Two New Books: Letters to a Romantic

Dear Readers,

We have some exciting news.

We have been working on a project together over the past two years. We have been writing two books that are expanded versions of our Letters to a Young Engaged Man blog series. These books are being published by P&R and will release simultaneously in the Fall of this year.  

The books are called Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement.

The book On Dating begins with topics related to singleness and then covers a wide range of topics such as breaking up, physical affection, early marriage, and discussing sexual history. Some chapter titles include:

  • Marriage vs. Singleness
  • First Date
  • Should We Be in a Relationship?
  • Do We Have a Bad Relationship?  
  • What if I am not a Virgin?
  • Should I Guard My Heart?

The book On Engagement walks couples from the time right before a proposal all the way to their wedding night. Some chapter titles include:

  • The Length of Engagement
  • Till Death Do Us Part
  • Loving Your New Parents
  • Should We Elope?
  • Handling Conflict
  • On Birth Control

The chapters are designed to be short and can be read individually or together as a couple. Even though we don’t know the specifics of your situation, we have made a concerted effort to make each chapter as practical as possible. It is our prayer that this content feels immediately helpful and comes from a refreshing peer-like voice.  Our wives have also contributed to many of the letters and provided their own warm touches throughout the books.

Our prayer is that your plans for dating and engagement would begin aligning with God’s plans to glorify his Son in the world.  We pray that these letters will tune your ears to hear God’s voice in his Word and that these letters will provoke many conversations between you, your partner, and godly mentors in your life.  

We are not relational gurus.  Quite the opposite.  We would be the first to admit to you that when we follow our own wisdom… we get lost.  We are sinners who are desperately in need of God’s illuminating Word in every facet of our lives.  We have simply tasted the goodness of God’s shepherding voice in our romances, and we want you to taste it too. We pray that you fall in love with hearing his voice in the Bible so that it guides you in singleness, dating, and engagement – and every other season after that.

In the meantime you can check out the recent Truth in Love podcast with Dr. Heath Lambert and Sean on the topic of Physical Boundaries Before Marriage that discusses a controversial portion of the dating book.

As we continue to write to you, we always want to hear your letters. Don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and share your story with us.

 

Until then,

Sean and Spencer

 

Letters to a Young Engaged Man: Squeeze Tightly, Hold Loosely

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

There are a great line of men and women who have gone before us. Godly relationships, beautiful marriages, and stories dripping with a sweet fragrance to God. Yet every sweeping romance story must come to an end. Some stories carry on throughout the years and pass away peacefully on a bedside. Others are jarred unexpectedly and brought to a screeching halt.

To be honest, I feel totally inadequate to write to you on such a topic as the death of a loved one. I cannot imagine losing the wife of my youth. The thought of Jennifer dying is something I cannot yet fathom and something for which I barely know how to prepare.

While pursuing Jennifer, my dear friend Rob Coleman would often remind me about the brevity of life. Hold the things of this world loosely Sean, do not cling to them too tightly. Don’t make Jennifer an idol. Christ is sufficient and soon everything else shall pass away.

This world is fading and along with it even the most precious gifts. There will come a time when the brown eyes of my bride will grow dim and her soft hands will go limp. Thoughts of this future moisten my eyes and press against my heart. And if I am not careful, my world will become as dark as the inside of her casket.

The only thing that brings me hope in the midst of such thoughts is the gospel of Jesus. This world is not my home. Nor is it the home of my bride. Marriage is a wonderful thing, but it is not the most beautiful thing. You see, you will soon lock your arms with a fellow Pilgrim. You will soon whisper sweet nothings into the ear of a sojourner. Do not fight death, for Christ has already conquered it. Live this life holding loosely to the hand of your bride, ready and willing to offer her hand back to Jesus.

Jesus has prepared a place for her to dwell. If it were not so, he would have told you. Honor Him and “live your married life as if you were not married.” “Love your wife by hating her.” Such odd sayings of Jesus and Paul aren’t they? Yet they stick in the mind and guard the soul from clinging too closely to this world.

