8 02 2012

A couple of years ago, I was talking with a man who was a long distance runner.  When I first saw the guy, I could tell right away that he was a runner.  When he first saw me, he could tell I was not.

Because I am not much of a runner, I really didn’t understand why people would be driven to run.  For me, it is one of the least enjoyable things in life.  But as I talked with this man, it was obvious that he loved to do it.  He thoroughly loved to run.  It inspired me to find out why.

As we talked, he said something that really struck me.  He said, “Long distance running is more of a competition against yourself than it is competition against everyone else.  The one who wins the battle with themselves is more likely to win the race.  Running is all about discipline of the mind.  You have to be mentally tough.”

No wonder I suck at running.

In almost every race, there is a place where the race is won, or lost… and it almost never happens at the end.  It usually happens in the middle somewhere, when the intensity of the race is at it’s lowest point.  In a marathon, it is between miles 8-18.  The race has been going for a time, but the finish is still a long way off.  In those moments, the mentally tough push through and stay intense, while those who lack that toughness start to lose their intensity and fall off.  Winners are made in the middle… most of the time, when no one is watching.

Paul often uses the imagery of a race to describe the life we live as followers of Christ.  He wrote this to the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24)  His encouragement was to make sure that every day counted for Kingdom gain.  Every day was to be run in such a way as to achieve victory, with that goal in mind.

Friend, I want to encourage you today to be disciplined and mentally tough.  Bring your best for God’s kingdom today!  I know that we are in a life long race of running with Christ, but today is a day that needs your whole heart and your greatest intensity.  It is so tempting to relax and think that when we get closer to the end, then we can really start to run.  But  often, by that time, we have fallen so far behind that we have missed our opportunity.

And what must we be intense about?  The foundational things.  Loving God, Loving Each Other, and Loving the world.  Do these things, and you will win… because that is what a fully devoted follower of Christ is running after!

So today, run as to win the prize.  Be intense.  Be disciplined.  Be tough.

Give your all to God… Let’s Win!

A Pre-Relationship Posture (For Single Men)

7 02 2012

You guys didn’t think you were getting left out, did you?

Last week, I posted an article entitled “A Pre-Relationship Posture (For Single Women)” which quickly became the most read post on the HarvestInsider by a large margin.  If you want to read it, you can do so by clicking here.

Obviously,  in a relationship, there is a gal and a guy… so today, this post is for the guys.  It will focus on the importance of having a wise and biblical pre-relationship posture, so that you will be prepared for when God brings the right woman into the picture.

To do this, however, we must understand that most of what we think about relationships is wrong.  The “pattern of this world” has influenced our thoughts and attitudes so much, that we hardly even think to question what we believe about marriage, dating, and relationships.  Instead of having clear, purposeful, and biblical posture, we ultimately find ourselves going with the flow of the culture… and most of the time finding ourselves in a pool of brokenness and confusion.  We know that God desires something different, but how do we go about experiencing it?

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the Lord.”  I am a living proof that when God brings the right woman into your life, it is a good thing.

A really, really, really good thing.

But, there is something important to note here.  Implied within the context of the whole book of Proverbs is the importance of finding a “good” wife.  The book is filled with warning after warning about being ensnared by the wrong woman.  Proverbs 7 is a heart wrenching story of a man who was totally ruined by a worldly woman.  The truth is, the wrong gal can destroy your life.  The goal is not just to find some gal to hook up with, but to find the right one… one with the right heart, one with the right attitude, and one with the right posture (see the above mentioned article)

Back when I was single, a mentor friend of mine asked me what I was looking for in a potential wife.  After listing off a few of the major things I was looking for, he replied, “Sounds like you are looking for a Queen?”

“I guess so…” I casually replied.

“Well then, are you a King?”  His words struck me like a brick.

Truth was, I wasn’t a king, and had little idea what a that really meant.  However, that statement stuck with me for the next six years and caused me to seek after God to discover what it took to be God’s man in the world.  I wanted a Queen, and knew it was going to take a King’s heart to find one.  It didn’t happen overnight, but the closer I drew to the King Himself, the more I began to understand who He was calling me to be.

That 6 year process  was not spent focused on who she should be.  It was focused more on who I needed to be to have a relationship that honored God.  It ultimately helped me develop a pre-relationship posture that allowed me to be ready when God brought that “good wife”  into my life.  As difficult as those years were as a single guy, I wouldn’t exchange them for anything, because they became the foundation of an awesome and “God-favored” marriage.  Let me share a few things with you that I learned along that journey:

