Differences Between Modern Dating and Biblical Dating

Scott Croft | Looking for a completely countercultural path to marriage? Here's how to apply God's Word to dating, finding a spouse and getting married. (soul mate for Christians)

The system today's young men and women have inherited for finding and marrying a future spouse leaves a lot to be desired. We often hear complaints from readers about the confusion, hurt and sexual sin they've encountered despite their best intentions. Many want to know how they can go about getting to know someone and eventually getting married without getting hurt or compromising their faith.

At Focus on the Family, we've offered a range of resources and expert advice bringing biblical principles to bear in this area. Some of the messages we've presented have taken the position that Christians can apply their faith in such a way that they can still work within the system they've inherited. Other messages have stressed that Christians need to be much more counter-cultural. Joshua Harris, for instance, has promoted a model of courtship that harkens back to a model used broadly before modern dating evolved.

People attempting to follow a courtship model within today's culture, however, often run into a lot of practical questions, such as, "What if her dad is unavailable or uninterested in being involved?" or "What do you do when you live hundreds of miles from your family?"

The goal of this series of articles, beginning with this introduction, is to provide our readers with a place to bring those questions. Scott Croft is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where he teaches a seminar on friendship, courtship and marriage. He is also an attorney who is used to tackling tough questions.

The answers he brings may be different from anything you've heard before. The topics he's going to be dealing with are ones in which equally committed Christians have found different biblical interpretations. Not all will agree with Scott's approach, and we invite feedback from anyone who believes there are better interpretations for the biblical passages Scott draws from.

It's our hope that this Q&A series will be valuable both for those who think the Bible gives sufficient guidance for operating within our current system as well as for those who are looking for a completely countercultural path to marriage.

If you're reading this, you're interested in dating. You've done it, you're doing it, you'd like to do it, or you need to teach somebody else how to do it. Don't worry. You're not alone. In our society, dating has become something of an obsession. It is expected to be a universal phenomenon. It's just something you do if you're single and of age (and that age is quickly dropping) in America. It is considered the natural precursor to marriage, and is generally considered something to be desired, whatever form it might take.

It's also big business. If you were to Google the word "matchmaker," you would receive something in the neighborhood of 11,500,000 responses — with a few of these outfits claiming to be Christian, but most making no such claim. "Dating" will get you 640,000,000 hits.

As evangelical Christians, we're called to be distinct in the ways we think and act about all issues that confront us and those around us. This topic is no exception. So is there such a thing as biblical dating? If so, what is it? How can Christians think differently about this pervasive issue in media and culture? How are we doing so far?

The answer to that last question is "not well." Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage. In fact, depending on which statistics one believes, the divorce rate for professing Christians may actually be higher than for Americans as a whole. Granted, not all of these people are evangelicals, but we're not doing so well either. Indeed, the central issue we need to confront — and the reason I write and speak on this topic — is that when it comes to dating and relationships, perhaps more than in any other area of the everyday Christian life, the church is largely indistinguishable from the world. That truth has brought immeasurable emotional pain and other consequences to many Christians. Worse, it has brought great dishonor to the name of Christ and to the witness of individuals and the church.

It doesn't have to be this way. For Christians, the Lord has given us His Word, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand it. We have brothers and sisters in Christ to hold us accountable and to help us apply the Word to our lives. If you're a Christian, that's the biblical life you're called to.

That's what I hope this column will be about — applying God's Word to dating, finding a spouse and getting married.

Scripture Rules

I have to start by explaining the theological doctrine that drives the approach I want to outline (and advocate). That doctrine is called the sufficiency of Scripture. Almost all professing evangelical Christians are familiar with and vigorously defend the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture (which states that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, it's true, and it contains no falsity or error). I certainly agree with the inerrancy of Scripture, but that's not what I'm talking about here. The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture assumes inerrancy but then goes a step further. This doctrine simply holds that the Bible is sufficient to guide and instruct us authoritatively in all areas of our faith and life, and that there is no area of life about which the Bible has no guidance for us. The sufficiency of Scripture is taught explicitly and implicitly in many passages, but perhaps the most obvious is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So how does the sufficiency of Scripture apply to our coming discussions? Well, many evangelicals who otherwise believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and who might generally agree with the sufficiency of Scripture have nonetheless embraced the world's ideas about dating. In doing so, some make the argument that Scripture doesn't speak to this topic. I believe it does. The Bible speaks to every area of our faith and life at some level. Some things it talks about explicitly, like salvation or sanctification or marriage or elders. The Bible guides us in some areas by broader, more general principles and ideas we can build on as we strive to live the Christian life in practical ways. In either case, no area of life falls totally outside of the guidance and authority of God's Word.

My point is that we cannot simply state that the Bible "doesn't mention dating or courtship," and then think we're off the hook to pursue this area of our lives either on the world's terms or however seems best to us without diligent, submissive reference to God's Word. If the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is true, then God's Word does have authoritative guidance for us about how we might best glorify God in this area of our lives. That means our conversation has to be a biblical conversation. I mention the sufficiency of Scripture as part of the groundwork for this column because it's one of those doctrines that touches every area of our lives, and it is at the heart of the approach to dating (and life) that we'll talk about here.

Biblical Dating

OK. Let's take care of some basic definitions. We may define biblical dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. That begins (maybe) with the man approaching and going through the woman's father or family;
  2. that is conducted under the authority of the woman's father or family or church; and
  3. that always has marriage (or at least a determination regarding marriage to a specific person) as its direct goal.

The Scriptural support for the idea of biblical dating is largely by example and implication. We will look at a number of passages over the course of our discussions that support various aspects of biblical dating, but for the moment, let me just give you some references to study:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:19 (command to be pure, seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage)
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (do not wrong or defraud one another in relationships — by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist)
  • Song of Solomon 2:7 ("do not awaken love before it pleases" — i.e. before the proper time, meaning marriage)
  • Proverbs 6:20-7:27 (warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships)
  • James 1:13-15 (temptation is to be taken very seriously)
  • Romans 13:8-14 (love others, work for their soul's good; don't look to please self)
  • Romans 14:1-15:7 (favor others, not self … value what's good to their souls)
  • 1 Timothy 5:1-2 (treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity)
  • Titus 2:1-8 (young men and women should focus on self-control/godliness)
  • John 14:15 (if you love Christ, you will obey His commands — read: above your own desires — and live biblically)

We'll talk more about these and other passages as we deal with other topics in this series.

Modern Dating

We may basically define modern dating as a method of introduction and carrying out of a pre-marital relationship between a single man and a single woman:

  1. that begins with either the man or the woman initiating with the other;
  2. that is conducted outside the formal oversight or authority of either person's family or church; and
  3. that may or may not have marriage as its goal and is often purely "recreational" or "educational."

Now, the biblical support for the modern approach to dating … (insert crickets, tumbleweeds, person whistling here)…. That was it. There isn't any. The very idea of extended romantic or sexual involvement outside of marriage doesn't even appear in Scripture unless it is described as illicit (sinful). Furthermore, it doesn't even appear in any society, western or otherwise, in any systematic way until the 20th century. While the principles supporting biblical dating have their beginnings with the very structure of the family, modern dating has its origins with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It is brand new, and yet, seemingly, it is all we know.

