Friday, February 29, 2008

Dating, Courtship, or Arranged Marriages?

The college ministry I lead, the Salt Company, just finished a 3 week series on dating. I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.

Basically, I have scaled down my notes from the two weeks. The full version, with more stories and illustrations is available through our itunes podcast or online at The talk is broken into two parts- "The Absolutes of Dating" and "The Advice of Dating"...

A couple years ago I got an email from a high school girl in our youth group who asked me what I thought about dating. This girl was a pretty typical 17 year old from a pretty typical American family. Her parents basically had a marriage of convenience. In other words, they thought they would take the virtuous route and wait until all their kids graduated before they got divorced. Her dad was an absentee father. Her mom was a nominal church attendee who was faithful to take her to confirmation classes.

Basically, everything she knew about the opposite sex, she learned from what she saw on television, or in the movie theater, or through late night conversations with her friends.

What do you say to this girl?

I realized at that moment, that I was the closest thing she had to a dad.

I did have some conversations with her at youth group, but she always felt more comfortable asking questions via email/online (typical of this generation- awkward in person and bear my soul online). I always enlisted my wife in helping me answer her questions, because I knew the stakes were so high. Moreover, my wife could understand her situation more than me. We were like e-parents.

I really felt the weight of this question. She wants my help in the thinking through the second most important decision of her life.

The stakes are high! I feel the weight of this talk, because I realize that so many of you have never had a mom or a dad open the Bible and share God’s wisdom in how to relate to the opposite sex. Some of you that did have that benefit, in high school you might have been too proud to listen.

But now you’re mature enough and ready to listen.

Series: Ancient Wisdom; Tonight: Dating

Proverbs 2

My 4 word challenge: LISTEN TO ANCIENT WISDOM

Part 1- The Absolutes of Dating

1. Don’t focus on getting the right person, focus on becoming the right person

When it comes to your life- what is God most concerned about?

What does God want most for you?

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

Proverbs is not a dating manual- it’s Solomon telling his son what kind of person he needs to become- he begins with what you think about God and how it affects your life (fear the Lord)

John 17:17- “Sanctify them by the truth…”

Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim him…so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

My friend Joe, totally not walking with God, made the statement “I’m just praying for the right girl” His mom Sally (and everyone else’s surrogate mom) rebuked him- “What do you mean!? You’ve got to become the right guy before you attract the right girl. Are you sure you deserve a beautiful godly woman?”

- Ask yourself- am I date able? (to date a quality individual, you’ve got to be one)

I meet guys that attend TSC and I often think, “I’m so glad your immoral, undisciplined, flirtatious ways haven’t sucked in one of our TSC guys/girls.”

Here’s another question to consider: Would Mark want me to marry Ava (or Cameron)?

If your life is consumed by finding a mate, you’re consumed with the wrong thing. The greatest command is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.

Then the second command is like it- then you’re free to date.

I mean love your neighbor… (I always get that mixed up)

2. Trust God- he is smarter than you (and he runs the show)

Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:1, 3-4, 9; 19:21; 20:24; 21:30

I didn’t want to include these verses in this point, because they say things like, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” In other words- God is in charge, not you.

The point of this is not to do what you want, it’s to trust him- that his way is always the best way to do life.

Do relationships his way, not your own.

When you’re trusting God, you’re content. You don’t need anything or anyone else.

If you date because you want someone to fill the emptiness and loneliness that’s in your heart- you will not only jack your own life up, but the other person as well.

It’s unfair to ask another human being to do what only God can do- namely, satisfy your soul.

What human can say, Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life…”

The coolest wedding I’ve ever done- Phillip and Erin’s Story

They met at youth group and began to date in high school; it was a pretty typical high school relationship. In college, Erin surrendered her life to Jesus and Philip and Erin went their separate ways. Every 6 months or so, Philip would call Erin to see if she was interested in getting back together. She said “no” every time. She resolved in her heart that she would never marry, because Philip was the only man she loved and he was not following Jesus. On a couple of occasions, Philip tried to tell her that he had changed, and he was seeking God. But she could see through it. It needed to be God’s timing. She moved on with life, moving to Florida and purchasing a condo there. It had now been almost 8 years since they had dated, but this time the call was different. God had gotten a hold of Philip’s life, and this time it was a new Philip on the other line. In a matter of months, they decided to get back together and with their parent’s blessing, they got married. On January 26th in a small chapel, I performed their wedding ceremony (it was quite a performance I must say). I’ll never forget her dad’s comments at the reception, “Not many dads can say this about their daughter, but my daughter is my spiritual mentor.” She was rock solid in her trust in God. Here’s their picture… (This picture could be in a magazine if not for that goof-ball in the background...)

That’s a cool love story.

(some of you just need to get over some old high school flame and move on…)

But all of us need to learn from this story of trust.

God was enough for Erin. She didn’t need this relationship to make her happy. So she wasn’t about to let her love for Philip trump her love for God. She submitted her desires, and God was gracious to her.

If you do happen to be lonely and want to get married to fulfill the void, just remember the words of my Grandpa Bill, “It’s better to be lonely than miserable.”

