Monthly Archives

April 2019

‘No Sex Before Marriage’. Why This Can’t Be A Belief! Pt.1


Many people in church say ‘I don’t believe in sex before marriage’. But that’s a mistake because this is a practice. Practising no sex before marriage is an outworking of a deeper belief, it can’t be a belief in itself. So what do you believe? Why do you do what you do? Why do Christians often say wait until marriage? Part 1 of this blog begins to explore these questions. 

(The following extract is taken from page 161-163 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

The Bible’s teaching about sex isn’t summed up in the phrase: ‘Thou shalt not have any sexy-time before marriage.’ Thinking that just getting the right ‘dos and don’ts’ list will help us see sex God’s way is missing the point by a mile. 

It makes out that God is more concerned with our genitalia than with our motives and desires.

Olly And Jenna

Olly and Jenna felt trapped in this kind of thinking. They had been secretly dating for a few months and no-one knew they were struggling. Their sexual attraction to each other was so powerful that they felt totally unable to take control of what was happening. 

They left the relationship feeling cut up spiritually and emotionally

Their relationship broke down in a haze of confusion and guilt, leaving them both convinced that they were failures in God’s eyes. 

Had they talked with people they trusted about their struggles and conducted their relationship more publicly, they would have found it easier to think clearly about setting boundaries and being accountable. Instead, they left the relationship feeling cut up spiritually and emotionally, with warped ideas about God and sex.

Where’s The Line? 

We would all agree that sexual abuse, coercion, prostitution, sexual manipulation, rape, using sex to get back at someone else, and pornography are practices that go against everything God stands for. 

But using sex appeal to get what you want, persuading someone to surrender their well-thought through boundaries so that you can get more of what you want, or assuming you have the right to sex in a relationship, are also damaging in God’s eyes. 

Selfish attitudes and actions that go undetected

For many of us, our dis-ease with our morals around sex won’t express itself in deliberately hurting someone else. But it might show itself in more complex selfish attitudes and actions that go undetected, or are easier to justify.

Higher Standards 

Like the Christian who persuades their boy/girlfriend to sleep with them to help them stop masturbating over internet porn: they are demonstrating a warped view of his sexuality that is just about what they want, and stands against everything God stands for.

Or the dating couple involved in Christian youth work who regularly sleep together, but keep it a secret from their leaders, who they know will challenge them. They refuse to entertain the thought that this will impact on the young people who look to them as role models: they are demonstrating a warped view of their sexuality that is just about what they want, and stands against everything God stands for.

Or the Christian who, longing to be sexually pure, tells their boy/girlfriend that, because they are too much of a temptation, God has told them to end their relationship in order to seek holiness – and then does the same to the next partner that comes along . . .

Or the person who chooses to download albums from artists that glorify violence through music videos depicting virile men abusing their authority over scantily clad women . . .
(Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)


It’s a sobering thought to realise that we may be inadvertently causing damage to people in whom God delights. Wouldn’t he have something to say about what we’re getting up to? Shouldn’t we have something to say about what we’re getting up to?

So here’s a question for you: what do you believe about sex? We ask Christians this question all the time, and their answer is always the same: don’t have sex before marriage. Is this what your answer would be too?

You would be wrong!

Not having sex before marriage isn’t a belief; it’s a practice

Well, not wrong in saying that you want to save sex for marriage, but you’re wrong in thinking that it’s a belief. Not having sex before marriage isn’t a belief; it’s a practice. 

What we do comes out of what we believe. If the practice of Christians is to save sex for marriage, then we need to ask ourselves why. So what do we believe about sex that means we protect it by saving it for marriage?

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

Imagine If…

Part 2 of this post continues to look at why many Christians choose to practice no sex before marriage. 

For now, imagine if we took a step back, and thought through what we believed about God, sex, and our boundaries, and why we have those beliefs. (Read How Important Is Physical Attraction?)

