Question & Answer


The Lord's Return
What is the significance of Jesus coming again?

The Bible tells us that there are different ages in which God deals with man in different ways. The first dividing line was when God decreed His law, especially the ten commandments (Romans 5:14; Exodus 20:1-17). This ushered in the age of the law in which God required people to keep His commandments. Of course, no one could live up to God's standard, so this did not bring life to people; instead, it brought judgment and death. This age ended when God became a man, Jesus. Jesus kept the law on the positive side and then died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. From that time until now, God only requires people to believe and receive what He has done for us, not that they would try to live up to His standard to please Him. This is His grace and Jesus came the first time to bring us this grace (John 1:17); so, Christians refer to this age as the age of grace. However, this age will not last forever; the strife and evil in this world offend God deeply. So Jesus promised that He would come a second time, not with grace but to judge the evil of this world and to establish His kingdom on earth. That will be the next age. The reason that He has not come yet is so that more people could believe in Him and receive His salvation (2 Peter 3:9). The age of the Lord's kingdom on earth will last for one thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6). At the end of that age, the Lord will make His final judgment and then usher in the age of eternity future in the new heaven and new earth (21:1) where God and His redeemed people dwell together.
 
It is through these ages that God is accomplishing His purpose step by step. So, the significance of the Lord's coming again is to establish His kingdom on earth as the next step in accomplishing His purpose with man.

How much are believers being persecuted, killed, and hated because of their faith in Christ?

In Matthew 24:9, Jesus said, "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." There is no doubt that the persecution and martyrdom that Christians have suffered beginning from the first Century is continuing today. In many countries, there are government restrictions on Christian activity and in even more, Christians suffer social harassment of various types. Each year thousands of Christians are killed because of their faith. Even in countries which have significant Christian influence in their heritage, feelings against Christians are rising. For example, Christian teachings and the Lord's prayer were part of the public education in Canada 50 years ago; now there is fierce reaction against any hint of these. There surely is an element of hatred againts Christians in every nation. Only the Lord knows how widespread this needs to become to fulfill His word.

What will the situation of the world be like at the end of this age?

Matthew 24:7-8 says, "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." Of course wars, famines and natural disasters have been happening throughout human history, but has there ever been a time when these have been more frequent than now?

Matthew 24:12 says, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." Lawlessness is surely a major characteristic of the times we are living in. No longer is it a condition that is isolated to a certain region and period of time. Declining respect for government and leaders is happening in all societies around the world. Many protest against anything that they don't agree with or lack of action on their favored cause; some are willing to go to any length in trying to take matters into their own hands. The resulting lawlessness is making the world a more dangerous place.

Luke 17:26-27 reads, "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." Eating, drinking and marriage are normal activities in human life. On the one hand, this indicates that people in general will be unaware that the Lord is coming. On the other hand, in the days of Noah, people were abusing these things according to their lusts. Genesis 6:11-12 reads, "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth." The situation of society in general had become so offensive to God that He could not tolerate it any longer.

Luke 17:28-30 reads, "Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." By the time of Lot, not only had society degraded even further morally, but it was also characterized by commerce and business. 

Daniel 12:4 says, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Running to and fro, along with an exponential increase in knowledge, are characteristics of the times we are living in more than they have ever been before.

Second Timothy 3:1-5a says, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power."

How would you characterize the times we are living in? What point above does not apply to the general condition of societies around the world? What would you add as a general charactistic of the world today? You may be able to argue that any one of those points can apply throughout human history, but what about the whole picture? 

Matthew 16:1-3 says, "Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times." Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Saducees for not being able to discern the signs of the times they were in. Can you discern the signs of the times today?

 

 

What will the the situation of Christians be like at the end of this age?

Matthew 24:10-11 reads, "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." These verses indicate that the situation among Christians in general will not be good. But Daniel 12:3, speaking of the time at the end of this age, says, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness,like the stars for ever and ever." In the midst of a situation of strife and confusion, some will be wise and lead many to righteousness.

Hasn't the gospel been preached in the whole world? Why has the end not come yet?

Matthew 24:14 says, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Christians have already preached the gospel in the whole world. However, this verse speaks specifically of the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel that has been preached stresses believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and for receiving eternal life; this is the gospel of grace. The gospel of the kingdom concerns living under the ruling of the kingdom of God. This is only possible when the divine life that we receive by believing in Jesus grows in us; our own effort can never fulfill the requirements of God's kingdom. So, even though the gospel of grace has been preached in the whole world, the gospel of the kingdom has not yet been spread that far. Living according to and spreading this gospel is one of the main ways that God's peopel need to cooperate with God for the hastening of Christ's coming again (2 Peter 3:12).

What will happen when the Lord returns?

This question touches on a big topic in the Bible; there are many passages which contain prophecies which reveal various aspects of what will happen. However, there is no outline arranged in an orderly way like you would expect in a textbook. Rather, the details are scattered throughout the Bible like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. To get a complete and proper picture, you need to put the pieces together in a proper way.If some pieces don't seem to fit into the picture, perhaps your picture is not quite right or complete. Forcing pieces into places where they don't actually fit only distorts the picture and blinds us to some of what God intends to show us.

Of course, even though there are many prophecies with many details about the end of this age and the Lord's return, there are innumerable questions that we could ask for which the Bible does not supply the answers. What is revealed in the Bible is what God wants His people to know ahead of time as both encouragements and warnings to us. So, before touching questions about the things that will happen at the end of this age, we need to consider a question which will help us have a proper perspective when putting the picture together. There is a lot of misunderstanding among Christians concerning the matters of salvation and reward, so the next question touches on the difference between them.

Is there a difference between salvation and reward?

In order to answer this question, let's first consider some verses that speak of salvation and then some that speak of reward.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

4:4-5  Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Galatians 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

2 Timothy 1:9 [God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.

These verses very clearly state that salvation is not according to works. It is a gift of God given according to His grace and received through faith in Jesus Christ.

Now consider the following verses:

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Revelation 22:12 And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

3:13-15 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

These verses clearly say that the reward is given to each one according to his work. The most logical way to interpret this is that reward is different from salvation; after we are saved we need to gain a profit for the Lord to earn a reward in addition to being saved. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 3:15 speaks of some being saved, yet so as through fire. This speaks of a negative reward, rather than the positive one earned by those whose work passes the test. 

There is a thousand years between the Lord's return and the bringing in of the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sorrow, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). This is the age when the Lord will reign on this earth. Some of His children will have won the reward of reigning with Him, but others will be under His discipline.

With this as a general sketch, we will deal with more questions and passages of scripture to fill in the picture.

What main events will happen at the end of this age?

The prophecy in the Bible about the end of this age does not simply speak of single event; it describes many events that happen over a period of time. Of course, the main item prophecied in the Bible concerning the end of this age is the coming again of the Lord Jesus. However, the word commonly translated as coming in passages such as Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 is parousia in Greek which literally means presence. As we shall show in the following questions, even the Lord's presence in His coming lasts a preriod of time with a number of events included in it. So the one thousand two hundred and sixty days (about three and a half years) mentioned in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 should be considered as the end of this age.

The other main events during this time are the rapture of the believers, the great tribulation on the earth, the Lord judging the believers, the final battle at Armeggedon, and the Lord judging the rest of the people on earth. After all these things take place, the Lord will establish His kingdom on earth for a thousand years, the period of time of the next age, before eternity future begins with the new heaven and new earth.

Teachings
The way you encourage the saints to preach the gospel of spirit and life does not even mention sin. How can someone be saved without repenting of his sins?

Believing in the Lord's redemptive death for our sins is a crucial item of the gospel, but not the most crucial one. The most crucial thing is that a person open his heart and mouth to the Lord Jesus to receive Him (Rom. 10:8-10). There was a time when preaching about sin and hell was very effective in motivating people to repent and turn to the Lord, but now the world is filled with so many jokes about this message that few unbelievers take it seriously. The truth has not changed but the world has changed. In your own experience, the Spirit may have enlightened you concerning your sins and led you to receiving the Lord with repentance. But the Spirit can work in many ways, not just that one.

So what about repentance from sins? A sister who had recently received the Lord through the preaching of receiving God as life, told us that we probably did not want to come to her house for a Bible study because she was too sinful. Actually, she was a good person according to the standard of the world. Before she received the Lord, if someone would have told her that she was sinful she would not have believed it. But after she received the Lord, the Holy Spirit began to enlighten her concerning her sinfulness. Then she was ready to hear of the Lord redemptive death for our sins. She was ready to be led to repentance and confession to receive the Lord's forgiveness with a heart full of thankfulness to Him.

We should not be limited by our doctrinal concepts when presenting the Lord to people. The Lord in His wisdom dealt with each case recorded in John in a different way to meet each person's specific need. Through that He was also able to meet the general need of each of them, that is the need of receiving Him as their Saviour.

Someone shared in the meetings, “God helps those who help themselves.” Where does it say this in the Bible?

This is based on Philippians 2:12-13 which says, “So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much rather in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure.” This is not referring to redemption from sins which Christ accomplished on the cross and which we receive by faith. This refers to a practical salvation in our daily life. When we humble ourselves before God as Christ did (verses 5 - 8), then God operates in us both the willing and the working for His good pleasure. Our “work” is to humbly accept whatever situations God has arranged for us. This opens the way for God to do His work in and through us.

Do you have any information that would go into detail about God's creation of man and his SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP with us?

Part 1: What was God's intention in creating man?

This question touches some of the crucial points in the Bible so a brief answer cannot cover all the details adequately. Since you asked us to go into detail the answer will not be just a few paragraphs. We will try to answer a little bit at a time rather than forcing you to wait for a long answer. At the same time we hope that you would not just accept what we write but would ask the Lord to reveal Himself through His Word. In other words, Bible study should not be to simply learn more about God but to bring us into a deeper relationship with Him. The things we discover in God's Word should be real and practical in our daily experience.

The obvious place to begin to study God's creation of man is with the record in Genesis chapters one and two. Genesis 1:26says, "And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." (Recovery Version) This verse touches both parts of your question, namely God's creation of man and His special relationship with us. There is no record that God had a council with Himself before creating anything else. He simply spoke and it came into being, thus exhibiting His eternal power and divine nature. So the fact that God paused in His work of creation to describe what He intended to do already begins to show that man is unique in God's creation.

The contents of this little council are especially significant because they reveal God's intention in creating man. There are two main aspects to God's intention for man which are expressed by the words "image" and "dominion". God certainly had something in mind when He decided to create man in His own image. An image is an expression of something else. For instance, a glove is made in the image of a hand. If you knew nothing about hands you could learn something about them by studying gloves. However, for the glove to express more than the mere outward for of the hand it needs a hand to be put into it. Then you would be able to observe the function as well as the form of the hand.

Similarly, God created man in His own image so that He could be expressed through man. You can learn something about God by observing man. For instance, man has thoughts, feelings, intentions, etc. So does God. In this sense every man expresses something of God but that expression is not very adequate. Both God and man have thoughts but they are not the same (Isa. 55:8-9; Psa. 94:11). The things men like and choose are also very different from the things God likes and chooses. The best man can produce is a refined human life expressing some highly developed human virtues. This is still far short of expressing God's divine attributes. Thus, created man is an empty "glove", created in God's image but not containing Him as life.

The second key word, "dominion", is related to the fact that God has a would be rival who is attempting to usurp God's position in the universe (Isa. 14:12-14). This rival, who first appears in the Bible in the form of a serpent, is seeking to overthrow God's kingdom and establish his own kingdom. Nevertheless, part of God's intention for man is that man would exercise God's authority and deal with God's enemy.

Thus, the first important detail concerning God's creation of man is His intention in doing it. God wants man to express Him and to represent Him on the earth.

Part 2: How did God create man?

If God had something in mind for man then He surely must have created him according to that intention. In other words, if God planned to have a special relationship with man then there should be something special about how God created him.

Zech. 12:1 says, "Thus declares Jehovah, who stretches forth the heavens and lays the foundation of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him". This verse clearly tells us that created man with a spirit within him. It also strongly implies that God's intention in creating the heavens was for the earth, that the earth is for man, and that the crucial thing about man is that he has a human spirit.

Gen. 2:7 gives the details concerning the process of God's creation of man. It says, "Jehovah God formed man with the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." First of all God formed man with the dust of the ground. Obviously, it is man's body that was formed out of the dust and that returns to dust after a person dies (Gen. 3:19). Second, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. What was that? It is not at all obvious in English but in Hebrew the word for breath, "neshamah", can mean "breath" or "spirit". In other words, God formed the spirit of man within him by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.

Then the last part of this verse tells us that man became a living soul. When God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life something else was produced, man's soul. Man's soul is man's person in three aspects: his mind with its thoughts, his emotion with its feelings, and his will with its intentions. Thus God created man with three main parts, a body, a soul, and a spirit (1 Thes. 5:23).

It is relatively easy to understand something about our body because it is physical and tangible. It is also relatively easy to understand something about the soul because we use it all the time. In fact, our soul is our real person. Our body can be considered as the organ which enables us to live in and relate to the physical world. But what about our spirit? What is it and what is its function? Our spirit is that part of our being that is the same in essence as God Himself. God is Spirit and our spirit is also spirit. Of course, God is divine and our spirit is human; nevertheless both are the same in essence.

God created us in this way so that we could receive Him (John 1:12). Temporarily man's fall became a problem between God and man but God took care of that by coming as a man, Christ Jesus, and dying on the cross to take away all our sins. If a person does receive the Lord then He comes to dwell in our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22) and to communicate with us through our spirit (Rom. 8:16). Thus God's relationship with man is not merely as a creator with a creature but He wants to be everything to man (Jer. 2:13). God wants us to receive Him!

Part 3: Giving Man a Real Choice

God created man in His own image so that man could express Him. This is why God created man with a special organ, his human spirit, that was the same in essence as God Himself. God is Spirit and He created man with a human spirit so that man could contain Him. But God had no intention of forcing or coercing man to carry out His desire. Instead He allowed man to have a real choice.

Gen. 2:8 says, "And Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there He put the man whom He had formed." A garden is a pleasant place with an abundance of fruit. This is confirmed by verse 9 which says, "And out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Thus God was taking care of both man's physical and psychological needs when He put him in that garden because the trees were both good for food and pleasant to the sight. But besides this there were two extraordinary trees in the garden. The first was called "the tree of life" and the other was called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". God warned man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil telling him that he would die if he ate of it (vs. 16-17).

God put these two trees in the garden because He wanted man to make a choice. Our natural concept is that God wants us to choose good and to shun evil but in the garden both good and evil were on the same tree, the tree that lead to death. So what was the real choice? The real choice is not between good and evil but between two persons represented by these two trees. The tree of life represented God Himself as life to man. God wanted man to partake of Him so that He could be man's life. If man would take God as life then he would be living by God's life instead of by his human life. A man living by God as life expresses neither a good man nor a bad man but God Himself.

The other choice, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that brought death, represented God's enemy, Satan. God certainly had a desire concerning which choice man would make. He commanded him with a strong warning not to make the wrong choice. Nevertheless, God let man make the choice. And how was man to make that choice? Simply by eating. It was not a matter of trying to please God. The crucial thing was what man would take in as food. Whatever man would take in would end up being what man would express.

Anyone who knows anything about the Bible knows which choice Adam and Eve made. The result was that something got into man other than the good human nature which God had created in him. From that time onward mankind has had two natures: one that appreciates and desires what is good and a stronger nature that lusts after evil. So people want to be good and like to consider themselves as good but often they cannot overcome temptation and do things that are evil damaging themselves and others.

This is exactly what the world in general is expressing. There are many good things in the world but its tendency is toward evil. If you consider the real situation of the world you can see that it is filled with violence and evil and that, despite the best efforts of countless people both small and great, the violence and evil are increasing. In short, the world is developing into a full expression of the evil nature of Satan.

Today no one can change the choice that Adam made in the garden. The world rushes on toward the day in which it will fully reject God and openly side with Satan. But part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He has given each individual the same choice that Adam had. We were born into the Satan corrupted world but we do not need to remain there. We can choose to come back to God through receiving Christ as life. That choice was reopened when Jesus died on the cross to take care of all the problems that resulted from Adam making the wrong choice in the garden. God has made Himself available to all men but He still forces Himself on no one. We need to invite Him into our heart if we want to receive Him.

Part 4: What is special about God's relationship with man?

This is the last part of our answer concerning the details of God's creation of man. It touches something that is truly beyond man's experiences, imaginations and dreams (1 Cor. 2:9). Many of its aspects are implied in the scene in Genesis 2 but without the rest of the Bible no one could understand what they signify.

In Genesis God put the man He had created into a garden where the principle tree was the tree of life. Out of the garden flowed a river and in the flow of that river were gold, bdellium, and precious stones. The scene develops with the man seeking a mate among all God's creatures and not finding any until God put him to sleep, took a rib from his side, and built it into a woman to match him. Thus, the climax of the whole scene is a wedding.

We can trace each of these features through the Bible until they appear again in another scene in the last two chapters of the Bible. The garden has become a city built with the materials that were in the river in the garden. The river of water of lifeflows out of the throne of God with the tree of life growing along its banks. The city itself is the bride and the redeeming God on the throne is the husband.

These two scenes show us that God's special relationship with man is the mystery of the universe. It wasn't just Adam who was a lonely bachelor unable to find a mate to match him. Before creation God Himself was absolutely alone. How could such a unique, divine Being find a counterpart who would match Him? The answer to this question is the story of the Bible, the story of a divine romance between God and His people. He does not force Himself on anyone but He is seeking those who will search for Him, believe His word, open their heart to receive Him, love Him above all else, and give themselves wholly to Him for His purpose. On the one hand, His bride is the corporate building of His people to be His counterpart to match Him. On the other hand, He woos each one who believes into Him to enter into a personal love relationship with Him. No relationship could be more special than that.

It never ceases to amaze me that the creator of the universe, with the eternal power and divine characteristics that the universe shows (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:20), would be able to build a worthy counterpart for Himself through His marvelous salvation of human beings such as ourselves. The entire triune God is involved in carrying out His eternal purpose (Eph. 1:3-14) and the finished product, the bride of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9), will surely be to the praise of God's glory (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).

Why does God allow evil men to do evil deeds like the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center?

When personal calamities happen it is common to ask why God would allow such things. When a calamity affects the whole world it is even more difficult to understand. How could a loving, sovereign God allow such things? God is all knowing and all powerful. Why does He not stop things like the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center? Does He like to see people suffering?

Different Reactions

Before coming to the Bible to seek what it might show us, I would like to give my observations about what I see as the two main reactions to this terrorist attack. I think almost everyone first reacted with shock and a feeling that this couldn't be real. But after the horror and enormity of the attack had sunk in people began to have different kinds of reactions.

One reaction is of anger and hatred. The same kind of hatred that motivated the terrorists has been reproduced in at least thousands of others. Before the attack there obviously were a number of Muslim extremists who hated America to the extent that they were willing to go to any lengths to damage it as much as they could. They consider all Americans their enemies and evidently do not believe that the moral standards of their religion apply to how they treat Americans. They have been plotting for years against America. On September 11th the world watched in horror as one of their planned attacks succeeded with terrible consequences.

The other reaction that I observed is that many people have been shaken out of their complacency toward God. Especially here in North America, many people had been going through life with little thought about God. It seemed that to them there was not much more to life than accumulating wealth until you had enough to retire, then spending it on whatever leisure activities you could still enjoy. Many Christians were living the same kind of life right along with their unbelieving friends.

The terrorist attacks on September 11th and the Anthrax scares since then have made a dramatic difference. People don't feel as safe as they did before. Many non-Christians have begun to inquire about God. Many Christians have become much more serious about seeking God. In other words, people realize their need of God the most when they are shaken out of their complacency by a calamity.

What the Bible Shows Us

There is not a verse in the Bible that gives a simple answer to the question of why God allows calamities to happen. But that does not mean that you cannot find the answer there, it simply means that you need to dig below the surface. You need to consider this question in the light of God's eternal purpose ( Eph. 3:11; 1:11) and His economy (1 Tim. 1:4; Eph. 1:10). God's purpose is to gain a people who would match (2 Cor. 3:18), express (Eph. 3:9-11), and represent (Rev. 2:26-27) Him on earth. God's economy, the means by which He accomplishes His purpose, is to impart Himself into His people as their salvation (John 3:16) and life (1 John 5:12John 10:10), to have that life grow in them to maturity (Heb. 6:1Eph. 4:14-15), and to build them into a corporate Body (Eph. 2:16Eph. 4:16), the church (Eph. 1:22-23), for His expression (Eph. 3:10), consummating in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-11), the bride for His Son (Rev. 19:721:2). Thus God's intention is centered on man.

Satan also has his own intention related to man. He is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; Luke 4:6) and is working in it to build up his own kingdom (Matt. 12:26), a kingdom of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). His kingdom is built on the principle of rebellion against God (Isa. 14:12-14) and against every authority established by God (Rom. 13:1-2). Thus, lawlessness is the trademark of Satan's work in man (Eph. 2:2).

From this we can see that there are two unseen, spiritual kingdoms in the world today, each developing toward its own climax. The kingdom of Satan will climax with a great world leader who will claim to be God (2 Thes. 2:3-4; Dan. 8:23-25). He will lead most of the people in the world into full rebellion against God (Rev. 19:19-20). On the other hand, the kingdom of God will climax with a relatively small number, a remnant of His people, who will overcome (Rev. 2:7) every threat (Rev. 2:10) and temptation to be God's faithful (2 Tim. 2:2) testimony on earth (Rev. 17:14). The Lord Jesus will return to destroy (1 John 3:8; Rev. 11:18) forever the kingdom of Satan when these overcomers (Rev. 2:7; Rev. 21:7) have been perfected through sufferings (Rom. 8:17; 1Thes. 1:5) and have proclaimed the mysteries of God's kingdom to the whole earth (Matt. 24:14).

God is Tolerating Evil Only for a Time

So the first point in the answer to why God allows calamities is that He will not allow them to go on indefinitely (2 Pet. 3:13). God does not delight to see people suffer and one day He will put a complete end to all the suffering on earth (Rev. 21:4). Neither does He desire to see anyone perish (Ezek. 33:111 Tim. 2:3-42 Pet. 3:9) but, concerning this, He gives man a free choice. He doesn't force Himself or His salvation on anyone. Right now God is tolerating evil temporarily (2 Pet. 3:9;Rom. 2:4) so that more people have opportunity to repent and receive His salvation. When the Lord Jesus returns to put an end to evil and establish His kingdom on earth (Rev. 11:15) that will include the judgement of all those who have committed it (Rev. 11:18). Judging evildoers (Rev. 20:12) is a necessary part of ultimate justice but not something God delights to do.

We All Deserve God's Judgement

The second point is that our standards are different from God's (Isa. 55:8-9). We watched the September 11th attacks with horror and want retribution on all who were involved in this evil plot. This is necessary, not only to prevent them from doing more of the same type of thing but also for the sake of justice (Rom. 13:4). But according to God's standard none of us is innocent (Rom. 3:9-18). It is not our deeds that make us sinful. There is an evil element in our nature that is the source of all the evil deeds that we do (Jam. 1:14-15Eph. 2:3). We are not different in nature from the terrorists, only different in degree. Thus, by nature we all deserve to be judged and one day each of us will stand before God to be judged by Him (Rom. 14:10-12). That is one of the main reasons we need salvation. When all things are made clear at God's judgement seat each one of us will admit that God's dealing with us has been just.

This does not mean that the victims of this attack were being singled out for judgement by God. The Lord Jesus, referring to a similar incident, told us that unless we repent we would all likewise perish (Luke 13:4-5). It does mean that we should humble ourselves before God so that He would give us His mercy and grace. One day God will judge every one of us. How we need His mercy!

We Would Like to Tell God What to Do

God has given each of us a free will. Most of us don't want God to interfere with us living however we choose even though many of the things we do hurt ourselves and others. We want God to stay out of our own lives but we expect Him to intervene in other people's lives, especially if they become terrorists that target our nation. This expectation doesn't make sense. Mankind in general has rejected God so we live in a godless world. The evil that people do is part of that godlessness.

We Need Suffering

The last point I want to make concerning why God tolerates evil and allows calamities to happen is that without these things God could not accomplish His purpose. This does not mean that God is the source of evil, Satan is (John 8:44). But it does mean that even Satan's worst turns out to further God's purpose. The problem for God is that once He decided to give man a free will and that He would never coerce or violate man's will then the accomplishment of His purpose depended on man's cooperation. Without trouble, suffering and sorrow none of us would be that serious about seeking God (Acts 14:22). Life would be too easy. So we need the sufferings we experience to help us pursue God and His purpose.

Lawlessness and Violence Will Increase

Lawlessness and violence will increase as the end of the age approaches (Matt. 24:12) and Satan's kingdom is heading toward its climax. The great world leader who claims to be God (2 Thes. 2:3-4) will try to force everyone to worship him and his image (Rev. 13:8, 15-17) instead of the true God. Each person will be forced to choose between worshiping the true God or going along with those openly fighting against Him (Rev. 14:9-10). As it gets harder and harder for God's people to remain true to Him (Heb. 10:36-39) they also will be forced to either overcome Satan (Rev. 12:11) or be overcome by him. Many of God's people will be defeated and need God's discipline in the coming age to perfect them (2 Cor. 5:10). But the ones who remain true to Him until the end (Rev. 2:26Heb. 3:6) will be perfected and fulfill God's purpose for man. Then the Lord will come to establish His eternal kingdom (Rev. 11:15) in righteousness and justice. This is God's intention for man. What we are passing through now is the process to get there.

How Will You React?

So the events of September 11th and the two kinds of reactions I observed to those events are advancing both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan toward their climaxes. Some people have turned toward God and are seeking Him more seriously than ever before. Others have become bitter and angry, some to the extent of wanting to do the same kind of things to Muslims in general that those few terrorists did to Americans. I don't know if the response of the USA and its allies will be successful in eliminating the terrorist network that carried out those attacks but I do not believe that the trend toward lawlessness and violence can be checked. I do not know of any nation where there is more respect for law and authority now than there was 50 years ago. The trend of the whole world is the other direction.

The issue each of us has to deal with is how will we respond to the things happening around us. If we allow hatred to fill our hearts we have been captured by Satan. Even if we participate in any lawless activity, no matter how worthy the cause, we are actually advancing the kingdom of Satan. But if we turn to God and seek Him (Heb.11:6) and receive Him as life (John 1:12; 14:6; 1 John 5:12) according to His Word in the Bible then we can enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Can a saved believer lose his reward? How?

The Lord's reward to the believers is illustrated in the Bible by the birthright that belonged to the firstborn son in a family. The gaining or losing of a birthright is shown in the Old Testament by the experiences of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham had 8 sons altogether. The first was produced by Abraham's seeking to carry out God's desire through his fleshly effort. He was rejected by God. The second was the proper son according to God's promise and grace. He was counted by God as Abraham's firstborn and had the birthright. This meant that he inherited Abraham's calling and blessing from the Lord, as well as all his wealth. Later Abraham had 6 more sons (Gen. 25:1-6). Before he died, Abraham gave them gifts and sent them away. They did not have the birthright.

 

Isaac had 2 sons. Esau was born first and had the birthright but didn't care much about it. Jacob desperately wanted the birthright and eventually was successful in cheating his brother out of both the birthright and its associated blessing. While it is true that Jacob deceived his father to steal the blessing, from Esau's point of view he lost it because he sold it (Heb. 12:16).

Jacob had 12 sons but the birthright belonged to Reuben, his firstborn. However, one day Reuben lay with his father's concubine and so was defiled and lost the birthright (1 Chron. 5:1-2). When Jacob blessed his sons he divided the birthright among 3 of Reuben's brothers. Joseph got the double portion of the land, Judah got the kingship, and Levi got the priesthood.

From all this we can see something of what it means to keep the birthright or to sell it. Esau lost the birthright because he despised it, Reuben because he defiled himself. Jacob gained the birthright because he treasured it. (The Lord dealt with him severely for cheating to get it. He was exiled from home, never saw his mother again, and was a virtual slave of his uncle for 20 years.) Joseph got the best blessing of the birthright because he kept himself pure.

In the New Testament the birthright refers to the blessings of the Lord's reward in the coming millennial kingdom. The double portion of the land is the double portion of the enjoyment of Christ. Our best enjoyment of Christ today is not worthy of comparison with the joy of the bride and bridegroom in that day. The overcoming believers will also be kings and priests with the Lord in His kingdom. As kings, they will represent the Lord to rule over the earth with His authority. As priests, they will bring the Lord to people and bring people to the Lord. All these blessings are our birthright as long as we don't sell it because we believers are the firstborn ones in Christ (Heb. 12:23). But if we are unable or unwilling to rule over our appetites and lusts today, how can we expect to rule with the Lord then?

Can you explain 1 Timothy 2:9 which says, “Similarly, that women adorn themselves in proper clothing with modesty and sobriety, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly clothing”? Why does it specifically talk about these things? For example, I have some bright colored shoes that I think are beautiful. I wear them sometimes but wonder if they are distracting or too much.

Often times Christians have tried to define what is worldly and what is not. For example, some say that this color is worldly and that one is OK. That kind of rule also does not deal with the love of the world in our hearts. There is no absolute rule like that that we can follow. We need the Lord’s speaking: “Lord, are You OK with this?” This doesn’t just apply to what we wear. For example, when I graduated from school, I had done my best and graduated at the top of my class. So I got a little scholarship from IBM, a few hundred dollars, and a nice pen that would have cost about $70.00 to buy at the time. It also had IBM’s logo on it which made it even more special to me. To me, that pen was really special. To most people, that brand of pen would be a status symbol. You can get a pen that works just as well for $10.00. I felt something about that pen every time I picked it up. My feeling toward that pen made it something that bothered my relationship with the Lord, so eventually I got rid of it. 
On the other hand, one time my wife took me to a nice men’s store that had a sale on. It had shirts that normally were twice as much money as I would consider paying for one at something like 60% off. I got a number of them and wear them to work. I like them; they are nice, attractive shirts. But I don’t feel different when I put them on. I don’t think, “Everybody, look at me. Don’t you see how nice I look?” So those shirts do not bother my relationship with the Lord. In fact, I feel it gives a good testimony to be dressed nicely. An opposite example is a consultant who was teaching a course at work. My coworker nudged me and said, “See his shirt. I bet it cost more than $300.00.” The rest of his clothes were in the same class. That consultant wasn’t just dressing attractively; his clothes were showing off his wealth. He wasn’t teaching the senior executives of the company; maybe then his clothes would have been appropriate, but for the setting he was in, they were not. 
Dressing with clothes or jewelry that is too costly is not proper for a believer because it draws attention to us and distracts from our testimony for the Lord just as much as being too sloppy in dress. Sisters’ dress should not be something that would cause others to be jealous or so revealing that it stirs up men’s lust. But it should be nice and proper.

Is the faith in 1 Peter 1:7 referring to your faith in the Lord?

I've been touched on the matter of faith lately and I just keep coming back to 1 Peter 1:7. Is this faith referring to your faith in the Lord? The Lord tests your faith in Him as well as your faithfulness to Him. He uses trials to test whether you really trust Him, whether your faith is really genuine and true, etc. If we are victorious as Daniel and his friends were and our faith is tested by fire, the Lord will grant us praise glory and honour at His coming - the kingdom, the crown of righteousness. This is what I think I've been seeing but I am not sure if this is really what the Lord is saying. Can you please comment?

Yes, this is referring to your faith in the Lord. You understanding is accurate. However, I would like to add a little more. When gold is tested by fire, this does not only prove whether it is genuine or not. This also purifies the gold. Gold is heavier than most of the other elements that it is commonly mingled with. So when you melt the gold, the other elements rise to the surface where they can be skimmed off. To make it really pure without discarding any of the gold, you need to heat it until everything melts including all the impurities. Then there can be a full separation of the gold from the impurities.
 
The trials that the Lord allows us to pass through are similar. When things are smooth and we are happy, we may not be being tested that severely. (Actually, that is one kind of test; one which Daniel also faced as a high official in the palace.) But a difficult trial may cause us to react in ways that we never thought we would. Some of the impurity in our being came to the surface. That is when we need to humble ourselves to repent and turn again to the Lord for His mercy to bring us through. The "gold" in us is not only tested, but we gain a little more in  the experience. Another way of saying it is that a little more of us was removed and a little more of Christ was added.

Keeping the Oneness of the Spirit
Do you have any suggestions how we can keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph.4:3) which God has already established among His people in our community?

