I found Gary Thomas’ book The Sacred Search helpful. He deals with some very relevant issues. I think every person in a dating relationship should read it and I think every single person should read it. Here are some quotes from the book to get you interested:
1. “I want to make a promise to you: if you will seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and let that agenda drive your decision regarding whom you choose to marry and refuse to compromise on that, you will set yourself up for a much more fulfilling, spiritually enriching, and overall more satisfying marriage. The degree to which you compromise on this verse is the degree to which you put your future satisfaction in jeopardy and open wide the door to great frustration and even regret” (Gary Thomas, The Sacred Search, 22).
2. “Guys… are more inclined to experience romantic love with women they are attracted to physically, yet physical appearance is the thing most likely to change in a person’s life. Marriage isn’t about being young together; it’s about growing old together—and bodies change as we get older. If you don’t marry with that in mind, you’re going to make a major mistake—perhaps the biggest mistake of your life” (Thomas, The Sacred Search, 25). “What launches sexual chemistry won’t sustain sexual chemistry” (p. 47).
3. “The way God made our brains, infatuation resembles an hourglass. The moment you become smitten by someone—the second you find yourself deeply “in love”—is the moment that hourglass gets turned over. There is enough sand in that hourglass, on average, to last you about twelve to eighteen months” (p. 29).
4. “I don’t want to diminish the mystery and poetry of a truly delicious romantic attachment and “soul connection,” but in reality you’re living through a fairly predictable and observable neurochemical reaction. And here’s something you need to know: the state of infatuation actually impedes your ability to objectively discern your partner’s faults and weaknesses. Dr. Thomas Lewis put it this way: “Love may not be literally blind, but it does seem to be literally incapable of reason and the levels of appropriate negativity necessary for realism” (pp. 32-33).
5. “Sin, by definition, is overturning God’s created order. In God’s created order, there should be no sex outside of marriage, and lots of fulfilling, generous sex during marriage. Why do you think a person will disobey God in the first instance, but obey Him in the second? Doesn’t it make sense that if you shut out God to do what you want to do in one season, you’ll keep doing it in the next season?” (p. 48)
6. “This might shock you, but your best chance at sexual satisfaction in marriage is not to focus on appearance alone, but rather to find a woman of virtue” (p. 49).
7. “Time serves intentionally cultivated intimate affection, even as it kills infatuation” (p. 51).
8. “The language of the Bible doesn’t suggest there is one right choice for marriage. Rather, all the teaching passages seem to suggest that there are wise and unwise choices. We are encouraged to use wisdom, not destiny, as our guide when choosing a marital partner” (p. 61).
9. “Some Christians find themselves in a dating dead end. There’s no one suitable where they work or at their church. For their own reasons, they refuse to look at any online dating sites. Instead of putting themselves in social environments where they might find someone, they start to feel bitter and angry and blame God for not bringing the right one along” (pp. 79-80). Later on he asks, “Are you putting yourself in places where you can find or be found? Do you hang out in places where the kind of person you want to marry hangs out?” (p. 80). So, “Instead of simply ‘waiting for God to bring the right one,’ go out and find a godly mate” (p. 81).
10. “A spiritual sole mate is someone who is passionately committed to getting married for the glory of God first and foremost” (p. 94).
11. “If you marry for money, health, or looks, keep in mind that none of these are certain to remain. Character is the surest thing. Even if the two of you manage to avoid a medical maelstrom, the vast majority of you will have to navigate something else that will test you to your core: having children. Does the person you’re planning on marrying have what it takes in this regard? Are they strong enough not just to be your spouse, but to be your children’s mom or dad?” (p. 119).
12. “Intimacy is built through sharing, listening, understanding, and talking through issues. If someone doesn’t like to talk, refuses to talk, or resents your desire to talk, intimacy building is going to hit a stone wall” (p. 141).
13. “The general rule is this: however much your boyfriend talks to you while dating, cut that down by at least 25 percent after marriage. If you’re not good with that, you’re looking at the wrong guy. I’m not saying it should be that way, only that it almost always is. Talk to married women; ask them if this isn’t true. Make your choice accordingly” (pp. 141-42).
