Monthly Archives

July 2017

1 Essential Relationship Tip For All Christians

What The Bible Says

As Christians, we’re told not to put our identity in any skill or talent we have, in any material object, in anything we do or don’t do, but to place it in God and his love for us. Yet in a culture that is so romantic relationship focused, living that out can be hard. But no matter what our relationship status is, as Christians we need to remember God is our foundation, and learn to live that out in all situations.  

‘God is our foundation, in our singleness, in our marriages, in our dating, God is our foundation.’

These are the words I was again reminded of and were left ringing through my head after hearing a talk on relationships. So easy to say, much much harder to live out. But it’s so true.

Learning to seek God first is the priority

Singleness, marriage, and dating all come with challenges and advantages, but learning to seek God first is the priority, no matter what relationship status box we tick.

(The following extract is taken from page 86-89 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Feeling Alive

When did you last experience giving God your ‘everything’? It could have been during a time of worship at an event, a missions week, or going on a retreat, but that feeling of focusing on God alone made you feel alive.

In those times, we wish it could always be this way. Sometimes we can feel jealous or unworthy of the intimacy that ‘super-saints’ like Moses or David had with God, but this is available to us too. In all times and in all places, we can know an increasing closeness to God.


We often see people struggling to solve the conundrum of how the two work together

So what about when we’re getting close to the person we’re dating? Isn’t this the greatest distraction from our focus on God?

We often see people struggling to solve the conundrum of how the two work together. You might have friends who had seemed passionately committed to Jesus, and then, within weeks of falling in love, they had lost all interest in anything to do with God.

But instead of being the thing that gets in the way of our relationship with God, dating can be about two people working at growing closer to God as they grow closer to each other. This begins with each person putting their faith in God first.

Seek God First

Scripture shows us that the best way to live starts with putting God first. He comes before our work, our relationships and our pleasure. We are blessed to have a God who wants to give us good things, but we don’t put the gifts before the gift giver.

He becomes our absolute priority: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:2–3).

Jesus makes service to God and his will the priority (Luke 9:57–62). Instead of being a restriction, this way of life sets us free to become all we can be.

Marriage Is No Exception 

It won’t surprise you, then, that the Bible teaches that the best way to approach marriage is to have God at the centre. Marriage isn’t an end in itself, but a way that people can fulfil God’s mission together (Genesis 1:27–28)

Marriage should be a place where society sees a couple reflecting God’s love for his church as they take their vows seriously (1 Corinthians 6:15–17). God is not deluded; he knows that it’s hard to put him first in a marriage. (Read Marriage Isn’t Really About ‘Us’)

It’s possible to serve God wholeheartedly and have a spouse and family

Paul points out that single people don’t have the divided loyalties experienced by a married couple (1 Corinthians 7:32–35). This is actually a real advantage of singleness. But Paul isn’t anti-marriage; of course it’s possible to serve God wholeheartedly and have a spouse and family, but there are more pressures to juggle.

Every Relationship Status

It takes work. We’re being a bit unrealistic if we think we can date someone and invest all our time and energy in them, neglect our friends, our family and our God, get married, and then instantly begin to put God first.

Singleness can be lonely, but it’s not a waiting room before the real work of a relationship begins

This is where singleness needs to get a shout-out. We form the habits of serving God before we ever start dating. When we are single, it can be easier to forge a lifestyle that puts God first.

Singleness can be lonely, but it’s not a waiting room before the real work of a relationship begins. It’s an opportunity to seek God, serve him and establish a hunger for building his kingdom – all of which will bless your future dating and married life [if and when it happens]. (Read What I Rediscovered From A Group Of Single People). It’s for these very reasons that some people embrace singleness for life.

Zoe and Tim

Tim dated Zoe, a talented musician who was keen to use her musical abilities for God’s glory. She loved music therapy and leading worship at her church. Tim didn’t know the first thing about music and had little interest in it, but he saw that God had gifted Zoe.

So he went along to her music recitals and gave her space and time to practice, instead of demanding that she spend all her time with him. In doing so, he encouraged her to put God’s will first. Dating this way requires us to be courageous. It means doing all it takes to chase after God for ourselves and spurring each other on as we chase after him together. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship.)

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

Imagine If…

Every relationship is different, everyone will serve God in different ways, and different relationship statuses bring different dynamics. But seeking God will always result in stronger relationships, which God wants to bless us with.

