3 Dating Mistakes You Might Be Making

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Dating is a complex, confusing, and sometimes painful process. How do you go from “Oh, she’s cute” to “You are the one I want to marry”?

One of the key points in scripture about dating is the fact that the Bible doesn’t ever talk about dating at all. There are no words in the original languages that can be translated girlfriend/boyfriend or “boo” or “bae”. There are no verses that say, “And Moses took Zipporah to Chilis on a date…they shared fajitas and talked about their feelings.”

Dating as our culture knows it is never mentioned in scripture because it is a fairly modern invention. There has always been a process of evaluation that leads to marriage, but different cultures and time periods have had different ways of doing it. And there is a lot of confusion about what that is supposed to look like. What is even worse is our culture has turned a process into a status. We are going to talk about that next week.

I would define dating as the process of evaluating who you want to spend the rest of your life with. What are you evaluating in dating? You are evaluating a person, and even though scripture doesn’t use the word dating, it has a ton to say about WHO we should date. Next week we will cover HOW we should date.

The biggest mistake we make in determining WHO we should date is this: We look for characteristics not character.

Mistake #1: We look for characteristics not character. 

We look at features and they are not a bad thing to notice, however, they are a terrible foundation for a future marriage. Ask someone what they are looking for in a girl or a guy and what do you get? More often than not, you get a list of features: tall, not tall, funny, serious, fit, or smart. The list is different for everyone. But this sets us up for some real disappointment: Why? Because NO ONE can measure up!

In the age of the Tinder app,  we have distilled dating to a swipe left or right. We evaluate people solely on two characteristics: Do they have something witty/funny to say? Are they hot? Every potential mate is simplified into what scripture calls charm and beauty.

Proverbs 31:30 warns us about evaluating a person on charm and beauty alone. The verse says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” In other words, charm can deceive us into thinking someone is who they are not. Charm can hide true character. And beauty–it is vain, empty. Beauty fades, it doesn’t last.

We must run away from this consumer mentality of dating because it is toxic. We have turned people into products. You are not an assembly of features, you are a person. And you need someone who is going to see you that way.

How do you evaluate whether you are being treated as a person or an assembly of features? What do they compliment you on? What are their texts to you like? Do they pressure you sexually?

Character is greater than characteristics. Chemistry and attraction have merit, but they cannot hold up the weight of a marriage. In his book, Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes, “our physical attraction should always be held in check by the character of the person to whom we are attracted.”

The other mistake we tend to make in the dating game is:  We settle. What should be the non-negotiables of who you date?

Mistake #2: We settle.

Well, the first thing is they need to be a believer in Jesus Christ. You have to be aligned with them on the most important thing about life.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

What does that mean? What does an egg yolk have to do with dating, as one student asked me? Well, to be yoked is actually a farming term. You don’t want to hitch together (with a yoke) an ox and a donkey to plow a field—it won’t work.

The passage is not saying we should not associate with non-believers, the bible clearly doesn’t teach that. But why shouldn’t a believer and a non-believer get married? Think about it. If you are a follower of Jesus, your faith and view of God’s Word defines your worldview, allegiance, and direction in life. For the non-believer, self-actualization or fulfillment or some other intrinsic motivation determine direction in life. These two systems may not clash on a date to the movie theater, but when you are wrestling with some of the big questions in life–how you are going to raise your kids, how you spend your time or money–there will be tension. Either the follower of Christ will be constantly nagging their spouse to come to church or follow Christ, which they are not interested in doing, or you will be pulled in a direction of compromising your faith.

Not only do you want to date a believer in Christ, but you want someone who is pursuing Christ. Don’t settle. Just because he/she goes to church and claims to know Jesus doesn’t mean you are equally yoked. Make sure they don’t just say the right things, make sure they do the right thing. I knew plenty of guys who would dial up the religious talk when they were around girls who were pursuing Christ just so they could get a date. We have to be more cautious and set a higher standard.

McKenna Best, one of our college students I reached out to about what dating advice she would give herself in high school wrote this:

Hey Bart, my advice would be to never, ever settle for someone who isn’t pushing you towards the Lord. It’s so easy to neglect our faith when it comes to who we date especially when that person has a lot of good qualities. I typically found myself asking, “Am I being too picky?” when it came to a guy who wasn’t a Christ-follower. I thought, “At least he goes to church, has a bible verse in his Instagram bio, etc…” I would tell high school me, “You are being picky and that’s okay! Do not settle!”

When you are evaluating a person to date, you need to ask yourself, is this person pushing me toward the Lord? Am I more effective and challenged in my walk with Christ as a result of being around this person? They are not going to be perfect, but are they pursuing Christ? Are they running with you toward Jesus?

