Monthly Archives

November 2016

The Cross Deals With More Than Just Forgiveness, Right?

What The Bible Says

Most Christians know that God wants to have a relationship with them. However, if you ask what the cross achieved and what the Gospel is, they usually talk about ‘legal forgiveness’. How Jesus was punished instead of us and we’re now free from the condemnation of the law. But on the cross, Jesus established a family relationship as well. It’s part of the Gospel and not an added extra.

I delivered a talk last month on the cross of Jesus to some students who were part of a Christian gap year course. I told them, and I firmly believe, that the cross brings us ‘legal forgiveness’. In other words, at the cross and resurrection, Jesus paid the punishment that the law demands when sinners break it. I believe this is true and is an important part of the Gospel.

But then I said to them that ‘forgiveness of sins’ on the cross also brings us into a deeply intimate and close relationship with God, and the family of fellow believers. They all nodded, as you may be, because they know that is true. But I said again and emphasised that this happened because of the cross itself. Not afterwards or as an add on to the Gospel. Then they weren’t so sure.

Jesus’ death allowed us to become part of God’s family

Most Christians know that God wants a relationship with them, that he is our father and we are saved into a community of believers. However, the point I was making is that this isn’t just an optional consequence of the Gospel. It’s not an optional extra we can choose to believe or not.

This isn’t a new idea

It’s part of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It’s part of what he achieved on the cross, it’s part of forgiveness, and is central to how we understand his death. We can’t reduce forgiveness to just ‘legal forgiveness’.

This isn’t a new idea though. It’s commonly called the Adoption Model of Atonement, which basically means that on the cross Jesus’ death allowed us to become part of God’s family as beloved sons and daughters. And is important as it stresses our new relationship with God.

Friends Not Servants

God the son has been revealing who God is, and there is a relationship being built and established

Throughout the Gospel’s we see Jesus call God father, and he encourages us to do the same (Matthew 6:9). In John’s Gospel we see Jesus emphasising the closeness of his followers and future followers when he calls them friends. There is an intimacy and a closeness with God the Son.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:12-15

God the Son has been revealing who God is, and there is a relationship being built and established through his work and ministry. He wants his followers to see themselves as close friends and not distant servants.

Children of God

Galatians 3:23-4:7 hammers home the truth that we can become children of God and become part of the family.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
Galatians 3:26

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir
Galatians 4:4-7

This is profound. Jesus has redeemed those under the law, and importantly, this was done when he went to the cross and was hung on a tree and suffered death.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.
Galatians 3:13

Deeper Understanding

When I delivered this teaching on the cross, relationships, and faith, I wanted to say I believe that on the cross Christ paid for our sins. It’s an amazing truth. And his life and death allowed us to know God and become part of his family.

The cross itself gives us belonging and close relationships

The relationship that Jesus offers is more than one where we are legally OK from now on, but one where we become beloved sons and daughters too. We don’t just exist as people free from the condemnation of the law, but as people who belong to the family of the king who is a good father.

Imagine If…

We all want to belong and have strong friendships, relationships, and romantic relationships. The cross itself gives us belonging and close relationships. The cross of Christ is amazing and transforming every area of lives. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love). Including how we see ourselves and relate to others and God himself.

When we understand the cross achieved many many things, we can allow it to transform so many areas of our lives. (Read Reflecting God’s Image is Found In Plurality)

Why do you think Christians sometimes reduce the cross to just one thing?

Originally posted 30/11/2016


How Important Is Physical Attraction?

Finding A Date, Sex

In a world that says sex is everything, the church often reacts by saying sex isn’t everything. People in the pews can be left asking if physical attraction is something they need to prioritise. Physical attraction is important, but it needs to be seen in the context of the wider relationship, rather than a separate question. 

I have had many people ask me how important physical attraction is. They ask how attracted they need to be to their potential girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife. Some think it needs to be given little or no attention, while others make it the top priority.

