Women’s Issues

6 Qualities of a True Covenant Friend

The Bible says Christians should experience deep connections with each other because we share the same indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, the Greek word for fellowship, as used in Acts 2:42, is koinonia, which implies intimate communion and selfless sharing.

Yet as I travel and meet Christians all over the country, I find that the church today is actually a very lonely place. Many people have experienced a total relationship shutdown. Some have walked through painful church splits, others have been betrayed by friends they trusted, and still others have closed their hearts entirely to avoid being hurt. As a result, koinonia becomes a fancy theological word for something they will never experience.

It’s as if we forgot how to have true friends. I’ve even met pastors who’ve told me they just can’t risk building friendships. So they live in isolation. They bear their own burdens. They get no encouragement. Some end up in depression. Something is wrong with this picture!

Recently the Holy Spirit drew me to study the friendship that developed between David and Jonathan during David’s early years. It is clear from the biblical record that God put Jonathan in David’s life at a crucial time in his journey to the throne. And if it were not for Jonathan’s covenant relationship with his friend, David would never have been able to overcome the obstacles he faced during the reign of King Saul.

The same is true for all of us. You will never achieve your maximum spiritual potential without the help of those key relationships God places around you. Yet in order to benefit from these friendships you must open your heart and take the risk of being a friend.

How can you move from being isolated to developing close friendships? Proverbs 18:24 says: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (NKJV). You can’t wait for a friend to reach out to you. Take the first step and be willing to break the stalemate. British preacher Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Any man can selfishly desire to have a Jonathan; but he is on the right track who desires to find out a David to whom he can be a Jonathan.”

Here are six qualities I see in Jonathan that challenge me to be a better friend:

1. Jonathan nurtured a spiritual bond. After David killed Goliath and moved to Saul’s palace, the Bible says “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” (1 Sam. 18:1). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. All Christians should experience a sense of family connection, but there are certain friends you will feel deeply connected to because God is putting you in each other’s lives for a reason. Don’t resist this process. Let God knit you to people.

2. Jonathan showed sacrificial love. Jonathan loved David so much that he risked his life to help him fulfill his mission. Jonathan even dodged Saul’s spear in his effort to help his friend. He lived in the spirit of Jesus’ words about friendship: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The world says we should only care about our own success. But the best way to become more like Jesus is to help someone else succeed!

3. Jonathan always offered encouragement. When David was fleeing from Saul in the wilderness, Jonathan traveled to Horesh to cheer up his friend (1 Sam. 23:16). There were times in David’s life when he had to encourage himself, but in this case Jonathan was God’s instrument. We need each other! If you allow the Holy Spirit to speak life and hope through you, your words can propel your friends into their destiny.

4. Jonathan offered his friend protection. When Jonathan realized his father was plotting to kill David, he not only warned him of danger but he concocted a plan to deliver his friend (1 Sam. 19:1-4). Friends don’t let friends get massacred in spiritual warfare. If you see a friend making a foolish mistake, or if you sense the enemy is targeting him, God can use you to avert a disaster. Speak the truth in love.

5. Jonathan kept his friend’s pain confidential. David confided in his friend Jonathan, and in some cases he poured out his heart in frustration. At one point he said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity?” (1 Sam. 20:1). When I’m going through a difficult trial, I sometimes just need to vent. And I have loyal friends who let me process my pain … and they don’t run and tell others else about my weakness. This is true friendship.

6. Jonathan harbored no jealousy. At one point in David’s journey, Jonathan realized his friend would one day be king of Israel. This was actually Jonathan’s inheritance, since he was Saul’s son, but he acknowledged that God had chosen David instead. So he gave David his royal robe, his armor and his weapons (see 1 Sam. 18:3-4). This is a beautiful picture of how we are to prefer and honor each other. Jealousy destroys friendship. If we have God’s love in our hearts, we will want our friends to surpass us.

If you’ve been hurt in previous relationships, break out of your isolation and ask God to heal your heart. Then choose to be a Jonathan to someone else.

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9 Serious Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Married

Marriage is supposed to be heavenly, but it can end up being hell on Earth if you (1) marry the wrong person or (2) find out after you’re married that your spouse was hiding some dark secrets. Just ask my friend “Carlos,” who was married for a year before he learned that his wife owed thousands of dollars in credit-card debt. The tension caused by a shopping addiction—and her ongoing deception—led to divorce.

Anyone who’s been through a job interview knows employers try to identify potential problems by asking lots of questions before they hire anyone. Some companies take months to recruit high-level employees because they know one wrong hiring decision can cost millions of dollars. So why wouldn’t you be even more careful before you tie the knot with the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with?

I’m amazed by how many Christian couples don’t use wisdom when choosing a mate or neglect to get premarital counseling before they walk down the aisle together. Any counselor will tell you that couples face major difficulties if they don’t honestly communicate at the beginning of their relationship and put all their cards on the table. You have to ask questions!

If you are a believer in Christ and you want a marriage that honors God, you should make sure you ask these questions before the Big Day.

