system they've inherited. Other messages have stressed that Christians need to be much more counter-cultural. Joshua Harris, for instance, has promoted a model of courtship that harkens back to a model used broadly before modern dating evolved.

People attempting to follow a courtship model within today's culture, however, often run into a lot of practical questions, such as, "What if her dad is unavailable or uninterested in being involved?" or "What do you do when you live hundreds of miles from your family?"

The goal of this series of articles, beginning with this introduction, is to provide our readers with a place to bring those questions. Scott Croft is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where he teaches a seminar on friendship, courtship and marriage. He is also an attorney who is used to tackling tough questions.

The answers he brings may be different from anything you've heard before. The topics he's going to be dealing with are ones in which equally committed Christians have found different biblical interpretations. Not all will agree with Scott's approach, and we invite feedback from anyone who believes there are better interpretations for the biblical passages Scott draws from.

It's our hope that this Q&A series will be valuable both for those who think the Bible gives sufficient guidance for operating within our current system as well as for those who are looking for a completely countercultural path to marriage.


If you're reading this, you're interested in dating. You've done it, you're doing it, you'd like to do it, or you need to teach somebody else how to do it. Don't worry. You're not alone. In our society, dating has become something of an obsession. It is expected to be a universal phenomenon. It's just something you do if you're single and of age (and that age is quickly dropping) in America. It is considered the natural precursor to marriage, and is generally considered something to be desired, whatever form it might take.

It's also big business. If you were to Google the word "matchmaker," you would receive something in the neighborhood of 11,500,000 responses — with a few of these outfits claiming to be Christian, but most making no such claim. "Dating" will get you 640,000,000 hits.

As evangelical Christians, we're called to be distinct in the ways we think and act about all issues that confront us and those around us. This topic is no exception. So is there such a thing as biblical dating? If so, what is it? How can Christians think differently about this pervasive issue in media and culture? How are we doing so far?

The answer to that last question is "not well." Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage. In fact, depending on which statistics one believes, the divorce rate for professing Christians may actually be higher than for Americans as a whole. Granted, not all of these people are evangelicals, but we're not doing so well either. Indeed, the central issue we need to confront — and the reason I write and speak on this topic — is that when it comes to dating and relationships, perhaps more than in any other area of the everyday Christian life, the church is largely indistinguishable from the world. That truth has brought immeasurable emotional pain and other consequences to many Christians. Worse, it has brought great dishonor to the name of Christ and to the witness of individuals and the church.

It doesn't have to be this way. For Christians, the Lord has given us His Word, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it. We have brothers and sisters in Christ to hold us accountable and to help us apply the Word to our lives. If you're a Christian, that's the biblical life you're called to.

That's what I hope this column will be about — applying God's Word to dating, finding a spouse and getting married.

Scripture Rules

I have to start by explaining the theological doctrine that drives the approach I want to outline (and advocate). That doctrine is called the sufficiency of Scripture. Almost all professing evangelical Christians are familiar with and vigorously defend the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture (which states that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, it's true, and it contains no falsity or error). I certainly agree with the inerrancy of Scripture, but that's not what I'm talking about here. The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture assumes inerrancy but then goes a step further. This doctrine simply holds that the Bible is sufficient to guide and instruct us authoritatively in all areas of our faith and life, and that there is no area of life about which the Bible has no guidance for us. The sufficiency of Scripture is taught explicitly and implicitly in many passages, but perhaps the most obvious is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So how does the sufficiency of Scripture apply to our coming discussions? Well, many evangelicals who otherwise believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and who might generally agree with the sufficiency of Scripture have nonetheless embraced the world's ideas about dating. In doing so, some make the argument that Scripture doesn't speak to this topic. I believe it does. The Bible speaks to every area of our faith and life at some level. Some things it talks about explicitly, like salvation or sanctification or marriage or elders. The Bible guides us in some areas by broader, more general principles and ideas we can build on as we strive to live the Christian life in practical ways. In either case, no area of life falls totally outside of the guidance and authority of God's Word.

