What The Bible Says

Why Esther’s Story Should Still Impact Our Relationships

Healthy Relationship Rhythms, What The Bible Says

The story of Esther in the Bible is about a woman who actively made God-honouring decisions. She didn’t let her new relationship status change her outward-looking perspective or what was important to her. It’s a story we can all learn from, and helps us to examine our own perspective, no matter what our relationship status is. 

I was speaking to a woman at a conference I recently delivered a talk at. She had read my book and heard about Naked Truth Relationships and was very complimentary, which was nice to hear. She said she found it all very helpful.

Powerful Story 

She then shared some of her story with me, about how she used to see marriage as an idol. That she thought finding romance would sort all of her problems. And how she had to change her perspective, with God’s help, and see relationships differently. 

It was a really hard-hitting story, and it was great to hear her talk about it so passionately. 

Finding Purpose

It really got me thinking, because if we fall into the trap of thinking getting to our wedding day is our purpose, then when and if we do, what are we left with? What happens next? 

Wanting to find someone is fine, but if our life is also about investing in friendships, pursuing God, serving the community, etc., then we will still have a purpose no matter what our relationship status is.  

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us

It reminded me of Esther’s story from the Bible, which I often use to illustrate to guys and girls, why it’s so important to keep focused on Jesus, even if we start dating or get married:

(The following extract is taken from page 143-144 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free here)

Just because we are in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean that the rest of our lives are closed to us. Remaining open to God and others is the best way to keep a relationship grounded, godly and growing. Whether or not we ever get married, God asks us to stay connected to the wider world, even when we fall in love.

Esther’s Legacy

Esther, the only book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name, tells the story of how one woman’s ability to look beyond her own interests saved a whole ethnic group. 

Esther was married to King Xerxes, the most powerful man of his time. When his first wife publicly humiliated him by defying his request to stand and be gawked at by him and a bunch of drunken men, he thought nothing of getting rid of her and replacing her with a Jewish girl, Hadassah (better known as Esther). 

He ruled his palace and nation with fear, insisting that men knew their place as masters and wives knew their place as servants:

‘The king… sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes” ’(Esther 1:21–22 The Message).

Esther Looked Outwards

Once Esther became aware that genocide was about to be inflicted on her people, she approached the king. By law, no-one could approach him without permission, and the punishment for breaking this law was death (Esther 4 – 5). Esther risked her life to save her people. 

Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable

She was a brave woman who managed not to lose sight of the need to act, even though her situation made it almost impossible. In a culture where women were seen as the property of their husbands, Esther’s choice to look outward, not inward, is all the more remarkable.

It might be a strange biblical story to choose to make a point about dating, but Esther’s story challenges us not to drop our convictions once we get into a relationship with someone. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

Am I Like Esther?

A good test is to ask yourself, ‘If I would have spoken out or acted on an issue before I started seeing this person, why am I not getting involved now?’ If the well-being of our friends or family is less important to us when we are seeing someone, what does that say about the kind of relationship this might lead to?

If, once we are in a relationship, our self-centredness kicks back in and we make everything about just the two of us, what does that say about our commitment to loving everyone as Christ loves us?’

It’s a huge challenge!

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

Imagine If… 

Imagine if we took a page out of Esther’s book, and reminded ourselves and each other about what’s important. Being in a relationship shouldn’t cause us to forget to look outwards and make godly choices. If we aren’t in a relationship, we can’t think a relationship will make everything good or easy. (Read Quick Guide: Discover What All Good Dating Relationship Have In Common).

Learning this perspective made her happier

Just like the woman said to me at the conference, learning this perspective made her happier, more content, and more prepared for her future relationship. Relationships are meant to be enjoyed, wanting one is fine, but we need to realise this can’t be the only thing we focus on. 

Esther reminds us to look outwards, and that our purpose isn’t just about our relationship status. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship)

How could your perspectives be more like Esther’s? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 25/6/2018

Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters

Church Dating Culture, What The Bible Says

‘Dating can be better than it is’. This idea and belief has driven me, my thinking and what I do for nearly 10 years. I still think that dating is meant to be enjoyable, but we also need to be intentional and think about our attitudes and approaches. Not to take the fun out of it, but so we can work through the hard times and make the good times more frequent and long-lasting. 

