Monthly Archives

December 2018

Christmas Is About: The Family Jesus’ Birth Begins To Create

Friendships, What The Bible Says

Many people say that the real meaning of Christmas has been lost. Who can blame them? The commercialism and the money involved is too much now. Many people just want it to be about spending time with family, drawing people together and enjoying time with one another. But I actually think that creating a family is indeed one of the things Jesus started to do at his birth. 

I really love Christmas. 

Now I realise Christmas is a hard time for lots of people. There are many who can’t enjoy it because of past situations or current difficulties. I realise that it isn’t a happy time for everyone. 

But we do all hope that it would be good for everyone. It’s one of the times of year where everyone is wishing the best for everyone else. There is a hope that people will be able to come together and be blessed at Christmas.  

I think this was one of the original intentions behind the first Christmas when Jesus was born. Jesus’ intention to bring people together, and bring them into a relationship with himself and others, is not remembered enough.  

The Birth Of Christ 

I really think that in church, we can unintentionally under emphasise how important the meaning of Christmas is in regards to our salvation. Yes the cross is the moment in history that changed everything, but without Jesus’ authentic human birth, his sacrifice would not have been able to fully save us (Read The Cross Needs To Be Forgotten At Christmas)  

His birth also did something that was vital, and it revealed part of his mission on earth: It began to draw people from different parts of society to himself, and by consequence to each other as well, because we are all welcome and equal before him.  

Wise Men And The Shepards

When Jesus was born, the Bible says that angels told some shepherds, who were working at night, about the good news. They then went to find Jesus. 

‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them… “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”…So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed…’
Luke 2:8-18

It also says that the Magi, also known as wise men, came to visit Jesus too.  

These visitors represent so much

‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem…and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him…’
Matthew 2:1-11

These visitors represent so much and remind us that Jesus was always in the business of drawing anyone and everyone to himself. This was the case from the very beginning of his life.

Rich & Poor 

Now shepherding did not pay well at all. Night shepherding was particularly low paying. Yet these people, who were not that well respected or well-off in their culture, were told about Jesus and invited into the story. 

This is also true at the other end of the spectrum because the wise men would have had lots of money, proven by the fact that they brought Jesus some very expensive gifts. They were also invited in.

Educated & Uneducated 

The job of a shepherd would also have signalled someone who was uneducated and not regarded as being very intelligent. Whereas the wise men were able to work out when and where Jesus was born. 

Again, they represent people from different parts of society, from very different backgrounds who probably didn’t mix often. Nevertheless, Jesus draws them all to himself, and all are welcomed. 

Foreign & Native 

The other main difference they represent is that the shepherds were local and natives, while the wise men had to travel from a foreign land to meet with Jesus. 

Two very different groups of people, but Jesus’ birth brings them together because he wants to draw all people to God and each other. He is creating a new family from the very start. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family)

Men & Women 

The final thing to emphasise is the fact that these characters were men. However, in the lead up to Jesus’ birth Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, hold very prominent roles and parts in the story (Luke 1-2)

In a culture where women were often marginalised, the Bible makes sure that they are given prominence and recognition. 

Everyone is welcomed in

Imagine If…

I was speaking to a priest the other day and she said she is always struck at how communion brings everyone to an equal level. Young and old, people from different ethnicities, with different education, means, and stories, come to Jesus and meet with him in the same way. 

Remembering Jesus death during communion, the act which brings together people from all different parts of society, is reflected at his birth as well. All come together in the story to relate to God because everyone is welcomed in. And by extension become part of the same family. 

Imagine if this Christmas, in our own families, communities and friendships, we made sure we tried to bring people into the family, remember that Jesus welcomes everyone, and we are all equally loved and accepted by him. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

This way, everyone can see some of the true meaning of Christmas.

What else is important about the true meaning of Christmas? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 24/12/2018

Why Is Faithfulness Seen As A Flaw?

Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Sometimes it can seem like the world is changing, breaking down, and re-defining what romantic relationships should look like. To the point where committing to one person is now ‘outdated’. I think it’s important to remember why faithfulness and commitment can give us what we really crave from relationships.

My friends all know about my work, and that I’m passionate about equipping people with the tools needed to build healthy, mutually enjoyable, God-centred relationships. So they often send me articles, stats or blogs on romance, relationships, etc.