14. “The person you marry is the person you’re going to be married to” (p. 160).
15. “When we live for ourselves, we become boring. Most of us are simply not interesting enough on our own to captivate someone else for five or six decades” (p. 174).
16. “When we sin sexually we are literally launching a neurochemical war against our mental reasoning” (p. 187).17. “Sex is a powerful tool. In a healthy marriage, used appropriately, it can be nothing short of glorious. As people who believe God is the Creator of our bodies and our sexuality, we should be eager to embrace His good handiwork. But know this: the more powerful the tool, the more training and caution you need when learning to use it” (p. 201).18. “If you’ve caught the vision for a marriage that seeks first the kingdom of God, you need to be on the lookout for personality traits that will undermine such a focus” (p. 203).
19. “Guys, if you marry a woman who is motivated by reverence for God over affection for you, she’ll learn to be kind to you and affectionate toward you even when she doesn’t feel like it and when you’re acting like a jerk. The same thing that feeds her chastity—love and respect for God—will feed sexual enthusiasm within marriage. The same thing that feeds promiscuity before marriage—selfishness and fear—will kill sexual desire after marriage” (pp. 210-11).20. “Sex can indeed be amazing. It’s also a skill that can be learned, and that’s what marriage allows, so if the two of you aren’t “compatible” on your wedding night, you have a lifetime to get there.Two people who genuinely care for each other and who are growing in the virtues of kindness and generosity will figure out, sooner rather than later, how to please and keep on pleasing each other” (p. 187).
Proverbs 24:3 says, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” Building a house takes wisdom. Building a house takes intentionality. Building a house takes partnership. How much more a Christ-exalting home?!
How is a biblical—Christ-exalting—home constructed? A Christ-exalting home is certainly not the standard option. It’s not the default model. It is intentional and premeditated. The home on its own tends toward chaos, not Christ.
A family that functions biblically and intentionally does not happen haphazardly. Wisdom, intentionality, and partnership are needed. Where will parents receive the tools they need? Or can they just subcontract the work out and have someone else deal with the messy issues of building up a family?
My goal here is not to layout the “blue print” for exactly what the house should look like. That is not my job. My desire is to point you to the crucial need that we all have to build on the firm bedrock of Christ. I can’t build it for you. But I can and must tell you to center your family’s life on Christ!
[[Warning!!!]] The conclusion I come to here may be offensive, radical, and seemingly insane to the majority of Americans. The culture we consume continuously yells: “Sex! Sex! SEX!!!” However, I ask you to consider my perspective on sex.
So, are our bodies for sex and sexiness? First, if you are above the age of 30 it is probably a daily empirical reality that no, our bodies are not (primarily) made for sex and sexiness. Thus, virgins can (and do!) live fulfilled lives!
In my opinion, the sexual revolution is missing out on our bodies’ teleological (or ulitmate) function and so people are left vying for fulfillment. This is the case because “The body is not meant for sexual immorality [misunderstanding of the bodies telos], but for the Lord [correct telos], and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). God does not say that sex is bad and that humans should not enjoy sex. Actually, we find that God wants us to enjoy sex and that when it is enjoyed as intended He calls it “very good” (see Designer Sex 1 and 2).
God is not a cosmic killjoy. Truly, we find that God has our best in mind. He wants us to appropriately enjoy the many good things He made (e.g. the earth, other human beings, grapes and what can be created from grapes). However, as the supreme and glorious creator of the universe, He also knows, in the words of Augustine that “our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Or as Blaise Pascal said, we have an infinite hole that can only be filled by the infinite; namely, only by God Himself. Read More…
Redemption: Romance Rebuilt
The world is broken but Christ came to redeem and fix it. Yet we live in the “already and not yet,” the time in between. We have the down payment and first fruits of all that is to come but Christ’s Kingdom hasn’t come to full affect yet. However, we do see what it means to truly love.
In Ephesians 5 we see an amazing picture of how a husband and wife are to relate to each other. We see a paradigm to build upon. We see love, respect, and mutual concern. We see the things that fell out with the Fall of humanity.
We need instruction. We need to be reminded that sex is a gift from God and not god. We need God to help us.
