It helps to be Mr. Right when looking for Mrs. Right: otherwise it’s all wrong

So often when it comes to dating and looking for a future spouse,  the focus is on finding the “one person who was made for me.”  I’ve even heard speakers talk about developing a list of qualities you are looking for in a future spouse and stick to the list. That is really not that bad of an idea (depending on how picky your list is).  I actually had a list but the thought occurred to me, “what if I found someone who fit my list, but I didn’t fit theirs?”

At the time  I was being challenged to discover Biblical manhood and womanhood.  It also helped that near the same time I overheard a girl at one of the local colleges talk about her list.  After hearing her list and evaluating her lifestyle I  thought, “there is no way that someone who matched that list would marry her.”  She was just dreaming because her lifestyle wouldn’t attract the guy on her list.  She would either have to change or change her list.

Such thoughts had caused me to come to some serious introspection and I decided to take some time away from the dating scene (because of my failure to come more introspection before dating, I had proven myself a dismal failure as a boyfriend in a relationship throughout college).  I didn’t want to come to the table looking for Mrs. Right and not be Mr. Right.  It was evident there were things that had to change in me.  I was looking for needs to be met by a girlfriend or future spouse that were meant to only be met in God.

I was  unable to obtain Mrs. Right’s list (I didn’t know God would be so kind as to let me marry Avia) and I thought it was a little arbitrary to blindly make a list of qualities in myself that I needed to submit before God.  So I simply asked God for guidance.  In his kindness I was able to rediscover the books of I Timothy and Titus.  I began to use these books as guides to understanding how to become a godly young man. I also began searching out role models in my life.  Men of character and wisdom who would be wise guides and would give me honest feedback about things I needed to submit before God.

In the midst of this I discovered that one of the qualities of leadership is to be a one woman man (I Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:6).  God broke my heart of the disillusionment that I had been keeping this standard because I wasn’t married.  Though I wasn’t even dating at the time, I was putting on pretense in the form of flirtation that lead several young women to think I was interested in them.  Though I was single and not in any type of defined relationship, my failure to clearly define my friendships and my willingness to lead others on was evidence that I was not a one woman man (part of me loved the attention).  The details about what God worked in me and how it came about probably deserve its own post at a later time.  I only bring it up only now because I see many young single men (and women for that matter) who like I did are casting nets of wide spread flirtation in search of someone rather than baiting the hook with godliness.

    Choosing to Date Differently

    I remember the day that I called my mom and said, “Had I known it would be like this, I would have never dated.  I would have skipped every prom, homecoming, and barn warming dance (a Missouri thing).  I am hopelessly in love with the woman I want to marry and I just now realized that I have wasted my life  trying to be some other girls’ hero… I am ready to be a husband.” That statement represented a huge paradigm shift that took place in my life from being a serial dater to dating with the intent for marriage.

    Over the years God has blessed my wife Avia and I with the opportunity to share with many single people about how we dated (some would call this courtship).  Sadly the story I will share over the next few blog post will sound completely contrary to the dating culture.  I remember my own years of looking for “love” and going about it in all the wrong ways.  I have sat across the table from enough lonely and desperate people to know that things haven’t changed much.

    If you are single and looking for the right way to date hopefully these blog posts will be an encouragement to you about how God can guide you through this time of your life.  My aim is 3 fold.  1. I will be sharing in a story format how Avia and I came to be married.  2. I will be sharing practical principles and steps we took. 3. I will be sharing the scripture that lead us to those principles and steps.

    Stay tuned…. Here are some of the titles of upcoming blog posts

    The Danger of Missing it by a Mile

    There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
    (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25 ESV)

    Wrong Way

    So I found some of my old writings on a zip disk leftover from my college days.  I took time to read them and took a quick trip down memory lane to see how I might have changed.   As I was reading I couldn’t help but notice a subtle but profound difference that has taken place.  Somewhere in my writing I transitioned from knowing about God to being a quest to know God.  As the son of a pastor and a student minister studying religion I was living in a world where everyday I was brought face to face with the Word of God and gleaning doctrine divorced from personal relationship.  I was a faithful student of God’s stats, but not his friend.  I could have told you the important nuances of a Bible passage and had a great grasp on how to use all the study tools, but it didn’t do me any good.  I didn’t grow closer to God, I loved his word, but I didn’t love Him. I look back and I thank God for his kindness toward me in leading me to repentance and real faith in Him.

    Just knowing about God caused me to act in such away as if winning a theological argument with another religion student or science major was what it was all about.  I studied God’s word to bring me more personal glory.  I would risk relationships to show others how superior in Bible trivia I was.  Yet when I came to know God, I left it all, and fully embraced the embarrassment of confessing that I had known God’s stats, but missed out on knowing him.