Keeping the unity of the Spirit requires first of all that we live in Spirit. Simply following any teaching outwardly, no matter how good and accurate it is, is in the principle of law keeping. It is the Spirit that gives life and it is only when we are in spirit that we can be truly one with others. Secondly, we need to avoid any kind of name or label that distinguishes us from other believers. We are simply believers in Christ who are enjoying the grace of His salvation. We are not bothered by the names others may use to denominate themselves. Nor do we try to convince them to be the same as ourselves in doctrine or practice. If the Lord has received them, then we receive them. The only things we would insist on are the basic beliefs in the Lord's person and work which distinguish believers in Christ from those who do not believe. Thirdly, we honour whatever work the Lord has done in other believers. The Lord's work in each one is unique which is one of the reasons we need one another's portions to adequately express the Lord.

In its practical application, the matter of keeping the oneness of the Spirit is a constant test to believers. A Christian cannot maintain the freshness of his relationship with the Lord in isolation; he needs fellowship. However, when we are with others, especially when we try to serve the Lord together, many things can spoil the sweetness of our fellowship. We all have the same Lord, but we each also have our own preferences, concepts, ways of doing things, etc. Not only so, we make mistakes and offend and misunderstand one another. If that weren't enough, our fallen nature is prone to pride, jealousy, rivalry, partiality, etc.

All who have received the Lord are already one in spirit. The Spirit of God entering into and giving life to our spirits has made us one both with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) and with one another. But the different concepts and opinions in our minds, our fickle and easily offended emotions, our stubborn wills, and our sinful flesh, all can disturb our peace and cause us to lose our oneness. In other words, in our spirits we are already one, but in our selves there can be many problems.

So how can we keep the oneness of the Spirit? There is only one way. Whenever issues arise, we need to find the Lord. The issue, offence, etc. is a chance for us to gain something of the Lord. None of us is 100% mature in the Lord but once we receive the Lord, He begins to work in our hearts to conform us to His own image. Aspect by aspect, He begins to work to gain each part of our heart. This is His work of transformation in us. If we can find the Lord in each situation, learning to deny ourselves and take the cross, then there will be two results. We will both be kept in the oneness of the Spirit and we will be constantly growing in the Lord.

The problem the Lord has with us is that most of the time we do not recognize what is still of our natural being. We don't know what in us is frustrating the Lord. So the Lord allows things to come up, even attacks of the enemy that sow discord and enmity among brothers, that expose what is in our hearts. Every natural and fallen element in our hearts is a weak point that gives the enemy an opportunity to attack. It is correct to say that the problems that arise are from the enemy but is also correct to say that the Lord allows them in His sovereignty. The issue for each of us is not who is right and who is wrong. In fact, the harder tests are when we really are right and are being misunderstood or wronged. Can we turn our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to fill our heart with His in that matter? This is how the Lord grows in us. This is how we can keep the oneness of the Spirit.

What is your response for God's call to ecumenism?

Question:

You seem rather exclusive. You mention on your "response" page that you are not afraid to be challenged. That's good, and I hope you can answer a question or two for me in the future. I'm sure that you are aware that you have faced opposition in London, and I am encouraging you all to please Christ rather than men. However, there are a few statements throughout your webpage that seem rather exclusive, and to be honest, that sends off a few warning bells in my head. An example might be found on your history page, in reference to the young couple from Singapore's settlement in London: "They began to meet with a group of Chinese Christians but a brother came to visit from the church in Toronto and told them that the Lord would have no way to raise up a testimony here as long as they met that way." That's a pretty loaded statement, seemingly very against ecumenism, and without acknowledgement of the Lord's working in different areas of His body. What is your response to God's call to ecumenism?

Answer:

Thank you for your response and question. Your question is very thoughtful; I am happy to try to give an answer. Now that you point it out, it is easy to see how the statement you referred to gives a very exclusive impression. We certainly will reconsider how we expressed what we were trying to convey.

So what do we mean when we talk about the Lord raising up a testimony? It is obvious that there are many churches and groups of Christians here in London. Most of them have been here much longer than we have. Most of them have been and still are testifying something of the Lord according to their understanding of the Christian faith. There are some who we would consider as having denied the basic truths of the person of Christ and His redemptive work on the cross. I am not talking about those. But there are many others who are helping people to receive the Lord and know something of Him. We admit that in that sense the Lord has many testimonies here.

We also don't consider ourselves the only true believers in London. We, like many others, have received the Lord Jesus into our hearts and lives. We are not claiming to be better than other believers and are not intending to give that impression. We are very aware of our own shortcomings and struggles in trying to follow the Lord and be faithful to Him. To use a well worn phrase, we are simply sinners saved by grace. We often pray for the Lord's continued mercy and grace to keep us in the freshness of the first love to Him.

Since that is the case, why would we even think about using exclusive language like, "the Lord has no way to raise up a testimony"? To put it another way, what do we think is unique, here in London, about our testimony? You asked directly, "What is your response for God's call to ecumenism?" These questions are related so I would like to try to answer them together.

In the New Testament the testimony of the church was relatively clear and simple. There were issues that needed to be addressed such as the fleshly behaviour of some believers (1 Corinthians), the influence of Judaism (Galatians), and the influence of Greek philosophy (Colossians). But even so, the churches shone as golden lampstands bearing the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:20). A key element of their testimony was that wherever they were, the believers met together as one. In each city the believers collectively, whether a small number meeting in a home or a very large number, were known simply as the church in that city. The fact that so many people from various backgrounds and walks of life (Col. 3:11) could meet together and serve the Lord as one new man (Eph. 2:15), was a very great testimony to the reality and power of God's salvation. The oneness they enjoyed was not theoretical nor merely spiritual; it was practical enough for the world to see (John 17:21).

The situation is very different today. The Catholics claim that theirs is the only real church. But in the New Testament we do not see one, universal church. Rather we see the Body of Christ expressed practically as many churches in many cities. These churches were kept in harmony by the fellowship of the apostles rather than by an organizational structure. They all belonged to Christ, that was enough for them to be included in the church. There was no need for them to agree on every point of doctrine or practice (Rom. 14). Their oneness was a spontaneous expression of the operation of Christ within them.

Apart from the Catholics, Christians today are divided in many ways into many different groups. Some would say that this is wonderful, that each group testifies to a different aspect of Christ and that you need to look at the whole to see the overall testimony. What kind of testimony is that? Are the innumerable divisions and endless bickering among Christians a testimony of our wonderful Saviour? We don't think so. Rather we consider them a sign of defeat.

In the Old Testament the people of God conquered the good land and eventually built the temple of God. That can be considered the high point of their history. Soon after that they became divided. Eventually, due to their propensity to seek after idols, they were defeated and carried away captive. They still worshipped God in their captivity but the testimony, represented by the temple built on the proper ground, was lost. At the end of 70 years a small number of them returned to Jerusalem and began to build the temple. Their condition was not that wonderful but they were in the place God had chosen. Through their coming back to the place God desired there was a way, many years later, for Christ to come according to every detail of the prophecies in the Old Testament.

We believe that the place God chose in the Old Testament represents the basis God has set forth for Christian fellowship: that all the believers that live in the same locality should be one. Some say that this is impossible, it will never happen before the Lord comes back. In a sense this is true, just as in the Old Testament there never was a time when all the Israelites returned to the land of Israel after they had been carried away captive. But some came back and stood on the proper ground on behalf of the whole nation. This is what we are trying to do and is the reason we do not identify ourselves with any name other than the name of Christ or Christian. Everyone whom Christ has received we also receive. This is how we believe the Lord's prayer for the oneness of His believers should be practiced.

We associate the word "ecumenism" with an effort to join various Christian denominations together organizationally. We think that the aim is noble but that the real oneness is not in the realm of doctrinal agreement, organizational structure, or tolerance and compromise. We can only enter into it when we are willing to let go of everything other than Christ and focus only on Christ. In short, the real Christian oneness is Christ Himself.

Are we exclusive? We count all who have received the Lord Jesus as exactly the same as we are, as one of us. Thus we are exclusive to the extent that we believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. On the other hand, we do not believe the Lord would condone the many divisions among His people or the organizational structures that maintain them. Thus we are unwilling to participate organizationally in their activities. This is often perceived as being exclusive. We can't help this because this is how we feel we should be faithful to the Lord.

I hope my answer helps you to understand our stand.

What is your attitude or belief about other denominational and non-denominational churches?

This question touches on an area where our stand is somewhat different than that of many other believers in Christ. So, first of all, we would like to state that nothing that follows is meant to condemn anyone. We do not consider ourselves better than other believers who also love the Lord Jesus. But we have, we believe, seen something of God's purpose for the church and we are doing our best to be faithful to what the Lord has shown us. We respect the fact that there are many other believers who are just as faithful to what the Lord has shown them even though their views are somewhat different than ours.

This does not mean that we consider different beliefs to be all about the same. No, we believe in a living, personal God who formed all things according to His own will and good pleasure. He Himself is the truth, the reality, of the universe. The more our living and working are according to His desire, the more eternal value they have. What we do mean is that we are not the judges of others. Only the Lord knows how to judge all men with justice. When He comes the real value of each ones work will be made manifest. We hope to gain His reward.

Having said that, now let's come to the questions. You asked, "What is your attitude or belief about other denominational and non-denominational churches?" We want to put our answer to this question in context with a brief presentation of our understanding of what the church is. In the New Testament the word "church" is used in two ways. When the Lord Jesus said, "I will build My church" (Matt. 16:16) He was referring to a corporate entity that includes all true believers through all of church history. We call this the universal church. As the Body of Christ it is filled with His life. As the bride of Christ it is being built up to be His counterpart.

There is also a practical aspect to the church. We are limited by time and space. We cannot bring our problems to the New Testament apostles even though we also are members of the Body of Christ. We need a church where we are so that we can participate in it. We call this a local church. Each local church should be an expression of the universal Body of Christ. Our practical participation in the life and building of the Body is in the local churches. There is a book by Watchman Nee called "The Glorious Church" which we enjoy greatly. We recommend it because it presents a far higher view of the church than we can share in a few sentences here.

So what is our attitude or belief about other denominational and non-denominational churches? It is simply that God's purpose for the church cannot be fulfilled as long as all His people are scattered into so many divisions. One of the most pernicious effects of man's fall is that a fallen man is dominated by his self. Thus, throughout church history, it has been extremely difficult for any group of Christians to remain together in harmony for an extended period of time. Conflict always arises sooner or later. Very often the only real solution would be for both parties to deny themselves and take the cross. But the easier solution is for them to separate and each to meet only with those with whom they agree. The result is that everyone goes to the church of their choice and the church remains divided. We see this as great damage to the testimony of Jesus to the world.

What are some common misunderstandings concerning the nature of Christian oneness?

Christians know that we should be one. Both the clear word of the Bible and the nature of the divine life within us tell us so. But even the seeking believers who love the Lord and have given Him first place in their lives remain divided. A major part of the problem, I believe, is that most Christians are not clear about the intrinsic nature of genuine oneness.

 

Many think that genuine oneness is based on doctrinal agreement. So, for instance, we have been criticized for teaching wrong doctrine because of a difference in the interpretation of the sign of the woman in Revelation 12. How could Christians ever be one if it required agreement on every detail of doctrine? There are certain items of the faith, especially concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus, which are crucial to our acceptance by God. These distinguish believers from unbelievers and we cannot compromise them. But there are many other items to which we need to apply the principle found in Romans 14 and receive our fellow believers without trying to convince them that our understanding is correct.

Similarly, Christians need to pray, read the Bible, meet together, etc. The ways they do these things become their practices. But Christians have had real experiences with the Lord and have even developed deep personal relationships with Him through many different practices. Whenever we insist on a certain practice we cut ourselves off from other real believers. Of course there are practices which we cannot accept because they are sinful or idolatrous but we need to be careful not to reject things simply because they do not match our background or taste. The point is that the real oneness in Christ is not based on similarity in practice.

Thirdly, oneness is not based on a certain measure of growth in life. Some of us have been living, meeting and serving the Lord together for many years. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses sometimes better than we know our own. Can we reject those whose growth does not correspond to the number of years that they have known the Lord? If so, then there are many believers with whom we cannot be one.

The real oneness in Christ is not based on anything outward; it is Christ Himself. In practice, this means that in many things we need to be flexible and tolerant of others.

What does it mean to keep Christian oneness?

Ephesians 4:3 exhorts us to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. But what does this mean practically? As a young Christian I used to sing about being one in the Spirit but practically I was not one with other believers and I had no idea how Christians could really be one. My concept was that we should seek to teach and live according to the truth in the Bible as we understood it. I don't think believers would disagree with this but I had no idea how wide a door this concept left open for Satan to damage the church through division. Christians who only held to this concept with no idea about how important it is to keep the oneness would naturally align themselves with those with whom they agreed and separate from the ones with whom they disagreed.

The main shortcoming of this concept is that it makes no distinction between the small number of crucial items of the faith that God requires for us to be accepted by Him and all the rest of the items of faith and practice. Thus many divisions are produced over trivial issues that should not have been issues at all. I was all too familiar with that from my background.

But if keeping the oneness means receiving believers with a wide variety of concepts and practices, then how can they remain in harmony? How can they deal with all the differences and the inevitable offences? There is only one way. The way is to put our self to death on the cross. There is absolutely no other way for Christians to remain in a practical and close oneness apart from each of them taking the cross. I may be able to get along with some who have similar backgrounds, dispositions and concepts but what about all the rest of God's children? Some of them are sure to bother me. How can I be one with them in serving the Lord when our ways of doing things, views and preferences clash so often? Many times I bother the ones I am serving with and many times they bother me. Perhaps I am too slow, perhaps another is too fast; in any case it is hard for us to go the same speed. The only way is for each of us to put ourselves aside and take the cross.

It seems to me that this is, in fact, both the biggest problem and the biggest blessing of exercising to keep the oneness. We have no way to remain in ourselves, or if we do, it soon becomes obvious because we become a problem to everyone else. Thus the Lord's transformation work on us can proceed much more quickly and thoroughly than if we are less closely related to other believers that, naturally speaking, we would never choose to be with. We may be able, if we guard our independence, to be in the body life without being blent with other saints but if we allow the Lord to deal with us through all the situations that arise, then we will grow into His likeness more and more.

What is your experience of keeping Christian oneness?

When I first touched the church life, I was invited to a conference on the recovery of the oneness among God's people. I was very stirred by those messages because I had come from a background where believers who loved the Lord and were trying to be faithful to Him often argued about doctrines and practices. There had been over 100 official splits in the history of that denomination. The sharing about oneness was a great light to me. My spirit strongly witnessed that this was the missing element of my Christian life that I had been looking for.

One aspect of the sharing that was new to me was that the scattering of the Jews in captivity was a picture of the believers' being scattered in division. No matter how faithfully the scriptures were taught in the synagogues that the Jews built in their dispersion, the Lord's purpose could only be fulfilled through the ones who came back to Jerusalem, that is, by the ones who came out of all the divisions to come back to the place God had chosen. The ones that came back were not that wonderful in their condition but eventually the Lord could come the first time through their descendants. Similarly, the Lord will not come again until He has gained a remnant of His people who pay the price to keep the oneness.

On the one hand, I certainly admit that according to the talent that the Lord has given me and the many years I have been in the church life, I have grown neither in life nor in function as I should have. I fully realize that others have surpassed me in many ways and I thank the Lord for their operations in the building up of the Body. On the other hand, I also have to thank the Lord for what He has been able to do in me. Being in the practical church life and endeavoring to keep the oneness with all the saints have been the greatest blessings of my Christian life.

So, do the believers that I am with have shortcomings? Of course. I do too. Do our shortcomings spoil the sweetness of our meeting and serving together? Only if we are not willing to take the cross. The cross of Christ, though at times it cuts very deeply and severely, makes living and serving with others a matter of joy.

Is there a difference between the "ground of oneness" and the "ground of locality"?

The "ground of oneness" and the "ground of locality" are not separate. They refer to two aspects of the same thing. The ground of oneness means that we should have no other basis for meeting than that we all have received the redemption of the Lord Jesus and belong to Him. The ones who are "in" the church (strictly speaking, who are the church) are the redeemed ones; the ones who are outside the church are all who have not received the Lord's redemption. The ground of locality relates to the practicality of the oneness. If I can be in oneness with all the believers in my own locality, then my standing on the ground of oneness is real and practical. If I cannot be one with some of the brothers in my locality, then my standing on the ground of oneness is merely doctrinal, not real.

Practical oneness is not easy to keep. Oneness of the Spirit is one of the blessings of our salvation that is ours if we keep it (Eph. 4:3), but oneness of the faith is something that we need to arrive at (Eph. 4:13). Thus, if we are only one with those with whom we agree on every point of the faith, then our oneness is the oneness of a division, not of the Body of Christ. There are a few basic items of the faith, especially concerning the person (that He is the Son of God who became a man) and work (that He died for our redemption and rose from the dead) of the Lord Jesus, that separate between believers and unbelievers. We can never compromise those things (1 John 2:22; 4:2-3). But to make issues over other items, especially concerning outward practices, is to be divisive and sectarian.

Many Christians are part of groups that use other criteria than simply those whom the Lord has received to determine who belongs and who does not belong to their church. Even though the improper receiving makes the group a division rather than a genuine expression of the one Body of Christ, the believers are still members of the Body. They may make distinctions between themselves and us but we should not. We don't agree with any division but any believers in them are part of the church. We should be able to receive and fellowship with them just as joyfully as if they were exactly the same as us in faith and practice. We would not agree with any promoting of divisive teachings but to try to make other believers the same as us is to be divisive ourselves.

Real oneness must be both in spirit and in practicality. It must be something of the Spirit and yet it must also be so practical that the world can see it and believe (John 17:21, 23). I have stressed the practical side of oneness because it is too easy to be divisive in practice even while proclaiming and teaching about oneness.

Practice of the Church Life
Could you explain to me how the church runs and how the services run without a pastor or some such leader?

May I start by saying i am genuinely interested in your answer and am in no way trying to be argumentative. I come from a baptist background but have always been interested in your church concept. Could you explain to me how the church runs and how the services run without a pastor or some such leader. I'm also curious about your thoughts on the many references in the New Testament to pastors, bishops, elders, and deacons.


Thanks for your time. May God bless you for your help.
A. B.

Response:

Thank you for your interest. Your brief note asks some very good questions. Let me try to answer them even though it seems impossible to me to answer them adequately in a few paragraphs.

The last question relates to the leadership in a church. In the New Testament, the apostles appointed elders in every church (Acts 14:23) referring to the churches they had recently established in the cities they visited. The term "elder" emphasizes their growth in life. Elders should be the ones in a church who are more mature spiritually than the others there. What is the function of the elders? It is to oversee (1 Pet. 5:1-2). The word in Greek for overseeing in 1 Peter 5:2 is from the same root as the word commonly translated "bishop" or "overseer". Where it is used, it emphasizes the function of the elders as opposed to their maturity in life. There is nothing in the New Testament that supports the practice of having bishops who have authority over the elders or over several churches.

Deacons and deaconesses are those who take the lead in the practical services in the church. Pastors or shepherds are those who shepherd the saints, that is, who teach and care for them individually. When we say that we do not have a pastor, we mean that no one has that title nor is anyone assigned the responsibility of taking care of affairs in the traditional role of a pastor.

So how does the church operate practically? The word we use to describe the process for making decisions, whether spiritual or practical, is "coordination". Each member of the body has a direct relationship with the Head. Even so, each of us who have been born of God have something of our own experience and learning of the Lord which is our portion for the building up of the body. As we grow in the Lord, our portion also grows. Various groups of saints take the lead in various aspects of the church business. The elders and some helping them coordinate to take the overall lead in the church; other groups of saints coordinate for the children's meetings, going out in the gospel, ushering, etc.

When group of saints come together to care for their area of responsibility, it is to pray and seek the Lord, not only regarding the people or matters they are caring for, but also to open themselves to touch Him and be enlightened by Him. In their fellowship concerning the items to take care of, each one speaks according to their feeling before the Lord. Sometimes something is spoken that causes a positive response in the spirits of the others. That is an indication that the Lord is leading in that direction. Sometimes something is spoken that causes a negative reaction in the spirit. That is an indication that that speaking was not of the Lord. If all are open to the Lord, even the one who spoke will realize that the Spirit is not leading in the direction they spoke and will drop it. Thus in the fellowship in coordination, we are able to come to an understanding of the leading of the Spirit and agree on a practical way to carry it out. When it is clear, the one who is most mature spiritually in that service group should summarize the fellowship and the conclusions that we reached as James did in Acts 15.

We readily admit that it is not easy to make practical decisions in a spiritual manner. There are many things that can frustrate the fellowship. I hinted at one of them above with the phrase, "If all are open to the Lord...." In another response, I discuss the frustrations in more detail because without overcoming them, even the most spiritual exercise soon becomes a lifeless form.

I'm curious as to how you prevent meetings from bogging down in discussion and how you determine who is "the most spiritual".

I would be glad to hear any further thoughts or explanations you have on this matter. I'm curious as to how you prevent meetings from bogging down in discussion and how you determine who is "the most spiritual". 
A. B.

Response:

Who is "the most spiritual" is not something decided quickly or arbitrarily. If a group of saints have been serving together for some time, it should be readily apparent. If they are just beginning to serve together and it is not so apparent, then they will use the same process of fellowship together. When the fellowship has reached a point where it seems all are satisfied, then one or another may try to summarize the outcome. At this point, it is not a matter of trying to establish who is most spiritual but of seeking the Lord's leading. As time goes on and the group handles the various situations they face in carrying out their service, it will become apparent who should take the lead among them. Even so, a position of leadership is not something permanent and we are very slow to designate some as elders officially. In the book of Acts, Barnabas was always mentioned before Saul. However, when they began to face opposition, Saul was the one who was filled with the Spirit to handle it (Acts 13:8-9). From then on, he was known as Paul and took the lead in their serving together.

Concerning meetings becoming bogged down in discussion, this could happen. The first and most important point is that when we come together we need to touch the Spirit. If we cannot touch the Spirit, the process for making a decision, no matter how good and scriptural, will not help us to find the Lord's leading even though it may expedite getting something done. For us touching the Lord is primary; getting things done is secondary. Of course, this is true even the more when speaking for the Lord in a message or testimony. It is only as the Spirit is flowing in the speaker that He will quicken the word spoken in the hearts of the listeners.

Touching the Spirit is not something abstract or difficult. Today He is dwelling in the spirits of all who have received the Lord Jesus. In fact, he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). A person who has been thoroughly dealt with by the Lord can easily sense the flow of life within him. But for us who are still not that far along in the growth of life, we can exercise our spirit by opening our entire being to the Lord. We often call on His name with our whole being. To some this seems strange, but it is not in vain; we touch Him!

If a discussion about what to do seems to be getting bogged down, we may stop and turn our hearts back to the Lord. The bogging down is often the result of some holding on to their positions to the extent that their selves become involved. Usually it is not an issue of one or the other position being against the truth. The real issue is finding the Lord's leading and following Him. If I insist that it must be my way, then I have likely crossed the line from expressing the feeling of the Lord within my spirit to voicing my opinion and buttressing it with my own arguments. If I know and trust the Lord, even if my feeling is truly of Him but is not accepted by the others, I can let it go. The Lord will work out what He wills; He doesn't need me to fight against my brothers to work it out for Him. Learning when to defer to others and to truly trust the Lord in the process is a big part of having a spiritual coordination rather than a committee meeting where a decree or vote can decide a matter without finding the Lord's leading.

I hope this helps give a sense of how we try to operate. In the response to "What are the main frustrations to having a practical church life where each member can contribute their portion of Christ?", I shared about the main frustrations to having a practical church life.

What are the main frustrations to having a practical church life where each member can contribute their portion of Christ?

Even though the time of the Lord's return is known only by the Father, it is not arbitrary. When His purpose in this age is fulfilled, the Lord will return. So as we, His people, cooperate with the Lord according to His desire, we are actually hastening His coming (2 Pet. 3:12). Revelation 19:7 says that when the marriage of the Lamb has come, His wife has made herself ready. Matthew 24:14 says that the end will come when the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations. Making the bride ready and preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in the whole inhabited earth are clearly related to the Lord's return, but how will the Lord's people accomplish these things? Only as the Body grows and builds itself up in love through the operation in measure of each part (Eph. 4:16).

We strive to carry out a practical church life through the members functioning in coordination because we see this as a necessary requirement for each member to be able to function according to its measure of Christ. We readily admit that this is not easy. It is much easier to have an especially gifted member function in the traditional role of a pastor with no greater spiritual requirement on most of the members than to attend the services and offer some money. We are striving to have a church life where every member, not just those with outstanding gifts or formal spiritual training, can function and do business with their talents.

I would like to add to the explanations about difficulties and limitations that need to be overcome to have a spiritual coordination where every member can function according to its measure of the gift of grace given to it by the Head (Eph. 4:7). There are many things that I could mention but I only want to write about two main frustrations. The one is the concepts that we already have from our background, upbringing, education, culture, and past spiritual learning and experiences. Even though we are loving and seeking the Lord, it is very difficult for Him to lead us beyond the realm of our preconceived notions. So when we come to practice the church life together with those with different backgrounds than our own, we often have different feelings about how the Lord is leading us. Very often the different feelings about how to go forward are according to people's different concepts, not the Lord's leading at all.

The other difficulty is our person, our self. It is natural for us to either trust ourselves, thinking that our ideas are right and our ways the best, or despise ourselves, thinking that we have nothing spiritual to offer. Both attitudes are just expressions of our view of ourselves and frustrate our function in the body. Actually, our self pops up in many different ways as we serve the Lord together in the practical church life. If we recognize self for what it is and repent and turn back to the Lord, the situations that caused the self to be manifest are the means for us to grow in the Lord. But when we don't recognize self and hold on to our opinions thinking we are right and justified, then the self frustrates our fellowship with both other saints and the Lord. However, often we don't see this and blame someone else for whatever situation spoiled our enjoyment of the Lord in the church life. If we were truly delivered from self, nothing could come between us and the Lord or us and the other saints. Every situation and problem would be an opportunity to minister something of Christ to others.

Questions on the proper practice of the church

Paul and his co-workers often started off their ministry in a new city by going to the temple or synagogue or seeking out places where people gathered who had an interest in spiritual things. (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1;16:13; 17:1-2, 10, 17, 19; 18:2, 4, 7, 19; 19:1, 8 etc) Thus they learned from the start if in fact there were believers in the place and what the needs of the church were.

Do you believe that such an approach is still advisable and profitable today? Why or why not?

Response

When we begin to labor in a new city, it is both to preach the gospel to the unbelievers and to minister to the believers. We make an effort to find and fellowship with believers our vision of the Lord’s desire as revealed in the New Testament. If they are open to us, we are happy to share with them what we have seen concerning especially the experience of Christ, the practical expression of the church, and the gospel of the kingdom. However, we have found that it is not wise to come to speak to Christians where they gather unless we are invited by the leaders among them. Otherwise, it will stir up a reaction and opposition to what we are doing. The apostles did meet with that kind of response when they went to the synagogues to preach the gospel, but we feel that it is not profitable for us to go where we are not welcomed. We do not want to deliberately do things that will create issues and controversy among believers in the Lord Jesus.


For example: When starting to work in a particular city, do you seek to know how long God has had His church in that city and how they can minister to the saints already there or do you purpose to start a church of God as if God did not have a church there before they arrived?

Response

I went to a small city in the time of the field. Before going there, I prayed a lot, renewing my consecration because within me I had the feeling that I really needed to enjoy this time in the field, that I needed to know and enjoy more of the Lord. I realize that I don’t have any time to lose, and the Lord doesn’t either.

We passed through many situations, bad and good ones, but in all of them I could see the Lord gaining more of my heart. I realized how important it is to enjoy the Lord Jesus constantly and the best way is through calling on His name, praying and singing. In many situations, I saw that I have many opinions and suggestions, and I released that I could repent and turn my heart to the Lord.

I don’t have another One in whom I can trust, so I always turn to my Lord. “Whom have I in heaven but You? and besides You there is nothing I desire on earth. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalms 73:25-26).

Our group met many brothers and sisters who don’t meet together with us, but we have the same Father and we enjoyed the Lord together; it was really good. We shared about love because we have this wonderful Father who has loved us so much. The time in Tillsonburg for me was very special. I believe that the Lord grew in me and He is changing my life. Praise the Lord.


I confess that the latter has been my own practice in the past! I also know a number of gatherings in the city of London who would claim that their gathering is the "church of God" in London. They would claim that your gathering or any gathering other than theirs is a "sect" or a denominational gathering. Would you view them as "sects" or "denominations" too? I don't think they would participate in your organized gatherings nor (from what I've read on your web site) do I think you would participate in theirs! Both you and they would claim to have gatherings of the whole church of God in London.

Now, as an observer from outside the city, who wants to be guided by the scriptures, what scriptural marks should identify those who belong to the church of God in London? or in the city where I live? Is the church of God in a city defined by certain activities? Is it defined by relationships to God and other saints? Is it identified by what the saints call themselves? If I truly want to function as God intends as part of the church of God in my city, should I seek to define His church here by activities? (If so which?) Should I seek to define it by relationships? (If so which?) Should I seek to define it by a designation by which believers designate themselves? (If so, which?)

Response

To understand questions such as these, we need to distinguish between spiritual fact and practical expression. The fact is that wherever there are believers in Christ, the church is there. The biggest shortcoming today with regard to the church is not the fact; the gospel has been preached throughout the earth. But a practical expression of the church according to the New Testament pattern is hard to find.

So we do not claim to have gatherings of the whole church of God in London. The believers in London meet in many different places, mostly not with us. The mark of those who belong to the church in London is having been saved by faith in Christ. Even in regard to the gatherings of believers, no group has the basis to claim that God is only working through them. In whatever way and to whatever extent God's people touch something of His desire, He will bless them. If God waited to bless until His people matched His desire in every respect, He could bless no one. It follows that God's blessing does not mean that we have arrived. There is always more for us to gain of the Lord and to cooperate with Him for the accomplishment of His purpose.

Having said all that, it is still important for us to seek the Lord's will for the practical expression of the church. The Lord desires that the church would be a testimony of Himself both to the world (John 17:21) and to the fallen angels (Eph. 3:10; cf 6:12). The world will not be impressed by a "spiritual" oneness among believers scattered among many different Christian groups. While all the believers in London belong to the church in London, not all are in a practical oneness. Some need to put aside all divisive things in order to put into practice a practical oneness that the world can see.

So the question becomes, what are the things that often break the oneness among God's people. The most obvious is the names by which we identify ourselves. Many believers feel that there is so much taught in the name of Christ that they cannot agree with that they need to distinguish between themselves and other Christians. The name identifies the Christians who are the same as they are in teaching and practice. However, that is the problem with names other than Christ. God's people are not all the same in teaching and practice. There are some basic truths that distinguish between believers in Christ and the people of the world. These cannot be compromised. But there are many other things in the Bible to which we should apply the principle in Romans 14 of receiving one another without attempting to make others the same as ourselves. Names other than Christ or Christian automatically exclude many of God's children and any oneness among that group of believers is less than the oneness the Lord desires.

The matter of different teachings is very difficult to reconcile with oneness. In general terms we can say that we should not accept anything that is against the Bible and not insist on anything that is not in the Bible but Christians can find plenty within the Bible to condemn one another about. There is a central line, a basic thought, within the New Testament that should guide our understanding and application of the whole Bible. There are many other things in the Bible that, even though they are proper and helpful, are less crucial and to which the principle of Romans 14 applies. To exalt any of the minor things and insist on it is also divisive.

The same can be said about ministers of the Word. The Corinthian believers received help from several ministers (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-9). Their problem was that they paid too much attention to the ministers rather than the life and light supplied through their ministries. As a result, they each had a preference for a certain minister and were making distinctions among themselves based on their preferences. That does not mean that the ministers had the same portion. For instance, Paul's ministry was, no doubt, different than that of Peter, and deeper, richer, and higher than that of Apollos. But to have a special fellowship with those who appreciated the same minister was fleshly and indicated their immaturity.

It is interesting to note that the ones who declared, "I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 1:12) were also being fleshly and divisive just as the others were. It is absolutely correct for a believer to say, "I am of Christ." The problem was that the ones saying it in Corinth were using that truth, concerning which they were clearer than the others, to make a distinction between themselves and the others. All the believers are of Christ, not just the ones who proclaim it. We Christians can, and often do, distinguish ourselves from others based on the truths we have seen and appreciate. If we allow the Lord to work the truth into us so that it becomes practical and real in our daily living, then we will be able to minister it as a life supply to others. If it is only doctrine to us, then we can only debate and condemn others who don't see it the way we do.