Differences Between Modern Dating and Biblical Dating

So what's the real difference? Here are some fundamentals:

Modern dating philosophy assumes that there will be several intimate romantic relationships in a person's life before marriage. In fact, it advocates "playing the field" in order to determine "what one wants" in a mate. Biblical dating has as its goal to be emotionally and physically intimate with only one member of the opposite sex … your spouse.

Modern dating tends to be egalitarian (no differences between men and women in spiritual or emotional "wiring" or God-given roles). Biblical dating tends to be complementarian (God has created men and women differently and has ordained each of these spiritual equals to play different and valuable roles in the church and in the family).

Modern dating tends to assume that you will spend a great deal of time together (most of it alone). Biblical dating tends to encourage time spent in group activities or with other people the couple knows well.

Modern dating tends to assume that you need to get to know a person more deeply than anyone else in the world to figure out whether you should be with him or her. The biblical approach suggests that real commitment to the other person should precede such a high level of intimacy.

Modern dating tends to assume that a good relationship will "meet all my needs and desires," and a bad one won't — it's essentially a self-centered approach. Biblical dating approaches relationships from a completely different perspective — one of ministry and service and bringing glory to God.

Modern dating tends to assume that there will be a high level of emotional involvement in a dating relationship, and some level of physical involvement as well. Biblical dating assumes no physical intimacy and more limited emotional intimacy outside of marriage.

Modern dating assumes that what I do and who I date as an adult is entirely up to me and is private (my family or the church has no formal or practical authority). Biblical dating assumes a context of spiritual accountability, as is true in every other area of the Christian life.

Basically, we can make three general statements about modern dating vs. biblical dating in terms of their respective philosophies:

  1. Modern dating seems to be about "finding" the right person for me (as my friend Michael Lawrence has written on this site, "Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend"); biblical dating is more about "being" the right person to serve my future spouse's needs and be a God-glorifying husband or wife.
  2. In modern dating, intimacy precedes commitment. In biblical dating, commitment precedes intimacy.
  3. The modern dating approach tells us that the way to figure out whether I want to marry someone is to act like we are married. If we like it, we make it official. If we don't, then we go through something emotionally — and probably physically — like a divorce. In biblical dating, Scripture guides us as to how to find a mate and marry, and the Bible teaches, among other things, that we should act in such a way so as not to imply a marriage-level commitment until that commitment exists before the Lord.

I'm supremely confident that as we go back and forth in the coming months, some — perhaps many — of you will disagree (if you don't already) or be initially annoyed at some of my statements. Ask yourself why. What are you trying to hold onto that you think this approach will take from you (privacy, autonomy, a secular idea of freedom or of your own rights)?

I have a particular challenge for those of you whose main objection is that the practical details we'll talk about here "are not explicitly biblical": think about the details of how you conduct (or would like to conduct) your dating life. Can you find explicit support for the modern approach in Scripture? Are there even broad principles in Scripture that justify the modern vision of dating (or yours, whatever it may be)? The Bible simply doesn't give us explicit instructions on some of what we'll discuss. Fair enough. In such a situation, we should ask what gets us closest to clear biblical teaching. In other words, within the many gray areas here, what conduct in our dating lives will help us to best care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and bring honor to His name?

That's it. That's a basic framework for biblical dating as best I can discern it from the principles of God's Word. Now, you're on. No question is too broad or too specific, too theoretical, too theological, or too practical. Agree with what I've said, or challenge it. This is how iron sharpens iron.

Scott Croft served for several years as chairman of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and taught the Friendship, Courtship & Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood CORE Seminars. Scott now lives in the Louisville, Ky., area with his wife, Rachel, and son, William, where he works as an attorney and serves as an elder of Third Avenue Baptist Church.

Just remember one thing: we're in this together — for His Glory.

Can Christians transcend the nihilism of our politics?

Followers of Christ are called to “hope all things.” According to Paul, this is one of the defining features of love. (image source)

I heard a story recently about a fairly well-known evangelical figure who was confronted about public statements he had made in writing and interviews. A fellow believer met and reasoned with him for several hours, explaining that he believed the leader had deceived his audience. When the facts became overwhelming, this influential evangelical conceded that he had been playing fast and loose with facts. However, since his overall message was true and important, he reasoned, it was justifiable to fudge the details in order to motivate voters to make the right decision.

You’re wondering who this evangelical leader is, but in a sense it doesn’t matter, because he could be just about anybody. The belief that American voters must be manipulated rather than reasoned with if we want to institute any meaningful change is endemic. But this belief is essentially nihilist because it makes all political discourse a matter of coercion, a matter of who is doing the coercing and to what ends. I call this nihilist because it makes power, not truth, goodness, or beauty, the foundation of politics.

Followers of Christ are called to “hope all things.” According to Paul, this is one of the defining features of love. If this is true, then for Christians, there is no room for nihilist politics. We are obligated to treat our neighbors as people who deserve honest appeals. This does not mean that all political discourse must be highly rational. There is a place for appeals to emotion, as well as to beauty. Don’t think I am denouncing all political ads that appeal to our emotions. While I do think that our politics could do with a great deal more logic and reason, I reject the idea that only what is rational is relevant to political discourse.

No, my objection is to appeals that are dishonest, and dishonesty can be cloaked in “reason” or “emotion” or “patriotism.” The most common and insidious form that this takes is the example I began with: when we lie about particulars in order to justify a general truth. I call this insidious because it occurs so subtly and is so easy for us to personally justify.

A recent high-profile example of apparent deception for a greater good came from presidential candidate Ted Cruz. According to some accounts, the senator used publically available voting data to shame neighbors into participating in the Iowa caucus. The Cruz campaign sent official-looking letters that urged Iowa residents to vote and gave them and their neighbors a letter grade for past voting. According to the New Yorker, these “grades” were made up and did not reflect residents’ actual voting history. This tactic received significant backlash from voters and Iowa state leaders alike. They felt it was coercive to use shame to get people to vote and deceptive for the Cruz campaign to assign letter grades to voting records, as if the grades were an official part of that record.

Cruz isn’t the first candidate to use this strategy. In 2012, President Obama’s reelection campaign used a similar strategy. The MoveOn campaign mailed out 12 million letters that used “social pressure” to drive voters to the polls. Apparently across the aisle, politicians believe that manipulative, deceptive practices are sometimes necessary to win bigger, more important battles.

But it’s not just political elites who fall into nihilism, where truth is subservient to the power to persuade. Our public conversations about news events and politics often fall into this, too. Let’s say I share a sensational news report about something that Sarah Palin recently said. I add some commentary to the post about how the quotation represents how ignorant Palin is, and several of my friends join in the mockery. Then another friend points out that she never actually made that statement. Embarrassed and anxious to save face, I reply, “Sure, this quotation is fake, but she says stuff like this all the time. The point is, she’s ignorant.”

The problem with this justification, aside from it being an excuse for deception, is that particulars do matter. Maybe Palin has said some outlandish things in her career, but if she hasn’t said those particular words, then by sharing that story you are changing the way people understand her. Put differently, even when a general idea is true, if we misrepresent the particulars, we will necessarily misrepresent the general truth.