Do you think what we hear in society, and/or church, always aligns with God’s view of sex? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 29/4/2019

Jesus And The Criminal: What This Teaches Us About Relationships

What The Bible Says

The Easter story, the death and resurrection of Jesus, reveals many important and wonderful things about God and our relationship with him. One thing I was struck by this Easter period was Jesus’ willingness to suffer and his willingness to step into our mess, which stresses the importance of his desire for an authentic relationship with us.

Easter really is a time which is exciting as well as saddening, a celebration as well as sobering. Remembering the bittersweetness of Jesus’ suffering and coming back to life brings with it a full rollercoaster of emotions. 

As I was thinking about some of the ways that this can and should affect our relationships, I was drawn to the account in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus and the two criminals.

The Penitent Criminal 

In the Gospel of Luke, he records an interaction which happens as Jesus is dying on the cross. On either side of him, there were two criminals, and they were all dying and suffering the fate of crucifixion. Luke 23:39-43 says: 

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There are so many things going on here that it would be foolish to think one short blog could do it justice, but I want to pick up on one thing that stood out to me. Namely: Jesus is making the promise as someone who’s suffering the same fate. Jesus is dying alongside the criminal. 

Innocence Forfeited

What’s amazing about this passage is that this criminal is saying he is guilty. He realises he’s only got himself to blame for being in the position he’s in and he’s saying that Jesus is innocent; Jesus by contrast ‘has done nothing wrong’. 

This passage sums up and makes tangible one of the key points of Easter: That the innocent Jesus dies for humanity who have gone astray. But that is not all this verse teaches us.

This makes the whole thing very relational

Remarkably, the innocent saviour chose to suffer alongside those who have messed up. He gave up his divine comfort and his right not to suffer and instead dies alongside the criminal to overcome the problems the criminal and the rest of humanity face. 

This makes the whole thing very relational, which is often overlooked. 

Relational vs An Exchange

The cross is nearly always understood and preached about in terms of a legal ‘exchange’. Jesus exchanges his innocence for our guilt to overcome the problem of sin and pay our debt. While this is true and I don’t want to diminish that, this isn’t the only thing going on. 

Relationally, Jesus is standing alongside us in the mess. He is connecting to us on our level. He is not outside of our suffering, or standing above our mess yelling helpful advice, he’s standing with us as a friend.

He is experiencing the full force of the problems we experience, he’s in the suffering, speaking to us as someone who can understand. He lived a human life and suffered a human death. 

‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize 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 4:14-16

This isn’t just about dealing with a problem but is also about creating an authentic relationship by standing with us on our level, even though he didn’t need to.

This should impact the way we relate to God and others

He didn’t deserve to be killed alongside the criminal, but by doing so it demonstrates that he came to earth to build an authentic relationship with humanity, experiencing the mess we caused, taking on our problems and guiding us through as someone who is alongside us. (Read ‘Family’ Is Redefined In Light Of The Cross)

Imagine If…

This Easter Monday and beyond, I hope you are able to (re)discover the wonder of the cross. I hope it reminds us that the joys and sadness of life are seen and transformed by Jesus in the moment of his death and resurrection. 

I hope we (re)discover that our relationship with him is one that is built on a friendship, with someone who chose to stand with us and change our lives. This should impact the way we relate to God and others.

[Jesus said] Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Imagine if we realised this talk with the criminal wasn’t just representing the transaction, but a profoundly relational moment. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality)

What stood out to you this Easter? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 22/4/2019


How To Navigate The Confusing Messages From Our Dating Culture. Pt 2.

Early Dating, Finding A Date

Part 2 of this blog continues to look at some of the conflicting messages the dating culture throws at us and lets us think about how we could respond to this confusing information. This will enable us to date in a way that’s more enjoyable and more fulfilling.

Part 1 of this post said that we should practice kindness and commit to the person in front of us, to avoid being overwhelmed by the confusing messages surround dating. Part 2 continues to look at the next 3 responses which can help us.