I remember the first time I noticed Jen. She was giving a testimony for our campus ministry during our weekly meeting.  She was dating someone at the time but I prayed that night, “God, I want a wife like her! It doesn’t have to be her, but someone like her. Who talks about you like she talks about you. Who takes risks for her faith like she does. Who loves people and invests in people like she does.” Little did I know that a few years later, God would answer that prayer at our wedding.

Which brings me to my last point and then we will continue our discussion next week. The third mistake we make in dating is worrying about finding the right woman instead of  concentrating on being the right man. Or, the other way around, ladies.

Mistake #3: We worry about finding the right person not being the right person. 

Another student, Erin Underwood, who responded to my question about dating advice wrote this:

Hey! In regards to your message: I was literally obsessed with the idea of having a boyfriend because all of my friends did and I always wondered what was wrong with me and why I was (seemingly) the only person to not be in a relationship. Saying that, I wish I wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the idea of having a boyfriend and would’ve used that energy to pursue the Lord and see what he had for me during that time. Because in reality, the Lord isn’t ever going to give me someone if I’m looking for him, because that shows I’m not ready.

When it comes to WHO you are dating, don’t forget:

  1. Character over characteristics.
  2. Don’t settle.
  3. Work on being the right person not finding the right person.
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How to Pray for Your Child

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I think we would all agree that praying for our children is important and something we should do.

But, I bet if we are being honest we have no idea how to do this outside of asking God to keep them safe.

That’s the heart behind this post. We want to equip you as parents to know how to pray for your student. We want to make it easy to know what to pray and even give you some scriptures to use as you pray for you child.

There are a ton of different way and areas you can pray for your child, but what’s presented below is a great way of getting started.

Two quick thoughts before we dive in: 1) It’s never to late to start! Even if you child is in college, they are still you child and you are still their parent. So don’t worry that you haven’t started sooner. You can start now!

2) Let your child know you pray for them. I still remember as a 10th grader seeing my mom’s prayer list and seeing how she was specifically praying for me then, the kind of man I would (hopefully) become, and even for my future wife.
As a 10th grader it was not lost on me on how big a deal it is to pray for your children. And it is all that more powerful now that I’ve become a parent.

I pray that my children would:

  1. Receive and love Jesus as their Savior – I pray that my children will understand that You loved them so much that You gave Your only Son for them, and that because they believe in Him, they will have life forever with You. John 3:16
  2. Commit their lives to make Jesus Lord and be filled with Your Spirit – I pray that my children will recognize that Jesus is the Name above all names and will confess Him as Lord of all. I pray that they will trust Him with all their hears, not lean on their own understanding, and acknowledge He is Lord in everything; thus You will guide them in Your best way for them. May they be filled with Your Holy Spirit to the fullness of Christ. Phi 2:9-11; Pro 3:5-6; Eph 5:18; 1:23; 4:13
  3. Know the true and living God intimately and cherish and apply all Your names – I pray that my children will desire to truly know You, Father. May they love You, know You intimately, powerfully apply Your names, and rely on the character they represent in all their needs. Dan 11:32b; Phi 3:10; Psa 9:10
  4. Learn to pray and praise – I pray that my children will learn to communicate with You, their loving Father. Put Your praise in their hearts and on their lips continually. Lead them to be dependent on You for everything, so they talk with You about all things and give You the honor and glory that You deserve. Mark 10:14-15; Matt 21:16; Phil 4:6
  5. Know who they are in Christ – I pray that my children will know how precious they are to You. Teach them to base their identity and security on Christ. Give them Christ-centered confidence and Christ-centered worth. Give them Your mind about how You see them and how You feel about them. As Your creation, help them to fully know who they are and what they have in Christ and what they can do through Him. Eph 1:4,7,11-14; Col 1:27
  6. Be protected from the evil one by the blood of Jesus – Protect my children by the covering blood of Jesus. I pray that my children will know the power of the blood to defeat all the works of the evil one. By the blood of Jesus, bind the enemy from interfering with Your perfect purposes in their lives. John 17:15; 1 John 4:4
  7. Receive the love of God the Father – I pray that my children will know Your Father-heart and have the assurance of Your great love. Let them know by experience how extravagantly and unconditionally You love them. Father them with Your holy love, so that they know without a doubt that You are always working in their lives in Your love. 1 John 3:1
  8. Love the word of God – I pray that my children will treasure Your word more than wealth. Teach them to love Your word and base their lives on it as their standard of life. Give them understanding as they humbly seek You in Your word. Teach them to plead Your unbreakable promises and to defeat all the lies of the enemy with Your truth revealed in Your word. Psa 119:127-130, 159-162
  9. Learn to hate sin and love holiness, righteousness, and fear of the Lord – I pray that You will write Your word on the hearts of my children, so that they will choose the obedience of hating sin and loving Your holiness. Work in their lives the holy fear of You and the righteousness of Jesus. Help them not to just keep a set of rules, but to desire to please You in all they do. Create in them a pure heart. Make them wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Move in them to dedicate their lives to You as living sacrifices. Psa 119:9,11; 2 Tim 2:22; Rom 16:19b; Pro 8:13
  10. Grow up in maturity in the Lord – I pray that my children will be built solidly on the foundation of Jesus and grow in Your grace with a conscious sense of Your presence conforming them to be like You. May they continue to be built up with your wisdom, favor, truth, love, life, faith, strength, and thankfulness. Luke 2:52; Eph 4:15; Col 2:6-7
  11. Glorify God in their bodies as Your temple – I pray that my children will honor You by keeping their bodies pure because they are the temple of Your Spirit. Teach them the great price you paid in the death of Jesus for their holiness. 1 Cor 6:19-20; Rom 12:1-2
  12. Respect those in authority – I pray that my children will submit to the authorities You have placed over them as to You. Let them understand that You have established loving, wise covering for their good through parents and others in authority. Cause them to obey and not reserve for themselves the right to choose whether to obey, which You call rebellion. Give them a joyful, grateful heart as they submit to Your ordained authorities. Rom 13:1; Eph 6:1, 3:22-25