I’ve been researching, writing, teaching, and preaching about dating in one way or another since 2009. I delivered a talk recently to a group of young adults about relationships. Because I’ve done it so many times, and do it so often, I can forget that many people are hearing teaching on dating for the first time.

I was talking about how God wants to bless our relationships and be involved as we date. He wants it to be fun, respectful, fulfilling, and if it goes wrong he is still involved and interested. It was great to see them getting excited and knowing God is relevant and cares about dating.

God wants to transform the way we see and approach dating

Someone the other day asked me why I do this stuff. Why I deliver these talks and do the work I do. My mind was taken back to what I wrote in one of the introductory pages of the book I co-wrote, The Dating Dilemma.

Back then I thought, and still do think, that God wants to transform the way we see and approach dating. So we can do it in a way that can bring real and authentic connections with others. The book I wrote, and the work I do, is all about that.

I still think it’s amazing that I get to be part of what God is doing in this area.

(The following extract is taken from page 32-33 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Dating Differently 

Throughout history, Christians have always stood out in the way they treat other people: whether it was Jesus treating women with respect, or the early church treating slaves with dignity, God has always asked his people to live lives radically different from the society around them.

His desire for us to be selfless in our love and committed in our relationships is unchanging. No shift in culture will ever change it.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3–5)

It’s because we seek to be Christ-like in our relationships that the church teaches how to be a selfless parent, husband, wife, neighbour, son, daughter, boss, employee, friend. It’s time to add ‘Christ-like boy/girlfriend’ to that list too.


What concerns us with the ‘Christian dating’ we’re seeing is the lack of guidelines. Do you feel this too?

Well, we’re seeking to change that! At the heart of this book is our desire to see you approach dating from a God-perspective that will change everything: how you feel about dating, how you date and even where your dating leads.

This is a biblical approach to dating that we can celebrate

It’s a bold claim, but did you notice that we didn’t promise that you’ll get married or be dating within the month? No-one can promise anyone that their special someone is just around the corner. It’s an empty promise. It might already ring hollow for you.

So we’re not promising that.

What we are promising is to help you be credible, intentional and selfless in your attitude and actions. We believe this is a biblical approach to dating that we can celebrate and practice in the twenty-first century. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving.)

New Perspective

As we said, this is a book about dating, not marriage. We want to help you value dating in and of itself. It is linked to marriage, but we can glorify God and grow as people through our dating experiences. We’re going to explore together what dating God’s way could look like for you.

Often when we go through hard times in life (at home, work or university), we are quick to see how God can use it to bring us closer to him and to grow us as a person. So why would this not be the same with challenges we face in dating relationships?

Imagine if we all reminded each other that dating differently is better

Why would God not want to help us learn more about ourselves and him through these key relationships in our lives? Should we just say, ‘Next time will be different’, and never reflect on what went wrong? (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating.)

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

Imagine If…

I learnt a long time ago that God is doing a lot of amazing things to transform our society’s dating culture. I’m not the only one doing it, but I’m grateful to be part of it.

Imagine if we all reminded each other that dating differently is better and encouraged each other to date well, and this doesn’t take the fun out of it. Rather, it can create relationships we all crave. God’s love, grace, and purposes can have a real impact. I still believe that. (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating)

Have you ever thought about how God could transform our dating culture? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 23/4/2018

‘Family’ Is Redefined In Light Of The Cross

Friendships, What The Bible Says

As we celebrate and reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection, it’s so important to meditate on the profound impact it has on our relationships. It may sound obvious to some of us, but we can often take this for granted or overlook how it should affect our definition of ‘family’. I am always reminded of how important this is when I read John 19:25-27. 

Happy Easter everyone!

I hope the last few days have been both sobering and a celebration. I’m always mesmerised by Jesus and his cross, and taking the time to reflect on it this time of year is such an amazing privilege.

As I think about Easter, I’m always drawn to how deep and rich the story is. All of the things Jesus achieved through his sacrifice are exciting, humbling, and awe-inspiring. And I just wanted to share one point, that you may very well be aware of, but I always think is worth saying.

