The opportunity struck us as we began to write regularly on dating, engagement, and romance. Dating and engagement is a unique season to be salt and light in the world. Also, there were very few books we knew of that wrote briefly and practically using the perspective of a peer on these particular topics.
The need we saw was for a resource on this season of life that was both committed to the sufficiency of Scripture and a radical alternative to the world’s emphasis in romantic relationships. We also saw a need for a resource that would not lay burdens on our brothers and sisters by advocating for a strict dating “method”. We sought to start a conversation, not have the whole conversation for couples.
With this same opportunity and need in mind, we’re thrilled to announce the beginning of a new project, the final installment in the Letters trilogy – Letters to a Romantic: The First Years.
In this book, we plan to use our same brief and practical approach to address the topics that arise in the early years of marriage.
One difference with this book is we won’t be writing as those who have just come out of a season. Instead, we’ll be in it with our readers. This isn’t a book by experienced tour guides at the end of the journey; these are letters from the trail by fellow pilgrims. We believe that this can be uniquely helpful for those in the first years with us as we again seek to “start a conversation” that is committed to the sufficiency of God’s Word to navigate every twist and turn.
This book is slated to release in late 2019 with P&R publishing. With this in mind, we’re asking you to commit to praying for us in the following ways:
Pray for clarity of mind and an accurate handling of God’s Word. We know that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Psalm 127:1-2). We are desperate for God’s Spirit to illuminate his Word to us, and to enable us to write in a helpful, clear, biblically faithful way.
Pray for productive times of writing. We are both in seasons of life that are much more full than when we wrote our last two books. We’re both fathers, working in ministry, and committed to caring for our families. Pray that the times we set aside to write will be productive and efficient.
Pray for fruit. Begin praying now that God would use these books as resources for young marriages, local churches, and wherever else they are used. We long, not first for our writing to have a wide reach, but a deep one – an influence that produces real fruit in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thank you for supporting our writing and this new season. If you have any questions you would like us to address or topic suggestions for us to consider as we are working on the project, please send us a note. We would love to hear from you.
I like what you talk about in the book about being loving and doing all to the glory of God in terms of pursuing a relationship with someone. I also picked up that you were declined at least once to go on a date with your now wife. How do you persist as you did lovingly? How does one do that lovingly? Gentlemanly? How did you do it? …. I have great pastors and access to sound wisdom from a myriad of other sources, but when you said your now wife turned you down, I really wanted to hear your thoughts.
Thank you for your email. I am grateful for your humility and your desire to glorify the Lord in this situation. It is obvious that you are seeking him and want to be loving to this woman in your church. That is rare and I’m grateful for it.
You are also not alone in asking this question. Regarding my story, it is true that I asked Jenny more than 13 times to be in a relationship with me. But I must confess that my situation with Jenny is rather unusual. Jenny and I knew each other very well in high school and I didn’t pursue a relationship with her until after graduation. We had been in the same friend group and were together in numerous classes and extra-curricular activities. This is one of the reasons why I was so resolute after graduation. I knew that she was a godly woman and that I wanted to be in a romantic relationship with her. I had plenty of time to laugh, cry, hang out, and get to know her in a variety of settings over the course of three years.
After our first official date, I asked her to be in a relationship. I called it courting at the time. She thought about it for a little and then told me that she wanted to wait. I was going to Kentucky for school and she was going to Virginia. I knew that I had caught her off guard by asking her and that she wanted to focus on her bible studies and degree. Things were changing in our lives. I knew she was romantically interested in me, but the timing was off. She needed some space and I gave it to her.
Another interesting element to this whole matter is that we grew up in the same area. Each school break we would return home and be near each other. It was easy for me to ask her to visit and to check in on things. I would ask her to be in a relationship each time we were together and her answer was “No… not yet.” I was able to see that she was intentionally leaving the door open for me. She also allowed me to call her a few times a semester while she was at school and I would read biographies with her over the phone.