It is a joy and unexpected gift from God to be engaged. It is a joy and cherished delight to walk through life hand in hand with your best friend. Do not fear death or let it rob you of the thrill of glorifying God today. Glorify God by enjoying Him in all things and above all things. Both are possible and the Bible commands such happiness in our lives. Glorify God by enjoying the moments he has given you and the gifts he has bestowed upon you.

Laugh with your fiancée, flirt to the appropriate fullness and buy her beautiful flowers. But be satisfied in God above all these moments. Dig your joy deep into what cannot be taken away. Dip your bucket into the eternal pleasures of God and drink from His fountain that never dries.

There will come a day for us when time will stand still and her grave will be occupied. And we will mourn like we have never mourned before. But we will not despair like the world does. We have a loving Father who grants eternal hope and raises our dead. On that Day, we will be grateful he gave us the grace to enjoy precious moments on earth and to ground our hope in Him above all.

So for now, enjoy Him in all things and above all things.

Or to say it a different way, squeeze her hand tightly but hold it loosely.

Until then,
Sean

 

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Letters to a Young Engaged Man: A Multitude of Voices

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

Opinions are like armpits, most stink and everyone has two of them. And sometimes the odor can be suffocating.

One of the trends I began to notice while being engaged was everyone has a story. Every couple has an experience to tell or a word to give. You may be noticing that every person who has ever thought about being married has something to help you prepare for the rough days ahead.

Most of the advice you will receive is good, but some of it is not. From your last letter, it sounds like you are drowning in “advice”. Friends, family and even strangers have taken it upon themselves to tell you everything someone else told them. Horror honeymoon tales, scary identity crisis catastrophes, and terrible toothpaste/toilet seat fiascos.
The multitude of voices you are hearing are not inside your head. You may be right; they may actually be the crazy ones.

To be frank, I heard some of the worst advice as a young engaged man. Well-meaning, good people practically paralyzed my fiancee with their overcooked nuggets of wisdom. One person told us to beware of the second week of marriage, “The first week is great, but just you wait… week number two gets awful.” Another person said the second week was fine, but we had better watch out for that second month. Then things get really wooly.

We figured we should start ignoring these people when another couple warned us of the dreaded six month mark. Thats when the wildebeests come out and devour all the happy marriages of the world.

I’ve only mentioned the tip of the iceberg. I would be ashamed to write to you some of the counsel we were given; nevertheless, I must also tell you that I received some of the best advice as a young engaged man. Some of the most precious counsel I have recieved was in pre-marriage counseling. I received wonderful encouragement from particular people that almost brings me to tears when I think about them.

So how can you tell the difference between bad counsel and good counsel? My main suggestion is to know the source. Know the well from which you are seeking water and don’t drink from every running brook.

It is true that “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22. Take note when the Scripture says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

We should be people who seek the safety of many ropes. However, let us be careful not to be strangled among them. The Proverbs also say, “Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.” Proverbs 16:22
For there to be safety among counselors, there must be sturdy ropes. Unraveling ropes will not help but only harm. It is possible to unwittingly surround yourself with fools.

I suggest the best place to find counselors is in the local church. Particularly pick the brains of your pastors. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

The Author of Wisdom can only be found in one place – the Bible. Take heed to those who spend their lives in the Scriptures. Value their opinions and compare what they say to what you read in the Bible. Starting this habit now will create a great pattern for your future marriage. Prepare now for a lifetime of seeking the Scriptures and rappelling with those who know them well.

May the Scriptures tune our ears to receive good counsel. Whether we receive advice from our parents, pastors, or peers, let us make sure we have ears to hear.

Until then,
Sean

 

The content for this post has been expanded into Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: The Pit of Porn

by Sean Perron
by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

My heart is broken after reading your last letter. I am thankful that you have told me of your struggle and several steps must be taken immediately.

You probably have fears that abound in this season. What if someone finds out? What will my fiancée think? What will my pastor do? How will this affect my marriage? What if I can never be free?