#3 Inner Value Vs It’s A Stepping Stone

Another reason why the dating culture is a bit strange is that it’s often presented as ‘just’ a step to something else. It’s part of the process which leads to marriage/a long-term committed relationship. This means it can be treated as something to be rushed or endured.

However, dating in and of itself can have meaning. I think it can bring enjoyment, fulfilment, and mutual flourishing. It has value and can add value.

That’s hard though, isn’t it? We’re being told to think about the future and where the relationship is heading, which is a good thing. Meaning in some ways, it is a stepping stone. Yet at the same time, we don’t want that future potential to dominate and put too much pressure on our present dates.

I think we need to respond by being intentional

It’s confusing, but I think a helpful response would be to practice ‘being intentional’.

We need to be intentional in our dating in the present. We need to think about how we’re approaching it in a mutually fulfilling way right now (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last) Being intentional will also allow us to think long-term too because it means we will need to also think about where we’re heading.

The response here helps us to seek some kind of balance. Thinking about how the relationship is evolving now and putting effort into the present, as well as thinking about where it’s heading, are both important. It reminds us not to rush the process or drift along too much.

#4 Dating Is Fun Vs Dating Is Serious

I’m sure many of us can relate to the idea that dating should be fun, but we also hear it’s serious too. It’s serious because it involves people who can get hurt.

So on the other hand, dating is meant to be about finding a connection, enjoying getting to know someone, and falling in love. I mean, we don’t want to end up with someone who we can’t have fun with.

However, we can’t have fun at other people’s expense, and this conflict can bring up a lot of confusion. We need to relax, but make sure we are taking it seriously and not hurting other people. It can be hard to get the balance right when we date.

In life, there are times when we need to be serious, and times when we need to relax. I think it’s worth asking ourselves which tendency we’re naturally drawn to?

If we recognise we are quite serious when it comes to dating, it’s worth learning to enjoy it a bit more. If we focus on the fun elements, it’s probably worth thinking about how to approach it more seriously so we don’t end up drifting too much.

In other words, let’s try to remember to do the aspect which doesn’t come naturally to us. That way we can respond better and foster healthily balanced approaches.

#5 What You Want Vs Cultural Norms

This confusing situation isn’t unique to dating. We’re told to do what we want and what makes us happy. Yet, there are norms that are established by the culture around us that are bigger than us.

For example, we may not want to use dating apps and online dating, but they’re so ingrained in the dating culture now and used by so many people, that we’re affected by them even if we don’t want to be. (Read )

It’s too easy to get swept up in what’s going on

The truth is the dating culture includes countless people. Some of them follow the norms that value people and take dating seriously, others follow norms that do not. While many are affected by both to some extent. This means we can end up with someone who is thinking very differently to us, so we can’t just do what we want, as it may conflict with what they want.

It’s worth pausing, and asking what you’re trying to achieve? What your expectations are and how you want to act?

We need to bring discipleship into dating and commit to doing it in a healthy way and pursuing it in a way that makes us feel comfortable and honours those around us. And not be too drawn to other people’s unhealthy expectations, or our own unrealistic expectations, too much. (Read Amazing, Enjoyable, But Not Easy. The Secret Behind Great Relationships)

Imagine If…

Dating is confusing and throws up loads of messages that don’t quite fit together. By learning to respond well, I think we can raise the enjoyment and reduce this confusion.

Imagine if we practice being intentional, remember dating should be fun but taken seriously, and commit to dating differently.

What other dating culture contradictions can you think of? Comment welcomed below.

Originally posted 15/4/2019

How To Navigate The Confusing Messages From Our Dating Culture. Pt 1

Early Dating, Finding A Date

Our dating culture bombards us with conflicting messages: ‘It’s about finding someone to commit to, but date several people at once’. Or ‘Dating shouldn’t be rushed, but it’s a step to something else’. Part 1 of this blog begins to unpack how we can stop our heads from spinning, and learn to date in a truly fulfilling way, by reducing this confusion. 

When I talk to people about dating, I’m struck by the wide-ranging assumptions and ideas that are out there. 