3. Listen to your parents.

Proverbs 13:1; 15:5

41 times Solomon addresses his “son.” Proverbs is a book for college students.

The phrase “listen (or pay attention) my son” is used 8 times

One of the biggest mistakes young people make in life is not listening to their parents.

Of all the commands in the Bible, this is the only one with a promise- your life will be better if you listen to your parents.

You can’t think you’re OK with God and on a good path if your parents don’t think you are (some exceptions, of course, if your parents are hostile to Christianity)

4. Listen to Solomon

He uses the word “listen” 17 times.

How exactly do you listen to Solomon? Prov. 2:1, “store up my commands within you.”

Read it. Memorize it. Think about it. Ponder it. Treasure it.

I never read the Proverbs more in my life than while I was dating Leatha. I had to know, God is this the one for me? So I read morning and evening and between classes. Then one day we had a conversation, and Leatha told me she wanted a skill saw. I thought that was ridiculous… A skill saw? Apparently she wanted to build stuff. That night I got on my knees and opened my Bible to the Proverb of the day- Proverbs 14. The first verse I read… Proverbs 14:1 "The wise woman builds her house"- another mark in her favor, chalk it up on the pro side. The struggle was that there were also some marks on the con side, too.

5. Listen to your spiritual mentor(s), friends, and others who will speak truth

Proverbs 5:11-14 “At the end of your life you will groan…I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors…”

Proverbs 11:14; 13:20; 15:22

There was a leader in the Salt Company a number of years ago. He was in my leader’s group and we were in his dorm room. There were inappropriate pictures of pretty women on his wall, so I told him he should take them down. He was almost offended at my audacity to tell him what he should/should not hang on his walls. This man got married soon after. Within weeks of getting married, he called me crying. His marriage was falling apart. He was divorced within a few months.

6. Marriage between a man and a woman is good

If you weren’t here last week, you really need to hear Troy’s message on Sex. He hit a home run.

Don’t suppress your romantic feelings, submit them

Summary: Marriage is good, Sex is good, and it’s ok to desire both.

Proverbs 18:22

7. Sexual immorality will destroy everyone involved

There’s so much we could say about this. We did a talk last spring at TSC, addressing the issue of “How far is too far?” You can download the talk at

Proverbs 5:15-23 is pretty clear- if you don’t want your future husband/wife doing this with some other man/woman, then it’s wrong. Solomon says never to touch a girl’s breast who is not your wife.

Proverbs 11:6- In purity, see yourself as being faithful to your future wife

It’s sort of like the Wedding Invitation Principle: You want to be able to attend his/her future wedding with no shame.

You may object: “But we love each other in our hearts.”

Some pastor gave this advice to someone I know- “But we love each other and we’re committed in our hearts”- That’s from hell. Send that satanic thought back to hell where it belongs.

If you’re not married, you’re not married. If you’re already committed in your hearts then I’ll marry you right after this service is over…

To date is to protect, not violate. Protect her purity for her future husband- it may or may not be you.

8. Don’t date a Non-Christ follower (2 Corinthians 6:14-ff)

Notice my terminology “Non-Christ follower”

There are a lot of you in this room that think you’re a Christian, but you’re not. To be a Christian means you’re following Jesus.

This is the last of the Biblical Absolutes, because to be totally honest, this is on the border line and I may be going too far to label this as an absolute. There is no direct command related to this. However, there is a command in 2 Corinthians 6:14-ff that certainly has this application.

If you marry a non-Christian, will you lose your salvation? No, you’ll just spend eternity in pergatory… just kidding.

You’ll just spend 50 years in purgatory (It may make your life on earth feel something like purgatory- if not hell)

Part 2- The Advice of Dating

Dating= a prearranged social engagement with someone of the opposite sex

The best dating advice is to tell you what kind of person to avoid and what kind of person to pursue…

Why is this advice? Because I’m not all of these things and neither is anyone in this room. You’ll never find someone who is perfectly all of these. But these are some things to be on the lookout for…

1. What to Avoid

Smooth talker (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24; 7:5; 7:21)

Unfaithful (3:3-4; 5:3; 7:19)

Oh, how huge faithfulness is!

Marriage is built on trust- if you can’t trust someone, don’t date them.

The effect of sex before marriage- it erodes trust

Foolish (and doesn’t realize it) (5:6; 7:19; 19:14; 30:20)

Immoral/flirtatious (6:24)

Immodest (7:10)

If you're a hunter and you make a turkey call, what are you going to get? Turkeys.

So it is with the way you dress…dress for turkeys and turkeys are what you will get!

Defiant (Beware of “I’m a Christian”) (7:14)

In love with Jesus (notice what I didn’t say… “Date a Christian”) That narrows it down- 90% of Americans think they’re a Christian. But have you ever been to a funeral where the person laying in the casket was not said to be in "a better place." Of course, everyone in America thinks they're heaven-bound.

*Lazy (9:13; 10:5! )- They’re not servant minded

Proud, Unteachable, and Quarrelsome- they have an opinion and have to be right about everything (12:1; 21:9; 21:19; 25:24; 27:15)

Watch out for someone with a chip on their shoulder

Are they a pleasant person to be around?