If you are serious about your engagement and your relationship with the Lord, then serious action must be taken. You do not want to turn over in bed next to your bride and search for porn on your iPhone. Nor do you want to shrug off this sin and then turn over in the flames of Hell. Hands must be cut off and eyes must be gouged out. Pornography is not a pet to stroke, but a snake to crush. Realizing the severity of this sin is life or death. Yet there is a greater reality we must realize.

Brothers, many men do not realize the power they have been granted to fight even the darkest desires. When Christ screamed in agony on the wooden tree, He did not scream in vain. The strength that surged through the veins of Jesus now surges through the Spirit in you. Christ has come to set you free and you can be free indeed. There is no porn pit too deep that the light of Christ cannot reach. Christ is risen from the dead and He gives immeasurable power to those who believe (Eph 1:19) Come into the light and believe there is power in the precious blood of the Lamb.

Should you break off your engagement due to your addiction to porn?

This is a complex question, but it is one that must be answered. The first order of business is to bring in a wise counselor. Although we have corresponded for quite some time, I am not involved enough in your daily life to give hand-tailored advice. You will need someone who can speak directly into your life, assess the scenario, examine your fruit and help you make the call. You need a referee on the field rather than a commentator from the stands.

But from my aerial viewpoint, here is what I have noticed. There are two kinds of people who struggle with pornography. Those who are slaves to Jesus and those who are slaves to Satan. Those who have the Holy Spirit in them and those who do not. You must examine yourself and take inventory of your soul. Are you enslaved to pornography and making little to no progress? Or are you struggling but growing in grace and gaining victory? If you are consumed with porn and know it, breaking off the engagement is on the table – or – at least postponing it until you are able to get adequate help. For the man who is enslaved to porn, marriage is not the answer – Jesus is.

However, if you struggle hard but fall occasionally, breaking off the engagement might not be the best counsel. Marriage is not the solution to porn, but it certainly can help. If you burn with passion, it is good to marry (1 Cor 7:9). But in order for you to qualify for marriage, you must be fighting this sin vigorously and see Jesus giving you victory in battle. The marriage bed is to be undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).

Discovering a tumor and excising it is painful and frightening. Yet everyone would trade the short pain of surgery for a cancer free body. Sin thrives in secret. Mold, bacteria, fungus and all manner of porn fester in the dark. True confession may be a brief pain, but it brings sweet relief.  Every broken porn addict who comes to Christ will never be turned away.  He creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit (Psalm 51:10). Confess your sin to God and then confess your sin to a strong Christian leader in your life. God has given us pastors and mentors to help us grow in godliness. They will welcome you with open arms and then hopefully strengthen you in the faith.

The difficult part comes when it is time to talk with your fiancée. You cannot spring such a thing upon her the day you return from your honeymoon. To be quite frank, this should have come up before engagement. But since the question has already been popped, you must bring this up quickly. Great care and wisdom must be exercised when you tell her. Pray for the next available opportunity. Inform her that you are relying upon Jesus and fighting this temptation with all His might. Talk about how you hate sin and how Jesus is helping you overcome it. Make sure that you are clear, but not overly detailed. Do not tell her all the grit and grim of your struggle. Even if she wants to know, it will not build her up in her most holy faith to talk about what you watched and how long you stared at other women. State the struggle, show that you are serious about bearing good fruit, and ask for prayer and grace.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to sorrow and your joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10)

Shrivel your sin in the light, cut off all temptation, and run to the risen Savior.

Brother, I have watched as pornography has ravished the minds of dear friends, leaving them lonely and cold. I don’t want that for you. I am confident in the Lord that you can put this to death. Christ has overcome the grave and pornography is no match for our resurrected Lord. Take hope in His power which can cut any chain (John 8:34-36).

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Young Love

by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

It seems people are concerned because you are a young engaged man. You just turned twenty and people wonder if you can even shave, let alone lead a family. The murmurs of relatives rumble and friends begin to prophesy your doom.

