Monthly Archives

December 2016

We Disagree, Can Our Relationship Survive?

Relationship Difficulties

Couples face decisions all the time. They need to learn to compromise, learn when it’s best not to get their own way, and learn when to insist. But when it’s a really big decision and you disagree completely, it can seem like there won’t be a conclusion. It’s time to test our assumptions, ask why it matters, and ask ‘Could I do that?’. 

Making romantic relationships stronger and more enjoyable does involve learning to communicate. Learning to discuss challenging issues and chat through problems is a vital skill to learn and make relationships thrive.

But there are times when you can have very opposing views.

What Should We Do? 

A guy was very recently asking me for some advice because he and his fiancée were having a big disagreement. One of them wanted to move into a deprived area and do voluntary community work with a local charity. The other wanted to serve God in other ways and not move there.

Finding out the other one totally disagreed, was very hard

It was tough for them. They both thought that they had heard so clearly from God, and then finding out the other one totally disagreed, was very hard and difficult to work through.

You may be able to relate to this. Or you may have had a big disagreement arise in another area of your relationship. Maybe to do with where to live, career, how to spend your money, etc. Something that is so huge it will have a big effect for many many years. But you disagree and wonder how to navigate and survive it.

It’s hard.

You disagree and wonder how to navigate and survive it

Obviously, each couple and each decision has its own nuances and complexities. I’m a big believer in saying a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t exist. Nothing is fool-proof for every couple. However, there are good general principles to help us.

If we don’t think about how to navigate through, or how to at least begin to approach these decisions, then we can keep going round in circles. Having the same discussions and arguments without making a decision.

What can Help Us? 

We can begin to approach the big decision by being prepared to:

  • Test Our Assumptions
  • Ask Why It Matters
  • Ask Could I Do That?

Test Our Assumptions

We can easily approach these talks thinking ‘I’m obviously right’. It can be a big decision and if we believe God’s spoken to us, and/or it makes the most sense, then we must be right, right? (Read Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’)

You need to get underneath the assumptions

It will be helpful if we test our assumptions. You need to get underneath the assumptions and ask why you think you’re right. 

Why do you think you’ve heard this? Why do you think it makes sense? Thinking about the deeper beliefs can help both of you understand why you prefer a particular option. Rather than just sticking to our position because it seems so ‘obvious’.

Ask Why It Matters

Often a big decision, like which job to take, has an emotional appeal to it. We want a certain job because that’s what we’ve always wanted to do. Or it seems like it will best suit our ambitions.

This means there is an emotional connection to the decision.

This is normal and understandable. The problem is, there may be two or three other legitimate decisions as well. Our emotional connection may be why we favour a choice that seems ‘to make sense’ and not pick other options, even tough they’re just as good.

There is an emotional connection to the decision

Realising that this may be a factor is important.

Ask Could I Do That?

Getting your partner to follow through on your choice may be their worst nightmare. It may mean they need to do something they really don’t want to do. But you doing their choice may be okay, even if it’s not ideal.

This is important. Because thinking through each other’s choice, positively and negatively, will help you see what the best choice or compromise is for your relationship.

Is one option just too unthinkable for one of you?

You can’t just think through big picture surface level stuff, but the deeper impact and outworking of the decision. Is one option just too unthinkable for one of you?

These are just some bits of advice, and they won’t give you an answer. But they will help you think through the out-working of each decision to a deeper level, and avoid the ‘this way makes mores sense, why can’t you see it like I do’ frustrations.

Imagine if…

It would be great if there were never any disagreements or arguments, but real life isn’t like that. We need to learn to get through disagreements, big and small. The better we get through them, the better and more enjoyable relationships can become. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know )

If there’s a big decision, and you feel like you’re having the same argument and can’t understand why they can’t see it like you do, stop and think:

  • Test Our Assumptions
  • Ask Why It Matters
  • Ask Could I Do That?

What advice would you give to a couple facing a big decision? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 28/12/2016

The Cross Needs To Be Forgotten At Christmas

What The Bible Says

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The king of the universe, the all-powerful God, who chose to become human and connect with us on our level. It’s amazing. So often we think Jesus just became human to get to the cross. But the truth is, his birth was the beginning of a life-changing relationship.

As it’s Christmas, I thought I should at least attempt to write a post that’s linked to the festive season. Christmas, relationships, and God, I thought, as I stared blankly at the screen.