As Christians, we should know better than to spread untruths, even when we believe they further a greater, worthy cause. But if you pay attention, you will find people from elite politicians to average citizens accepting and practicing a political nihilism. The fear is that if we don’t exaggerate the facts, if we don’t overstate our argument, if we don’t make a threat sound more serious than it really is, if we don’t make up a few stories that could be true in some sense, then voters won’t be moved to act. And everything will remain the same or get worse.

What this logic assumes is that we cannot trust our neighbors. That we cannot hope all things about them and their ability to reason, understand complex issues, and vote. We treat our neighbors as children who have to be tricked in order to get them to do what we believe is best for them. This kind of hopelessness and disregard for our neighbors is paternalistic and unloving. And this logic denies the sovereignty of God by suggesting that we have cheat to save our country. If God is truly God, then recourse to sin is never necessary to make the world a better place, even in politics.

Hoping all things about our neighbors does not mean that we must be naïve. Not everyone has a college degree, not everyone has time to sort through the rationale between different policies, and not everyone has the resources to fact-check arguments they hear. To be realistic and yet hope all things means that we desire and hope our neighbors will engage thoughtfully with an issue at the level they are capable of given their life situation. The difference is that we should never lose hope in reasoning together such that we resort to coercion and power for the “greater good.”

As this political season rolls on, remember to love your voting neighbors, regardless of who they support and why. Love them, and in that love, hope that they can be reasoned with.

O. Alan Noble, Ph.D., is editor in chief of Christ and Pop Culture and an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University. He received his Ph.D. from Baylor in 2013. He and his family attend City Presbyterian in OKC. You may not follow him on Twitter.


Facing Giant Problems Outside Our Comfort Zone

Many of us today may find it difficult to stand against these kinds of challenges because of fear. (Global Ministries-The United Methodist Church)

King David’s story, found in 1 Samuel (1 Samuel 17:1-54), is characterized by his victory as a youth over the giant warrior Goliath. Goliath had created terror among the Israelite soldiers of King Saul for many years. They struggled to defeat him.

Today, Goliath can be seen as a giant problem or an impossible situation that we face, which we, as young adults in mission, are called to overcome. Many problems come to mind: conflicts, discrimination, tribalism, racism, sexism, classism, and more. Many of us today may find it difficult to stand against these kinds of challenges because of fear. We fear being outside of our comfort zone—yet, in order to strike out what might be hindering our lives and the lives of others, outside may be where we are called to be.Glory Ilunga Kapya Mulimba

From Samuel, young adults can learn many things that can help us overcome Goliath problems in this world, just as David did.

1. We must clearly understand that our fear can be wiped out of our spirit and mind only when we view the giant problems affecting us and this world through God’s perspective. David’s faith in God caused him to look at Goliath in a different way.

When we look at our giant problems from God’s perspective, we realize that he will always fight for us and with us. David knew that Goliath was not as powerful as the God who had saved David from lions and bears (1Samuel 17:37).

2. God always prepares his servants to act at the right time. Sometimes people misunderstand our desire to serve the Lord. Some believe that, because we are young, we are not ready or able to take a stand against impossible situations that have affected our communities for years.

We should remember that we can’t discern God’s will by following the crowd. Once God calls us to stand for or against something, we should not fear anything, because we are more than prepared in the Lord. Only through meditation and prayer will we know how prepared we are.

3. As young adults we should know our gifts and capabilities, which allow us to face and fight effectively against our giants. God works through us in ways that are related to our backgrounds and gifts. David didn’t choose to wear the armor given to him by King Saul. He was comfortable with his simple sling, and he was skilled at using it (1Samuel 17:38-40).

God will use the unique gifts and skills he has placed in us to overcome impossible situations. We should know ourselves and use what God has given us. God will work miracles through us in order to face the social injustices that cause harm in the world today.

Implore always God’s name and be able to see even giant problems from God’s perspective so that you can effectively face them and save lives in your community and in the world.

Glory Ilunga Kapya Mulimba is a Global Mission Fellow commissioned in July 2014. Originally from Lubumbashi, DR Congo, he is currently serving with Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace), based in Davao City, Philippines. InPeace is a grassroots, interfaith peace movement that facilitates justice and seeks a lasting peace in Mindanao. This article was originally published in the July-August 2015 issue of New World Outlook magazine. Read original article at Global Ministries.


Girl’s perspective: How to talk to women properly

Here is an insight for men on how to carry on conversation during a date with that special someone (Canamgirl Music photo)

Dear Men of all ages, I am sure that you all have the same question that you ask yourselves on a regular basis, “How can I pick up the ladies?” It is constantly on your mind, not only because you actually want a relationship or even just a date. It is an unwritten code among men. You hold a high place in your own manly society if you are that guy who gets all the girls. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is an issue? How do you think women respond to this knowledge? Do you think it works in your favor? Well gentlemen, I am here to answer all these questions and give you some insight. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of women who are losing faith in men.

Tip #1:Don’t try so hard.
Honestly if you make a couple attempts to get that girl onto the dance floor….to no avail…. it is most likely a wise decision to take a few steps back. Your chances of even a decent conversation will be a lost cause if you continue to push. This tactic becomes extremely annoying, not only that, eventually creepy. Instead, try asking once for that dance, (or whatever it may be) if you are “Shot Down” just wait for another opportunity to approach and strike up a conversation. You are basically still trying quite hard, although to the female species it will be seen as persistent; not pushy. You may actually instill in them a feeling of curiosity to know more.
Tip #2Play hard to get
Usually women are the ones who play hard to get. I can honestly tell you it is because it gives a feeling of being “hot stuff” “worth the chase.” Why not turn the tables?? Allow them to realize what a great catch you are! Pull away ever so slightly, give the woman a time to mull things over and realize how great you are Eventually she will turn up on your caller ID for a change. Trust me, we don’t give up that easily.
Tip #3DON’T be cocky!
There is nothing less attractive than a man who portrays himself as “Gods Gift to Women.” Be modest in conversation, try directing questions towards her, show an interest in her likes, dislikes, career etc. Be an honest gentleman. Tip #4Be truthful in your intentions. Men, please don’t get our hopes up for something more if that is never your intention. If you are just interested in a few casual dates now and again don’t be afraid to tell us. It is better to know that there is no current interest in a committed relationship right off the get go.
We will respect you for it.
Nothing worse than having the wrong idea and then getting hurt in the end. So, to sum things up……You all have moms, sisters, and female friends, pay more attention to the things that they talk about. I’m sure they can be heard complaining about that last date, or how they wish ( the man in question) would speak to them differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those special women in your life, trust me, it will make you no less of a “man.” In fact, to a woman, you will see more of a man than ever!

is a blogger and the publisher of Susie Magazine: Find your soul mate. You may read more here.


Lessons from Star Wars Relationships

"I was pleasantly surprised at how these characters and events can give insights into our most important relationships." (Poster | Star Wars)

I write a lot about healthy relationships. I've done plenty of posts offering principles for a strong marriage or keys to coaching your kids on how to enter romantic relationships with wisdom. It's what I do.

I'm also a big Star Wars fan. Given the fact that The Force Awakens (episode 7 for those who aren't paying attention) opens this week, I couldn't help but mine the Star Wars canon for some valuable relationship advice. After some thoughtful consideration, I was pleasantly surprised at how these characters and events from "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" can give us insights into our most important relationships.

For no particular reason, I've chosen to put these bits of wisdom in an order that generally reflects the timeline of when we encountered the characters and events. Whether you are married or hoping to coach your kids, I'm sure these truths will absolutely revolutionize your life. Or not.