I have heard church leaders say things like ‘You need to treat them like a sister or brother’, or ‘Focus on the friendship and the rest will follow’, or ‘Only date friends’ (Read The ‘Only Dating Friends’ Rule Is Complicated).

But I heard of a couple who followed this type of advice and got married to ‘a friend’, then said sex felt strange. They actually really struggled in marriage because they were just ‘friends’ and nothing more. I know another couple who said dating each other was hard because there was no deeper attraction physically.

I think it needs to be seen in the wider context of relationships, and we need to stop treating it as an add-on question

On the other hand, I know people who believe physical attraction is everything. They rush into very intense relationships without knowing someone’s personality, values, or beliefs, and get hurt. A friend of mine went out with someone he liked because he found them attractive, then said they argued every day because they just clashed in every other area.

Now we could just look at the extremes and say ‘Avoid doing that’. But we need to think about where we should actually position ourselves on the scale. How to view the importance of physical attraction in the right context.

I think it needs to be seen in the wider context of relationships, and we need to stop treating it as an add-on question that we can either ignore or dedicate all of our attention to. I think this because of a variety of factors, which can all help us treat physical attraction in the right way.

The Physical World Is Good

God created the physical world. He created the physical bodies of Adam and Eve and said it was very good (Gen 1:31). This happened before sin entered the world. Furthermore, when we get to heaven, we will not just be spirits but have physical bodies (1 Cor 15:35-58). The physical world is not something to be shunned or ignored.

Sex Is Good

In the Genesis story, Adam and Eve have sex when they become ‘One Flesh’ after they get married (Genesis 2:23-24). So sex is part of a good creation before sin. In Song of Songs, the two characters talk about sex a lot. It’s not just about the act, but about the desire, attraction and the intimacy it brings (e.g. Songs 7).

So physical desire is celebrated too, and shouldn’t be ignored.

But A Relationship Thrives On More Than One Thing 

A relationship needs more than one thing to make it work. There needs to be a healthy emotional connection, physical attraction, spiritual connection, shared values, and goals. So acting as if the physical attraction is the make or break is unhelpful. All the other things can’t be ignored either.

We need to see physical attraction in connection with other areas of the relationship instead of an added extra. We need to focus on building good communication, growing spiritually, growing in trust. If you date someone you just connect with in one area but all the others are weak, then it will not be a relationship that can thrive.

Friendship Is Important

Being friends is important. The person you date and/or marry should be someone you can trust, enjoy spending time with, relax with, and be yourself around.

However, being ‘just friends’ means we miss out on something we’re meant to enjoy in romantic relationships. However, just focusing on the physical side means we can end up with someone we aren’t suited to in other areas, which can hurt us and them.

What Does All This Mean? 

Physical attraction is something that is celebrated and is seen as good. There is no need to ignore it or downplay it in romantic relationships. But physical attraction doesn’t equal a good relationship. We need many other things like friendship, trust, and shared values, to build something worth having.

So yes, you can look for someone you are attracted to, but let’s not place that above, or below, an emotional connection or enjoying each other’s company. It’s part of a good enjoyable relationship, but it will not equal happiness all on its own.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we stopped focusing on the physical attraction or stopped ignoring it completely. Then started to think about how to support each other in building healthy and well-rounded relationships by asking about the physical side, as well as the shared values, beliefs, and friendship stuff too.

What do you think are the three most important things needed to make a relationship work? 

Originally posted 28/11/2016

Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Relationship Difficulties

We all have expectations for romantic relationships. In fact, having expectations is a good thing. The real skill is learning what good expectations and bad expectations for our romantic relationships are. Having realistic and healthy hopes can change our love starts into love stories, and help us avoid confusion, hurt, and pain.  

Whether we realise it or not, we all have questions prepared that we can ask new people we meet to get the conversation going and avoid the awkward silence. ‘What is your job?’ ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Do you have any interesting hobbies?’ We’re ready to pull them out when needed.

When we meet a new couple though, while all the above questions apply,  there is that extra one we get to ask. This is often said with a bit more intrigue and interest, ‘Where did you two meet?’and/or ‘How did he pop the question?’