Imagine if we focused on God more, despite our relationship status. And thought about how he sees us, and we put our confidence in him rather than anything or anyone else.

What small practical thing can you do this week to seek God more today? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 31/7/2017

Stories From The Dating Scene: Secret Boyfriends and Bad Endings

Guest Blogs, Real Life Stories

Sadly, dating doesn’t always end well. This story is from one of my friends who wanted to share her experience. She wanted to be real about the pain caused, and share how God helped her more than any of the conventional wisdom from friends, and what she learned through her dating story.  

This story was originally written a while ago now, but I was praying with a friend recently about someone they know and their relationship. The relationship this person was in sounded very toxic, and it reminded me that dating can really hurt people.

I wanted to re-share this story because it’s important to hear these kinds of stories, learn from them, and help others in similar situations. So here it is, anonymously, in her own words:

People Pleaser 

There is one word that I find so difficult to say…No! ‘Can you lend me some money, I promise I will pay you back?’, ’Will you do this work for me, I just haven’t got the time?’ or ‘Can we take this relationship to the next level?’

I keep thinking, just say it – SAY NO! But I immediately convince myself that if I say no, they won’t want me anymore; they will leave. I am a people pleaser, seeking approval from others – especially boys. I thought that was what I needed to make me happy. I have never been so wrong.

He Used The ‘God Card’ 

Sometimes, you can think you do everything right – and it still doesn’t work out. Me and Jon (not his real name) were close friends for years, and as we began to get closer and feelings started to develop, we sought God. Praying to Him and acknowledging Him; we knew that He would guide us to the right way – His way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

From the word go, I felt God was telling me that if we centered our relationship on Him, then it would work, but Jon took longer to be convinced. He just couldn’t make up his mind – but in the meantime, we found it difficult to resist temptation. He told me he loved me, and that he wanted to be with me, but that it couldn’t be official because he wasn’t sure it was what God wanted.

But if I did, would I lose him forever?

Jon asked me to keep ‘us’ a secret then maybe one day – if I waited – we could be together properly. If only I could have said NO…. I knew I deserved more than to be a secret girlfriend, but if I did, would I lose him forever?

Things Should Have Got Easier

As we continued to pray and seek God together, I began to get angry with God and blame Him for this situation. I believed that I was doing what He wanted me to, that it was His will and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t making it easier and bringing us out of this situation.

I wanted so much more than to be a secret

Three years went by… and I had fallen completely in love with Jon. I couldn’t imagine my life without him, but I wanted so much more than to be a secret.

Just when I thought things were going to get better, Jon grew distant. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong – I’d stood by him, I wanted to make him happy – but he said those words I had been dreading; ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ve moved on.’

I had given everything to this guy, and it wasn’t good enough. He admitted that although he did care about me, and he did love me, he was just using me – holding on to me in case someone better didn’t come along. I had never felt pain like that, and I didn’t know what to do.

Conventional Wisdom

My friends told me to go out and find a new boy to try and make me happy. But nothing did. The world tells us that in order to be happy we need to find the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect partner and have the perfect kids – and if we don’t have these things, well then there is obviously something wrong with us…right?

It made me feel inadequate for being single.

This is what so many people in my life have made me believe, and what is scary is that most of these people are Christians. They’ve felt sorry for me for ‘missing out’ and not being in a relationship. It made me feel inadequate for being single. (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All?)

God’s Wisdom

But my God has been teaching me something different – everything and every situation can be used for His glory. Job 22:21-28 says:

‘Surrender to God All-Powerful! You will find peace and prosperity. Listen to his teachings and take them to heart. If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you. So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand. Let God All-Powerful be your silver and gold, and you will find happiness by worshipping him. God will answer your prayers, and you will keep the promises you made to him. He will do whatever you ask, and life will be bright.’

I have been blind to God’s goodness, but through this hard time God has been teaching me and revealing to me that true happiness can only come from Him.

I have the All-Powerful God by my side

This doesn’t mean that He doesn’t bless us with things or with relationships, but that when he does, it will be in His perfect timing and for His glory. Right now, God is all I need… and I will live my life to honour Him.

I have the one person in my life who will never use me, will never make me feel inadequate, and who will never leave me. I have the All-Powerful God by my side – what else could I possibly need?

