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A Call to Careful Matchmaking in the Church

A Call to Careful Matchmaking in the Church

One Dinner Party and Two Weddings Later

One of my greatest highlights from the last couple of years was successfully matchmaking two couples—at one dinner party, nonetheless! The dinner party setup and subsequent party one week later allowed Jordan and Ethan to get to know Amanda and Gabby—at least enough to know the pursuit was on! They took it from there, and this summer, Trevor and I attended both of their weddings, just two weeks apart. Only God!

I believe you, too, can experience the joy of being used by God to help a Christian man and woman find and get to know each other. In fact, I believe you are needed.

Finding a suitable spouse to marry today seems . . . impossible. Where can you meet him or her if not in a bar or on an online app? Where and how can you possibly get to know them in a safe, casual, comfortable environment? That’s where you come in. But first, one very important disclaimer.

Beware of Unwelcome Matchmaking

Please, only offer your matchmaking services to those you know want to be married and who would love some help getting there. If you’re not sure if they want your help, ask them. One single guy told me,

“I went through a period of time in my early 20s where I had resolved myself not to date as I was too busy and working on sins and struggles in my life. But every other week people from church would pull me aside and suggest I date someone they knew. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations.”

Similarly, a mom of a single young woman told me,

“My daughter’s biggest frustration is the need to fix her up with the one other single in her congregation.”

Let me be clear. Singleness isn’t a disease; it’s a gift.

At the same time, marriage is a gift as well. If it’s a gift your single friend longs for, here’s how you can help.

Tips for Matchmaking Well

  1. Care for Christian singles. Don’t try your hand at matchmaking ’cause you could use a little romance in your own life, or ’cause you hope to have a good story some day. Matchmake because you care deeply about your single friends. Extend yourself out of love for them. At the same time, matchmake not for their ultimate happiness (marriage isn’t about that!), but for God’s glory. Matchmake so that one more couple can show those around them the beauty of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).
  2. Listen well. You are not looking for someone you like; you are looking for someone your friend will like. Do you know what your friend wants in a spouse? Don’t blindly set them up with someone just ’cause they’re the only other Christian you know in twenty miles. Get to know your single friend. Ask lots of questions. What does he or she desire in a spouse? What does he or she need to complement them?
  3. Pray for wisdom. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Ask God for wisdom. Pray that He will establish your steps. Ask Him for success.
  4. Brainstorm together. Talk through the people you both know—even married people—to identify the sorts of characteristics they are looking for. Make sure you’re on the same page. Then begin to brainstorm singles you know who are similar. Let your single friend give input on whether they’re interested in getting to know this person better or not.
  5. Open your home. Invite the person your friend is interested in getting to know better over to your house. Don’t be awkward about it. In our case, we invited Amanda and Gaby over a Facebook message, simply telling them we were “having a couple other friends over.”
  6. Open your home again. Continue to open your home so your single friends have other opportunities to hang out and get to know each other. We followed the dinner party up with another party one week later. And that wasn’t the end for us. Currently, my husband and I are seeking to create opportunities for one single male friend to slowly get to know a specific Christian woman in the context of an informal, group setting.

Those are just a few ways I believe you can matchmake well. Do you have anything to add? Have you tried your hand at matchmaking? What do you think contributed to your success or failure in that area?

PS: If you liked this article, I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate “How NOT to Hurt the Singles In Your Church.”

PPS: This photo was taken a few months ago, when a group of us got together to celebrate Ethan and Gabby’s engagement. You can see the two new couples here. From left to right: me, Trevor, Amanda and Jordan, Ethan and Gabby.

Should I Move Near My Boyfriend?

Should I Move Near My Boyfriend?

“Should I move to the same city where my long-distance boyfriend lives?” That is the question on the table for today. The topic came across my radar when I received this email:

I am currently in a looong-distance relationship (me in Norway, him in the States). Long story short: We are both serious about this relationship heading toward marriage, and what we are looking at is me moving to the States after I finish school. From what I understand you also moved to where your husband lives.