Romantic Relationships Begun During Times of Stress are Doomed to Fail
Romantic Relationships Begun During Times of Stress are Doomed to Fail
One day you're in a dead end job as a moisture farmer on a desert planet. The next day your home is destroyed, your relatives are murdered and you're caught up in a plot to destroy the Galactic Empire. THIS IS NOT A GOOD TIME TO ENTER A RELATIONSHIP. Even if the girl is a imprisoned princess who has a fiery heart and who looks surprisingly awesome with her hair in ridiculous buns on either side of her head. She might give you a passionate kiss before swinging across an oddly positioned crevasse on a giant space station, but you shouldn't trust your feelings (no matter what Obi-Wan might say). This relationship is going nowhere. Which leads me to our next relationship principle…
Don't Flirt With Your Sister
Don't Flirt With Your Sister
Before you start flirting with the only eligible female within twelve parsecs, make sure you first confirm that she is not, in fact, your twin sister. And whatever you do, don't kiss her to make another guy jealous. Ewww.


On Rare Occasions, Arrogance is More Attractive Than Humility
On Rare Occasions, Arrogance is More Attractive Than Humility
This is for the young men out there. When you are trying to pursue a romantic relationship with that special lady who you think is "the one," tenderhearted humility is always the right tone to take. It will almost always attract the girl more effectively than cockiness or swagger. But there is one exception. If your courtship hits a rough spot and an evil galactic dictator is about to freeze you in carbon before a bounty hunter takes you to your eventual death, all bets are off. In your last few moments of consciousness, if your girl declares, "I love you," then a perfectly appropriate response is, "I know." Chicks dig that.
There is Someone for Everyone
There is Someone for Everyone
If you have had little success in dating relationships and are wondering if there might be someone out there for you, don't lose hope. There was that brief scene in Episode One when the pod race was about to start. The vile and disgusting Jabba The Hutt steps up to the mic … and there in the background we catch a glimpse of Mrs. The Hutt. Again… Ewww. If Jabba can find a mate, then anyone can.
But Some People Are Single For A Reason
But Some People Are Single For A Reason
Maybe you're an 850 year-old sage from a new age religious order who has big ears and an annoying tendency to speak with technically accurate but annoying grammar. You'll likely be single for life. Maybe you're a seven and a half foot tall dude who speaks in grunts and who has a significant back hair problem. While certainly lovable, you are forever stuck in the friend zone. Maybe your parents named you Jar Jar. Know this: everybody hates you. You are destined to die alone.
Look for Red Flags in Your Dating Relationships
Look for Red Flags in Your Dating Relationships
Parents must coach their daughters to look for warning signs in the early stages of a romantic relationship. While a girl might be "in love," her significant other might have some character flaws that will negatively affect their relationship long-term. If your daughter's boyfriend shows any of these signs, you should coach her to move on:

He is at least 7 years younger than her and was absolutely annoying as a child. He grows into a handsome young man but still has the personality of a rotten turnip. His role model is a crusty old man with an eye on the absolute domination of the known galaxy. And if your daughter's boyfriend ever suggests that murdering a bunch of young trainees in his religious order is a good thing, she should take that as a warning sign that the he is not the marrying type. Better to end it now than to have to deal with his dysfunctional tendencies later.

A Final Word
Hopefully, these principles will help you to build healthy relationships in your marriage and family. As Yoda might say: "Timeless, they are."

Since one portion of our work at INFO for Families is devoted to discovering God's design for sexual health in marriage, I will offer one final piece of relationship advice to all the wives out there. If are you're looking for "a new hope" to bring some spice back into your marriage, buy one of those Princess Leia costumes from the Jabba the Hutt scene in Return of the Jedi. You can't go wrong.

Barrett and Jenifer JohnsonAfter serving in the local church for 25 years, Barrett and Jenifer launched INFO for Families as a ministry designed to encourage people through speaking, personal coaching and resource development. Barrett served for 15 years in youth ministry before serving for eight years as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, one of the largest churches in the South. He has degrees from Texas A&M University and Southwestern Seminary, but he and Jenifer have received their best education through the no-holds-barred nature of everyday family life.

For original article go to infoforfamilies.com


A Year Without Resolutions

The shift from “achieving” to simply “being.” Nicole T. Walters, guest writer (Haven Sweet / Monastery of the Holy Spirit)

This year I am not making New Year’s resolutions. I am not jotting down goals and dreams, in hopes of becoming a different version of myself. Instead, I am exploring something new this year—or rather, something very old.

It all began when I visited a local monastery for some quiet reflection. Being a busy working mom, I was feeling out of touch with time for my own spiritual development. Driven by to-do lists, I felt the need to set some spiritual goals instead of just practical ones. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, sitting on 7,000 acres of untouched Georgia woodlands, became the perfect retreat for New Year’s Day reflections a few years ago.

I was taken by the beauty of the place and intrigued by the life of the forty monks in community there. I attended a retreat at the monastery later in the year, praying and learning alongside the monks. The common prayer and meditative readings were unknown to me as an evangelical, but still sparked a deeper contemplation around God and his gospel truths.

The following year, I returned to the abbey church, listening to monks singing midday prayers while asking God to guide my year ahead. I have always loved how New Year’s puts us in a mindset of reflection and reordering. It’s especially needed as another year comes to an end, and we’re left feeling more defeated than inspired.

As I saw at the monk’s quiet, simple lives in comparison to my hectic, rushed one, I began reading about the teachings that guided their community. I discovered not only a new way of praying, but a new way of living. And I wasn’t alone—plenty in evangelical circles have searched the wisdom of the ancient monasticism.

In her book Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey guides readers to the practice of praying the hours with her own journey of evolving faith. Blogger Micha Boyett deemed herself “The Mama Monk” as she explored Benedictine spirituality. Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro offer inspiration in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

Ancient texts set forth basic guidelines for the monastic movement, beginning in third-century Egypt. The Rule of Life prescribes times for common prayer, meditative reading, manual work, and details such as clothing, food and drink for monks living in community. The best known Rule of Life comes from St. Benedict of Nursia, with the simple motto, Ora et Labora (Pray and Work).

With the rise of the movement of New Monasticism, evangelical Christians have drawn from and expanded upon traditional monastic values to apply to daily life outside of the monastery. St. Benedict himself summarized the rule as “simply a handbook to make the very radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life.”

Inspired by these teachings, spiritual director Jenn Giles Kemper created Sacred Ordinary Days, with resources like a liturgical planner and a podcast to guide people through the liturgical year, which begins a bit before the calendar year with the start of Advent. This practice of prayer, reading, and contemplation isn’t the same as a Christianized, or monasticized, version of New Year’s resolutions.

“Goals and intentions are task-based and work best within a quantifiable measure of success and an easily marked ending point,” Giles Kemper explained to me. “Something more process-oriented is helpful when you’d like to reorient toward ‘being’ over ‘achieving.’”

Giles Kemper uses the language of “play” as she talks about trying certain spiritual practices (“playing with silence”), which makes it seem more inviting—and less like there is a right and a wrong way to approach spiritual disciplines. She finds flexibility in her experience with the Rule of Life, a grace and freedom to shift, grow, and practice, in a constant posture of a learner.