Society’s shift in understanding marriage/romantic relationships has totally changed in recent decades and had a big effect. Add to this technology and dating apps, which has totally altered the way people interact now. Some people use them to truly find someone, while others use them for less noble means.

All of this results in the fact that we’re carving out this thing called dating as we go along, with so much changing, conflicting norms, and a higher level of confusion (Read Why Our Distant Relatives Reduced Romance, In Their Non-Dating Cultures.)

Reduce The Confusion 

Deciding if the person in front of you is worth committing to for life, and vice versa, is hard enough. It’s made harder when the rules for dating seem to be shifting constantly, and when people’s expectations and assumptions vary too. 

This all leads to more and more confusion. 

So it’s worth thinking about five of these contradicting messages we hear, as well as coming up with responses that can reduce the confusion while raising the clarity and the enjoyment that good dating can offer us.  

#1 A Big Deal vs Not A Big Deal

We’re told that dating needs to be a big deal. It’s something we need to invest in, give a lot of time, thinking and resource to in order to do it well. Yet, we’re also told it’s not a big deal and just a bit of fun, so we don’t end up adding too much pressure. 

Respond by remembering to practice kindness

This conflicting message can cause a lot of damage. There are people dating and investing and hoping for a lot, and others are being (too) laid back. These two extreme approaches mean people are getting hurt.

This is confusing for us and those involved.

I would say we need to respond by remembering to practice kindness. It’s something that is forgotten too quickly in a dating culture which makes it all about ‘me’ and ‘my needs’. 

Some people are investing a lot, others are trying to not put too much pressure on themselves. Both approaches are valid to an extent, but we’re dating real people with real emotions. So we need to remember that no matter how we’re told to approach dating, it needs to be built on kindness, and treating people well.

This way, we will remember that being ‘too’ laid back cannot mean treating people badly because we just want to have fun, or not being honest and communicating with them about how we feel. If we’re investing a lot, it reminds us to be kind to ourselves and remember that people are in front of us and not ‘projects’. Our different perspectives need to be discussed and understood (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks)    

#2 Date Loads of People Vs Commit To One

Dating is a strange concept if you think about it. All the research shows that most people who are dating, say again and again, that ultimately they want to find one person to commit to for life. Yet we’re told to be non-committal and date as many people as possible. 

It’s strange because we’re aiming to find a faithful relationship, but told to practice non-faithful habits. 

I’ve written before about this (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?). Now, while I acknowledge dating isn’t marriage, the commitment level will naturally never be as high, and it is valid to date more than one person in our search for love, having no commitment means we’re practising something which won’t give us the result we want. 

I always say, the principle of ‘committing to the person in front of you’ is key. 

At least you’ve given it the best possible foundation

This doesn’t mean the first/next person you date is the one you need to marry at any cost! But what I’m saying is if you’ve arranged to meet someone, then focus on them. Don’t arrange several overlapping dates, or focus on the next potential ‘swipe’ or future date. Focus on the person that’s in front of you.  

By doing this, we can practice faithfulness from the start no matter what happens.

It might not work out with that person, but at least you’ve given it your full effort and the best possible foundation and chance of working. It also establishes habits that will give your future potential relationships the best chance to evolve into a faithful committed relationship.  

Imagine If…

Part 2 of this blog looks at the next 3 responses that can help us navigate the often confusing world of dating.

For now, imagine if we chose to practice kindness so that people feel valued no matter how we approach dating, and commit to the person in front of us so that we get into the habit of practising faithfulness. (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last)

What other dating culture contradictions can you think of? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 8/4/2019


How To Make Awkward Relationship Conversations Less Awkward: 4 Steps

Relationship Difficulties

After a few months and/or years of dating someone, there will be a point where it feels hard or different from what you expected. So how do you sit down with each other and have the awkward conversation to make sure you’re still on the same page? That you’re still committed to the relationship? These 4 steps should help make it feel less overwhelming and awkward. 

