Practical Steps for a Christ-Centered Relationship

Chances are, you have been told before that when dating, you should seek to maintain a Christ-centered relationship. But this is not as simple as it may sound. The Bible, after all, contains no step-by-step guide on how to please God in your dating, nor are there any children’s Bible stories which directly teach us how to date. The culture of Bible times was very different from our own, especially regarding marriage. This is not to say, however, that the Bible can simply be thrown out when we consider how we ought to date. Whether you are currently dating someone or are single and looking to the future, the Bible contains much wisdom for you on this subject. There are principles in Scripture which we can apply to our relationships, taking practical steps to ensure they always remain centered on Christ. We are concerned here with three such practical steps: attending spiritually formative activities together, doing devotions with one another, and dating for marriage.

At the end of Acts 2, we find a striking passage. After Peter gave his sermon on the day of Pentecost, we read that roughly three thousand people were converted to the faith, and that “all that believed were together, and had all things common” (vs. 44). The people had fellowship together and enjoyed the benefits of that fellowship, which included the spiritual growth and unity implied here. Growth in the faith need not be only a private activity. Rather, there is something beautiful about spiritual growth occurring corporately.

In a relationship, too, spiritual growth is a beautiful thing. To grow together, make a point of spending time with one another at the sorts of activities or events which stimulate development, not only those that “sound fun.” Instead of going out to eat next week, consider going to that speech being put on by one of the churches’ evangelism committees. Instead of heading to the beach tomorrow night, head to the Young Calvinists Talking Points event. Go to church together for one of the services next Sunday. More importantly, do these things with a purpose. In our circles, it is somewhat normal to attend such events together while dating (especially going to church together). But doing so ought not merely be a formality. Talk together about what you learned at the speech. Discuss differences in delivery or style between your pastors. Spiritual growth does not happen in an entirely passive way; you need to take the initiative if you want to grow together. When you do continue to develop in the faith together, Jesus will inevitably become more central in your life, as well as to your relationship with one another.

Another means of growing spiritually is by doing devotions together. If you are already doing personal devotions each day (and hopefully you are), it should be obvious to you that this causes you to grow closer to the Lord. Choose a book of the Bible and work through it together, looking for themes and application to your relationship but also to life in general. Pray for one another and for wisdom in your relationship. Pointing one another to spiritual matters, even from a very early stage, is Biblical. In the book of Ruth, a beneficial read for anyone in a relationship, Boaz pointed Ruth to God almost immediately after meeting her, and she said that this “comforted” her (see Ruth 2:5-13). Reading the Bible, discussing it, and praying together are invaluable ways of ensuring that Christ always comes first, even if you have not been together for very long.

Just as we ought not fear to point one another to Scripture and spirituality early in a relationship, we ought also not fear to consider from an early stage whether or not our significant other would make a godly spouse. “But,” you may say, “I’m not ready to think about that yet. I just want to enjoy spending time with him/her and go on fun dates together.” If that is your attitude, you should give serious thought to this question: am I ready to date? Dating is not merely an opportunity to have some fun. It is the means by which you determine whether or not God is calling you to marry someone, and we ought to take it seriously. This does not mean, of course, that we can never have fun in a dating relationship. On the contrary, if you are never having fun with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that too bodes poorly for the future. But if your only focus is to spend time and have fun with a person to whom you are attracted for physical and emotional reasons, you open the door for making your relationship entirely focused on personal pleasure. This is not how we should date. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:16). To make your relationship purely about enjoying one another’s presence and the nice things you do for each other is to adopt a dangerous attitude, one which cares more for the things of the world than those of the Father.

Alternatively, we should date with a view toward marriage. In Genesis 24 we read of the marriage of Isaac. When Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, the servant found Rebekah and desired her to immediately come back with him. Rebekah’s brother and mother wanted her to “abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go” (verse 55). But when they asked Rebekah to choose in verse 58, she decided to go immediately. Again, it should be noted here that dating is a practice very different from that of Biblical arranged marriages. However, the attitude of Rebekah is an admirable one, and we can all learn from it in our dating. Do not simply delay thinking about marriage to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time; instead, be willing to consider immediately whether it is God’s will for you to marry one another. In so doing, Jesus will become more central to how you date: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

There are countless different influences from the world around us telling us what our relationships should be like. For the child of God, however, the center must always be Christ, our King. Maintaining such a relationship is admittedly difficult, but the Bible does provide some help for us. By striving always to have Christ at the center of our relationships, we can effectively follow Paul’s advice to Timothy in II Timothy 2:22 together: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Matt Koerner

Morning Prayer

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3).