A while ago I was sent a video where people on a famous chat show were talking about a recent scandal. In a nutshell, two celebrities who were married / in a relationship with other people were pictured kissing each other and cheating on their partners. 

Their partners were devastated and upset, and the whole situation was made worse by the fact that the betrayal was so public.   

This situation, unfortunately, is not uncommon. But the response from one person on the chat show really surprised me.   

The Debate 

This one person was basically saying that it’s fine. If people have desires then they should act on them. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts your partner, betrays their trust, just do it if it feels good. 

It’s really surprising that people can have such a disregard for others

The other people on the show clearly didn’t agree. They said it’s dishonest, and it’s cheating, and it clearly hurt their partners who didn’t know about it or expect it. Yet this one person was saying there’s no need for self-control or faithfulness. Just do what you want. 

It’s really surprising that people can have such a disregard for others. And argue that being selfish and inwardly focussed at other people’s expense is okay. Even if it’s someone who trusts you, is being faithful and respectful to you, you can just act on your desires.

In other words, go after the new person, the new thing, because that is what you want in that moment.  

Car Insurance Doesn’t Help 

When talking about this, it may be helpful to use car insurance as an analogy. 

I’m always shocked by how car insurance works, because, if you don’t do anything and stay with your current provider and auto-renew, then you end up paying an eye-watering amount. However, if you shop around, change providers, you can get a much better offer.

Faithfulness then becomes a hindrance.

This serves as an example of how we’re conditioned to believe there’s something better out there. So sticking with one provider, sticking with the same thing, becomes the worst option. There is a better option right around the corner.

Moreover, the responsibility doesn’t lie with me. Being faithful and investing my energy isn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. Rather, it’s the world’s responsibility to offer me a better deal. 

Now I’m not saying this analogy is the be all and end all of the matter, but it’s an example of how we are conditioned to shift responsibility, and value short-term fixes over long-term faithfulness. This occurs in many areas of our lives, including relationships.  (Read Can We Really Trust What Our Culture Says About Relationships?)

Pleasure Doesn’t Equal Happiness 

Giving in to our desires can give us short-term pleasure. There is no point denying it, people cheat for a reason. It’s because it satisfies a need and brings them instant pleasure. 

But pleasure doesn’t equal happiness. 

The truth is, we can’t have everything. We can’t satisfy all of our short-term needs, and all of our long-term needs. We can’t make it all about our instant gratification and desires that will hurt people and also build a loving stable relationship where we feel safe and secure. (Read Why You Should Remember That ‘Romance’ On Its Own is Rubbish)

Making The Choice 

On the chat show, this person was choosing to give into desires, and choosing to put themselves above others. 

However, building a mutually enjoyable satisfying relationship takes work. It means being faithful when other options are available. It means taking responsibility for making the relationship work. It means realising our actions affects others and choosing self-control over short-term needs. 

They will stick around and put you first, and vice versa

I guess it does ultimately come down to a choice. Having someone you fully trust, respect, and enjoy being with, comes from knowing you can be vulnerable with them, and know they will stick around and put you first, and vice versa. It’s built on faithfulness.  We choose this over other pleasures. 

Imagine If… 

We hear lots of things about how faithfulness, monogamy, and commitment is outdated. But most people will say that they want that kind of relationship. They want to know one person has their back and vice versa. This comes by choosing to commit.

Imagine if, in a culture that said faithfulness is flawed, we remembered that it is needed to truly create the intimacy, togetherness, and security we look for in a relationship. (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last)

Can you create a mutually fulfilling relationship without faithfulness?  Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 17/12/2018

How To Make Your New Dating Relationship Last

Early Dating, Finding A Date

We all want to enjoy dating, but we also want to do it in a way that gives our new relationship the best chance of success. We want to find someone we can build a long-term relationship with. A key element which is often underrated is commitment. But it’s important to think about what this looks like when a relationship is still in its unclear early stages. 

(The following extract is taken from page 114-116 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

All Relationships Need Commitment 

Spending quality time with people we love requires exclusivity. We can’t be texting people or taking calls if we want them to feel valued by us. 