This language marks the shift for me from a goal-based approach to a becoming-mindset. When we approach New Year’s Resolutions and goals, we usually set forth to do something or accomplish something. I might want to lose 10 pounds, but feel defeated when I don’t. If I, instead, focus on adopting healthier habits, I’m able celebrate my progress without condemning myself should I come up short.

The Rule of Life aims to create a framework for being and becoming, rather than checking something off a list. Practical and spiritual goals fit into this framework as prayer and Bible reading can get sidelined into another item on the to-do list.

Henri Nouwen said:

A rule offers creative boundaries within which God’s loving presence can be recognized and celebrated. It does not prescribe but invite, it does not force but guide, it does not threaten but warn, it does not instill fear but points to love. In this it is a call to freedom, freedom to love.

As I head into another busy year, it is this freedom I long for, a way to fit time for my spirit into all of the practical demands on my life. So this year, as the New Year approaches, I will sit beneath the expansive arches of the abbey church and reflect on the year ahead. I won’t walk away with a set of goals that are measurable, and so often unattained. Instead, I will envision what I want to create space for in my spiritual journey in 2016. I hope that in another year I will find I have become more of the person God created me to be.

Nicole T. Walters is a writer from metro Atlanta who has written for Relevant.com, SheLoves Magazine and is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild. Nicole blogs about faith and being on mission wherever God has placed you at nicoletwalters.com.


Five Poverty Busters You Should Know

Why? Because research shows they are making a real difference (photo / taimoor)

As a developmental economist, people often ask me, “What can I do as a Christian to really make an impact on world poverty?” Especially as people consider giving and charitable donations during the Christmas season, the question has inspired me to create a list of five of the most dedicated and innovative Christians I have discovered in my work and research in international poverty alleviation. While some of these individuals help lead Christian organizations, others direct what are essentially secular organizations strongly influenced by their faith. Some are well-known in development circles; others have labored for years outside of the public eye. All share in common a dynamic faith that has helped shape innovative approaches to poverty.

They also share a commitment to effectiveness. Not every approach taken by these practitioners has met with instant success. This is okay. Poverty is a tough nut to crack. But through dedication to rigorous evaluation, constant innovation, learning, re-innovation, and the dogged pursuit of excellence in their work, their respective programs share a commitment to genuine impact over feel-good charity.

Auyba Guffwan, Director, Beautiful Gate/Wheelchairs for Nigeria.1. Auyba Guffwan, Director, Beautiful Gate/Wheelchairs for Nigeria.

We sometimes hear the phrases “the poorest of the poor” or “the least of these.” Interested in knowing who they are? They are the disabled in the poorest countries, often rejected as outcasts by their families, left on the street to beg. These beloved human beings are, truly and tragically, the poorest of the poor. There are one billion people living with serious disabilities today, most of them in the developing world.

Ayuba Guffwan is one of my development heroes. Paralyzed from polio at age four, it would have been easy for Ayuba to slide quietly into a life of hopelessness, substance abuse, and begging. Receiving a wheelchair gave him the hope to pursue his dream of helping others like himself. He and “retired” Pastor Ron Rice founded Beautiful Gate in 1999. Since gaining access to a wheelchair and founding the organization, Ayuba earned a law degree from the University of Jos, married, fathered three children, and became an international leader in Rotary International. The organization has become the largest supplier of mobility aids in Nigeria, rescuing thousands from crawling in the dust on hands and feet, giving them the mobility to live with dignity and as integrated members of society.

Furthermore this ministry operates in a region of Northern Nigeria where Christians face violent persecution by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram. While overtly Christian, Beautiful Gate provides wheelchairs to Muslims and Christians without partiality. Despite the great risks, it has continued to serve in this area with favor among Muslims as a peaceful witness of the hands of Christ.

But just as impressive as Ayuba’s story is the impact of providing wheelchairs. Although unable to carry out fieldwork in Nigeria due to the terrorism risk, inspired by Beautiful Gate my graduate student Justin Grider and I carried out a study among a similar disabled population in Ethiopia, comparing life outcomes between statistically matched current and future wheelchair recipients.

In a study forthcoming in the Journal of Development Effectiveness, we found life-changing impacts from wheelchair provided to the disabled population. In a given week, wheelchair recipients traveled about 7 miles farther away from their homes than those without a wheelchair. We also found that wheelchair beneficiaries spent nearly two hours more per day in income-generating work, reducing begging by nearly the same amount of time. The income of the wheelchair recipients was $6.23 per week higher than those without wheelchairs, a 78 percent increase over the very small baseline of $8.02 (yes, the disabled poor earn this little per week in places like Ethiopia.) Our estimates showed that an economic investment in a wheelchair realized an internal rate of return of 122 percent, simply based on the increased income the recipient would earn relative to the cost of the wheelchair, a rate of return that vastly exceeds that of the most productive Fortune 500 companies. By providing a wheelchair through a $150 donation to Beautiful Gate, one can literally transform a life.

2. Isabeth Zárate, Chief Operations Officer, Fuentes Libres Microfinance, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Isabeth Zárate, Chief Operations Officer, Fuentes Libres Microfinance, Oaxaca, Mexico.Even as recently as a few years ago, microfinance was billed by many as the silver bullet that would eradicate world poverty. Many rigorous impact studies carried out in countries around the globe have shown that microfinance has far less impact on borrowers than has been claimed by advocates. Microfinance helps people start and grow small businesses, smooth out bumps in income, and builds social cohesion, but in most cases it doesn’t appear to significantly increase family income or overall welfare. So where does that leave the world of microfinance?

Practitioners like Isabeth Zárate have long understood that the real power of microfinance isn’t in the lending, but in how it develops human beings, enhancing their social connectedness, psychological health, aspirations, and spiritual lives. In contrast to other organizations that expect big impacts from a simple cycle of loans, Fuentes Libres focuses on holistic, or integrated, development. This fits more closely with a biblical view of human nature and with recent findings in behavioral economics. Both of these view human beings not as homo economicus, but as whole people affected not only by economic incentives but also by their relationships, aspirations, and spiritual commitments, as well as their confidence to shape their circumstances.

This approach stands in contrast to larger microlenders in Mexico such as the well-known Compartamos Banco, who simply offer microloans (at the rather breathtaking average annual interest rate of 130 percent), but offer little else in terms of holistic vision for the growth of their clients. The problem with lenders such as Compartamos is that results from careful new research shows that their approach doesn’t work. A recent randomized controlled trial on 16,000 households in Mexico carried out by top Ivy League researchers reported an absence of any transformative impact on borrowers from their microfinance loans.

Isabeth Zárate’s work with Fuentes Libres among indigenous women in southern Mexico has, by contrast, taken an integrated development approach. Women meet weekly to encourage one another in their businesses. They build a network of trust that helps them build confidence as entrepreneurs. Recently my colleagues and I have begun a project with the organization to test how hope and aspirations might influence the success of microfinance. Early results hint at positive impacts both on the aspirations of these female borrowers and profits in their enterprises. As we gain a better understanding of the full nature of human beings–their social, psychological, and spiritual natures–we can help interventions like microfinance function more effectively.

Paul Niehaus, Co-founder and U.S. Director, GiveDirectly.3. Paul Niehaus, Co-founder and U.S. Director, GiveDirectly.