There was only one time that she told me that she didn’t want to be in a relationship at all and that was because she had just come back from a missions trip (was rather emotional) and decided she wanted to go overseas and knew I was going to be a pastor. That time was pivotal in our relationship and was actually really clarifying for both of us. That is a longer story and I can explain that later if it is helpful.
All of that to say… our situation wasn’t normal. I knew Jenny very well before asking her out on our first date and was able to know when she was putting down signals and when she wasn’t. I knew her friends and family very well. Jenny was allowing me to pursue her even though she was telling me that she didn’t want to be in a relationship at the moment.
When a girl says she doesn’t want to be in a relationship at the moment, it is typically because they are looking for a reason to turn a guy down gently. Spencer and I talk about this in our dating book and why it is best for a girl to be clear that romance isn’t on the table at all instead of using another reason to decline a date.
Regardless, I think the burden is on the guy (as a leader) to be able to discern what a woman means when she says “no.”
Here are some general thoughts I would offer:
Assume that when a girl says she isn’t interested right now that she means she isn’t interested in the relationship at all.
If she says she isn’t interested in the relationship right now, there must be an obvious signal coming from her that would give indication that she would want to be pursued in the future. With Jenny, she wanted me to call her. She looked forward to getting together each school break. She hinted that I should keep coming back later to ask her again. She asked me to pray about our relationship.
Don’t be afraid to let time and space enter into the relationship. If the girl is interested in you in the future, she will likely come back and give hints. She can find a way to be around you or have a girlfriend invite you over to her friend group for an event or something. Ruth and Boaz are a good example of this. Ruth found several ways to drop hints and signals to Boaz. Don’t try to force something and don’t be afraid to let time and space enter into the relationship. This will ensure that you are not too eager and it will give her time to decide further. This is also a good opportunity to trust Christ.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity if you think there is a real possibility that she might be interested. After allowing time and space, it is reasonable to ask for clarity. You can wait for an opportunity to talk with her in person and say “I know it has been a while since we talked last, but I would love another opportunity to take you out to coffee and get to know you more. I also know that last time you said that it wasn’t a good time to be in a relationship. I want to make sure that I honor you and I don’t want to put any pressure on you. Do you think now is a good season for us to go out to coffee? Or are you only seeking friendship in our relationship?” You can even acknowledge that these conversations can be awkward and you won’t be offended. You can always say, “I want to honor you as my spiritual sister. I thought the best way to do that was for me to tell you that I respect you, I’m thankful for you, and I want to let you know of my interest in asking you out. I won’t be offended if you aren’t interested in exploring the possibility of a romantic relationship. I want what you want and thought it would be best to ask you before assuming anything.”
Pray for wisdom (James 1). The Lord loves to give us wisdom and provide grace for all our dating awkwardness and mistakes.
Find some way to encourage her even if she turns you down again. Find one non awkward (and non romantic) way to encourage her as you would your sister after she says “no” again. If you don’t have a sister, think of ways you would encourage your mom. It could be like, “That is totally okay. I wanted clarity in order to honor you. Thank you for letting me know. As your brother in Christ, you should know that I really am thankful for your godly example at church and your joy in the Lord. I’m grateful to be church members and friends. Let me know if you need anything in the future and I will be praying for you. I’ll see you around next Sunday.” Or something like this!
If she turns you down again, for any reason, assume the door is slammed shut. Unless she takes initiative later or gives some obvious signal otherwise.
I hope this is helpful in some way. Thanks again for reaching out.
Regardless of what happens, I will pray for you that the Lord will cause his face to shine upon you and bless you and your ministry (Psalm 67).
I’m finally reading through the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.This book is a response to “evangelical feminism” and it is now in its third edition. It is one of those books that I bought years ago. You know, one of those books that you mentally reference, look at on the shelf, admire, want to read… but alas.
I have been convinced for many years with the basic premise and thesis of the book, but now am greatly benefitting from reading through it. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the book is how the authors handle controversy among Christians.