Why is hearing about the love starts more appealing than hearing about building a love story? 

This is the exciting Hollywood ‘getting together’ moment, which we like to hear about and dissect. The couple look at each other and decide who is going to share it this time. And we listen intently and say ‘aww’ at the right points.

Love Starts vs Love Stories

However, I’ve noticed that people rarely ask something along the line of ‘What’s your relationship like now that you’ve been together for X amount of years?’ ‘What have you learnt about each other now the “honeymoon” period is over?’

Just hearing about love starts can form unhealthy expectations that weaken relationships

You may think that’s an instant mood killer. But why? Why is hearing about the love starts more appealing than hearing about building a love story in the everyday life?

Just hearing about love starts can form unhealthy expectations that weaken relationships. But gaining great and healthy relationships begins with learning to spot and avoid unhealthy expectations. Then we can replace them with healthy ones. Ones that build love stories. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)

(The following extract is taken from page 98-100 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Unrealistic Expectations For A Dating Relationship

  • We will meet all of each other’s needs.
  • They will know what I’m thinking or feeling without me having to say (and vice versa).
  • They will never want to discuss feelings or talk about the future.
  • We will spend all our time together.
  • We will agree on everything.
  • They will earn a certain amount of money or have a certain status.
  • I will not budge from my ideals of how they should look.
  • They will never challenge me.
  • They will always make me feel happy.
  • We will immediately know that we belong together, so we will definitely get married.
  • They will fit into my life.
  • They will always do what I say.
  • I will not have to change, but they will change for me.
  • They will be stronger in their faith, so they will always know what to do.
  • I will only date the person I know God has told me to marry.
  • It will be easy.

Having expectations is not a bad thing. Having no expectations at all would be disastrous. Rather, consider how you could adopt these good expectations:

Realistic Expectations Of A Dating Relationship

  • We will have fun together.
  • We will be open with each other and grow in trust and commitment.
  • I will remain true to myself as I seek to change for the better.
  • We will work through disagreements.
  • We will have a similar view of relationships.
  • Sometimes we will need some space, but we will always try to communicate well.
  • We will share core beliefs and values, and enjoy debating areas where we differ.
  • We will seek to bring out the best in each other.
  • We will consider each other’s needs.
  • We will spend time apart.
  • We will encourage each other.
  • We will not gossip about each other to our friends.
  • I will still nurture my own relationship with Jesus.
  • We will share a connection that we will want to nurture into something more.
  • We will be open to God speaking to us, together and individually, about our relationship.

(Read What makes relationships work? What makes them weak?)

The thing about our expectations is that they can be hugely influential in governing how we act around someone. Choosing healthy expectations will make your relationship stronger because it will focus your attention on all the right things and also help you set the right goals. The danger is that, in setting unrealistic expectations, the relationship can often be doomed to fail from the start.

In the past, I thought that, once I started dating a girl, she would want to do what I wanted! When I wanted to rest, she would sit there and relax; when I wanted to go out, she would be ready and waiting. I thought it would be easy. But I soon realized that things aren’t that simple, that I needed to do things I didn’t want to do.

We need to be active and challenge our own unrealistic expectations

Like having a chat because she wants to communicate when I’m feeling tired, or going out to something I don’t enjoy. I had to change my mindset and approach the relationship with realistic expectations, and learn to support, encourage and communicate – even when I was tired and grumpy.

We need to be active and challenge our own unrealistic expectations. This helps us to shift from a position of weakness to one of strength. So what expectations are making you weak? What could you replace them with?

(Read the introduction of The Dating Dilemma book for free now, or buy the book here.)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we took the time to think about what our healthy and unhealthy expectations are for our romantic relationships. Past or present. And strive towards making at least one of the above changes today, so our relationships can get stronger.

What other healthy or unhealthy expectations can you think of?

