Should You Date Someone Outside The Faith?

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #1

‘Well, I’m in a relationship now.’

After over 15 years in ministry to college and (now) graduate students, my wife and I often hear this when we ask how they’re doing.  Our first response is to rejoice, remembering how thrilled we were on our first date.  Very few things in life are more exciting than a relationship that’s heading toward marriage!

At the same time, relationships are anything but easy, so we need to learn from those who have gone before us.  While my wife and I don’t have anything like a perfect marriage, we’ve had a little experience (since 1998) now.  Many older couples have poured into us.  And – somehow – a number of couples have told us our marriage and counsel about relationships has benefited them.  So, as promised, this is the first post in a new, monthly series about important topics to cover as you think about saying ‘I do’.

(To make sure you don’t miss a post, you can sign up right here.)

Before we dive into those key areas, though, we need to pause and ask a more foundational question:

Is this relationship one that you should even be in?

My stepdaughter's socks are channeling Flickr's logo colors Lee Bennett via Compfight

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Getting Ready For Marriage: A New, Monthly Series

What would you say if I told you there was an app to get you ready for marriage?  One that would remove all the guesswork and games.  One that could assess your spiritual compatibility with your boy/girlfriend and show you what to do next.  And one that could predict whether you would live happily ever after.

Maybe someone is working on that – probably in his parents’ basement – but until then, getting ready for marriage is likely to bring (more than) its share of challenges.  Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Ethics at Duke, highlights just how hard it is even after marriage begins:

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change.

Wow.  Pretty sure Eeyore gave a gloomy ‘aaaamen‘.  But at a time where our culture encourages singles to find their perfect ‘soul mate’, this quote is deeply sobering and necessary. And after 18 (great) years of marriage, I can testify that it’s true.   We barely understand the person we’re about to marry.

At the same time, the journey to finding a godly spouse, and preparing for marriage, isn’t a game of chance. While some people do an about turn after the wedding day (truly sorry if that’s happened to you), that’s more the exception than the norm.

With God’s help, we can make a good choice, and be prepared, before saying ‘I do’.

Rings Frank Tasche via Compfight

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Dads, Stay Close To Your Daughter

(This article first appeared at desiringGod.org.)

Ugh.

After another difficult interaction with our teenage daughter, I felt like screaming. My wife patiently listened to my venting, and she calmly but firmly spoke words I’ll never forget.

“I know you’re frustrated. I get it. But you’re the parent. She needs more from you. She needs you to move toward her and stay close.”

I was too annoyed to respond, but I knew she was right.

Silly picture with my daughters Carissa & Anna.

Outtake with my daughters Carissa (left) & Anna (right)

Tough, Important Times

I suspect most dads with teenage daughters can relate. You may find yourself wondering where that sweet little girl went. The one who sat on your lap, followed your advice, and freely shared her heart while you played together with her toys and sang “Jesus Loves Me.”

But now, things are different. One moment your daughter thinks you’re the Best Dad Ever, then says, “I can’t stand you,” the next. Trust and obedience are replaced by suspicion and endless boundary-testing. Sometimes it feels like you only see her when she wants something from you.

In these moments, it’s so easy to pull back. To tell yourself you’ve tried. To withdraw — bitter, angry, and hurt. To convince yourself all you can do now is pray and wait.

As someone who has failed significantly in this area, yet seen God work powerfully, I want to encourage and challenge you. To remind you that God has sovereignly placed you in your daughter’s life to model, as her earthly father, her perfect heavenly Father.

Fathers, your daughter needs you to stay close to her.

Our All-Important Foundation

If we want to be close to our daughters, we need to be close to our heavenly Father first, pursuing him as our greatest Treasure. Often busyness, apathy, interruptions from kids, and the pull of social media and entertainment make it hard to find consistent time with our Lord. But we need to persist, trusting that God “rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

When we persevere, we’ll find with king David that God’s “steadfast love is better than life” (Psalm 63:3). And with the apostle Paul, we will learn to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). In many ways, maturity as fathers is simply coming to know and experience, more and more, how beautiful and awesome God is.