And it might just be that their concerns are warranted.  After all, divorce rates are high, and they don’t want you to join them.  I’ve always wondered if those stats included teenagers getting married. If so, they must be recent polls because if they included everyone’s grandparents, surely that would tip the scales a different direction. I think my grandparents got married at 19 and 21, and last year celebrated their 72nd anniversary.

Regardless, their concerns might be 100% valid if you were a lust driven high school grad who now eats Cheetos while playing Xbox into the wee hours of the night. If that were the case, we should all bar the chapel doors.

So the question must be asked: What does qualify you to get married at such an early age?

Here are some guidelines to think about.

Spiritually: Is your walk with Jesus thriving and growing? Proverbs says that the Word makes you wiser than all your teachers. (Psalm 119:99) God is not a respecter of age. His Spirit often quickens the young and at times matures them at lightning speed. The Scriptures do not card you before they give you bottles of strong wisdom.

As you pursue Christ, ask yourself: do you feel comfortable standing before God being held responsible for the spiritual direction of your wife? Adam was responsible for the spiritual direction of Eve. Let us not think that God will let us slide by easy. Leading a woman is a serious calling, and we should be prepared and sober-minded before we answer.

Financially: Are you able to support a family? You must literally count the cost before you get married. It is not sexy to buy your new bride chocolates with food stamps. Plan and present your budget to your parents. Save money and secure a job. If you cannot provide for your wife, you are worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

Having said those things, we must wake up from the American dream. You can actually live off of less than what most Americans think it takes. You don’t have to have thousands of dollars in the bank beforehand; you don’t have to eat out twice a week; you don’t have to live in prime real-estate; you don’t even have to have brand new furniture or two well-tuned cars. You need food for energy and clothing for when you leave your apartment.

Directionally: You need to have a God-honoring trajectory. You need to be gripped by the gospel and be driven for the glory of God. You don’t have to have all the details worked out, but you do need a direction. Before you get hitched, you should have an idea about what the next five to ten years will look like. Will you finish college? If so, how will this happen? Will you be living in a new location? Will you be pursuing a particular ministry? Will she be in school? When do you want children? These are not soft ball questions to hit around in the backyard. Wise counsel must be loaded into these conversations and the cannon must be prepared for firing.  You must find your pulsating passion in life that surges for the glory of God.  Life is too precious and God is too glorious for us to waste our lives. There are souls at stake and disciples to make.

John Piper says it well,

You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them. (Don’t Waste Your Life, Chapter 3)

Should you get married young?

Not if you are unprepared spiritually, financially, or directionally.  But I do not think marriage should be postponed because of a numerical number.  The Scripture says to rejoice in the wife of your “youth” (Proverbs 5:8) and that to desire a wife is a  good gift. (1 Corinthians 7:7) And God gave us passions so that we can pursue them in Biblically mature, God-honoring ways.

So young engaged man, do not let anyone look down upon you because you are young. As long as you are setting the standard in faith, life, love, and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Until then,
Sean

 

The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Wedding-Ring of Faith

by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

I finally saw the engagement pictures of you and your fiancee. You both look dashing if for no other reason than it is uncontrollably obvious you are both in love. I smiled as I saw the shot of you bowing the knee with ring in hand. Even through the tears, you couldn’t have looked happier.

I recently read an essay by the reformer Martin Luther and a couple of paragraphs caught my eye in light of your recent photos. He connects the gospel to marriage in a way that I had not considered before.

Luther notices that when a couple becomes one flesh, they fully give themselves to each other. The wife gives everything she has to her husband and the husband gives everything she has to the wife.

Our union with Christ is similar. Everything we have (which is sin, shame, guilt and death) becomes Christ’s and everything He has (which is purity, holiness, freedom and life) becomes ours.

Luther writes,

“The third incomparable grace through faith is this, that is unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband; by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they are one flesh, and if a true marriage, then it follows that all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to the soul, that Christ claims as His.”

This is the sweet exchange that Luther is talking about: “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine; as it is written, “My beloved is mine, and I am His.””