Then I remembered, I made one earlier!

Last year, on my old website which is now no more, I wrote a post about Christmas. About how important it is to remember the birth of Jesus is about God becoming human to start a relationship.

He didn’t become human to just get to the cross, even though the cross is vital and extremely important. He became human for many reasons, but it was partly so that we could know him closely, and call him friend and father.

 The birth of Jesus is about God becoming human to start a relationship

So often we can forget how important and transformative the Biblical truth of God being born and becoming human is. So here is the post, re-written and re-edited a bit, for all those who read it last year or missed it last year. Because it’s still true today, last year, and for 2000 plus years.

An Easter Preach at Christmas

So there I was, visiting friends for the weekend and going along to their church Sunday service. It happened to be their festive outreach Sunday, and they put a lot of effort into using the Christmas season to introduce the local community to Jesus.

The Christmas message is about the birth of Jesus, not his death

They did a very good job. It felt very festive with an engaging message which was sensitive to non-Christians and to those who only go to church in December. But they skipped over the wonderful beginning and rushed to the end. By which I mean:

They preached an Easter Friday message.

The vicar said something like: ‘Jesus was born at Christmas, and he told this story when he was older, and later he died on the cross to pay for your sins’. (Read The Cross Deals With More Than Just Forgiveness, Right?)

Missing The Start Of The Story

Perhaps you’re wondering what’s the problem? You might say it’s actually a good thing to preach this message when we get the chance, and you do have a point. Jesus died on the cross and that’s a crucial truth.

Yet the Christmas message is about the birth of Jesus, not his death on the cross!

The cross is so important, but the Gospel story is about so much more. It’s just as important to hear about Jesus’ ministry, teaching, resurrection, ascension, and his birth.

If you want to hear about the cross at Christmas, great. But please let us remember to reflect on why his birth is so wonderful and life changing too.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

The Importance of Jesus’ Birth 

Jesus didn’t ‘teleport’ down to earth as a 30 ish-year-old man and start preaching and/or go straight to the cross to die. He was born like every other human in history (but conceived differently) and grew up like every other human, and this is foundational to our faith.

The incarnation reminds us that Jesus became human so that God could relate to us authentically. If he just stepped out of heaven as a grown man, He wouldn’t be a real human. If He wasn’t on our level, experiencing what we do, then our relationship with Him couldn’t be genuine.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:15-16 

By becoming like us, through being born and becoming human, He could also reveal to us the true nature of God. Only God can reveal who God is, only God knows the mind of God. And God became like us to reveal who He truly was to begin a relationship, a friendship.

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 15:15

He’s Like Us, So Now We’re Like Him

It’s amazing to think that the Almighty God chose to become a vulnerable baby, grew up like everyone else so that He could relate. ‘Jesus became like us so that we could become like Him’.

In other words, He became human so that we could become children of God.

Christmas isn’t about the cross, that comes later. It’s about another crucial building block of the Gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14

God wanted an authentic relationship with us. So God became fully human and came down to our level and was born like us so that He could experience what it’s like to be human and truly connect with us. He also wanted to reveal himself intimately to us, which only He can do, so that we could truly connect with him.

We have a God of relationships, who took the first step

Christmas is ultimately about God taking the first step toward building a transformative and mind-blowing loving relationship with us. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality)

We can talk about the cross and resurrection, that’s all part of the Gospel and is very important. But the story begins with a God stepping out of heaven and comfort, becoming human, to make a connection with us.

Imagine If…

Imagine if, this Christmas, we paused to remember that Jesus became human. He did it because he wanted to connect with us on our level, as a real human, live the life we do so that we can call him friend, father, and saviour.

We have a God of relationship, who took the first step.

How important do you think it is to remember about the birth of Jesus? Comments welcome below 

Originally posted 26/12/2016

Should I Be The Source Of All Their Romance?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, Marriage

In romantic relationships, like dating or marriage, there should naturally be an element of romance. Some people are more romantic than others, but there’s still a level of romance and intimacy. This person should be your only source of romance. Which sounds like pressure, and too unrealistic, but is actually very liberating. 

I was reading a book about public speaking the other week. As someone who does a lot of talks, I’m always keen to improve and see what I can learn from others.