Originally posted 23/11/2016


‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship

Church Dating Culture, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Many Christians believe that God has created one perfect person out there for ‘me’. So all we need to do is find them. But I think this idea isn’t ever mentioned or taught in the Bible. In addition, ‘The One’ myth undermines the chances of us building a healthy long-lasting relationship. 

I deliver a lot of talks about dating, singleness, relationships and faith. I usually try to lead a Q & A when I can because it’s important that people feel like they can ask the questions that are important to them, and discuss this important area more.

Many questions come up, but there are lots that usually get asked whenever I deliver a talk. One of these questions goes something like ‘Does God Bring Me the One?’.

I believe we make ‘The One’, rather than find ‘The One’

I always say that I believe we make ‘The One’, rather than find ‘The One’. I say this because I believe that ‘The One’ myth robs us of God’s intentions for our romantic relationships.

Hollywood Stories vs Biblical Stories 

In films, in tv programs, and in books, we clearly see ‘The One’ myth being reinforced. Someone is single (or maybe even in another relationship) and they then meet someone who seems perfect. This person may seem wrong or unattainable at first, and there are some ‘nearly but no’ moments along the way. However, they end up together in the end.

They go off into the sunset and the story ends.

This story teaches us that ‘The One’ is out there, and when we find them they will make us happy. The problem is, this idea isn’t seen in the Bible, ever.

The problem is, this idea isn’t seen in the Bible, ever

Nowhere at any point, does the Bible say that God has designed one ‘perfect’ person for us. It doesn’t teach that one person will be the source of all our joy and self-worth either.

It talks about God having a plan, although that is more to do with his Kingdom being built and we’re invited into God’s story, but even when the plans are more individualistic, it never says that a perfect partner is waiting around the corner.

‘The One’ myth doesn’t come from the biblical authors, but rather Hollywood directors.

It Makes Relationships Weaker 

If we believe in ‘The One’ myth, if we believe that one person will compliment us perfectly, then when a relationship gets hard or we have an argument, it can be interpreted as a sign that we need to end it.

After all ‘The One’ will be perfect, so any relationship difficulty means we aren’t with ‘The One’, right?

We know we aren’t perfect, but we expect to find someone who is perfect that will sort out all of our problems

But if you ask anyone in a long-term relationship, anyone who has been married for a long time, then they will say relationships take work. You need to negotiate through the hard times. You need to discuss and communicate problems.

Relationships take work. We know we aren’t perfect, but we expect to find someone who is perfect that will sort out all of our problems. ‘The One’ myth can make us think relationships are easy and like we don’t need to work on our relationships.

Making ‘The One’

I believe that God cares about our lives more than we know. I believe that he cares more about our relationships than we know. He wants to bless us. And I also think he is more concerned with us making ‘The One’.

I believe God wants us to be active (Read One Great Dating Tips From Ruth and Boaz. Really?). We’re meant to enjoy falling in love. But romantic relationships involve us learning to communicate, work through the hard times and build something together.

Making ‘The One’, and knowing how to date in a way that involves you getting to know the person in front of you (Read What Should We Do On A First Date?), and learning to grow together and enjoy it, isn’t about waiting around for a magic moment. It’s about getting involved and bringing God into the process and building something worth having.

Imagine if…

Imagine if, we helped people around us put time and energy into learning how to build God-centred, mutually enjoyable romantic relationships. If we gave them the tools to make great dating decisions, instead of letting them worry about if they have missed ‘The One’, or if God has forgotten about them. Let’s ask each other, how can I/ can I help them make it work, and ‘make ‘The One’, rather than worrying about bumping into ‘The One’ in the future.

Do you think making ‘The One’ is better than finding ‘The One’?

Originally posted 21/11/2016

What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness. Part 2

Singleness, What The Bible Says

In the second of this two-part article, we will continue to explore the biblical teachings surrounding singleness. The important point we will look at in this post is the idea that the Bible never places single people into a single category.

The reason for this post is to try and help us understand what the Bible teaches about singleness, and how this can help us in our lives, in our churches, and Christian contexts.

