Dads, Are You Making This Big Mistake?

(Or, How To Do Way Better Than I Did)

At the other end of the phone, you could hear a pin drop.

Then a deep sigh.

And then, from my (very handy) father-in-law, ‘What?!  You could have really hurt yourself!’

In my zeal to install metal shelving for my daughter, I had tried to cut it… using a blade for wood in my (power) circular saw.  (I’m probably fortunate to be typing this with both hands!)

Believe it or not, that was a landmark event in my life with a huge takeaway:

I don’t even know what I don’t know.

But unfortunately, I wasn’t savvy enough to apply that lesson to my parenting.  Not yet, anyway.

And I did a lot of damage to my kids in the process.  I’m writing this post to help you dads avoid making the same mistake.  Either now, with your own kids, or later, when you start a family.

Before you scroll down, just for fun, can you guess what my biggest parenting fail was?

discouraged young boy

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Survey: Reasons Why Women Wouldn’t Date A Godly Guy

rejected sign

After publishing ‘Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?‘, a number of people expressed interest in this question from a female perspective.

In other words, should a woman date a godly guy she’s not attracted to?

Women, please help me get ready for an upcoming post on this topic by taking this one-question survey.  Thanks so much!

Should I Date A Godly Woman I’m Not Attracted To?

dating photo

It was the weirdest dating advice I had ever received.

One of my friends was telling me about a recently-married, mutual acquaintance who had just two criteria.  I figured simple = good, especially coming from this acquaintance, someone in ministry I respected.

‘He wanted a godly woman, obviously’ my friend said, ‘and she had to look good in a little black dress.’

As a single guy in my early twenties, I found his comment confusing.  On the one hand, putting so much emphasis on appearance seemed really worldly.  But our mutual acquaintance was a pastor I looked up to, and we’re supposed to be attracted to someone we’re dating… right?

Twenty years later, it’s easy to see that our acquaintance’s comment was seriously misguided.  But it illustrates the confusion Christian guys are facing in how to evaluate the relative value of physical appearance when dating.

While we cannot – for any reason – approve of objectifying women, the culture around us makes that challenging.  (For men and women.)  Movies, television, and the internet are giving us the message that image is everything.  Although most churches and Christian circles acknowledge that message is wrong, sometimes in practice they don’t give much guidance.

The Tension Between Character And Appearance

So if you’re a single, Christian guy, I can totally see why you’re wrestling with this tension.  You want to honor God and the women you date.  You don’t want to objectify them, and you understand that her character matters more than her dress size.

But you also want to have real desire toward the woman you may marry.  After all, God created beauty.

And yet, you sense that physical appearance can be too important to you at times.  Maybe you struggle with lust or pornography, and sense that your heart has the potential to lead you astray.  (Good call; it does.)

To make things even more complicated, you have some female friends who are seriously godly, but you’re not attracted to them.  And you have other female friends who are not so godly, yet – if you’re honest – are pretty physically attractive.  You feel kind of guilty on both counts.

So what do you do with all this?  To sharpen the point of the pencil, let’s ask two more specific questions:

  1. What roles do godly character and physical beauty play in pursuing a potential spouse?
  2. Should you date someone you’re not physically attracted to?

Let’s look at these briefly, in turn.

God’s Good Design

It’s hard to deny that men are visual creatures.  For example, research shows that for men, vision is the dominant perceptual sense, while in women the different senses are much more balanced.  When women lie in their online dating profiles, it’s most often by posting pictures of themselves when they were younger – and thinner.  In other words, women know what guys want.

But Scripture makes it plain that physical beauty is part of God’s good design.  For example, when we meet Rebekah, she’s described as a ‘young woman… very attractive in appearance’. (Genesis 24:16) And again and again, the Song of Solomon celebrates physical attraction, often in terms that make us blush.

When my wife and I do premarital counseling, we’ll often ask couples what first drew them to each other. The guy will always mention her godly character, but eventually admit that ‘she was cute’.  (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a woman mention that.)  Usually, guys feel sheepish when they say that, but they shouldn’t.  Guys, God made you that way.

Warning Label

At the same time, guys, we know that physical beauty should have a warning label.

The same bible that praises physical beauty also contains tragic stories of its misuse.  Samson and Delilah (Judges 16), David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), Solomon and his thousand-women-harem that ‘turned away his heart after other gods’ (1 Kings 11:3-4).

Proverbs states the danger with classic simplicity:

‘Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.’ (31:30)

Beauty is vain in the sense that it will fade.  As Pastor Matt Chandler puts it,

Gravity always wins. We are all wrinkling. Our nose and ears never quit growing. It is only a matter of time till that little component that we are basing so much on starts to vanish and must be replaced by attraction founded on character and covenant.