Insisting on or forbidding certain practices is another thing that breaks the oneness of believers. Of course, the church cannot accept sinful things but Christians often cannot agree even on scriptural practices such as baptism or speaking in tongues. If we are to be practically one with all of God's children then we cannot insist that others conform to our practices. The Lord's receiving is not based on practices; ours cannot be either. If everyone in a fellowship of believers is the same in practice, then that fellowship has no place for others who are different and is exclusive.

The oneness that the Lord Jesus enjoys with the Father, that He also desires for His people (John 17:22), is of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) and in the spirit. If we are not living in the spirit then even a harmonious situation is short of the Lord's desire. When we are enjoying the Spirit, all of God's children are lovely to us; we have no problem keeping the oneness of the Spirit. When we are not in spirit, we are already outside the realm of the oneness of the Spirit even before any issues arise between ourselves and others. If we are right in every respect but miss the Spirit, we miss everything. May the Lord save us from ourselves and our own opinions to the extent that we can be one with all His children. This is the mark of a proper practice of the church life.


How will gatherings of the whole church in London or my city function if they are obedient to scripture? i.e. what principles will guide the behaviour of the saints when the whole church comes together into one place? Do you believe that the instructions of 1 Cor. 14:23-40 are still applicable to such gatherings?

Response

First Corinthians 14 presents a wonderful picture of a healthy Christian meeting. When the saints are enjoying the Lord’s word, opening their hearts to Him in prayer, experiencing Him in their daily life, and speak with the exercise of their spirit then such a meeting can be fresh and living. If, in addition, they know the truth and how to express spiritual things in spiritual words, then the meeting can also be nourishing and enlightening. However, those are big ifs. We Christians are quite capable of making even the highest and best spiritual practices into empty forms with little spiritual reality. From time to time we have realized that our spiritual exercise and meetings were becoming old and stale. Then we need to seek the Lord again so that we can find Him afresh. We are endeavoring to have a meeting each Lord’s Day according to the principle of "each one has" as shown in verse 26. At the present time, we also feel that we need regular ministry meetings with definite content at other times during the week to educate the saints. Our concern is the profit and building up of the saints, not certain practices and forms of worship.

What marks identify a proper practice of the church?

To understand questions such as these, we need to distinguish between spiritual fact and practical expression. The fact is that wherever there are believers in Christ, the church is there. The biggest shortcoming today with regard to the church is not the fact; the gospel has been preached throughout the earth. But a practical expression of the church according to the New Testament pattern is hard to find.

So we do not claim to have gatherings of the whole church of God in London. The believers in London meet in many different places, mostly not with us. The mark of those who belong to the church in London is having been saved by faith in Christ. Even in regard to the gatherings of believers, no group has the basis to claim that God is only working through them. In whatever way and to whatever extent God's people touch something of His desire, He will bless them. If God waited to bless until His people matched His desire in every respect, He could bless no one. It follows that God's blessing does not mean that we have arrived. There is always more for us to gain of the Lord and to cooperate with Him for the accomplishment of His purpose.

Having said all that, it is still important for us to seek the Lord's will for the practical expression of the church. The Lord desires that the church would be a testimony of Himself both to the world (John 17:21) and to the fallen angels (Eph. 3:10; cf 6:12). The world will not be impressed by a "spiritual" oneness among believers scattered among many different Christian groups. While all the believers in London belong to the church in London, not all are in a practical oneness. Some need to put aside all divisive things in order to put into practice a practical oneness that the world can see.

So the question becomes, what are the things that often break the oneness among God's people. The most obvious is the names by which we identify ourselves. Many believers feel that there is so much taught in the name of Christ that they cannot agree with that they need to distinguish between themselves and other Christians. The name identifies the Christians who are the same as they are in teaching and practice. However, that is the problem with names other than Christ. God's people are not all the same in teaching and practice. There are some basic truths that distinguish between believers in Christ and the people of the world. These cannot be compromised. But there are many other things in the Bible to which we should apply the principle in Romans 14 of receiving one another without attempting to make others the same as ourselves. Names other than Christ or Christian automatically exclude many of God's children and any oneness among that group of believers is less than the oneness the Lord desires.

The matter of different teachings is very difficult to reconcile with oneness. In general terms we can say that we should not accept anything that is against the Bible and not insist on anything that is not in the Bible but Christians can find plenty within the Bible to condemn one another about. There is a central line, a basic thought, within the New Testament that should guide our understanding and application of the whole Bible. There are many other things in the Bible that, even though they are proper and helpful, are less crucial and to which the principle of Romans 14 applies. To exalt any of the minor things and insist on it is also divisive.

The same can be said about ministers of the Word. The Corinthian believers received help from several ministers (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-9). Their problem was that they paid too much attention to the ministers rather than the life and light supplied through their ministries. As a result, they each had a preference for a certain minister and were making distinctions among themselves based on their preferences. That does not mean that the ministers had the same portion. For instance, Paul's ministry was, no doubt, different than that of Peter, and deeper, richer, and higher than that of Apollos. But to have a special fellowship with those who appreciated the same minister was fleshly and indicated their immaturity.

It is interesting to note that the ones who declared, "I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 1:12) were also being fleshly and divisive just as the others were. It is absolutely correct for a believer to say, "I am of Christ." The problem was that the ones saying it in Corinth were using that truth, concerning which they were clearer than the others, to make a distinction between themselves and the others. All the believers are of Christ, not just the ones who proclaim it. We Christians can, and often do, distinguish ourselves from others based on the truths we have seen and appreciate. If we allow the Lord to work the truth into us so that it becomes practical and real in our daily living, then we will be able to minister it as a life supply to others. If it is only doctrine to us, then we can only debate and condemn others who don't see it the way we do.

Insisting on or forbidding certain practices is another thing that breaks the oneness of believers. Of course, the church cannot accept sinful things but Christians often cannot agree even on scriptural practices such as baptism or speaking in tongues. If we are to be practically one with all of God's children then we cannot insist that others conform to our practices. The Lord's receiving is not based on practices; ours cannot be either. If everyone in a fellowship of believers is the same in practice, then that fellowship has no place for others who are different and it is exclusive.

The oneness that the Lord Jesus enjoys with the Father, that He also desires for His people (John 17:22), is of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) and in the spirit. If we are not living in the spirit then even a harmonious situation is short of the Lord's desire. When we are enjoying the Spirit, all of God's children are lovely to us; we have no problem keeping the oneness of the Spirit. When we are not in spirit, we are already outside the realm of the oneness of the Spirit even before any issues arise between ourselves and others. If we are right in every respect but miss the Spirit, we miss everything. May the Lord save us from ourselves and our own opinions to the extent that we can be one with all His children. This is the mark of a proper practice of the church life.

What is your burden for the church in London? How do you feel the Lord is leading you at the present time?

We are in the midst of trying to make a fundamental change in the way we practice the church life. The general pattern of what we had been doing was to have the stronger ones in the church life become the serving ones to care for the weaker and newer ones. The problem has always been that serving adequately in this arrangement demanded a high price. Not many could make it so the majority of the saints did not enter into serving that involved direct spiritual care of others. Some were able to be brought into practical services but their spiritual exercise was usually limited to sharing in the meetings something that they had enjoyed from material prepared for them.

Our burden and endeavor in these days is to establish a new pattern in the church life where all the saints are caring for one another in mutuality. We would like to see even the young, weak and new ones be able to be fruitful and to raise up others in the Lord. An illustration of how we are trying to change the pattern of what we do will give an idea of what that means to us. For instance, we used to try to spend time with others to care for them. Now we encourage those with a heart to care for others to ask the one they are caring for if they have someone that they would like see receive and/or go on with the Lord. Let's go visit the other one together. From then on the time with the one being cared for is focused on prayer, fellowship, and searching the Bible related to caring for others and, of course, going out together to care for them. In actual fact, not many of us are experienced in caring for others who are not yet saved and in the church life so we all need to seek the Lord and learn together. We are on a journey, not at a destination.

Another burden that we are trying to put into practice is blend all the saints in the church life. It seemed to us that having a separate young people's work was not the best arrangement. So, for instance, when we go out in the gospel, a typical team would have 2 young people and 1 older one. When knocking on doors to meet people, the young people take the lead. The young people are helping the older ones to be more exercised. Of course, the putting together of young and old cannot work if everyone is only concerned about their own preferences and enjoyment. It needs the mutual care that I mentioned above. In singing and exercise, the young people take the lead to be released, really released, and the older ones lead in providing something deeper.

When caring for a Bible study with the ones we meet, the young people take the lead in singing and enjoying but the older ones take the lead in setting the direction. We are trying to learn to have Bible studies where it is a mutual exploring and discovery of the Bible rather than someone telling the others everything. The leadership of the meeting is more through asking questions and pointing out verses than in telling or preaching.

In all things we are striving to be fresh, new and living yet godly and weighty. We are burdened to put into practice the things we have been taught, not just speak them to one another. We are very burdened for the propagation of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the earth. We are not qualified but we want to go anyways. That is the reason we began a gospel propagation perfecting (GPP) here. That exercise is bearing fruit, especially in one city where regular meetings are being established. We fully expect that a church will be raised up there shortly.

What characterizes your meetings?

In our own meetings we want to see everyone participate and everyone touch the Lord in spirit. For years, though we encouraged all to speak, it was the same ones who spoke each meeting. It seemed that no matter how many were in the meeting, not more than 25 would pray, praise, read or speak something on their own. Many of the rest, though they would participate in singing, were more or less passive. So now we often begin meetings with a time for all of us to pray in groups of two or three. It gets rather noisy with many small groups praying and praising in the same room at the same time. However, many of us find this a help in entering into the meeting spiritually rather than simply physically.

The actual content of the meeting varies, of course, by the goal of the meeting. In general terms our meetings consist of praying, praising, singing, speaking, Bible reading, and ministering. What many find striking is the amount of joy and rejoicing, even with shouting. We love the Lord! We rejoice in Him!

What are the distinctive characteristics of the church in London?

There is more than one way to answer this question. Firstly, we are not seeking to be distinctive. We are seeking to be a living testimony of our Lord and His witnesses through whom He can move. We have an extremely rich heritage from the people of God who have gone before us but we do not want to simply keep a tradition. We are seeking to go on further with the Lord. We have not arrived at the goal but we are pursuing to gain Christ and fulfill His desire. We believe the Lord is leading us and we are trying to follow Him.

Truth never changes but our understanding of it should grow and become more clear. This is to "arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, (Eph. 4:13). Concerning practices, every Christian has his preferences according to his tastes or how he experienced the Lord in the past. We are not for particular practices. How we sing, pray, read the Bible, meet, etc. is not the main point. The main point is to come to the Lord, opening our whole being to Him, so that He could enlighten, strengthen and fill us with Himself. If a practice helps more of the saints touch the Lord in spirit than the way we are practicing, then we will gladly change.

So, the most distinctive characteristic of the church in London is that we are pursuing the Lord.

How do you worship God?

We have various kinds of meetings, each with a different goal so not all our meetings are the same. The goal of the Lord's Table meeting is, first of all, to remember, thank, and praise the Lord for all that He is and has done for us. Secondly (in sequence, not importance) it is to worship and praise the Father who is the unseen source of all that is good and who sent the Son to be our Saviour. We do not encourage the saints (by which we mean believers in Christ, not a special class of believers) to bring unbelievers to that meeting.

Since the primary goal of the Lord's table is related to praise and worship instead of things like prayer or teaching (which are primary in other meetings) then the question becomes, "What kind of worship does God desire?" This is one of the most profound issues in the relationship of man with God. John 4:24 says that the Father seeks worship in spirit and reality but what does that mean? This relates to our view of man as well as of God.

We believe that a person is a living soul with a body outwardly to contact the physical world and a spirit inwardly to contact the spiritual world. So the spirit of man within him (Zech. 12:1) enables man to touch and experience the Lord. We believe that worship in spirit is not primarily a mental exercise because the mind is a part of the soul, not the spirit. Our spirit, the innermost part of our being, is where Christ dwells. Of course, His physical presence is at the right hand of the Father in the heavens but He also dwells in the spirits of His believers as the Spirit. So the Bible tells us that the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45); that the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17); that Christ dwells in us (2 Cor. 13:5); and that the Lord can be with our Spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). In fact, the spirit of a regenerated believer is mingled with the Spirit of the Lord as one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). As regenerated believers the Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

Christ also said that He is the reality (John 14:6). Thus we understand that real worship is Christ in our spirit worshipping Christ in the heavens with Christ as the reality. It is from Christ, through Christ, and unto Christ. We also feel that true worship springs out of our experience and enjoyment of Christ. If Christ is real and exciting to us then we feel that our worship should express our enjoyment and excitement. This is similar to the picture in the Old Testament where God's people worshipped Him through offering sacrifices to Him. With most of the sacrifices only a small part of the sacrifice was actually burned on the altar. The rest was for the enjoyment of the worshippers. Thus their worship was in their coming together to feast before the Lord.

When we are declaring the word of God, lines from hymns, etc. with repetition and even shouting we find that this helps us to get past our thoughts and feelings to touch the Lord in spirit. This is not much different in nature than a healthy practice of speaking in tongues in that both involve the exercise of the spirit. The difference is that speaking in tongues does not involve the mind (1 Cor. 14:14) but declaring the Lord's salvation and our responses to it helps us to set our mind on the spirit (Rom. 8:6).

Another characteristic of the Lord's Table meeting is that no one prepares a topic or direction for the meeting. We are trying to let the Spirit lead and to worship according to His leading. The way this happens (if we are successful) is that as some begin to pray or sing certain points in the prayer or song cause a response in others' spirit. Then the next one speaks, calls a song, etc. according to the anointing in his or her spirit. As each follows the Spirit in this way there should be a common thread in the meeting from beginning to end without anyone directing its flow. If someone would begin to do something that was a serious disturbance to the meeting then one of the elders or other mature saints would intervene. Otherwise, we feel it is better in the Lord's Table meeting for the mature saints to simply participate with all the rest in the praise and worship. This is very different from a meeting designated for preaching or teaching where someone is obviously setting the direction according to what the Lord has impressed upon him to share with the rest.

We agree that a believer needs to spend time with the Lord in which he or she quiets down so that the Lord can speak to the heart. We very much encourage a practice of spending times with the Lord praying and musing over His Word. Without a deep personal relationship with the Lord a Christian's spiritual life is only outward and shallow. But in the Lord's Table meeting we encourage all the believers to actively participate in expressing their enjoyment of the Lord. By the time everyone participates it can become quite repetitious but we believe that God likes to hear all our voices even if many of us are repeating what someone else has just spoken.

What kind of leadership does the church in London have?

Leadership is an important issue in the practice of the church life. Without leadership it is impossible for a group of people to work together to accomplish anything. Proper leadership is a great blessing for God's people but leadership that is impure or off track has the potential to lead many astray (Acts 20:29-30). Thus questions about leadership touch some very crucial issues.

We do not have any kind of organizational structure to keep churches in various cities in order. We believe that each church is responsible to the Lord (Rev. 2 & 3) and should be under the Lord's leading directly. In practical terms, the elders are the leading brothers of a local church. Their responsibility before God is to continually seek His will and to shepherd all the saints according to His leading (1 Pet. 5:1-4). We consider the words elders and overseers to refer to the same group of people. The word elder refers to his person and implies maturity in life. The word overseer refers to his function in the local church and implies leadership. Specifically, we do not consider these two titles to refer to two classes of leaders.

So an obvious question is, "How can a group of brothers find the Lord's leading?" As far as we know, the best way is through prayer and fellowship together. There are many things to take care of as the brothers are seeking to care for the church and lead it forward. So they need to bring these things to the Lord and then fellowship together about them. It is normal and healthy that they would feel somewhat differently at the beginning of the fellowship about a particular matter. Each one has his own knowledge of the truth, spiritual history with the Lord, depth of spiritual understanding, etc. Of course, each also has his own personality and disposition.

The brothers begin to openly express what they feel about the matter at hand. As a point is made there is a response in the others that either confirms or senses something wrong with it. On the one hand, no one should be so confident that his feeling is of the Lord that he insists on it. Any of us can mistake our own feelings and preferences for the Lord's leading. On the other hand, the elders should not proceed with a proposed action if one of them is uneasy about it. This is usually a sign that we have not fellowshipped thoroughly enough to find the Lord's leading. At the end of the fellowship someone usually sums up the fellowship and we decide who will take care of it.

There are a number of prerequisites for this kind of fellowship to actually reach the goal of finding the Lord's leading. All the ones involved must be spiritual, that is, they must know the senses of their spirit and the anointing of the Spirit in their spirit. They must all have the same spiritual goal fo the building up of the church. Then all of them must be open to both express what they feel and to let go of that feeling if it is not confirmed by the others. No one among the elders should dominate or be left out of the fellowship.

How are elders appointed?

We endeavor, as much as possible, to appoint elders according to the Spirit's leading. This means, first of all, that they are not appointed quickly. When a church is just beginning it is not apparent who the elders will be. It takes time for a person's life and ministry to demonstrate that he is qualified to lead God's people. So what are the qualities that demonstrate that a man is qualified to be an elder?

An elder must be apt to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9). This means that he must be able to minister life for the building up of the church. Cleverness or a high position in the world are of no value at all. He must have the spiritual insight and experience to minister life to all the saints to meet their needs.

An elder should not Lord it over the saints but rather cherish them with tender, loving care like a shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4). He should be able to guide and lead them like a father and nourish and support them like a mother.

His living should be an example to all the saints (1 Pet. 5:3; Heb. 13:7) so that when he ministers he is speaking out of experience. Even his family should be exemplary (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Tit. 1:6) showing that he has lead them well. Finally, an elder must be one who loves the Lord deeply. He should be endeavoring, through the Lord's mercy and grace, to perfect the saints to also love the Lord supremely.

A test that someone possesses the qualities of an elder is the consciences of all the saints. They should sense the Spirit's anointing in his ministry. Everyone should recognize the elders as the ones who have the genuine care for the church. If all the saints spontaneously look to someone for leadership this confirms that his leadership is of the Lord.

As a church grows and matures some of the brothers will gradually be manifested as the ones who are the most mature in the Lord, weighty in their fellowship, exercised in the care of the saints, etc. At that time an apostle (Titus 1:5) who is ministering to the churches in that area will name the elders and make the eldership official. By the way, we don't have any structure, organization or process to name apostles. But the one whose ministry has raised up and strengthened the churches in the area (1 Cor. 9:2) will function in that role for the churches. The churches honour a Christian worker as an apostle whose ministry is full of life and truth more than others.

This means that elders are not appointed by themselves, other elders, or by a vote of the members. The waiting for a period of years allows time for the real spiritual value of each one's labour to become evident to all. The confirmation of an apostle is to ensure, as much as possible, that those who are appointed to be elders of a local church are the ones the Lord has chosen.

How do you keep elders accountable to the body of the church in London and to each other?

The elders are accountable to the church, to each other, and most of all to the Lord. When they are healthy their love for all the saints under their care should cause them to continually seek the Lord's leading and speaking. At the same time their fear of God should prevent them from being careless or impure in their oversight over the saints. Nevertheless, people always have the capacity to fall into the snare of the evil one. Very often the devil will tempt anyone in a position of leadership with pride (1 Tim. 3:6). This can be a problem no matter how much you have grown in the Lord. If your life and ministry is truly spiritual then the Lord may bless it greatly. The devil will surely tempt you to turn your gaze from the Lord to the success of your work. That is when the question of accountability in leadership becomes very relevant.

The eldership should always be corporate, that is, there should be more than one elder. Thus, if one elder stumbles, hopefully the others can help him to recover. Also, the elders need to be open to the fellowship of all the saints. Every member should feel free to present their concerns to the elders even if it is about one of the other elders. If this is done with a proper spirit out of a love and concern for the church then the elders need to respect it and bring this matter to the Lord.

Eventually, however, there are times when all these ways to resolve a problem in the eldership fail. Then, either the other elders or some of the rest of the saints, need to bring this matter to the apostle who is ministering to the churches in the area. Eventually, if all else fails, he may need to remove one or more of the elders from their position.

Is there a general overseer or person responsible for keeping the churches of the various cities in order?

There is no organizational structure above the local churches. The one who is functioning as an apostle in an area will be the one that appoints the elders in the churches under his ministry. His ministry of the truth and spiritual leadership should also help the churches to grow and to keep on the right track but otherwise he does not control any of the affairs of the local churches. If an apostle becomes the one that is going off track then the churches will find that his ministry is not as helpful as before. There does not need to be any organizational procedure to deal with him because he wasn't in any kind of organizational position. It is simply that his leadership is no longer valued and respected by the churches.

In all these matters we seek to follow not just the teachings but also the patterns in the New Testament. There is no record that Paul directed any of the local affairs of a local church even though he exercised very much to help them spiritually. For instance, when all the saints in Asia turned away from Paul (2 Tim. 1:15) he had no organizational structure in place to try to bring them back into line. That would have brought his ministry into the realm of human politics. So also it is among us. If the saints and the elders in a local church want to distance themselves from the other churches then there is no organizational structure to stop them. Whatever tangible assets they have, like a meeting hall, are theirs alone.

Actually, the strongest tie among the churches is the mutual fellowship of life. To some extent each local church is different because the needs of the saints and the capacities of the leading brothers and sisters are also different. We care for spiritual unity, not outward uniformity. But if a church is going on well then other churches will naturally learn from it and seek to apply the same principles to their own situations. Just as the members of the body should be mutually adjusted by being blent together (1 Cor. 12:24), so also the churches are blent together by the fellowship among them.

You might be thinking that all this sounds too unstructured to ever work or to provide adequate protection against corruption but our experience is the opposite. When there is no organizational hierarchy then there is little opportunity for political corruption. The more all the saints, especially the elders and the workers, know how to interpret the anointing of the Spirit in their spirits, the better it works. We expect that the human leadership in and among the churches would simply be a channel for the Lord to be the real Leader.

Do the churches of the cities (e.g. London), connect at all with other denominations or do you mostly stick to yourselves and other churches of certain cities who have the same practices as you?

We rejoice when we can have fellowship with any believer in Christ and we encourage the saints to seek it. Nevertheless, we are not in favor of the organizational structures that maintain the divisions among God's people, so we do not generally get involved organizationally with them.

In the second part of your question you mentioned "other churches of certain cities who have the same practices as you". No doubt, when you came to one of our meetings you found some of the practices quite striking. Nevertheless, we try not to make issues about practices. If you attended a meeting of some of the other churches we are connected with you might find somewhat different practices. The important thing is that whenever we come together we touch, enjoy, experience, and / or are enlightened by the Lord. The practices, including the ways we pray, sing, read the Bible, exhort one another, etc. are merely the means to reach the goal. The goal is always something real of the Lord. We are willing to be flexible in our practices and often make changes to them so that our meetings do not degenerate into merely going through the motions of something everyone was already used to.

We have a little saying to remind ourselves not to be too concerned about outward things like practices. It is, "Variety, not uniformity; unity in variety". Thus, if you visited a number of churches, you would find that each is a little different according to the needs of the saints and the capacity of leadership. It is not that we try to be unique, rather we seek to learn from other churches. But we also consider that it is much better if each local church is seeking the Lord directly concerning its progress than for all to rely on some kind of central leadership. Of course, a significant part of seeking the Lord is the fellowship with other local churches, but that is to help find the Lord's leading, not to replace it.

What do you do to unite believers in your church? Is there a time for fellowship at or after church?

We consider the church to be much more than simply believers meeting together. So we use a phrase, 'church life', to refer to our practical living. Assembling together for various kinds of meetings is an important part of the church life but so are things like serving together, contacting one another in our daily lives, giving and receiving hospitality, and helping one another practically.

We very much encourage fellowship among the saints. Every Saturday we have supper together before the evening meeting. Once a month we also have a pot luck dinner together after the Lord's day morning meeting. When the weather permits we go to a park together about once a month. In addition to these scheduled times many of the saints have others in their homes for a meal several times a week. In addition to these opportunities for local fellowship, there are a good number of times every year when saints from more than one locality get together for a conference or other event. We try to take care of the practical arrangements as much as possible through giving and receiving hospitality. This provides opportunity for fellowship with saints from other localities.

All this time together has helped to keep a homey and pleasant atmosphere among the saints. This is not a small thing considering the racial, cultural and language diversity of the saints who meet with us.

What are your outreaches to unsaved people? What is your main idea about this?

The church in London is quite active in gospel outreach. The majority of the people who are now meeting with us were saved through the gospel preaching of our members. We consider the willingness and effectiveness of its members to preach the gospel to be two of the signs of the healthiness of a local church. So, from time to time we provide gospel training to the saints, especially in how to help someone receive the Lord. Then we encourage the saints to speak to others wherever they are and to invite people into their homes to make opportunities to share something of the gospel with them.

We also encourage the young people to speak to their friends about the Lord and to bring them to young people's meetings and activities. It has been our joy to watch some of them develop a love for others and a habit of speaking to people about the Lord. Our university students were on campus every week of the past school year singing hymns, handing out Christian literature, and speaking to people.

One thing we used to do but have not found to be as effective as we would like is to have large gospel meetings where we invite many people to come. When we did that some people would respond in the meeting but afterwards there didn't seem to be enough of a relationship with them to be able to help them further. When someone receives the gospel through one on one sharing they are likely to be receptive to receive more from the one who introduced them to Christ. This might seem like the slow way but we have found it more effective in the long run.

What is your belief about prayer in your church? Do you ever have time to pray corporately together (at church or another location)? Do you ever lift up particular people in prayer in your church during the meetings?

Prayer is an indispensable part of both the Christian life and the church life. There is much more to it than simply petitioning God for the things we want even though that is an important aspect of both our individual and corporate prayer. So, to answer the last question first, we encourage asking God for specific things and people. How else can one gain the encouragement and strengthening of one's faith that comes from seeing God answer your prayer?

Prayer is crucial both to our relationship with God and to His move on the earth. Thus there are too many important principles and aspects related to prayer to cover in a brief note. In this note I will only provide a sketch of our practices without attempting to touch other aspects of this important subject. We encourage three kinds of prayer on an individual level. The kind that would be most familiar is to pray to God for people, events, needs, concerns, etc. Besides praying to God whenever one is aware of a need, we encourage the saints to have a specific time each day to pray consistently in this way. In addition, we encourage everyone to spend another time each day, not to ask God for things, but simply to open one's heart to Him and spend time with Him. In this time one can pray using a few verses, sing, call on the Lord's name, etc. This is for building a personal relationship with the Lord and for nourishing our spiritual life. Finally, we encourage talking inwardly to the Lord all day long, involving Him in all aspects of your life. This is to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17).

We do have a prayer meeting each week where, in addition to praying for specific people and needs, we strive to stand with God for His interest and move on the earth. We feel that it is important for the church not just to care for people but to declare its stand with God and against His enemy. Prayer is a normal part of our meetings, especially our home and small group meetings. Also, when we serve together (which we consider the preferred way to take care of the practical needs), we encourage the saints not to simply work to get things done, but to spend time to pray and go over some material together as well.

Finally, we do not use a prayer book or anything prepared ahead of time for any of our prayer. We believe that prayer should come from one's heart, not merely from one's lips.

Do you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in your meetings, and if so, what's it like for you (experience)?

We do sense the presence and moving of the Spirit in our meetings. In fact, we consider that there is something wrong if we don't sense the Spirit in a meeting. The reason we can be so definite about this matter is that endeavor to practice to worship God according to His word in John 4:24, "God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truthfulness." I think all believers should know that God is Spirit; that is the first Spirit in this verse, i.e. the one with the capital "S". But the second time the word "spirit" occurs in this verse it has a small "s" indicating our human spirit.

When God created man He formed a spirit within him (Zech. 12:1). It is in our spirit that the Lord dwells within us (2 Cor. 13:5, 2 Tim. 4:22). When we are joined to the Lord through regeneration we are even made one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). Thus, to sense the Spirit the most straightforward way is to exercise our human spirit. Our human spirit is the deepest part of our being so it can be very mysterious but when we open to the Lord with our whole being, spontaneously our spirit is also exercised. So when we pray, sing, or read the Bible we like to do it with our whole being, not just our mind or emotions. This enables us to touch our spirit and thus to sense the living, moving, shining, and speaking of the Holy Spirit.

How do you stand on the 5 fold ministry as described in Ephesians 4:11?

Ephesians is a book on the church, especially the church as the body of Christ. In 4:11 we see the ascended Head of the body giving gifts to the body. This verse mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers. These gifted persons have been given to the body so that they could perfect the rest of the saints (vs. 12) to do what they do so that all could have a share in the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ (vs. 16). The gifted persons have important roles but if they are the only ones functioning then the body cannot be strong and healthy.

Where do you stand on the women issue with regards to functioning in the Body of Christ?

The church as the body of Christ is mainly a matter of life. In terms of life the role of the sisters is at least as important as that of the brothers, probably more so. The body can only be healthy when each part functions according to the operation and in the measure that has been given to it by the Head. But that does not mean that the roles of the brothers and the sisters are the same in every respect. We are well aware that some have used the teaching concerning authority in the scriptures to oppress and suppress women. We are absolutely not for that. Nevertheless, we believe that if the body is healthy then some of the brothers will provide the leadership in the church.

In the answers to this and the previous question I have been speaking of the body in terms of its local expression in a local church, not in terms of the universal Body of Christ. To us the universal church, the Body of Christ, is something divine and mystical without any human organization or control. It is headed up and supplied by the Lord Himself through the operation of the Spirit. But locally the Body is expressed as a local church which needs to have some amount of leadership and administration. So the elders of the church need to do their best to care for and supply all the saints. If they do well the whole church will be very much blessed by the Lord.

When do you meet on Sunday and would I be welcome to come?

We have 2 meetings on Sundays. At 10:00 we have the Lord's Table. If you have personally received the Lord Jesus as your Saviour then you are welcome to participate with us. At 11:00 we have a time of ministry and then break up into groups to review and discuss what was shared. You are very welcome to come for that time as well. The directions and phone numbers are on our Contact Us page.

Having said that, our suggestion would be to meet together in a home before you come to the meetings at the meeting hall. That way you could ask questions and get to know us a little bit first. To be perfectly honest, we encourage active participation of every member. This makes our meetings quite different from most traditional Christian services. We are not trying to be different but we are trying to bring each attendant into a living touch with the Lord in each meeting. The meetings consist of the same things as Christian meetings everywhere: prayer, singing, Bible reading, preaching, testifying, etc. but are louder and more lively than many Christians are used to.

My own experience is that I was bothered by the "Amen"s the first time I came to such a meeting but as I listened to the sharing the Lord Himself was speaking in my heart. Soon I was participating in and enjoying the meetings very much. The Lord was more living and real to me than He had been except for a few times since I got saved. This, not anyone's convincing, changed some of my concepts about Christian meetings and worship.

Questions from Young Sisters
What is the purpose of marriage?

God made people male and female with the intention that we would get married. He made man male and female. Sometimes young people think , “If I follow the Lord and I just care for the Lord, I’ll never get married.” This isn’t true. God’s intention in the normal case for most of us is that we would get married. So He made us with that kind of capacity and with the intention that we would be fruitful and multiply. Of course, this verse applies even the more spiritually, but it also applies physically. The Lord intended that men and women get married and have a family. Our marriages to become couples is a picture of the universal couple--God and His corporate bride. This is part of His plan for our lives individually. So you don’t have to worry or be concerned that if we follow the Lord, we’ll never get married and we’ll never be happy. That’s not true. The Lord’s desire for us is that eventually we would be part of a stable family. 
    Genesis 1:27-28 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” So marriage is something ordained by God and it also is ordained by God to be between a man and a woman, not like today’s society where people cast off all restraint related to marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman and it is life long as long as they both shall live. 
    A healthy marriage relationship is crucial for the church life. A healthy family is something precious. The reason for wanting to cover this topic with you all is that eventually you would be ready for and entering into a healthy family life. there’s nothing more crucial for the Lord’s testimony of the church than healthy, strong families. A single person can have a great amount of freedom. That is a very big advantage for some callings of the Lord. For instance, the Lord called the apostle Paul. He traveled almost constantly from the time the Lord called him to go out. The Lord sent him forth in the gospel. From that point on, Paul never settled down in a church to be just one of the saints in the church life. He was an apostle traveling and raising up churches but not settled down as a member of a church. From then on, he spent his whole life traveling. That he was single made that a lot easier. So sometimes the Lord would call some to serve Him in that way. But for the church to be established the Lord needs more who would be settled down in marriage with its restrictions. Once you are married, you are not that free. And once you have children, you are even the more not that free. So families tend to be stable. It is more difficult fo a family to move than for a single person. This means that the stability of the churches relies on the families. For instance, if there is a church where almost all of the saints are young people in college, then four years later, that church may disappear. If there’s no increase and all the college students graduate, then that church may disappear. Families are important to the Lord and to the church life. 
    Healthy families are also a great testimony to the world because in the world families are dysfunctional. You should know that from your friends at school. It’s not that common for a couple to have a good marriage even humanly speaking. 