The Bible constantly encourages us to live deep lives by being mindful of others. It celebrates committed and loyal friendships where the friend comes first, like David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel, and Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 says:

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!
(The Message)

Dating Needs Commitment

Before you start seeing someone, it’s possible to demonstrate a level of exclusivity that will build a good foundation. 

As you read this, some of you are probably thinking this is a bit extreme. It’s not like you’ve said vows in front of a vicar. The person you fancy may not even like you and may be pursuing someone else. But we’re not saying that if you ever fancy someone, you have to ask them out and gear yourselves up to get married!

It’s only when we know that the person we’re with is not seeing anyone else that we feel safe enough to open up

What we are encouraging you to do is to start as you mean to go on.

If you’re planning on building a boat, why begin by sticking up tent poles? If you’re planning on building a happy relationship, it’s got to be a committed one. It’s only when we know that the person we’re with is not seeing anyone else that we feel safe enough to open up and share our lives. 

We all want this, so let’s start as we mean to go on. After sharing a bit about yourselves, you may discover you‘re not right for each other, you may break up. But starting deeply will give you that insight early on.

Building Commitment 

So here are some of our top tips to help you start reaping the benefits of being exclusive:

  • Watch The Flirting
  • Be Ready To Put In The Work
  • Stop Shopping
  • End It Early
  • Don’t Give Up
  • Be Wise

Watch The Flirting
If you’re about to start a new relationship, or you fancy someone, don’t flirt with other people. Going after several people doesn’t signal a desire for commitment. 

Flirting and being friendly are not the same thing, but if you’re in doubt, ask a friend to give you some honest feedback about whether your friendliness might be leading someone on.

Be Ready To Put In The Work
So many new relationships start and then burn out just as quickly because one or both of you hadn’t considered whether you have time to invest in a relationship. 

Being committed means being prepared to give this new relationship space and room to grow. We can’t just fall into relationships without thinking. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common)

Stop Shopping
Don’t worry, we don’t mean literal shopping, but once you have found someone who you are keen to date, stop looking around for someone ‘better’!

End It Early
If you’ve been investing time in getting to know each other and then discover that you’re not right together, it’s better to end the relationship earlier. Dragging out a relationship that is slowly dying makes it too easy for you to start looking for someone else before you’re free to do so.

Don’t Give Up
Sometimes relationships end against our will. This can be really painful. Pursuing love comes with a fair number of disappointments. It doesn’t mean that, if it doesn’t work out with that person, you will never find love. (Read The Best Advice For Getting Over A Break-Up)

Be Wise
Remember, our commitment to being exclusive doesn’t mean we are to stay trapped in a relationship that’s abusive or damaging. 

Choosing God’s best for us sometimes means walking away from someone if we are not able to be in a healthy relationship with them.

Building Enjoyment Too

In case all of this commitment talk is putting you off asking someone out because it feels way too serious, relax! 

Forming a new relationship is supposed to be enjoyable, because it’s full of lots of exciting firsts: the first time you have a deep and meaningful chat, the first time you pray together, the first time you refer to each other as your boy/girlfriend, the first time you hold hands, the first blazing row, the first kiss. 

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

Imagine If…

It will help to reduce the confusion and concerns many new relationships struggle with

Imagine if we remembered that if we build commitment from the start, it will help to reduce the confusion and concerns many new relationships struggle with and enable us to build a relationship we can enjoy. 

Thinking about commitment is crucial if we want our relationship to thrive and survive, even in the early stages when we are figuring each other out. (Read Why You Should Remember That ‘Romance’ On Its Own is Rubbish)

What do you think of these pieces of advice? Why? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 10/12/2018


Why I Would Answer Relationship Questions Differently After 5 Years Of Marriage


People change over time, and so do our relationships. I was recently reflecting on how I would have answered questions in my first year of marriage, compared to what I would say now. It’s important to talk about this stuff because some changes can be hard, and if we don’t talk about it, no one will feel comfortable asking for help.  

My wife and I recently celebrated our 5th year wedding anniversary. We booked a boat ride lunch on the River Thames, which was great fun. It was a bit tamer than usual. We have done quad biking and zip wiring along one of the longest courses in Europe to celebrate in the past!