At what time of the day do you have your first thought of God? This question from a sermon on morning prayer by Rev. Haak really made me stop and think (Sermonaudio.com, A Prayer for the Beginning of the Day, Georgetown PRC, September 17, 2017). When did I first think about God today? Did I sit down and do my morning devotions, meditating on God’s Word and praying for grace for the day? Or was I running late so my morning devotions got dropped? Maybe my first thought of God was a hurried prayer before eating my breakfast, more out of habit than actual gratitude and praise to the One who gave me that food. Or maybe I did say a quick prayer to thank God for the morning and a good night’s sleep before I climbed out of bed. If in God we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28), then how can we take even one step into the day without thinking of God? Yet the sad and humbling truth for most of us is that we too often get pretty far into our day before we stop to think about God.

Thoughts of God come especially when we read God’s Word, meditate upon it, and pray using that Word to guide our prayers. As we begin each day, it’s so important to consciously commit our day to God. In this way we submit to whatever His will may be for the day and look to Him as the only strength for the day’s work. “As we begin our day in prayerful contemplation of the Word and its exposing of our weaknesses and extolling of the Lord’s gracious powers, the Lord will make us strong” (Standard Bearer, Vol. 95, No. 19, pg. 449, “To Teach Them War: Our Marching Orders,” Rev. Brian Huizinga).

As my pastor, Rev. Huizinga, said in a recent sermon, morning prayer is like a tasty lifesaver (Sermonaudio.com, Jesus Praying Before Day, Hope PRC Redlands, August 20, 2017). It’s something to suck on throughout the day, from which to draw satisfaction and comfort. It’s a way to hide God’s Word in our heart, from which we draw strength in whatever joys, difficulties, and temptations we face.

To conclude I want to share a poem from a little book I recently found called Poems That Preach. This poem, called “The Secret,” illustrates the power and importance of morning prayer quite effectively, with the last two lines summing it up very well.

“The Secret” by Ralph S. Cushman

I met God in the morning

When the day was at its best,

And His presence came like sunrise,

Like a glory in my breast.

 

All day long the presence lingered,

All day long He stayed with me,

And we sailed in perfect calmness

O’er a very troubled sea.

 

Other ships were blown and battered,

Other ships were sore distressed,

But the winds that seemed to drive them

Brought to us a peace and rest!

 

Then I thought of other mornings,

With a keen remorse of mind,

When I too had loosed the moorings

With the Presence left behind.

 

So I think I know the secret,

Learned from many a troubled way;

You must seek Him in the morning

If you want Him through the day.

 

Emily Feenstra

Mindful of God

Are you mindful of God? Do you stand in awe of His creation? Are you mindful of Him as you stand on the summit of the mountains? Are you mindful of Him as you gaze at a rainbow or watch the sun set over the lake?

Yes, yes, yes, you most likely answer to all those questions. It is an incredible moment when you’re standing in awe of God’s creation, 100% mindful of God in every little detail you see. Maybe it’s the great outdoors that brings you speechless or full of praise. Perhaps it’s holding a newborn baby, examining their fingers and toes, and thinking about their tiny hearts beating. How wonderful it is to feel God’s presence and know that all things are created God.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

But let us always be mindful of God. Not only when earthly emotions stir up feelings of love toward our Lord. Be mindful of his glory, mindful of his power. Mindful of his love, and that we are His people. Mindful that he created us to love Him and serve Him, and that we are loved by Him. Mindful that He is always watching, and mindful that He is always with us. Mindful even when nothing seems majestic and beautiful. Mindful even when we don’t see any reason to be thinking of God. Mindful during our prayers and devotions… or mindful when we don’t do our prayers and devotions. Be mindful in our thoughts, and be mindful when nobody is looking.

It is easy to be mindful of God while you’re in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s hard to be mindful of God when we’re with our friends. But is either more important?

“That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour” (II Pet. 3:2).

Averly Kikkert