 

What is it that makes for a good, happy and healthy marriage?

What is it that makes for a good, happy and healthy marriage? It’s not a matter of good fortune; it’s not a matter of luck. “I found the right one.” It’s also not a matter of falling in love. The world would say that as long as you love one another, everything’s OK. Actually, what the world calls falling in love is something physical. When we begin to focus our intentions, thoughts, imaginations and dreams on one person, this begins to release a hormone called oxytocin in our body. This hormone makes us feel really good. I don’t know if you have fallen in love. Hopefully, the married ones have. Lots of young people do this all the time. They go out with someone and they give their hearts to someone. In that giving of their hearts, that hormone kicks in and it makes you feel really good. This is what the world calls love. One issue of the Time magazine had a set of articles on “The Chemistry of Love”. It was talking about this hormone. This hormone makes us feel wonderful. But the problem is that the effect of this hormone doesn’t last. At the most it lasts two years. In your whole life time you only have one supply of this. After having been exposed to this hormone for two years, its effects wear off and you don’t have that kind of feeling anymore. Another thing about that hormone is that it can be triggered by just about anyone we focus our attention on. While dating, it is very common for young people to fall in love with one person, the begin to fight, and then fall in love with someone else and repeat the cycle. Don’t believe the Hollywood myth. Feelings based on oxytocin are totally unreliable. 
         A healthy marriage cannot just be based on “falling in love”. In a good, healthy marriage, the couple would begin that way. They would give themselves to one another, enjoy one another, spend time with one another, and enjoy that wonderful feeling of being in love. But that cannot be the only basis for their marriage. That doesn’t work. By the time the two years are up, the feeling that everything is wonderful is gone. While under the effect of oxytocin, things that would otherwise irritate us don’t bother us at all. This is why people say that love is blind. If the relationship is only based on that, it is going to be in trouble within two years. So the first spike in the statistics for divorces is at the two year point in marriages when this feeling wears off. Some people in the world think, “I don’t love him anymore. Something’s wrong. I need to find someone else.” They get divorced. Oh Lord Jesus. Anyways, that feeling of being in love, if it is part of the beginning of a marriage, makes the beginning of the marriage a real honeymoon. On the other hand, if we give our hearts to this one and that one before we are ready for marriage, by the time we get married, we can’t even fall in love again. We’ve lost something.

How can we keep the feeling of being in love after we get married?

Lasting love is not based on any kind of chemistry, but on respect and appreciation. So when a couple has been through things together, have sacrificed for one another, and have paid the price to make their relationship work, eventually their appreciation for one another grows and their respect for one another grows. This produces a solid foundation for their love. The Lord’s love is sacrificial. He sacrificed everything for us. Human love is selfish. It is neither real or lasting. Only when we allow the Lord come into our relationship and be the basis of our love, can it be trustworthy. This is Linda’s and my testimony. We have been together for 37 years. We went through things and our relationship was not always wonderful, but eventually, we learned to really love one another, really appreciate one another, and really respect one another. So our relationship, our love is stronger now than ever before. The Hollywood love is not based on this. It is just based on that chemistry. It is not the real thing. Chemistry love is just a feeling produced by a hormone that wears off. Real love is something solid. 
    Respect and appreciation can keep on growing. We can earn them. Respect isn’t something we can demand of others. It’s not something given out of duty. We earn the respect of our spouse. We earn the appreciation of our spouse, or not. It grows especially when you realize that the person you married has treated you better than you deserved. Then your respect for your spouse expands tremendously; your appreciation expands tremendously. When you get married, you are going to find out what this other person is really like. You will find out quickly. I have been in the church life for a long time. I have many stories of real situations that I have witnessed. I wouldn’t tell a story if I thought you had any chance of figuring out who it was. But anyways, one sister I know got married to a brother who had been in the church life together with her for a good number of years. They had gone to college together and eventually, after graduating and getting jobs, they got married. The day after she got married, she got really disappointed because the day after they got married, her husband relaxed and became his normal self. Before that, when they were alone together he was courting. She expected their marriage life to be like courting and she blamed him. She said, “The day after we got married, he changed.” In a sense he did, but in another sense he didn’t. He just relaxed and became what he normally was. Sorry to say, every man is a fallen sinner. Every woman is too, right. One day you will be intimately related to a man and you will get to know him inside out. You will see and you will get to know all his faults. It took this sister a long time. Even though they never separated, it took her quite a few years before she accepted her husband the way he was. Then, when she did that, their relationship became better and improved. Then she became happy.
    I never asked her husband, but I think that she likely also changed the day after they got married. If she was like many women, she enjoyed his attention and let him arrange their times together while they were courting. But it is quite common for a woman to not only to do things her own way, but also start trying to teach her husband how to do things. Instead of trusting their husbands, women tend to take control, trying to make everything, including their husbands, the way they want. They think that if everything is the way they want, they will be happy. What they don’t realize is that their constant instructing, correcting, and reminding of mistakes amounts to treating their husbands as if they were little boys and they were their mothers. What is the natural response of a husband to this kind of treatment? “If my wife always thinks that she knows better, then she can do it.” The more controlling she becomes, the less incentive he will have to do anything, and even to be at home. In this kind of situation, a wife is making herself the head and thus overthrowing the headship of both her husband and of Christ. I have even seen where a mother made her little daughter the head and insisted that the whole family do whatever the little girl wished. 
    Of course, a husband has his share in bringing Christ’s headship into a home by seeking the Lord in all things, sacrificing himself for his family, and loving them with God’s unconditional love. But what if he is far, far short of that? How can a wife bring Christ’s headship into the home and family relationships? Simply by doing what the Bible says, by taking her husband as her head. If she is trusting and vulnerable, he will want to be protective, caring and loving. When a wife gives her husband respect, she is helping him to be respectable. When she honors her husband as her head, she is helping him to honor Christ as his head.
    Anyways, we can’t expect or even demand that someone treat us better than we deserve but we can treat them better than they deserve. When we do that, eventually, especially for the man, sooner or later he will realize and he will begin to love and appreciate his wife more than you could even hope for. This is my testimony. I was not that nice to my wife and I expected things and demanded things. This went on for some years until one day the Lord did show me that she was treating me better than I deserved. When I realized that I repented to the Lord and I changed my attitude to my wife and that made such a tremendous difference in our marriage. I think later on, she would probably have the same realization toward me. So this is something mutual but it has to start with someone. 

 

What can a wife do to make her marriage work?

Building Your House

    So the next point is that the wife plays a greater role in making the marriage a happy marriage than her husband. So very often, it’s the wife who determines whether the marriage is a happy one or not. Partly it’s because the marriage relationship is more important to her than to him. Because she expects more out of the marriage and out of the relationship than he does, then she becomes unhappy when he’s not living up to her expectations. This is very typical of a married couple. They become unhappy because the wife becomes unhappy. The husband wants her to be happy. He likes to do things that make her happy but he is what he is and it’s not everything that she expects, so she becomes unhappy. Because she’s unhappy, she takes it out on her husband and then it goes from bad to worse. 
    Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” Oh Lord Jesus. Actually, her tearing down her house is by tearing down her husband every time she’s upset with him. Part of the male nature is to want to be the hero, to want to be noble. Of course, men and boys are not heros, they’re just fallen sinners, but they want to be. When a wife is upset with her husband, a very natural reaction is to nag at him, to blame him, and to condemn him. She is actually tearing him down. He is feeling worse and worse. But this feeling worse does not help him in any way. It just makes him feel bad, so then he is going to react. The typical reaction of a man is anger. The typical reaction of a woman who gets frustrated is tears but for a man it’s anger. So that makes it even worse. This is what happens as marriages get in trouble. One sister told me that when she was angry with her husband she would call him names and accuse him of terrible things, much worse than was really true. She was just angry. She was just venting her emotions. Eventually she realized that he was becoming like she was speaking. He was going in the direction of the things she was accusing him of. When she realized that, she changed her attitude toward her husband; she changed her speaking about her husband and her words to her husband. When she changed to speak well of him, he changed in his living. Her speaking affected him that much. When she was accusing him, venting her emotions without any restraint, it was tearing him down. But when she turned and spoke highly of him, he turned. That was building him up and building up her family and her house. So as the female, you have this kind of effect on your husband. 

Marriage Requires Sacrifice
    The next point is about being ready for marriage. Being ready for marriage is to be ready to sacrifice and forgive without keeping score. It is so natural for us to think of a marriage as a fifty, fifty relationship. I give in and he gives in so we both give in to one another and we both sacrifice for one another. It doesn’t work that way. When we have that kind of attitude, we will soon feel like, “I have to keep giving in and he never gives in.” Of course that is not true, but that’s how we begin to feel. So we are keeping score. As soon as we keep score, we always feel like we’re losing. If both are keeping score on one another, both will feel like they are being mistreated; both will become unhappy. The more they become unhappy, the more they blame the other person and take it out on the other person and soon they are making each other very miserable. They are making miserable the very one whom they expect to make them happy. The wife makes her husband miserable. It doesn’t make sense, that the wife would expect her husband to make her happy when she is making him miserable. But this is a natural response; when we’re not happy, we make the others around us also unhappy. 
    On the other hand, if we can sacrifice without keeping score, just giving 100%, not expecting anything back, sooner or later, the husband would realize that his wife is giving him way beyond what he deserves and he would turn. I don’t think it is humanly possible to give to this extent. We need to realize that the Lord is giving us way beyond what we deserve, that His forgiveness, His love, and His mercy to us is way beyond what we deserve. When we touch the Lord’s love, grace and mercy, then we can have this kind of attitude toward even toward our spouse. So it takes maturity. A sister told me as she was getting divorced while still a teenager, “We just didn’t give ourselves time to grow up.” That was true. She had told her parents, “When I turn 16, I am going to get married. If you want to come, you can come. If you don’t want to come, I am going to get married anyway.” She did get married the weekend after her sixteenth birthday. Within a month or so, she regretted. Some time within the next 3 years, she got divorced. That was a very hard lesson, but it happened to her. So we need to be mature to be able to sacrifice for someone else. To give in continually, takes a level of maturity. Is this too hard? This is the way life is. We cannot escape. 

What is wrong with dating while we are young?

    Dating before one is ready for marriage is actually a damage to a future marriage. While we are young we have to face the matter of dating. I highly recommend the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. When I recommended that book, many brothers were eager to get that book and read it, but only a couple sisters. I found this interesting. It seems like the sisters were not eager to read something like that. So, what happens if we enter into a relationship, starting to date and falling in love. If it leads to an early marriage like the one I just described, that marriage is likely doomed. Just to be in love will not make the marriage successful. It takes maturity. If we were in a society where life is a constant struggle, where from little we had to work and suffer in order to eat every day, that would make us all grow up. By the time we became teenagers, we may already be mature. But in this society, we don’t face that kind of struggle. So to be able to sacrifice takes longer. This is why a premature marriage is likely doomed. There is usually nothing anyone can do to help the people involved to make it work. However, a premature relationship does not usually lead to marriage. The two end up separating, one dumping the other. Both end up hurt because they gave their hearts to one another and eventually when it falls apart, they get very hurt. If this is repeated, and it often is, falling in love with someone, breaking up, doing it again with someone else, it becomes a pattern. Eventually, they get married with someone. Soon they begin to fight, argue and become unhappy. They have already established the pattern in their lives of ending relationships when things get tough. Part of the reason for so many divorces is that people establish that kind of pattern in their life even before they get married. 
    The other thing that a premature relationship can lead to is fornication, sex outside of marriage. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” When I was young, I didn’t understand this verse. What does it mean to sin against your own body? When I was young, fornication wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. The fact that fornication is so common also means that sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, spreading everywhere throughout the world. So if we enter into fornication, we are sinning against our own body, often with the consequence of getting a serious and deadly disease. There are billions of dollars spent on research concerning these kinds of diseases, but still there is no cure. At school there has been a practice of teaching about “safe sex", encouraging the use of condoms. Condoms are not that safe. When Linda and I were first married, we wanted to defer having a family for a little, we were told that we should use some other birth control method along with condoms because they are not that safe in terms of preventing pregnancy. If they are not safe for preventing pregnancy, they are certainly not safe for preventing the spread of disease. Real safe sex is when a man and a woman have each other as their only partner for their whole lives. That way there is no spread of a sexually transmitted disease into their marriage. One statistic that I heard recently is that one in four teenage girls have a sexually transmitted disease because fornication is so common. One thing we might think is: “God will protect me. I don’t have to worry.” That’s not true. God does not protect His children from the consequences of their sins. Actually, a son of God who commits sin is much more likely to suffer the consequences sooner. God often judges the sin right away, usually with the natural consequences of that sin which in this case would be one of those diseases. 

Why is how we dress so important?

    First Timothy 2:9 says, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” God has made women beautiful. Every woman is beautiful. It is proper to a certain extent for a woman to beautify herself, take care of her appearance, not be sloppy, and have an attractive appearance. But there is a limit, especially in the matter of how much your clothing shows off your body. Men have lust, especially lust for sex. It is not that evil men are lustful and good men are not. This is part of the male nature. The male nature includes lust. A proper man restricts it. He doesn’t give occasion for his lust. He tries to avoid situations that would stir up that lust. But many men in the world pursue and feed their lust. This kind of reaction is different between men and women. A man seeing a female body that’s quite exposed or revealed by tight clothing is stirred up, sexually aroused. The only thing I can think of that would produce a similar natural response in a female is a tender, loving caress. This would cause a kind of feeling. When women are dressed inappropriately, not modestly, they are doing that to the men who see them. So when a woman dresses to show off her body, she is participating in the fornication in heart with all the men who lust after her. Thus, it is a serious offense to the Lord and to other saints for a sister to wear clothes that are too tight or too revealing. 
    One young sister told me that her high school art class included posing nude as a model for the other students to paint. My face must have betrayed my surprise because she told me, “You need to have a mature attitude toward the human body!” No doubt, that was what the teacher had told them before this part of the course. Don’t be fooled; art, even with a “mature attitude”, does not make it acceptable to expose your body before others. Nudity is a very popular part of art because of people’s lusts, not for any other reason. The only affects that I can see in teaching about a “mature attitude” are to soothe the consciences of the girls and to restrict the boys from speaking their thoughts while in the class. By posing that way, that sister was making herself a subject of the boys lusts. I didn’t know any of the boys in her class, but I know how high school boys talk about girls’ bodies. If the sister had heard their speaking after class, she would have been disgusted, ashamed, and probably a little afraid. The talk among some of the boys when I was in high school would have produced those reactions and no one can convince me that high school boys today are more mature and respectful than they were back then. 
    Except for medical care, uncovering one’s body for someone else to view is a level of intimacy that needs to be reserved for one’s future husband or wife (Gen. 2:25). Except in that relationship, sin has made exposing our bodies shameful. That was the very first feeling of Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; then they tried to cover themselves. Before God, we need Christ as our covering; before others, we need clothes that cover, not expose the body. Especially for young women, modesty is a very important and attractive virtue. How can you expect someone to one day consider you and your body his special treasure if you have been displaying it in the worldly market of cheap thrills?

Lust is Dangerous
    Lust is dirty, defiling and also very hard to control once someone has begun to indulge it. It is like a monster within; if you feed it, it grows. Many rich people get ensnared by it because their wealth makes it easy for them to do whatever they want. They indulge their lusts, first in small ways but soon more and more to their own downfall. Anyways, there are many men in the world and even some believers who have indulged their lust for sex to the point that they are liable to do anything. The monster within has grown to the point that it has made a monster out of the person. A woman who dresses to make a show of her body is taking a risk that such a man would begin to watch her and focus his lustful desires and fantasies on her. This is very dangerous for her but she could easily have avoided that risk by dressing more modestly.
    Of course, sexual lust is not the only kind of lust. People get caught by lust for clothes, for things, for adventure, for prestige, for fame, for power, for all kinds of things. Many of the things are legitimate; for instance, we need clothes. But when we become consumed with wanting to always have better or more fashionable clothes than others, we have been taken over by lust. Many women feed their lust with fashion magazines, with wanting to be admired. This can end up making them also monsters capable of being vicious against someone they view as a threat.

Be Careful Not to Stir Up Lust
    Matthew 5:28 says, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery is when you have sex with someone other than your spouse when you are married. It is the same as fornication. It is outside of God’s restriction. When a woman dresses to stir up men’s lust, she is being an active participant with all the men who look at her lustfully. This is part of what the Bible calls lasciviousness. If a woman is dressed modestly and men lust after her anyways, that is their sin. But if she is dressed to stir up their lust, she is participating with them. Sometimes sisters get angry when we talk about dress. One sister rejected and became angry when the brothers tried to talk to her about her manner of dressing. She said, “It’s their problem. It’s not my problem.” She was dressing quite inappropriately. Eventually she got married and had daughters. Those daughters had the same kind of attitude as their mother, but even worse. Their Christian lives, as far as I know, never went on in their relationships with the Lord. If a mother has the attitude, “I don’t care what the Bible says. I don’t care what the bothers say. I don’t care what the Spirit says in my heart. I am going to dress the way I want to dress.”, that kills her spiritual life and especially kills the spiritual lives of her daughters. 
    Some women show off their bodies to attract a husband. They want to get married and they know that men are attracted to the female body, so they show it off to get a husband. This backfires. First of all, men don’t respect a woman like that. They may be attracted, their lust may be stirred up, and some would pursue her to satisfy their lust, not for a proper relationship. If someone who was advertising sex does get married, that is what the husband she attracted is going to expect and demand. That is why he got married to her. If he was a proper man, respecting his wife, he would not have picked a wife like that. He would have picked one that he could respect. 
    One young sister came to me. She was very upset. Her dad had called her a dirty word for prostitute while they were arguing about how she was dressing. She was really upset that he would call her that. What she didn’t realize was that the way she was dressing was more provocative than the way the prostitutes were dressing when her dad was her age. When he was a teenager, he saw the prostitutes as evil women. Now his daughter was following the fashion of the age and dressing in a more provocative way than the prostitutes did thirty years earlier. Oh Lord Jesus. We cannot just go along with the age of the world. This young sister also did not take the word about dating. It wasn’t that long afterwards that she became pregnant because the guys around her were thinking about only one thing. She got into a situation—I don’t know the details but I know the result. Then after she had her child, she came to me wanting help to find a husband. It was really hard. The brothers in the church life mostly expect a bride that is pure, not one that already has a child. 
    You all heard the testimony recently of a young couple here. The brother was attracted to that sister because she was not forward. She kept her distance and that became attractive to him. That kind of reserve becomes very attractive to a proper man. She was not cold and nasty but having a reserve even when being friendly is very attractive to a man. The opposite is also true. Men despise women who engage in fornication. Some men seek women who will gratify their lust, but they will despise them afterward. Even when a couple is already engaged, if the bride to be gives all to her fiancé before the wedding day, she will lose his respect. Men respect purity. They respect a woman who keeps her virginity until her wedding day. 
    Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” A pure heart is one that is wholly for the Lord. Anything else is not pure. When we are living for ourselves, that is not a pure heart. If we can trust the Lord regarding our future marriage, in this matter which is so personal, intimate, and so much a part of our dreams as a young person, then we can really go on with the Lord. What He has for us is the best. Whatever He has for us is the best. We just need to give ourselves to Him. What He has for us is much better than what we think will make us happy. Keeping ourselves pure doesn’t mean that we never talk to the boys. But we should avoid situations that would define us as a couple. We should avoid being overly close and intimate with one. Neither should we be loose and flirtatious with everyone. We should just be normal, talking, being around, playing games but in a group setting, not with one particular person so that there is something between the two of you. This will keep us from getting involved. Later on when we are ready to get married, then definitely we should have our eyes open. Even then, we should not start dreaming about being with someone whom we find attractive and thus falling in love and totally miss what he is really like until the day after we are married. If we are loose in our relationships with others, we will regret it. 
    Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” If we sow to the flesh, we will suffer. There is no avoiding it. The author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye tells his experience of when he and his future wife were attracted to one another and began to get serious. She had something she had to tell him. The sat alone in the corner of a restaurant and she had to tell him that she was no longer a virgin. She had to tell him that because he was going to find out if they got married. If she didn’t tell him before then, there could have been a really ugly scene on their wedding night. He might have held on to resentment for a long time. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to tell the one she hoped to marry that she was no longer a virgin. I really respect her for allowing him to tell that story in his book. She did that with the hope that some others would take heed to the warning and not need to go through the same experience. That was the consequence of something she had done before she was saved. We need to be aware that if we get involved in something, even though it seems thrilling and exciting at the time, and if we have fallen in love, it may even seem so wonderful, but eventually there are consequences. I think you can understand how hard that evening was for her. Here was a man that she was hoping to marry and she had to tell him that she was not a virgin. She didn’t know how he would respond. He responded the best she could hope for, with understanding and forgiveness. That was really hard and she was taking a risk but she had to do it. 

Can we get married with someone from another denomination?

    The short answer is that we can get married with whomever we want to, but there can be different results. If we marry an unbeliever, not only are we going against the Bible (2 Cor. 6:14), we are likely asking for trouble. If we marry someone who shares our views and has the same heart and spirit as we do, then we have a good foundation on which to build a healthy relationship. My wife and I have been serving the Lord together our whole married life. Whatever I would do in terms of serving the Lord, she supports me. I appreciate this very much. So it’s not really a matter of denomination. The Lord does not honor denominations at all. But it is a matter of having the same view and desire about the things that are the most important to us in our life. The more we share these things, the easier it will be. I would pray a lot, especially if I felt the Lord was leading me to someone that does not meet with us. If we marry someone from a denomination, we will need to deal with different views and teachings. This can lead to many difficulties. Marriage is difficult enough because we ourselves are complicated and need transformation. Why would we choose a relationship that has added difficulties?

Has the Lord given us the hormones that give us the feeling of falling in love? If so, why is it bad to allow these hormones to overtake us?

It’s not bad. The Lord gave them to us so that we could enjoy them. But the Lord has established a restriction for our protection. That is that we should only have one partner for our whole lives. This means that we should save our feelings for the proper person at the proper time, the time when we are about to get married. If we save our hormones, which means to save our heart, feelings and affections for when we get married, then our feelings can flow to their natural conclusion which is to have sex. Giving ourselves to each other in marriage can be the highlight and expression of a loving relationship. But if we allow these hormones to run wild with us and fall in love when we are not ready for it, when we are not ready for marriage, they become a major frustration. If we want to be true to the Lord, we can’t let them flow to their natural conclusion. We end up frustrated and when it eventually breaks up, we end up deeply hurt. At the proper time when we are getting married, definitely we should let our heart go and we should enjoy being together with our future partner and then our partner. That is the time to enjoy what the Lord has given us to enjoy. If we fall in love beforehand, we have used up the hormones. We won’t be able to have the same feelings for the start of our marriage. We need to flee situations which will trigger the hormone production until we are about to enter into marriage.

Is the foundation of a good marriage Christ and His love?

    Oh Lord Jesus. Christ is the real love. However, even both loving Christ is no guarantee of a happy marriage. Marriage is very practical. The personalities, characters, and family backgrounds of both husband and wife will affect their relationship. If we can pursue the Lord with our spouse when we get married and help each other to pursue the Lord, this is wonderful. But typically, our marriage relationship somewhat frustrates our pursuit of the Lord. This is more common. We have to get through in that because this other person is different than me. When I am feeling one way, he is feeling another and visa versa. 

Am I committing fornication by touching the brothers?

Not exactly. Fornication is to have sex. But when a sister touches a brother or when a woman touches a man—this is not a spiritual matter—it is like he got zapped. When the brothers bump into one another playing sports, there is no feeling inside. But when a sister just touches one of them, it as if he got zapped. This is part of our chemistry and touch stirs up that chemistry. So I definitely recommend not touching the brothers and not letting them touch you either. Touching is like striking a match. If you don’t want to get burned, don’t play with matches.
    Anyways, we should understand the Biblical words clearly. Fornication is having sex when one is not married. Adultery is having sex with someone other than your spouse when you are married. Both are sinful. Homosexual relationships are also sinful. It was especially because of those that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone (burning sulphur) (Gen. 19:4-5; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). Lasciviousness is shamelessness. It includes dressing or behaving in a way to stir up lust in others. It is the opposite of modesty. Licentiousness means lacking legal or moral restraints, especially disregarding sexual restraints. Incest means to have sex with a member of your family. All these works of the flesh offend God and damage our person.
    Words such as fornication which relate to sexual impurity are no longer part of the common vocabulary of the world because the trend of the world is to deny that there is anything wrong with any kind of sexual activity between consenting adults. However, God is not that loose. He ordained sex to be an integral part of a healthy marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Sex at any other time or any other kind of sex is an offense to the pure God who is able to wait until His wife has made herself ready (Rev. 19:7). Of course, even then His relationship with His people is spiritual, not physical. But in the mean time, He wants His people to also be pure. 

 

Can a young brother and sister be just friends?

Recently I was asked a couple questions concerning relationships. One question was whether is was OK for a young brother and sister to be together occasionally in a social setting as "just friends". The other question was whether Linda and I were happily married. I tried to answer the questions as well as I could and I thought that others might be interested in the answers. So here are the answers (with personal references removed).

About boy/girl relationships as we call it, we do have some definite feelings based on our experience and observations. I understand that you are not asking about a relationship, simply about doing something as friends. But I think it is better if I try to answer your question in the context of our view for the young people in general.

In Canadian society it is very common for teenagers to form deep emotional relationships, i.e. to fall in love. In our view, this is almost always a mistake because there is rarely a good ending. The most common ending is that after a time they get offended with one another and break up, only to repeat the cycle with someone else. This is preparation for divorce, not for a lasting commitment to one partner. The other outcomes are usually even worse because very few teenagers are ready for the sacrifices and selflessness needed to build a lasting relationship. One Christian young person who got married and divorced while still a teenager told me, "We didn't give ourselves time to grow up."

In the care for the high schoolers we have also observed that they are often reluctant to exercise their spirit strongly around those of the opposite sex. They are too self conscious. When we have separate meetings and camps for the brothers and sisters everyone seems to be much more open and less distracted.

By college age things are different. The young people have experienced more of the Lord and are not as concerned about what others think so we have meetings and activities with everyone together. We feel that it is important that they are together in normal situations and activities. However, we still encourage them to wait to enter into a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

The Lord has made most of us so that we need a marriage relationship and a family life. But before entering into that we should apply the principle in 1 Corinthians 7 and give our heart to the Lord alone. For most of us, the only stage of life when we can be free to give all our time and hearts to the Lord is when we have just finished our education. We can go wherever the Lord would lead with very few distractions or complications. As soon as we begin to be interested in someone special, things begin to change and once we get married life will never be the same again. At the right time the Lord will lead us into this. A strong church is built with healthy families. But the very same freedom that allows an unattached person to go anywhere according to the Lord's leading means that he or she may not be in one place long enough to build up something solid for the Lord.

My point is, we are only young once. While we are young, why not enjoy being relatively free from the responsibilities and cares of life and give this time to the Lord? When the time comes we will have plenty of time to enjoy the pleasures and rewards of marriage and family life.

You asked my wife and I if we were happily married and I don't think we ever answered your question. The only reason I did not answer immediately was that I wanted to hear how she would respond. I am very, very happy that the Lord brought us together. I appreciate and love her more than I know how to express with words. We had our struggles and I don't know if we would have made it without the Lord and a shared vision of His purpose to give direction to our lives and relationship. But we know that the Lord prepared us for each other and brought us together. I cannot imagine being happier.

So, to answer your first question, I understand that it is possible to be "just friends". The only caution I would give is that I have seen young people who still thought that they were "just friends" after their emotions had gone far beyond that. As soon as even one of the two begins to wonder if the other likes them then they are crossing the line to where emotions begin to get stirred up. It is no longer a matter of "just friends".

I would strongly advise you to carefully observe someone before putting yourself in a situation where the friendship could become special. Watch how he/she treats parents, peers, and younger ones. Does he/she cultivate a relationship with the Lord? Does he/she serve the Lord? Is he/she responsible? Can I live with his/her shortcomings and ideosyncrasies? Be as cool and sober as you can be until you have fellowshipped about someone with your parents and other older saints who genuinely care for you. Once both of you are clear that it really is the Lord's leading that you should enter into a relationship and that this is the right time, then you can let your heart soar.

My wife once told me that she was so happy that the Lord made us so that we could enjoy one another so much. This is exactly how I feel. I hope you and each of the other young people that we try to care for could maintain the same feeling through all the years of your marriage life.

Why can’t I seek for a husband outside the church life?

Well, it is your life. Other than receiving the Lord, probably nothing affects our life as much as who we marry. So we make our choices. But the kind of person your husband is and the things he does are going to affect you as long as you are married and maybe long after. Having a husband in the church life who loves the Lord, will likely lead to a home where Christ is the center in everything. This is a blessing. One sister who married someone outside the church life soon said, “Why didn’t I listen to my mother?” She regretted what she had done as soon as she found out what it was like to be married to someone not in the church life. Another sister made an agreement with an unbeliever before she consented to marry him that she would still go to church meetings twice a week. However, within a few months her husband became jealous of the enjoyment she got from the meetings and forbade her to go anymore. I have no idea what her life is like now; I haven’t heard from her for many years.

If I were to get married, I still would like Brad Pitt. Is this committing fornication or lust?

Oh Lord Jesus. Some guys are attractive. Some girls are attractive. But we shouldn’t let our heart go the wrong way. We are in control of our heart if we want to be. If we let our heart go and let our imagination go, it is lust. But if we restrict our heart, even though we realize that he is attractive, it’s not fornication. If we dream of having sex with that person, it is fornication of the heart. 

Why do couples have sex if it bad? Is the pleasure of sex fornication? What makes it bad if couples do it?

Sex is something given by God with one main restriction, that it only be between a husband and wife. What is bad, that is against God, is to indulge in sex outside of a marriage relationship. There is nothing wrong with being hungry for food. The issue is how you obtain the food to satisfy the hunger. In the marriage relationship, sex is not bad and the pleasure of sex is not fornication. Fornication is sex outside of marriage. The Lord made us to enjoy one another and made our bodies with these kinds of feelings. Physical intimacy is a very big part of marriage. No marriage can survive without it. Boys would never have these questions. The are thinking of sex “all the time”. Of course, this is not literally true but it is very much part of their nature. Sometimes girls have the thought that sex is just to have children. This also is not true. It is a very big part of a marriage relationship. It can be the highlight of a marriage relationship, the expression of their feelings toward one another. The Lord is very happy when we give ourselves to one another in love in marriage. This is not bad; it is of God.

Not only does sex outside of marriage offend God’s purity, it also destroys marriage relationships. Nothing is a bigger offense to a marriage partner than unfaithfulness by his or her spouse. A stable family where the spouses learn to accept their partner in spite of all his or her shortcomings is the best environment for children to grow healthily.

Is kissing fornication?

No, but it is an intimate touch that if we allow our bodies to follow through to the natural conclusion, ends in fornication.

By the way, one scientific study determined that about 80 million germs were exchanged in a 10 second French kiss. Even a quick peck on the mouth exchanged a thousand germs. Another quote I read somewhere is that, in terms of germs, having sex with someone is like having sex with everyone they ever had sex with before. No wonder that the Bible says that fornication is a sin against your own body (1 Cor. 6:18). This is a very good reason for keeping these kinds of intimate touches restricted to a marriage relationship.

How can I control my feelings toward a guy? I don’t want to like someone but I like him anyways.

We do have feelings. Young people have feelings. We shouldn’t be condemned but we shouldn’t give our feelings opportunity to develop. We should just keep our distance because we know we’re not ready. We know it is not the right time. We want to be for the Lord. Don’t lead the brother on. Just keep your distance. Don’t imagine being with him. Keep your heart. Especially avoid being alone with him. 

Why do men in the Bible have more than one wife? Is this OK?