While I’m nowhere near as close to Christ as I’d like to be, desiring to move closer to him is transforming me — and my relationship with my daughters. As his greatness and grace toward me become more real, I’m finding it easier and easier to extend grace toward them too. And to be the kind of father with whom they want to be close.

Dads, I want to urge you to pursue intimacy with Christ as your highest priority. If you do, you’ll find that staying closer to your daughter will eventually follow.

Eight Ways to Stay Close

If we’re growing in our own thirst and desire for Christ, the rest of these will start to flow much more naturally.

1. Gently model unconditional love and grace (Matthew 26:30–32; Galatians 6:1). While we need to be reminded that we, as dads, need to be the humble “buckstopper” in our homes, many of us struggle with being harsh and angry. Our daughters need us to be tough on sin, but even firmer on their Savior’s grace.

2. Come alongside them in their insecurity and affirm them (see Judges 6:11–18, especially verse 12). Teen girls feel pressure to look a certain way, wear certain clothing, and be friends with the “right people.” We need to remind them that if they are born again, Jesus has made them acceptable forever, and that nothing can change that.

3. Protect them sacrificially (John 15:12–15). Our culture encourages girls to dress immodestly and find their identity in guys’ approval. So, our role as fathers, created in the image of the Great Shepherd, includes helping them understand how men’s minds work and what’s appropriate to wear, and (especially) helping them find their value in Christ.

4. Just listen (James 1:19). While we’re tempted to “fix” their problems immediately, our teen daughters mainly want us to listen, care, and understand. This often creates an atmosphere of trust where we can offer the input they need.

5. When you mess up, confess it (James 5:16). If we’re rooted deeply in Christ, we’ll find this easier and easier. I’ve been amazed at how quickly a simple but genuine apology often heals a rift with my daughters.

6. Be present. At home, we easily get distracted by our phones, television, and work. As we look at Jesus’s example, though, it’s amazing how much time he spent with his disciples — and how he gave them his undivided attention. Our daughters need positive male attention, and we have the privilege of leading the way, if we’re willing to set other things aside and engage them.

7. Remember that God has made each of our daughters differently. My two teen daughters are so different that sometimes we wonder if they’re really both ours! I love how sisters Mary and Martha come to Jesus with the same lament after Lazarus dies, yet Jesus responds very differently (John 11:23–35). What works with one of our daughters may not benefit the other.

8. Go on regular daddy-daughter dates. Most teen girls love to talk, eat, and connect. Several months ago I (re)started taking each of them out for breakfast every two weeks. During these undistracted times, they often share their hearts in ways they don’t at home, and they come away feeling special. And they are!

With God’s help, what steps could you take to move closer to your daughter (or son) during these crucial teenage years?

Why You Need A Prophet In Your Life

I was sitting comfortably on our living room couch, taking a rare break from the grad school grind, when my roommate burst out of his room.

Before I could say ‘Mephibosheth’, he was close.  Uncomfortably close, and I could feel my blood pressure rise as he began to speak.

‘I don’t know what you guys were up to in there, but you shouldn’t have closed the door.’

‘You guys’ referred to my fiancee (now wife) and I, and we had been in my room together with the door shut.  We had become closer physically than we should have, and my roommate’s simple rebuke was the cold shower I needed to snap me back to reality.

I didn’t like it in the moment, and I suspect most of you don’t like being challenged, either.  But the truth is that we all need a prophet in our lives.

Retro ad: man receives a cold shower, showing what it feels like to be rebuked by a prophet.

What it feels like to be rebuked by a prophet. Photo credit: x-ray delta one via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Great Expectations: How Our Hidden Assumptions Can Help Or Hurt Our Plans For The Coming Year

‘Anyone making New Year’s Resolutions this year?’

It was a fun – and good – question as we sat talking over lunch.  As the conversation bounced around, hopes and ambitions for the year were shared.  Getting healthier, running a marathon, and so on.