There is no doubt that feminism, headship, submission, etc. are hot topics. Yet these scholars are winsome, kind, and convictional. Below is a section from the concluding chapter that I resonate with regarding how to think about unity vs. controversy. Perhaps you will also find it helpful when it comes to processing controversial issues among believers.
“Yet one of the groanings of this fallen age is controversy, and most painful of all, controversy with brothers and sisters in Christ. We resonate with the Apostle Paul – our joy would be full if we could all be ‘of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind’ (Philippians 2:2).
But for all his love of harmony and unity and peace, it is remarkable how many of Paul’s letters were written to correct fellow Christians.… The assumption of the entire New Testament is that we should strive for peace by striving to come to agreement in the truth. Peace and unity in the body of Christ are exceedingly precious… “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). But it is first pure. Peace is not a first thing. It is derivative. It comes from hearty agreement in truth….
For the sake of unity and peace, therefore, Paul labors to set the churches straight on numerous issues – including quite a few that do not in themselves involve heresy. He does not exclude controversy from his pastoral writing. And he does not limit his engagement in controversy to first-order doctrines, where heresy threatens. He is like a parent to his churches. Parents do not correct and discipline their children only for felonies. They long for their children to grow up into all the kindness and courtesy of mature adulthood. And since the fabric of truth is seamless, Paul knows that letting minor strands go on unraveling can eventually rend the whole garment….
The point is this: We do not love controversy; we love peace. We love our brothers and sisters who belong to Christians for Biblical Equality. We long for a common mind for the cause of Christ. But we are bound by our conscience and by the Word of God, for this very cause, to try to persuade the church that the vision of manhood and womanhood presented in this book is true and beautiful. It is a precious gift of God to the church and to the world.” (404-406, second edition)
During the recent ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) Annual Conference, I interviewed Dr. Heath Lambert about biblical counseling. Questions were submitted from all over the world. You can watch the interview or listen to it through the Truth in Love Podcast.
Below is a list of the questions asked during the interview:
6:55 “If the Bible is sufficient, then why do we have a bookstore at our conference?”
8:50: “Are there any benefits in psychology that we can use to help the heart restoration of our broken counselees?”
13:26: “In light of recent events, how is you talking about the differences between biblical counseling and integration not speaking the truth in love?”
19:28: “Seven years ago I was having what seemed like focal seizures. I was tested by two neurologists and was told there was nothing wrong with me. I sought counseling from a NANC counselor who recommended more Bible study and that I should search to relieve these symptoms. My seizure activity continued and with the improvement of technology and an impatient week at Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital, it was found that I’ve had a brain tumor and a frontal lobe epilepsy deep in my brain. The scans confirmed and clearly showed the medical evidence. Here is my question or concern with your ministry: for seven years I was told that I did not need medication, but that this was a spiritual issue. How can you really know if something is medical or not? My experience has left me with bitterness for NANC counseling when it comes to what are perceived as “mental issues.” Please provide input as our church is considering being a part of your ministry and I have some deep concerns. I do appreciate your counseling ministry and have seen wise and fruitful results for many.”
26:24: “Where is the best place to start with a new church that is trying to start biblical counseling within their church?” And we had another question that’s similar: “How do you introduce biblical counseling to a church?”
29:36: “Do you feel that promoting certification creates an unnecessary bar for people who want to help other people by making them feel like they are not competent to counsel unless they have received extensive training?”
36:14: “What are some, if any, differences between ACBC and CCEF?”
38:39: “What is the role of women in biblical counseling?”
44:56: “Do you think there is a time for separation in marriage other than when there is imminent danger (i.e. emotional abuse, sexual addiction, etc.) and what would be your biblical defense for your position? If your answer is no, how would you suggest a woman can be best shepherded when extreme cases arise and there is much to sort out but there is not physical violence?”
51:02: Why would ACBC or the Bible not be supportive of trying to go and dig up suppressed memories? And if the person can’t remember abuse, they need to try to figure out how can they be healed.”