1. How did your partner come to know Jesus personally? It’s a sad fact that some people pretend to be Christians. They can sing the choruses and mimic the preacher, but their private lives are a different story. They are posers—and some of them are actually attending church to find a cute girl or guy. Don’t fall for a fake. You need a spouse who has a genuine relationship with God.

2. Has your partner been growing spiritually? It’s also a sad fact that many Christians today remain spiritual babies even though they’ve been in church for years. If you want a strong marriage, don’t pursue a person who has no spiritual spark. My wife is beautiful, but what attracted me to her was her passion for God. If your partner has no interest in discipleship, worship, prayer or studying God’s Word, don’t assume they will develop spiritual maturity later.

3. What kind of family life did your partner have? We all come from different backgrounds. Some people grow up in single-parent families, others are raised in alcoholic homes, and others experienced abuse. God can help us overcome any handicaps caused by family dysfunction. But you need to know what you are dealing with before you vow to love your partner “in sickness and in health.” You can’t carry your partner’s burdens or experience deep intimacy unless you share your pain with each other.

4. What is your partner’s dating and marriage history? It’s true that when we come to know Christ “the old things passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17). But that doesn’t mean you can lie about your past. Your potential spouse needs to know if you have been married before, if you have kids living in another city, or if you are obligated to make alimony payments.

5. Does your partner have a criminal record? Employers ask this question—and they sometimes turn away prospective employees who have been sentenced for crimes. You don’t want to wait until your wedding night to learn that your husband is wearing a tattoo on his back that he got in prison. And you should rethink your marriage plans if you learn your boyfriend was convicted of assault.

6. Does your partner struggle with addictions? Many marriages end in divorce because one partner has self-destructive habits. The addict may be hooked on alcohol, drugs, porn or gambling—and a churchgoer with these habits may have learned to hide their behavior. If you see the warning signs of addiction, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s no big deal. You may need to postpone the wedding.

7. Does your partner have debts or a questionable credit history? The financial side of marriage is challenging enough without the extra stress of debt. Wise couples will met with a pastor or mentor before the wedding to discuss a reasonable budget. If you find out your partner owes the equivalent of a year’s salary because of out-of-control spending, you should reconsider this relationship.

8. Has your partner received prayer ministry or counseling for his or her failures, hurts and traumas? God’s grace is bigger than any sin. The Holy Spirit can deliver a person from the shame of adultery, the pain of divorce or the bondage of resentment. But these things don’t just drop off by themselves; people need prayer and counseling to get free from their past. You should insist that your partner get the help he or she needs.

9. Do you and your partner agree about family plans? I know a couple who married without talking about this issue. The man wanted lots of kids; the wife didn’t want any. This will not work! Amos 3:3 says: “Do two people walk hand in hand
 if they aren’t going to the same place?” (The Message). Find a partner who shares your desires and goals.

If you want a marriage that stands through life’s storms, you need a partner who is wholly committed to Jesus and on the path to healing. Your spouse won’t be perfect, but please don’t settle for less than God’s best for you.

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The Shameful Secret of ‘Christian’ Domestic Abuse

Last Saturday, police responded to a call from a home in the tranquil Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. Inside they found that Lyuba Savenok, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, had been stabbed multiple times. She was pregnant with her third child. Both died that morning.

Later, Lyuba’s husband, Yeveginy (“Eugene”), confessed that he had killed his wife and fled the house with his kids. They are now in the custody of family members while he awaits trial.

This cute couple with the adorable son and daughter attended a large evangelical church. It was later reported that Lyuba had filed for police protection from her husband when they lived in the Chicago area. She told authorities that Eugene hit her repeatedly, gave her a bloody nose, pulled her hair and once broke a window in a fit of rage.

Police were called to the Savenok home last August, where they learned that Eugene had hit his wife so hard on the back that bruises were evident. He was supposed to answer for that crime in court this week. Now he will be tried for murder.

We all know domestic violence goes on behind closed doors in this country, even in the suburbs. But what is tragic is that it goes on in Christian homes—and this sin is rarely addressed from our pulpits.

Because I have many friends in Russian-speaking churches in this country, I was horrified to hear of the case of Lyuba Savenok—who was from an Estonian heritage. But when I talked to some of my Slavic friends, I learned that domestic abuse is a shameful secret that people only whisper about at church. It is seldom confronted.

“My sister was raped, drugged and hit for 17 years,” one Slavic woman from a midwestern state told me. “I have witnessed emotional abuse, physical abuse and a lot of sexual domination—even the use of drugs—to control women. I think there should be a wide investigation into abuse in the Slavic community.”

One woman from Florida said when her friend sought help from a pastor after being in an abusive marriage for 20 years, she was told to submit to the cruelty. “They told her to become a better wife, and that might change his behavior,” she said.

Some of the people interviewed for this article were even worried about using their names because it is considered inappropriate to talk about abuse in the Slavic church.

“When abuse is brought to light, it is swept under the rug because religious practices have priority,” said one Slavic Christian woman from California. “Unfortunately, church leaders are not equipped to deal with this issue.”