It’s also vain in that physical beauty has no value without a foundation of godly character.  In what has to be one of the best bible verses ever, Proverbs 11:22 tells us that:

A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.

Marrying a gorgeous woman without godly character doesn’t make any sense.

Younger guys ‘know’ this… in theory.  In practice, with our culture’s obsession with appearance and our own fallenness, keeping physical appearance in its place is easier said than done.

Let’s go back to Proverbs 31:30 – the whole verse this time – for the proper relationship between character and physical beauty when we’re evaluating a potential spouse.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

There’s no contest.  If beauty and character were to fight, character wins every time.  At least in the long run.

I Know, But Should I Date Someone I’m Not Attracted To?

Great question.  Lots of guys ask me if they should date a woman they’re not physically attracted to. They usually have someone specific in mind, a friend with godly character.  They have a real chemistry, but ‘I just don’t find her attractive, and don’t want to lead her on.  What should I do?’

My short answer is ‘no, you shouldn’t start dating her.’

No woman wants to feel like a consolation prize, someone you ‘should be’ attracted to, but aren’t.  If you pursue the relationship, she will get hurt and you will feel guilty.  Your hearts will get entangled, and disaster is likely to occur.

At the same time, I’m not just giving you an easy out.  Here are two suggestions for what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Pursue personal purity

If you’re not physically attracted to a godly woman, I don’t want you to feel guilty.  At least not automatically.  Different guys will be attracted to different women, and that can be from the Lord.

At the same time, we are broken and fallen, and we should be suspicious of ourselves.  Is it possible that you’re not attracted to her because you’re taking your cues from the culture’s standard of airbrushed beauty?

If you’re using pornography or giving into fantasy, now is the time to stop.  Repent when you fail, and receive the forgiveness and new power to obey that God loves to give (1 John 1:9).  Confess honestly to a friend, and ask him to help you in your fight (James 5:16).

If we resist pornography and an impure thought life, if we ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Timothy 2:22), we’ll be better able to keep physical beauty and character in their proper balance.  So that we’ll be attracted to the right kind of woman.

Pursue regular friendships with godly women, and hope for more

Again, if you’re not physically attracted to a woman, don’t lead her on.  Don’t spend (much) time with her alone, where she might get the idea you’re singling her out or have interest.

But that’s not necessarily the end of the story.  Chandler gives some more great advice:

Godliness is sexy to godly people. And so, if you get in proximity, and you see the godliness and character of a woman, you begin to take compatibility and godliness and gospel partnership more seriously than just physical attraction…

So, pursue [godly women you’re not physically attracted to] as friends and hope that it grows into more. Want it to grow into more. And I am confident that, over time, character and godliness will win the day.

I can’t promise you that you’ll develop physical attraction for a particular woman, but there’s a good chance you might.  And if you do, you’ll have confidence that it’s a relationship that’s grounded on what really matters and endures: godly character.

For reflection:

  1. What relative importance do you place upon godly character and physical attractiveness when you think about women?  Be honest with yourself.
  2. Are you spending significant alone time with women you’re not attracted to?  Do you need to step back, or change how you’re doing things?
  3. Who are some women you could get to know in group settings, prayerfully hoping God will take one of them in the direction of marriage?

For a great perspective from the woman’s side, check out ‘Should I Date A Guy I Don’t Find Attractive?‘ by Phylicia Masonheimer.

Big Hope For Exhausted Parents

exhausted parents with awake baby

Photo Credit: hannanik Flickr via Compfight cc

They didn’t quite say it, but they didn’t have to.  As I looked at the run-over-by-a-truck exhaustion on their faces, then at their bubbly one-year-old, the message was clear.

‘We’re sooo tired.  All. the. time.  We feel like we’ve lost our lives.’

Once upon a time, my wife and I were parents with young children, and we’re around a lot of them now. They have two things in common.  They adore their kids, and, they’re utterly exhausted by their kids.

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On Labor Day, Rest From Work, Rest In Christ

Restful beach scene, Labor Day weekend.

Quicker post today, on Labor Day.

Most of us are taking the day off from our jobs and enjoying time with family and friends.  (Thanks to those of you who are working, so we can rest.)

Labor Day isn’t exactly a major holiday, but it’s a good chance not only to relax, but to reflect on the deeper rest God invites us into through Christ.

On the most obvious level, Labor Day celebrates the contributions normal workers make to the wellbeing of our country.  And acknowledges that we all need a little rest and time off.  The country will go on just fine even when things shut down for a day.

God’s Invitation To Rest

The bible has a lot to say about our need for rest.  The Old Testament commanded regular rhythms of rest, including a weekly day off (Sabbath; see Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) and seven significant feasts (see Leviticus 23).  This was one way God helped his people avoid exhaustion and burnout.