“God wants married couples to know that sex is his gift to them. And God does not give gifts to people so they won’t enjoy them. If God gives you steak he wants you to savor it. If he gives you wine, he wants you to enjoy it. And when he gives a couple sex in the covenant of marriage, he wants them to indulge in it. The NIV translates the end of Song of Solomon 5:1 this way: ‘Drink your fill of love.” Why would he tell us to drink up if he didn’t want us to be fully satisfied?”[i]
So often Christians are known for being boring and unable to enjoy things. But that just isn’t the case. We should be “known for saying ‘do’—do look, do touch, do indulge, do enjoy sexual relations within marriage.”[ii]
Our loving Father has created many good gifts to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4). “God is not stingy with joy when it comes to sexuality. If he gives you a gift, he wants you to enjoy it as it is designed to be enjoyed, which will ultimately lead to your satisfaction, not only with the gift itself but also with himself as the Giver.”[iii]
The Bible teaches that sex is not only a gracious gift but that pure passion is protection against impure passion (Cf. 1 Cor. 7:9).[iv] We see this in various places. Proverbs 5:15-23 says,
“Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
“Failing to structure frequent sexual activity into your companionship may open you for Satan’s temptations.”[v] Paul says, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:5).
However, that does not mean that we have an excuse for sexual sin if we feel like we have been deprived. This passage is not to be used to hold over your spouse’s head to tell them that they have to have sex with you.
New Creation: Our Longings Fulfilled
Sex is great and I thank God for it. But sex is not what life is about. God is what life is about. And soon we shall see Him face to face. Sex is an empty trace of the connection we long for, all the good that we enjoy is a mere pointer. It points us to God for whom we long to unite in fellowship with.
“Sex is a blessing from God. But sex is more than that. It is also a bridge to God. What I mean is that even the highest pleasures are sweetest intimacies are designed to leave us wanting something more. Sex creates a hunger for something infinitely more beautiful, pleasurable, and satisfying: God!”[vi]
Truly, what we as humans “crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us.”[vii]
As I said, we are in the “already and not yet.” We have the first fruits but not the consummation. Though we can even now have fellowship with God through the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit we still see God in a mirror dimly. We long for our faith to be sight.
In the the beginning Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and with each other. After the Fall the world fell apart, and like Humpty Dumpty it couldn’t be put back together again. Until Christ came. Christ put the world back together. He gave us something that sex could never give: restored fellowship with God.
Brothers and sisters, let’s not get the gift mixed up with God the Giver. Let’s not look for sex to fill the infinite hole that only the Infinite One can fill. It is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who created sex and every good gift, and holds every speck of stellar dust in the universe in His hand that fulfills and gives true life. In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand their are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).
[i] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139
[ii] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 131.
[iii] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139.
[iv] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 107.
[v] Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 5. “Satan tempts and destroys many marriages by extreme inhibitions, extramarital affairs, and other sexual distortions. Often it is subtle drifting apart and a lack of warm, connecting companionship. God has given spouses something precious in the ability as husband and wife to share a physical intimacy that cannot be matched in any other relationship. There is no replacement for what God intended sex to be for intimate marriages. It is a framework for expressing many powerful emotions, like joy, love, trust, and playfulness… Spouses who frequently play together sexually stay together in warm, bonded ways” (Ibid.).
[vi] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 83.
[vii] Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 24.
If you are like me, you have had times when you have thought that good communication is not possible. You may have even said, “We’re too different,” “We just think on different wavelengths,” or “I can’t stand that person.” However, the truth is we can have good communication and further Scripture tells us to (see for example Eph. 4:25, 29, 31-32; Ps. 141:3; Prov. 18:13, 17; 21:23; 25:11). I have been reading a little pamphlet by Stuart Scott called Communication and Conflict Resolution, and yes, I am mainly reading it for my own marriage but I hope that this helps you as well; at work, at home, and aboard.