 

Here is a PDF version if you would like to print it out and keep it where you have your prayer time or where you’ll be reminded to pray for you child. Praying for Children

Parents, Don’t Give Up!

My wife and I had a great idea. Let’s sit down once a week for a family devotion, read a bible story to our kids, and pray as a family. I asked everyone to join me in my daughter’s room and I opened up the Jesus Storybook Bible (our favorite) and began reading. Fast-forward two minutes and I am angrily telling my son to go to his room because he can’t be quiet, my daughter has jumped off the bed and hurt her self for the 10th time that day, and my wife has that look on her face that says, “This was a disaster.” I honestly felt like giving up, but I knew it was just the beginning of the process.

All of that to say, parenting is hard. Parenting and trying to raise your kids to love Jesus–even more difficult. Being a parent is one of the messiest, most challenging, beautiful, rewarding, stressful, and thankless jobs in the world. Multiply that by 20 if you are the parent of a teenager.

Don’t give up. Just like God is relentlessly pursuing your heart, don’t give up pursuing the heart of your child. Keep challenging them to follow what God has called them to do. Don’t give up modeling the kind of love for Christ you want to see develop in them. Pray for them daily.

You will not get everything right. You will make mistakes. However, you will also teach your teen some incredible lessons about Jesus in the process–especially as you admit your weakness and your own dependency upon Jesus’ grace.

RHBC parents, know you are loved by our Student Ministry Team and we want to partner with you in this process! Look for more blog posts and video blogs coming soon!

Hi, I’m Bart and I’m an Approval Junkie

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It is time to recap a few highlights from week 2 of our series Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ. This past week we tackled some common misconceptions about self-image. Here are a few thoughts from the talk. Credit to Kyle Idleman and Southeast Christian Church, whose message and series inspired much of what we have talked about. Here is what you might have missed Sunday night at Crave:

We are obsessed with how we portray ourselves and how others view us. We are all “brand managers”. Selfies are one symptom of our need to manage our image–we want control over how we look in a photo and which photos we put on social media.

We have bought into a huge lie: My self-worth = My performance + Others’ Approval. So many mistakes in our lives can be traced back to wanting to perform or wanting to be loved.

In Ephesians 2, we find the remedy for our image problems.

1. You are not who you were. We are not defined by our failures.

Paul says, in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead…” In order to get a picture of who we are in Christ we have to remember who we were. He reminds us of who we were, but it is not who we are. We think the truest thing about ourself is our past failure, but that is not the truest thing about you.We do not have to live from our old failures and old identity. Those failures and sins may be true of you, but they don’t have to define you in Christ!

2. You are not what you do. We are not defined by our successes.

Many of us were told early and often our personal achievements build our worth. Our value is defined by what we accomplish. Or maybe we have been told our religious resume is what makes us a follower of Christ.I have struggled with this mindset in my battle with perfectionism. A perfectionist is someone whose standards go beyond reach and reason. Someone who strains compulsively toward impossible goals and who measures their self worth entirely in terms of their performance. Those who are miserably caught up in the trap of their own success–always having to prove ourselves once again, or do better, or accomplish more.

Legalism is also a result of determining our worth by our own religious accomplishment. It is falling into the trap we have to earn our right to stand before God. We have to be good enough to earn God’s favor, or at least, we have to be “better” than the other people around us.But Paul reminds us we are not defined by our personal or religious successes. Ephesians 2:5 says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God, not by works…” There is nothing we can add by our own strength to what Christ has already done and accomplished for us on the cross. There is no sin too great Christ cannot forgive.The world says, you must achieve your worth, Christ says just receive it.