Research shows that domestic violence is rampant in Russian families. And many Slavic women are afraid to even report abuse because their husbands have threatened to hurt them if they do. Tanya Levchyk, who started a Facebook group for Slavic Christian women, said it is past time for Slavic pastors to deal with the elephant in the room.

“Many times Slavic women are afraid to voice their fears because of the great emphasis that is made on reputation in our community,” she said. “They feel they will be ridiculed instead of protected, and it will always be their fault simply because they are female.” Levchyk’s Facebook group now reaches 14,000 women.

My Slavic friend Paul Muzichuk, 31, who has done missions work in eight countries, said he believes the death of Lyuba Savenok should serve as a wake-up call to church leaders—both in the Slavic community and in the wider body of Christ.

“My heart is broken for Slavic women who hide in abusive relationships and hidden pain,” he said. “Fear, religious pride and the Slavic ‘macho’ attitude needs to be confronted so Slavic women can be set free from years of abuse.”

Stephan Karnauch, who grew up in a Slavic home in New York, said it’s past time to expose the painful truth of abuse and to teach men how to treat women with respect. “By exposing this truth we will finally be able to protect families and we will equip our children how to be godly spouses, parents and lovers of Christ,” Karnauch said.

We need to face the fact that Lyuba’s murder doesn’t just represent an issue among Slavic believers. For years American pastors have been telling women to “just submit” to abusive husbands without realizing that such advice can actually provoke more abuse.

Instead of misusing Ephesians 5:22 (“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”) to put women at risk, we should be using the Bible properly to warn abusers that God strongly opposes men who view their wives as inferior. First Peter 3:7 warns a husband that his prayers will be hindered if he does not honor his wife “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.”

Let’s have the courage to pull the rug back. Let’s confront abuse, heal its victims and stop twisting Scripture to protect abusers.

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How I Found Healing from Sexual Abuse

When I was a boy, something shameful happened to me that I never, ever planned to talk about publicly. During a summer visit to a youth camp in Alabama, an older boy whom I considered a friend took me into the woods and abused me sexually. He then brought me inside a boathouse near the camp’s lake for more experimentation.

The abuse wasn’t penetrative or physically painful, but it inflicted a deep emotional scar. It was as if my 7-year-old soul were branded with a hot iron. I never talked about the incident with anyone after it happened. I buried the trauma so no one would know.

I was glad when my family moved from Alabama so I would never have to see that camp or the boathouse again. Yet the memory followed me like a shadow. It produced self-loathing, fear of exposure, sexual confusion and deep inferiority. As a teenager, I spent lots of energy trying to convince my friends I was OK—yet deep down, I still feared I was hopelessly broken.

Thankfully my healing began at age 18, just before college, when I asked Jesus to fill me with the Holy Spirit. God stripped layers of shame off me as I heard the Father’s voice and experienced His unconditional love. By the time I got married and started a family, the shadow of abuse had grown faint.

I found more healing when I told a few mentors and friends about the abuse. I was afraid they would recoil in disgust and reject me (most abuse victims expect that response), but they expressed only love and affirmation. Transparency brought freedom. Yet a thin layer of shame lingered. Even though I was involved in full-time ministry by that time, I battled thoughts of disqualification. I seemed confident and successful to others, but I didn’t like myself.

Then a few months ago, after I relocated to Georgia, I realized the camp where the abuse happened was only 90 miles from my house. When I told this to my friend James, he suggested we go there to pray and find more closure.

As we drove onto the camp property, I felt uneasy. It had been 50 years since the incident, yet the place looked exactly like I remembered it—except for two things: The ranger’s house, where the older boy lived, was gone, and so was the wooden boathouse. Only a faint outline of the foundation of that building was visible next to the lake’s edge.

James and I stood on the grass and prayed in the Holy Spirit. No one else was on the property. James asked me to remember again what happened on that spot. Then he added: “The Lord was there when this horrible thing happened. Ask the Lord what He is saying to you.”

My arms were folded in a defensive posture. Maybe after all these years I was still protecting my heart from the pain. But in that peaceful moment, I could see the inside of the dark boathouse, with life jackets, ropes and canoes hanging on the walls. I saw Jesus standing near a frightened little boy. He said: “I will not let this stop you.”

Those words lifted a few hundred pounds off my mind. Jesus wasn’t scolding me, scowling at me with disapproval or writing me off. He had come to my rescue. He was defending me. He was promising me that the enemy’s plan to destroy my life would not prevail.

I knew from that moment that my experience with abuse had absolutely no control over me. The sting had been removed.

I basked in His presence for a few moments, looking out over the lake and remembering that I had learned to swim there during my summer visits. Then I asked James if we could visit one other location. We got in my car and drove to a church in Montgomery, where I gave my heart to Jesus at age six.

When we pulled into the parking lot of Dalraida Baptist Church, my heart leapt. Unlike the old camp boathouse, the church was still there. In fact, a huge new sanctuary stood in front of the old building where I was baptized. The old sanctuary was now the youth ministry center.

“This is amazing,” I told James. “The place where I was abused is gone. But the place where I began my relationship with Jesus is thriving.”