Moving across the world and into a new culture is a huge step of faith for me, considering being away from family, church, and deep friendships on a permanent basis. I’d love to hear your story. Bet it’s a great opportunity to lean hard on the Lord.

(I’m going to assume that this girl is talking about finishing college, not high school.) That said, let’s dive in.

Four Questions to Consider Before You Move Near Your Boyfriend

Dear “I’m considering marriage . . . and moving across the world,”

It sounds wise that you plan on finishing your schooling before you move.

  1. Have you visited each other in person?
    I would definitely recommend several in-person visits before you make such a big move. Use these times to make sure he’s the same guy you’ve been getting to know online. (Trevor and I took turns visiting each other about once a month.)
  2. Is your boyfriend a fellow believer in Christ alone for salvation? Is he actively pursuing God? Do you trust that he wouldn’t put you in a bad situation?
  3. Have you thought about who you would move in with? Or would you live on your own?
    I’d recommend living with someone else rather than on your own for several reasons: You’re going to need help adjusting to a new culture, and it’ll also be helpful to have a place to hang out with your boyfriend with other people around for accountability.
  4. Is your boyfriend involved in a solid church where you’d be able to find friends and community?

Should One of Us Move? (Our Story)

You asked about my story. Before Trevor and I were engaged—but knowing that was coming—we talked and prayed about when it would be appropriate for one of us to move to live near the other. (Near, not with!)

We were older, we knew we were intentionally moving toward marriage, and we wanted some time to observe each other doing life on a daily basis. It just seemed like a good idea to be close enough to see how the other navigated dynamics like family, flat tires, and stress when considering something as serious as marriage.

We talked lots about whether he should move to Michigan or whether I should move to New York. While some would say that the guy should always take the risk and move to the girl, for me and Trevor, it seemed to make the most sense for me to move.

Trevor was committed to his city and church. If we were to marry, I knew we would be living in his city. I understood I would face a ton of change all at once if I married him, so I wanted to get a jumpstart on things like building new friendships, getting involved in his church, and learning my way around a new city. I figured it would be change enough to dive into my brand-new role as a wife a few months later.

Also, Trevor had a good job in New York, and my work place was flexible, allowing me to work off-site. Besides, I’d been living in a small Michigan town for a decade and had been itching for a new adventure for a while.

My Move to New York

In April 2015, Trevor asked me to marry him, and a few days later I trailed the yellow moving truck he was driving to New York in my Toyota Avalon. (I just may have locked my keys in my car at a rest stop somewhere along the way . . . Pennsylvania, maybe? But that’s another story for another day.)

When we finally arrived in New York, we were met with a group of people from his church who unloaded the moving truck and welcomed me to my new home for the next five-and-a-half-months. My roommates consisted of a kind married couple from his church who invited me to stay with them rent-free!, another girl who was engaged to be married three weeks before me, as well as two dog and three cats.

Looking back, I have no regrets. It was the right decision for us.

May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend, your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.

Was it risky? Sure. I knew full well going into the move that it was possible something could come up and our engagement could be broken off. It was a risk, though, that I was willing to take, because the benefits outweighed the risks for me.

Hopefully my story will help you as you think through a potential move. Your story will probably look different than mine, and that’s okay. Be sure to be seeking God about such a huge decision and listening well to advice from older, wiser Christians in your life. May the Lord lead you to make the wisest decision for you, your boyfriend (or fiancé), your relationship, and ultimately God’s glory.

Blessings,

Paula

A Q&A on Marriage

A Q&A on Marriage

Hey, girls! Since it’s the day after Valentine’s Day and love is still in the air (or at least on our minds), I thought I’d share this interview with you from GospelMag.com. I hope my responses will help you as you think about someday possibly moving from singleness to marriage. Enjoy!

Q. Since you wrote Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, you got married. Congratulations!

A. Thank you. God gives great gifts. I was starting to think I’d be single for the rest of my life; I’m still amazed I’m married . . . and to a wonderful man!