Now, for those of you who like to read my posts regularly, you know I don’t often go into great detail about myself, or how I dated or my own relationship. Mainly because I’m not perfect, and I don’t want people to think this ministry is about me saying: 

‘Just date the way I dated, and follow my behaviours in marriage and you’ll be fine’. 

There is no simple seven-step rule for dating or marriage. We all have different personalities, experiences, and hopes. I always think discussing principles, and enabling people to apply it to their unique situation is much more helpful. 

Real, tangible and helpful advice needs to go beyond ‘look at me’. 

Questions I Always Ask

However, as I was searching for inspiration on what to write, I was thinking about my anniversary. My mind wondered to the questions I always ask other married couples, which are:

  • ‘What is the best thing about marriage?’
  • ‘What is the hardest thing about marriage?’
  • ‘What is the best piece of advice?’ 

As I was thinking about this, I was wondering ‘What I would say now?’ I started to ask myself ‘Would it be the same answer I gave in my first year of marriage?’ 

So after some reflection, here is what I used to say when people asked me these questions, and what I would say now after 5 years.

‘What Is The Best Thing About Marriage?’

In my first year of marriage, I would have said that just being with each other all the time was the best bit. 

I would definitely say that over the 5 years our love and relationship has changed

We didn’t live together before we were married, so being able to just be together, sleep in the same bed, etc., was great. We could actually spend lots of time together and not worry about going back to separate houses. 

Now, if you asked me this same question, I would definitely say that over the 5 years our love and relationship has changed, but it’s got better. In a society that says the newer the better, and old relationships get boring and stale, I can honestly say that is not the case. 

We have been through so much, made sure we kept committing to making it work and had fun. Being with someone who values you, really knows you, still sticks around, puts you first, and builds a strong foundation of trust with you over time, is priceless. This longevity of shared experience is the best thing.

‘What Is The Hardest Thing About Marriage?’

In the first year, I would have said making the big sacrifices is the hardest. Like realising that my wife, who is the extrovert, wants lots of people round all day every day. Whereas the introvert in me wanted to see next to no one if possible.

Adapting and sacrificing my time and space to allow her to feel fulfilled, and us both making sacrifices in other areas too, like how we spend ‘our’ money, rather than what I do with ‘my’ money’, was hard. It took work and caused arguments. (Read Why The Royals Invested In Marriage Prep, And So Should You)

It’s the little sacrifices

Now if someone asked me, ironically, I would say it’s the little sacrifices. 

Thankfully, we have worked through the ‘big’ stuff and adapted well. But actually, doing the little things after 5 years, when it would be easier to just revert to type, is actually where the marriage is strengthened or weakened. 

Remembering to clean up instead of just leaving it for the other person, not making the joke you know they will not like, sacrificing your ‘precious’ evening to do something they enjoy but you don’t, is hard to do day after day. It’s the little things that make a difference now. 

‘What Is The Best Piece Of Advice?’

I think after I got married, I would have said communication is key. Not assuming that my wife would agree with me, not letting our little annoyances grow into big arguments, being prepared for the reality of life together to not be exactly as expected, can all be dealt with through good communication. 

People who are ‘well suited’ can have big problems when they stop communicating. And couples who are ‘unsuited’ can get through it if they keep talking and listening to each other. (Read Disagreement Doesn’t Equal Divorce’, Why Successful Couples Remember This)

Now after 5 years, I would still emphasise communication, it is still key. However, I would add in that trying to see the issue/problem from my wife’s perspective is so important. It’s something I have come to appreciate more and more. 

It is a trap I see many people slipping into after a few years together

This is obvious in some ways, but really putting yourself in their shoes. So not just thinking ‘this is how she reacted, but if it happened to me I would react differently’. But really appreciating that she reacts in a certain way, and why, and that I need to take that on board.  

Just thinking it would be easier if they had ‘changed’ by now instead of building more empathy, is a trap I see many people slipping into after a few years together.  

Imagine If… 

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not perfect at all. But doing the work I do, and having personally navigated marriage for a while, I really believe these bits of advice are something we can hopefully all get something from. 

Imagine if we remembered that marriage is meant to be fun, but it takes hard work too. Remembering this at every stage of marriage can help us navigate the lows and get back to the highs. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

Thinking of a couple you respect, how do you think they would answer these questions? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 3/12/2018