Many poverty organizations will transform your cash donation into different types of “in-kind” gifts to the poor: farm animals, mosquito nets, clean-burning woodstoves–the list goes on. In-kind gifts are appealing because (a) we don’t want our donation spent irresponsibly, and (b) we want to know how our money is being used. Paul Niehaus took a different approach when he founded GiveDirectly with fellow economics graduate students at Harvard: Let the poor decide how to best use a cash donation. GiveDirectly harnesses the best modern technology to transform your cash into … cash. It does this by electronically zapping internet donations into cell-phone-based savings accounts of the poor in East Africa. Direct electronic cash transfers have become one of the most innovative and effective methods of helping the extreme poor in the developing world.

Evidence has been growing that shows cash transfers to be an effective means of helping the poor. However, most of these programs have been conditional cash transfers. Cash was given to families for making positive choices, such as keeping their children enrolled in school or taking them in for regular check-ups. But what about just giving the poor cash—no strings attached? The response of many people to an unconditional cash transfer is that it seems highly susceptible to abuse. Unconditional cash transfers can be spent on alcohol and cigarettes just as easily as on school fees and repairing a leaky roof. Niehaus and his co-founders seem to be placing quite a bit of faith in the judgment of the poor. So what does the evidence say?

Researchers at Princeton University studied the effectiveness of GiveDirectly in an experiment involving over 1,000 households. Over the course of a year, about $1,000 in cash was transferred from internet donors into the electronic savings accounts of a randomly selected half of the households. The two researchers carrying out the study (both now faculty at Princeton) found a number of encouraging impacts from these injections of cash.

First, food consumption increased substantially. Recipients of the transfers bought 20 percent more food. The extra food consumption reduced by 30 percent the likelihood of a family member going to bed hungry during the week preceding the follow-up survey. It also reduced by 42 percent the number of days children in the cash transfer households went without food. Productive assets, mostly animal herds and small business investment, increased an astounding 58 percent.

What about spending on temptation goods, like alcohol and cigarettes? The research found no increase in spending on these goods at all. This parallels other findings that show that as extremely poor people become just a little bit wealthier, they become more hopeful and invest more time and effort in activities that will pay off in the future rather than medicating feelings of hopelessness. And what about cash grants reducing the incentives to work? A new paper by top economists at Harvard and MIT furthermore dispels the myth that these cash grants reduce time devoted to work by recipients.

Niehaus and his colleagues have shown us that the poor are more trustworthy than we think.

4. Menchit Wong, Director of Leadership Engagement, Global Advocacy, Compassion International, Philippines.

Menchit Wong, Director of Leadership Engagement, Global Advocacy, Compassion International, Philippines.Menchit Wong began her career as a social worker in a slum re-settlement program in the Philippines. Thirty-six years later, she was standing on the platform at the international Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, addressing a large audience of global Christian leaders (from churches, ministry organizations, movements and alliances), championing the rights of children. The global church gathered at this conference recognized children as a priority in the coming decade. “It was a kairos moment,” Menchit says of her presentation. “God orchestrated a two-minute opportunity for Compassion to convince the global Church to invest in the value, potential, and priority of children in poverty.” It was a ministry model, says Menchit, “that ran contrary to hundreds of years of practice.”

She currently serves as Compassion International’s director of leadership engagement for global advocacy after having served for decades in the trenches in the Philippines in of one of the most successful organizations fighting child poverty on a global scale. Compassion’s approach has long bucked the trend followed by many larger aid organizations of investing in infrastructure. Instead, Compassion invests in children: their health, education, character values, aspirations, and spiritual growth. It is a holistic model of human development with biblical foundations that has realized tremendous dividends among children sponsored by Compassion.

Our six-country study on the impact of Compassion’s sponsorship program–which included the work of Compassion in the Philippines– found that adults who had been sponsored as children were about a third more likely to finish secondary school, a third more likely to have a white-collar job as adults, about two-thirds more likely to finish college, and 80 percent more likely to serve later in life as community and church leaders. In a new academic paper forthcoming in the World Bank Economic Review, we find sponsorship through Compassion to result in a 20 percent increase in adult incomes. Also as adults, formerly sponsored children live in better-constructed and safer homes, with better roofs and floors, and they are more likely to have electricity. Thanks to the dedication, innovation, and persistence of practitioners such as Menchit Wong, it has become clear to both academics and practitioners that Compassion’s unique approach to child sponsorship is a highly effective way to make a difference in the life of a child living in poverty.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder and CEO, TOMS Shoes, Inc.5. Blake Mycoskie, Founder and CEO, TOMS Shoes, Inc.

TOMS Shoes began in Argentina, reports Blake Mycoskie in his book, Start Something That Matters. He was taking a break from managing DriversEd Direct in 2006, an online driver’s education school he had recently founded. In Argentina, he learned to play polo, dance the tango, and appreciate the alpargata, the soft canvas shoe worn ubiquitously in the country. He also met a friend working with an organization distributing used shoes to children living in the Argentina’s barrios and impoverished rural areas. That meeting changed the course of his life—and that of many others. He eventually sold his interest in DriversEd Direct, investing his time in a new company that sold a version of the alpargata loafers to Americans while giving a similar pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair he was able to sell.

In 2011, Blake agreed to work with me to carry out a study of the TOMS Shoes giving program. We wanted to ascertain the impacts of the shoes through a controlled trial. Our study took place in El Salvador, where we randomly distributed TOMS’ donated shoes to about half of 1,578 children in 18 rural communities. We tested two questions: First, did the donated shoes damage the local shoe vendor business, and second, what was the impact of the shoes on children?

We found little evidence of significant damage to local shoe vendors. Results showed that sales of vendors declined by a single pair of shoes for about every 20 donated pairs, but even this small negative impact was statistically insignificant. And while our study uncovered no life-transforming impacts from the shoes in terms of education, self-esteem, or health, we did find that 95 percent of the recipient children had a favorable impression of the shoes and 90 percent wore them, and 77 percent wore them at least three days a week.

What most impressed us with TOMS was how nimbly the company responded to the challenges of poverty. They found that children used the shoes primarily for play and that canvas shoes tended to wear out quickly. So they began to give away a more durable athletic shoe. To accommodate the needs of children in cold climates such as Mongolia, they created a tailored snow boot for Mongolian children. When studies suggested that other types of interventions were likely to have greater life-transforming impacts than their shoe donations, TOMS began to sell sunglasses that provide vision correction for the visually impaired, coffee for which purchases help provide fresh water to villages, and handbags that fund birth attendant resources for pregnant mothers in poor countries.

Clearly the original vision for a shoe company has grown into a larger vision—a double-bottom line company whose focus is not only profit but also the improved welfare of the overseas poor. It’s a company committed to introducing new products that are accompanied by a studied and sincere effort to better the lives of the least fortunate. I salute the creativity of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS as they walk the delicate line between the secular and the spiritual, a primarily “secular” company partnering extensively with Christian organizations such as World Vision and Heart for Africa to share God’s concern for the poor.

Bruce Wydick is professor of economics at the University of San Francisco and research affiliate at the Kellogg Institute of International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is author of the novel The Taste of Many Mountains (Thomas Nelson).


Rick Warren: Sexual Purity Begins With a Commitment

Sexual purity is far more complex than simply abstaining from having sex and may be rooted in your mind, your heart and your soul. (ECWA Archive)

"How shall a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word" (Psalm 119:9, MEV).