Q. What changed in your life when you met the man who would become your husband?

A. At first not a whole lot, other than that I spent a lot more time on Skype. As I look back over the past two-and-a-half-years since I’ve known him, though, I can see that I’ve changed a lot. Trevor has challenged and changed the way I think about a host of issues. He has pushed me (in good ways) in areas where I felt fearful and inept. He has been a tangible picture of God’s steadfast love for me, even when all that is ugly is stripped bare and out in the open.

Q. How did you meet him?

A. Seven months after publishing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, I inadvertently started following a guy named Trevor Marsteller on Twitter. At the time, I was reaching out to bloggers asking for honest reviews of my book in exchange for a free copy. When I followed him on Twitter, I saw he had over 1,000 followers and had also done book reviews on his blog. I asked if he’d like to review Confessions, he said yes, and we kept talking from there. (You can read all the juicy details here.)

Q. Did things change right away, or has your relationship gradually become special?

A. I’m not the only one who has changed. Trevor has become more and more kind and affectionate since we first met. In fact, he puts me to shame with the way he loves me! I’d say our relationship has become more special over time, through tears, hard conversations, forgiveness, kindness, and love.

Q. Did God show you in one way or another that Trevor was the man you should marry?

A. I believe God communicates to us through His Word. In the Bible, He has made it clear that believers are not to marry unbelievers. But other than that one stipulation, He has given us freedom to make our choice based on wisdom.

God didn’t “speak” to me and tell me to marry Trevor. But as I got to know Trevor, as I asked others who knew him well questions, as I saw how he loved me and how I could just be myself around him without needing to impress him, it became obvious. This man loved God, loved me, and was pursuing me. It was a no-brainer.

Q. What would you say to girls who want to marry and don’t know on which basis to make their decision?

Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.”

A. Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Is he a believer? One who is serious in his pursuit of God? Is he pursuing you? Are you comfy with him? Do you communicate well? Do your family and friends think he’s great?
Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!

Q. We often tell people who aren’t yet married that they need to date, meet more people, and subscribe to dating websites. In this, we lead them to understand that they have to do more to make it happen. What do you think?

He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him.

A. I was given the same advice over the years, but I think it falls short. Ultimately, most of us underestimate God’s sovereignty. He is the One who gives us every good gift. Pursue Him. Serve Him. Trust Him. This area of life is not ultimately something you control; it is all under His wise, good, sovereign control.

Q. We often say to girls that they will find someone when they least expect it. What do you think?

A. I think it’s very unhelpful advice. People probably mean to be encouraging when they say it, but as a single I always felt this enormous pressure to somehow trick my emotions out of longing for marriage. It sounded like if I could succeed in that, then marriage would somehow just fall in my lap. But there’s no such prerequisite in God’s Word. He gives us undeserved gifts freely; we do not earn them.

Q. How did you find your smile (joy) back when you went through moments of discouragement regarding romance?

A. It took a long time, but as I got to know God’s character through His Word and by sitting under solid sermons Sunday after Sunday, I grew in my knowledge of God. And as my knowledge of God grew, so did my trust in Him and my enjoyment of Him.

Whenever I sign my books, I include Psalm 16:11: “In your presence is fullness of joy.” True joy is not found in our circumstances but in spending time enjoying God, which we can do anytime, anywhere.

I’d love to hear from you. Did you learn anything new through this interview? Anything you disagree with? As you think about marriage, are there any questions you want to add?

A Q&A on Marriage was also published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Why Rules Aren’t Enough to Keep You Pure

Why Rules Aren’t Enough to Keep You Pure

Recently I heard from a girl who was struggling to remain pure. She had just started dating a guy long distance. After her first weekend visit, she wrote:

The physical temptation is so real. Even the smallest thing will set off a wildfire in my heart. . . . It’s a war I didn’t realize I would struggle with. I wish I had been more prepared to guard our hearts in the most heart-racing moments.

I can relate.