No, it’s not OK. It was not a blessing to the men in the Bible to have more than one wife. It was a suffering and even often a curse. God’s original intention was that one man and one woman would be true to one another. In that primitive society in the Old Testament, even some of the most godly men, like king David, had many wives. This was not of the Lord and not a blessing. It was a damage to them. It is not proper. 

Why can’t we get divorced?

God has His nature. He has a bride that He desires—only one. He is true to that one. His desire for man is that when a man and a woman get married, they would be faithful to each other for their whole lives unless one of them dies. If they are true to one another as long as they are both alive, this makes for a stable family and a proper environment for the children. It is also the Lord’s command and desire. If we divorce, we are really hurting our relationship with the Lord, especially if we are the one initiating the breakup of the marriage. This doesn’t mean that we have no way to go on if we do get divorced, but it is definitely not the Lord’s desire. Divorce is the easy way out of a difficult relationship. We will gain much more if we learn to accept our husband the way he is. Marriage is for our transformation.

What if my parents say if I can only marry someone from my culture, even if he’s not a Christian? If I married a Christian, I’d most likely be rebelling against my parents because the Christian brothers I know are not from my culture. What should I do?

Parents are not always right. Oh Lord Jesus. Parents usually want the best for their children but their attitude may not always be right, and their thinking may not be right. The Lord does not honor culture and class. One young sister came to me asking about a certain brother. They were very different in culture, race and class. I told her, “I don’t think it can work. You are too different.” She didn’t listen to me. She got married with him. Their marriage turned out to be wonderful and their going on with the Lord together was wonderful. So, to marry a Christian is much more important than caring about culture, class or race. On the one hand, it is not your parents who are going to live with this guy. On the other hand, both you and your future husband will be in a life-long relationship with your parents. You don’t want to jeopardize that by nullifying their wishes. It is very good to confide in your parents and seek their advice. Before telling them that you want to marry someone that they may not approve, you need to exhaust every possible means win their respect for your choice. This includes praying, fasting, sincere and loving talks with them, and being the most excellent testimony that you can be. Sometimes, when parents see the utter sincerity of a son or daughter in trying to please and honor them, their heart changes to respect the son or daughter’s viewpoint. The same Lord who tells us not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever tells us even more often to honor and obey our parents. If we want His blessing, we need to do our best to be faithful to Him in both these respects.

Be careful about others trying to help you by match making, even when it is your parents. You have to watch that guy. See what he is like. Often young people are attracted to someone they meet from far away. They don’t have a chance to get to know that person at all. You are only together with them in a situation of courting. You see all the brothers in the church life where you are and get to know all their faults and maybe that makes them not so attractive to you. But a brother from someplace else may seem more attractive. The problem is that you don’t know what you are getting into if you would marry him. 

Is wearing makeup something not good?

Women wear makeup to make themselves more attractive. They are trying to beautify themselves and makeup is part of that. One man in the world was talking about the movie stars and said, “False hair, false complexion, false eyebrows, false eye lashes, false eye color, false teeth, false nails, false everything—that’s supposed to be attractive?” Oh Lord Jesus. The Lord made women beautiful. To care for your appearance and not be sloppy in dress is proper. To care for your beauty is proper within a limit. Many times makeup goes way beyond the limit of what is healthy and proper. It makes a spectacle. So, it has to be limited or it becomes just something of the world. We are to express the Lord in our living. Our appearance is a significant factor in how much we express Christ. If we are sensitive to the Spirit’s feeling and allow Him to lead us concerning our appearance, it will express Christ. The brothers who will make the best husbands are especially attracted to the beauty of a sister who is expressing the Lord in both her life and appearance.

I would also like to give a word of caution to those sisters who are especially beautiful outwardly. Ezekiel 28:17 is speaking of Satan’s fall when it says, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness.” Be careful not to fall into the same trap that Satan did. The real beauty is a meek and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). Both God and men appreciate this kind of beauty. 

Why do the brothers say something to sisters who’s sloppy dress is a distraction but not to some others who dress with fashionable clothes that are also a distraction?

The leading brothers definitely do not approve of any manner of dress that is a distraction to others. Clothing is a figure of Christ as our covering and what we wear should express Him. There are two main reasons why the brothers may not say something directly to a sister who’s fashionable clothes reveal enough of her body to be an inappropriate distraction. One is that the sister may be new or weak in the Lord and not able to bear a word of correction. The other is that the brothers did say something but it was not received. Whatever the case, we should be clear about one thing. To make a display of one’s body, whether through sloppiness or fashion, is the work of the flesh that the Bible calls lasciviousness. Those who practice this will regret when they reap the bitterness of the corruption that it brings (Gal. 6:8).

Some sisters dress more fashionably than is appropriate. To my observation, this affects their daughters as well. A daughter of such a mother usually follows her mother’s example, only to a more extreme extent. It reminds me of the saying, “If a parent has a cold, their child will have pneumonia.” In other words, our weaknesses will be magnified in our children.

How do we know what we should wear?

It would be easy to develop a set of rules to specify what is allowed and what is not; however, following a set of rules does not change a person. If you know the sense of life within you, you will sense peace and happiness when wearing something which the Lord approves and darkness and death when He is bothered. There is also a governing principle that we should follow: we should always seek to be a testimony to the Lord. Being a testimony means being different. If we are the same as the young people in the world, we have no testimony before them and will not be able to help any of them turn to the Lord. So, when buying clothes or each time when choosing what to wear, we should ask the Lord, “Lord, how do You feel about this. Is this a good testimony to You?” How we present ourselves in attitude, actions and appearance is the major part of our testimony; people will pay more attention to that than to what we say. Our clothing creates the first impression when others see us. Does yours honor the Lord and win others’ respect?

How can I prepare myself to be a good wife when the time comes?

This is a very good aspiration but this is a question that has been answered by others better than I can. Chapter 12 of Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye is called Redeeming the Time. In that chapter he gives very practical tips concerning learning to seek the Lord together with a companion, learning to manage finances, learning to care for children, and learning practical life skills. These are crucial learnings for a marriage. Failing in any of these areas can lead to serious but avoidable difficulties. To Joshua’s list, I would also add learning to trust your life and future to the Lord, learning to have an intimate relationship with Him, learning how to cast all your cares on Him, and learning to serve in harmony with others in a practical church life. Of course, you should expect marriage to be a life-long learning process involving you, your spouse, and the Lord, but you can give yourself a head start and make the journey much easier. The responsibilities, sacrifices and adjustments that are a part of marriage are unavoidable and can quickly quench romantic feelings if you are not ready for them. If you are hoping to “live happily ever after”, then you need to learn to be happy in the Lord in taking care of responsibilities.

I also can recommend a book called Let Me be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. The subtitle is Notes to My Daughter on the Meaning of Womanhood. She wrote these notes soon after her daughter got engaged. You can tell from Elisabeth’s story and writings that her life was fruitful, meaningful and complete. She joyfully embraced the Lord’s arrangement for her, not wishing she were something different.

Actually, it is not marriage, even with a wonderful husband and family, that will make your life complete. If you long for those things, this is a gift from the Lord and if you let Him, He will more than fulfill your longings in the time and manner He has chosen for you. Even if He has some other path for you, in the end, you will be able to say that His choice was the best. Only the Lord can fill you; otherwise there will always be a feeling of emptiness within. Learn to embrace your current circumstances and redeem the time now. If you are an unhappy person now, you will still be an unhappy person when you get married; the change in circumstance will not change your person. If you blame your parents and fight against the restrictions that they put on you, what will your reaction be when you are even more limited by the restrictions and responsibilities that come with marriage? A wonderful marriage requires growing up both humanly and in the Lord. 

Is it OK to be friends with a brother?

I think you all know the answer. Of course it’s Ok if it is just friends. We don’t want to be enemies with anyone. The concern comes the instant he becomes a special friend. “That brother is my special friend.” Why is this a concern? This gets to the matter of our feelings. As soon as there is a certain brother that becomes important to us, then our feelings rise up. As soon as there is a person who is special to us, we cannot avoid our feelings becoming involved. That is when we begin to think of that person and imagine ourselves with that person. This stirs up a kind of feeling within us. If we let it grow, it stirs up more than just feelings. It stirs up our hormones. There was an article in the Time magazine called The Chemistry of Love. When we fall in love, that releases hormones and we feel really good; we feel great. It seems like the whole world is wonderful. It is a high like taking drugs only this drug is produced by our own body. Hollywood would tell us that when we have those feelings, we should get married. When we feel so wonderful about someone, we are in love and we should get married. That’s the Hollywood story. The fact is that feeling is stirred up by focusing on someone. The problem is that feeling doesn’t last too long. In our whole life, we have only about two years where that hormone has that effect. After that, the wonderful feeling of being in love is all used up. It is not a permanent thing. If that is the basis of our relationship with someone, if that is all there is, that relationship is in trouble. The first peak in the divorce rate is after two years when that feeling wears off. Now he doesn’t look as wonderful. In fact, he is rather annoying. Some women begin to think that there is something wrong with their husband because he does not make them feel like that anymore. Then they leave their husband to try to find someone who makes them feel like that again. Oh Lord Jesus. 
    So, is it OK to be friends with a brother? When we let our feelings go, they take us in a certain direction. But marriage can be really hard. It means being way more restricted than by your parents. Do you like the restriction that your parents put on you? Being married is a much bigger restriction. It restricts both the wife and the husband. Everything is complicated because there is another person in your life. It takes a certain amount of maturity to be ready for that. That is why we talk about waiting until we are ready. If you think you are ready, we have a book in the library that deals with that subject very well. It is called, Fit to Be Tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels. 

I feel the need to preach to a certain boy. He tells me things of his life but I don’t want to mention anything of the Lord yet because I feel something a little for him. What do I do?

Again this is a matter of feelings. Feelings are very powerful servants. If we don’t have any feelings at all, we are very limited. But feelings are a very cruel master. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by our feelings, they will hurt us. We think we love someone so strongly that our feelings could never change. Then after we get married, we get disappointed and offended. He doesn’t match our expectations and is not willing to change to please us, so we begin to blame and accuse him. This does not accomplish anything except to make him angry. By this time, if both of us are living in our feelings, we will say and do things to get back at the other. Eventually we will hate one another and get divorced. Then we may find someone else who we think is different and go through the whole process again. Not only people in the world, this is the story of the lives of some saints.
    If we rule over our feelings, then we can really accomplish something. Without any feelings, we have no motivation and accomplish nothing. But feelings go up and down. When they are up, everything seems wonderful. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by our feelings, we will suffer for our whole life. There was one sister who was very emotional. When a brother told the leading brothers that he was interested in her, we told him, “She is very emotional. Are you sure you can take that?” They went ahead and got married. His thought that he held strongly, was that the husband should rule the family. He would not listen to anything else. He thought that he should make all the decisions and she should just follow. She was very emotional. Her thought was, “He should understand me. He should care for me.” After a few years, there was a young people’s conference one weekend. She felt romantic and wanted to have a romantic weekend with her husband. He wanted to go to the young people’s conference and be with the young people. He did go in spite of what she wanted. When he came back, she had moved out. She never forgave him and never came back. She divorced him. She was ruled by her feelings. She blamed him for not understanding her. Later, she blamed her second husband and her third husband. She got married and divorced twice more. We shouldn’t be controlled by our feelings. They will really hurt us. If you focus on a certain boy, for sure you will have feelings. It also goes the other way. If a guy thinks of a certain girl, his feelings will also get stirred up. We can’t control our feelings if we don’t control our thoughts. So it’s better not to spend time with a certain boy, even to preach to him. When we are teenagers, we are not ready. 

Is getting married a sin?

Absolutely not! This is the Lord’s desire and plan for most of us. He made us this way. His plan is that we should get married. In fact most of us, myself included, cannot mature properly without getting married. We need the things of marriage life to grow up and be transformed to serve the Lord. We can’t do it on our own. The Lord made us this way. We are not complete in ourselves. So the desire to be married is normal and the physical intimacy is part of that relationship. This is not something abnormal or improper. A young sister also should not be afraid to talk about this with an older sister if she needs some guidance concerning these things. Always confide in a mature, responsible brother or sister who will not gossip and is sober. Just don’t discuss these things with a boy. It’s not time. 

Is getting divorced a sin?

Yes it is. Marriage is a testimony of oneness. Divorce breaks that oneness and brings in confusion. Divorce is not the end of the world but it is a very tough process, especially for the wife because she invested more than the man did in the relationship. She put her whole person into it. When it breaks apart, her whole person is hurt. Marriage is not something to do lightly with the attitude, “We’ll get married. If it doesn’t work, we’ll get divorced.” Marriage is not a light thing. Our whole person is involved. 
    Moreover, God’s clear intention is that marriage is a permanent relationship. Matthew 19, verses 3 to 8 say, “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.’” The Lord’s word here clearly states that divorce is sin. We need to work out problems, not look for an easy way to avoid them.

Are feelings toward boys always from Satan or just overwhelming feelings that are not about the Lord?

We do have feelings. We can’t deny that we have feelings. Are feelings toward the boys always from Satan? No. But Satan would use those feelings to tempt us to dream of a relationship, to dream of something that would lead us to sin. Our feelings are an easy way for Satan to tempt us. So, as soon as we start focusing on someone, our feelings get stirred up. When we abide in that, Satan catches us. Sinful thoughts or feelings should cause us to confess to the Lord. We need to flee youthful lusts. If we call, “Lord Jesus, save me. Lord Jesus, I want You. Lord Jesus, I need You.” We can reject the feelings and come back to the Lord. We can’t let our feelings rule over us. Even when we are ready for marriage, we should not let our feelings lead us. First, use your head to make a proper choice, then let your feelings go. 

How do you know if the Lord has His hand over you because I have been finding it hard to truly touch the Lord lately?

Even our feelings toward the Lord are not always the same. We should not think that we can go through life with our feelings going up all the time. In our spirit, the Lord is better every day. There is a hymn that says, “Every day the Lord is dearer than He ever was before.” But in our feelings it’s not that way. The Lord gives us His presence. In a sense it is a great reward, a great privilege, to enjoy the presence of the Lord and have our feelings of love for Him stirred and burning. But the Lord doesn’t want us to stay where we are. He wants to lead us on until we match Him. To lead us, He withdraws His presence. He wants us to seek Him again. He wants us to pursue Him more. He wants us to gain something more. So He withdraws the feeling of His presence. Then we ask, “Where’s the Lord? What happened?” The Lord wants us to pursue and find Him again. When we find Him again, we find Him in a way that we never knew Him before. So the Lord is trying to take us on. We shouldn’t be disappointed because our feelings are not always the same. Sin is the most common reason that the Lord would withdraw His presence. So our first reaction should be to confess if we know what has come between us and the Lord or ask the Lord to enlighten us if we don’t. If our enjoyment of the Lord is not restored, then we should still seek Him. The Lord is a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently (Heb. 11:6).

Do you think that if I have feelings for a friend who is not a brother, that it is from the flesh? What should I do? When I pray to the Lord and try to deny my feelings, they are still there.

Our feelings are like that. They are really hard to control. If we get married to a brother, we have something in common, something that hopefully is the center of our life—the Lord Jesus. Because he is a brother, the Lord will be working in him. The wife can’t change her husband, but when he is a brother, there is a hope because the Lord can. If he is not a brother, he is definitely not allowing the Lord to work in his life. He’s not going to change. He is just going to change to be more the way he is. The only hope for him to really change is for the wife to practice what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:1: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” For a husband to be won that way likely will require years of suffering without complaint by his wife. Is that what you want? There is a reason that the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked to an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14). The reason is that the Lord loves us and wants the best for us. Proverbs 4:23 says, Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Rather than following our feelings, we need to guard our heart to keep it for the Lord. At the proper time, He will have the proper one for us. In the mean time, to get involved with a boyfriend is very distracting and destructive to our relationship with the Lord. Many young people who were running well in the Christian race stumble and never recover because of getting involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Forget about it. Even if those feelings are still there, turn away from them. Don’t be like Eve who believed Satan’s lie that God was withholding something wonderful from them. What God has for us is the best. We don’t need to take things into our own hands. We can trust the Lord and His love for us.
         The sister who got divorced as a teenager, didn’t see what her husband was like before they got married. A month later, she told me, “He’s so selfish!” He was just a teenager. All the teenage boys are thinking only of themselves. What do you expect? He thinks that he is the center of the universe. What do you expect him to be like? He is not mature enough to put someone else’s needs ahead of his own.
    For that matter, are you mature enough to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own? If he does not live up to your expectations, (for sure, he won’t) how will you react? How do you react now when your parents don’t give you what you want or don’t let you do what you want? Marriage life is filled with limitations and restrictions; are you ready for that? Don’t hold onto a fairy-tale dream of getting married and living happily ever after.
    Feelings toward a teenage guy are not toward a real person; they are toward a dream. He is not all that you think he is. If you knew what he is really like, you wouldn’t have those feelings. Your dream would be shattered. Because he is still a teenager, he is going to change a lot in the next few years. Are you going to risk your future on the chance that he will become the kind of husband you desire? It is very unlikely. This is what I am talking about when I say that feelings are a very cruel master. If we let our feelings control our life, we will do many things that we soon regret. 
    Another thing about feelings is that they change. Today we may think that our feelings are so strong they could never change, but a little while later they will change. That’s why there are so many divorces. Sometimes, when someone has got entangled in an inappropriate (to put it nicely) relationship, we have recommended to them that they go somewhere else for a time. It works. Unless they continue to keep in contact, all the feelings fade away. On the other hand, those who let their feelings control them and got deeper into an unhealthy relationship, ended up in the kinds of dysfunctional situations that are so common in the world. By then, not only were the feelings gone, but they themselves had been deeply hurt by what they had gone through. 

What is appropriate when dealing or mingling with the brothers outside the meetings?

In the meetings there is not usually a problem unless a girl and a boy sit where they can see one another and make eyes at one another. Even in the meetings, there can be inappropriate behavior. It is appropriate to avoid focusing on one and to avoid touching. When a girl touches a guy, what happens in him is stronger than an electric shock. There is a reaction inside him. To be with the brothers doing something in a group, can be proper. You should avoid being with a particular one and thus leading him on. Guys have feelings too. They have dreams too. It is easy for one of them to imagine, even if you have no interest at all, that you are interested in him. If a brother begins to think that one of the sisters is interested in him, he will get all excited. Even if you don’t want his attention, he may not give up. If that happens, you have to be really cruel. You need to be as blunt as if his head was rock. “Brother, I’m not interested. Forget about it. Don’t talk to me anymore.” He will not believe something gentle. But to be with the brothers to do things in a group is fine. In one church, the brothers and sisters stayed apart. By the time they graduated from college, they had never been together. So eventually most of them never married. They became bachelors and old maids. That is not the Lord’s desire. However, when we are younger and not ready for all the sacrifices of marriage, then we keep our contact with the opposite sex in general. As long as there is no special friend, it should be OK. 

What do you do about feelings if the feelings are there too long?

The only thing I can say is just to ignore them. Pursue the Lord and go on with life. There was a brother in the church who was very proper, talented and good looking. He loved the Lord. There were quite a few sisters who were interested in him. Some came to the brothers, some approached him directly or did things to try to make him notice them. One sister came to us and we told her, “Just pray.” She took that word. She gave him to the Lord and accepted the Lord’s will. She was the one to whom the Lord turned his attention. They got married and became a very healthy, proper family in the church life. The Lord should be part of our life. We need to give even these things to Him. They are not something that He doesn’t care about. He wants the best for us and He knows what is the best and the best time. 

If a sister thinks the world of a brother, what should she do?

She should wake up from her dream. He is probably not the hero that she thinks he is. Oh Lord Jesus. Every man is a descendant of Adam. Every man is sinful. Every man has some major flaws and it is not going to be easy to be with him. If we think the world of someone, especially as a young person, we are in love, not with a real person, but with a dream. I can say honestly now, my wife and I think the world of each other. We really appreciate one another. But we have gone through so much to get to that point. We are really in love, not the chemistry feeling of love, we love one another. We didn’t get to that point when we first got married or when we were courting. Actually, my wife was fairly level headed so she observed me in the church life and she didn’t only see what she liked. She saw a lot of things she didn’t like. So she asked herself the question, “When he does that, will I be able to accept it? When he’s like that, can I take it?” Fortunately for me, she decided that she was ready to accept me in spite of those things. When we think of marriage, we think of being the perfect husband or wife. We also think that the other person will be wonderful and it will be wonderful to be with them all the time. When we get married, we do our best to be a good husband or wife. That doesn’t last, maybe a day or two. Then our feelings come to the surface. We become disappointed or angry and what we really are comes out. My wife and I went through some hard times. If we hadn’t been loving the Lord in the church life, we might not have stayed together. We might have been another divorce case. I am so grateful to the Lord because when I was getting angry, the Lord touched me, “She is treating you better than you deserve.” When the Lord enlightened me in that way, I repented, I turned, and I changed in my attitude toward her. That’s why I say that we need to find someone in whom the Lord is working. If he is not seeking the Lord, he will not turn; he will not change. When I turned, then the Lord touched my wife and we both changed and we both began to appreciate one another in a way we never had before. If we put the Lord first in our life, even in the matter of our feelings and relationships, the Lord will have the best for us. 

What is a good age to get married?

It depends how ready we are to suffer, to sacrifice, and to treat someone way better than they deserve. Generally, girls get mature before guys do. Generally speaking, girls should be 22 to 25 and guys should be 25 to 27. But it depends on the Lord’s leading. In this society, it takes quite a while to get an education. In general, we should be finished with that. If we were in a primitive society with a very hard life, we probably would get mature much earlier. But here we should be at least 20. It is easy to fall in love before then and it can seem so sweet, but falling in love before being ready for marriage is like a sugar coating on an unripe apple; the first taste is sweet but then it turns sour. The sweetness is fleeting but the sour taste lasts a long time. When the fruit is ripe, when you are ready for all that a marriage involves, then both the first taste and full bite can be sweet.
    Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Dating, engagement, falling in love, and marriage are proper things that the Lord has for most of us. However, there is a time for these things and a time to refrain from them (v. 5). The right thing at the wrong time is wrong. 

Is it proper for a sister to ask a brother to go out for a date?

My wife first asked me out on a date. She prayed earnestly; she fellowshipped with some other sisters, and then she asked me. Some other time you can ask me to tell you the whole story. There is no rule. In society dating can start in elementary school and is expected by junior high. There was a statistic that in Canada, 40% of young people had sex before they graduated from junior high and 70% before they graduated from high school. This is tragic. Sex isn’t just about two bodies. Our whole person gets involved. When I was a young person, I didn’t understand the verse that says that a person who commits fornication (which simply means to have sex outside of marriage) sins against his own body. There are so many terrible diseases that spread that way. The only truly safe sex is when a man and a woman have each other as their only partner for their whole life. Dating, even when it doesn’t go that far, leads to falling in love. When both are young and not ready to get married, they can fall in love and be happy for a while. But when something happens, one dumps the other. Both get hurt, very hurt. The young people in the world repeat that, often many times. When they eventually get married and find out what their spouse is really like, they get angry and disappointed. Because they have already established the pattern in their lives of giving their hearts to someone and then breaking up when things are not so smooth anymore, they get divorced. There is no right person when we are like that. 

When is it proper to date?

It is proper when we are ready to develop the relationship right through to marriage if it works out. Then for sure there should be time together to get to know one another. We need to talk to one another and listen to one another. We need to find out what the other person feels and what they think. One sister approached a brother whom she did not know that well. She thought that everything should be OK because he was in the church life and coming to the conferences. They began to date and actually got engaged. Then something happened and the anger that was inside of him came out. It wasn’t directed at her but at something else. Even so, she became afraid of his temper and she broke off the relationship. So, when we are ready for marriage, we should date and it doesn’t matter who asks who. Sometimes it is awkward to make the first contact. One sister asked me concerning a brother in another church. They were both ready to get married. She asked me so I talked to a leading brother in his locality. That brother asked the young brother if there was any mutual interest. She initiated the contact. The young brother asked, “Is this something that someone else is trying to arrange or is she personally interested in me?” When he found out that she was interested, he asked her for a date and some time later they got married. So you don’t have to wait and just hope that he notices you. If it is the proper time for both of you, you can ask if there is a mutual interest. The leading brothers are happy to help in this way if it is awkward to make an initial contact personally. 

I have a friend, a sister in the Lord, who is having fellowship with a brother. But I know that in the past he has had sex with another man. He has since repented and changed his living. Should I tell her about his past?

That is a really hard question. When I speak with the boys, I talk to them about lust because that is especially a problem with boys and men. When a guy indulges in lust, even just looking at pornography, never mind going this far, it is very hard later for him to be satisfied with a normal, God intended physical relationship. Lust is never satisfied. Lust always wants what is forbidden, something more. A man who is able to have a healthy relationship, learns to control his lust. He doesn’t let it run away with him. There is no answer that would apply to every case for this question. The Lord can forgive and change someone. On the other hand, it is very hard for a man to forget his past. If he has been indulging his lust by looking at pornography, after he gets married, that still is there. Even if he doesn’t like it anymore, it is still there and it affects the relationship. Nevertheless, the Lord can heal, so I can’t say that a mistake in the past means that there is no hope for the future. Still, there should have been a period of time that shows that his turn is real and lasting. 
    I would also like to warn you against letting lust consume you. Boys generally have more lust than girls just like boys are generally taller than girls. That doesn’t mean that girls have no lust. Homosexual relationships are not God’s desire for anyone. They are a matter of lust. Lust for that kind of sex is God’s punishment to people for rejecting Him (Rom. 1:21-27). To my observation, it is often ones with low self esteem who are vulnerable to that kind of temptation. They may think that no one of the opposite sex would ever be interested in them. This is Satan’s lie. Don’t believe it. It also can scar you for life. One sister who got involved with that, even though only for a little while, later could never get married. On a couple occasions when brothers were interested in her and about to ask the question, she couldn’t handle the thought of the physical aspect of marriage and broke off the relationship. She could never forget the feelings of dirtiness and shame that she experienced concerning what she had done. 

A number of sisters are interested in the same brother. They all know that the others are also interested in him. What should we do in the church life?

I know about this situation; all who are involved are in their early to mid teens. When we enter into a relationship before it is time for marriage, there is no happy end to that story. Life is not a fairy tale that ends with “and they lived happily ever after.” It ends exactly the opposite. In this case, if he becomes interested in one, all the others would be hurt. There would be envy and bitterness toward one another. But in the end, the one who gets hurt the most would be the one who got him. She gives her heart to him and eventually her heart is broken even more than the rest. So is she the winner? I think maybe in the end, she is the loser. I know about this situation and I plan to tell the brother the very same thing. I told my boys, “Don’t get excited when a girl gets interested. That is not a rare opportunity. It happens all the time to every boy. Just forget about it. Tell them to not bother you. Tell them to get lost.” 
    Often girls expect a man to make them happy or they expect a family to make them happy. No man can make a woman happy. She is only happy until her bubble bursts, until her dream is shattered. The Lord is the only One who can make us happy. When we put the Lord first, we can enjoy real happiness. Then we can give ourselves to enjoy someone who doesn’t even deserve it. That’s what we find out eventually. This guy doesn’t deserve my loving and serving him. He doesn’t deserve anything, but we can continue to give because we enjoy the Lord as our real happiness. Eventually, the Lord can work in that man. But if we just make demands on him, criticize him, and nag him, it will not change him into a better person. A typical female response to her husband is to remind him every time he isn’t doing what she wants. It’s called nagging and it doesn’t work. It only makes him angry. 
    I hope you would feel free to bring to me or one of the other brothers caring for the church things concerning love, relationships, and even things that have gone too far. We want the best for you. We want to see you eventually get married and have a family and a happy home. It is not impossible but it needs you to give the Lord the first place. Hopefully there is an older sister who you can trust. You can ask her your questions or ask her to ask the brothers your questions. We want to be available for you. Don’t just try to figure everything out on your own. Your marriage is way too important for that. 

Why can’t I dress the way I want? You say that it stirs up the brothers’ lust? What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they turn to the spirit?

I think that I answered this question already but let me add something more. Near the end of Job, the Lord describes two monsters to Job that are good illustrations of the flesh. The first, behemoth, eats grass and is apparently not that fierce (40:15). It represents the good side of the flesh. Don’t be deceived. The current day animal that is closest to the description of a behemoth is a hippopotamus. They don’t look that fierce but actually they kill more people every year than any other animal because they are very territorial. They attack anyone or anything that wanders into their territory. Isn’t that like our goodness when we feel we are being mistreated or accused unfairly? Even if we don’t go on the attack outwardly, don’t we wish we could?
    The second monster is a leviathan (Job 41). It represents the evil side of the flesh. Of course, this includes men’s sexual lust but don’t think that if you don’t have those kinds of feelings, you are better than they are. One of the most striking features of this monster is in verses 19-21: “Out of his mouth go burning lights; Sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, As from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, And a flame goes out of his mouth.” I must confess that even though this is in the Bible, it is hard for me to believe that any physical animal could have a fire burning within it. Then, why would such a description be in the Bible? I think that it is there because we need to see that our flesh is more terrible than any physical monster could ever be. 
    James 3:5-8 says, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” It isn’t just a leviathan that breathes out fire and smoke; when we speak according to our flesh, we are spreading the fires of hell. In 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Timothy 1:10, and Galatians 5:20-21, reviling, lying, contentions, jealousies and dissensions are listed as works of the flesh along with various types of gross sexual immorality. Sisters are at least as prone as brothers to speak gossip and slander about others. This kind of speaking is evil; it comes from the leviathan within. 
    Actually, none of us has any ground to judge anyone; we all have a fallen flesh. It just manifests itself in different ways in different people. That is why we need the Lord’s salvation, not just one day when we meet Him, but every day and every moment. Why would you want to dress according to the fashion of the world if it is not to show off? Isn’t this an expression of pride, another work of the flesh? You need the Lord to save you from this just as much as the brothers need Him to save them from thoughts of lust.

How can I know for sure who the Lord wants me to marry? What if I make a mistake and marry the wrong man?

Whether or not you are sure that you chose the right one to marry does not make that much difference later. A husband is different from a fiancé (and a wife is different from a bride to be). Before and during engagement, every time together is a special occasion when both will likely be on their best behavior. Of course, if you frequently fight before being married, don’t expect something different later. But after marriage, being together is all the time, and no one can make it to keep up good behavior all the time. Even if he is genuinely trying to be a good husband, as a wife, you will soon find out and be affected by his faults and shortcomings. If you are honest with yourself and willing to be enlightened by the Lord, you will also find out faults and shortcomings of your own that you never knew before. Before being is such a close relationship with someone else, some things never come to the surface, but they do in a marriage, especially when facing stresses about finances, dealing with children, etc. 
    It is not uncommon for a wife to begin to think that she made a mistake after getting to know her husband more. If that is the case, what should you do? The natural reaction to intolerable shortcomings in a husband is first to try to convince him to change, and when that doesn’t work, to criticize and condemn him. Those things will not help him; he might become angry or he may simply withdraw and not talk. It is not worth the risk of producing reactions such as those simply to vent your feelings. If you really want to help your husband, honor him and submit to him. He may not deserve it, but do it for the Lord’s sake, not his. Your honoring your husband when he doesn’t deserve it is a great honor to the Lord. After all, where would you be if the Lord treated you the way you deserve to be treated? If you repent of your feelings, turn to the Lord, and then by His strength, honor and love your husband in spite of his shortcomings and failures, you will be gaining the Lord day by day. This gives the Lord the ground to touch his conscience and heart so that he also comes to repentance and allows the Lord to transform him little by little. Sometimes it simply comes down to: “Which is more important to me? To be proved right and win the argument or to gain the Lord by letting my husband have the last word?” The more you can give your husband the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness that the Lord has given you, the more you will help him, and the more you will be growing in life to gain the kingdom reward when the Lord returns. In the end, you will realize that choosing that one to be your husband was not a mistake; he was the one that the Lord sovereignly arranged for you. 

I know that the things shared in those chapters are good advice for keeping oneself pure but I can’t live up to that standard. It is too hard.

This is the same as with all aspects of the Christian life. The standard in the New Testament is beyond what anyone can live up to. It is actually a divine standard, not one on the level of human morality. No one can come close to that standard. But, praise the Lord, He is living in us. When we are enjoying Him, it is normal and easy for us to live to that standard. When we find it hard, that is an indication that we are not in spirit. So the secret is not in trying harder but in confessing, repenting, turning, and seeking the Lord.

I have friends at school and am a certain way when I am with them. I don’t want to be like that when I am with the sisters; I want our relationships to be on a higher level. So, is it better not to have friends in the church life?