Is it possible in the 21st century to live a sexually pure life—to refrain from sex before marriage and stay sexually faithful during marriage?

Yes! But it has to start with a commitment.

The Bible says, "How can [anyone] stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9 NIV). To be sexually pure in the 21st century (or any other century for that matter), you'll need a standard to live by. You can either build your standard by yourself or choose God's standard. You must decide whether God knows more about your life than you do.

God says several things in His Word that aren't popular—particularly when it comes to sex. Why does He say those things? He knows more about sex than you do. He also understands the implications far better than you do. You have to decide: "God, when I don't understand it, when I don't like it, and when it's not popular, I'm going to do what your Word says regardless of what I think or what my friends think."

Until you're willing to make that kind of commitment, you may as well close up your Bible and go back to bed. Without that commitment, you're not ready to be pure in an impure world. You can only be pure by following God's standard.

God thought up sex. It was his idea, but he did put a few parameters around it. His standard has never changed. It's very clear regardless of opinion polls or anything else.

Sex is far more than physical. It's a spiritual act with physical, social, legal, and emotional consequences. If sex were just physical, it'd be like a handshake. It wouldn't matter who you had sex with. But sex is more than physical.

The Bible makes it clear that sex is exclusively reserved for a husband and a wife who are committed to one another in a marriage. Anything outside of that, like sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage, will have profound consequences on your emotions and your spiritual life, and it may even physically harm you.

God's standards are in your best interest. If you want to live by them — and avoid all the negative consequences that come from living outside of them — it starts with a commitment.

Talk It Over
  • Why do you think it's important to make a commitment to God's standard for sexual purity before you get into a situation where you are tempted?
  • What are things in our world that make it even harder to turn away from sexual temptation?
  • What are some of the consequences of sexual sin?

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit rickwarren.org.


Atrocities against Christians in the Central African Republic

Inside PK5 – Extra Scene from 'United in Hate: Central African Republic' (Vice News)

In March 2013, the Seleka, a coalition of predominantly Muslim-armed groups from the northeast, marched on the Central African Republic's capital Bangui and seized power.

They committed mass atrocities against the population, and to the largely Christian population in the southwest, Muslims began to be associated with violence. They took up arms to form a Christian self-defense militia called the anti-balaka, and carried out revenge killings.

By the end of 2013, the Central African Republic had descended into civil war. Under pressure from the international community, the Seleka were forced to give up power and retreated towards the northeast, where they regrouped.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission and a French military operation were able to stem the fighting, but despite their presence, the transitional government has not been able to regain control of the country outside Bangui.

With the anti-balaka controlling the southwest, and the Seleka controlling the northeast, the Central African Republic is de facto partitioned along ethno-religious lines. For those who find themselves on the wrong side of the divide, life has become hell.

In this extra scene, VICE News goes to PK5, a predominantly Muslim enclave of the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui, which has seen some of the most violent and brutal fighting between Muslim and Christian communities since the start of the conflict.

Watch Original video on Vice News. "United in Hate: The Fight for Control in CAR"
VICE News is an international news organization created by and for a connected generation. For inquiries please contact newsinfo@vice.com.


Signs of a Good Father

You know you're a good father when your children enjoy spending time with you. (photo © blackvibes.com)

Carrying a sixty pound backpack in Colorado’s rocky wilderness is hard. If you are used to breathing air at sea level, the high altitude makes it even more physically grueling. When our guides stopped and surveyed the land with a puzzled look, my heart sank. Something was wrong. We should have come to a creek which would confirm we were on the right track. But it wasn’t there. We had taken a wrong turn. Eventually we backtracked and found the correct path and the creek.

As fathers we can sometimes feel lost. We can have self-doubt about how we are doing as dads. While we will never be perfect this side of heaven, if you practice the following 10 things consistently you’ll know you are on the right track to being a good father. You will know you are setting the example your children need.

  1. When you help your kids with their schoolwork.
  2. When you take an interest in their hobbies.
  3. When you show affection to your wife in front of them.
  4. When you advocate that they speak to you and each other respectfully.
  5. When you just enjoy being with your children and they with you.
  6. When your son or daughter comes running to you when they get hurt.
  7. When your calendar is full of things to do with your children.
  8. When you calmly and gently discipline your children without yelling or screaming.
  9. When you tuck your children into bed at night and tell them: “I love you”.
  10. When you know their friends by first name.

For the original article, visit allprodad.com.


Christian Persecution in Nigeria

The pattern of persecution in Nigeria is much more complex than only killing or wounding Christians (EMS of ECWA photo)
Leader: Muhammadu Buhari
Government: Federal republic

Population: 183 million (89 million Christians)
Main Religion: Islam/Christianity

Persecution Level: Extreme
Source of persecution: Islamic extremism
Although Boko Haram is most often associated with persecution of Christians in northern Nigerian, the pattern of persecution is much more complex than only killing or wounding Christians – as well as moderate Muslims – by an Islamic terrorist group. This is especially so in the 12 northern Sharia states where local government and social groups leave hardly any space for Christians to live their own lives. The current situation in Nigeria casts dark clouds ahead with the declaration of a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of girls, boys and women. Also, the attacks have left thousands homeless.
  • That the 200 girls of Chibok and the many others kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their homes
  • That the thousands of Christians who have been displaced in northeastern Nigeria will be reunited with their families and receive relief help and trauma counseling from Open Doors workers
  • That all those affected by the violence and trauma of Boko Haram would rest secure in God
Read original article on Open Doors, Serving persecuted Christians worldwide.

Giving this Holiday Season

Let the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit, be your guide in giving this holiday season and beyond (image:St Leodegar's Church).

November and December are both months filled with the spirit of giving. We give not to get anything in return, but because Jesus gave his life for us.

Here are 20 Bible verses to chew on during this wonderful season.

1. Deuteronomy 15:10 – "Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to."

2. Deuteronomy 16:17 – "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you."

3. Proverbs 21:26 – "The righteous gives and does not hold back."

4. Proverbs 3:27 – "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it."

5. Proverbs 11:24-25 – "There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered."

6. 1 Chronicles 29:9 – "Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly."

7. Proverbs 22:9 – "He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor."

8. Proverbs 28:27 – "He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses."

9. Malachi 3:10 – "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'"

10. Matthew 6:3-4 – "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

11. Mark 12:41-44 – "And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.'"

12. Luke 3:11 – "And he would answer and say to them, 'The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.'"

13. Luke 6:30 – "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back."

14. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed."

15. Luke 6:38 – "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

16. John 3:16 – "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn't perish, but would have eternal life."

17. Acts 20:35 – "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

18. Romans 12:8 – "Or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

19. James 2:15-16 – "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?"

20. 2 Corinthians 9:10 – "Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness."

Jarrid Wilson is a husband Juli, dad To Finch, pastor, author, blogger and founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.


Why are Millennials Sick of Church?

Ministers should know that millennials don't need a lot of frills in a church service. (ECWA Archive)

There are literally thousands of articles online about why the millennial generation is disillusioned with church, church culture and church politics. And while I applaud the attempt to wrap one's head around the issue, I've noticed that most of the articles seem to be written by people who know nothing about the millennial generation. Weird.