My Rule-Making Strategy

Before Trevor and I married, we also dated long distance. I’ll never forget my first visit to spend time with him over Christmas. Unlike this girl above, I did anticipate that it would be tough physically. So I set a couple rules for myself before boarding the plane:

  1. No lying down horizontally.
  2. No kissing on the lips.

And while I technically didn’t break either of those rules on that first visit, I found myself flirting at the very edges of those boundaries, like a hummingbird hovering near sweet nectar.

I kept “the letter of the law” while ignoring “the spirit of the law.” I observed my literal rules but not the intent behind the rules: purity, so I might see and enjoy God (Matt. 5:8).

Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.

It was soon blazingly obvious: Rules weren’t going to do the trick of keeping me pure. For example, if I had set a boundary, “I won’t be in a bedroom with him with the door closed,” my flesh would surely have countered, “Okay, I’ll go to the garage instead.”

Pastor and theologian Gerald Hiestand describes this well when he writes, “Every ‘objective’ boundary can be worked around by sin-inspired creativity.”

Colossians 2:20–23 also explains that boundaries and rules aren’t enough to keep us from doing wrong. On our own, they’re not capable of getting to the root issue—they don’t deal a deathblow to our ungodly passions and desires.

What, then, is to be done?

Your Dating Strategy

First, as 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” Get your running shoes on and start sprinting like mad! Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.

  • Flee sexual immorality and fly to Christ, in whom every treasure is found.
  • Ask God to send His Spirit to help you see and despise your sin.
  • Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!

I’m not saying there is no place in dating for boundaries. But even if you do set rules, don’t rely on them alone to keep you pure. You aren’t strong enough to battle your ungodly passions in your own strength. Run to Christ. Only He is strong enough.

Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!

How about you? Have you set any rules or boundaries for yourself once you begin dating? If so, what will you do when your flesh doesn’t cooperate with your good intentions? Then what?

Why Rules Aren’t Enough to Keep You Pure was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

How Can I Know If He’s ‘The One’?

How Can I Know If He’s ‘The One’?

“How did you know Trevor was the one for you?” a seventeen-year-old asked me. “I struggle with knowing if a guy is right for me. Every day I ask God to help me figure out my confusion.”

Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly simple. Let me share with you what I’m learning from Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Gary Friesen and J. Robin Maxson.

1. Determine if you have the “gift” of marriage or singleness.

Dr. Friesen explains it like this:

The decision to marry or remain single lies within the area of freedom. The apostle [Paul] had a definite preference for [singleness] that he “wished” all others could choose. But he knew he could not give his desire the force of a command. For not everyone “has the gift.” God graces each believer differently. It is likely that Paul’s meaning is that some are “gifted” to enjoy singleness while others are “gifted” to enjoy marriage with its extra responsibilities (1 Cor. 7:7).

The first issue for you to work out is whether it’s best for you to be married or single. Surprisingly, “there is no command from Scripture one way or the other.” That means you don’t need to spend hours trying to discern God’s “still, small voice.” You don’t need to determine whether God is calling you to marriage or singleness.

Since both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, and since you are free to serve God as a single girl and once you’re married, both are good options. (You can read 1 Corinthians 7 for the pros and cons of both marriage and singleness.)

Now is a good time to think through this, even if there’s no guy knocking at your door yet. It will be less for you to figure out when a guy does come knocking.

2. Determine if your prospect is a believer.

Now—assuming you desire to be married, and there’s a guy pursuing you—you first need to ask if Scripture says anything about choosing a spouse. (And it does!) Scripture is clear: A believer in Christ may only marry another believer in Christ. This is vitally important. As Dr. Friesen explains:

The point is that not only are the believers’ values, goals, standards, motivations, and means of enablement for living incompatible with those of an unbeliever; they are diametrically opposed! They are serving two different lords that are archenemies of one another.

God has given you a whole lot of freedom beyond this one command. Don’t disobey Him here. Look first and foremost for a godly, Jesus-loving guy.

3. Seek wise counsel.

  • What do your parents think of this guy?
  • What does your pastor say?
  • Once you’re engaged, get some premarital counseling, and listen well to what your counselor thinks of you two.