    I have seen several pastors hit grand slam sermons out of the pulpit and strike out at home with their own children because their children understood their dad was a phony.  I have seen kids walk away from their parents religion because dad and mom were more concerned about what people would think rather than what God thinks.  Pride is a dangerous thing.  It can keep you in church and out of heaven.

    God, I thank you for your grace in reminding me that I need to offer my pride to you again today.  It is a dangerous thing to learn about you and not know you.  Thank you for interrupting my life with your grace so I wouldn’t be content to study your word without the hope of knowing you.  Give me strength to cast down any idol that would stand in the way of knowing you.

    Forgiveness

    The idea of forgiveness can be a hard one to handle.  It is not always easy to forgive or even to ask for forgiveness.  Sometimes it seems like it is easier to harbor a grudge or exact our revenge than to forgive.  However, forgiveness is not just an option but it is a mandate for the Christian life.  We are told repeatedly in the New Testament that we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven in Christ.

    Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...

    Peter once asked Jesus just how often he was supposed to forgive his brother.  He thought he was being generous when he asked, “Up to seven times?”  Can you imagine his shock when Jesus replied, “up to seventy times seven.”  Then Jesus told this parable.

    “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  (Matthew 18:23-35 ESV)

    The point of this parable was to show the heart of God in forgiveness.  God does not forgive grudgingly because He is obligated.  He gives it freely!  Our God is a benevolent God!  He lavishes His grace and mercy upon the most unworthy people.  Just as the master did not owe his servant forgiveness of the debt, but had compassion and forgave the debt anyway, so God forgives us our debt of sin through Christ.

    But when we are recipients of such extravagant forgiveness we are supposed to live with the memory of that forgiveness and let if affect the way we deal with others.  This servant got it all wrong when he saw the extravagant grace the master was capable of, yet still forced his fellow servant into prison to pay up.  When you receive abundant mercy you are to show abundant mercy.

    In the same way there was another time that Jesus told a story of extravagant grace to teach us about forgiveness.  Do you remember the story about the lost son found in Luke 15?  A young man goes to his father and asks for his inheritance and leaves home.  Once he has been away for a while and has spent all his money he finds himself feeding pigs and even eating their slop just to get by.  He remembers his father’s house and how well the servants there have it and he determines to go home, not looking for forgiveness, just a place to work so he can be clean and eat a good meal.  But when the father sees him in the distance, he runs to the boy and orders a feast in his honor.  We understand the father in that parable to be God and the lost son to be a repentant sinner.  The boy had taken his inheritance and gone.  He did not deserve a feast.  He did not deserve a warm embrace.  He did not deserve his father’s forgiveness.   Yet, when he topped that hillside and the father saw his form in the distance … he ran!  When a repentant sinner comes to God, God is always quick to forgive.  He lavishes his grace upon us when we do not deserve anything from his hand.

    The character of God is marked with the ability to forgive great debts and likewise the character of a Christian is marked with the ability to forgive and seek forgiveness.  Paul admonishes the Colossian believers in Colossians 3:13b, “even as Christ forgave you, so you must do.”  He also told the Ephesians in Ephesians 4:32, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  Each time the appeal for forgiveness is based on the character of God to forgive us.  We should forgive others, because we have been forgiven a greater debt.  In forgiving others we are displaying the character of Christ!  We are called to a lifestyle of extravagant grace.

    We are to be like God in our forgiving.  This is tough stuff.  It is not really easy.  I wish it were.  The thing that enables us to forgive is not found with in us, it is rooted in the character of God!  I am free to forgive others debts against me because I have been forgiven my debt.

    My Story (Part 4): Waking up from a Dream

    flickrcom-photos-indigogoat-174393301One night I had a dream.  In my dream there stood a small round table with a porcelain stature of Jesus praying.  I remembered the statue from my childhood.  It was on of the figures that had always been in my parents house.

    In my dream there was an open magazine with a picture of Satan.  The kind of picture you see at Halloween with a red face, horns, and a pitchfork.  Yet the eyes had been cut out and taped on the statue of Jesus.

    I was indignant and mad.  I can remember saying, “Who has done this thing!  Who dares to defile this statue of Jesus?  This is blasphemy!”  And just at that moment as still, small voice said, “It is you!”

    In that moment I understood the weight of my sin before a holy and righteous God and knew that he would be good and right to send me to Hell.  I felt in that instant more terror than I have ever known.  I was sure that I was going to Hell.  Yet I awoke clutching the covers in a silent scream.  My mouth hung open,  my lungs had sized, my breath was caught in my throat and I was unable to actually produce a sound.

    I understood then that I was lost, but tried to rationalize with myself that it was just a dream.  I contemplated how silly it would look like for me to admit that I wasn’t even a Christian.  Pride keeps many men and women back from what would truly be theirs in Christ.

