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5 Ways To Keep A Healthy Relationship

Title: 5 Ways To Keep A Healthy Relationship
Artwork by: YMI X Clara Tan (@theperfectstatement)
Description: Snuggling on the couch watching Netflix, exchanging long phone calls and sweet text messages, going on romantic walks and Satur-dates. These are often the images that come to our mind when we think of being in a relationship.

Clara is a wedding photographer who has had the pleasure of listening to her clients’ love stories over the years. While Clara spends her time immortalizing her clients’ wedding day, she knows that making a relationship work takes more than the exchange of vows or a beautiful gown.

Join us as we walk with Clara and Nic through their relationship journey and share their ideas for building a solid and enduring relationship.

 

Our days demand a lot from us—rushing from one meeting to another, attending events, catching up with friends. But spending quality time with the person you’re dating is important, as it allows you to learn more about one another, and stay connected. Activities such as reading and discussing books you enjoy, or talking about topics close to your heart, helps you gain an insight into your date’s thought life, and is also an opportunity for the both of you to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17).

 

There is a time and a season for everything in a relationship (Ecclesiastes 3:4). There’s a time for dressing up to impress our date, a time to be honest with each other, a time to mourn and weep, and a time to let our guard down for a good laugh or joke with our boyfriend or girlfriend. Being able to honestly share these emotions with each other will strengthen our relationships.

 

In a relationship, arguments and disagreements are bound to happen. How do we respond to each other during such moments? 

If we hold grudges against the other person, and are unwilling to forgive them, it can give way to deeper relationship problems. Instead, let’s learn to pursue peace, to talk through any hurts and disappointments together, and work towards forgiveness and reconciliation (Colossians 3:13).

 

Being heads-over-heels in love with our boyfriend or girlfriend could sometimes cloud our better judgment. But Romans 12:1 reminds us that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. How can we ensure that our relationship is Christ-centered? We can seek out an older respected couple to journey with us during this time. They can pray for us, while pointing us in the right direction, with the aim of helping us honor Christ through the decisions we make in our dating relationship.

 

It might seem boring to read and talk about the Bible together during a date. However, we are called to spur each other on in our Christian faith (Hebrews 10:24-25), and these activities that might seem mundane are important in drawing us closer to God. It also helps us grow closer to our partner as we learn more about the other person’s values, and watch each other grow and mature in Christ.

 

5 Things to Consider When You’re At the Crossroads

Are you at the crossroads? Does it feel like your entire future depends on the decisions you are about to make?

Perhaps it’s what school to attend, what subjects to study. Maybe it’s what job to take, or whether to leave a current job. Perhaps you are thinking about dating, or even marriage. What are the consequences of these decisions? How do we know what best to decide?

As you stand at the crossroads, looking forward to unknown futures, here are five things to consider:

 

1. What does the Bible say?

The Bible is given to us by God. It is the Word of God, and is sufficient in equipping us for whatever situations we might face (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

There are some situations the Bible speaks directly about. Adultery, for example, is clearly prohibited (Matthew 5:27-28). So is playing favorites (James 2:8-9). We’re also given guidance that can be applied broadly to nearly every decision we make. Be willing to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). Love one another (1 Peter 4:8). Live your life in Christ, rooted and built up in Him (Colossians 2:6-7).

Does the Bible have clear teachings applicable to your current situation? If so, prayerfully follow the clear directions God has given us. If not, here are a few more things to consider. . .

 

2. Have you checked your motives?

As we deal with the uncertainties of the future, we must also carefully check our motives. We need to dig deep, and figure out what emotions are at play.

Are we leaning toward a certain decision because of fear? Are we going after something because we feel the need to keep up with our peers? Or are we trying to get back at someone because of something they did?

The Bible reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Let us pray and ask for God’s help and forgiveness as we confront any unhealthy, or even sinful motivations.

Whatever decision we ultimately make, let it come from clarity of mind, and purity of motive.

 

3. Are you praying about this?

Pray continually,” Paul reminds us (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How much more so when we face an unknown decision?

We can pray for a pure heart as we make decisions (Psalm 51:10).

We can pray for wisdom that God grants generously (James 1:5).

We can pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 14:26).

We can pray for courage to make a hard decision (Hebrews 13:6).

We can pray for peace amidst the unknowns (John 14:27).