  • You have to focus more energy and intensity on being God’s Man in the world, rather than trying to find your future spouse. – The truth is that God created you to be in a relationship… it’s just that the relationship He created for you was with Him, and Him alone.  A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the most important relationship in their lives is their marriage, but that couldn’t be more wrong.  You were created, not to get married, but to Love God and be in relationship with Him.  Marriage is a wonderful extension of that relationship, but it is a horrible foundation.  If you allow your focus to be consumed with finding a spouse, rather than loving God, then you will never have the intimacy with God to discern His direction within your relationship pursuit.  If you want God to direct you into a relationship in which His favor will flow, you will have to be more deeply committed to Him, than you ever will be to her.  Be His first… then let Him lead.
  • If she is pursuing you or trying to initiate the relationship, run away.  She’s not the one. – Guys, God has given you the Divine responsibility to lead your marriage relationship toward Christ, and a Godly woman understands that and desires that.  If a gal begins to initiate or pursue you, that reveals a lack of spiritual maturity and an improper view of how a God-honoring relationship works.  If you allow things to move forward, and you start your relationship with her being the leader, you will always struggle to establish a Godly structure within your marriage.  You must be the one who pursues and initiates the relationship, and leads it to a solid foundation from the beginning.
  • Be careful not to defraud the single gals around you. – Attention + Communication = Relationship.  If you pay special attention to a gal, and communicate openly with them, chances are they will think that you are interested.  I have talked with scores of young women who have been broken by guys who mis-led them by being “friendly” without having any intention of pursuing relationaly.  As a Godly man, you must always consider the possibility that your actions could devastate a Godly young woman, whom God loves, and have appropriate boundaries with single women.  Any of your actions have to be God directed, guarded, purposeful, and wise, considering the other.  It is your responsibility to carefully guard the hearts of the gals around you, as well as your own, even if you’re not in a relationship or just trying to be friendly.  It is better to be distant with a single gal, than to mis-lead, tempt, or injure her heart.
  • Refuse to use “Dating” as a test to determine compatibility – The world views “dating” as a pre-marriage litmus test.  If you’ve been on a few dates and things seem good and you feel there is good chemistry, that’s a great sign.  And after a few more times together, if things really seem to progress, then you start to ask yourself if they might be “The One”  This is how about 99% of relationships function within our society.  The problem is, who directs that whole process?  Who determines if she is attractive to you?  Who determines if she is compatible with you?  Who determines if she has anythings in common with you?  Who determines if she has great chemistry with you?  You, you, you, you and you.  The world’s process of establishing relationships is entirely “you” driven… and it is ending in divorce over 50% of the time.  Godly relationships are different.  They are God-directed, and if you want a God directed relationship, then you must refuse to embrace the “pattern of this world” (Rom. 12:2) and allow God to be the one who directs your paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
  • Make sure there is abundant evidence of spiritual fruitfulness BEFORE you being prayerfully seeking God’s direction about pursuing a specific relationship. – Fact:  There is a huge difference between a Christian woman and a Godly woman.  Gals who attend church, and claim to be Christians are a dime a dozen, but a Godly woman is unbelievably rare.  You will know if a woman is completely sold out for Christ, because the fruit of her life will testify on her behalf.  Godly women exhibit the fruit of a deep and vibrant relationship with God, and Christ is above all things for them… even above a relationship with you or anyone else.  If you are aware of a gal in your midst that you possibly might be interested in, before anything else, you must evaluate the fruit of her life and make sure it is the fruit of a Christ-centered heart.  If you’re not sure, wait and watch, but do not pursue.
  • Keep in mind that once you get into a relationship, no matter what the level, your ability to objectively hear God will be greatly diminished. – Place yourself in this scenario.  You are out on a date with a beautiful gal that you met at Church and things are going incredibly well.  You’re having fun together, sharing dynamic conversation, and enjoying your evening.  It is clearly the best date you’ve ever been on.  After walking her to her door and bidding her goodnight, you walk back to your car with excitement.  You get in your car and quickly pray this prayer in your heart, “Oh God, help me to know if I should continue to see her!”  Any chance you hear God say “She’s not the one”?  Probably not.  Once you have engaged the heart, your desires and your emotions will scream for fulfillment at the top of their lungs, making it very difficult to hear  and obey the voice of God.  This is why you must seek God’s direction first, before allowing your heart to become involved, because once that happens, it will be next to impossible to reign it in, if God is not in the relationship.
  • Set relationship boundaries before you engage in a relationship, not after. – Relationships don’t go into reverse easily.  Once you’ve created that forward momentum within a relationship, it can, and often will, become a potential avalanche of feelings, emotions, and desire that can sweep you under if you’re not careful.  The mistake most single men make is that they think that relationship boundaries are something you mutually agree to after having a lengthy discussion.  This couldn’t be more foolish.  You know what kind of boundaries you need to guard your heart…  You know what kind of situations you need to avoid to protect her honor…  You know what kind of vulnerabilities you have in regards to sexual desire… so you need to create clear and appropriate boundaries right now, that will keep you far from danger.  When you get together for the first time, you just tell her what those boundaries will be and then invite her to add to them, if needed.  If she doesn’t embrace the boundaries that you set, then again, you’ve got to walk away.  Godly men and woman welcome boundaries and accountability for the purpose of maintaining purity before God.

Guys, I know some of you are reading this and thinking… “This sounds great and all, but it’s just not realistic.  It’s just not practical in the world today.”

If you want to think that, then go right ahead… I probably won’t be able to convince you otherwise.  However, I do want you to know that I am a man who lived out these principles in my life… in the real world… before I met my wife Tosha.  We are not perfect, but we have an amazing marriage that honors God above all things.  Our marriage stands as a testimony to God’s grace and power to answer “un-realistic” and “un-practical” prayers, made by a guy who simply wanted God’s very best, both for himself and his future bride.

I know it isn’t easy, because I’ve been there.  I’ve hiked this trail.  I am not speaking as one who wished he would have, I did it… and I am so glad that I did.  I don’t say that to boast or brag, but to encourage and inspire you.  If I can live out these things, then you can too!  If you will commit your way to God, He will direct your paths.  Trust in Him for the very best relationship you could possibly imagine, and then  surrender it all into His hands.  He knows what He is doing.

And when He brings her into your life, you will know… and you will totally agree.

He who finds a “good” wife finds a good thing…

a very, very, very good thing.