But physical rest points to our need for a much deeper rest.  A rest from trying to find our meaning and value from constant achievement and accomplishment.  From the unrest that comes with trying to keep every little corner of our lives under order and control.  (Honestly, I’m trying not to make today about getting to all the stuff I feel like I have to, all the ‘shoulds’ in my head.)

Hebrews 4 shows us how we can find a rest that’s way more important than a day off from work.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  

It’s a complicated passage, but the writer is saying Christians have already entered ‘God’s rest’.  So, we don’t need to exhaust ourselves, trying to earn that on our own (‘has also rested from his works’). Instead, we can relax, ‘as God did’ on the seventh day.

Most importantly, all this is possible because of Jesus’ work for us.  The writer goes on to say that Jesus was ‘tempted as we are, yet without sin’, so we can ‘with confidence draw near to the throne of grace’, to God.  (Hebrew 4:15,16).  Even our worst sins and failures can’t keep us from God.  Because of what Jesus did, he loves being close to us now, and he’ll bring that to completion when Jesus returns.

Rest In Your Life, Even When Life Isn’t Restful

That can give us a deep peace and rest even when life remains crazy.  When our job is stressful.  When we’re feeling insecure.  When we’re raising young kids who constantly need our attention.  When our marriage is challenging.  And when our health isn’t what it used to be.

So, I hope you’re slowing down today to rest.  Taking a nap, hanging out with friends, whatever you like to do.  But even better, I hope you’ll take a few moments to pause on the deeper rest, calm and peace that Jesus has won for you through his life and death.  Because it doesn’t depend on you, that’s a rest you can’t mess up.

For reflection:

  1. Where are you experiencing a lack of peace and rest in your life right now?
  2. How would that begin to change as you reflect on Jesus’ work for you?

“Guys Need Bros Radio Interview”

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

lonely man photo

Hey everyone, recently I wrote an article (Guys Need Bros) for Desiring God on why guys need real male friendships.  A Christian radio station (Hope 1160) in Chicago saw the article, and invited me to do an interview on that topic.  (Thanks, Mark and Caleb!)

You can listen through this post, or,

In either case, just scroll down to August 24th and click on the interview with my name.

 

In the interview, we discuss:

  • how studies show that male loneliness is a huge health risk (as big as smoking and obesity, actually)
  • my own story of loneliness up until my 40th birthday
  • how God helped me break out of that unhealthy pattern
  • what gets in the way of men pursuing friendships with other men
  • what we can do next to deal with the problem, without getting overwhelmed
  • the most important quality to look for in a potential male friendship
  • the value of having friends who don’t share our viewpoints, and talking about sensitive topics in a way that doesn’t become combative

Hope you find it helpful.  Men, God will bless us richly as we pursue deepening friendships with other men!

Netflix Is Calling: 7 Questions To Ask Before Your Next Binge

watch tv photo

Photo by KlipschFan

We’ve all done it.  ‘I’ll just take a break and watch an episode of [insert favorite show] and then get back to [whatever you should be doing]…’

Five episodes later, after another binge-watching marathon, you find yourself dazed, frustrated and wondering why the sun is up.

While TV can be a good thing, most Christians understand we need to keep Netflix (and other entertainment) in its proper place.  And yet, we find that really hard to do.

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The Power Of Confessing Current Sin To Each Other

If We Want To Make More Progress, We Need To Get More Honest

group confessing sins in prayer

Photo Credit: Jordan Taylor Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

It was one of those ordinary, big moments.

Ordinary because we were just sharing prayer requests as our small group time came to an end.  But big because someone in our group let us in on what was really going on in his life.

Even though he knows what he ought to be doing, he admitted that, most of the time, he wasn’t succeeding.  After confessing his struggles, he asked us to keep him in prayer.

Lord, Forgive Me For How I Used To Sin

You may be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal?’  Of course Christians share their sins and struggles with each other.  And ask for prayer.

Do we really, though?

My wife and I were talking about this, and she pointed out that I’m good at sharing past failures, but not current ones.

‘Okay, maybe,’ I responded, proving her point.

She went on, ‘You know, you’re kind of uncomfortable with failure in general.  Especially if it’s ongoing.  I think you want to avoid it all costs.’

When the conversation finally ended, I did a happy dance.  Because I knew she was right.  I am open to sharing my failures, but mainly when they’re in the past.  And only after I’ve begun to conquer them.

When was the last time you shared a current, ongoing failure with someone around you?

Paul’s Powerful Example

The bible makes it clear that confessing our ongoing, real-time sins to each other is really important.

Listen to Paul’s brutally honest confession in Romans 7:  

I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am! 