Those around you will be a lot more clearheaded than you will with romance clouding your brain. Heed their counsel.

4. Use common sense.

Do you two share the same values? Here are just a few things Friesen encourages you to note: age, finances, employment, education, personal goals, personality traits, birth control, principles of child rearing, hobbies, family background, socioeconomic background, and possessions.

My Story

I didn’t always understand the freedom God has given in wisely choosing a spouse. I used to try to figure out if it was God’s will for me to marry a guy by praying and then watching for “signs” from God. And it was confusing! Here’s an example from an old journal entry:

I was talking on the phone with Dad tonight when Jim texted. Actually, at that particular moment, Dad was praying that my future husband would find me, when I heard the text come in. Coincidence, or God at work? I don’t know . . .

Jim was also confused, because after months of sending me confusing signals, he told me that as he’d prayed about pursuing me, he “sensed a yellow light.” He didn’t have a “red light” from God, but he also didn’t have a “green light.” He also told me that as he asked God whether now was the time to pursue marriage or not, God had been “annoyingly silent.” I think that’s because God had already given him the freedom to decide himself.

Needless to say, I ended up telling Jim goodbye (you can read how that went down in chapter 15 of my book). And oh, I’m so glad I did.

Because a few years later, God plopped Trevor Marsteller in my lap. Well, in my Twitter feed, to be exact. As I began to date Trevor (he was a believer, so he was fair game), I kept my eyes wide open and used the wisdom God has given me through His Word and community.

Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense.

It’s not that there were zero concerns. But as I brought those to God, to Trevor, and to wise counselors, in the end they weren’t game changers. Although Trevor wasn’t perfect (no guy but Jesus is!), I could see that he was “perfect” for me in so many ways. These three main things gave me the confidence to continue moving forward to marriage. And if you’re wondering, six months into marriage I am so grateful I chose him!

Back to you now, though.

Bottom line: Stop looking for handwriting in the sky telling you that this guy is “the one.” Make a wise decision based on the Word of God, wise counsel, and common sense. God has given you a ton of freedom. Choose wisely, and as you do, be blessed!

I’d love to hear from you. Does this sound surprisingly . . . simple? What questions do you have after reading this post?

How Can I Know If He’s ‘The One’? was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

How to Know if You’re Ready to Date or Court

How to Know if You’re Ready to Date or Court

When should you start to date (or court)? Here are three tell-tale signs (among others) that you’re ready:

1. Your authority figures give you the green light.

I heard from a girl recently who wrote:

I like this dude, and he happens to like me back. One day after school, we talked, and he told me that he likes me, and so I told him I like him, too. I have heard from many people that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend . . . and that’s where things get crazy.

My parent will NOT let me date. And if they find out that I am dating . . . let’s just say that I will die. LITERALLY.

I am not dating him right now, but I just have a feeling that he will ask me . . . and I don’t know what to do. I really like him, and he likes me. This is very rare!!! When ur crush likes u back . . . Rare. My friends are like, “Just say yes, and just don’t tell your parents,” but I am like, “They will find out!!!”

I can relate. I told her:

We have a lot in common. My parents had the same rules . . . plus some. Growing up I thought they were totally unreasonable, and I dated behind their backs (and was always discovered).

Now, looking back, I can see that God was protecting me from myself through my parents. It sure wasn’t fun in junior high and high school, but now I am SO grateful I wasn’t allowed to get my way. I actually ended up dedicating my book to my parents. Here’s a little taste:

“[Thank you] for keeping such close tabs on me during those tumultuous teen years! At the time I thought you were just plain ol’ mean, but now I can’t thank you enough for sparing me a harvest of regret.”

You’ll end up being grateful, too, for those strict parents. Even though you feel anything but gratitude now, know this:

  • God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3). And He always keeps His promises! It’s not just
    a suggestion; He commands it. If you disobey your parents, you’re ultimately disobeying God.
  • If this guy really, really likes you, he will wait for as long as it takes. And if he is the kind of guy you want to end up with long-term, he will
    NOT encourage you to disobey your parents.