My point is that we cannot simply state that the Bible "doesn't mention dating or courtship," and then think we're off the hook to pursue this area of our lives either on the world's terms or however seems best to us without diligent, submissive reference to God's Word. If the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is true, then God's Word does have authoritative guidance for us about how we might best glorify God in this area of our lives. That means our conversation has to be a biblical conversation. I mention the sufficiency of Scripture as part of the groundwork for this column because it's one of those doctrines that touches every area of our lives, and it is at the heart of the approach to dating (and life) that we'll talk about here.

Biblical Dating

OK. Let's take care of some basic definitions. We may define biblical dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. That begins (maybe) with the man approaching and going through the woman's father or family;
  2. that is conducted under the authority of the woman's father or family or church; and
  3. that always has marriage (or at least a determination regarding marriage to a specific person) as its direct goal.

The Scriptural support for the idea of biblical dating is largely by example and implication. We will look at a number of passages over the course of our discussions that support various aspects of biblical dating, but for the moment, let me just give you some references to study:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (command to be pure, seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage)
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (do not wrong or defraud one another in relationships — by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist)
  • Song of Solomon 2:7 ("do not awaken love before it pleases" — i.e. before the proper time, meaning marriage)
  • Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
  • James 1:13-15 (temptation is to be taken very seriously)
  • Romans 13:8-14 (love others, work for their soul's good; don't look to please self)
  • Romans 14:1-15:7 (favor others, not self … value what's good to their souls)
  • 1 Timothy 5:1-2 (treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity)
  • Titus 2:1-8 (young men and women should focus on self-control/godliness)
  • John 14:15 (if you love Christ, you will obey His commands — read: above your own desires — and live biblically)

We'll talk more about these and other passages as we deal with other topics in this series.

Modern Dating

We may basically define modern dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. that begins with either the man or the woman initiating with the other;
  2. that is conducted outside the formal oversight or authority of either person's family or church; and
  3. that may or may not have marriage as its goal and is often purely "recreational" or "educational."

Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating … (insert crickets, tumbleweeds, person whistling here)…. That was it. There isn't any. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn't even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful). Furthermore, it doesn't even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century. While the principles supporting biblical dating have their beginnings with the very structure of the family, modern dating has its origins with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is brand new, and yet, seemingly, it is all we know.

Differences Between Modern Dating and Biblical Dating

So what's the real difference? Here are some fundamentals:

Modern dating philosophy assumes that there will be several intimate romantic relationships in a person's life before marriage. In fact, it advocates "playing the field" in order to determine "what one wants" in a mate. Biblical dating has as its goal to be emotionally and physically intimate with only one member of the opposite sex … your spouse.

Modern dating tends to be egalitarian (no differences between men and women in spiritual or emotional "wiring" or God-given roles). Biblical dating tends to be complementarian (God has created men and women differently and has ordained each of these spiritual equals to play different and valuable roles in the church and in the family).

Modern dating tends to assume that you will spend a great deal of time together (most of it alone). Biblical dating tends to encourage time spent in group activities or with other people the couple knows well.

Modern dating tends to assume that you need to get to know a person more deeply than anyone else in the world to figure out whether you should be with him or her. The biblical approach suggests that real commitment to the other person should precede such a high level of intimacy.

Modern dating tends to assume that a good relationship will "meet all my needs and desires," and a bad one won't — it's essentially a self-centered approach. Biblical dating approaches relationships from a completely different perspective — one of ministry and service and bringing glory to God.

Modern dating tends to assume that there will be a high level of emotional involvement in a dating relationship, and some level of physical involvement as well. Biblical dating assumes no physical intimacy and more limited emotional intimacy outside of marriage.

Modern dating assumes that what I do and who I date as an adult is entirely up to me and is private (my family or the church has no formal or practical authority). Biblical dating assumes a context of spiritual accountability, as is true in every other area of the Christian life.

Basically, we can make three general statements about modern dating vs. biblical dating in terms of their respective philosophies:

  1. Modern dating seems to be about "finding" the right person for me (as my friend Michael Lawrence has written on this site, "Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend"); biblical dating is more about "being" the right person to serve my future spouse's needs and be a God-glorifying husband or wife.
  2. In modern dating, intimacy precedes commitment. In biblical dating, commitment precedes intimacy.
  3. The modern dating approach tells us that the way to figure out whether I want to marry someone is to act like we are married. If we like it, we make it official. If we don't, then we go through something emotionally — and probably physically — like a divorce. In biblical dating, Scripture guides us as to how to find a mate and marry, and the Bible teaches, among other things, that we should act in such a way so as not to imply a marriage-level commitment until that commitment exists before the Lord.