In my last post, I outlined that singleness and marriage are both valued in the New Testament and upheld as being equally good. (Read Part 1 here)

The Bible talks about six key categories that can help us understand singleness in the light of Scripture. These categories in the Bible would have referred to adults of marital age, and we must remember that people would have been pledged or married very young. So a very small percentage of adults would have been single and/or never married.

The categories outlined in the Bible are: Death, Desertion, Divorce, Desire, Disadvantage, Default.

Death (Widows)  

The Bible talks about adults who are single because their marital spouse has died. They are therefore widows. The Bible talks about the need to look after them as they can face economic hardships, especially in the culture the Bible was written in.
(E.g. James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:4-5)


If two non-Christians get married, and then one becomes a Christian later and the other person leaves them because of it, this would cause singleness in adult life. The Bible talks about this scenario too.
(E.g. 1 Corinthians 7:12-16)


This is spoken about in several places in the Bible. Some argue divorce is acceptable in some circumstances, others say it never is. Either way, the Bible says this is a reason for singleness in adult life among the people of God.
(E.g. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Matthew 19:1-9)


Some people want to remain single their whole life because God has called them to be. Some people just don’t want to get married.  Jeremiah and Jesus had this call.
(Jeremiah 16:1-2; Matthew 19:10-12)


Sometimes people cannot marry and sustain an intimate, sexual and emotional romantic relationship because of a disadvantage. For example, in the Bible eunuchs don’t have any genitals, and therefore would not have married in that culture.
(E.g. Matthew 19:12)


This refers to Christians who want to get married, but they haven’t found a suitable partner yet. This may be, for example,  because they want to marry a Christian but can’t find one. They have a desire for marriage but are unable to get married.

This category isn’t really addressed in the Bible. It does sometimes talk about virgins/unmarried people who should get married if their ‘passions’ and sexual desire is too strong. (E.g. 1 Corinthians 7:36). So these people aren’t married, but deep down they want to be. However, not all single people are balls of uncontrollable hormones. So while the Bible addresses some (potential) aspects of the ‘default’ category, it doesn’t address every aspect.

So what can we learn from this teaching?

The Default Is Growing 

The default category is the issue Christians and the churches need to really think about. The growing number of women compared to men in the church is set to continue, and many Christians wish to marry another Christian. This means that there are loads of people who want to get married, but simply can’t.

By default, people find themselves single. Which isn’t meant to make them sound bad or be patronising, but they don’t foresee an option other than singleness because there are no suitable partners.

I remember a church leader saying ‘We put on a singles night and no-one came, so why bother?’

More and more Christians need support, advice, and help in this area because this category is real and growing in our churches. People will be faced with tough decisions and we need to be able to respond biblically, graciously and authentically.

Single People Aren’t A Single Category

I remember a church leader saying ‘We put on a singles night and no one came, so why bother?’ But a 55-year-old widow is different to the young single person who has never been married. And a divorced person is different from someone who feels called to be single for their whole life.

I find that most single Christians don’t want a ‘singles night’, or a ‘singles ministry’, what they really want is to be part of the family. They want church and friends to include them no matter what their relationship status is, or what category of singleness they fall into.

No two single people are the same, but we all want to belong

Also, saying cliches like ‘God is preparing someone for you’, can be really hurtful to someone who is divorced or someone who feels called to singleness for life. Or saying ‘singleness is a blessing’, while true, isn’t helpful if someone wants to get married and can’t because there aren’t enough single Christians in the church.

Each category has its challenges, but they are not the same, and no two single people are the same, but we all want to belong. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality)

I want this article to be part of the growing attention that singleness is receiving on the internet. It’s an important area that can’t be ignored or reduced to ‘a step on the road to marriage’.

Imagine If…

Imagine if, we stopped assuming the single people in our church have the same problems we had/have as a single person, and started to ask about their concerns and struggles.

What is the one thing we can do as a church and individuals, to help people who are single? 

Originally posted 16/11/2016