Thursday, August 31, 2006

Letters: On Relationships - Is she the one?

hello there.

how goes it? I have to say congratulations on having another baby! So hows that all going? Sounds cool!

Got plenty of assignments to do, which is loadsa fun. Things with xxxx have been going well. But I still have doubts. Sometimes I think I will get married to her, and then there are times where I’m like I dunno about anything, and I’m just a bit confused and have doubts. The thing is she really loves me, and she knows that I have doubts at times.

I wish that I could be sure of us. I’m worried that in a years time or longer I’ll realise that we shouldn’t go out, and I’ll look back and realise I shouldn’t have held it on for so long, because I don’t want to hurt anymore than possible. Am I being selfish holding it on and hoping that I’ll become certain or what?

Why couldn't life be easier!?

Trying to start a case for Christ - so far so good!



Good to hear from you again. Having a new baby in the house is great. And Eva really loves her.

About you and xxxx – doubts are part of the process, at least they were for me. I had periodic doubts about marrying Judith until near the wedding! That might sound odd, but it makes sense in a way. If two Christians are right for each other and will be good for each other, the devil will try and get in whatever way he can to disrupt their relationship - it might be through physical temptation, or through giving you doubts. What I kept coming back to in my own mind was that I had prayed for Judith to love me, and now she did, and if God had answered that prayer then I wasn’t going to let the devil get in the road!

The other part of the problem is that we allow feelings to guide us too much. Love isnt so much a feeling as something we do. Yes, feelings are involved, but if we depend on them and we go through a rough patch we'll end up getting divorced! And if the rough patch hadnt happened then the divorce wouldnt have happened!

Don’t focus on your feelings, focus on who she is, and what qualities (godly and others) you like about her.

Another thing I've often thought about is this - and its easy for me to say now that I'm married - I'm not convinced that God means us to give all this anxiety about who we're going to marry.

I think we spend too much time worrying about, "Is she the one?", as if God has promised to reveal specifically the girl we should marry. I think God is more interested in what teh relationship will be like, rather than who it is with (provided we obey his commands to marry only in the Lord, and to be wise).

My reasoning is simple - For the most of the history of mankind you didnt have a choice. Your parents chose a wife for you and you had to settle down to the serious business of being a loving husband, whether you felt like it or not!

Its only in the last 100 years that this has changed and only really in the western world. So that suggests to me that that perhaps we should be less focused on who we are marrying (as long as they are a christian, and a wise choice within biblical guidelines), and more focused on what sort of man we will be in the relationship.

And be thankful that at this point in history we have the added bonus of being able to pick someone we like!

So course there is a balance to be kept, but I think at the minute we get too hung up on "Is she the one?" and focus too little on "Am I who I should be?".

So dont let feelings be your guide - focus on the facts - will she be good for you as a Christian? Will she help you grow? Will you be able to help her grow? Are you and her compatible - I mean, "Do you see eye to eye on important issues? or will they become a source of conflict in a marriage." Do you like her? Can you see yourself being married to her?

And then concentrate your efforts on being a godly Christian man towards her, helping her grow, allowing her to help you grow, and the wonderful thing is that in the process of doing this you will find real deep love for her growing.

Give the relationship all you have at this stage, within the limits we talked about in the last email - ie not spending all your time together etc. Pray that if it isnt right that God would make it plain, and then get on with giving the relationship everything, and if God doesnt want it to happen he'll make it plain.

I hope that makes sense.

God bless


Friday, August 18, 2006

Letters: On Relationships - Not getting too physical


Glad things are turning the corner with the doubts. Now on to the big one – relationships!
Things with xxxx and i are not that great. At the start we didnt really prepare ourselves for a relationship, and sometimes went a bit 'far'. We strived to not do it, and focus more on Christ, by Bible studys etc. But at times we fall again.
Yeah, I remember that feeling. I think for me one of the key things was realising that we can substitute the physical side of things (especially prolonged kissing), for almost any other aspect of the relationship - conversation, doing things together. In a sense the physical side of things is a cop out. It's quick and easy satisfaction. And if it is taking more time than anything else, or is going too far, we need to be fairly ruthless, and cut back a lot.

I have no hard and fast rules here, because people are different. But it might be a good idea to say, "We'll limit physical contact to holding hands and a brief peck on the cheek" and both of you stick to that, holding the other accountable.

In my experience its nearly always the guy who wants more physical contact, and its nearly always the guy who expects the girl to draw the limits - so he takes and takes until he then realises that its going too 'far'.

As the bloke you need to draw the lines and stick to them, and not wait for her to tell you to stop. And yet she needs to help you and hold you accountable.

Also, most girls are more happy with a show of affection, and some attention to who they are and what they're doing in life, than with a long passionate snog.
Most recently being yesterday. We're talking about it tomorrow. I said that if it was her best Christian friend and she was doing what we did would she want that relationship to continue. She’s coming round tomorrow to talk. I feel that maybe if we wanted to grow closer to Christ it could be better apart - even though i think that she would make an amazing Christian wife. I’m pretty unsure what to do.
I think the key question you need to ask yourself is, "Am I going out with this girl because I want to be in a relationship, or because I really want to marry her? Do I want to serve her sacrificially in a Christ-like manner (Eph 5:25) for the rest of my life?"

I tend to think you should only enter a relationship if you are aiming for marriage, in other words if you can specifically see yourself marrying, and want to be married to, this person.