Angry, Bitter, or Quick Tempered person (22:24; 25:28; 29:11)

This is huge- don’t marry someone who has unresolved bitterness in their hearts. If they’ve got a uhaul trailer full of bitterness- you’re going to be hauling that baby around for the rest of your life. His/Her unforgiveness and brokenness will become your own.

2. What to Pursue…

Noble character (12:4; 19:14)

Listens to advice (12:15; 19:20; 24:6)

Lover of people (5:19)

Sweet spirit (11:16)

Patient (16:32!)

Hard worker (not work-a-holic) (24:30-34)

Self-Controlled- whether eating, drinking, purity… (23:20-21; 27:20; 28:7)

The bar (or buffet line) is not the best place to meet someone

Honor their parents (30:11)

*Diligence (Proverbs 31)

3. Remember the Superman Principle

Two people flying hard in the same direction- look over “Hey, you’re going to the same place.”

4. Don’t say “I love you” unless the next words are “Will you marry me?”

Love has been cheapened in our culture.

Love is not a feeling but a commitment- so just because you have some warm fuzzies about a person, doesn’t mean you need to drop the four letter L bomb on them.

5. Kissing is like playing with a tiger cub

Playing with a cub, or baby python- starts small and innocent (and fun for awhile) but it will soon to destroy you (Satan is the master of using momentary pleasure to deceive)

Or, like eating a candy bar. Imagine fasting/going without food for 18 years, then finding a snickers bar and only eating ¼ and leaving rest on table- It’s almost humanly impossible to do.

How long it will take you on your honeymoon to get from kissing to intercourse? Not long. So it's probably wise not to start...

6. Bad things happen late at night

Proverbs 7:9

Leatha and I decided we couldn’t be alone after 10:30

7. It’s passion and commitment, but mostly commitment

Feelings come and go.

How many of you have ever felt like throwing in the towel with your faith? (I haven’t J)

Did you stop loving Jesus because you didn’t feel his presence? NO

Some of the best growth happens in your life with God when persevere out of your love/commitment for Jesus

So it is with any relationship.

The vows are vows of commitment. The ring is a symbol of commitment.

Your marriage will be as good as your word.

8. Outward beauty matters, but not as much as you think.

Troy’s Song of Solomon talk two weeks ago- yes, there should be passion in marriage

But be careful about pursuing beauty without character!

Proverbs 31:30 is clear about this

Prov. 11:22- Beauty without discretion...

Sometimes you’re not attracted to someone because you’re attracted to the wrong things.

Men- word on the destructiveness of porn. Confess and be done with it. That’s you’re only hope. Every time you look at that you are destroying your future wife and kids.

9. Date with your eyes wide open, then close them half way when you get married.

If there’s nothing on your con list, then you’ve got a problem. This person is a sinner just like all of us. You better see that before you get into marriage.

10. Don’t get on I-35 going north if you don’t want to go to Minneapolis- Begin with the end in mind.

I got a call from a friend saying that he wanted to propose to this girl. He had dated her for well over a year and he was in love with her. She was the one. There was one small problem- this girl was unwilling to move to the farm. Not that he was planning on it, but there was always that chance it could happen someday. What should he do?

What kind of marriage and family do you want?

If you’re on two separate life journeys… this person feels called to serve overseas, or in the military, or has to travel for work or wants a small family...


If you came in here thinking you’re something sweet, scoping out the chicks you might want to wait.

If you’re just getting out of a relationship, you’re in this category


Every culture has a different way…none of them are perfect

Illustration: Embera- show up in bed with your daughter; Afghanistan- arranged

Our Culture is Dating- So get on the ball and get yourself a date!

I think we need a demonstration: Two ways to get a date-

1. Put the phone on the stand and stare at the phone

2. Dial their number and push the green "send" button

Guys- if everytime you call she’s busy- she doesn’t want to go out with you

Ladies- if you’re really busy and you want to go out with him, tell him! (“I’m really busy but I’d love to hang out sometime”)

Guys, don’t be date-o-phobic.

Breakup (27:12; 28:26)

Some of you are being emotionally manipulated. You might be thinking, as I was 13 years ago, “If I break up with this person, they might kill themselves.”

You’re like a drug to them, the more you’re with them, the more harm you do to them than good.

What’s the best thing to do for a crack addict? Keep giving them crack as you counsel them and talk about how many brain cells are being destroyed? Of course not.

You are responsible for you, not him or her. Put them in God’s hands (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Dating is not something to mess around with. You don’t date to help someone else. You don’t date to lead someone to Jesus.

You date to find someone of excellent character to spend your life with.

Girls- break up with the jerk and get some girl friends who love Jesus

Guys- break up with the girl and get some accountabilibuddies (Thanks, John Dixon, I’ve been waiting all night to say that word. What a fun word, if you’re having a bad day, just say that word a couple times and it’s a sure smile.)

[At this point in the night, the audience texted in questions to a panel- that is on the podcast]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on dating websites like eharmony?