Resurrecting dating

Over at the Desiring God blog, Marshall Segal has a wonderful article entitled, When the Not-Yet Married Meet: Dating to Display Jesus. His opening words are:

Dating is dead.

So says the media. Girls, stop expecting guys to make any formal attempt at winning your affections. Don’t sit around waiting for a boy to make you a priority, communicate his intentions, or even call you on the phone. Exclusivity and intentionality are ancient rituals, things of the past, and misplaced hopes.

I beg to differ. It’s not that this new line of thinking is necessarily untrue today, or that it’s not the current and corrupt trend of our culture. It’s wrong. One of our most precious pursuits, that of a life-long partner for all of life, is tragically being relegated to tweets, texts, and Facebook pokes, to ambiguous flirtation and fooling around. It’s wrong.
[emphasis added]

1415226_embracing_coupleAfter helpfully opening up the natural of dating (“where does marriage come from?”) he then goes on to write several paragraphs under each of these headings, explaining how one should date and how dating ought to look forward to marriage:

1. It really is as simple as they say (reminding us that “marriage really is less about compatibility than commitment”).

2. Know what makes a marriage worth having. (hint, it has to do with helping you learn more about God)

3. Look for clarity more than intimacy. Here’s the whole of this incredibly wise section (soak up that second paragraph) —

The greatest danger of dating is giving parts of our hearts and lives to someone to whom we’re not married. It is a significant risk, and many, many men and women have deep and lasting wounds from relationships because a couple enjoyed emotional or physical closeness without a lasting, durable commitment. Cheap intimacy feels real for the moment, but you get what you pay for.

While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our effort there.

In our pursuit of clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively. Be intentional and outspoken to one another that, as Christians, intimacy before marriage is dangerous, while clarity is unbelievably precious.

4. Find a fiancé on the frontlines. (this refers to finding someone who is serving God too)

5. Don’t let your mind marry him before the rest of you can. (Here Marshall writes, “The trajectory of all truly Christian romance ought to be marriage, so it should not surprise us that our dreams and expectations, our hearts, race out ahead of everything else.”)

6. Boundaries make for the best of friends. (“Boundaries are necessary because on the road to marriage and its consummation, the appetite for intimacy only grows as you feed it.”)

7. Consistently include your community. (He says make sure other people [eg, church] are involved as you develop your relationship).

8. Let all your dating be missionary dating. (No, he doesn’t mean date non-Christians; rather, “dating that displays and promotes faith in Jesus and his good news, a dating that is in step with the gospel before the watching world.”)

Now, go read the WHOLE THING HERE for your own benefit, or to share with another. I pray for all who want God’s will for their relationships (and marriage) will think along these lines.

What’s inside?

God’s Word tells us plainly what He desires within a man: “You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6). Puritan Thomas Watson explains this plainly to us…

Sincerity is of utmost importance to a Christian. It is the sauce which seasons piety and makes it savory. Sincerity is the jewel that God is most delighted with.

To speak plainly — all our pompous show of holiness, without this soul of sincerity to enliven it — is but ‘pious folly’. It is but going to hell in a more devout manner than others!

“My son, give Me your heart,” Proverbs 23:26. If the heart is for God, then our tears, our alms — all are for God.

A godly man does not have two hearts — a heart for God, and a heart for sin.

God loves a broken heart, not a divided heart.

(Thomas Watson, in “The Upright Man’s Character”)

This is love…

A. W. Pink said —

All religion is in effect love. Faith is thankful acceptance, and thankfulness is an expression of love. Repentance is love mourning. Yearning for holiness is love seeking. Obedience is love pleasing. Self-denial is the mortification of self-love. Sobriety is the curtailing of carnal love….

The affections of man cannot be idle; if they do not go out to God, they leads out to worldly things. When our love for God decreases, the love of the world grows in our soul.

— cited in Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Banner of Truth, 2004).

No thinking, no real love for God.