53:46: “How can we discern whether someone suffering from a transgender identity (gender dysphoria) is struggling with mental illness, a physical disorder between the brain and the body present since birth, or a spiritual identity issue? These seem like real possibilities to me.”
59:15: “What is the theme of next year’s conference?”
Where do you go for wisdom when you have questions about romantic relationships?
God knows every facet of human nature and the complexities and intricacies of romance. God is love. He is the author of marriage and romance. Although the Bible never describes the modern concept of dating, the Bible perfectly understands the people who participate in it (Psalm 33:15). The Bible uses different categories to address the issues couples encounter in romance.
The biblical goal of dating and engagement is to pursue marriage in a way that loves God first and loves others second.
This can be deduced by the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). The Bible adequately tells all believers how to be equipped for every good work (Hebrews 13:21, 2 Timothy 3:17). The Bible speaks to everything related to “life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
The Bible tells us that we must bring glory to God in all things and this must include romantic relationships such as dating (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 1:18). The Bible tells us that we must be holy as God is holy and this includes holiness in dating (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Holy Spirit can produce the fruit of the Spirit in every believer during any season of life (Galatians 5:22-23). In light of these passages, the Bible explains how to walk before God and as a couple in the season of dating.
The burden of a Christian couple is to view every problem through a comprehensive biblical worldview and discern how in “whatever” they do it brings glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him. This is the secret to human flourishing. Both glorifying God and enjoying him can be fully accomplished in dating and engagement by obeying the Scriptures.
But how does this look in every day life? What does this mean for your relationship?
On Monday, October 2nd, Spencer and I will be discussing how to apply the Bible to the issues couples face in dating and engagement. We will be speaking at the Crafting a Covenant conference in Jacksonville, FL. The content will be intentionally different from our books which release tomorrow. We would love for you to join us either in person or via live stream. The main sessions will be streamed at no cost and the full schedule is here.
How do people fall in love? Why are certain people attracted to each other? How can someone become desirable?
A recent article from Psychology Today called “The Laws of Attraction” by Wendy Paris touches on these topics. The article’s subheading reads
Who we desire is driven by powerful evolutionary forces, but while most of us are drawn to looks first (whether or not we admit it), human attraction is far more complex than it appears at first sight.
I’m the first to admit that the Bible never uses the word dating. It talks about romance in different categories than our modern culture has created. However, the Bible is the most important source of information about how and why people fall in love.
After reading the article, I was struck with how superior the law of God is compared to the psychological insights Psychology Today provided. I say this not to insult the author of this article but rather to highlight the helpfulness and relevance of the Bible. The plan for romance described in the pages of Scripture is not only sufficient for a healthy life, it is able to produce a beautiful life. Which makes it superior to any other resource.
Consider the following summary of the main sections of the “Laws of Attraction” article:
1) According to the article, the driving force of attraction in dating comes from evolutionary compulsions. Behind attraction is Darwinian evolution based upon natural selection and survival of the fittest. The people who are the most physically appealing are the most sought after because of reproductive qualities, but there can be other factors that contribute.
…it’s more important to be well matched with your partner than to catch the most beautiful person in your circle. Couples, whether same-sex or heterosexual, tend to fall within similar ranges of size, education, religious beliefs, values, and socioeconomic status.
2) The article attributes dating preferences to chemicals in the brain that compel people to be attracted to specific types of personalities. Chemistry is not a mere metaphor, but a driving factor in why people fall in love.
3) It concludes by giving tips and ways to improve your own attractiveness. It claims you can increase your level of attractiveness by improving how you handle your most compelling features. A person can make themselves more attractive by being confident and comfortable and by broadening social networks.
The problems of the article is not the observations from the psychologists. The psychologists have observed common occurrences and trends in romantic relationships. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the fact that attraction can develop by couples having intimate conversations or that there are a variety of chemicals in each person. The observations made by these psychologists are not wrong in and of themselves.