You’re the only legitimate source of romance for your spouse

The author was telling a story to emphasise one of his principles for good communication. He was talking about a marriage course he ran at his church. In passing, he said the theme for one of his talks was ‘You’re the only legitimate source of romance for your spouse’.

The only legitimate source.

This stuck with me for many days afterward. I was trying to think about what that meant. The author didn’t really go into any detail because it was just a passing comment. I was left thinking if this is a fair or realistic thing to say. And decided it was actually very freeing.

It simply means not looking outside of each other for romantic fulfillment

What to Think About 

  • Is It Achievable?
  • Wondering Eyes
  • Chit-Chat
  • What We Watch

Is It Achievable?

As I thought about the phrase ‘You’re the only legitimate source of romance for your spouse’, and about what it would look like in practice, I did wonder what it meant and if it really is achievable.

I guess, it simply means not looking outside of each other for romantic fulfillment or romantic intimacy.

It isn’t saying that you need to do a huge romantic gesture every hour of every day

To not look outside our relationship and actively try to make each other the source of romantic fulfillment, even when we’re tired or stressed or whatever, sounds hard. Besides, is it really harmful to look at films or let off some steam when we talk to a mate?

I actually think it is achievable if we realise what the phrase means.

It isn’t saying that you need to do a huge romantic gesture every hour of every day. But that you can’t look outside of each other. You don’t let habits slip into your daily life that means you don’t rely on each other for romantic fulfillment or romantic intimacy. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

Wondering Eyes 

So that would mean training ourselves to not have wondering eyes. The whole ‘look but don’t touch’, or ‘just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu’, isn’t a good enough excuse because it means we look outside the relationship.

If we’re dating, or married, we need to be committed. Looking elsewhere can weaken our mindset. It makes us think there may be something better elsewhere. (Read How Important Is Physical Attraction?

Constant small habits build to big consequences


It would also mean not making jokes or talking about other men’s/women’s appearance or attraction with friends. Again, even though it’s just talk, the idea that we can look outside our relationship is reinforced.

As a one off, it may not have a big impact. But constant small habits build to big consequences.

What We watch

Pornography is a rising issue in our culture. It is something many people struggle with and struggle to stop (See the Naked Truth Project website). It can reinforce the idea that we can look outside a relationship to get desires fulfilled.

But what about romantic films? Watching shows with a romantic story line? These things aren’t bad or wrong in themselves. But if they are watched to replace something that is missing in a relationship, it can become unhelpful.

Just like talking to friends about our relationship isn’t bad in itself, but if we use it as an avenue to talk about other people’s attractiveness, or what they would be like to date, then it can be unhelpful.

If we look outside the relationship, it can lower our commitment and/or weaken our relationship because we can think we can do better. Or what would it be like with ‘that person’. It may only be for a second, it may seem insignificant, but it can chip away at our intimacy.

Married Or Dating 

When we’re married, we should be giving each other the romantic part of ourselves. That intimacy shouldn’t be shared with anyone, whether in the mind or literally.

And I would say dating isn’t marriage. It’s not the same. But we should be committed to the person in front of us. We can’t be thinking about the ‘potentially better option’. We need to explore if we are suited and try to look inside the relationship while we are together. (Read What Should We Do On A First Date?)

We can’t be thinking about the ‘potentially better option’

Couples should look to each other. Looking inside the relationship, relying on each other and saving that part of ourselves for each other fosters trust, closeness and intimacy. It’s part of being content and fulfilled in a relationship, which is what we want when we are in a relationship.

Imagine if…

Imagine if we built relationships that didn’t look elsewhere, or talk inappropriately, or relied on films or romantic storylines for romantic fulfillment and romantic intimacy. But instead actively made the other person their focus. Imagine the trust and closeness we could gain/improve.

Next time we have a choice to look outside the relationship, we need to actively stop ourselves, and try to reconnect more with the person we’re with.

What else do you think should only come from within a relationship? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 21/12/2016

Single For Now, Or Single Forever? What’s God’s Plan?

Real Life Stories, Singleness

There are single people in the church who want to get married one day, and others who feel like God is calling them to never get married. Both are fine, but some people are unsure. No matter where we are on the scale, I think the answer is found in giving God our relationship plans, then trusting He is a good God.  

‘Is God giving me the gift of singleness? But I want to get married!’

‘I think I could be single for life, but it would be the burden I carry!’