New Family 

Naturally, doing the work I do around building healthy relationships, I’m always drawn to the relational impact our faith has. And I was reminded of a passage in John 19, which records some of the words Jesus spoke when he was dying on the cross:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, [John] took her into his home.
John 19:25-27

This is one of those verses which I can easily read over and not pay too much attention to. But like always, when we dig a little bit deeper, it teaches us so much.

Jesus, while he is hanging on the cross, while he is dying, is redefining what it means to be family. He says ‘this is your mother’, and ‘this is your son’, to two people that are only linked because of him.

He acted on what Jesus said and what he did

What’s amazing, is that John didn’t just think Jesus’ words were a nice idea or a nice phrase. We often hear people in church refer to each other as brother and sister, and it can lose meaning. But this new command and new understanding from Jesus caused John to actually bring Mary into his home and treat her like family. He acted on what Jesus said and what he did.

Mary had Blood Relatives

It’s quite clear from other passages in the Bible that Jesus had younger siblings. There was family that Mary could have stayed with and been looked after by. Which, especially in a culture which had a big emphasis on family and looking after your elders, they would have undoubtedly been prepared to do.

Yet Jesus seems to be suggesting that it’s no longer about blood relations anymore. It’s about knowing him, believing in what he did in that moment. He is the link. (Read Saved By Faith Vs Saved By Belief: The Crucial Difference). The cross means we love and look after other believers and treat them like family.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ Matthew 12:46-50.

New Perspective

Much more could be said, and much more could be added to this point, but for me, this verse stresses the importance of creating a new family based around faith in Jesus. Yes salvation is individual and Jesus meets each person individually, but it doesn’t end there.

We are saved into a family

We are saved into a family, a family that isn’t defined by status, or blood ties, or ability, but on what Jesus did at Easter. This should cause us to love and treat fellow believers as brothers and sisters.

We know loving people can be hard work. And we may have come from families where it wasn’t modelled that well or at all. Thankfully, we have a God who is ready to help us, is patient, and ready to forgive when we make mistakes (Read The Four Words Spoken By Jesus You Need To Hear)

Imagine If…

This idea of family may have been something you’ve heard before, or it may be a new idea for you. But in a world that tells us to look after number one, and to only help people who act and think like we do, Jesus asks for us to see our fellow Christians as family, and to act like they are in very practical ways.

So what’s the one thing you could go out of your way to do this week, to help someone who needs help from the family?

What do you make of this idea? Comments welcomed below 

Originally posted 2/4/2018

Why The Bible Preaches Faithfulness, Despite Stories of Polygamy

What The Bible Says

I want Naked Truth Relationships to be a place where people, with a faith or no faith, can get helpful and practical advice for relationships. But it’s unashamedly soaked in Christian teaching. The problem is, some Bible stories contain very bad examples of romantic relationships. We need to tackle these stories head-on,  but place them in the context of God’s wider message as well. 

I often talk about the need for faithfulness and commitment in romantic relationships, in both dating and marriage. In a culture that often downplays the value of commitment, I think it’s fundamental for any romantic relationship to thrive. (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)

However, when I draw on the wisdom found in the Bible, sometimes people point out the fact that some men had multiple wives. Some even think God commanded this practice! So how can we use the Bible and say it shows us God’s best?

There are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents

Wider Context 

Well, I think there are stories in the Bible which serve as deterrents rather than good examples. Just because it’s in there it doesn’t mean it’s what God wanted. And in the context of the wider message, we can often see what God really does want.

(The following extract is taken from page 80-82 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Whenever we talk about biblical faithfulness and two becoming one, there is a chance that some bright spark might respond with: ‘Hang on, there are plenty of men with multiple wives in the Old Testament. Were they being unfaithful?’ Well, let’s take a brief look at this.

Bad Examples

While there are stories where much loved biblical characters have more than one wife at a time (like Jacob in Genesis 29), we need to understand that this wasn’t part of God’s original design of ‘one-flesh’ union in marriage.