God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents. And He always keeps His promises!

Please, please trust me. Going behind your parents’ backs will only end in regret. And if you already have, it’s not too late to get out.

(Psst . . . If you’re struggling with your parents’ rules, here are some posts I’ve written in the past that may help.)

When Your Parents Say NO
How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back
How I Lost My Parents’ Trust
Dear Parent Hater

Let me add that just because an authority figure says you can date whenever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe this authority figure isn’t currently making the wisest decisions. In this case, ask yourself if you’re ready for marriage. That’s right. Marriage.

2. You’re ready for marriage.

That’s the point of dating, after all. Ben Stuart explains it like this: “Dating is not a status. It’s a process (of evaluating a person for marriage).”

That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel completely ready for marriage, as in, “Oh, yeah, I got this covered, no sweat.” But you’re actually at a point in life where you’re old—and mature—enough to get married. You don’t have something else you have to complete first, like a big chunk of schooling.

Scott Craft (a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ) says:

The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married woman in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.

But what if I met someone super special, you ask? And they actually like me? Shouldn’t I do something about that?!

Why would you, if marriage isn’t even a possibility?

I’ve gotta side with Scott and with the writer of the Song of Solomon on this one. Over and over throughout the book the warning is given, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires,” or until the appropriate time (2:73:5; 8:4).

Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”

God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.

Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot extinguish? That would be one intense firestorm. God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.

Better to build healthy ways of relating with all guys and to pursue your relationship with Christ at this stage in life. You will not regret it. Promise.

Another way to know if you’re ready to date is . . .

3. You have pursued and served God wholeheartedly as a single, and now a godly guy is pursuing you that you think you could be even more effective in serving Christ with as a team.

In the biggest section of Scripture on singleness and marriage, Paul writes,

In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:24).

I like how Gary Friesen explains this in Decision Making and the Will of God:

Make it the goal of your life not to change your status, but to serve God as effectively and energetically as possible in whatever state you are. The contemporary poster says it well: “Bloom where you are planted now!”

In declaring this principle Paul was not forbidding marriage for single people or freedom for slaves. If the opportunity comes along and it is expedient to take it, do so (7:21). His point was that people tend to concentrate on the wrong things. They pour their energies into changing their condition for their own sake rather than into changing the world for Christ’s sake (p. 293).

I’d love to hear from you. Do you think you’re ready to date (or court)? Why or why not?

How to Know if You’re Ready to Date or Court was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

I’m Falling in Love with an Atheist

I’m Falling in Love with an Atheist

Note: A girl just emailed me asking for advice. “I’m falling in love with an atheist” she explained. The man she’s falling for just happens to be her dance partner, causing her to interact with him several times a week. Knowing that she’s not the only girl who has fallen for someone who doesn’t share her faith, she graciously agreed to let me share my response with you.

Dear “I’m falling in love with an atheist,”

I am so glad you wrote. Please don’t read this letter with a harsh, condemning tone, but with an urgent, pleading one. I am deeply concerned for you. If this letter feels like I’m dumping a bucket of cold water on your head, it’s because I want you to wake up. Let’s start with who a Christian is.

An atheist and a Christian are not compatible.

A Christian is a person who is now one with Christ. A Christian has been rescued by Jesus out of the darkness of sin and has been brought into His marvelous light—transformed from the inside out. A Christian has the spirit of Christ living inside of them! A Christian is someone whose entire identity has been refashioned around Christ. Christ is their life. Christ is the reason they are now accepted and beloved by God the Father.

An atheist, on the other hand, denies that God even exists. An atheist is a God-hater, just as you and I were until God graciously opened our eyes to our need to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin, to be reconciled with our Creator, and to be given an “alien” righteousness so we could live with a holy God forever.

An atheist and a Christian are not compatible. How do I know this?