    A while later I was leading a college group through a Bible study on the 7 churches in Revelation.  As I studied the scripture I came to the Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).  What I read changed my life.  I realized that I was standing naked before God and instead of trusting in Jesus Christ to remove my sin and my shame I was trusting in works that didn’t really matter to God.

    I understood it like this.  God had given me a conscience and his word that exposed my wrong motives.  Like a mirror would show a person that they are naked and need clothes.  But instead of Trusting in Jesus and asking God to change my heart I was trying to answer the guilt over my sin by doing good things.  That would be like a naked person painting over a mirror.  It wouldn’t really change the fact that they were naked, it would just make it harder to see in the mirror.  There was nothing I could do to make myself right with God other than go to Him, tell him I was sorry for what I had done, and ask him to change my life.

    I shared with Avia that I was lost and she quoted Isaiah 64:6 confirming that there was truly nothing I could do to make myself right before God other than humble myself and ask for his forgiveness.  The next day I met with an evangelist to learn another Evangelism strategy.  This one was called Christ-Centered Evangelism and rather than focusing on heaven it focused on Christ.

    Brother Ed the Evangelist was teaching me about praying for those who have not yet come to God on his terms and lead me to read Romans 10:1-4.  As I read, he could tell something was wrong and he asked me if  everything was okay?  I couldn’t help but blurt out, “by the witness of these scriptures I am lost.  I have a zeal for the things of God, but I don’t truly know Him.”

    Later that night after searching my heart, I asked Christ to be the Lord of my Life.  I told my pastor and came before my church fully expecting to lose my job.  I didn’t care.  I wanted everything to be right before God and men.

    Jesus Christ changed me.  He saved he makes a difference in the way I live.  I am not a perfect person.  I continually make mistakes, but I know God accepts me based not upon what I have done, but what he has done for me.  I want the whole world to have peace with God like I do.

    For more on the Christian message and how you to can have a relationship with Jesus Christ check out  2 Ways to Live

    My Story (Part 3): Lost in a Religious World

    flickrcom-photos-harmony19490-36241501621 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

    Lost in a Religious World

    I found myself at the age of 16 rejecting an opportunity to attend the Alabama School of Math and Science in order to move with my family to Missouri.  I was trying to run from all the bad things I had done and ended up being a self-righteous snob.  I had an earnest desire to prove that I was a good person and a secret desire to make up for all the wrong I had done.  I was engaged in religious activity and very involved in a student group 30 minutes away from our house (back when gas was $1.16 a gallon).

    I also started a small student group of about 8-10 kids in the basement of my father’s new church (an aging 25 member congregation).  I was a great self-starter but lacked substance and depth.  I learned a lot about student ministry from the way I failed when I was just a 17 or 18 year old kid trying to lead a group of my peers.

    In the fall of 1997 I moved to Mobile, Alabama.  My first weekend in mobile I was invited to speak to the youth at a friends church in Gulf Shores.  The next weekend I was at Lafitte and quickly became a student ministry intern.  Things progressed quickly and just over a year later I was appointed associate student minister and then very quickly I was appointed student minister.

    Building a Resume of Deeds

    I had a passion and a desire for the things of God (Romans 10:2-4), but all the while I was building an impressive resume for God to accept me based on my good works.  Not realizing that my deeds did not mean as much to God as my heart (Isaiah 64:6). I worked hard to be a good communicator and studied to know much of the Bible.  You would have been hard pressed to find anyone my age more knowledgeable about the things of God.  Yet I still missed it.

    I became good at telling people how to become a Christian.  Most of the places I spoke (outside of Lafitte) would see two or three students make decisions saying something had changed in their life.  Every week at Lafitte the same kids were “rededicating” their life and never changing and many of the converts I saw in those early years never became fully devoted followers of Christ.

    The saddest part is that I really thought I was a Christian.  One of the things I enjoyed doing was learning new ways to present how to become a Christ follower to people.  I went through FAITH, EE, and several other presentations.  One of the key type questions in these presentations is to ask people “how does someone get to heaven?”  I always answered my instructors that it was “by doing good works” and they would correct me.  Yet, they never question me further because I was a poster child for someone interested in “Christian things.”

    My list of religious deeds was long.  I lead a student group. Helped lead and developed a prayer group for reaching international students at UM.  I had opportunities to speak at several student events all over Alabama.  I helped feed the homeless on a regular basis.  I walked the streets of downtown mobile passing out religious literature.  I had been on Mission to East Asia.  I had spoken in  many churches.  I partnered in founding a conference that celebrated a protestant Christian History.  But without Christ…. I was lost and without hope (Philippians 3:4-11).

    It wouldn’t be until I woke up from a Nightmare that I would come to understand just where I stood with God and what needed to be done to set things right.

    Want to know more about the Christian message and how to become a Christ follower?  Click the link below.  Be sure to read the whole thing.

    Who Do You Think that I Am?