I didn’t share my thoughts, largely because I’m still in the process of setting my goals for the year. But also because my thinking on how I go about that is still evolving.  Maybe yours is, too.

More specifically, I’ve really struggled with knowing what to prioritize given limits with time.  And then, to actually make progress on my goals in the middle of my messy, everyday life.  Ah, the gap between who we are and who we’d like to be.

Managing Expectations Lynn Friedman via Compfight

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New To You? Top 10 Posts of 2016

Hey everyone, hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are getting some much-needed rest.  In an effort to rest myself, I’m not publishing anything new this week, but I am sharing my Top 10 posts (according to times you viewed them) from the past year.

I also hope, of course, that you will find them useful if you missed them, or perhaps even benefit from reading again.

THANK YOU for reading and making this blog successful over the past year!

Yellow 10 (as in Top 10) on black pavementCreative Commons License woodleywonderworks via Compfight

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Dads, Notice & Praise Your Stay-At-Home-Mom Wives

Practical Advice From Proverbs 31

When I see all that my wife does for our family and home, I’m not sure how she does it all.  Wife, mom, administrator, accountant, food buyer, cook, taxi driver, keeper of the family calendar, school liaison, and (I’m writing in December) Christmas Season ninja.

Stay-at-home-moms are amazing.

And yet, it’s easy for us to unintentionally take them for granted.  But as husbands, God’s calling for us is to notice and give thanks for all they are and do.

My wife, Sharon, snuggling at home with our son Braedon.

My wife, Sharon, snuggling at home with our son Braedon.

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6 Remedies For An Apathetic Prayer Life From The Psalms

Anyone out there feeling apathetic, unmotivated and bored when it comes to prayer?

(I just raised my hand.)  Prayer is probably one of the hardest things in my entire life. It’s honestly a constant battle for me.

Recently, my wife and I had a group of students over and we all acknowledged our struggles with prayer.  And why we don’t do it more often, with more passion.

‘We don’t pray because we don’t want to be disappointed.’

‘It feels like it doesn’t work.’

‘Other things like school and work get in the way.’

Sound familiar?

 

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Learning To Pray Like Jesus: 2 Simple, Advent Tests

Ever heard a sermon that sounded great, but left you wondering how to actually live it out?  I know I’ve heard – and preached – more than my fair share of them.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether – or not – you’re really getting it so you can see where you still need to grow?  And, so you could celebrate progress God has granted. What if there were some simple tests that could help you see where you really are?

In my last post (‘During Advent, Jesus Shows Us How To Wait & Ask‘), Jesus showed us how to ask God for what we want while we wait for it.  Which is waaay harder than it sounds.  Because usually we treat God like Santa Claus or a vending machine.  I make my request, or put my money in, and get what I want right away.

But even after we think we understand how to ask God the right way, it’s hard to know if we’re actually making progress.  And because asking God for what’s on my heart is such a huge part of my everyday life, I’d really like to do it better and better.

So, in this post, I offer two simple ways to know if you’re learning to ask God for what you want in a more mature way.

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Photo credit: The U.S. Army via Foter.com / CC BY

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During Advent, Jesus Shows Us How To Wait & Ask

All of a sudden, Advent (Latin ‘coming’ or ‘arriving’) is here.  And although we celebrate Christ’s coming, we also remember that we are waiting.

Kids wait for gifts on Christmas morning.  Big kids (like us) wait for time off at the end of the year.  And all of us wait for Jesus to return and make everything wrong right again.

What Do You Really Want?

Let me ask you something.  What are you waiting for today?  Don’t think about it too much.  What are a few things you want?

Maybe it’s a better marriage.  For your kids to come back to the Lord.  To just get through the next exam.  Better health.  A nicer car or house.  To find a boyfriend or girlfriend.  To get a career or job you really love.  To get closer to God.

What are you really really longing for?

blue Christmas candle Advent wreath

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC0

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