The matter of friendship is tricky, especially for sisters. Both in the world and among the saints, it is common for teenage girls to have special friends. The problem with this is that inevitably some are left out of the circle of special friends and as a result, do not have the companionship and support that we all need to go on with the Lord. None of us can make it by ourselves.
So, with friendship, as with all practical matters related to the Christian life, there is the need of balance. It is right and proper that many of our friends should be among the saints. It is also proper that our relationships with them be at a higher level, not just enjoying to be and talk together, but also praying, fellowshipping and seeking the Lord together. However, we need to go against our nature and not do this with only the ones we know best. It is even more important to do this with the ones who are new, shy or less connected with others in the church life. We will gain the Lord better when we put our preferences aside and apply Him to care for others according to His leading and not our own feelings.
Of course, it goes without saying, that if the way we are with worldly friends is too loose or sinful, we should not bring that into the church life. Not only so, it destroys our testimony before them. This will make it impossible for the Lord to use us to bring salvation to them. We can be friendly with others without compromising our testimony. They will respect us for it and some will respond when we speak to them about the Lord.

If there is a brother who hangs around me more than I am comfortable with, what should I do? Should I say something to him or should I just try to avoid him?

When a boy likes a girl, whether or not he is a brother, he will not be deterred by any subtle clues that she is not interested. He will be very dense about how she feels. He will not catch on to anything but plain language such as, “Please don’t hang around me so much. It makes me uncomfortable.” Anything more subtle than that won’t work. When boys are interested, they won’t notice or take hints. So, you have to tell him to back off. There is no use trying to simply not feed his feelings. You need to poke a hole in his balloon.

How important is it to have a healthy relationship with my parents? What is a healthy relationship with them?

When I was growing up, I wasn’t that close to my parents. They never talked much with me, let alone told me about themselves and their experiences. They were quiet. So I didn’t know my parents very well and didn’t have too much of a relationship with them. It would have been easier for me if they had told me about themselves and stories of their experiences as they were growing up. But anyways, parents have gone through being teenagers. They know by experience what it is like being young and what it is like to regret some of the things that they did as a young person. So, a healthy relationship with parents probably takes different forms in different families but the biggest thing is communication. If we can talk, being honest with our parents and hearing what they have to tell us, we may not always agree, but at least we can maintain a relationship with them. There will be something there that we can build on. At least there is communication. I think that is the minimum for a healthy relationship. If our communication is only fighting with one another or we never open to them at all, then we definitely do not have a healthy relationship. If our human communication can be maintained, then there is still a way for the Lord to work in our family. We are growing in the Lord and so are our parents so we can learn from one another but we need to communicate. This is important. 
Our parents care for us and want the best for us. They might have views that are not altogether accurate. They might have dreams or expectations for us that are different than what the Lord has for us. But at least if we can talk together, there will be a way for a healthy relationship.

Is it OK to go to a public place with a boy? For instance, can we go to the mall to have lunch together as “just friends”? It’s just you and him but you are not really alone because you are among other people.

The idea of just friends is very appealing but it is like walking around a hole in the ground. If you get too close, sooner or later you will fall in. Being just friends with a boy is like that; as you spend time with him feelings grow. You will end up as more than just friends. It is impossible to avoid that when you are together with one person of the opposite sex. To be with the brothers is fine as long as it is not a special relationship with one or you are too loose with any of them. If we treat them with respect and keep ourselves respectable, then we can have a proper relationship with the brothers. But as soon as there is one in particular, then we are walking around the hole in the ground. We are going to fall in. In other words, our feelings will be aroused. When we are young and our feelings are aroused, then the hormones start to flow and we feel wonderful. The world calls this falling in love. It is actually a hormonal response to the feelings which enhances them. The problem is that it can last for a couple years at the most. If you have gotten into a serious relationship with a person based mainly on those feelings, what will you do when the feelings are gone? Are you ready for all the responsibilities and limitations of a marriage relationship? 

What do you do if you have a feeling to take care of another sister but you are afraid that it is something of yourself? When taking care of others, is it better to call another sister to help you?

Yes, if we can coordinate with someone else to care for a third person, that would be the best. It there is no one available to coordinate with us, then we do our best, but having the support of someone else is better. 
Is this something of yourself? In general, we ourselves cannot really help anyone. If we think we know the answers and we can help, we are fooling ourselves. We can’t; only the Lord can. Is it something of yourself? It depends; do you really open to the Lord? Do you depend on the Lord and pray to Him and seek His leading? If you are in touch with the Lord while you are considering this person and trying to help them, then it is not something of yourself. It isn’t the action that determines whether it is something of yourself or not, it is the source of the action. Are you in touch with the Lord or not? That makes the difference, not the outward action. We can care for someone very much in our self and by our self. Nothing of the Lord will be produced by that. Or, we can do the very same outward things, but if we are touching the Lord inwardly, then it is something of the Lord. 
When the Lord is flowing within us, our heart will be full of His love. His love is much higher than our own and is described in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. When people sense that someone is loving them with that love, it is hard for them to resist the Lord.

When you mention the support from another person, what kind of support are you talking about?

I am talking about praying together and working together to care for someone else. Some brothers have a very good exercise. They care for someone by asking them if they have someone else that they are burdened for. How about we pray for them together? How about going together to visit them? They care for this one by helping this one care for that other one. This is really positive. This is not just to care for someone but to help that one care for someone else. We all grow much better spiritually when we are caring for others. Then it is not a matter of whether I feel like exercising to turn to the Lord. I need to exercise for the sake of the one I am caring for.

Is it true that when our parents approve of something, we are under the Lord’s light? For example, if they approve of a certain career or the person we are considering to marry, is that the Lord’s leading?

There are four things that should match if we are to be really confident of the Lord’s leading. One is the principles in the Lord’s word. The Lord will never lead us contrary to the principles in His word. The second is the feeling within our spirit. If we feel life and peace considering a certain course, that is an indication of the Lord’s leading. On the contrary, if we feel uneasy and dark about it, that is an indication that the Lord does not approve. The third is the confirmation of the saints who are caring for us spiritually. 
Hopefully, we do have a spiritual relationship with our parents so that we can pray and fellowship together with them. Finally, the outward circumstances can indicate the Lord’s leading. If something is according to the Lord’s leading and timing, then He will open the way. Why is it good to have all four indications? This is because we can easily be mistaken about any of them—misapplying the Lord’s word, mistaking our own feelings for the Lord’s, getting confirmation from someone else that hasn’t sensed the Lord’s leading, or going our own way even when the circumstances are not favorable.
So, even if our parents are believers in the church life, they still have both some spiritual understanding and some natural concepts. We can’t just trust that if our parents or the leading brothers approve, that is the Lord. We still need to seek the Lord ourselves to have the Lord’s leading. Sometimes parents do not have a spiritual view of a certain thing. For instance, last time someone asked, “My parents want me to get married to someone from my own country, whether they are a believer or not. Is that the Lord?” This concept is against the principle in the Lord’s word about not being equally yoked together with someone who is not a believer. That is not a spiritual view. The Lord will not honor or bless that kind of act. If we want to be under the Lord’s covering, we have to seek the Lord ourselves. We can’t just depend on other’s feelings. 
On the other hand, if our parents are believers, it is likely that their feeling does indicate the Lord’s leading. We should not dismiss it lightly just because we want something else. We still need to seek the Lord. But it is not our parents who are going to need to live with this guy for the rest of their lives.
My mother told me something that I still consider to be wise. She said that while we are young, we need to make the three biggest choices of our life. The first is whether or not to believe in the Lord and let Him be the Lord in our life. That is the biggest single choice we have to make. The second biggest is who we are going to marry. It also affects the rest of our life. The third biggest choice is our career. Most of the rest of our life is the living out of these three choices. We cannot make them lightly. We do need to seek the Lord.

Some people say that when you marry a person, you marry their whole family. Is this true?

How a young man treats his parents and brothers and sisters is an indication of how he is going to treat his wife. If he treats his own family with respect and honor, he is likely going to honor his wife. If it is the opposite, he is going to despise his wife. You don’t want to be in that situation. Once you get married, you are going to be with your husband’s family. Sometimes that can be a problem. I met a young couple. The husband was a real believer, but the rest of his family was not saved and caused a lot of distress to his wife. So, when you marry someone, their family becomes your family also. 

Should some issues with a brother’s family discourage you from marrying him?

It won’t be quite so hard if you have your eyes open. If you let your hormones go and fall in love without considering the situation of a brother and his family, it could be really hard when those feelings wear off. Before we got married, Linda was watching me. She saw things that she didn’t like so she asked herself, “When he does that, is that going to bother me?” It wasn’t a shock to her when I continued to do those things after we got married. No one is perfect. You are not going to find a true hero. Even though you want to be the best wife there ever was, you also are not going to make it. So, marriage is not that easy. You need to find the Lord in it. There will be some issues; we should take advantage of them to know ourselves, to repent, to turn and to deny ourselves. You need the Lord and your husband will also need the Lord.
There is no perfect person and no perfect family, so there is no perfect marriage either. However, if the family issues are ongoing and serious, perhaps you should be concerned about that. You and your husband will have plenty of issues of your own to deal with; you may not find it easy to deal with ones from his family as well. Of course, once you are married, any issues from any source, yourself, your husband, your family, his family, others, circumstances, etc., are all for your transformation. 

I have a friend who talks to me about someone she is dating but from the start we both felt that it is not so healthy a relationship. It is pointless. Yet, no matter what I say to try to help her, she seems content with remaining in that relationship. Is there something I can say or do?

According to this question, the person is remaining in something not so healthy even though you are trying to help her free herself from that. Even the Lord does not help us if we are not willing. The Lord is happy to work in us, but if we are not willing, He will wait until we are willing. Perhaps, He will arrange some outward circumstances that will shatter our dreams and that will make us willing. Anyways, the Lord waits for us. If she is not willing to cut it off even though she realizes it is not healthy, there may be nothing we can do. She will reap the harvest of what she is sowing. This is a good warning for us to keep ourselves willing to be turned by the Lord. 
Even when there is nothing we can do, we can still pray. Prayer is crucial in all our care for others. We do not know in ourselves what to do or say. In fact, the crucial point is not what we do or say but whether the Spirit is confirming what we say in their heart. He will only work when we are in touch with Him in prayer. Of course, to care for others, we still need to do and say things, so one aspect of our prayer should be for the Lord’s wisdom and leading about what to say or do. Don’t think that my help here or any help you can receive from anyone is the final answer. You still need to pray.

How can you be sure that the person you choose to marry is the person the Lord has for you? If you genuinely ask the Lord to give you the husband He desires for you, will He always confirm in some way? How can you be sure you are not making a mistake?

Eventually, we need to believe in the Lord’s sovereignty; even our mistakes are under the Lord’s sovereignty. My wife prayed a lot and fellowshipped with some other sisters. She was very clear that I was the one for her. But later there was a time when she began to feel she had made a mistake. Then one day as she was feeling this way as she was walking home from work, the Lord turned her to begin to say over and over, “Thank You Lord for my husband.” By the time she arrived home, she was happy, no longer upset at the way I was even though I was not all that she expected of me. But anyways, the Lord has worked in both of us in all these years together. 
I don’t think we can be 100% sure. We need to seek the Lord. We should also seek the guidance of those who love and care for us, including our parents and other older saints who are close to us. The older saints have been through more life experiences which can be a help to us. But eventually, we have to either say “Yes” or “No”. Once you say the final “Yes”, then forget about whether it was a mistake or not. From then on that is the Lord’s will for you. Let your heart go; fall in love; close your eyes; and thank the Lord for His portion for you.
In the book, Fit to Be Tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels, Lynne  speaks of a time after the honeymoon was over when she began to realize how different her husband was, not only from herself but also from what she thought he should be. Furthermore, he was oblivious to how much he was bothering his wife. She was sure she had made a terrible mistake. Nevertheless, she did not end the relationship as so many in the world would do. She struggled through and gained the Lord. Eventually, the Lord also worked in Bill so that he also changed. Thus the Lord used that “mistake” to gain more of Himself in both of them. 

 

How do you care for a physically ill person spiritually? If their disease makes it hard for them to do anything, should we give up on them spiritually as well?

In this kind of situation, we probably are not in a position to do anything to change the situation, but at least we can care. We may not know what to say. They may be suffering to an extent that we have not experienced. If so, what can we say? Even though they are limited by their illness, we can care. We can pray with them or read the Bible or spiritual books with them. It could be that they cannot pray outwardly but still can in their heart. God values that. In cases where the illness involves dementia which is the loss of most of the function of the mind that often happens in old age, still we can care. We can express the Lord’s care for them. In case they are angry and blame the Lord, we can still be there caring for them as the Lord’s representative so that the Lord can turn their heart.

How do you know who the person is that the Lord chose to marry you?

This is similar to one of the previous questions. There are some principles. One is, don’t be equally yoked with an unbeliever. That narrows it down quite a bit but still not exactly. If you are one who loves the Lord, having a husband who loves the Lord is a big blessing. Many sisters have prayed, “Lord, give me a husband who loves the Lord more than he loves me.” This is a very good prayer. If a husband puts the Lord first in his life, he will be a better husband. But even so, even if the Lord answers this prayer, there will still be problems. The Lord is not working out fairy tales where people live happily ever after. He wants to work Himself into us. This requires what Peter calls fiery trials. Because both marriage life and raising a family are long term and involve more of our person than anything else, the Lord needs to use them for our transformation.
Anyways, you need to seek the Lord even though it is sometimes difficult to discern the Lord’s speaking from our own feelings. You need to ask for fellowship from others even though any advice given also may not be the Lord’s leading. 
Another thing you should do is just observe. You need to do this before falling in love. How is he with other people? Does he treat them with respect? Is he given to anger? If he is very angry toward his parents or others before marriage, he will be just as angry with his wife after marriage. In the process of courtship, you can begin to know him if you are not so blinded by hormones that nothing can bother you. I guess the main point of all this is to soberly and carefully seek the Lord’s leading rather than getting excited and carried away by romantic fantasies just because you are attracted to someone or someone is showing an interest in you. 
But, even though we seek the Lord, follow the principles in His word, and observe the one we are interested in carefully, there is no guarantee. So, after you are married, forget about whether it was a mistake or not. Find the Lord in each circumstance. This is His desire for every aspect of your life including your marriage life.
You can correct me if I am wrong, but I am guessing that these questions about finding the one whom the Lord has chosen for you, are based on the idea, “If I find the one that the Lord has chosen for me, then my marriage life will be happy. My husband will be wonderful.” This is not necessarily the case. The Lord’s goal is for you to grow to maturity so that you can express and cooperate with Him and then reign with Him in His kingdom. Maybe the husband of your dreams is not what you need to arrive at that goal. The Lord knows what is best for us. Are you ready to say “Amen” to the Lord even when things do not work out as you hoped? That can be the best opportunity to lose more of your soul-life and gain the Lord.

How do we practically give our studies to the Lord? How do we choose what to study or what career to pursue?

Of course, one way to give our studies to the Lord is to do our best. That is very practical. Before I began to enjoy the Lord in the church life, I was a slacker at  school. After I got out of school, I suffered having to work in a type of job that I did not enjoy very much for nine years. Then the Lord opened a way for me to go back to school. Of course, by then I was in the church life enjoying the Lord. I continued to attend the meetings but also tried to gain as much as I could from each class. Even if you do not have the capacity to make all the meetings while in school, you can still set aside time for at least one or two a week and give your studies to the Lord. School gives you many opportunities to talk to people about the Lord if you have the heart to do so.
Choosing what to study and choosing a career are both similar to choosing a brother in that there is no definite answer about what you should do. There is no career that is right for everyone. But there are certain careers and certain pursuits of study that will kill our Christian life. For instance, there was a brother who studied photography and movie making. Then he got a job as a camera man for making movies. The whole environment he got into was dirty. He did not last long in terms of coming to the meetings after he began that job. That is a wrong career for keeping oneself pure for the Lord. 
Some careers themselves are dirty and sinful; of course we should avoid those. Some careers might be proper, but the environment of a certain job may be improper. For example, there is nothing wrong with being an accountant, but to be an accountant at a casino would put you into the midst of a very unhealthy environment. When I was graduating from school, I had school debts and a wife and four little children at home. I was desperate for a job that would lead to a career but the job situation was very bad, much worse than now. I sent out 170 resumes and letters with no results. Two weeks before graduation, not one among the 60 students in my program had found a job. Then someone came to the school wanting to hire a student and the teacher recommended me. The job sounded like something I would like but it was for a tobacco marketing board. I asked myself, “How could I tell people I was working for a tobacco marketing board? What kind of testimony would that be?” I would be providing computer systems to help sell tobacco. I didn’t have peace so I declined the job offer and a few days later was offered a much better job at an insurance company. That one I had peace to take.
Some careers can bring you into healthy or unhealthy environments depending on how you pursue them. For example, to be a criminal lawyer in a court room would probably involve getting into the details of many evil deeds. It would be very difficult to keep oneself pure in mind and body while being involved in that day after day. But working on contracts for a corporation or helping people with immigration matters are roles that some lawyers do that do not involve them with evil things to the same extent. 
There was a news article recently comparing the rates of students finding a job after graduating from university. Among developed countries, Canada has the highest rate of unemployment for young university graduates. The ones doing the research said that the reason was that Canada has the highest proportion of students in social science programs. Those programs do not lead to many careers so most of the graduates cannot find jobs. The point I would make concerning this is that school should be preparing you for something; don’t just take courses with no goal. If you can figure out what proper career fits your interests and talents and has a realistic prospect for a job after graduation, then you can choose your courses and work toward that goal. This will make all the time and money invested in your education worthwhile.

How do you know when the brother whom the Lord has chosen to be your future spouse is the one? What should we expect?

For such an important decision, we need to seek the Lord desperately. There is no shortcut. If we know that he loves the Lord, has a reasonably good character and there is some mutual attraction,  then perhaps he is the one. Do you have peace within?
There are a few additional points of guidance I can offer. You will, no doubt, be different from your spouse in many ways, but extremes can make your relationship difficult. For instance, if one is extremely neat and tidy and the other extremely sloppy, it will be hard for them to live together peacefully. Of course, if you both are extremely sloppy, that is not good either; you would both be limited by your sloppy character without a partner who could balance your shortcoming. Those kinds of character traits are not going to change easily. Don’t think that you will be able to change your husband. If he loves the Lord, maybe the Lord can transform him eventually but you should not expect to be able to do so. Still, there is something that you can do; you can turn to the Lord to find grace and wisdom in Him for whatever situation you find yourself. Nothing else is as likely to help a husband repent, turn, and allow the Lord to work in him as seeing genuine transformation in the one he know best—his wife.
Be sensible with your eyes open. Has the Lord given you both the same kind of desire in serving Him? Can you serve together? That can be a blessing for you both. On the other hand, if you both have the same serious weakness, that would be a real problem. Instead of being a help to one another, you would end up just abiding in your weakness together.
There is a book that my wife recommends called Lady in Waiting by Debby Jones and Jackie Kendall. The principles in it apply to both brothers and sisters but most often it is sisters who are more concerned about getting married. The main message of the book is “Go to sleep”, in other words, forget about marriage until the time comes when there is someone particular to consider. Give yourself to your studies, to starting a career, and most of all, to loving the Lord and learning to serve Him. Marriage life and especially raising a family involve many restrictions. Take as much advantage as you can of the time in your life before then to use the freedom of being single to develop your person and serve the Lord. This will be good preparation for marriage and it will also make you more attractive to the brothers who will make the best husbands one day. 

What is the best way to keep the enjoyment of the Lord and remain with Him when one is away where a church life may not be as strong?

There is no getting around it; it is hard to keep the enjoyment of the Lord without the support of a strong church life. Since coming into the church life, there have only been some periods of time when we were away on vacation that we were not in the church life. Even within one week, it wasn’t the same. Perhaps it could have been and should have been different if we had been more exercised. I felt like I was drying up after a week. However, now there are modern means of communication. We don’t have to be isolated even if we are far away. You could pray with another sister and be a supply to one another. You may not have all the aspects of the church life, but if you have someone as a spiritual companion, that would be a help. You need to continue to have a time with the Lord every morning and then look to the Lord during the day for opportunities to speak to others about the Lord. Even in the church life, these exercises are crucial for us to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh.

Is it OK for you to get married when one of you is still studying but the other one has already finished and is working?

In general terms, it can be OK. Marriage is really practical. The biggest practical thing at the beginning when you are just starting and not earning very much is having money for basic living expenses. If one of you is already started into a career (By this I mean having a job where there are opportunities for advancement in a responsibility and earnings rather than something with little possibility of leading to something better), then there is a way to live without digging yourself into an impossible hole of debt. It might be hard but it is still possible.

 

How do you explain to a friend that it is unhealthy spiritually and physically to go from boyfriend to boyfriend?

This is not easy because the whole environment in the world promotes even children to be boyfriend and girlfriend. That is the world around us. The problem is that a boyfriend is not just a friend, you become emotionally involved and fall in love. You give your heart to someone and probably your body at least to some extent. You are happy for a while but then some things he does begin to bother you. Eventually, you fight and break up. Then you find someone else and repeat the cycle again. By the time you are old enough to get married, you have unconsciously established this as the pattern of your relationships. Saying the marriage vows does not change the pattern except that it is more complicated and costly to get a divorce than to simply break up. If you have already come several times to the point of telling someone, “I don’t like you anymore. Forget about it”, then what are you going to do when you are not happy with your husband? It will be very hard not to do the very same thing. Perhaps it would help to together read Joshua Harris’ book or the booklet we prepared here.
Spiritually, dating before being ready for courtship and marriage is a big distraction. It will hinder your relationship with the Lord very much. Emotionally, it tears down your ability to handle difficulties in a relationship through the process I just described. The more you get involved physically, the greater the chance that it will lead to pregnancy or one of the nasty diseases that are transmitted through intimate contact.

I know someone who “dated” a boy when she was very young. Now she feels bad about it after reading Joshua Harris’ books and wants to warn others not to do it but feels like a hypocrite.

We should try to help others not to make the same mistakes we did. It may not be wise to tell them what we did and then tell them not to do it; that may give them the idea that if she did it, I can too. But we shouldn’t feel like a hypocrite. If we have repented and turned away from what we did before, then trying to help others not to do the things we regret is not being hypocritical. A hypocrite would be one who tells others not to do it while still doing it secretly.  It doesn’t work to tell others, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.”

Is it necessary to share EVERYTHING we feel, think, want, or do with our parents? Is it OK to keep things between you and the Lord?

No, it is not necessary to share everything. It is OK to keep some things between you and the Lord. If our parents love the Lord, they can be a big help. Keeping communication open with them is very positive. But there are things that we think or feel in our hearts that we should simply confess and repent to the Lord and not tell anyone else. It may be that we do need help from someone to overcome a temptation but it may not necessarily be our parents. 

Is it a bad thing to be shy in our spiritual and social life? Does this make us less useful to the Lord?

Some of us are shy; some of us are not. I know a brother who is a few years older than me. He was very shy in college but he was burdened for the gospel. There was another guy there who was very outgoing and was friendly with him. The brother prayed a lot for his friend but eventually only could share a little bit. However, because of his prayer and spiritual exercise, the Lord used that little bit to save his friend. So the Lord can work even when we are shy. If we have a heart for the Lord, He can still work. We shouldn’t feel that because we cannot be like someone else we are useless. That’s not true. Whatever we have, we give to the Lord and He can multiply the few small loaves and fish. It may take a lot for us to speak something, but we turn to our spirit, pray and then speak the little bit we have. The Lord can use that.

Is it OK to spend time with school friends and not participate in some things they do? What is the limit when spending time with friends?

We should be a friendly, open kind of person. Otherwise, it is hard for the Lord to work through us. Even if we are shy, we should be an open person. We don’t want to participate in things that offend the Lord, but we can still be open and friendly people. Some of the people at work who are quite different from me in terms of what they do, still consider me as their friend. They know I am a Christian and do not talk about certain things while I am around. That’s good; I appreciate that they honor me in that way. But I don’t treat them differently from the other believers at work in terms of being friendly and open with them. If they ask me what I did on the weekend, I tell them honestly of the meetings or serving that I did but without trying to preach at them. What else would I tell them?
Where is the limit? There is no boundary that applies in every case. There are things that are obviously beyond the limit but we need the Lord to tell us where the boundary should be. The Bible is quite clear about what kinds of things are sinful and offend the Lord. We should not get involved with them. Some things are especially dirty and defiling; we don’t want even to hear or know about them. But where exactly is the limit? The sense of life and peace within should tell us that. If we feel dark and dirty within, we have gone beyond the limit. We should confess, repent and avoid that as much as we can.

What are some other careers that are unhealthy?

Anything to do with something evil is unhealthy. For instance, if you took a job doing accounting in a casino, the career is not unhealthy but the business and environment is. Generally speaking, much of the entertainment industry is unhealthy. For instance, I am a computer programmer and there are a number of companies in town that build computer games. Because much of computer gaming involves violence and evil things, that would put me into an unhealthy environment. So we should be careful to avoid not only careers that are sinful in themselves, but also putting ourselves into unhealthy environments. 
Being a model is another example of something that is unhealthy. Fashion involves making a display of yourself and your body. That is unhealthy to do, let alone making a career of it. It is difficult to make a living as a musician unless you are extremely talented. Most musicians make their living in bars and nightclubs; of course that is unhealthy. Being a journalist can be unhealthy because most people want to read about evil and unhealthy things. A big aspect of the art scene in general is related to sex and lust. That’s why a lot of art involves nudity. Just like music, it can be used to serve the Lord but to make a living at it, you need to produce things that sell. If you participate in art shows, you will likely be in a dirty environment. If you avoid them, how will you sell enough to make a living? Financial wheeling and dealing is also unhealthy. If your whole life revolves around money rather than earning a living by providing a product or service, how can you avoid being ensnared by the god of mammon? The basic principle is to avoid sinful and very worldly pursuits and environments.

How do we know that our interest in a certain career is the Lord’s leading?

The Lord gave us all certain capabilities and interests. A good career for us likely corresponds in some way to our capabilities and interests. We already mentioned that a career ought to be able to provide money for a living and that we need to avoid sinful and worldly things. Another thing to consider is whether a career will allow time for the church life. For example, many careers in transportation industries such as being a long distance truck driver, pilot, stewardess, etc. involve being away from home for days on end. That is not good for either the church life or a family life. When choosing a career, we should not just pray for the Lord’s leading, but also consider the practical characteristics of the career. Even long term shift work will be a limitation preventing you from fully entering into some aspects of the church life. A career that is proper, can be pursued in a healthy environment, does not interfere with our participation in the church life, for which we have some aptitude and interest, and where there is reasonable opportunity for employment is likely what the Lord has for us. 

 

If you are in love with someone who isn’t a brother and want to marry him but he isn’t a Christian and likely never will be, what should you do?

Being in love is not that mysterious or special. When we focus our attention on one particular person, our emotions get involved. This happens with brothers and even the more with sisters. When our emotions get involved, that triggers our body to release a hormone that makes us feel really good. The feeling produced by that hormone is what the world calls being in love. The first time it happens to us, we may think that only the person whom we are dreaming about could ever make us feel that way and that we will always feel that way toward him. Both of those notions are not true. On the one hand, within two years, the feelings produced by that hormone will be gone. On the other hand, we can just as easily fall in love with others whom we also find attractive. 
We cannot make our life choices based on just a feeling. The best thing to do with this kind of feeling toward someone who isn’t a believer is to try to avoid him. If you have no contact with him for a period of time, those feelings will pass away. If it is someone at school but you don’t feed those feelings by developing a relationship with him, in a couple years you will both graduate and likely never see one another again. Those feelings will just evaporate. Even if we can’t control our feelings, we should not act on them if they are leading us in a wrong direction such as marrying an unbeliever. If we do, we will regret it.

If you aren’t attracted to any brothers at all, how can you find the person God has chosen for you?

When you grow up with a certain group of brothers, it is so easy to just consider them as ordinary and never have any interest. You know them too well. If your eyes have been open, you know that they are just a bunch of immature young men. So maybe you aren’t attracted to any of them.
I have often seen that young people are more easily attracted to someone they just met than those they know too well. That person is probably no different than some of the ones they think are not attractive except that they don’t know what he is like. One young couple who got married and are very happy together had no interest in one another until one day, in this case the brother noticed the sister. Suddenly he was attracted even though he had never been before. This happened when they were old enough to get married. So he asked her for a date. At that time she was not interested so she just said “No”. Of course, he was very disappointed but he waited some months and then asked again and got the same response. But after another period of time, she began to reconsider. So, eventually they did go on a date and a mutual attraction began to grow. The point of this little story is that as we grow, not only do we change, our feelings also change. The youthful being in love will change for sure; not being attracted to someone can also change.

 

If you want to go on a trip with the saints somewhere, like another country, how do you know whether the feeling is of yourself or of the Lord? There are many other expenses that my parents have to pay and I don’t want to waste their money. I don’t want to waste time not gaining the Lord.

Let’s use a real example. If there is enough interest, the church may organize a trip to Brazil for young people. That trip would not be a vacation; most of the time would be in spiritual exercises with the saints there—the young people’s conference, the church meetings, going out in the gospel, and things like that. If we have a heart for the Lord, we can gain a lot in those kinds of things. It won’t be a waste of time. If we simply think that it sounds exciting to go far away, then it will likely be a waste of time for us. Is it of the Lord or not? It depends on whether we have a heart for the Lord or not.

Is it worth it if our parents have to sacrifice to pay for us to go?

It’s true, our parents may have to sacrifice and we also may need to sacrifice other things we might like to spend money on. If we have a heart for the Lord and go to gain as much as we can of the Lord, then the sacrifice will be worthwhile. It will be a good investment.

When considering a certain brother and watching him, is a healthy, mature spirituality more important than having a human character that appeals to you and that you get along with well? How much should we pay attention to spirituality versus humanity?

Being married is more along a human line than along a spiritual line. So, you are not going to find the perfect brother; there is no such person. This means that there are going to be things that you may not like but will need to put up with. For example, if you are very neat and tidy and he is extremely sloppy, then it will be hard. Both spirituality and humanity are important. Yes, you want a brother who has a good relationship with the Lord, but I wouldn’t call that more important than a proper character, one with whom you are able to get along. Then after you are married and find out that he is not living up to all your expectations, be happy anyways. Happiness is an attitude. Be content with the portion the Lord gave you. It doesn’t have to be perfect; if you have a good relationship with the Lord, you can be content. Do like my wife did when she was so frustrated with me that she didn’t know what else to do; she began to repeat, “Thank You Lord for my husband.” 

If you think you have a feeling for someone but they live in a different city and it looks like something that just doesn’t make sense, should you just block that person out and forget about them completely?

Not necessarily—there is no way to say that it should always be the same answer to this question. Living in a different city is not a huge issue. You can serve the Lord in another city with another group of saints if there is a healthy church life there. If there are other issues besides being in a different city, the person is not loving the Lord and is given to the world, or there are serious issues with their character, those things are much more important.
I would like to add something more. Just because you think you have a feeling for someone, that does not mean that he is the one for you. It takes two to get married. If you are both ready for marriage, it is even OK to ask if there is any interest. You don’t necessarily need to wait for him to initiate contact with you. In fact, the leading brothers are very willing to ask on your behalf if there is any mutual interest. Some people find that easier and less embarrassing than to ask themselves with the possibility of getting a negative response. I have done this for young people locally and by contacting leading brothers in other cities. 
But if he is not interested, then you really should block that person out and forget about him. I met a sister who was about as old as I am now who set her heart on a certain brother even though he was not interested. When he got married to someone else, she still prayed and dreamed that somehow, some day he would marry her. She spent her whole life living in a dream. I am quite sure that the Lord would have had something better for her if she had let go of her dream and sought Him. If there is no mutual interest or there are other reasons that would make it too difficult to consider marriage, then you do need to forget about that particular person.

When do these teenage hormones wear off, oxytocin or whatever it is called?

They wear off not by age but by about two years from when you start “falling in love”.

Is it true that it is better to be comfortable with a person than in love with them? Can you be in love with them and then get comfortable and used to being with them?