The areas mentioned in the article fall short primarily because they do not adequately understand how and why human beings function in romantic relationships. The psychologists have the wrong foundation (Darwinian evolution) instead of the biblical foundation which establishes humanity as created in the image of God. But it isn’t merely their foundation that is faulty. The conclusions and summaries from the psychologists fail to be beautiful. They miss the most central compelling realities of romance and blunt all the beauty behind it.
Consider now the following passages of Scripture in contrast to the three areas from the Psychology Today article I highlighted above:
1) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, NIV)
There are many things that could be said about the driving forces behind attraction, but fundamentally the article has “boxed-in” love. It relegates attraction to be a result of reproductive inclinations and calculations. People are attracted to the person they (knowingly or unknowingly) believe will best suite them for reproduction and survival. (I also find this perplexing because the article includes same-sex couples in its analysis and does not address the reality that same-sex relationships cannot biologically produce offspring)
When this Darwinian box is forced upon attraction, love is forced out. Real love is lost when driven by biological calculations. If the “Laws of Attraction” article is true, there really is no such thing as love – only sexual desires. The beauty of romance is removed from the box.
On the other hand, the Bible provides a flourishing framework that accounts for both sexual appeal and an authentic moral category of love. The “Laws of Attraction” assessment allows for one law – the law of self-pleasure, self-preservation, and self-gratification. Only the law of God can demonstrate the greatest and most fulfilling pleasure available to man is through self-sacrifice. Attraction is not merely a result of physiological instincts and urges. It can be a result of genuine care and self-less love.
2) “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” (1 Peter 1:3-5a, NIV)
The person who feels “ugly” reading the Psychology Today article should despair if they take it to heart. If they believe the article, they are truly hopeless because all the action is confined to physical or social sexual appeal. The person who feels “gorgeous” should also despair after reading the article. If they believe Psychology Today, they will be fooled into thinking that attractiveness is merely outward.
The Bible provides an accurate framework that does not dismiss outward beauty (Genesis 29:17), but places the emphasis on inner beauty. The Scriptures underscore the eternal value and attractiveness of holiness. In God’s economy, godliness is the goal.
Consider the example of Fisher and his date in the article, only the body exists in this Darwinian system. Physical chemistry has replaced the conscience, the soul, and morality. This runs contrary to the better and more beautiful picture presented in 1 Peter which discusses the adornment of the heart. The Bible isn’t as simplistic as this article in Psychology Today.
3) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30, NIV)
The practical advice on how to become more attractive misses the target because it is aiming the wrong way. The goal is backwards compared to the biblical framework of attraction. The article assumes the goal is to become more physically/socially appealing and then proceeds to give tips on how to cultivate appeal with whatever body type or skills a person possesses.
Instead, the biblical goal is to glorify God by enjoying him and serving others. When a person seeks to serve others and bring honor to Jesus, they will naturally grow in faith and confidence of their standing before God. They will become bold and brave for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As they grow in Christian love and hospitality, this might increase their social standing and reputation. This confidence and growth in warmth might then increase their appeal to others who might be romantically interested in them. But this would be a by-product of faith and obedience. This would be a result of living in Christian community and could never have been the focus.
It could also be that confidence is boosted, social skills are enhanced, networks are broadened, and attractiveness is at it’s highest possible peak, but no one ever bites. No dates take place because no one becomes romantically interested. What then?
Only the Christian who sought the Lord with their whole heart can be radiant. The Christian is secure because their goal was never to maximize their attractiveness for the sole purpose of finding a mate. The Christian knows that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a person who fears the Lord is to be praised. It is only the Christian, because of the Bible, who can obtain true and lasting beauty. The blessed (happy) person is the one who walks in the Law of the Lord and meditates on his Law day and night (Psalm 1:1-6). He will be like a tree planted by streams of water that produces fruit in due season.
In summary, if you are looking for a proper understanding into the mysteries of romance, you don’t need to read the latest in Psychology Today. Instead, you can mine the depths of the Scriptures to behold beautiful treasures. Romance is not merely about sexual attraction that is so easy to observe. Romance is about something much greater that only can be understood in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”(Ephesians 5:32, ESV)