Even though he doesn’t get into the sordid details, did you notice how he’s sharing about his current, repeated failures with sin?

That’s what I – and perhaps you – am so uncomfortable with.

And yet, this is exactly what God calls us to, for our good.  James is even more clear: ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:16)

Why We Avoid Confessing Our Sins

So if God calls us to public confession for our good, why don’t we do it more often?

There are probably several layers of complexity, but let’s just say the primary answer doesn’t require a degree in forensics.

As broken, fallen sinners, we know we’re not who we’re supposed to be. We don’t want others to see that.  Sure, others might know I’m not perfect in theory, but I’d rather keep up the illusion as much as possible.

On some level, all Christians recognize that we fail, and that it would be ridiculous to claim that we didn’t.  So we’ll admit sin in general, but try to quarantine it to the past as something we’re at least gaining ground on.  But if Paul himself could say ‘the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing’, then chances are we’re not much better.  

In the final analysis, we don’t really believe that our value and identity are in Christ.  That God ‘saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)  Because we’re not confident that God has covered us, like Adam and Eve we make lesser coverings for ourselves.

4 Benefits To Confessing Our Sins To Each Other

But some amazing things happen when we trust Jesus and get honest with each other, like my friend did at small group did.

  • We don’t have to hide anymore.  We have to be wise about what we reveal to whom, but Christian community is a great place to start letting others in.  When we’re honest about our failures, the pressure to constantly curate ourselves evaporates.
  • We’re truly known.  There’s a reason there are (at least) 59 ‘one another’ passages in the New Testament.  Being understood by another person is one of the most precious gifts we can experience.
  • The power of sin is broken.  When we drag our sins into the light of day, they begin to lose their power.  ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11) Paul is talking about the world around us, but the principle also applies to exposing our own darkness to each other so that its power is weakened.
  • We receive the healing power of prayer.  When we share our junk with others, they can start praying for us.  And as we saw in James 5:16, others’ prayers lead to healing and victory over sin.

2 Ways To Get Started

So let’s make this practical.  Here are two simple suggestions.

  • Rehearse the gospel every chance you get.  Earlier, we saw that our struggles with honesty lie in our tendency to trust in ourselves instead of Christ.  Meditating on gospel-focused passages in our devotions and quickly confessing a moment of pride, over time, will lead to tremendous freedom.
  • Make a point of sharing current, ongoing sins and struggles with people you trust.  This doesn’t have to be a big deal.  You might start with your spouse or significant other, your small group, or one close friend.  Over time, being honest will become more natural and others will likely follow your example.

In closing, I’m going to take my own medicine and practice with you.  Lately I’ve been noticing that I’m much too driven by my own agenda.  For example, when my kids want me to slow down and talk something through with them, I get anxious because it’s taking me away from my plan for the day.  If I’m honest, often I find my identity by cranking through my priorities, and am not all that open to God’s, which often involve interruptions from the people around me.  So, I’m asking you to pray for me ‘that I may be healed’.

What about you?  If you would like us to pray for you in something you’re struggling with, leave a comment below.  I promise that I will pray for each and every request that’s shared.

3 Steps To Overcoming Our Insecurity

Ever wonder what it would feel like to arrive?  To be famous.  Or, if that seems too far-fetched, the best at what you do, or an expert in your field.

I’ll be honest and admit that I have.  It’s easy to think that being successful would bring with it a sense of confidence and security that we don’t have now.

But apparently that’s not really true.

Jimi Hendrix would stand behind a screen in the recording studio because he was self-conscious about his voice.  Lady Gaga admitted her outrageous costumes were a way of masking her insecurities. And NBA star Dwayne Wade confessed that money and fame didn’t fix the way he felt about his body.  The list goes on and on.

I think we’re all a lot like this.  We have a lot to offer, but we’re not quite sure that others see it that way.  And so, we (secretly) wait for them to affirm us.

young man hiding in insecurity

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Guys Need Bros (Guest Post, Desiring God)

Five Ways To Find Male Friendships

lonely guy photo

Photo by Daran Kandasamy

Hey men, let’s be honest.  After work, family, church and trying to keep our homes from imploding, it feels like there’s no time left for close friendships with other guys.  At least not ‘real life’, in-person ones.

That’s exactly how I felt as I turned 40.  I had Facebook friends and random hangouts with other guys, but nothing meaningful or consistent.  No one knew what was really going on in my life.

But when my wife, and a popular Christian author challenged me, I decided something had to change.  And – without a ton of effort – it did.

In this guest post for Desiring God, I explore how developing close guy friendships is critical for our health, marriages and walks with Christ.

You can read the post right here.

PS: I’ve done two other guest posts for Desiring God.