It is true that it is better to be comfortable with someone before you let your feelings go. First, you should be observant and objective. Once you feel that it is OK, that this brother is the one for you and there is a mutual interest, then you can let your feelings go and be in love. That is very much better than falling in love without having soberly considered what it would be like to live with this brother. The reason falling in love first is so dangerous is that when you are in love, everything is OK; nothing can bother you. When the honeymoon is over, what will you do if he really bothers you and you can’t get comfortable. Being bothered by a certain character flaw does not have a two year time limit like the feeling of being in love does. The Lord has already arranged enough sufferings in our lives to transform us into His image; we don’t need to add more by making foolish choices. After marriage, you may regret and repent but the Lord will not be pleased if you try to escape. From then on, His way is to remain in the situation and gain Him there even if it is difficult.

 

Concerning observing the way a brother is, what if you cannot observe him because he lives in a different city? If the only way is to talk online, what can you do?

If you are old enough to get married, you have finished school and are at least ready to start a career, and he is too, to go and spend some time is not bad. Stay with the saints and be with him and the other saints in the church life. Watch for his heart for the Lord and his attitudes toward other people. When you are alone with him, it is like a date even if it is not going out somewhere. Time spent alone together are special occasions. You can and should talk about yourselves, your hopes and aspirations for your lives, but neither of you are going to be your normal selves. When you both are with other people, especially if you are engaged in practical service together with them, then you will have opportunities to learn about what he is like that you cannot find out through talking or dating. If he is taking care of things around the meeting hall, he will take care of things around his home. If he leaves everything for others when there are practical things to do around the meeting hall, then that is what he will be like at home; he will leave everything for his wife to take care of. You can observe little things if you have your eyes open. 
If you really don’t have opportunity to visit and see what he is like with others, then you are taking a big risk. People can pretend to be anything online. If you have never met him in person, then even to go visit is a risk. In that case, you should ask one of the leading brothers in your locality to get a recommendation from a leading brother in his locality before showing enough interest to suggest a visit. In other words, try to reduce the risk. In this age, online dating services have become popular and may seem like a shortcut to finding someone to marry. I strongly advise you to stay far away from that. Serve the Lord in the church life, travel to conferences, be with the saints, and wait on the Lord.

 

If our feelings for a person lasts more than a couple years, does that mean something?

I don’t trust feelings. It may last more than a couple years while you are only dating but if you get married, the practical issues of living together can quickly change feelings. I have observed sisters whose feelings changed quite completely within days or weeks of getting married. I don’t trust feelings; I have more trust in a sober considerate evaluation. Is he responsible? Is he respectful of others? Is he thoughtful of others? Everyone is thoughtful toward one he is courting; that doesn’t mean much. It will only last until the day after he gets married if he is not thoughtful to others already. How is he toward others when something happens that he does not like? What is he like then? I have more trust when your heart is seeking the Lord and your mind is soberly considering the real situation than I trust feelings. After you have made your choice, then let your feelings go and enjoy being in love. But don’t let your feelings lead your life; that will get you into so much trouble.

I know that in 1 Peter, it talks about being a meek and humble woman; a meek and humble woman is treasured most by the Lord. But it is hard as a teenager not to care about beauty and looks. People make it so important at school and you become jealous or sad that you don’t look or dress a certain way. How can we escape this vanity? Is there a balance to this?

Yes, there is a balance. It is not good for a woman to be sloppy about her appearance; she should care for it. She should dress nicely and have a good appearance but there definitely needs to be a balance. If you dress like so many young women in the world, to show off your sexuality, to show off your body, that stirs up lust in men. If they don’t care about how sinful they become, they might like it, but they won’t respect the woman who does it. The most valuable thing you can keep for your husband is his respect. If you keep yourself pure, he will respect you for that. If you don’t, he will lose some of his respect for you. Even when you are developing a relationship and heading for marriage, if you give him everything, he will not respect you as much as if you tell him, “Wait until we are married and I will give you everything.”

Should we worry about what other people think of our dress? For example, my grandmother meets with a Christian group where all the women wear skirts. When I go visit her, I used to put on a skirt to be respectful of her feelings but I haven’t been doing that lately because I feel like a hypocrite.

For one thing, there is no outward standard that specifies exactly what is acceptable or not and applies to everyone. I mentioned a pen I had that was too special to me because I had never even dreamed of having a pen that nice. So, that pen was a problem to me. If I had grown up in a family that had plenty and that type of pen was normal to me, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Similarly, if someone in a third world country had some of the things such as a $2.00 pen that we take for granted, that might be a problem to them. 
This means that we should seek the Lord’s feeling about what we should wear in each situation. “Lord, should I wear this or should I not?” If we are especially exercised when we go to buy clothes and the Lord is happy with what we buy, then we won’t have much problem about what to wear. However, concerning the question about your grandmother’s feeling about your clothes, I think it is good to honor other’s feelings if there is nothing sinful or worldly in doing so; that is to be respectful of them. If you feel like you are being a hypocrite or she gets the impression that you always dress like that, then just tell her, “Grandma, I usually wear slacks but when I come to see you I wear a skirt because I know you like it. I do it for you.” By saying that plainly, you would not be pretending to be something you are not and yet you are honoring her feelings.
I went to visit my cousin whom I had not seen for many years and arrived at his meeting place as people were arriving for the meeting. I had put on a tie when I was preparing to come but when I arrived in the parking lot, I saw that the brothers there all had their shirts buttoned up to the top without having a tie. Normally in this society, men only use the top button on their shirts when they wear a tie so I realized that the brothers in this group did not wear ties. I took my tie off and left it in the car. I did not have the feeling that I was pretending to be something I wasn’t, but that I was willing to honor their feelings and not insist on my own. I wasn’t trying to be a hypocrite; I wanted to have fellowship with them without me bothering their conscience.

If you feel excluded and sort of unwanted by the sisters, what can you do? What if you are a quiet person and shut people out of your life because you are going through things? How can the sisters encourage you if they exclude you? Is there something you can say to them? What if they have just given up on you? What can you do?

This is why I said earlier that we shouldn’t have special friends to the point where others are left out. If we feel like we are being excluded like this, I think the best thing to do is talk to one who is a little older than yourself, someone who will be understanding and sympathetic. Ask her to help you and help the others to include you. You probably can’t make it to break through this situation and feeling all by yourself. Recruit someone to help you so you can be friends with the rest of the sisters and not be somewhat isolated from them. It is really hard when you are the one who feels excluded. If we only think of ourselves, it seems wonderful to have a special friend or two. But if we have the Lord’s heart for others, we will pay the most attention to those who are not connected with the rest of the saints. Sisters especially need to be sensitive to others that may feel this way. It is really hard to go on in the church life if you do not also have normal, healthy human relationships with other saints.
Another thing you should realize if you feel left out is that there are others who also have the same feeling. There are other young sisters right now in the church here who rarely come to the meetings because they also feel left out. It is less of a problem with the brothers because as long as one can join in their sports or games, they will not feel left out. But there are almost always some young sisters who feel like no one is interested in them. This is an issue which the serving ones alone cannot fully solve; all the sisters need to ask the Lord for the heart to care for someone else. 
I would also like to tell a little story along this line. A brother I know and his family moved to a locality where there were many saints meeting in the church life. When he got there, he did as he had been doing where he came from; each week he invited another family over for a meal. Each week he heard the same thing: the family that he had over for a meal appreciated that and also complained that no one else had invited them for a long time. All the families felt lonely and that no one cared for them. Each was waiting for others to invite them. Let us not be like that; let us learn to care for one another and express the Lord’s love, especially to one another.

The last time we went to visit a church in another city, the type of singing made it very hard to touch my spirit. I felt afraid that I might either offend the Lord or offend the saints. How do you keep yourself from just being analytical?

When you are with other Christians, there may be things that are different. I went with some of my relatives to their meeting some time ago. They used videos a lot in their meeting. To me, the band was more of a performance than helping the singing. So, I found it hard to touch my spirit in that kind of atmosphere. But anyways, our calling is not to pass judgment on others’ meetings but to be a supply of life. For our own meetings, yes, we need to take care of the spirit and try to avoid anything that would offend the Spirit. But when we are with others at their meeting, we should be positive. Rather than criticizing or correcting, be positive and share something of life that you enjoy. If they are real believers, even if there are things not so good, there will be some aspects of the meeting that are positive. Focus on them and even express appreciation for them. 

If a leading brother strongly tells us to pursue a certain career, does that mean that that is also what the Lord wants?

Not necessarily. Whether it is the leading brothers, parents or anyone else, they all have their views, but that does not necessarily mean that is what the Lord wants. You still need to seek the Lord. When I touched my spirit and the Lord called me into the church life, my parents were bothered. Concerning other things even after then, the Lord made it very clear to me that I should do what my parents wanted. However, concerning leaving home and coming into the church life, I had to choose between obeying the Lord or following the wishes of my parents. 
Advice from others may not be the Lord’s leading for us. I have been around a long time. I try to be careful not to express my own opinions about others’ affairs. But sometimes when someone asks for advice, I do try to give advice that I think will be helpful. One sister came to me and asked, “What do you think about me marrying that brother?” On that occasion, I said, “I don’t think it is a good idea; you are too different” but the sister went ahead and married him anyways. That was many years ago and the marriage has turned out to be wonderful. They are both pursuing the Lord and serving Him together even now. My advice, even though I was the leading brother caring for her, was the opposite of the Lord’s leading. We can’t say that a certain one, even though he or she has served the Lord and the saints for many years and has certain views based on experience, can always tell us how the Lord would lead us in specific situations. We still need to seek the Lord.

 

Saints have criticized Bookafé or rock bands like some other churches have and have left the church because of these things. If these ways of preaching and reaching people work and have results, how do we discern these types of things?

The way we discern everything is through the truth of the Bible and the feeling in our spirit. Along with the truth of the Bible, we can get help from spiritual books because the proper spiritual books and ministry help us to know the Bible. Ministry that properly presents the truth of the Bible can help us to understand the Bible. How do we know our spirit? Sometimes it is not easy to discern the feeling in our spirit but proper fellowship with others who know the Lord and are pursuing the Lord can help us to know the feeling in our spirit. That sister who asked me about marrying a certain brother, was more clear after the fellowship than before that she should go ahead and marry that brother even though I told her the opposite. 
So, concerning something outward, we should ask, is it helping the saints to have a spiritual exercise? To have a coffee shop is not spiritual in itself but neither is it sinful or worldly. It can be done in a way that creates a pleasant atmosphere where there can be a spiritual exercise. There are many coffee shops; there is nothing spiritual nor sinful about most of them. So when considering how that is being used for reaching others, we can observe whether it is helping the saints to have a spiritual exercise. If it provides an atmosphere and opportunity for the Spirit to work through the saints, then it is worthwhile. 
Similarly, we can ask concerning rock music, “Does that help the saints to have a spiritual exercise? Is that something spiritually neutral or is it usually associated with sin? Does it lead to something spiritual or is it a distraction? Is it bringing in something of the world that will eventually distract people from the Lord?” Rock musicians use the beat, style of play, and visual effects to create a certain mood. Of course, when Christians use rock music, the words are different from the rock music of the world, but do the beat and style help us to turn to our spirit or stir up a different part of our being? What is the effect of the mood the music creates? I am trying to help you know how to discern things, not just give answers to specific questions.
I would like to say a little more about music in general. The largest book in the Bible, Psalms, is a book of songs. Yet these songs are not ordinary or worldly; they are a product of the experiences of God’s people. As such, they express the response of God’s people to Him. Thus they are not doctrinal in nature but express a lot of feelings in prayer and especially praises to God. Because of this, they can also help us to open our hearts in prayer, worship and praise to the Lord. Proper Christian music today is still the same; it helps us to touch and respond to the Lord in spirit. I know that many young people like rock music and some Christians use it to preach the gospel. I would not do that because the beat and style of rock music stirs up the flesh; that’s why it is popular in the world. When I first began enjoying the church life, some of the songs we sang were written to worldly tunes. A young brother who visited our meeting told me that the tunes bothered him because they reminded him of the sinful and worldly words that were associated with those tunes. We don’t sing any of those songs anymore; I think that the tunes spoiled any spiritual value that the words themselves may have had. This means that we should pay attention not only to the style of music itself, but also the association that people make with a style of music. For example, what do most people associate with rap music? Will that association help people to touch the Lord in spirit?
Finally, I would mention the matter of having fun in singing. There is a time and place for fun, especially for young people. However, a Christian meeting is not the place for fun; that also will offend the Spirit and distract people from touching the Lord in spirit. Spiritual goals can only be achieved by spiritual means. Christian meetings should each have a spiritual goal; so let us use music that will help us to be in spirit, music that will help us to reach the goal.

 

We hear a lot of things about sisters having to deny themselves. When do the brothers have to deny themselves?

Let me apply this to marriage. When we get married, if we evaluate things in this way, we cannot be happy. We will think, “I have to do all this and he is only doing that little bit.” I call this keeping score. If we are keeping score, we are not going to be happy and we are going to make our spouse miserable because we think he deserves it. That will create a lot of conflict and trouble in our marriage. One thing that helped me was realizing how much the Lord did for me and how little I deserved it. The Lord gave Himself completely, even His life, for me. I didn’t deserve any of it. When I am touching the Lord, I can have the same attitude toward other people. It is not a matter of whether they deserve anything or if they are denying themselves as much as I am. I don’t consider if my wife is denying herself the way I have to deny myself. If you are thinking that way, you are in the wrong realm. You won’t be happy and you will also make the ones around you miserable. The ones who deny themselves for the Lord’s sake the most will gain the biggest reward when the Lord returns. Life today is not fair; we shouldn’t expect it to be. Perhaps it is true that the sisters have to deny themselves more than the brothers; when the Lord comes, He will reward us for every injustice that we have borne willingly for His sake.

The Bible talks about pearls, gold and costly clothing. Should we not wear costly clothing? What does the Lord think about that?

There is no actual outward standard about where to draw the line. What one person can wear peacefully, even with the Lord’s approval, may not be appropriate for someone else. One time a brother asked someone ahead of him in the Lord, “How can you have that picture of a traditional Chinese warrior on your wall?” The more mature brother answered, “I can but you can’t.” The reason was not that he could do things the other saints couldn’t because he was spiritual. The reason the other brother couldn’t was simply that it would bother his conscience to have a picture of a warrior. If it bothered his conscience, he shouldn’t do it. The older brother had that picture to remind himself to be a warrior for the Lord. 
It is the same with clothes. Something that someone else wears might be a problem to me because it would be too special to me. If I wore it, I would be expecting the other saints to notice and admire it. Even if we are at the same level economically, our consciences may have different reactions because one of us has grown more or less than the other. Some clothes are designed specifically to show off or stir up lust. Of course we need to avoid those and even help new ones not to dress like that. However, it is much more difficult to know exactly where to draw the line. We can’t apply our feelings to others. We each need to seek the Lord’s speaking concerning the way we dress. If we can’t forget that we are wearing something because it is so special to us, then it is probably too much. But if we like something and think it is nice but can forget about it and be happy with the saints when we are wearing it, then it is probably OK. If it is distracting us or others, that is a problem. This doesn’t just apply to things that are too nice. If our way of dressing is too sloppy or shabby, that also will be a distraction. We need to have a good appearance to honor the Lord at His table. If we dress too fashionably, others will notice and it will be a distraction. If we dress too poorly, others will notice and that will also be a distraction. So, like everything, we need to be balanced.

How do you know what is distracting to people and what is not?

It is OK to wear something nice and some others may indeed give you little compliments. That is not in itself too much yet. But if you realize that it is making others jealous, that may be a problem. You shouldn’t be bothered if someone says, “You look nice today.” But if some of your peers are envious or if it makes you feel that you are better than them, then it is not appropriate.

 

How should you be with parents when they are bothered by some of the clothes you wear or some of the things you do?

I don’t know what you should do but I know what you shouldn’t do. You should not yell at them, fight with them, or say things that are not from the right source. Realize that their wishes are for the best for you even if you think their view is wrong. Sometimes you may need to tell them, “You want me to do this and not do that. I don’t have the grace. I don’t have the strength. Please understand.” The other thing you could do is to pray, “Lord, give me the grace.” Every hard situation is OK if we have the Lord’s grace. He went through far more than any of us from the day He was born to the day He died. If we touch Him, take Him and enjoy Him, He can provide the grace.

 

In Brazil it is normal to hug one another and I have always wondered if it is appropriate when saying hello or goodbye to brothers to give them that kind of hug. With certain ones it seems fine. Is it OK depending on who it is?

There are a couple verses in the New Testament that say, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We should not understand those verses as encouragements to hug and kiss. The culture of the society there was to greet each other with a kiss just like it is in some societies still today. We should put the emphasis in those verses on the word holy. Keep your greetings holy even if it is with a kiss or hug. To some of the saints in Brazil, hugging is a normal greeting with a fairly standard way to doing so with three little pats. It is very different from a full body squeeze which to me would be very inappropriate to do to a brother who is not your husband. If you did that to a brother from China, he would be either very bothered or very excited depending on whether he was trying to keep himself pure or liked having his lust stirred up. The reason is that the culture there is that people keep their distance. They don’t even hug their spouse in public. There is not a definite standard of exactly what to do in every situation but do try to keep your contact with anyone holy. If you do hug a brother, keep it to a light touch. In some situations and with some people it is normal and to them it might be strange if you drew back, but keep it holy.
I want to say one thing more. Many of you grew up in Spanish homes with a Spanish culture. The Spanish culture emphasizes romance and dating, even when children are young. Many get married very early; that is why there are so many divorces in Spanish families. They got involved and married too young and were not ready for it. They couldn’t make it work. That romantic culture is not that good; it is better to be sober and to wait until we are ready to give without keeping score about what we get in return. If it is still bothering you that it seems that you need to deny yourself more than the brothers do, you are not ready for marriage yet. Marriage isn’t fair; we will ruin our own marriage and happiness if we demand fairness according to our own evaluation of it in our marriage. If we are keeping score, we will always feel like we are losing and that we are being taken advantage of. Once we are able to forget about keeping score and give without expecting so much back, then we can be happy. Not only so, if we are giving to an undeserving spouse because of the Lord and in the Lord, sooner or later, He will work in our spouse. If the brother you marry turns out to be not what you expected, the Lord can work and will work if you can keep your enjoyment of the Lord in that situation.

Why does it seem that there are almost always more sisters than brothers who are pursuing the Lord in the church life?

This is an interesting observation which I have heard both among us and from other Christians as well. This is not a characteristic of only the Christians groups that we are most familiar with. I believe that the different roles for brothers and sisters in the church may be the answer. An important role for the brothers is to provide leadership. Similarly, an important role for the sisters is to provide a life supply. Of course, leadership is important; no church can be strong without proper leadership. However, the life supply is even more important to the going on of the church. If the sisters are healthy—a real supply of life—then the Lord can have a way even if the brothers are somewhat short. If the sisters are not supplying life but being a source of death, then the church cannot be healthy.

Questions from Young Brothers
What is wrong with dating?

Being Ready for Marriage
    This point is about dating as a young person who is not ready to be married. This is not about courtship with a view to marriage. This is about dating before that time. We do need courtship; we shouldn’t just make a snap decision and jump into a marriage. But the dating that is so common among teenagers is a damage to a future marriage. Two young people get serious and fall in love. The chemistry begins to operate. They begin to touch each other and that really stirs up the chemistry. But the outcomes are not good. If it leads to an early marriage, it’s almost impossible for that marriage to survive. One sister in the church was determined to get married. She told her parents, “The weekend after I turn 16, I am going to get married. You can’t stop me. You can come to the wedding if you want. You can stay away if you want, but I am going to get married.” So she did. A few weeks after getting married, she realized that she had made a big mistake. She was already divorced before she turned 20. You need a certain level of maturity in order to be able to live with someone else. 

Setting a Life Pattern
    The other kind of outcome is that the teenage relationship ends. Two immature people cannot be that close for a long time, so they beak up. But because they gave their hearts to each other, that breakup is very hard. Whoever gave their heart the most gets hurt the most. That is the most common outcome. But usually they do not learn, they just blame the other person. Then they find someone else and go through the same process over again. This establishes a pattern in their life. “It didn’t work, so I will find someone else.” That pattern then becomes the pattern of their married life. Dating and then breaking up repeatedly is one of the reasons for so many divorces in the world. It doesn’t help, it hinders. 

Sinning Against One’s Own Body
    Dating can also lead to fornication which is simply sex outside of marriage. The Bible calls this “sin against one’s own body” First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” I didn’t understand this verse when I was young. But so many terrible diseases are spread through fornication. The most famous one is AIDS. In spite of the billions spent on research, they still cannot prevent or cure AIDS. This is the Lord’s judgment on this kind of lifestyle. At school, they promote “safe sex”. The attitude of those who set the curriculum was, “Young people are going to have sex, so let’s tell them how to do it safely.” The only really safe sex is when a man and a woman have each other as their only partner for their whole life. That is safe because no disease comes into that relationship. Condoms cannot prevent pregnancy that well. When I was first married, my wife and I wanted to delay having a family for a little. The advice we received was, “Don’t just trust a condom. You have to do something else as well if you want to be sure that she doesn’t get pregnant.” If it’s not safe for preventing pregnancy, it’s certainly not safe for preventing the spread of disease. It only helps; it’s not safe. 

How practically can we flee youthful lusts?

     To flee is to run away from. In this world, there are many things designed to stir up lust because many people indulge their lusts and a lot of money can be made by appealing to people’s lusts. The advertising and entertainment industries are especially involved with lust. Much in each of those industries is specifically designed to appeal to people’s lusts. 
     Romans 13:11-14 says, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” The night of this dark world is almost over; however, the dawn will not come gradually, but suddenly when the Lord returns. Until then, the world will be filled with works of darkness, so Paul charges us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Positively, we need to pursue the Lord. Apart from Him, we have no chance to escape from lusts. On the other hand, even though we cannot avoid seeing and hearing things related to lust, we can at least refrain from specifically going places and doing things that will feed our lust. To make provision is to do something such as visiting a web site, buying a magazine, going to a movie, etc. that is designed to stir up lust. To flee is to try to avoid those things.
     We cannot live in this society without seeing things that would stir up our lust. For women, lust is more along the line of status, other’s admiration, etc. Men’s lusts are most obviously along the lines of sex and what we see can stir it up. So as much as we can, we should try not to see those things that will stir us up. For example, if we are reading a newspaper, we should avoid pages that have pictures designed to stir up lust. We can reduce our exposure even though we cannot eliminate it in this world, not in the society and culture that we live in.
     When our lust is stirred, we know for sure that we are not in the spirit. Perhaps we were in our spirit but something we see, even a sister not dressed modestly, and we took an instant elevator ride from heaven to hell. Many Christians have tried to hide away from the world becoming hermits or monks or living in a secluded colony but that is not effective; the lust is still inside. We need to repent and turn. It is a good reminder every day: “Lord Jesus, where am I? Lord Jesus, I come back to You.”
     Isaiah 33:15 describes some characteristics of those who will escape the Lord’s judgment. It is not simply a matter of not pursuing evil; that is too passive. The last part of this verse says, “Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil.” If we desire to not hear of bloodshed or see evil, there are many things in this world, especially related to entertainment, that we must avoid. Many TV shows, movies and video games are filled with these things. If dirty and evil things are your entertainment, you will not remain clean. Your lust will be stirred up.
     Leviticus 11 is a chapter that speaks of clean and unclean foods. The footnotes in the Recovery Version are very helpful in understanding how this applies to us and how our relationships with others can defile us. For example, clean animals both chew the cud and have cloven hooves. Chewing the cud represents considering carefully what you hear; in other words, to have discernment. Anyone who believes whatever they hear will take in many false things. In God’s eyes such a person is like a pig that eats anything. Cloven hooves that are split in two represents being careful about where one goes. There are many places that cater to fulfilling people’s lust. Someone who goes to these kinds of places will be defiled. In God’s eyes, such a person is like a camel that goes anywhere, whether it is a place with living things or a place where there is only death. The other regulations about birds, fish and insects show more aspects of the ways the world contaminates people and what we need to do to keep ourselves pure. The point about eating is that even if you keep yourself from being a pig, camel, etc., if you are friends with such people, you will become contaminated by them. If your friends are defiled, you cannot remain pure.
     It is important to realize that fleeing youthful lusts means actively avoiding them. Things and people that would stir them up are all around us in this dirty world. They best way is to be filled in spirit, enjoying the Lord. The armor in Ephesians 6 includes having our feet shod with the gospel of peace. In other words, preaching the gospel separates us from the dirt of this world. We are not living in heaven; we are on earth where many things are dirty. Unless we are wearing proper shoes, our feet especially will get dirty; so, we need to speak of the Lord to others. This will not only give them an opportunity to be saved, it will also be our salvation.

How can a young brother prepare himself for marriage?

This topic of marriage and keeping oneself for marriage is something that young people need to know. Young people face this all the time. As they are growing up, they begin to have feelings. Their body and soul develop in ways they never did before. The young people need to learn to deal with those things. We don’t want to talk about those things in simply a religious kind of way. We want to provide some real, practical help and guidance.

First of all, I felt to prepare something about what marriage is in general. Marriage is something ordained by God. It is not something improper; it is ordained by God. God created man male and female for them, not just to be together, but for them to be joined together to bear fruit. God created us this way that we could be fruitful and multiply. One wrong impression that we might have is that sex is bad. This is not true. God made us this way and gave us these kinds of feelings.

Genesis 1:28 says, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Amen. Marriage is something of God. God put such a need and feeling within us. God made us that we would need someone and be attracted to someone. But marriage is not as free as is promoted in the world today where almost anything is condoned. No, the marriage that is ordained by God is between a man and a woman and it lasts a life-time. This is God’s ordination for marriage. The world has its philosophy about these things. We don’t condemn the people in the world. They are just fallen sinners needing God. But for ourselves, we would abide by God’s ordination so that we do not come short of it.

Healthy marriage relationships are crucial for the life and testimony of the church. Some of God’s people never get married. A single person is free as is described in First Corinthians chapter 7. A single person does not have the kinds of restriction that a married person has. When I was single I would travel with just my toothbrush. I was happy to stick my toothbrush in my pocket and go away for two days. But a married person is not so free. So a single person can follow the Lord freely because there is no family responsibility. For some callings of the Lord, this can be a big advantage. However, a married person cannot avoid responsibility, especially a married man. Now he is responsible, not just for himself, but for his family. He cannot just take off. Even with only a wife before children come, he is already much less free than when he was single.

There are a couple of things related to that restriction for brothers. My experience is a typical illustration of them. When I was single, I could work when I wanted and get plenty of money to live. I wasn’t expecting much or wasting my money so I could get all I needed with only a little bit of work. The result was that I wasn’t that responsible. When you get married, all of a sudden, you need to be responsible. It is very typical of men to settle down when they get married. In fact, most of us need that. We need to be settled down. Otherwise, we are just useless our whole life. I came into the church life single and looked for a job that needed eight or ten hours a week. I thought that would be fine. I thought I could serve the Lord the rest of the time. I prayed to the Lord about that and He spoke to me quite clearly. He told me, “If you don’t get a regular job and learn how to please a boss, you are going to be useless your whole life.” 

I have a question: A brother told me that it is better to be self-employed so that you didn’t need to be restricted from answering the Lord’s call to go serve the Lord somewhere else. He felt it might be better to be more free.

Sure, there is the matter of the freedom to serve the Lord and follow the Lord. There is also the matter of character. It doesn’t work for someone with a lazy character to be self-employed. If he is not diligent enough to use his time wisely and productively, how will he make a success of his business? Right now you are in school. Ask yourself about how you spend your free time. Do you spend your free time exercised in spirit serving the Lord? If you were more free, would that give more freedom to your spirit or to your flesh?

If the Lord was calling you to go somewhere, wouldn’t He move your boss to say “Yes” to your request to have the time off to go?

We need to pray to the Lord and seek His leading because He has something for each one of us. If we can find His will, whether it’s to be single or married, working for a boss or self-employed, we need the Lord’s leading. Years later, there was a situation where companies were hiring people on contract for 3 or 4 times more than they were paying their full-time employees to do the same thing. Those working on contract were self-employed. This was discouraging for the full-time employees because we had the contractors coming to work earning so much more than us and yet producing very little. I thought that I could do better than the contractors I was working with. But when I fellowshipped with an older brother about what I was thinking, he was very much against it. He told me, “When doing contract work, there are two possibilities. One is that you don’t have enough work and you are consumed with trying to find work. Your contract ends and then what? You end up consumed with worry. The other possibility is that you have too much. The company wants this and this and this and you are consumed with work.” When working for a company, you usually have regular hours. You do a good job and apply yourself while you are there, but that is all that is expected. You have the rest of the week to serve the Lord.

A healthy family is not common in the world, so healthy families are a great testimony of the Lord. The church life is built with healthy families. Families cannot move that easily because it usually involves issues related to housing, employment, etc. This means that a church life in a locality is stable because of the families there. The single people can come and go but the families stay longer. They don’t move that often. That gives the church stability allowing the Lord to build up the church. So the Lord uses both. He uses some who can travel and serve Him as the apostles did, but He uses more as regular folks with regular careers who are stable in one place serving the Lord together and being built up together as the Lord’s testimony. 

What makes a good marriage?

A healthy and happy marriage is not a matter of good luck or even of falling in love. The world’s idea is that if you love someone, everything is OK. That is not true! When a young person focuses his attention, thoughts and imaginations on someone, this produces a physical reaction in our being. Our hormones begin to work. The feature articles of one issue of the Time magazine was on The Chemistry of Love. That was the title on the cover of that issue. The chemistry is related to that hormone getting stimulated. That hormone makes you feel that everything is wonderful, especially the person that you are focusing on. That hormone gives all the feelings that the world considers as love. It is a physiological reaction to a hormone. The problem is that the effect of the hormone doesn’t last. Even if you don’t change your attitude and the hormone is still flowing in your bloodstream, it wears off. After a couple years, the effect of the hormone is all over and you can never get it back. So if your marriage is only based on feeling good because of the hormone, it will be in trouble. Young people in the world enter into relationships going steady with one person and then another. They are giving their hearts to one another and enjoying that hormone. Sometimes I see a girl fawning over some guy, clinging to him, and I shake my head. That young girl has put all her hopes and dreams on that guy, thinking that life is going to be wonderful with an immature young man who is so self centered. What a heartbreak she is going to experience as she discovers what he is actually like.

Lasting love is based on respect and appreciation. These things are not limited by time. In fact, they can continue to grow over time. My own experience is that I was not very aware of what girls are like. I didn’t have any sisters. I was not very aware of what it meant to enter into marriage. I was more or less, a typical young man. When I got married, of course I wanted to be a good husband. But trying to be a good husband or wife doesn’t work that well because eventually you begin to be bothered by the other person. I got bothered by my wife. When you get bothered, you are not happy and become miserable to be with. So you make the other person also miserable. This is very typical. This went on for some years even though I was in the church life serving the Lord as an elder in the church. Our marriage was not working that well until one day the Lord showed me that my wife was treating me better than I deserved. When I realized that, I was sorry and repented and changed my attitude. That changed our marriage relationship. Then later on it was the opposite. My wife was a certain way in a certain aspect, and then one day she realized that I was treating her better than she deserved. Through those kinds of experiences, our respect and appreciation of one another grew. I am so thankful to my wife that at a certain point she did not treat me the way I was treating her. She gave the Lord the ground to enlighten me. Now we have a relationship that is so sweet, so much enjoying being together.

Respect and appreciation are things that are earned. You can’t demand these things from others. You earn them by sacrifice. If you are living selfishly, even loving selfishly because the world’s love is selfish, that tears down the real love and appreciation. But when you sacrifice, that builds it up. Someone blinded by the hormones of falling in love will think that everything is wonderful and the other person is wonderful. But once you get married, you find out what that person is really like. The blindness of being in love cannot survive the wedding day because by the next day you relax. You are no longer courting. You are together all the time, day and night in every kind of situation and every kind of mood. While courting, every date is a special occasion, but everyday married life is not. So the real situations of both you and your spouse get exposed. 

I have a question. You spoke of girls you have seen hanging off of a guy. What about the girls who are not like that? I have seen girls who don’t seem to care about a relationship. They just play around with the guys. Are all girls the same?

When you talk about girls and guys in terms of their feelings and attitudes, you can make general statements and the general statements are valid. They are in the same category as saying that guys are taller than girls. This is true generally speaking but there are always exceptions. There are some exceptionally tall girls and some short guys. Generally, girls have a certain attitude and expectation about marriage. It is that their husband is going to make them happy. They are expecting a relationship and understanding. They are expecting that their husband will see things the way they do and agree with them. Their expectations are wrong in a number of areas. One is that their husband will understand them and agree with them about what is important. Not only are all people different, one is a man and one is a woman. They are quite opposite. Secondly, even the best husband in the world cannot make his wife completely happy. Only God can provide the inner satisfaction to make someone truly happy. Only a right relationship with the Lord and growing in the Lord makes us really satisfied within. Every husband wants his wife to be happy but wives are often not happy. If a wife is not seeking the Lord, just her own happiness, then she will blame her husband for not making her happy all the time. In fact, she will be unhappy most of the time. My wife and I are really happy with one another when we are serving the Lord together. This gives meaning to our relationship. Some girls are living in the fairy tale dream that the first guy who pays attention to them is going to make them wonderfully happy.