It may be obvious to many of us, but here is a wonderful insight from Piper’s book THINK, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Crossway, 2010, page 90; emphasis added) —

“The main reason that thinking and loving are connected is that we cannot love God without knowing God; and the way we know God is by the Spirit-enabled use of our minds. So to ‘love God with all your mind’ means engaging all your powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure Him for all He is worth.

God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love FOR God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, there are not love for God.”

Thinking, in order to love God more…

I’ve recently been immersed in the book THINK, The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper (Crossway, 2010). It is hard to set down! He answers so many of my questions about reading, thinking and their role in loving and serving God. He does at times use those trademark (long) descriptive propositions, but carefully (and usually exegetically) presents each part of the proposition revealing the whole thing to be truly profound and helpful.

In this book, Piper suggests that loving God with the mind meansthat our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things. (p. 19).

At the head of chapter one he quotes puritan Thomas Goodwin:

Indeed, thoughts and affections are sibi mutuo causae — the mutual causes of each other; “Whilst I mused, the fire burned” (Psalm 39:3); so that thoughts are the bellows that kindle and inflame affections; and then if they are inflamed, they cause thoughts to boil; therefore men newly converted to God, having new and strong affections, can with more pleasure think of God than any.

As he ends chapter two (on Jonathan Edwards’ contributions), Piper rightly observes, What an amazing example of ‘both-and’ — strong emotions for the glory of God based on clear biblical views of the truth of God. This is the very effect of Piper’s book on me so far.

It is a gourmet bit of writing, rich with biblical sweetness and much nutrition for the mind and soul. I’ll have to share more with you soon…


Love to the utmost

Puritan Matthew Mead presents glorious views of the love of God, which come with freshness and power to modern readers…

“Love is the most comfortable attribute in God, and the best name by which we know Him (1 Jn 4:16). Love acts with a priority to all other attributes. Wisdom plans the happiness for man, and power and providence bring it to pass, but love has the first hand in the work. It was love that first summoned the great counsel held by all three persons in Elohim before man or angels existed. Love marked the Son as the foundation of the whole structure of man’s salvation and blessedness. Love sent Christ into the world, put Him to death, and made Him an offering for sin. All the attributes of God act in the strength of love, and all the providences of God flow from the motions of love. Electing love is the proper source of all our other mercies (Eph. 1). He has chosen us before the foundations of the world, bestowed grace freely upon us, and has given us redemption through His blood. Paul lays all these blessings at the feet of electing love (verse 11). Love is the only attribute that God has acted out to the utmost. We have never seen the utmost of His power, but we have seen the utmost of His love. He has tabernacled divinity in flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). He has made His soul an offering for sin, and laid upon Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:10-11). He has made us the righteousness of God in Him (1 Cor. 5:21); He has made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6), and written our names in heaven. How can divine love put forth any greater effort of love than this? It is infinite love and it gives the soul an interest in an infinite good. It entitles it to an infinite blessedness, and fills the soul with infinite satisfaction. Is not having an interest in this electing love the highest cause for rejoicing? Love gives us a ‘name in heaven’ which cause eternal rejoicing.”

— from Matthe Mead, A Name in Heaven (pp. 23-26)
as quoted in Voices From The Past (Banner of Truth, 2009), p. 278.

What does God expect of me?

On his new blog, my friend and prayer partner Pastor Ken McHeard asks “What does God really expect of me?” Please click and visit A DEEPER LOOK blog. This is the start of his answer…

Have you thought about that recently? I have. The prophet Micah during his third message in his book answers the question ‘what does God expect of me?’ when he writes:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV) Micah 6:8

It is interesting that God didn’t merely say “be merciful” here. He said love mercy. Loving mercy is to be a pattern of life. It is not something one is to do episodically but habitually.
(read the rest here).

Never orphans

“Do you have a father?” Genesis 44:19
by James Smith (“Bread from Heaven!” 1857)
(distributed by Grace Gems)

Standing at my window one day, while the cholera was raging in London, I saw two corpses carried by, followed by one little child, walking alone next the coffins, with a few neighbors behind. That child was now an orphan. Both parents had been carried off by the pestilence. The sight of that child produced deep emotions, and awakened painful sympathy in my heart.