I'm supremely confident that as we go back and forth in the coming months, some — perhaps many — of you will disagree (if you don't already) or be initially annoyed at some of my statements. Ask yourself why. What are you trying to hold onto that you think this approach will take from you (privacy, autonomy, a secular idea of freedom or of your own rights)?

I have a particular challenge for those of you whose main objection is that the practical details we'll talk about here "are not explicitly biblical": think about the details of how you conduct (or would like to conduct) your dating life. Can you find explicit support for the modern approach in Scripture? Are there even broad principles in Scripture that justify the modern vision of dating (or yours, whatever it may be)? The Bible simply doesn't give us explicit instructions on some of what we'll discuss. Fair enough. In such a situation, we should ask what gets us closest to clear biblical teaching. In other words, within the many gray areas here, what conduct in our dating lives will help us to best care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and bring honor to His name?

That's it. That's a basic framework for biblical dating as best I can discern it from the principles of God's Word. Now, you're on. No question is too broad or too specific, too theoretical, too theological, or too practical. Agree with what I've said, or challenge it. This is how iron sharpens iron.

Scott Croft served for several years as chairman of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and taught the Friendship, Courtship & Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood CORE Seminars. Scott now lives in the Louisville, Ky., area with his wife, Rachel, and son, William, where he works as an attorney and serves as an elder of Third Avenue Baptist Church.

Just remember one thing: we're in this together — for His Glory.



Girl’s perspective: How to talk to women properly

Here is an insight for men on how to carry on conversation during a date with that special someone (Canamgirl Music photo)

Dear Men of all ages, I am sure that you all have the same question that you ask yourselves on a regular basis, “How can I pick up the ladies?” It is constantly on your mind, not only because you actually want a relationship or even just a date. It is an unwritten code among men. You hold a high place in your own manly society if you are that guy who gets all the girls. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is an issue? How do you think women respond to this knowledge? Do you think it works in your favor? Well gentlemen, I am here to answer all these questions and give you some insight. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of women who are losing faith in men.

Tip #1:Don’t try so hard.
Honestly if you make a couple attempts to get that girl onto the dance floor….to no avail…. it is most likely a wise decision to take a few steps back. Your chances of even a decent conversation will be a lost cause if you continue to push. This tactic becomes extremely annoying, not only that, eventually creepy. Instead, try asking once for that dance, (or whatever it may be) if you are “Shot Down” just wait for another opportunity to approach and strike up a conversation. You are basically still trying quite hard, although to the female species it will be seen as persistent; not pushy. You may actually instill in them a feeling of curiosity to know more.
 
Tip #2Play hard to get
Usually women are the ones who play hard to get. I can honestly tell you it is because it gives a feeling of being “hot stuff” “worth the chase.” Why not turn the tables?? Allow them to realize what a great catch you are! Pull away ever so slightly, give the woman a time to mull things over and realize how great you are Eventually she will turn up on your caller ID for a change. Trust me, we don’t give up that easily.
 
Tip #3DON’T be cocky!
There is nothing less attractive than a man who portrays himself as “Gods Gift to Women.” Be modest in conversation, try directing questions towards her, show an interest in her likes, dislikes, career etc. Be an honest gentleman. Tip #4Be truthful in your intentions. Men, please don’t get our hopes up for something more if that is never your intention. If you are just interested in a few casual dates now and again don’t be afraid to tell us. It is better to know that there is no current interest in a committed relationship right off the get go.
 
We will respect you for it.
Nothing worse than having the wrong idea and then getting hurt in the end. So, to sum things up……You all have moms, sisters, and female friends, pay more attention to the things that they talk about. I’m sure they can be heard complaining about that last date, or how they wish ( the man in question) would speak to them differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those special women in your life, trust me, it will make you no less of a “man.” In fact, to a woman, you will see more of a man than ever!

is a blogger and the publisher of Susie Magazine: Find your soul mate. You may read more here.