All of our sins becomes Christ`s and all of His righteousness becomes ours. Many people only think of the gospel as providing forgiveness, but the gospel also gives us the righteous state of Jesus. (2 Cor 5:23) His perfect life becomes our life and our sinful life became His on the cross. This forgiveness and righteousness is only obtained by “the wedding ring of faith.”

Your marriage will not be based on conditions of works. She will not submit a list of good deeds to you at the alter. You may pour sand into a jar, but you will not weigh scales. You will not swap resumes but you will exchange rings. She became your fiancée and wife by a simple pledge of faith.

“Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its husband Christ.”

Brother, as she takes your hand in faith, take the hand of Christ by faith. Pledge your life to him trusting not in your good works or good intentions but only in His perfect life and saving death.
Christ did not buy you with a mere precious metal, but with His own precious blood.
Celebrate your proposal and ponder the greater privilege of being united to Christ.

To conclude with Luther, “Who then can value enough these royal nuptuals? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace?”

Until then,
Sean

Letters To A Young Engaged Man: Warm Heart vs. Cold Feet

by Sean Perron

Dear Young Engaged Man,

Don’t panic. After your last letter, I felt the icy fear freezing your feet. It almost made me want to put socks on. You are concerned about whether you should continue on the path toward marriage or bail for the single trail.

Let’s examine the series of events:

  • You have been studying your devotions and have spent a long time in 1 Corinthians 7.
  • You want to serve the Lord as best as you can and it seems Paul says singleness is the way to go.
  • Your friends are leaving for the missions field while you are registering for teapots and curtain rods.
  • Your friends are being radical and spending all day at the homeless shelter while you are spending all day licking invitation stamps.
  • You want to serve Jesus but now you are wondering how could you possibly be advancing the kingdom by pursuing marriage.

Pause. Grab the railing. Come let us reason together.
I think you already know the answer, but I will try to freshen the air.

The question of singleness or marriage all boils down to gifting.
Which gift do you have?

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Corinthians 7:6-7 ESV)

Notice that both singleness and marriage are gifts. A gift is a good thing.
Singleness is not for the folks who didn’t make the cut. Singleness is not for those who missed the wedding bus and are sulking on the sewer curb.
No, the life of singleness is for those who are zealous for God and his gospel. God has designed singleness for those who do not settle for the mediocre. If you have the gift of singleness, seize it for the glory of God. Take life by the horns, ride the bull, live or die. Launch into the heat of the battle with no restrictions or reservations. Take no prisoners and leave no farewell letters. Visit the orphan, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and preach the gospel.

How do you know if you have the gift of singleness? You are not burning with passion for a wife. You are fine without fatherhood and satisfied without sex. You are content with Jesus and yourself.
Are these questions too basic or too secular? I don’t think so. Jesus has capital on the “secular” and he is the one who made the body to burn for his glory.

But what if you do desire a wife? What if you desire to lead a family and love a woman exclusively without reserve? This might mean marriage is for you.

Marriage is not for those less spiritual or those with less gusto for the gospel. The married life is not for those just couldn’t jump far enough on to the radical boat and are left on the unspiritual dock.
No, the life of marriage is for those who are zealous for God and his gospel. God has designed marriage to display his glory in a unique way. If you have the gift of marriage, don’t bail because you feel less spiritual. Take your wife by the hand, plunge into life, until you die. Launch into the heat of love with no restrictions or reservations. Take up a job and produce little children. Adopt the orphan, feed your neighbor, heal the sick, and preach the gospel.

He who finds a wife, finds a good thing. He who lives a single life, lives a good thing. The point of 1 Corinthians 7 is to live as you are called. Live each season with God first in your heart.  Advance the kingdom of Jesus according to the desires God has given you and according to the circumstances he has placed you in, even if it is not what you expected.

Brother, if your heart longs for your fiancee, it is no sin to marry. Receive it and do not reject it.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV)

I have belabored the point, but I am confident your burning heart will warm your cold feet.

Until then,
Sean