Imagine If…

Imagine if we realise dating is meant to be a blessing, it is meant to be fun, but it can really hurt people. We need to really think about how we act and how we can learn to do it better. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before).

No matter what our relationship status, putting God at the centre of our lives, is the only constant we can truly rely on.

What do you think is the main lesson here? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 26/7/2017

Should Men Or Women Make The First Move? (And Does It Matter?)

Church Dating Culture, Finding A Date

The way people talk about and answer this question still really surprises me. People I thought would answer one-way answer the opposite, some people get really passionate about it too. But I think people’s views are often linked to other assumptions, which can hinder and end a romantic relationship before it begins. 

In my experience, there are lots of topics which cause controversy when it comes to Christian dating. Like dating a non-Christian (Read Why Does Everyone Tell Me Not To Date A Non-Christian?) or is there such thing as ‘The One’. (Read Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’).

But surprisingly, in my experience, one that really seems to polarise people is when someone asks ‘Should men always make the first move?’

I have seen people in relationships and people who are single, male and female, argue both sides. Some say that it really doesn’t matter, or assuming men have to do it is archaic. While others say men need to be intentional and commit to the relationship, and getting them to ask is part of that. Some people want men to be ‘head of the relationship’, therefore they should make the first move.

It’s often linked to other assumptions, rather than being a stand-alone view.

Other Assumptions 

Personally, I think reasons for people’s strong opinion on this matter is because it’s often linked to other assumptions, rather than being a stand-alone view.

On the one hand, for example, if you see the relationship being more about equals and sharing decisions, or if you’re just laid back about these things, or if you’re a bit shy (particularly if you are male), you probably don’t really mind who asks.

On the other hand, for example, if you have a more traditional view of male and female roles, or are female and have been hurt in the past by someone who you chased but then they were a bit flaky, or if as a man you like to take initiative, then you probably think men should ask.

Do They Help Here? 

Essentially, I think it’s other assumptions and experiences that drive people’s opinions on this issue. Which is fine and understandable, but I believe it’s more important to let those assumptions drive the other issues rather than this one.

It’s more important to focus on forming a relationship built on mutual respect and selflessness

In other words, I think it’s more important to think about what type of person you want to build a relationship with, the relational dynamics you want to help guide you, and your shared values, rather than getting worried about who should ask who.

(The following extract is taken from page 187-188 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

So Should Men Always Make The First Move? 

Some Christians recommend that when it comes to asking someone out, men should initiate and women should respond. But we don’t think it’s worth worrying about who makes the first move.

It’s more important to focus on forming a relationship built on mutual respect and selflessness. The less we get wound up about which gender does the asking, the better.

Some guys like to be the one who asks, and some girls like to be the one who is asked. There’s nothing wrong with this. We think it is up to you to decide what you would prefer and to act on it.

What Now?

[As Rachel says] Ladies, if we would prefer a man to approach us, we need to be careful that we don’t establish such a strong sisterhood around us at social events that no guy will ever have the courage to approach us, let alone ask us out.

And men, if we would prefer to be the one doing the asking, ask! We can’t be flirting and sending out ‘I-like-you’ vibes, if we are not prepared to follow them through.

Asking someone out can feel daunting, whether you’re a guy or a girl, but remember that it isn’t the same as asking someone to marry you. (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

‘Would you ever like to grab a coffee or go for a walk, just you and me?’

Skye did it brilliantly; she waited until coffee after the evening service before she approached Jake to ask him out. ‘Would you ever like to grab a coffee or go for a walk, just you and me?’ she asked. He was bowled over and said yes. She didn’t make it into a big deal or get lots of people involved. She just thought that they were suited and then dropped it into a casual conversation.

It’s really important that we have a culture in our churches and social groups where people can feel free to ask someone out without unnecessary barriers in place or everyone else marrying them off after the first date!

But whoever asks who out, the Bible challenges us to treat each other with selfless love, always being more concerned about their well-being than our own. (Read Today’s Big Question: Is Flirting Really Harmless Fun?)

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

Imagine If…

Some men and women think men should always ask. Some men and women think it doesn’t matter. In my experience, this (surprisingly heated) debate will not be over soon. But I think whatever rule we have, it probably needs to be held onto loosely, as it may hinder starting a great relationship.

So imagine if we focused on how to build a mutually enjoyable relationship, and not just on how to start one in a specific way. If we really asked the important questions and thought about our assumptions, so we can clearly know why we want to invest in a relationship, as well as who with.

