Mare Cris and I have watched the news coverage of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda with heavy hearts. Her family lives in northern Luzon and was not directly affected. But we know thousands of others were not so fortunate.
Typhoons and floods are a normal part of life in the Philippines. But I never saw a storm this big while I was living there, and it has apparently hit some vulnerable population centers–the images from Tacloban city are revealing widespread destruction.
The main reason I’m posting this is to offer some direction to my readers who wish to help. There is an organization I can recommend for those who would like to donate:
The Two-Thirds Network is a Christian organization dedicated to helping people living in developing countries. Some of their people went directly to Bohol (the province most affected) within a day or two of the storm. I have linked directly to their urgent needs page.
I’ll be preaching on 1st Corinthians 10:1-13 in a couple of weeks (Sunday, November 3rd at North Valley Church). Paul refers the Christians in Corinth to the Book of Exodus, encouraging them to learn from the mistakes made by the Israelites.
I find the final verse in the passage to be extremely helpful. 1st Corinthians 10:13 has three encouraging truths for those facing temptation:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
-1st Corinthians 10:13
Truth #1: Your temptations are not unique.
I’ve read dozens of emails from people who are struggling with some kind of “secret” sin. They often feel completely alone, which only adds to their sense of shame. It’s agonizing to think you are the only person in your church who doesn’t have his/her act together. The enemy would use this belief to shame you into silent suffering.
You may be struggling with lust, pornography, addiction, a sinful relationship or some other stubborn sin. You are not alone! Paul reminds us that all temptations are “common to mankind.” Take heart–we all struggle with sinful desires of one form or another. Get some accountability in your life and break out of your self-imposed solitary confinement.
Truth #2: God is in control.
The God who controls the universe is also sovereign over your particular situation. You may feel like the allure of sin is just too strong, but God will never allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to make the right decision.
Parents do everything in their power to make sure their children are protected. A loving father would never knowingly allow his child to walk across a busy highway–there’s no way the little boy/girl would safely make it across. How much more will our heavenly Father watch over us and make sure we are not tempted beyond our ability to endure!
Truth #3: There’s always a way out
A skilled architect will design building with several fire exits so residents can get out if there is some kind of emergency. God has done the same thing as far as temptation goes–He always makes sure there is one or more ways to escape. Sinning is never our only option!
But the fire exit only works if you are willing to take it at the first sign of danger. This is especially true of sexual temptation–treat like a hand grenade and run!
Remember these three truths the next time you are facing temptation.
“Is it OK to date/court someone who is from a different denomination?”
I’ve been asked this question quite a few times over the years and we even discussed it back when we were doing a podcast/radio show. I’ll share a few things from personal experience and give you some practical questions to consider.
Mare Cris was a member of Victory Christian Fellowship when we first met. I was raised and ordained in a Southern Baptist church. I actually had “Evangelical Christian” listed as my religion on Facebook when we first started communicating. She wasn’t 100% sure what I meant by that label, so she asked me some basic questions about my beliefs (smart girl). She wanted to be certain I believed in the basic, fundamental truths of the Christian faith (the Trinity, salvation by faith, etc.).
I’m mentioning the beginning of our relationship to highlight an important point: there’s a big difference between dating someone of a different denomination and dating someone of a completely different religion (that’s another topic altogether). You can read one of my posts on discerning the truth for some general guidance on genuine vs. counterfeit Christianity.
Let me define things just to be clear: interdenominational dating means being in a relationship with someone who is part of a genuine Christian church/denomination other than yours. Stated another way, you both worship the same God and believe in the same gospel.
Now let’s get to some practical guidance. I believe there are two crucial questions to ask yourself if you are dating someone who is part of a different denomination:
Question #1: are you compatible in terms of doctrine?
Denominations exist in part due to different interpretations on issues such as spiritual gifts, eschatology (the last days), church governance, order/style of worship, and the list goes on. You and your boyfriend/girlfriend should discuss your beliefs and see where you stand. Here’s a general rule: you’ll be more likely to have a successful relationship with someone who has similar doctrine/beliefs.
Questions #2: are you compatible in terms of dedication?
Are both of you equally committed to Christ? This is an important question in any Christian relationship, but I think it also factors in this discussion. You may meet someone who happens to attend a different church but seems much more passionate about his faith than the single guys in your own congregation. Equal levels of dedication can play a huge role in whether or not you have a successful relationship.
Here are a few final words of advice:
1. Talk over these issues and don’t assume they’ll just work themselves out “as long as we love each other.”
2. A husband and wife should be members of the same church (in other words, the two of you will need to agree on one church to attend once you are married). Keep this in mind since the whole point of dating/courtship is to find a spouse.
3. Never settle for someone who has serious problems with his/her character or doctrine.
We live in a world that is obsessed with physical beauty. The evidence is everywhere: commercials offer products that claim to help you look young, thin, and gorgeous (or handsome). Everyone wants to look beautiful. Just go to a public restroom and you’ll see what I’m talking about—a line of people carefully studying themselves in the mirror.
Physical appearance is the first thing we notice, but we know that a relationship requires more than this to go the distance. We also know that a beautiful soul is ultimately more important than a beautiful face. So where’s the balance? Is it shallow to desire an attracive spouse? My desire is to help you put physical beauty in its proper perspective.