I have heard these words, or the like, many times before. There are some people in the church who are single but don’t want to be. This is a real and understandable concern. (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness. Part 1).

Some people I speak to ‘worry’ that they may be the next Paul or Jeremiah and God is calling them to a life of celibacy.

I have also met people who are seriously considering being celibate and single for life. But they worry if they could do it forever. And/or worry about future temptation. And/or if that is definitely what God’s want.

 I always wanted a girlfriend. I had had some but was single most of the time and wishing I wasn’t

My Story

I wasn’t always a Christian when I was growing up. I became a Christian when I was in my last year of high school. Before that point, I always wanted a girlfriend. I had had some but was single most of the time and wishing I wasn’t.

I became a Christian, and my enthusiasm for finding someone did not change at first

I thought God may have been calling me to singleness for life

I spent the first few months in my new church trying to find a girlfriend. But the more I went, the more I realised God had more in store for me than match-making. I still didn’t want to be single, but I was excited and ‘distracted’ by getting to know God more.

Single For Life? 

After a failed relationship with a non-Christian, I started to really think more about relationships. Long story short, I thought God may have been calling me to singleness for life.

No girlfriends, no marriage, no sex.

After a bit of resistance, I thought this may be a real calling God had for me. So I stopped looking for a girlfriend. And I don’t mean I was just ‘passively looking’. I mean not looking at all. Actively not trying to make something happen.  Actively not looking at girls in that way, because it wasn’t going to happen.

We talked about… why the Bible talks so positively about marriage and singleness

I remember reflecting and talking to a lot of older guys in my church. Some married, some who felt called to singleness for life, some single but wanting to marry. We talked about what a Christian marriage and dating relationship was all about. Why God invented marriage, what singleness is for, and why the Bible talks so positively about marriage and singleness.

This went on for about a year. Like I say, I wasn’t ‘taking a break’ from relationships. I was actively discerning and preparing myself for a life of singleness.

Giving It All To God 

In the end, I didn’t feel God was calling me to singleness for life. I felt like God saying this wasn’t for me. I did go on to date and get married. But the moral of this story isn’t ‘I took some me time to discover who I was’ and lived happily ever after.

The moral of the story was I gave it all up.

During that time I gave God my desire for marriage. My desires for a relationship. My calling of singleness. I gave him my sexual desire. My sexual identity. I gave him everything.

I said ‘God, I don’t want to write my own script. I don’t want to box you into Sunday worship while I take control of the rest. Take it all. Even the things I really want.’

I said ‘God, I don’t want to write my own script’

This wasn’t easy, but I had to trust He was good. And whether He handed me back a calling to get married and be a godly husband, or the calling to be single, I had to trust that He would be enough in both situations. And that He wanted the best for me.

I know other people who have done this too, but people think it’s crazy. They can’t understand, why would people even consider saying to God that you can have my relationship status and my desires for the future.

What’s Your Calling? 

The thing is, it isn’t really about us or our preferred plan. The answer is found in whether we are prepared to give Him everything and say He is enough. No matter what He hands back to us. Whether that is the call to be a godly spouse or be single.

Some of you may be reading this and want to get married. That’s fine

The pain of wanting to get married but being unable to is real. And that is something to take very seriously. (Read ‘What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness. Part 2). Some of you may be reading this and want to get married. That’s fine. I’m not saying God doesn’t want that too. But are we telling our plans to God or seeking him?

Some of you may be reading this and thinking about life-long singleness. Working out what that may look like. Please don’t see it as second best or something to be feared or a more godly path. God is in marriage an singleness. God is involved no matter what.

Imagine If…

No matter what relationship status box we tick, we all need to think about how to seek God more. How can we use our marriage, dating, or singleness to build his kingdom more?  How can we inspire others to do the same?

What is the small practical thing you can do this week? Whether that’s praying more, serving more, or whatever. How can we make sure we are seeking him first, give him everything and trust he is a good God?

Are all relationship statuses really celebrated in the church? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 19/12/2016

Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’


Marriage is about building a strong, enjoyable, long-lasting relationship. But only having this aim means we forget God’s bigger purpose. Spouses are meant to point each other to Jesus and reveal Him to those around them. The main aim of marriage is ‘Him’, even though society screams it’s about ‘us’.

I was reading some online articles and listening to podcasts about relationships, dating, and marriage, as you do. I like to learn from others who are working in this area. It’s great to hear what God is saying to them and what they’re sharing.