We can also pray about the specifics of our decisions. After all, God knows all of our unknowns. And when we pray, we are reminded that God is with us. He will give us what we need to make the decision.

 

4. Have you sought godly counsel?

Christians were never meant to walk alone. We are “no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Ephesians 2:19).

We can certainly find brothers and sisters who walk with the Lord and have the insight and experience that we lack. Let us take advantage of that and seek out mature Christians we trust (Proverbs 12:15). They may be able to offer advice or perspective we have not yet considered. And more importantly, they can join us in prayer. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

 

5. Do you trust God’s foresight?

Finally, let us be reminded that while we don’t know how things will turn out, God does. Though we may make the best decision possible under the circumstances, we cannot foresee all the potential implications of it.

And that’s okay. God knows our shortsightedness. He knows our limitations. And He’s accounted for them. Whatever we end up deciding, whichever path we end up taking. . . God already knows. He will walk with us every step of the way, and He will work things out in His own time (Proverbs 3:5-6).

3 Questions to Ask When You’re Dating

Dating can be such a thrilling adventure, especially since it might possibly lead to marriage! However, before we even step into a relationship, there may be many questions in our minds. For instance, how can I know that I’m ready for a relationship?

While I don’t claim to be an expert, here are three qualities that I have found to be foundational in my own relationship, and I hope they will point you in the right direction.

 

 1. Are They Good-Looking or Looking at God?

What attracts you to someone? Is it their physical appearance? Character? Personality? Career?  I’m sure you can add a few more items to the long list of traits that might attract us to another person. But if we dig deeper, we know that none of these things on their own can sustain a relationship in the long-term. As Christians, we must look for something much more important: whether Christ is the director of their life.

When I first met my fiancé Brian, I wasn’t entirely attracted to him. I thought he looked kinda cute, but hardly gave him a second thought after our first encounter. However, over the next few weeks of working in the church office (we were both interns at the time), sharing break time together, and sneaking conversations over work tasks, I began to see his passion for the gospel and his desire to spread it wherever he went. This was very much in line with my own desire and calling in life—I have felt a burden for foreign missions for the past several years.

As the months went on, I came to develop a deep admiration for Brian—for his dedication and loyalty to Jesus. Since then, my romantic interest in him also started building, and I became deeply attracted to him. Safe to say, I was falling in love. As it turns out, he was too.

So, my relationship with Brian didn’t happen the way most people expect. Instead of being brought together by a physical or personality attraction, it was his dependency on Christ as the author of his life that drew me to him. I found that attraction to the other traits followed close after.

 

2. Are There Opportunities for Healthy Growth?

We’ve all probably heard the words “love is a not a fairytale.” Which is true, because for any relationship to succeed, it takes work, effort, and sacrifice. Feelings are not strong enough to get a couple through all of that. No matter how strongly in love or “mushy” a couple is . . . feelings change.

There are days when we have arguments, disagreements, or opposing views, and it can cause both of us to question whether God really did mean for us to be together. In those times, it is especially important to be on guard against frustration, anger, impatience, and even self-righteousness.

As we worked through these challenges, we’ve learned to make room for God to mold and shape our hearts. We’ve learned to allow these circumstances to catapult us toward prayer and seeking counsel in the Word, as well as from seasoned believers. It’s now our prayer that we will have the humility to accept the Spirit’s conviction and to obey whatever the Lord places on our hearts.

The inevitable difficulties and trials in a relationship demand more than simply being head-over-heels for each other. Ultimately, we need our common foundation in Christ to help us see how we can become a good team, complement each other, and most importantly, become more Christ-like through the entire process.

When we are both drawn to Christ and to helping each other be more like Him, we don’t need to fear attacks—for we know that even during  periods of trial and testing, God is working to sanctify us and make us holy (Philippians 1:6).

 

3. Do Your Differences Divide or Complement?

Brian and I could not be any more different. I am an outspoken, strong-willed, at times fierce, free-spirited woman from the jungle in central Mexico. He is a reserved, thoughtful, strong, silent man from metropolitan Hong Kong. The comments about how different we seem never cease, and we laugh because others don’t even know the half of it.

Of course, sometimes these comments can be discouraging, especially when we hear others tell us that we won’t be a good fit, or would mostly likely end up having a catastrophic relationship because of our differences.