God never tells anyone to marry more than one wife. As you would expect, it always caused trouble and arguments: Sarah drove Hagar away (Genesis 16:4–6; 21:9–11), and sister-wives Rachel and Leah were always at each other’s throats (Genesis 29:31 – 30:24).

The Bible even says that King Solomon walked away from God because he had multiple wives:

God had clearly warned Israel, ‘You must not marry them . . . ’ Solomon fell in love with them anyway, refusing to give them up. He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines– a thousand women in all! And they did seduce him away from God. As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful – he didn’t stay true to his God as his father David had done. (1 Kings 11:1–5 The Message)

Reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.

The Old Testament doesn’t reject polygamy outright: instead, it always paints it in a negative light, reminding us that it opposes God’s intentions for marriage.

Natural Conclusion

These subtle teachings gathered momentum over time, which is why the New Testament authors came to the natural conclusion that church leaders should have one wife:

‘The overseer [leader] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife . . . ’ (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV).

But this wasn’t just for leaders; everyone had to pay attention:

‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy’ (Ephesians 5:25–26 NIV).

Love your wife, and not other women. Wives deserve love and respect. As obvious as this may sound to us today, it was radical teaching for the time.

God understands the damage that is brought about by unfaithfulness, which is why the Bible speaks so clearly about being committed to one person. (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:14).

Our Own Experience 

But people still hurt one another. Even Christians can hurt one another. Some of us might have already experienced the pain of someone cheating on us, or of being in a family devastated by unfaithfulness. God is a loving Father, who can and does restore even the most broken situations.

As our good Father, he longs for us to lay different foundations for our future relationships.

So how do we start building some fidelity muscles? Think about what attitudes may lie dormant in you that, if unchecked, could grow into unfaithfulness.

Jerry and ‘The Wrong Girl’

Jerry had a hunch that there was always someone better around the corner. He was the only single guy in a church of lots of single women. He never meant to get so emotionally entangled with Esther while he was dating Emma.

He always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap

But he couldn’t shake off the idea that maybe he was with the wrong girl. The problem was, he had been with the ‘wrong’ girl a few times before, and he always started a new relationship with an embarrassing overlap from the previous one.

Focus Brings Freedom

Focus brings freedom. If we choose to make faithfulness a focus in our lives, we will be free to be in healthy relationships, or see more clearly the unhealthy ones we should walk away from.

Let’s ask ourselves: does this action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness to this person, or selfishness? What films, music or entertainment am I immersed in that undermine my desire to be faithful? How am I practicing faithfulness in my friendships and my family? How have I handled situations where I was the cheater? God is faithful in all his relationships, so by listening to his voice above the other noises, we can start not only to value faithfulness but to live out his high hopes for us here and now.

God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.

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

Imagine If…

Imagine if we trusted that our God, who is love, and the ultimate designer, wants and knows how to bless our romantic relationships. There are some stories that serve as bad examples, but God is leading his people towards faithfulness, stability, and security in relationships.

So let’s ask ourselves: does my action or attitude demonstrate faithfulness? (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks.)

What else can we do to turn down the volume on unhelpful messages in our culture? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 29/1/2018

Why I Don’t Think Betrothal Answers Our Dating Questions

Church Dating Culture, What The Bible Says

Dating didn’t exist when the Bible was written. Pre-marriage romantic dating relationships are only actually about 100 years old. However, there was something called ‘betrothal’, where those pledged to be married would be seen as a ‘couple’ in the Bible. Despite some surface-level similarities, it’s dangerous to think betrothal can help guide Christian dating. 

After reading a bit of a controversial article online about Christian dating, I decided to read the comments section, as you do. And as expected, there where a lot of contrasting opinions.

Some were passionately saying that dating isn’t bad and Christians just need to date lots of people and get experience. Others said that dating is ungodly and Christians should jump straight to marriage.

Others said Christian guys are wimpy and non-committal, so it’s their fault Christian dating is problematic. While others said Christian women always spiritualise things and won’t say yes to any guy, so it’s no wonder men feel scared. I could go on.

I have an issue with all of these statements. But one comment said something that I hadn’t really heard a Christian talk about for many years. Betrothal.

Betrothal: Old School Dating? 