I've talked with thousands of young people over the years who have told me, "I'm just sick of church." I've heard everything under the sun when it comes to one's reasoning for leaving, and I believe many of them carry a lot of heavy truth. Here are some of them …

1. "It's not authentic."
2. "It's too corporate." 
3. "I don't like the political side."
4. "I feel like I can't be open about my struggles."
5. "I hate the cliques."
6. "It's too judgmental." 
7. "Their attempt at being relevant comes off as cheesy."
8. "They don't spend enough time outside of their building."
9. "They aren't really welcoming of people who are different from them." 
10. "They focus too much on what they know instead of whom they are showing love to."


And while I believe not all churches deal with the complaints I mentioned above, it's safe to say there are many who probably do. That's why I'm writing this. This needs to be discussed.

Authenticity Is Key

If churches want to see more millennials walk through their doors, they need to stop trying to entice them with free stuff, and instead allow their spaces to be filled with authentic relationships and transparent conversations. The Acts 2 church was a perfect example of this.

"They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need. And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:42-46).

Some people say there is a decline in millennial church attendance, while others say they don't see much of a change at all. We must realize that just because millennials aren't showing up to church buildings doesn't mean they aren't part of a thriving community of believers, or are without a biblical relationship with God.

Millennials aren't looking for brighter lights. Millennials aren't looking for more free coffee. They want Jesus-founded authenticity, a safe-place to share burdens, real answers to real questions and a community of action.

Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger, founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.


Denzel Washington Schools Pentecostals on Gratitude

by Jim Gallagher / St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Gratitude in Schools, Denzel Washington (Reuters)

Hollywood star Denzel Washington, the son of a pastor, preached a sermon of gratefulness Saturday evening to hundreds of members of the Church of God in Christ at their annual Holy Congregation in downtown St. Louis.

"I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you're down there, say thank you," he told the crowd at a $200-a-plate banquet at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel to raise money for the denomination's charity work.

"It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time," he said. "We have to have an attitude of gratitude." 

The acclaimed actor grew up in the Church of God in Christ. He, his wife and children still attend the denomination's West Angeles church in Los Angeles.

His father, Denzel Washington Sr., was a pastor and, according to his son, a good father. The actor talked of the comfort he got in hearing his father's car pull into the driveway every evening. It gave him a sense of stability.

A church woman also gave him a hint of his career to come, he said.

Washington remembered sitting in his mother's beauty shop as a young man. He was flunking out of college with a 1.7 grade point average. "I had no future. I was sitting in the chair looking in the mirror," he said, when he heard a woman speak from under a hair dryer.

"Young man, you're going to travel the world and speak to millions of people," she said. "You are going to preach."

His mother told him that the woman was thought to have the gift of predicting the future. 

"I guess she was right," said Washington. These days he is trying to go beyond speaking through his movies by speaking more often to groups about his faith and "what God has done for me."

Washington, whose roles have ranged from civil rights icon Malcolm X to an Oscar-winning role as a corrupt police detective, led the church members in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

"Faith and optimism can add years to your life," he told those at the banquet. "A bad attitude is like a flat tire. Until you change it, you're not going anywhere," he said, urging the audience to "use the power of prayer in everything we do."

The Church of God in Christ is the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination, with about 12,000 congregations. This is the sixth time its annual Holy Convocation has been in St. Louis. The meeting is one of the largest events held at America's Center.


Five Ways Fasting Can Change Your Life

You have the choice to change your life by a simple decision. It is fully within your ability to make this choice, and absolutely within God’s power to give you the strength for the sacrifice. Fasting and prayer, if faithfully done, will alter your existence, rock your spiritual world and bring your life on this earth into “God’s” perspective. We know because it is doing that for us. You can’t argue with personal experience; it is fact and it is incredibly exciting.

Wendy Simpson Little and I answered a call from God to enter into a relationship of weekly fasting and prayer. We followed a routine of one day a week, from after Monday night dinner to before Tuesday night dinner. We felt led to fast from food, but you may be led to fast other things. How much time do you spend on social media? If given the choice to run to God or grab the remote, which would you choose? Don’t worry, only you and God need to know the answer.

Naiveté would be one way of putting it in regards to our leap into this spiritual discipline. We thought the simple equation of Prayer + Fasting = Quick Fix Answers was what we should expect. Little did we know that our heavenly Father would choose first to carefully address the areas in our life that needed fixing, confession and repentance.? What a gracious God He is to only want the best for us—transformation that likens us to his Son. Thankfully, He continues to refine and replace those sinful and broken places with His faithful forgiveness and invaluable instruction. The outcome? We will continue to fast and pray, to live it out as our lifestyle, until God takes us home. Why? Once you come this close to God, you don’t retreat.

Let’s talk about five of the things that can change our lives when we fast and pray:

1. Fasting and prayer can help us hear from God. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV).

For those of you who truly know Jesus, how could you ever resist that appeal? You have been invited to “call” to Him in prayer. His Word says that He will tell us things we don’t know, which is very helpful in point No. 2! If you want deeper intimacy with God then we highly recommend you enter into a sacrificial space in time where you seek Him like never before.

2. Fasting and prayer can reveal our hidden sin. “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17, NIV).

God can see our sins like a flashing neon sign. Nothing is hidden from His sight. We have found that frequently the harder sins to acknowledge are the hidden ones, especially when they involve our motives and attitudes.

When we fast and pray, we are taking time away from a meal or an activity to devote our entire being to focus on God. We find we are more sensitive to the voice of God, more attuned to hearing what He has to reveal to us. Gently, God whispers in our mind what we were really thinking at the time of our sin, what our true intent was and we are shocked … momentarily. Then like a light turned on in a pitch black room, we see it. We did mean harm. We were manipulative. Even though our recognition makes us want to hide our face, our loving Savior lifts our chin to look into his forgiving eyes. As we repent, we no longer want to hide, but to praise and worship the very one who confronted our wrong.

3. Fasting and prayer can strengthen intimacy with God. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV).

As you remain consistent in prayer and fasting, over time, you will crave more quiet time alone with your heavenly Father. Psalms 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”. The more you know of God, the more you want. Fasting and prayer is a great catalyst to create an insatiable hunger for God’s presence and you will enter into a place of deep intimacy with our Lord.

4. Fasting and prayer can teach us to pray with right motives. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NIV). The more you focus on your prayer time, pressing in with heightened sensitivity through the sacrifice of fasting, your will aligns with God.

No longer are you praying with wrong motives, but are petitioning the Lord with a heart of worship, gratitude and an outward vision that cares for the needs of others. 1 John 5:14–15 tell us that we can have confidence then as we approach God, knowing “that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (NIV). This is great news!

5. Fasting and prayer can build our faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV). God says He will answer our prayer. As we fasted He has bolstered our faith by answering incredible requests with many a yes. He has also built our faith by helping us trust when He says no. Whatever the answer, we have learned that we can believe God knows best. Our reward is the peace that comes from being fully surrendered to God’s control over our lives.

We have come to know God like never before. His grace amazes us that He would call us into this sacrificial relationship where we gain infinitely more than we give up. God has changed our lives through prayer and fasting—are you ready for Him to change yours?

Suzanne Niles and Wendy Little are authors of the newly released book Fast Friends (Broadstreet Publishing, October 2015).