 



Assessing your Relationships

Don't overlook assessing your relationships asking your partner or spouse the right questions (blackdoctor.org photo)

As the year closes, it is a great time to review and evaluate how things are doing. Most of us are familiar with assessing our productivity, grades, health, weight, or finances, but do we assess our relationships?

I recently had the pleasure of listening to Jack Canfield speak, when he suggested that we check in with our partner or spouse every week with the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how am I (how are we…) doing this week?” He then told us that whenever he suggests this practice, someone in the audience invariably asks, “Why would I want to do that! I don’t want to hear about it!” He then, half in gest, but fully in truth, said, “I’ve found if I don’t ask the question, I’m simply the last guy to know. My mother-in-law, housecleaner, best friend, even the lady at the nail salon will know the answer before me!” We all laughed knowingly.

While asking is one way to find out, often we simply need to take a deeper look or acknowledge what we already know. We avoid doing this because looking deeper might reveal a problem that requires some effort to change. The truth is, however, that if simply “looking” or “listening” reveals a problem, the problem is already there. Nothing improves from neglect. When we illuminate the problem, we have the power to do something about it.

So before you ask your partner (or other important relationships), consider what you already know. Reflect on what you have seen, felt and heard. Assessing the relationship doesn’t just mean looking for what is wrong. Be sure to also acknowledge what is working and what you love and appreciate about your partner.

Health, or a lack thereof, leaves symptoms and signs, even in relationships. This will get you started in noticing:

Observation: Does your partner (or boss or children or parents or siblings or employees or coworkers) seem to be happy or distressed? Are you?

Communication: What has he or she already told you? Has your spouse/partner requested that you work less, go on vacation, help around the house, take better care of yourself or better care of them? Are your words to each other and about each other kind? Do you compliment each other and show your gratitude? Or, is your verbal communication with each other harsh, sarcastic or manipulative? Are your facial expressions and gestures toward one another kind and supportive or judgmental? Have you listened to what the other has been saying? Do you feel heard?

Physical: Do you touch each other in nurturing and intimate ways? Do you hold hands, comfort through a kind touch, hug daily? Are you equally content in the physical expression in your relationship? Has your partner made requests that have been disregarded? Have you?

Time: Do you choose to spend time together? Is there a balance in the time you spend together between work, family, chores, the nurturing of dreams and goals, romance and recreation?

Spiritual: Do you nurture your spirits together? Do you read uplifting content, have deeper conversations, spend time in nature, pray, or celebrate your blessings together?

Imagination: Are the stories you tell yourself about how your partner feels about you positive or negative? Are the thoughts you think about your partner kind and grateful or discouraged and discontent? If you were to guess your partner’s relationship happiness on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extraordinary, what number do you think they would pick? What number do you pick to rate your own relationship happiness? Usually when one is unhappy, the other is too.

Have you been ignoring anything important?

If your relationships are showing signs of distress, ask yourself, “What can I do to create a healthier relationship?” And, start doing it immediately. A few slight timely adjustments can save you from huge issues, even divorce. Remember, while relationships can be a bit of work, little to none of the “work” is on the other person. If you don’t know what to do, just like anything else you want to improve: study, learn, and practice. There is a wealth of resources available to you.

In my experience, when the goal is to be closer to our loved ones, we either need to practice gratitude, lovingly touch and talk more and/or spend some time in recreation (re-creation) together. Take responsibility for your piece and others will respond differently to you.

If you pay attention, you will find that you are the first to know how your relationships are going. Sometimes the deeper inquiry gives you cause for celebration of a good work in progress. If not, you just discovered what you can give your spouse, family or partner for the holidays and into the New Year… a healthier, happier relationship.

Eve Eschner Hogan is a relationship specialist, and author of several books including The EROS Equation: A SOUL-ution for Relationships. In Real Love with Eve, she shares skills, principles, and tools for creating healthy, harmonious relationships—with friends, family, lovers, co-workers, and the world at large. Her uncommon approach to common sense will help you sail away from ego battles and into the calmer waters of real love. Learn more about Eve's Heart Path retreats at sacredmauiretreats.com.