If you're only going out with her because you want to be in a relationship, then that's not fair to her. If you think that she'd make 'someone' a great Christian wife, but aren’t necessarily convinced that you must be that 'someone', then I would feel that it might be better to stop.

On the other hand, if you really can see yourself marrying her, and feel that she would be good for you as a Christian (Does she spur you on in the Christian life?), then I wouldn’t see the need to break things up now.

It might be the case that you need to sit down together and set down some basic guidelines. Both of you are at uni - so your priority over the next number of years is your studies, not each other. Therefore you need to limit the time you spend together - say, twice (or three times) a week. Perhaps you need to say that only one of those occasions will be alone, the others will be when lots of other people will be around -- say meeting up for lunch. This will provide a safe-guard, to some degree.

The thing about the physical aspect of a relationship is that it is like lighting a fuse that only burns for so long before it explodes. And while marriage is a long way off, for example when people are at university, the longer you can keep from lighting that fuse the better. By our very nature, our bodies know that sex is the final destination, and we quickly get dissatisfied with each level below that, and want more. So there is little point in starting the process when the goal isnt attainable, ie when marriage is a long way off.

(Also the more you lay off the physical the more you can develop the relationship.)

Another guideline might be that you lay off the physical side of the relationship and concentrate on building up the conversational, the spiritual, the enjoyment side of things. For example:
  • read the same books (not necessarily Christian ones) and talk about them.
  • Buy a kite and go and fly it together.
  • Find an interest and work at it together - photography, putting together an album of the trip to the Antarctic etc.
  • Or start up a blog at and both write about what you have learned from a passage of scripture. It doesn’t need to be for others to read, just for each other. The idea is to spend time working together because that is what a marriage is, working together.
  • Or if you are doing a bible study dont feel you have to use a study book, try taking a book of the bible and agreeing to read a chapter a day, and then meet up once a week to talk about what you've both learned. Judith and I used to do that. Its much less formal and preparation can easily be incorporated into your own devotional time.

Why don’t you map out the areas you want to grow in as a Christian, and get her to do the same, and talk about them, and talk about how you can help each other, and how best achiving your goals can be realised.

Sorry for such a long email. Give us a shout and let me know if any of this makes sense!

In Christ,


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Letters - Doubt

Here's a new feature - Occasionally I get emails asking for advice, and often the same topics are covered. So I'm going to print a series of letters I've written to a young person over the last while. Names will be removed to protect the poor soul who has had to put up with my advice, and I suspect that I will amalgamate several correspondents into one.

Hopefully it will be of some use. Now stop trying to guess who wrote them…


Good to hear from you, I was wondering whether my email had got through or not.

Thanks for feeling you could email me. Feel free to use me as a sounding board or to pick my brains, whatever use they might be. I'll intersperse my comments with yours:
Sometimes i fell myself doubting and questioning it even though i think it to be true, i just find it unbelievably difficult to whole heartedly believe, sometimes i feel like thomas.
I wrestle with doubts too at times. When I start to have doubts I usually think back to the concrete events that cannot be denied - Jesus was born, he claimed to be God, he was crucified, and the evidence for the resurrection is pretty astonishing. And if all that is the case, then Jesus is who he said he was, and if he is who he said he was, then what he says about God and about scripture must be true.

So for me one of the key issues is to settle in my mind firmly the issues of his existence (the historical proof), his crucifixion, and his resurrection. Probably the best book around is 'The Case for Christ' by Lee Strobel.

I just feel that i dont have any sort of relationship with Christ, i feel I barely know Him.
At times I feel like that myself. Sometimes its a good thing because it means that we have a hunger to know him more. But we can never let it rest there. If we are hungry we need to feed ourselves!

I would suggest taking time to read books about Jesus - something really good, like ‘The Cross he Bore’, or ‘Is it nothing to you?’ both by Prof Frederick Leahy, or ‘Seeing and Savouring Christ’ by John Piper. Any of those will, if read slowly and prayerfully will give you a greater appreciation of what Jesus has done for you. And as your understanding grows, your heart will be warmed.

You could also try the three sermons on Christ's tears that are linked in the side column of my blog. I would suggest printing them out and perhaps using them in your devotions over the space of a week or two. Often we rush things rather than spending more time.

Hope that helps to point you in the right direction


Friday, August 11, 2006


Sorry for the long absence - summer has been hectic, but here’s something to cheer you up.

The church camp where I am the leader is for 13-15 year old boys. On one of the evenings we looked at different questions that they might either have or be asked, with the purpose of showing them how to be ready to give an answer. The layout of the evening is quite a useful one, so I’ll set it out here in case any of you want to use it. The boys are divided up into groups of 5 or so, and a leader briefs them for about 3 minutes on how to answer a particular question. They then rotate around to another leader who plays devil’s advocate on that question for about 5 mins, and then debriefs for a couple of minutes, before he then briefs them on how to answer another question, and then they rotate again.

Anyhow… the question I was briefing them on was, “What’s wrong with looking at pictures of naked women?”.

And me being me I wanted to get them to think of Christianity and God as being more than a set of negatives. So started off by telling them this:

“God is not a spoilsport. He has designed a time and a place when you can look at a naked woman when you want, and as much as you want (within reason).”

Obviously that got their attention. Then I asked, “What’s it called?”

At this point all of the groups caught on and answered, “Marriage”.

Except for one small boy who, with a wistful look in his eye, sighed and said, “Heaven”.