God spoke to me powerfully that day in Montgomery. He showed me that what defines my life—and what controls my future—is not the ugly blemish on my past but the precious faith I embraced when I chose to follow Him. And he reminded me of the truth of Isaiah 54:4a, which says: “Do not fear, for you shall not be ashamed nor be humiliated; for you shall not be put to shame, for you shall forget the shame of your youth.”

What about you? If you’ve experienced sexual abuse, you don’t have to hide your secret or drag the shame around. Jesus knows your pain and your embarrassment. He does not reject you or keep you at arm’s length. Bring your shame into His presence and let His strong embrace heal your wounded soul.

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Why Women Belong on the Front Lines of Ministry

This past weekend my oldest daughter, Margaret, quietly made history. She was ordained as a pastor at United Assembly, the church in Seneca, South Carolina, where her husband, Rick, has served as an associate pastor for several years. Margaret and another woman, Marly, are the first females to be ordained into pastoral ministry at this church.

As Margaret’s father, I couldn’t be prouder. I have watched her spiritual anointing develop since she was a little girl. But I’m also aware that the road won’t be easy for her or for any woman who embraces the call to leadership.

Thankfully, Margaret’s church is affiliated with a denomination (the Assemblies of God) that fully embraces the ordination of women. But there are hundreds of thousands of churches in 2017 that limit women’s gifts by enforcing a spiritual glass ceiling that was actually shattered long ago on the day of Pentecost.

I’ve been a vocal advocate for women in ministry since my book 10 Lies the Church Tells Women was published 17 years ago. I have helped many pastors remove the traditional barriers to women, and I’ve encouraged countless women to fully embrace God’s unique calling—even when this requires scary steps of faith into uncharted territory.

But here I will simply list three simple yet powerful reasons why it’s imperative that we empower women as never before to step into their ministry callings.

  1. We need a woman’s perspective in the pulpit. In New Testament times, the apostle Paul traveled with his colleagues Aquila and Priscilla. They helped lay the foundations of the early church, and in one scene in Acts 18:24-26, we see them instructing Apollos and launching him into ministry. Priscilla co-labored with Paul to build the first churches. She was not sidelined or silent. She was powerful and apostolic.

Paul was surrounded by women leaders who taught the Bible, prophesied, led churches, served as deacons and died as martyrs. Besides Priscilla, he mentions in his letters several female ministry companions including Chloe, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Junia, Nympha, Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis. Beyond that, the evangelist Philip had four daughters who were prophets (Acts 21:9), and John’s second epistle is addressed to a woman who led a congregation (2 John 1, 13).

If women had this level of influence in the first century—at a time when women were typically treated like property—how much freer should women be to preach today? If God’s image is reflected in both male and female, as Genesis 1:26-28 tells us, why wouldn’t we need both male and female to reveal His truth from the pulpit? If a healthy family needs both a father and a mother to provide nurture and instruction, doesn’t the church also need spiritual fathers and mothers?

  1. Spiritual gifting is not tied to gender. In many evangelical churches today, women are told that their “role” is to serve as wife, mother and domestic servant—and that men have the “role” of leadership. Women are told that preaching, pastoring, teaching and even leading worship are “masculine” gifts, while “feminine” gifts consist of teaching children, prayer, cooking, cleaning and secretarial work. But this sexist view is rooted in macho pride, not in the Bible.

The Holy Spirit’s gifts have nothing to do with gender. The Spirit distributes His gifts “as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11b, NASB). The nine manifestations of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and the motivational gifts listed in Romans 12 have no reference to gender whatsoever. Women can heal the sick. Women can cast out demons. Women can show mercy. Women can preach and teach. We limit and grieve the Spirit when we tell Him who can and cannot function in His gifts!

  1. Certain battles won’t be won without women’s influence. There are many times in Scripture when a woman determined the outcome of a battle. Jael dealt the final blow against Sisera in Judges 4:21; the “certain woman” of Judges 9:53 crushed Abimelek’s skull; and Esther stopped Haman’s genocide plot. If women are supposed to sit on the sidelines while men do all the important work, why are these stories in the Bible?

The truth is that God calls both men and women into ministry. We need both Aquila and Priscilla to build a healthy church. We will continue to lose certain battles until women are trained, empowered and commissioned to engage the enemy.

A few weeks ago, I was in a church in Idaho listening to my daughter Margaret preach a sermon about fighting injustice. Her text was Psalm 45. As she shared passionately about why she adopted an African child and how she traveled to India to fight gender-based violence, I wept—not because my daughter was preaching, but because I could hear God’s voice thundering out of the heart of a 31-year-old mother who cares about the poor and the mistreated. Sometimes it takes a woman to reflect God’s heart.

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10 Steps to Finding Your Life Partner

This year, five young friends of mine are getting married: Anibál met his future wife at his church in California, Vitaliy met his fiancée at Christ for the Nations Institute, KC found David on the mission field, Ben met Tiffany while studying at Regent University, and Doug—who has been waiting the longest for his bride—got engaged to Danya last week on his 32nd birthday.