Attraction is a Gift
The Most Basic Link between Man and Woman is Physical
God knew what He was doing when he designed our physical bodies. Adam instantly fell in love with Eve because of the way she looked. She was like him (human), yet not like him (female). God designed men and women to be physically attracted to each other. Without this basic physical link, we’d never be interested in each other.
Physical Attraction is Affirmed in the Bible
Read the Song of Solomon and you’ll find plenty of references to physical beauty. Here’s one of many examples.
You are beautiful, my darling,
beautiful beyond words.
Your eyes are like doves
behind your veil . . .
You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
beautiful in every way.
-Song of Solomon 4:1-7
The Song of Solomon couple frequently complimented each other’s physical attributes. If physical attraction was irrelevant (or evil), God never would have allowed it to be celebrated this way in His Word.
With these things in mind, we have to recognize that attraction is an important, God-given aspect of relationships. I would never advise a man or woman to pursue a relationship if there is no physical attraction. My mentor’s wife often gives this advice to young women: “Never marry a man that you have no desire for.” This same principle applies to men looking for a wife.
Attraction has Limitations
But the biblical authors also advise us to look beyond one’s physical appearance. Here’s a verse that every young man and woman should memorize:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.
There are three important truths we can learn from this proverb.
First, beauty can be deceptive. All of us have met someone who is gorgeous until he/she starts talking. Maybe the campus crush is a little too aware of his killer looks and is quite arrogant. Maybe that beautiful girl has spent so much energy on her appearance that she forgot to grow a matching brain and personality. Sometimes beauty is only skin deep.
Second, beauty is temporary. Bill (one of my former campus ministers) was a thirty-year-old newlywed when I first met him. He married a stunning brunette, but he also advised us (students) to think long-term: “When you marry a girl, keep in mind that one day she’ll look like someone’s mom,” he said. The proverb and my campus minister are correct—our appearance will inevitably show signs of aging. Remember this as you search for a mate.
Third, internal qualities are ultimately the most important. The proverb reminds us that a woman’s character and relationship with God are what give her true, lasting beauty. This is the kind of beauty that radiates from the heart and does not fade. One of the most beautiful women I know is Jo Randall. She’s now over 80 years old (she was in her 60’s when I first met her—she was then one of my campus ministers). As you can imagine, Jo would never be chosen to be on the cover of a swimsuit magazine. Her beauty is in her heart for Jesus. From the time I first met her until now, she is a joy to be around. She has found the secret to true beauty.
Let me give you some advice based on these Biblical truths:
1. Do your best to be attractive for the opposite sex. We should not be obsessed with our appearance, but we should do the best with what God has given us physically. Take good care of your body (through regular exercise, a healthy diet, good hygiene, etc) and learn to present yourself with confidence.
2. Keep physical attraction in perspective when looking for a spouse. There should be some kind of physical chemistry in a romantic relationship–don’t pretend that it is completely unimportant (such a notion is neither biblical nor realistic). At the same time, you should understand that inner qualities are the source lasting beauty and promote long-term relationships. Lifelong relationships are built on friendship, not physical attraction. Keep this in mind so that you will not put too much emphasis on good looks.
You’ve probably heard statements like this from your Christian friends.
Such exhortations are consistent with the Scriptures. Jesus, for example, warned against looking back after you’ve put your proverbial “hand to the plow” (Luke 9:62). Paul told the Philippians he was “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:11). Dwelling on certain aspects of the past (sins, regrets, etc.) are counterproductive and can even be destructive to our souls.
But there is a place for looking back in our spiritual journey. Here’s what I mean: there are times when it is particularly helpful to remember God’s faithfulness in your life. Otherwise you may be guilty of “spiritual amnesia.”
The Scriptures are full of examples, but two scenes have come to mind as I’ve been thinking about this:
Scene #1: Exodus 14
The Lord had called Moses from exile and used him to bring the world’s most powerful empire to its knees. The stubborn Pharaoh finally yielded after losing his son in the tenth plague. The Israelites were marching to freedom, guided by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But the king of Egypt changed his mind and decided to pursue his former slaves. The Israelites were terrified when they saw their former oppressors in pursuit. This was their cry to Moses:
They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?
Scene #2: Mark 8
Most are familiar with Jesus’ miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with a simple meal. But Mark and Matthew record a similar miracle some time later in the life of Christ. Jesus was moved with compassion for the hungry crowd following him—4,000 men (plus women and children). The Lord expressed His desire to see them fed since they had not eaten for three days. But the disciples’ were skeptical, even though they had seen Jesus feed a greater crowd. Here’s their response:
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
We know how both stories end—God provided for His people through mighty demonstrations of supernatural power. But the reactions of both the Children of Israel and the disciples of Jesus intrigue me. They responded in fear and doubt, quickly forgetting all they had seen in recent days. Would God really go through all that trouble only to allow the Israelites to die in the desert? Would it be difficult for Jesus to feed a crowd of 4,000+ after doing the same for a group of over 5,000?
But I can’t point my finger at either group. It is easier, after all, to have faith when you already know how the story will end.
We’ve all had moments when we can’t understand what God is doing. You may find it especially helpful to look back on God’s faithfulness in your life during these trials (keeping a journal is especially helpful for this purpose). Remember the times God has shown Himself faithful and expect Him to do it again. Look back, then look ahead.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.