Should we have an absolute rule for who can make the first move? Comments welcome below. 

Originally posted 24/7/2017

What On Earth Is Dating Anyway?

Church Dating Culture

This post helps us begin to think about what dating is. It’s not something that always needs to lead to marriage, or marriage at any cost. Rather it’s something that can honour God, help us become more Christ-like, and help a couple discern if marriage is a good idea for them. 

(The following extract is taken from page 29-32 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

So let’s start by unpacking what we think dating is.

First up, dating is not the most important thing. You might not feel ready or even interested in dating yet. You’re not alone!

I genuinely don’t want to settle down yet. I know that as a nice Christian girl I’m not supposed to say that, but I like being single.

For anyone who is interested in dating, it’s about spending time with someone you’re attracted to and you enjoy being with. For some people, it’s also about finding that connection.

I’m an intuitive person; I trust my gut 90% of the time! So nothing gets me more excited than a spark; that instant and mutual attraction to someone is amazing. Whilst I totally believe it can develop over time, I don’t think anyone can ignore that chemical reaction

One Eye On Marriage

The goal of godly dating is Christian maturity and good marriage, not marriage from the start or marriage at any cost

We do believe that dating is about marriage potential to some degree. Whether you’re meeting over a milkshake, cuddling through a movie or climbing Kilimanjaro together, dating has a long-term focus: to see whether this relationship has what it takes to go the distance.

The moment you are sure that it doesn’t, it’s probably time to stop being romantically involved. This is not the same as only dating someone you are convinced you can marry from the moment you clap eyes on them! The goal of godly dating is Christian maturity and good marriage, not marriage from the start or marriage at any cost.

But there’s something else about dating that we should mention. It’s not biblical.

No Chapters On Dating

For this reason, some Christians don’t date at all, or will only consider marrying close friends, skipping the whole dating stage. Mark believes that, on the whole, dating people you don’t know is ‘overrated and filled with too many pitfalls. You’re better off going out with your mates.’

But before you think we’ve conned you into reading about dating when we’re going to say God hates it, we’re not.

Dating isn’t biblical in the same way that preaching with a microphone, texting, or driving a car aren’t biblical: it didn’t exist before the twentieth century. Dating is a contemporary practice that the church in the West has bought into. So if it’s not in the Bible, should it be in our lives?

Weighing Up Our Options 

There have been voices in recent years calling for Christians to avoid any relationship that isn’t destined to end in marriage. On the surface this sounds wise. As people who believe in the sacred covenant of marriage, we should avoid relationships that demand little in the way of commitment.

But we think that tying yourself to a no-dating rule will pose more problems than it solves. Taken to an extreme, there are Christians who have felt an obligation to marry the first person they liked and were ‘kind of dating’, even if they said they weren’t.

In rejecting dating but still wanting to find someone to marry, we can find ourselves in a kind of no man’s land before marriage, with no clear boundaries for what we can or can’t expect from the other person in this new relationship.

The Bible doesn’t talk about the internet or globalisation, and while these things carry the potential for incredible evil, Christians are constantly trying to transform them and use them for God’s glory.

What interests God is not just dating, but who we are when we date, and who we become

Using the Bible

So why can’t we transform our Western dating culture, using the biblical principles for relationships and for marriage, the ultimate romantic relationship?

What interests God is not just dating, but who we are when we date, and who we become.

What kind of person are you working on becoming, whether you’re in a relationship or not?

If you’re a man, how do you grow in the characteristics needed to be a godly boyfriend, confident in himself, worthy of respect, a selfless protector, and generous encourager? If you’re a woman, how do you grow in the characteristics needed to be a godly girlfriend, sure of herself and her calling, truly selfless and trustworthy?

If society says that dating is all about what you can get, we say that it is all about what you can give

How do we accept, and even appreciate, being single (for a short time or perhaps long-term) without growing hard-hearted? (Read What The Bible Actually Says About Singleness)

This is where our ideas about dating fly in the face of the culture around us. If society says that dating is all about what you can get, we say that it is all about what you can give.

When we just look to our own interests, we lose sight of who we’re trying to become. If we’re trying to become more like Jesus, then we need to date in a way that demonstrates his radical, revolutionary commitment to putting others before himself. (Read One Great Dating Tip From Ruth and Boaz. Really?)