Well, years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, urging them not to enter into any kind of a close partnership with an unbeliever. After telling them not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (picture an ox and a donkey trying to plow a straight row together . . . fail! It won’t happen—they’ll each want to do their own thing), Paul peppered them with the following questions:

“What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
“What fellowship has light with darkness?
“What accord has Christ with Belial (Satan)?
“What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols?
“For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty'” (2 Cor. 6:14–18).

One way we can apply this to our lives today is that we should not marry (and therefore we should not date or long to date) someone who is not wholeheartedly pursuing and delighting in God. King Solomon made this mistake, and we’re told in 1 Kings 11:4 that,

“His wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God.”

You will have to choose between God and this man. You can’t have both. James warns,

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Let me be clear about this, though. If you choose God over this man, God will not love you any more than He already does. It won’t earn you extra points with God. If you truly trust in Christ Jesus as both your Savior and your Lord, you are already His 100% dearly loved child.

Does that mean that you have the freedom to date this man? No way! Besides, why would you want to, when Christ has revealed Himself to you as the greatest treasure there is—both in this life and for the life to come?

I get it that you have strong feelings toward this man. I’ve been where you are. And if you’re anything like me, my guess is that what you’re feeling isn’t true love, but something closer to romantic desire . . . and even maybe lust. I encourage you to:

  1. Explore whether you truly have been born again, and whether Jesus Christ really is both your Savior and your Lord (He can’t be one without being the other!).
  2. Tell an older, godly woman about your struggle. Be completely honest with her, and ask her to help hold you accountable.
  3. Break off your relationship with this guy. Stop dancing with him. Don’t text him. Run!
  4. Pursue Jesus through His Word. Get to know Him. Learn to enjoy Him the way He delights in you.

Praying for you,

Paula

I’m Falling in Love with an Atheist was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

My Ugly Expectations for My Boyfriend

My Ugly Expectations for My Boyfriend

Two weeks ago I shared how I was finally dating a godly man, and I was less than enthused. I knew he wasn’t meeting my expectations, but I couldn’t have even told you what exactly those expectations were. So one tear-filled afternoon, I finally forced myself to sit down and identify my expectations for a dating relationship.

I realized how much culture had informed my expectations rather than God’s Word.

You might not have a boyfriend yet, but I’m positive you know what it’s like to feel blue because your expectations didn’t pan out. Maybe that new haircut didn’t transform you into an instantaneous beauty queen like you expected it to. Or that 4.0 didn’t get you the praise you thought it would.

So what should you do when the tears start to fall, and you find yourself head to head with unmet expectations?

  1. First, grab a pen and some paper, and write down your expectations that aren’t being met.
  2. Then go back and examine each one. Are your expectations based more on truth or on a lie? Do they line up with God’s Word?
  3. If they’re not based on truth, confess to God that you’ve been believing lies, and begin to praise Him for revealing truth to you.

Jesus said in John 8:32,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Here, look over my shoulder at what I wrote down about my (unmet) expectations for dating:

I expect . . .

  • His full attention, but he has other interests. For example, he comments on trees and fields we drive by rather than only having his eyes and mind glued on me.
  • Magnetic eye contact, but he doesn’t drink me in with his eyes. His eyes seem under control.
  • Never-ending interest in me—and all that interests me—shown by question asking. But he doesn’t ask nearly as many questions as me.
  • Him to always be pushing the envelop physically, not able to keep his hands and lips off me. Culture has always told me he’ll only want one thing, but he’s self-controlled and can keep his hands and lips off me.
  • Fun, romantic, creative dates planned by him. We’ve only been to one nice restaurant, and we haven’t done that many fun, creative things together. But we’re also long-distance . . .
  • Him to always want to talk to me. This just isn’t the case. We’re both very busy; him even more so than me.
  • Continual compliments, mostly about how beautiful I am. He does compliment me often, just not often enough for my insecurities.

It was eye-opening to see my expectations spelled out so baldly on paper. As I looked at them, I realized how much culture had informed my expectations rather than God’s Word.

I wiped my hand over my eyes, picked up my pencil, and continued with a second list, based on things that are truly good:

A few things I didn’t expect that I do have . . .