But I have many other friends, some young and some not so young, who are still waiting for the big introduction. For whatever reason, marriage hasn’t happened for them. Single Christians are often told that all they must do is “wait on God” for a mate. But I believe that phrase is both overused and abused. In many cases, a single person doesn’t need to wait on God; the Lord may actually be waiting on you to take some action.

If you want to be married, here are some simple steps that might help move you farther along in the process:

1. Make sure Jesus is on the throne of your life. You can never go wrong when you put God first. Matthew 6:33 says: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Marriage is a need, and God is very eager to meet it. And since it is probably the biggest decision you will ever make, why trust your own instincts to choose the right person? God is the best matchmaker. Ask Him to guide you.

2. Make spiritual growth your priority. A marriage is strong when both the husband and the wife are strong Christians. If either is immature spiritually, problems will multiply. That’s why you should spend your single years becoming a mature disciple. Paul told the Corinthians that single believers should pursue “undistracted devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). Get involved in a church, study God’s Word and become a passionate worshipper.

3. Make a list of your relationship preferences. It’s OK to desire certain qualities in a spouse. Maybe you prefer a girl who is short, a guy who is older than you or someone who has a certain educational background. Psalm 37:4 says: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Just check your motives and make sure your desires are not selfish or unrealistic.

4. Get rid of your false expectations and fantasies. Many singles have totally unrealistic ideas about what marriage and romance are all about. Some girls have been conditioned by Disney cartoons to expect a guy to sweep them off their feet and take them to his fairy tale castle. That’s not going to happen. Neither will you ever feel the level of heartthrob described in romance novels. Pornography has also ruined romance for people; some guys who are addicted to porn can’t even experience normal arousal without it. Come down to earth and get real. Marriage will never resemble your perfect dream world.

5. Set your moral standards high and never sell out. Every unmarried Christian needs a list of non-negotiables. Never compromise your sexual purity. If a sweet-talking guy from your church’s worship team tries to lure you into a one-night stand, refuse his charm. If you feel attracted to a girl and then realize she flirts with every guy and doesn’t share your values, back off. And never, ever date a nonbeliever with the intention of converting them. “Missionary dating” rarely has a good outcome.

6. Get busy with your life and career. The worst thing any single can do is sit around waiting for a mate. Moping is not attractive—it’s pitiful. Don’t be desperate. God loves you just the way you are, and you don’t need a husband or wife to make you valuable. Live your life. Finish your education, achieve your professional goals and get involved in ministry. It’s more likely you will find your mate while pursuing your dreams than while sitting in a corner mourning your singleness. (And remember: Love does not pay the bills. You need a job to be married!)

7. Seek emotional healing. I know singles who jump from one dysfunctional dating relationship to the next and never realize they have serious issues to address. Don’t wait until you are married to realize you have addictions, bitterness or unresolved pain. If you don’t get rid of your drama now, your marriage will be filled with drama. Seek prayer ministry at your church or find a counselor.

8. Take care of yourself physically. You don’t have to be a cover girl or a GQ stud to find a mate. We come in all shapes and sizes, and your spouse is going to love you and all your imperfections. But making yourself more attractive doesn’t hurt! If you always look like you just got out of bed, ask some honest friends to give you a makeover. If you need to lose weight, stop making excuses and start a sensible food plan and exercise routine.

9. Develop an active social life. Some Christian guys I know are afraid to ask a girl out for coffee, yet they play video games all day while complaining about loneliness. Hello? You will never find a mate in a vacuum. You have to break out of your shell and make yourself available. You don’t have to pair up when you gather with a group of singles for fellowship. Many dating relationships start as innocent friendships—and then a romantic spark turns into a flame.

10. Find a married mentor to help you prepare. You don’t have to navigate the journey from dating to marriage all by yourself. Seek out a trusted older friend to help you. Ask questions. Share your fears. Marriage is a huge decision, but a mentor can give you the courage to embrace your future. And they will be cheering the loudest at your wedding because they’ve played a small part in God’s miracle.

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10 Worst Mistakes Christians Make When Dating

Singles make up a big percentage of any given church, and pastors spend a lot of time teaching about marriage and parenting. But how do you actually find the right person to marry?

You won’t hear much teaching about dating in most churches. It’s like we’re afraid to touch the subject—so people just feel their way in the dark and figure out romance on their own.

Our awkwardness about this topic is one reason single Christians make so many relationship blunders—and why many marriages start out on the wrong foot. I asked some of my single friends and one of my daughters to help me compile this list of most common dating mistakes. Here are the Top 10:

1. Being desperate for a relationship. Some singles freak out when they hit age 25. They stop trusting God and begin a nail-biting search for a mate. My friend Nicole Doyley, author of The Wait, says she knows women who are so frantic about finding Prince Charming that they immediately fall for any guy who asks them out. “They should see the warning signs, but don’t,” Nicole says. “They start praying immediately if this is ‘the one’ and they quickly become blind to his faults.”

2. Being too picky. On the flip side, some singles are waiting for the perfect human specimen to sweep them off their feet. Picky guys want a girl who could appear in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. Or, some Christian women expect to marry a spiritual giant who prays four hours a day. Be realistic. Whoever you date will have feet of clay and plenty of flaws to match your own.