I was led to think of the sorrows and privations of orphanhood, and then of the happiness of the Lord’s people to whom Jesus has said, I will not leave you as orphans.” A believer can never be an orphan! He has an ever-living, ever-loving, ever-present Father! But many of the Lord’s people do not realize this, therefore they do not live and act under its influence.

There are believers who are always complaining of their circumstances:
They are worked too hard.
They are tried more than others.
They have such a vexing family.
They have such a demanding job.
They have such financial losses.
They have no end of things to vex, harass, and distress them!

Complaining Christian, “Do you have a father?”
If so, had your Father anything to do with fixing your lot?
Did He place you where you are?
Is He wise?
Is He good?
Has He ever told you, that all things shall work together for your good?
Does He know what is best for you?
Has He left things to ‘chance’–or has He arranged all in His own infinite mind, and does He work all by His unerring providence? If He does–then are you justified in complaining?

Have you any real cause to complain?
Will it better your circumstances?
Will it please your Father?
Will it any way help you?
If not, leave off complaining, and “having food and clothing, let us be content with these!”

Seek grace from God, your Father, that you may . . .
do all that is required,
bear all that is sent, and
endure all that is to be suffered–to His glory!

God could not love you more!

Charles Spurgeon on “I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself!” Jeremiah 31:3

He loved you without beginning. Before years, and centuries, and millenniums began to be counted — your name was on His heart! Eternal thoughts of love have been in God’s bosom towards you. He has loved you without a pause; there never was a minute in which He did not love you. Your name once engraved upon His hands — has never been erased, nor will He ever blot it out of the Book of Life.

Since you have been in this world — He has loved you most patiently. You have often provoked Him; you have rebelled against Him times without number, yet He has never stayed the outflow of His heart towards you; and, blessed be His name — He never will. You are His, and you always shall be His. God’s love to you is without boundary. He could not love you more — for He loves you like a God; and He never will love you less. All His heart belongs to you!

“As the Father has loved Me–so have I loved you!” John 15:9

Cohabitation increases odds of divorce

Co-Habitation Before Marriage Increases Divorce Rate
from Alex Chediak Blog

Sam Roberts, writing for the NY Times, breaks down a study of men and women ages 15 to 44 performed by the National Center for Health Statistics using 2002 data from the National Survey of Family Growth. The study found that cohabitation (living together with a sexual partner of the opposite gender) is now an experience of over 60% of women in their thirties. This percentage doubled from 1987 to 2002 (so it might be even higher now). Roberts reports that “half of couples who cohabit marry within three years, the study found. If both partners are college graduates, the chances improve that they will marry and that their marriage will last at least 10 years.”

Now the logic of cohabitation prior to marriage seems to be this: You cannot “know” if the marriage will “work” unless you first establish compatibility via experience. Of course, many who cohabit later split-up. But for those who marry, are their marriages more likely to stick? No. The study found that “the likelihood that a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased by six percentage points if the couple had cohabited first.” Why? Dr. Albert Mohler explains:

They do not know that what they are actually doing is undoing marriage. They miss the central logic of marriage as an institution of permanence. They miss the essential wisdom of marriage — that the commitment must come before the intimacy, that the vows must come before the shared living, that the wisdom of marriage is its permanence before its experience.

Cohabitation weakens marriage — even a cohabiting couple’s eventual marriage — because a temporary and transitory commitment always weakens a permanent commitment. Having lived together with the open possibility of parting, that possibility always remains, and never leaves.

I think that last sentence nails it: “having lived together with the open possibility of parting, that possibility always remains, and never leaves.” Their view of marriage was heavily tilted toward personal fulfillment to begin with. When something else seems more alluring, it is more difficult to resist. A robust view of marriage is needed. Dr. Mohler is right: Permanence must come before experience. That alone brings the security and stability to sustain a marriage through thick and thin. And permanence alone displays the Christ-church dynamic which marriage was intended to display.
by Alex Chediak