For Brian and I, we are reminded that in the early times of the Apostles, the Spirit of God brought together multiple nationalities and people of different cultures and languages in birthing the Church (Acts 2). And we know that at the end of the day, it is not culture and traditions that would carry on into eternity, but what we do in obedience to the Lord.

Just as diversity in the body of Christ allows it to work so effectively (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), we believe the same applies to marriage. Together, Brian and I have discovered that we complement each other with our strengths and weaknesses, and are able to reach a wider range of people in our international surroundings because of this multicultural relationship we have been given.

Having said that, we also believe it’s important to be humble and seek God with an open mind, especially if trusted friends or family raise concerns about a relationship. Sometimes these concerns are unfounded, while other times people outside of the relationship may have a clearer perspective.

One instance where having outside input was helpful was when one of my spiritual mothers gently shared that I needed to be more patient and understanding of Brian’s Chinese upbringing and less stubborn about only doing things according to my culture. Another time was when one of Brian’s close friends helped him realise how he needed to grow in boldness as the leader of our relationship, especially when times get hard. These insights have helped the both of us see our own blind spots, and enabled us to grow in the way we relate to and love each other.

It is important for us to always examine the differences we have with our partner, and seek God to understand whether these help us sharpen one another, or whether they will create a division in the relationship.

 

It is often easy to seek fulfilment and purpose in a significant other. But we know that ultimately, nobody can meet our needs the way God can. Whatever our circumstances, we belong first and foremost to God. He loves us like no one else will, and values us like no other (Matthew 10:29-31). In every step of our relationships, let us not chase after what the world values, but instead seek to please God.

As you consider dating or entering a relationship, don’t panic or worry over how you’ll handle it. Pray about it, and ask God to bless you with wisdom, strength, and guidance. Surround yourself with godly counsel and couples who will be able to help you navigate the challenges you might face. Take this opportunity to trust in Him more, know Him better, and He will show you the way you are to walk in because He is a faithful God.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a two-part series on dating and marriage. If you’re considering taking your relationship to the next level and wondering if you’re ready for marriage, read the second part of the series here

6 Questions to Consider If You’re Called to Full-Time Ministry

After graduating from Bible college and seminary, my husband Andrew and I stayed in touch with many of our friends—people with whom we dreamed of and prepared for ministry.

Within a matter of years, however, many of our friends had left ministry indefinitely. These are not all sad stories—some have felt a call by God to be elsewhere, but most cases are filled with immense pain, loneliness, anger, and sometimes even emotional and spiritual trauma.

We have been left asking: Why are so many pastors and leaders in the church leaving their ministries—men and women who once “knew” they were called to vocational ministry? What is the difference between these brothers and sisters and a sustained long-term ministry?

Andrew and I have talked about this a lot, especially now that he has been a lead pastor for several years. Our discussions have led us to some important questions that we believe will help Christians better discern whether or not they are called to full-time ministry.

If you are thinking about entering vocational ministry, Andrew and I pray that the following six considerations can help you think through your excitement with biblical wisdom. And for those currently in ministry, we hope that they will greatly encourage you and assist you as you press on faithfully.

 

1. Am I called?

My dad has been a pastor since I was young. He always says that ministry is the hardest thing that someone can ever do but that it is completely worth it. Though we have been in ministry for only a few years, Andrew and I have already found this to be true.

Ministry—whether full-time or part-time—is often so difficult that without a clear confirmation from the Holy Spirit, there is no way we will stay in the trenches when war comes. We will  begin to question if we heard the Lord correctly, if our mentors were wrong, or if there is something else we could be doing with our skills and education.

So, how can we know whether we are called to full-time ministry?

Here are two ways that helped re-affirmed our calling, and we hope you find them similarly fruitful:

  • We prayed and fasted to seek confirmation from God. Fasting is often used in Scripture to show a sincere desire to know God’s will or receive His deliverance (Joel 2:12, Ezra 8:21-23, Psalm 35:13). This desire is greater than whatever we might give up sacrificially (it was usually food in Scripture). As we fasted, God unified Andrew and my desires to serve Him full-time, and increased our joy in moving in that direction! What an affirmation this was.
  • People we respect in leadership and ministry affirmed our gifts. We kept in mind (and still do) that just because we want to do something doesn’t mean we are good or effective at it. We all need to sincerely ask ourselves, do people we respect agree with us regarding our calling and gifts? If they do not, we should slow down and re-evaluate.