3. You are not what people say or think about you. We are not defined by others’ approval.

Finally, we are not what people say or think about us.

Let me introduce myself. Hi, my name is Bart and I’m an approval junkie. I love to be loved. I am constantly afraid of not being liked. I, unfortunately, often give others the power to define my worth by what they think about me.

How do you know if you are an approval junkie too? Do you get crushed by small words of criticism? Are you afraid to run against the crowd? Is it hard to say no, even when it is wise? Do you lie to make yourself look good?

The solution to our need for approval is to understand no one has the power to label you or define your worth–only the One who made you! In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “You are God’s workmanship…” The Greek word for workmanship used in scripture is poiema. It is the same word we get the English word poem from. It means, literally, “something made”. You are God’s design, His creation, and our worth comes from what He says about who you are in Christ, not what others say!

We need to hear these truths about ourselves regularly. They need to be the determining factor for our identity. To wrap up the night, we asked students to go home, take a dry erase marker, and write one of these truths on their mirror. Hopefully, these truths will help you!

1. I am not my failures (Eph. 2:1)

2. I am not my successes (Eph. 2:5)

3. I am not what others think about me (Eph. 2:10)

 

The Family Series

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This week we at Merge we are beginning a new series on the Family.

I’m really excited about this series because we all come from a family. Good, bad, or otherwise we are all attached to some type of family unit. The good thing about what we will talk about applies to all family dynamics including how students relate to the adults in charge of their lives, how they relate to their siblings, and what God has to say about their family.

I have three specific goals for this series that I want students to walk away with:

  1. I want them to know what it means to honor their parents and have some practical ways of honoring them in the coming weeks.
  2. How students should respond and submit to the authority in our lives.
  3. How students can communicate more effectively with their parents.

Each week during merge we will come up with 2 take home challenges for them do during the next week.

One thing I want to ask you as parents on the front end of the series, is for you to be open to your student looking for ways to change how they relate to you (in a good way). I’m praying that God does something very special in your families through this series and that He turns what can be a challenging time, into something that forever changes the relationship between parents and students.

I will be posting regularly on how the series is going and specifics on what I hope is changing in your home.

As always thank you for the opportunity to serve you and your family.
Zakk

 

Sex and Dating series Recap

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Two weeks ago, we started our yearly look at sex and dating for our middle school students.

The reason we do this was made so clear to me when a student asked, “Why are we studying this in church?!”

I’m sure many of the other students in the room were wondering the same thing, but he was the only one willing to voice it.

My answer to him was simple. The reason we do this series is because the world around us has expressed its views about sex and if we as the church do not stand up and talk about God’s designs and views on sex, then our student will believe the wrong messages and believe the lie that the world tells about sex.

Attached below you will find my notes from the past weeks. I provide these so I can be as transparent with you as possible. Since these are my notes, it might be hard to know what I meant, or what I was trying to say. Please contact me so I can answer any questions you might have.

Also below you’ll find some links that will help you as you prepare to and talk to your student about sex and dating. There are also some great resources dealing with pornography.

My hope and prayer is that this will help you as you have conversations with your student about sex. I say conversations because we are long past the time where a simple sex talk would do. The sex talk needs to happen regularly.

I told our students that I love them and that even more than your love for them is God’s love for them. He wants them to date well. He wants them to make wise decisions when it comes to dating and sex. He also wants them to marry well.

All of these things are hard to when they have the wrong views of sex and dating.

Please let me know how I can best serve you and your family.

Week 1 Notes

Week 2 Notes

Resources:

 Tips for Parents on Talking About Porn

What to do if Your Student is Looking at Porn

Your Children and Sex

Pornography and Sex

Books for Students on Sex from Christian Authors

 

Merge Recap-October 26

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Series: NEW: What does it mean to be made new? (week 4 of 4)
Message in a sentence: As Christians, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in us much different than our sinful nature.
Key Scripture: Galatians 5:16-26

Last night we ended our discussion based series called NEW, and I think it was my favorite of all four weeks.

We talked at length about the difference between our sin nature and the nature of the Holy Spirit. These natures are completely opposite from each other and are constantly warring inside of a Christian.

I think my favorite question what we wrestled with last night was: Do you think Paul is saying that Christ-followers who get angry or have sexually impure thoughts or actions won’t go to heaven? 

The students had a great grasp on the fact that a Christian is forgiven of all sin, but if the sins committed are a repeated sin pattern and a person never feels bad or convicted of that sin, that person might not be a Christian after all.

As Christians we do not have a license to sin. As Christians are goal is to live a life like Christ, who was sinless. We need to be real and know we will sin, but we should not use that as a excuse to sin.