3. Not developing healthy friendships with the opposite sex. Oftentimes too much pressure is placed on Christian singles to pair up, especially if they are attending a Bible college with a reputation for being a wedding factory. And in that pressure cooker it’s difficult for guys and girls to enjoy nonromantic friendships. Relax and make friends, and don’t view every opposite-sex friend as a potential marriage partner.

4. Letting other people control your relationship. Church friends usually mean well, but some people don’t know how to stay out of other people’s business. They will engage in what I call “prophetic meddling” by dropping hints, manipulating you to go out with someone or pushing you to marry someone you don’t even want to be with. And while the gift of prophecy is valuable, you should never let personal prophecies steer your decisions about marriage. Let God personally guide you in this very personal area of life.

5. Ignoring proper boundaries. Some Christian couples are extremely naïve about the power of a romantic bond. They don’t realize that feelings can zoom from zero to 90 miles an hour in a few seconds, and that one kiss can lead to intercourse if you don’t have your emergency brake on at all times. If you are in a dating relationship, you must know your boundaries, discuss them with your partner and commit to staying pure. Don’t be stupid. Don’t spiritualize your lust and suggest, “Let’s go to your apartment and pray.” Don’t wait until clothes come off to determine what is out of bounds.

6. Missionary dating. Never start a romantic relationship with a guy or girl who is not a believer. Christians who do this usually justify it with the old “I know I can change him/her” line. But the opposite happens: The unbeliever changes you—after he or she has broken your heart, compromised your morals or damaged your faith.

7. Lack of healthy confidence. Some guys I know are stuck in a state of spiritual limbo when it comes to their dating life. They may admire a girl from afar, but they just can’t muster up the nerve to break the ice and start a conversation. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” If you are going to find a wife, you don’t just sit there until you are 40. Develop some healthy aggression. And while it is true that some women prefer to be pursued, remember that Ruth proposed to Boaz in the Old Testament story. Don’t be so demure that your future husband can’t even notice you.

8. Expecting the person you are dating to “fix” you. God wants singles to have undistracted devotion to Jesus (see 1 Cor. 7:35). Yet too often we look to other people to bring the inner fulfillment that only Christ gives. Many singles fall into the trap of finding a boyfriend or girlfriend to heal the wounds caused by childhood trauma, their parents’ divorce or their dads’ addictions. Seek healing from the Holy Spirit for those issues before you commit to a serious relationship.

9. Spiritual stalking. I’ve met guys in church who drive by girls’ houses regularly, monitor their moves and troll their Facebook pages. That’s creepy. If you have to sneak around like a private detective to get a date, you need a new strategy. If a woman tells you she is not interested in going out with you, honor her request and move on. Don’t develop an unhealthy obsession. And never, never, never tell a girl: “God told me you will be my wife.” That’s manipulative and could fall under the category of sexual harassment.

10. Not discerning a spiritual predator. One single female friend of mine said she went out with a man who did a financial seminar at her church. Because the guy was invited to speak from a pulpit she assumed he was a man of character, but he tried to get her into bed with him on the first date. It became quickly obvious he was an imposter. Beware of wolves. You must walk in the Spirit if you want to protect your purity and save yourself for the right person.

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8 Reasons Why Watching Porn Is Just Plain Stupid

I have prayed for countless men who admit they struggle with porn. After we prayed together they got a level of victory over the habit, but some came back to me asking for more practical steps to freedom—because porn is assaulting us from all sides today.

My response: You must be ruthless. Paul told the Corinthians: “I discipline my body and make it my slave” (1 Cor. 9:27, NASB). You must ask God for the power to control your urges, and run every time you feel tempted. You should also consider that it’s really dumb to look at porn, for the following reasons:

1. Porn is a huge waste of time. A 2008 study of graduate students found that 48 percent of young adult males look at porn weekly, and some view it daily. The statistics for women aren’t as high, but numbers are rising. The problem is that the more porn you look at, the more you need—and porn addicts spend hours (and sometimes lots of money) looking for bigger thrills. You’d be a lot healthier if you spent that time exercising, studying or hanging out with friends. Or praying!

2. Porn imbeds images in your memory. Philippians 4:8 says: “Whatever is pure … dwell on these things.” A Christian who indulges in porn is filing thousands of unholy images in his or her brain. Those images will emerge during a conversation, during sleep or even during worship at church! Why would you want those movies showing in your brain every day?

3. Porn changes your view of sex and other people. Porn addicts begin to view people as body parts. And married men who are addicts often try to force their wives to engage in degrading acts they’ve seen in films or photos. I’ve counseled guys who find it difficult to enjoy married sex because it’s not as satisfying as the porn they consumed for years before marriage. Psychologists have proven that teenage boys who watch a lot of porn become much more sexually aggressive and assume girls want to be treated roughly.