 

2. Am I prepared to be judged more strictly?

James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

Whether we are teaching passively—holding a leadership role as others watch our actions—or actively through preaching, teaching, or writing, James 3:1 should cause all of us to regularly pause and reflect on our hearts, asking:

  • Am I actively living a life of repentance before the Lord?
  • Am I actively seeking to live in a way that is above reproach?
  • Do I eagerly accept honest feedback from mentors even if it is uncomfortable?

If we answer “no” to any of these questions, we should think again before placing ourselves into ministry leadership. We all sin (1 John 1:8), but the call of being judged more strictly requires any leader to be soberly aware of the danger of complacency and be actively putting to death sin in their life (Romans 8:13).

 

3. Do I desire to please God and not people?

Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In ministry, we often have to make decisions that may not please everyone. Because of this, we must make sure that our desire to please God outweighs the discomforts of displeasing men.

My husband was once asked to marry a couple where one was a Christian but the other was not. We felt that this was something we could not do in clear conscience before the Lord. The bride’s parents were extremely angry with us and uninvited us to the wedding. Several members of the elder board made their disapproval blatantly known to us as well.

When people attack us or dislike something in our ministry, they are often challenging not only our method or ability, but that which we hold most dear—our theology, our training, and our calling. No matter how lonely it becomes, we must be willing to be uncomfortable before man so that we can be blameless before God.


4. Have I been properly trained?

Andrew, as well as many other teachers I have known, have shared with me the weight they feel each week as they preach or teach—realizing that the words they speak are representing the very words of God. This weight should never go away.

Because teachers are called to accountability, those of us who lead—specifically those of us who teach—should pursue training so that we can understand and handle Scripture correctly.  The words of 2 Timothy 2:15 need to ring loudly in our ears: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker. . . who correctly handles the word of truth” (emphasis added).

In order to correctly handle Scripture, we should have at least some form of training in it, and be continually learning and growing through reading solid books, listening to sermons, attending conferences—relying not on our own understanding within a vacuum, but on the training and knowledge of those who have devoted their lives to understanding the Word.

 

5. Do I have a mentor?

When Andrew and I went through a very difficult season of ministry, a couple of veteran pastors were our lifelines.

During this time, my husband kept in close contact with these respected men—they had enough distance from our situation to think clearly and point us both to Scripture and to their decades of experience. They kindly corrected us when we needed to change something, and were fellow soldiers cheering us on to faithfulness in this difficult time. Without these men, it is very possible we would not have remained in ministry long term because of the pain we endured that season.

Mentoring is vital to a successful ministry. In order to withstand the highs and lows well, we must seek the wisdom and support of those who have gone before us. Find veteran pastors or pastor’s wives, or those who have done what you desire to do long-term (e.g., children’s ministry or eldership)—people who are able to tell you when you are wrong, and who also have the clarity to tell you when you need to hold firm.

 

6. Is my family or spouse 100% on board?

Being involved in the church—even if we have an unbelieving spouse—is the call of all believers. However, if you are married and are entering vocational ministry, this must be a call shared by your spouse. We may not necessarily both be vocationally involved in the work, but because of one spouse’s position, the other spouse will naturally be looked to as a leader, as an example, and as a source of wisdom.

Without the support of our spouse and family cheering us on, surviving the hardships above would be nearly impossible, and the loneliness suffocating. The prayers, encouragements, and championing of our families are lifelines in ministry.

This is why we must be willing to prioritize time nurturing these relationships. Because Andrew has chosen to block out time to intentionally build his relationship with our family, we are readily excited to support him when he’s able to do ministry because we’ve been invested into. Doing ministry as a family can be such a tremendous joy!

 

With this one life we have been given, may we all be found faithful in that which God has called us. If there is anything else you would like to do in life, anything else you may be gifted in, any other calling that excites you, do it well and do it for the glory of God!

However, if you truly feel called to full-time ministry, not only will the Holy Spirit walk with you each step of the way, but you are in for an exciting, worthwhile and eternally impactful life! The relationships we can build walking side by side with brothers and sisters in Christ, loving on others and battling against evil will truly be bonds that are unparalleled to any other relationship we have.

Ministry is precious and being called to it is a unique gift. My husband and I have no regrets about giving our lives to this calling and cannot imagine doing anything else with the years we have been given.