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.

Series Recap: Beyond Me

explore-2I hope our series recaps will be helpful to you all as we take a look back at what we have been studying in Crave on Sunday nights. Parents, perhaps this will lead to some family discussion for you all as we know the typical response from all teenagers when you ask what they learned at Crave is probably going to be some kind of unintelligible grunt.

Here are some of the highlights I thought might be helpful:

Week 1 (Selected readings from Acts)

  • Church has become far too much about me and my needs. The gospel message was always meant to go “beyond me” and out into the world.
  • The apostles were not superheroes taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, these were ordinary men who were captivated by the message of Jesus Christ and who could not keep from talking to people about it boldly.
  • Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter.”
  • The filling of the Spirit here (in our hearts) will produce the Word of God here (our mouths). Almost every time scripture says the apostles were “filled with the Spirit”, they would boldly be proclaiming the gospel message.

Week 2 (3 evangelistic stories from Acts 16)

  • Acts included three important conversion stories: Lydia–a wealthy business woman,  a demon-possessed slave girl–held spiritually and physically captive, and a Philippian jailer–a high ranking Roman official.
  • These three stories were included to teach us something. Primarily, 2 important principles:
    • 1. Everyone needs Jesus!
      • The gospel is for everyone. There is not a soul on earth that is not in need of the message of the gospel. We all have the same Creator, the same problem (sin), and the same solution (Jesus).
      • We can not make assumptions about people
        • You don’t know that the popular girl that seems to have everything together cries herself to sleep at night because even perfect isn’t good enough for her parents.
        • You don’t know that the guy who is antagonistic toward christianity has been burned by the church and is just waiting for a genuine christian to break down the walls of hostility.
        • You don’t know that the addict who is self medicating is so riddled with guilt and shame they are dying for the freedom found in Christ.
    • 2. To show us how to reach different types of people with the Gospel.
      • The spiritually interested (Lydia)
        • Invite them in! Let God do the work (the scriptures say when Lydia heard the Word, God opened her heart)
        • Invite them to study the scriptures with you
        • Invite them to a small group
      • The spiritual or physical captive (the slave girl)
        • We have to go to them, they will not come to us
          • This is why missions is so important!
        • Pray, proclaim freedom in Christ
      • The antagonistic or uninterested in faith (the Philippian Jailer)
        • Let them see how we respond to pain. Paul and Silas stayed in prison instead of escaping as a testimony to the jailer. They endured suffering with joy and put God on display!
      • Closing thought for week 2: Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. There is not a problem with the harvest, he needs workers!***Zakk taught us in week 3 and so I will let him recap week 3. Special thanks to Pastor J.D. Greear and his sermon series on Acts, “Sent”. Much of his material is reflected in the above and was too good not to share!

Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ

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Imagine you walk into a room and you had to fill out one of those, “Hello, my name is…” stickers. Seems simple, however in this case, you have to write something OTHER than your name to identify who you are. What would you write?

We asked our students to do the same exercise last night at Crave. Responses, of course, were all over the board. I wrote “Dad” on my name tag because it is an identity I feel a lot of pride in right now. Most students wrote nicknames or what they do (football player, drum major, student). Most people, probably define themselves by what they do. Others, maybe what people say about them and have spoken into their life. Word have power to shape the very core of who we are.

Identity is important. In fact, who we are, or what we think about ourselves, or even what others say about us, often determines our behavior. Who we are becomes what we do. Everyday we live our lives out of the identity we have assumed. If our identity is in our performance, we strive for perfection or achievement. If our identity is found in what people think about us, we strive for popularity and approval. We gut-wrenchingly ask ourselves questions like, “Am I good enough? Do people like me?”

If what we do flows from our identity, we must decide who we are in order to know how we should live. We must know what scripture says about our identity. Last night, at Crave, we looked at Ephesians 1:3-14 and our identity in Christ. I say “in Christ” because that is how the Bible defines our identity as Christians. In fact, scripture mentions the phrase, “in Christ”, or something similar at least 216 times! If I repeat something 216 times to you, you must know it is important!

Perhaps, then, a better question to ask ourselves when it comes to our identity is not “Who am I?”, but “Who am I in Christ? What does God say about my identity?” Knowing who I am in Christ means when something in life is taken away–my health, approval from others, or my ability to perform–the core of who I am is still firmly planted in Christ. I am on a firm foundation and my identity cannot be shaken.

If I were to re-write my name tag based on who I am in Christ, from Ephesians 1:3-14, I would find my true identity and so can you. Here is what He says about us!

IN CHRIST, I am…

Blessed (v.3)
Do you ever feel like nothing ever goes right for you? Do you feel defined more by what you don’t have than what you do have? Well, to put it somewhat bluntly, open your eyes to what you have been given in Christ! In Christ, God has given us everything we need–every spiritual blessing according to verse 3. Time would cease before we could really exhaust the many blessings we are given in Christ. We do not deserve grace, but it has been given! We do not deserve another breath, but God has mercifully allowed us another day of life! We are blessed–maybe not in the way you expect–but so much more!

Blameless (v.4)/Forgiven (v. 7)
It is easy to allow our sins to define us–to dwell upon our failures and all the ways we don’t measure up. If people knew our thoughts and desires, they would know the “real you” is far from God’s standard. We slip into the trap of just giving in to sin or trying to clean ourselves for God. However, according to Ephesians 1:4, we don’t need to work for our identity, we need to work from our identity in Christ. We can’t earn forgiveness that has already been given and our sins don’t define us. In Christ, we can stand before God holy and blameless. Not because of what we have done or will do, but because of the holy and blameless life he lived. Our sins are paid for, forgiven, and they don’t define us.

Adopted (v.5)
To understand the idea of adoption, we must think about the life of an infant in the Roman world. Infants were often placed at their father’s feet and he either picked them up, acknowledging they are his, or walked away and abandoned them. Children were abandoned for many different reasons–wrong gender, physical deformity, and many others. Because it was unlawful to kill a child, they would simply leave them in a public place and let the gods determine their fate. Praise God when he looked at us, even with our flaws and the ways we have been damaged by sin, He looked at us and lifted us up and adopted us into His family! In Him, we are loved and accepted and will never be alone!

May our identity in Christ forever shape who we truly are! Don’t miss part 2 of our series at Crave next week!

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.

Merge Recap-October 5

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Series: NEW: What does it mean to be made new?
Message in a sentence: Our God reveals Himself to us in a variety of ways.
Key Scriptures: Psalm 19:1, Matthew 18:20, John 14:25-26

On Sunday we began a new series called New: What does it mean to be made new? In this series we will being looking at what it means to be a Christ follower, how to accept Christ, and how to live in the new life that we find in Him.

Our approach to this series will be different than what we’ve done so far. This series will be very discussion oriented, with my role as guiding the conversation students have in their groups. I think this type of teaching will work well with our students.

To kick off the series we talked all about how our God is a knowable God. That He is not distant or Someone we can’t understand. There are parts of Him that we can’t understand this side of eternity, but there are things about His character, His likes and dislikes, how He loves and provides for us, and other things we can know about Him.

We then broke into groups to talk about the scriptures listed above. We had great conversations about how God reveals Himself through nature, the heavens (skies, stars, and planets), through our relationships with other believers, and how the Holy Spirit draws us closer to the Father.

This series fits so well in the overall vision for the Middle School Ministry at Riverland Hills, where we look to lay the foundation that students will build on in high school and college.

Check back each week to see what your student is learning about their walk with Christ.