4. Porn harms your sex life. Secular counselors have released countless studies proving that the human brain is “rewired” (in other words, damaged) by watching porn. The chemical dopamine is released when we feel sexual stimulation, but a porn addict needs higher and higher levels of this to be stimulated. He will search for more hard-core porn to satisfy the urge—and in some cases will experience erectile dysfunction because he can’t satisfy the need for a thrill.

5. Porn grieves the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (MEV). When you grieve someone he gets quiet. When a Christian makes sinful choices, the Lord does not condemn us but He will withdraw the sense of His presence so we become desperate for Him again. A mature Christian learns to avoid anything that offends the Holy Spirit.

6. Porn brings condemnation and shame. Many Christians go through life feeling spiritually defeated because guilt weighs them down. Romans 8:6 tells us: “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (NASB). If you focus your attention on porn, you will live in a depressing spiritual rut. Get up, repent, receive forgiveness and learn to overcome your habit by trusting in His indwelling power. To find total healing you should admit your struggle to someone else (see James 5:16). Transparency brings freedom.

7. Porn is filthy. The Covenant Eyes ministry has reported that 66 percent of porn performers have herpes, and 7 percent have HIV. Porn is full of disease. It’s gross. James 1:21 says: “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives” (NLT). The Greek word for “filth” (rhyparia) can mean “obscenity” or “moral defilement.” The next time you are tempted to look at a porn site, imagine yourself standing in a latrine, up to your neck in human waste. Don’t soak your soul in filth!

8. Porn will pull you into worse sexual sin. Never downplay the power of temptation. You may think you can “manage” your sin, but the truth is that porn is a beast. It is stronger than you are. It is a cruel taskmaster that will take control and make you do things you regret. I have counseled men who admitted to me that porn was their first step toward adultery.

If you are struggling to stay free from porn, tape this article to your computer screen and read it before logging on. You may even want to write the words “DON’T BE STUPID” at the top of this list to remind you that purity is still important in this pornographic world. Get a grip. Use self-control. Don’t let porn destroy your life—or your relationship with God.

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We Need More Women Like Beth Moore

I’ve been in countless Christian meetings over the years, but last week, I witnessed one of the most remarkable spiritual moments of my lifetime.

I was attending a gathering of Pentecostals held at a convention center in Orlando, Florida. When the speaker concluded the sermon, people began to stream to the altar. Many of them—including pastors—lay prostrate on the floor. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. Some people wept and prayed for an hour after the meeting was dismissed.

You may ask, “What’s so remarkable about that?” This meeting, held on July 26, was unique because the speaker was a Southern Baptist—and a woman. Yet her message was so convicting and so saturated in the Holy Spirit that people ran to the stage even though she didn’t even invite people to the altar.

The woman was author and popular women’s speaker Beth Moore, and the occasion was the 28th General Conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Leaders from the Assemblies of God, the Church of God and Nigeria’s Redeemed Christian Church of God were in attendance, along with thousands of Pentecostals from all over the world.

Moore based her message on Jeremiah 12:5: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?” Without a tinge of self-righteousness or condemnation, Moore lamented the powerless state of the modern church and called us back to the raw authenticity of New Testament faith.

“We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us,” said Moore. “I read my New Testament over and over. I’m not seeing what He promised. I’m unsettled and unsatisfied.”

She added: “I want holy fire!”

I don’t know what is more fascinating—that a Baptist challenged Pentecostals to embrace Pentecostal fire or that a woman who is not supposed to preach to men in her own denomination brought male pastors to their knees in repentance.

“We’ve lost our tolerance for pain and given ourselves to whining,” Moore declared. “We have settled for the spiked Kool-Aid of cool, cultural Christianity. What will make us relevant is not our cool factor. It’s time for leadership to repent.”

I’ve heard a lot of excellent preaching over the years. But listening to Beth Moore was uncanny because her sermon was not about her, and it didn’t draw attention to her. There was no swagger. There was no pretense. The sweet dew of heaven rested on this woman.

I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking loud and clear through a broken vessel.

That’s why people responded so dramatically, even though Moore simply closed her Bible and sat down when she finished her message. Everyone in the room knew they had heard God speak. They hit their knees because the anointing of the Holy Spirit wooed them to surrender pride, complacency and man-made religion.

What is baffling about this whole experience is that there are large numbers of Christians today who don’t believe Beth Moore should be preaching to audiences like the one in Orlando. In fact, some fundamentalists have launched attacks on her because she preaches authoritatively from pulpits. One online blogger says Moore “puts the ‘her’ in heresy” simply because men listen to her teaching. It grieves me that this anointed sister in Christ has been subjected to such disrespect.

The old argument employed by some conservative fundamentalists is that Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:12, forbid women to preach. They seem to ignore the fact that 1) Paul empowered many women in other locations to speak and that women such as Phoebe, Priscilla, Chloe, Euodia and Syntyche were on his ministry team; 2) that the Bible offers other examples of godly women leaders and prophets; and 3) that Paul’s unique concern in 1 Timothy 2:12 was about women in Ephesus who were “usurping” authority and teaching twisted doctrines.