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if we saw dating as something that can be, and is, used by God. Something that in and of itself can teach us to be more Christ-like, can be enjoyed, and help us discern if we want to commit to the person we are dating and build a marriage together.

Dating is more than just fun, or just a step to marriage, it is something that can be used by God and bless us, even though there is no guarantee it will be simple or easy (Read Lots Of Dates Vs. Selective Dates: Which Is Really Better?).

How would you define dating? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 19/7/2017

‘Intimacy Without Vulnerability’, Why It Won’t Work

Early Dating, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Many of us want our current/future relationship to be built on trust, closeness, and intimacy. But many of us have been hurt, and we don’t want to be hurt again. The problem is, we can’t foster an amazing relationship with true intimacy without being vulnerable. We need to realise it will always be risky, but defining the boundaries can help. 

I was chatting and catching up with a good friend recently. She has been married for a few months now, so I was asking how married life was going.

She was raving about it, and glad they’d been able to settle in quickly. Not that it had all be easy, but it was going well. And she started to talk about how great it was because she really felt like she could trust him, and the intimacy and closeness had continued to grow.

Being Vulnerable

She found it hard to trust because of past relationships

She had been let down in past relationships and so when they started dating she had been a bit reserved and worried. But over time she was able to be more and more vulnerable, and he was doing the same and not letting her down.

There was real intimacy, which isn’t to do with sex, but closeness, and having someone you can trust and rely on.

She found it hard to trust because of past relationships and thought a relationship with closeness and intimacy might never happen. She said it was hard but glad it had worked out for them.

It’s A Risk 

The questions this chat raises for us are ones I come across a lot. There are many people who ask me questions about relationships, what to do, or avoid doing, especially if they have been hurt in the past. The thing is, falling in love, starting a romantic relationship, is risky. We could, unfortunately, get hurt.

I wish it was risk-free. But if we want a relationship that’s stable, that’s built on trust, where we can be honest and real, we need to be vulnerable. We need to talk about the things that worry us, that have hurt us, and be able to trust the other person with the good and bad bits.

We sometimes think we should hold back and put up walls

Obviously, this takes time. I’m not saying we should reveal all on the first date. But because of past hurts, or because society tells us to be self-sufficient, or whatever, we sometimes think we should hold back and put up walls.

However, without vulnerability, closeness and intimacy can’t happen.

Designed For Intimacy

I’m reminded of the Adam and Eve story and how God’s good design is for people to be close and free from shame or separation.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame
Genesis 2:25

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…
Genesis 3:8

We’re designed to be close and have intimacy with God and others, (in romantic relationships and non-romantic one, this isn’t just for married people,) with no shame or fear. We’re designed to be close, but that means being vulnerable. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality.)

We’re designed to be close and have intimacy with God and others

Defining Boundaries  

We may need to take a risk in romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean we need to be unwise.

You need to start/keep talking about what faithfulness means to you both. Where your boundaries are and what you expect. Is cheating just physical stuff? Is telling a close friend details you’re not sharing with each other a problem? What other situation could hurt you?

You may not want to go into too much detail as to why if it’s a new relationship and the reason is due to a past hurt, but you need to make it clear where the lines are. Outline what you’re expecting from each other. (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before)

Communicating About The Boundaries

You also need to decide how you communicate these boundaries. Sounds simple right, you just talk?! Well actually, that isn’t always the case. For some people, just sitting down and talking is hard. Sometimes doing something can help. Or having little conversations rather than one big one.

Sometimes avoiding a deep conversation at a certain time, when you’re tired for example, is better.

People are different, all couples are different. But having a time and clear way to talk about this means you can navigate the annoyance and rough patches in a healthy way and make sure you’re still on the same page. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)

Imagine If…

Being vulnerable is risky, but we can be wise about it

Relationships are amazing, and are meant to be a blessing, but they can also hurt us. If we want to foster intimacy, we need to learn to be vulnerable. Intimacy and closeness can’t be created unless we are being real and honest, and we need to create a way to do that. Create boundaries together so that you know you’re putting your trust in someone who is on the same page.

Imagine if in our relationships, or in our future relationships, we were clear about our boundaries, expectations and how to talk about them. Being vulnerable is risky, but we can be wise about it.

Do you think someone could be intimate without being vulnerable? Comments welcomed below.

Originally posted 17/7/2017