There are many negative effects to poor communication. I could list them but I am sure that you acutely feel many of them already. However, I will remind you, and myself, that our horizontal relationships between friends and family are not the only relationship effected by our communication. Our vertical relationship with God can also be greatly effected by our communication. If we dishonor God by what we say it hinders not only human fellowships but also our fellowship with God (cf. Matt. 5:23-24). If we speak unkindly or lie to someone that is also not a good testimony before an unbelieving world. However, the opposite is also true, we can greatly honor God by our communication with our fellow humans. All of this is to say that there is more at stake than just being polite or culturally appropriate in our communication (see James 3:5-6 to be reminded of the importance of what we say).
As we think about communication; what we say, and how we say it. We must understand why we say it, i.e. where it comes from. So, where does it come from? The Bible says that what we say comes out of our heart (cf. Matt. 12:34). From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Thus, it is vital that we not merely fix what people say (the external) and gloss over what is going on inside (the internal).
Stuart Scott gives six prerequisites to good communication that don’t gloss over what is going on inside. I will give each of his points with Scripture reference:
1. You must want to please God more than anything else (2 Cor. 5:9). Our desire in conversation must not be to make much of ourselves, to prove we’re right, but to honor and make much of God.
2. You must be humble (Eph. 4:1-3). We must realize that we are sinful and it is very likely that we have done wrong. We must acknowledge that even if we have not done wrong in this particular instance, we have before and we will again soon.
3. You must be aware that you are accountable to God for everything you communicate (Matt. 12:36). As we talk, no matter the conversation, we should not take it lightly for we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account.
4. You must know how to listen (Prov. 18:13; James 1:19). Not only should we attentively listen to others because it is the right thing to do, not only because it is in line with the Golden Rule, but because without it there can be no meaningful conversation.
5. You must know that communication involves more than just words (James 4:17). Whether we know it or not, or like it or not, the volume of our voice, the gestures of our hands, the ruling of our eyes, the posture of our body, and numerous other things communicate to people.
6. You must be willing to put forth the effort and spend the time it takes to communicate (Rom. 12:10-12). In Romans, we are told to be “devoted to one another.” This devotion takes time and intentionality.
Scott also gave four specific principals for biblical communication: 1) Speak the truth (Eph. 4:25, 29-32), 2) Speak with purpose (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph.4:29; Col. 4:6), 3) Speak clearly (Prov. 10:19; 15:28; Matt. 5:37), and 4) Speak at the right time (Prov. 25:11).
There is a lot more that I could say and a lot more that Scott said that was helpful. However, I think a good start is simply realizing that good communication is important and something that the Bible is not silent on. Second, good communication is something that we must be intentional about. It takes time. It takes work.
Take time now and evaluate your communication. Will you put these points into practice to improve your communication? Will you honor God by working at communication?
Marriage is like a mirror. It’s pretty good at pointing out blemishes. It shows you things that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It shows you ugly things.
A mirror tells me my pants do not go with my shirt and a mirror tells my wife that she should smudge a little more stuff on her forehead. A mirror helps us by pointing out faults and blemishes. It does this without a word. Just by being there. Marriage—the covenant union of one man and one woman—has this same effect.
It often brings the scalpel to things that we were rather fond of. It tells me, “Paul, you may think you are not selfish, but look at this, I disagree.” It tells me, “You may think you are sympathetic and caring but, I beg to differ, look at this.” Marriage, like a mirror, tells me what I am. It is hard to see sometimes. But, like a mirror, it’s better for everybody, if I take a good and true look into it.
The mirror of marriage doesn’t promote vanity. It promotes a healthy realism. It shows us when we need to “change our shirt.” Marriage is a mirror that God uses to remake us in His image.
This image is actually best reflected when spouses image the Triune God through their respective loving roles. Spouses, in contrast to the Trinity, show love through dealing with the failings of their spouse; through loving them in the midst of their failure and gently pointing out their flaws. Yet, this is all done, or should be done, in love. For the building up and the betterment of the other.
May I, and may my spouse, truly desire not to just have a better, easier marriage, but may we desire to be more like Jesus who gave His life for us. May we desire to use the “mirror” to be transformed into the image of the Son.
Now may I resolve to honestly and humbly look into the mirror!
 The single person has a different mirror, their “mirror” is singleness. They must ask, for instance, what will truly satisfy. A spouse? Let me tell you, or let my wife tell you, a spouse makes a bad god.