The New Testament is clear that God has called all Christians to be His witnesses, and that both “your sons and your daughters” will prophesy in the last days (Acts 2:17). Our passion should be to see everyone empowered—regardless of race, class, age or gender. If we truly want Pentecost, we should want to see the flame of the Spirit resting on the heads of every person—not just white males over 50.

We really shouldn’t be too worried if God wants to use a woman today to call people to repentance. If He used Catherine Booth to shake England in the 1800s, or missionary Mary Slessor to plant the gospel in Nigeria, or Sojourner Truth to challenge slavery through her powerful preaching, or Kathryn Kuhlman to spark a healing revival in the United States in the 1970s, why are we still arguing about this?

We need an army of women like Beth Moore, and my prayer is that more women will seek the Lord and dig into His Word with the same passion that Moore has. I believe she is a forerunner for a new generation of both men and women who will carry a holy Pentecostal fire that cannot be restricted by gender.

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Don’t Swallow the ‘Red Pill’

Zach and Amanda (not their real names) were happily married and attending a growing church on the east coast. They started a family and got involved in ministry. Things were going well for this young Christian couple. But then Zach took a major spiritual detour.

He swallowed the Red Pill.

You may not know anything about this infamous pill, but you need to learn fast before it affects marriages in your church. Some Christian men today have come under its influence, mainly through the popular Reddit online discussion site.

At first Amanda noticed her husband was developing odd attitudes about women. He would talk about how “all women” are highly emotional and how they want to manipulate men. Then Zach began to play mind games with his wife: ignoring her, blaming her for everything or cutting off sexual contact for days to teach her a lesson.

Then he started demanding total submission from Amanda. He began quoting 1 Peter 3:6, which says that Sarah called her husband Abraham “lord.” Meanwhile he would sometimes call his wife stupid if they argued.

“It was definitely mental and psychological abuse,” Amanda says. “His love was conditional. He would say, ‘You need to follow me completely, and then I will give you what you need.'”

Finally, Amanda couldn’t take it anymore. She began to fear that Zach might abuse her physically. “I was constantly crying. I was miserable and depressed,” she told me this week in an interview. Although Amanda is not ready to give up her marriage, and she hopes for restoration, her trust in Zach is shattered, and she has started seeing a counselor.

The Christian community needs to be on the alert for the influence of the Red Pill movement because it’s developing a cult-like following. It is described as a “men’s rights movement”—which sounds benevolent enough—but the fruit of this movement is anything but right.

Many authors over the years have advocated a men’s movement, including Robert Bly, Rollo Tomassi or the Christian blogger known as Dalrock. But Red Pill has taken the philosophy to the level of a religion. The Red Pill discussion site was launched in 2012 by Robert Fisher, a congressman from New Hampshire who describes himself as both preacher’s kid and atheist. He hid his true identity on the site for a few years, but he resigned from his government post last month after his connection to Red Pill was revealed.

The movement is much bigger than Robert Fisher now. The site has 200,000 active subscribers. It promotes the idea that there is a “war on men” in modern culture and that the only way to fight back is to demand total submission. It even preaches that all women secretly want to be dominated because they are inferior. Some of the most outlandish tenets of this patriarchal online cult include these:

  • Despite what feminists say, women don’t want equality or respect—they want to be dominated by a strong man.
  • Women today should spend more time on their personal appearance and less on work or education because men are not attracted to intelligent women.
  • The stereotypical American woman is a “self-entitled brat” who has been influenced by “feminist hogwash.”
  • All women are alike. Red Pill advocates invented a buzzword, “AWALT,” to explain this concept. It means “All Women Are Like That.”
  • Men should consider male-dominated trades because mechanics, electricians and plumbers are able to avoid negative female influences in the workplace. Men in a corporate culture or in academia risk being emasculated by women.

The actual name of the movement is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which the character Neo takes a red pill to tap into the dark secrets of the universe. Followers of Red Pill are urged to open their eyes so they can see that women have collectively joined together in a global conspiracy to dominate men.

Fisher, who started Red Pill to help men navigate “the woes of dating in the American culture,” certainly does not espouse Christian ideas of holiness or decency. Part of Red Pill’s philosophy is to help men conquer women sexually. Fisher wrote in 2013: “I treat women like they’re subordinate creatures, and suddenly they respect me.”

Another tenet of Red Pill involves “negging,” a flirting technique used by pick-up artists. Men are encouraged to use low-grade insults or offensive teasing to undermine a woman’s self-confidence—so that she will ultimately be more vulnerable to a man’s sexual advances.

Believe it or not, Christian men today are embracing these crazy, unbiblical ideas. They think God wants them to be crude, abusive and dominant—even though the Bible calls husbands to be humble, kind and compassionate models of sacrificial love (see Eph. 5:25-30).

If anyone around you is taking this Red Pill, warn them now. If anyone in your church is promoting these toxic ideas, don’t let them spread, or you will face a crisis. Now is the time to teach men that godly masculinity isn’t about bossing women around or acting superior.

Real men aren’t macho, abusive or controlling. Real men don’t put women down or feel threatened by them. Real men don’t compete with women; they are happy to be equal partners with them. Real men don’t swallow the Red Pill.

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