The role of a husband or wife isn’t to make them a better spouse, but point them to Jesus

When I do this, every so often, one sentence or phrase will really stand out. It’s like I know I’ve really read something important and challenging. In one of the podcasts, the preacher said ‘The role of a husband or wife isn’t to make them a better spouse, but point them to Jesus’.

The main aim of a spouse is to point their partner to Jesus.

The Matters Of Marriage 

You may be married or hoping to get married one day. You may have experienced or heard about the pressure newly-weds, or any married couple, face in trying to build and maintain a good marriage. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)

Often we get told advice and stories for this area. We get told about the importance of putting in the time and effort to make a marriage work. And that’s true and we need to know about that. We also get told about the importance of making time for each other. And that’s true and we need to know about that.

In comparison, we rarely hear about the other side of the coin. We rarely hear that marriage is a vocation

We get told to be attentive to the needs of our husband or wife and learn to support and sacrifice for them. And that’s true and we need to know about that. (Read ‘The One’ Myth Robs Us Of A Great Relationship).

But in comparison, we rarely hear about the other side of the coin. We rarely hear that marriage is a vocation. That the aim of marriage isn’t to become a perfect spouse, but to point each other to Jesus more.

Or should I say, we rarely get told what pointing to Jesus looks like in the nitty-gritty and day-to-day married life. Advice and stories for making this a reality in marriage are often lacking.

Marriage Matters To God

This seems counter-cultural really doesn’t it? To say marriage is about ‘Him’ and not ‘us’. Yet it feels like it lines up with everything else we know about our faith.

So much emphasis is put on our relationship status, sexuality, and sex, that marriage and family becomes the most important thing. Our time, energy and focus becomes each other.

I remember a church leader who said that all of these young couples and newly-weds get married, then they stop serving in church. They say they need to focus on each other and make the marriage work.

To say marriage is about ‘Him’ and not ‘us’. Yet it feels like it lines up with everything else we know about our faith

The church leader then said their intentions are good, and he said he understands and supports that choice.  However, he also said the problem is, they never really start serving again. They often become so focused on each other that nothing else happens.

Just recently, I met up with a friend who’s part of a massive mid-week Bible study group (two recently became one) and no-one was really leading it or contributing because all the couples had got married or engaged recently,  and they wanted to focus on each other.

This in itself isn’t bad, but it’s only one side of the coin.

God Matters In Marriage 

I remember hearing about a couple, who after three weeks of marriage took in a refugee. And they’ve housed someone in need ever since. Their marriage evolved around being radically inclusive and spurring each other on towards God.

I remember hearing about a couple who went on a two-week honeymoon. The first week was a relaxing hotel getaway, then they went on a mission trip to another part of the country to serve in an orphanage.

But the little things matter too. Like the couple who use some of their date night to help out at a church event

I was always blown away by that.

But the little things matter too. Like the couple who use some of their date nights to help out at a church event. Or the couple who read the Bible and pray before they go to sleep. Or are hospitable and open up their house and home and meal times to people who need company. It all points to God.


Ephesians 5:21-33 reminds us that marriage is a place which requires the married couple to make the effort with each other. Husbands and wives need to give each other everything to make it work.

This passage also reminds us that marriage is a vocation. It’s rooted in our understanding of Jesus and what he achieved and we should reflect this Gospel truth.

I’m emphasising one side because I think that is the one we can often forget in the busyness of life.

Remembering both sides of the coin is vital. One without the other means we miss the point. I’m emphasising one side because I think that is the one we can often forget in the busyness of life.

Imagine if…

It’s not bad putting time and energy into making a marriage work. God wants us to enjoy relationships and make marriages a place of strength, comfort, and support. His word even talks about making time for each other, especially newly-weds (Deuteronomy 24:5).

Yet we are called to show others, as well as our husband or wife, that our faith, worth, and fulfillment isn’t in our career, intelligence, family or each other, but in God.

Imagine if we had marriages that were enjoyable, where the people involved loved each other and made time for each other. Where they also spurred each other on to the higher calling, and pointed people to God as well.

What would happen if we stopped to ask how can we point each other to God a bit more in our mundane daily routine? Whether that be through prayer, or helping the neighbours more.

Do you think a Christian marriage should involve these things, why? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 14/12/2016