  • Friendship. He called me his “buddy” when he was here last week.
  • Excellent communication. I didn’t know it could be so good.
  • I’m totally myself with him. No pretenses, no holding back the truest parts of me.
  • Influence. He mentioned this past week (again) how I “inspire” him.
  • A self-controlled man. All the stereotypes and experiences I’ve had tell me men will pressure me. But he told me he doesn’t feel right “stealing the cookies out of the cookie jar” before he’s committed to me in marriage (referring to kisses).
  • A humble man who’s honest about his weaknesses. This morning he texted me, “I continue to be amazed at how sinful I really am. Yowza!”
  • An imperfect man whom I respect. I’ve seen his weaknesses and sin (though I’m sure not all of them), and I still respect him. I believe I see him growing in godliness. I will continue to watch for this.

Now that I’m on the other side of this tumultuous season, I share this with you to encourage you to do the hard work of identifying exactly what your expectations are. Then, if they’re not in line with God’s truth (like mine weren’t!), repent and turn from them. Renew your thinking with God’s truth instead.

Ultimately, Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). He alone will never disappoint. So here’s to not only having right expectations; here’s to our greatest expectations be firmly rooted in Him!

My Ugly Expectations for My Boyfriend was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

When You’re Just Not Beautiful Enough to Keep His Attention

When You’re Just Not Beautiful Enough to Keep His Attention

This post is adapted from a very personal prayer I wrote in my journal some time back. I think you’ll be able to relate! Just by way of a disclaimer: this post is not written for guys. It’s important that men speak into other men’s lives about being faithful to the women in their lives in their glances (and mostly their second glances!), their thoughts, and their actions.

How I need You, Abba.

I don’t normally think about things like this, but I don’t have toned thighs, and suddenly I’m aware that he would probably like that.

I think it all started when I asked him how he’s most often tempted and what he does about it. He told me he wasn’t too keen on sharing details, but he said the standard things you hear guys struggle with are true, beginning with idolizing outer beauty.

That was hard to hear. He’s not immune to the struggles of men. And with that admission entered a flood of insecurities. (Wait, they were already there, weren’t they?)

Here’s another guy who won’t find me beautiful enough.

I’m not enough.

But then . . .

No woman is enough to capture the gaze of one man for every second of her short stay on earth. Because no man, apart from Jesus Christ, is 100% faithful. And no man is immune to all beauty but mine.

I think the root issue is actually mine: wanting a created man to validate me and tell me I’m “enough,” when only Christ is enough . . . for me and for him.

Yes, I want to “cultivate my garden” for my future hubby to enjoy, but I don’t want to chain him to a leash and insist he never leave my garden without a blindfold and a seeing eye dog.

So I wonder . . . Will You be enough for me, God, when I am not enough for my man? Because if not, doesn’t that prove that I am not living as if Your love, approval, and delight is enough for me?

And didn’t You love me—freely, lavishly—when I was captivated by others’ beauty? Didn’t You love me without insisting that I keep my eyes on You or else Your love would be withdrawn?

So help me pray for my man and forgive my man’s occasional wandering gaze and not expect him to be more than a man. Because that’s Your job, re-forming him ’til he’s just like You.

Only You can do this, God, ’cause You know me. I’m the woman who naturally keeps track of every glance and suspects ill motive behind each one. But You don’t keep track of my sins. You’ve removed them as far as the east is from the west.

Thank You for exposing the idolatry in my heart. I think the root issue is actually mine: wanting a created man to validate me and tell me I’m “enough,” when only Christ is enough . . . for me and for him.

How about you? Do you expect your future boyfriend/husband to never ever so much as even look at another woman? How do you think you’ll react if and when he does notice another beautiful woman?

I pray we’ll be women secure enough in God’s love that instead of seeking to “imprison” our men and keep them from noticing any other beautiful woman, that instead we help do battle with our men through love, prayer, and confidence in Christ.

When You’re Just Not Beautiful Enough to Keep His Attention” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.