There’s more attention given to the ‘DTR chat’ nowadays. And rightly so. The Determine/Define The Relationship talk is important. It lets you know when you move from getting to know someone, to the ‘official’ relationship stage. (Read I Wasn’t Sure When We Were An ‘Official Couple’)  

A friend once told me he brought up the subject by saying to the person he was seeing ‘So can we update the relationship status on social media then?’. She said yes, so he must have done something right. 

But the conversation I’m referring to in this blog is different. It occurs way after the DTR chat, when you have been going out for months or years, and the ‘initial hype’ has worn off a bit, and you are thinking more long-term and with bigger commitments in mind. 

How do you know if you are still on the same page? 


This talk can seem awkward. Mainly because by this point you have invested a lot, you care deeply for the other person, and the outcome will have a huge impact either way. 

This chat is about deciding if you both do indeed want to commit

However, there is a point where things may not have gone exactly as you hoped or expected. There may be a relationship dynamic you want to address. Or you may just feel like the connection has weakened recently. 

This chat is about deciding if you both do indeed want to commit to staying together. If it’s worth that bigger commitment and keep dating long-term. So where do you start? 

4 Tips

While this can seem daunting, you may be a bit apprehensive or feel awkward, especially if you feel like they seem less invested, it still needs to be done. No matter what the outcome, communication is key.

I always say these 4 tips can help us have this discussion:

#1 Find The Right Space
#2 Expectation Management
#3 Friendship Investment
#4 Mutual Effort 

#1 Find The Right Space

You will be amazed at how many couples try to have a deep and meaningful conversation in the worst space, and at the wrong time. 

They may do it in a coffee shop, which is constantly busy and distracting with people sitting nearby. Or over the phone or video call, which can cut out and is never as good as sitting in front of each other. Or by spontaneously bringing up the conversation, which can feel like an ambush for the other person.  

Find the right physical space, and the right space in your day. 

So don’t do it when one or both of you is going to be tired or stressed. Pick a time that works for both of you. Go somewhere which isn’t filled with distractions and chat face to face. 

#2 Expectation Management  

Many people can have a ‘fairytale’ version of romance in their heads. But real relationships take hard work, are never perfect, and will never live up to the fairytale.

So it may be a case of discussing what your expectations were, and what they should be now. 

Obviously, there are things we can all expect in a relationship. Like not to being hit, being listened to, having mutual respect (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common). 

But there are other things that may need a rethink. Is this the person we wanted? Are we the person they wanted? Are our lives heading in the same direction? 

The answer is probably not a pure yes or a pure no. But it will help you get back on the same page again, and deciding together what your next step is. (Read Settling Vs Compromise: Spot the Signs in Your Relationship)  

#3 Friendship Investment

All good romantic relationships are based on a good friendship. 

You should enjoy each other’s company, you should share deeper values, you should be able to trust each other, have fun and relax. 

It may be worth discussing if this aspect had been unintentionally ignored. It’s worth making sure you are setting aside time to do fun things together. 

#4 Mutual Effort

Relationships will only thrive if there is mutual respect, mutual enjoyment, and selflessness on both sides. 

Make sure you are both clear about what should happen next

If only one of you wants to change the situation and make the relationship work going forwards, it won’t work. You need to discuss if you are both prepared to commit a bit more.  You need to make it clear that this will require effort, and not just lip service. 

Asking each other if you think it’s worth it, and how you feel about each other, is awkward but needed to make sure you are both clear about what should happen next. 

Imagine If…

Good communication doesn’t take the fun out of the relationship, it gets us on the same page and lets us navigate the lows and get to the highs quicker, and for longer. 

Instead of drifting, or hoping that things may change, we need to be intentional about where our relationship is heading. Imagine if we followed these tips: #1 Find The Right Space: #2 Expectation Management  #3 Friendship Investment #4 Mutual Effort. (Read The 2 Year Ultimatum: Good Advice Or Dating Disaster?) 

Do you think it is easy to drift in a relationship? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 1/4/2019