To say betrothal is like dating I think is unhelpful

This person basically said Christians need to forget dating and practice betrothal. They correctly pointed out that dating didn’t exist in Biblical times. However, they then argued that we should use betrothal as our guide, which was used by people and cultures from the Bible.

To say betrothal is like dating I think is unhelpful. On the surface, it looks that way, but when you look closer you realise that isn’t the case.

So what exactly is betrothal? Well to understand that we need to understand the arranged marriage culture it came from.

Arranged Marriage 

It’s widely accepted that all biblical cultures practiced arranged marriages. This means that the parents would select the marriage partner for their children. Or sometimes the eldest brother or groom himself would negotiate with the bride’s parents/guardians.

Importantly, marriage wasn’t just for the couple; wider family concerns, mainly wealth and status, would dictate the choice entirely. Families were meant to gain a social advantage through marriage and expand their contacts.

This led to a very simple reality; searching for love and searching for intimacy was not embraced and practiced in biblical cultures by most people.

Just like today in arranged marriage cultures, romantic love and emotional bonds in partner selection were not a concern. Falling in love (if it ever happened) was more the by-product of a happy marriage rather than the prerequisite.

So there was no dating, no period of time when people would search for someone to settle down with. Your parents simply choose the richest and best connected person for you.

The period in-between a marriage being arranged and the couple marrying was called betrothal

Nevertheless, once it was decided that the couple would get married, they were officially ‘betrothed’ to one another.

Betrothal In Biblical Times

In many of the ancient biblical cultures, the period in-between a marriage being arranged and the couple marrying was called Betrothal.

This idea is mentioned/alluded to a few times in Scripture. For example, Jacob calls Rachel his wife even though they had not had their wedding ceremony (Genesis 29:21, 26-28). This is because betrothal/the first stage of marriage had already started when Jacob and Laban had agreed on a bridal price (29:18-21).

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph in Matthew 1:18. Joseph wants to cancel the wedding when he finds out she is pregnant, even though they aren’t ‘married’ he still needs a divorce (1:19). This is because betrothal was the beginning of marriage.

Surface Level

So betrothal is mentioned in the Bible, and it’s a period where two people are seen as ‘a couple’ before they are married. So does this mean it can help modern Christians find love?

I don’t think it can. Not because God’s word isn’t still applicable and relevant, but because this cultural practice will no longer work in a culture with a very different context and view of relationships because it:

  • Focused on Money, Not Love
  • Practical Arrangements
  • Signalled Marriage

Focused on Money, Not Love 

Betrothal and arranged marriage cultures put the emphasis on money and status, and love and emotions come after the wedding. Today, people focus on love and emotions, and the wedding ceremony comes after this has been established.

We now live in different times

Betrothal was a term used for two people who were being told to marry each other. We now live in different times.

Practical Arrangements

Betrothal mainly existed to allow for practical arrangements to be made after a marriage had been decided by the couple’s parents. For example, the man would prepare the new home for his bride. In Jacob’s case, it allowed him to serve Laban for seven years and complete the bridal price agreement (Genesis 29:20-21).

Dating doesn’t have the same aim, it’s for people to get to know each other and see if they are compatible, not to make practical arrangements for an inevitable outcome.

Signalling Marriage

Finally, this inevitable marriage outcome is what separates it from dating more than anything else. A betrothed woman could be convicted of adultery (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Betrothed couples could be addressed as husband and wife. Which is why Joseph needed to ‘divorce’ Mary even though the wedding ceremony had not happened.

Imagine If…

Dating is not inherently good or bad, but the way we treat people and value others is

On the surface, betrothal has similarities with dating, but as we look closer we see it is completely different. Therefore, it shouldn’t be used to justify dating as biblical, or as a template for dating. This would be unhelpful.

Imagine if instead, we prayed and scrutinised God’s word, and used its eternal truth and wisdom to mould our current culture in a way that would honour him. (Read 3 Simple Rules For Building A Healthy Dating Church Culture)

Dating is not inherently good or bad, but the way we treat people and value others is. I believe dating can honour God, but we need to apply God’s word in a different way. (Read What On Earth Is Dating Anyway?)

What is the best dating advice you’ve heard? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 1/1/2018