Today is not like it was years ago. Before, girls were somewhat restricted, but now some play the guys more than the guys play the girls. Society has changed. I see 40 year old women with nose rings. There are girls who just want to have sex. They don’t care about anything else. These kind of girls are not the girls that you want to marry. You don’t want to get hooked up with a girl that you meet in a club. The result will be really sad. The Lord touches your heart and now you want to go on with Him, but your wife is so worldly that you have no way.

Being ready for marriage is a matter of being ready to sacrifice without keeping score. Most people have the idea that marriage is a fifty-fifty relationship. I give and she gives equally. This doesn’t work. It didn’t work for me and I don’t think it works for anyone. When my wife and I were having a hard time, my feeling was that I was giving way more. To me the score was about 70/30 and I was having to give 70. To her feeling, the score was 80/20 and she was having to give 80. We were far apart. Having the idea that if I give in this time, next time I expect that it is my turn to win, does not work. 

I have this concept, I have to mature more to get married. I am a very proud individual. I have to have my way. If it’s not my way, it’s going to be my way.

When you get married, that won’t work. If you treat your wife that way, she will be very unhappy. Then she will make your life miserable and you will have to give in or be miserable. There’s no two ways about it. When you get married, you have to mature.

What women want and what men want are totally different. If you treat your wife the way you want her to treat you, you will have a bad experience. You may want to be alone but she wants you to talk to her. You have to understand and be able to deny what you want.

We are talking about all this, 50/50, 80/20, so how do you deal with those problems. Do you just take it, or do you talk about it? How do you deal with these situations?

Communication is key. You also need to go to the Lord to allow Him to show you your shortcomings. It’s so easy to see the other person’s faults. It takes a long time to see your own faults. I brought along this book that I recommend called Fit to Be Tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels. “Fit to be tied” means ready to be married. The first half that book is speaking of their experience before marriage and the second half in marriage. They have a relationship with the Lord and that is what adds value to their speaking. Bill and Lynne are total opposites in some ways. That gave them some very big issues to work through to make it together. They went through a lot of struggles, but they are honest about it. That honesty and the fact that in their struggles, they gained something of the Lord, makes the book worthwhile. 

It seems that it would be much better to get a wife in the church life than in the world. But do you have to be totally committed for the Lord to give you a wife? Will the Lord still give you a wife if you are just a lukewarm brother?

If you are a lukewarm brother, you will likely get a lukewarm wife. A sister who is pursuing the Lord is going to want someone who matches her. You will either have to learn to turn to the Lord or you will be dealing with the issues of living together on your own. When I got married, I was not that mature. I don’t know if my wife would have tolerated me if she was not loving the Lord. Once we were really able to turn, then the Lord gained something in both of us. We are so happy together. Just the other day she told me, “I want to tell you how much I appreciate you. I know I have told you this before but I didn’t tell you enough.” The story of your marriage can have a wonderful, happy ending. It doesn’t have to be all misery. 

Why do some people live a life of lust?

This is a result of giving up God. Many people have made a deliberate choice. People in general do not want God; they do not want to hear about God; and they do not want to know God. They have rejected God. Romans 1:24-32 says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, so that they dishonor their bodies among themselves, Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore God gave them up to passions of dishonor; for their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature; And likewise also the males, leaving the natural use of the female, burned in their craving toward one another, males with males committing unseemliness and fully receiving in themselves the retribution of their error which was due. And even as they did not approve of holding God in their full knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mind, to do the things which are not fitting, Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; Whisperers, slanderers, hateful to God, insolent, arrogant, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Senseless, faithless, affectionless, merciless; Who, though fully knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also have fellow delight in those who practice them.” When God gives someone up, their flesh takes over their person. People who live in the flesh get consumed by the flesh. It gets worse and worse. A further degree of living in the flesh is homosexuality. The sexually transmitted diseases spread the most among homosexuals. About 30 years ago, just before AIDS spread, I heard a statistic that a typical homosexual man had over 300 partners in his lifetime. It is less now, not because people changed their behavior, but because they die of AIDS before they go that far. 

I love the Lord but have a certain weakness. Will God protect me if I can't help myself sometimes?

We might think is that if I am a Christian and God loves me, He wouldn’t let bad things happen to me. This is a wrong concept. God uses the consequences of our sin to discipline us. He doesn’t protect us from these consequences. For instance, a brother I know was looking at “soft” pornography on the internet. Then, without planning to, he found himself in a situation where his lust got stirred up to try to take the kind of pictures he had been looking at. He didn’t know it but a policeman was watching because there had been a sexual predator in the area. Right away this brother got caught. The Lord had arranged the situation so that he was caught before he went any farther. His getting caught saved him from doing something worse. The point is, if we sin, the Lord does not protect us from the consequences. He is likely to bring the consequences upon us sooner, whereas an unbeliever may get away with his sin in this age only to suffer for his sin for eternity.

Another real story is told by Joshua Harris in one of his books. One guy in his church couldn’t wait to get married so he went one time to a prostitute for sex. He didn’t know it at the time but he got AIDS from that encounter. Later, he did get married and soon after that, both he and his wife were diagnosed with AIDS and then wasted away and died from it. 

What does the Bible say about lust?

Restricting the Lusts of the Flesh

It tells us to restrict our lust. Men especially need to be careful to restrict the lust of the flesh. Girls are not stirred up by the sight of the human body, but men are. When we see a display of the flesh, something within us is stirred up, we become sexually aroused. We need to restrict that. We shouldn’t seek out those kinds of pictures or gaze at women who dress that way. I tell the sisters, “Don’t dress to show off your body. The brothers have enough trouble with the lusts of the flesh that are stirred up by the improper women in the world. They shouldn’t have to deal with the same sights in the meetings of the church.”

Reigning over Sin

Romans 6:12 says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” The body has lust, so we need to reign over that lust rather than let it reign over us.

Making No Provision for the Flesh

Chapter 13, verses 11-14 say, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” This means that, even though the flesh has lusts, we don’t need to do things to let them loose. If we go certain places or look at certain things, that will stir up the lusts of the flesh. If we wander around an open pit, sooner or later we will fall in. If you don’t want to fall, stay far away from the pit. If you don’t want to get drunk, don’t go to the bar. It is too easy for us to fall, so we should avoid situations and environments that are full of temptation.

Crucifying the Flesh

Galatians 5:24 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Crucifying the flesh is by the Spirit. If we are just fighting the flesh ourselves, it is really hard. Getting caught up in lust is like getting addicted to alcohol. You need to turn to the spirit so that the Lord can deal with it in you.

Lusts War against the Soul

First Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Fleshly lusts damage our soul. No matter how much we grow in the Lord, our flesh never changes. Our fallen nature is fallen. So it is very easy to be enslaved by the evil things that our flesh lusts after. It’s easy to fall and hard to rise up afterward.

Becoming Enslaved to Sin

John 8:34 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’” Sin enslaves us. Once we enter into sin, it’s so hard to get free because we get addicted to it.

Titus 3:3 says, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” This describes someone caught by lusts. The Lord can save us from lust, but it is especially hard for Him to free us if we get caught by lust after we are saved.

Will it be easier to overcome lust after I get married and can have sex with my wife?

Not necessarily. Lust is so dangerous because it is never satisfied. The more you indulge it, the more it gets stronger. Another characteristic of lust is that it is stirred up by what is forbidden. If your attraction to your fiance is mainly a matter of lust, there is a danger that you will lose it after you get married and sex with her is no longer forbidden. 

The Damage of Pornography

If you indulge in pornography before marriage, you won’t be satisfied with the natural use of your wife. There is a natural use (Rom. 1:26-27), the act of sex, that God has ordained between a husband and wife. But if you have indulged in pornography and sexual fantasies before marriage, those things will be in you. You will want your wife to do things that she won’t want to do. This will be a problem in your marriage. The lust that you stirred up remains. This kind of thing can lead to adultery because you have an expectation of your wife, but she is not willing to engage in that activity. Even if she does go along with you, the lust in you will not be satisfied. Just as I said before, it will want to go further. Lust is not pure; it’s dirty. We need to be afraid of lust.

Lust is a Monster

Lust is like a monster inside of us. If we never indulge it, it will not grow that much. However, if we do indulge it, we are feeding the monster and it begins to grow, becoming harder and harder to tame. If we continue to feed it, it will become out of control and will make us into a monster. Someone who has become a sexual predator did not start that way but began to feed his lust. The monster started to grow and consume him more and more. The only way to deal with the monster is to starve it, avoiding any situation that would let it fulfill its desire. Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.” The world is full of provisions for the flesh, not just what it considers pornography, but advertising, movies, television, etc. are often designed to appeal to and stir up people’s lusts. We need to guard our eyes and our ears if we want to control our lust rather than be controlled by it.

Flee Youthful Lusts

Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Lust always has the deceit that it will make us happy. In the end, it is poison. God’s will is what makes us really happy. Living according to God’s will gives real happiness that has no bad taste in the end, like lust does. We need to flee lust. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk to the sisters. We can have normal relationships with the sisters, but we should avoid touching them and we should avoid being alone together with one of them. Those kinds of things stir up the chemistry. Fleeing youthful lusts means staying away from the situations that lead to temptation. That includes avoiding all forms of pornography. Your eyes lust after that, but they are never satisfied and it damages you.

Of course, sexual lust is not the only kind of lust. People get caught by lust for clothes, for things, for adventure, for prestige, for fame, for power, for all kinds of things. Many of the things are legitimate; for instance, we need clothes. But when we become consumed with wanting to always have better or more fashionable clothes than others, we have been taken over by lust.

Reaping What We Sow

If we indulge our lusts now, we will regret it later. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “ Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” 

How early should we begin to think about marriage? Aren’t some of us too young?

The first book by Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is about why dating before being ready for courtship and marriage is harmful. If you think that if you are missing out on something if you are not dating, you should read that book. His other book is about finding the one for you and courtship. One other book, Fit to Be Tied, by Bill and Lynne Hybels is very practical concerning dealing with the differences that you will experience in courtship and marriage life. It helps to provide a realistic view concerning what it means to be married. Since marriage requires a certain amount of maturity, some of you are definitely too young to think of getting married soon. However, no one is too young to determine, "My heart is for the Lord. I want to keep myself pure for Him and for the future wife that He gives to me."

So if you are just beginning university, is it too early to start thinking about these things?

That may be a little too late. You cannot expect a glorious start to your marriage if you have never prepared yourself for what it involves. Along with sweetness (hopefully) of a loving relationship come many responsibilities, chores and limitations. It takes time to develop both the skills and the maturity to handle those things with joy. So, starting to think about these things should involve practically preparing yourself for marriage, not just dwelling in imaginations. Two other books that are very helpful related to preparing for marriage and choosing a partner are Preparing to Be a Help Meet by Debi Pearl and In Search of a Help Meet by Michael Pearl.

What is the book, Boy Meets Girl, about?

The main thing I received from that book was that Christian young people should seek the help and advice of their parents and the older saints who are caring for them. This can be a safeguard from just getting carried away by the chemistry. If you just let yourself be blinded by the hormones, you have no idea of what you are getting into. It doesn’t mean that parents or serving ones are always right. You still need to seek the Lord. A sister came to me for fellowship about marrying a certain brother. I told her that I didn’t think it could work. In my opinion, they were too different in race, class, and culture. I am sure that that sister continued to pray about her feeling and what I had told her. Eventually, she did marry that brother and their marriage has turned out to be wonderful. Many years later, they are still joyfully serving the Lord together. 

What if you ask older ones for advice, the advice they give is wrong, and you take their advice?

Especially when people are trying to put you together with someone, matchmaking, they are not the one who is going to have to live with that person. You are. You need to be clear before the Lord that this is the one for you. When you are seriously considering someone, watch how she relates to her parents, especially her father. The way she treats her father is the way she is going to treat her husband. Does she respect her parents, the serving ones, and the elders? And how about you? Do you respect and honor others?

Some girls, including some sisters, would like to be rebellious but are too timid. Then they are attracted to men who boldly display their rebelliousness. A sister who admires men who dare to be boastful and arrogant, is going to end up with someone who despises her.

When the Lord gives you the feeling to find someone, the normal situation is to bring it to the Lord in prayer first of all. Seek the Lord’s leading and put Him first. Then He will begin to confirm what is of Him. If the Lord is with you and you are open to Him, you will seek fellowship with older saints who care for you. A person who is not willing to have fellowship with someone mature in life is hiding something. The older saints have experience; don’t be afraid to seek their help. If you are afraid of fellowship, you are not open to the Lord.

The one the Lord has for us is the best. One sister told me, “I don’t pray to God because I am afraid that He won’t give me what I want.” What she wanted was a certain brother. Anyways, they did get married and are still going on with the Lord in the church life. Still, I believe that their growth in the Lord could be more if they had put the Lord first even concerning whom they should marry. I think the Lord would have given her the same brother if she had been open to Him, but she would have had a much deeper relationship with the Lord. We are not that wise and not that pure in our considerations, but the Lord is merciful.

I referred to a couple chapters in Proverbs. What we go through isn’t new. I told my boys, “Don’t fall for the first girl who comes along and is interested in you. That is not a rare opportunity. There are always girls who are pursuing the boys; so don’t get excited when someone is interested in you. This is trouble, not a wonderful opportunity.”

Proverbs 7:6-27 says, “For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, A young man devoid of understanding, Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night. And there a woman met him, With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. She was loud and rebellious, Her feet would not stay at home. At times she was outside, at times in the open square, Lurking at every corner. So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face she said to him: ‘I have peace offerings with me; Today I have paid my vows. So I came out to meet you, Diligently to seek your face, And I have found you. I have spread my bed with tapestry, Colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; He has taken a bag of money with him, And will come home on the appointed day.’ With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life. Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth: Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths; For she has cast down many wounded, And all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, Descending to the chambers of death.” This portion has a spiritual application but also a literal application. Pursuing a woman who gives herself to anyone is the way to death. We shouldn’t have any illusions.

How far can you go with sex with your wife? What does "natural use of the woman" mean?

The Bible does not define exactly where the limit is. You should not go beyond what you both are comfortable with. For sure, you should not abuse your body nor her body. If you make sex a matter of lust, you will never be satisfied. You will always want what is forbidden. If your physical intimacy with your wife is the expression of your respect and appreciation for one another, you can be fully satisfied without engaging in any novel sexual activities. You shouldn’t do anything to your wife or ask her to do anything to you that would cause either of you to lose respect for the other. 

When you are beginning to enter into courtship and are attracted to a sister, isn’t that lust?

Attraction is one thing, dwelling in imaginations is another, and engaging in physical acts is yet another. We shouldn’t marry someone to whom we are not attracted. It’s not that such a marriage can’t work, but it is normal to be attracted. But if we indulge in fantasies and let our imaginations go wild, that is a matter of lust. It will damage our future relationship with our wife. We will want things or do things that will bother our wife’s conscience and cause her to lose her respect for us. My wife and I enjoy one another with just as much passion as when we were first married. Our respect and appreciation for one another are still growing. Our enjoyment is not diminishing. We don’t need to do things we have never done before. In times past, when our relationship was strained, even though we had the physical relationship, we couldn’t enjoy it that much because we were not happy with one another. But now we are very happy together.

Marriage can be very wonderful, but part of it is having to grow up, learning to bear responsibility, and denying the self to gain the Lord. Without the Lord, marriage can be hell on earth. When the Lord is first, it can be heaven on earth and our home can be a source of life to all around. 

How can I prepare myself to be a good husband when the time comes?

Good question. It is very worthwhile to prepare yourself and it can save quite a bit of trouble later. There is an answer to a similar question from the sisters. There are quite a few things that you can begin to learn now that I shared with the sisters that apply to the brothers also, but I would add one more thing to the brothers: learning to take responsibility. Once you get married, the choices you make, along with your attitudes and actions, will affect your whole family. You will no longer be resposible for only yourself. However, learning to manage your own house well is also the way to learn to care for the church of God (1 Tim. 3:1-5). Being responsible for your family will include providing for them and their needs. Similarly, being responsible for the church includes constantly gaining a spiritual supply so that the things of God can be supplied to others as food rather than as mere knowledge (Matt. 24:45-47). It takes many years of education to be ready to provide a good living for your family. It also takes many years of learning to serve the Lord to be ready to care for God's house adequately. In both these areas, the rewards are far beyond the cost required. I also recommend the book, The Mark of a Man, by Elisabeth Elliot.

A book I read tells us to honor and encourage the sisters. How can we do this properly? If we try, wouldn’t they feel that we are trying to impress them or flirt with them?

To flirt the way the world does is to be loose with them and is the exact opposite of honoring them. To honor them is to treat them with respect. We need to respect and honor their portion. In terms of being considerate of others and knowing how what we say affects others, they are usually much more sensitive than we are. Being sensitive, on one hand is not so good because you are easily hurt; on the other hand, you are less likely to hurt others unintentionally. I need my wife; sometimes she tells me, “You were too much; you should apologize” or “You neglected someone; they felt left out and you didn’t pay any attention.” Sisters have portions we need; the matter of sensitivity is just one example. We should not feel that they are inferior in any way. So, if we treat them with respect, we listen to what they have to say. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we do it but we should consider it and not brush it off. The Bible calls them “heirs together of the grace of life”. One day when the Lord comes and changes our bodies into resurrected ones, there won’t be marriage. At that day how much we have gained of the Lord and how much of Him we have given to others will determine what kind of reward we will get. One time a brother ministering to the churches said, “It would have been better to have been born a sister; the sisters gain more reality than the brothers.” So, as brothers, our position in the family and among the believers is to take the lead, but we shouldn’t feel that that position makes us better than anyone else. The Lord is not a respecter of persons. If He gives someone a little portion and they gain a profit for Him according to the little portion they received, He will honor that. If someone else was given a larger portion but only gained the same little profit, the Lord will call them an evil and slothful slave.

Anyways, I think that to honor and encourage the sisters is to respect them and their portions and not to be loose with them, especially not touching them. Touch means a lot to a woman; once you get married you need to learn to touch your wife every day and not just once or twice and not just sexually. When you greet her, when you are leaving, when you are around the house, give your wife a little kiss, touch her hand, etc. It will mean a lot to her. But before then, be very careful about touching any of them and how you touch them if you do. Keep your distance.

What about during the time of engagement? I see brothers and sisters touching each other while they are engaged; is that OK?

My feeling is that it is normal that there will be some touching during engagement but you need to be careful about how far it goes. Some cultures, like the traditional Chinese, are very reserved. But in this society, to not hold hands, to not have a goodnight kiss during the period of being engaged, would be strange. However, when you go further, you run the risk of not being able to control yourself. A woman is stirred up sexually, not by what she sees but by touch, so you both can get stirred up. When I was young, a young couple got married early because the sister got pregnant. They had planned when and how they would get married the next year but they went to a dance. In modern dancing, you are mostly separate and you do actions to stir up each others’ lust. In traditional dancing, you are hugging and full body touching one another; that also stirs up feelings. That young couple was doing that and told us later that they passed the point of no return on the dance floor. When they left the dance, they carried through with the rest of the act.

You need to be careful. If you can wait until you are actually married, you will have a better married relationship. One scientific study showed that couples who wait until after marriage to consummate their relationship later have significantly better communication, sexual quality, satisfaction with the relationship, and perceived stability in it. Both men and women who waited until marriage to have sex rated each of these measures higher than ones who didn’t. Both partners were happier and getting along better; it is worth waiting.

What do you mean by “Keep your distance”?

There are a few verses in the Bible that say, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” In that society, just as in some societies today, the traditional greeting was with a kiss. We should not understand these verses as encouraging kissing in a greeting. We should put the emphasis on the word holy. Greeting with a kiss was the norm so the apostles were concerned that among the saints it would be holy. Don’t become loose even if that is the practice in a society. For example, don’t take a sister into a full body squeeze. Be holy; respect the sister; don’t take advantage of her. Even when you are engaged and kiss your fiancé, keep it holy; don’t go so far that your feelings are beyond control.

I am afraid of becoming too comfortable and cooling down in my pursuit of the Lord, so I often pray or at least hope for the Lord to put me through circumstances and difficulties. Is this OK?

It is true that we easily get comfortable and lose our desperation, our zeal in pursuing the Lord and we cool down or we get distracted and cool down. When we cool down, sooner or later (usually sooner), we are bothered by sin because we are away from the Lord and our human nature is sinful. Temptation should remind us where we are. “Lord, I am far away from You. Lord, save me. I don’t want to fall into something I regret later.” Once we are away from the Lord we are on a slippery slope so we need to call out to our Savior. The other aspect is that none of us can make it by ourselves. If we are isolated from other believers and are not built with anyone, we are on the slippery slope even before temptation bothers us. The Bible tells us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and to exhort one another so much the more as you see the Day approaching. The signs that that Day is approaching are all around us. This world will reach its climax with a man who calls himself god, who is powerful beyond anything that we have seen in a world leader, and who inspires people to worship him. The whole world becomes extreme in its opposition to God and it is heading in that direction now. In this environment, the believers cannot be comfortable; they need to be desperate and we need to be desperate to be going the other direction. We cannot be caught up with the enticements of this world and following the course of this world, but going on to meet the Lord. These are the days we are living in. Our biggest help is the other believers, meeting together in the church life, pursuing the Lord together, encouraging one another. When I am up, I can encourage you; when I am down, you can encourage me. We need one another.

How can we become a minster of the Word?

There are a few practical things involved in becoming a minister of the Word. To be a proper minister of the Word is something living, so the very first thing is our relationship with the Lord. If we do not have a fresh and living relationship with the Lord, we cannot minister His Word adequately. Of course, the next thing is that we need to know His Word. Often times, brothers fall into the trap of relying on what they know; they think that because they know something of God’s Word and can speak it, that is the ministry of the Word. The words they speak may be correct and may have been the real speaking of God to His people the first time they were spoken, but if we are just repeating it without the Lord having spoken it in our being, it will be lifeless.

The real ministry of the Word requires that the Spirit is working in our being and that we can sense His working and translate it into words in our mind and speak it out. If the source is the Spirit within us, then when others hear, the Spirit will also work within them. This is the real ministry. It is not the words or ideas, not the good proper biblical teaching; it is the Spirit working that makes the real ministry of the Word. If He is to work in others as you speak, He has to be working in you as well. If He is not working in you, He won’t work with others as you speak. Of course we need to pray, read the Bible, and seek the burden of the Spirit. If we have a healthy relationship with the Lord, He speaks to us and puts a burden within us. We feel that the saints need this or my friend needs this. Then we speak out according to what the Lord has put within us. If we don’t have any present spiritual exercise, even if we have had it in the past and have a lot of spiritual understanding, without that freshness, it is still not the proper ministry of the word. We can’t just repeat a message we heard or read and expect the Spirit to work. As we are reading or hearing God’s Word, we need to be in touch with the Lord within us. As we meditate on it, we allow the Lord to enlighten us with it, and then we speak it as the Lord’s word.

Of course, we also need to study the truth so we can speak it accurately, prepare before hand so that we know what we want to say, and learn how to present it well, with impact. But those items related to good public speaking are obvious. We emphasize the spiritual exercise because that is the goal of the speaking.

How can we recover a brother that is involved with sin and the world?

The Lord loves sinners. If we have an expectation of a brother and are really bothered and ready to give up on him if he doesn’t meet our expectation, we may not be expressing the Lord to him. The Lord loves sinners with an unconditional love, so our care for someone should not be conditional. If the Lord puts them on our heart, then we care for them as best we can. Whether they respond or not is still up to them; we cannot turn another brother’s heart. We can pray, we can encourage, we can warn but eventually, each one of us is responsible to the Lord ourselves. Our responsibility is not the results. Our responsibility is to be the life supply, to be the encouragement, to be expressing the Lord, sometimes to rebuke and exhort but still in love. Our responsibility goes just that far. If we are in touch with the Lord, the Spirit will work within them but still they can choose whether or not to respond to the Spirit. They have to turn, they have to open to the Lord and allow Him to work within them. We are like a farmer. The farmer’s responsibility is to cultivate the ground and plant the seed but he is not responsible to make that seed grow. It is God who makes it grow. It is the same with our care for others; we can’t save someone; we can’t make them open to the Lord. We plant the seed,; we water by encouraging, but they themselves need to allow the Lord to work. 

I heard that salvation does not come through Bethlehem but through Golgotha. What does this mean?

Bethlehem represents the Lord’s incarnation; He was born in Bethlehem. Salvation in this sentence is not referring to being born again; that is the Bethlehem in our experience, the Lord being born within us. The salvation in life that comes from growing in the Lord does not come through repeating the experience of opening our heart to the Lord as when we were first saved. The Lord is already within us. What is hindering the Lord now as believers is ourselves, so Golgotha is the death, denying ourselves, and bearing the cross. These are different expressions of the same spiritual experience of the self life being put to death. 

What are the conditions for the Lord to bless us in every sense of the word, humanly, spiritually, and in being a blessing to others? Ephesians tells us that the Father has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. How do we enter into the blessings that the Lord has already given to us. We all want the Lord’s blessing but we want to bless the Lord’s people as well; that is more important. But I feel we need to be blessed in order to be a blessing to others.

I don’t think that there is something as a special secret that would be the Lord’s answer to this. The things that we are encouraged day after day, year after year, to practice and that we find so hard to completely enter into, are what we need. For example, we need to spend enough time with enough exercise to really touch the Lord every morning. We need to spend another time with the Lord’s word to be enlightened by Him. It is not enough to feed on His word in the morning to receive a supply from Him, we also need to seek and respond to His enlightening, to repent and turn. In other words, we need a healthy Christian life and church life.

There are so many books and spiritual teachings available to us in the church life; we hear a lot. If we are seeking the Lord ourselves, it might seem that what we actually see in the Word, what we actually sense the Lord telling us, is just a little piece of bread compared to the feast that someone else prepared for us. It may seem like it doesn’t mean anything but if it is something real of the Lord, He will bless. We don’t need to compare ourselves to any great servant of the Lord, if the Lord speaks a little portion to us, that little portion can be a blessing to other saints or even unbelievers. We shouldn’t compare ourselves with others. Don’t think, “I could never be like him; I’m useless” or “I can do something he can’t do; aren’t I wonderful?” Both of those thoughts are the enemy’s lies. We seek the Lord and gain what we can, probably just a little bit, but we speak that portion to others and it becomes a blessing both to us and to them.

This is just like when a big crowd had followed the Lord into the wilderness and He asked the disciples to feed them. There were 5,000 men and it is reasonable to assume there were even more women and children than men. There are almost always more women seeking and pursuing the Lord than men. So there was a huge crown but they only had a few loaves and fish; with the Lord’s blessing, that little bit fed the whole crowd. Similarly, if we have even something small of the Lord, He can make it a blessing to others. We don’t need to seek something spectacular, we offer what we have to Him.

Can we always be a blessing to others or at a consistent rate?

Our responsibility is not the result. If we are enjoying the Lord, the people around us should sense it. If they are unbelievers, they might not know what it is, but they should feel that there is something different about us that is attractive. Many times Christians are in the realm of trying to be good and keep themselves holy by their own strength. If they feel they are being successful, this will lead them to condemn others who do not measure up to their standard. Of course, if they are not successful, they condemn themselves. Either way, trying to be good does not bring the Lord to people. If we are enjoying the Lord, others will be attracted to Him just like they were when He was on earth. If we are enjoying the Lord, we will be a blessing. One of the sisters asked whether being shy makes us less useful to the Lord. I told the story of a shy brother at university who had an unbelieving friend who was very outgoing. The unbeliever was the outgoing one who befriended him. This brother began to pray desperately for his friend. Even though he was very shy, one day he worked up his courage and just said a little about the Lord to his friend but the Spirit used that little bit to turn his friend to receive the Lord. Wherever we are, we give our little portion and let the Lord use it to be a blessing to others. 

How can we distinguish the Lord’s will for us from our own so that we know we are obeying Him?

There are some means that the Lord uses to communicate His will to us. The first means is the principles in the Bible. The principles in the Bible do not usually tell you exactly what the Lord’s will is for you. They do not tell you who you should marry or what career you should pursue. But the principles in the Bible put boundaries or guidelines which the Lord’s will is always within. For example, the Bible says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” This does not tell you who to marry but it gives you a boundary that narrows down the choices for marriage within the Lord’s will. The Lord’s will is never against the principles of the Bible, so that limits us from many things. The Lord’s will is that we never engage in sinful things; that’s not the Lord’s way; that’s not the Lord’s will.

The second means the Lord uses to communicate His will to us is the feeling within our spirit. Do we feel life and peace as we are considering a certain choice? Or do we feel dark, dead and uneasy? These are indications of the Lord’s leading. The issue that we can have in following the feeling of life and peace inside is that we can mistake our own feelings for the feeling of the Lord in our spirit. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we have life and peace because we want something so much and are hoping the Lord would lead us the way we want to go. That is why we can’t just rely on the feeling within and we need confirmation from the other means the Lord also uses to communicate with us.

The third means the Lord uses to communicate His will to us is the fellowship of the ones who are ahead of us spiritually and are caring for us. Especially for important decisions such as career or marriage, we should seek fellowship. This doesn’t mean that we should necessarily do exactly what they say but that fellowship can help us sort out our own feeling from the Lord’s leading. It could be and sometimes is that the Lord’s leading is exactly the opposite of the advice we receive in fellowship. The advice would have been given with a desire for us to grow humanly and spiritually and with a certain view of what would help us. The advice may not be the Lord’s leading for us but the view behind it is something we should bring to the Lord. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul said, “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am.” He considered it better not to get married than to get married because the married person is distracted with pleasing their husband or wife and the unmarried person does not have this distraction. A single person has the opportunity to give themselves completely to the Lord without family restrictions. Paul had a view based on a reason. The reason was proper; the Lord wants us to give ourselves completely to Him. But later on Paul said the opposite (1 Tim. 5:14; cf. 1 Cor. 7:39-40); he observed that many widows needed the restrictions of raising a family to have a healthy human life. Without being occupied with raising a family, they became idle and busybodies. This doesn’t just apply to widows; most of us need the responsibilities and restrictions that marriage and family life bring. There are many spiritual lessons that are hard for us to learn any other way unless, like Paul, we have a specific call from the Lord. Eventually, most of us need to get married; that will be a real help to us rather than just a distraction. But while we are still single, we do have more time and we should take advantage of it by getting trained humanly with our education and spiritually, and by giving ourselves to the service in the gospel and in the church.

The final means that the Lord uses to communicate His will to us is circumstances. If the Lord is really leading in a certain direction, He will open the door. Sometimes the door is closed right up until we arrive at it and then it opens. But if the door is shut, which means that there are circumstances that prevent a certain action, then it is not the Lord’s will or perhaps, not His timing. When the Lord is leading, He can and will open the doors.

Can we say that we are safe if we have three of the four means pointing in the same direction? What if you have no feeling? Sometimes you need to make a decision but you have no idea what to choose.

Sometimes we need to make a decision and we don’t know what to choose. Then we need to take a step and begin going a certain direction. In this case, we need to pay attention to the result of the first step. We thought this was the way to go but perhaps we ran into a brick wall; the way before us is closed. Sometimes we need to take the step to find the confirmation or the realization that the Lord is not going that way. The Lord does not give us a roadmap of the journey ahead; He wants us to seek and follow Him step by step. For example, we may feel that a certain sister is for us but when we ask her for a date, she says, “Absolutely not.” If the door is closed, maybe we should forget about it.

Sometimes I feel dry. I can’t find the Lord. I am not enjoying the way I was before. How can I recover my enjoyment of the Lord?

There can be different reasons for this condition. One thing is in the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is a portrait of a loving relationship between the bridegroom and the bride. To apply it to us, it is between the Lord and us. In the Song of Songs, the lover was enjoying the bridegroom but at a certain point she was inside but her lover was outside; there was a door between them. The bridegroom said, “I have washed my feet; How can I defile them?” In other words, “I have cleansed myself from the world; How can I get dirty again?” Anyways, she did not respond to his call immediately and he left. After she realized that he was gone, she began to seek him, calling for him and going around the city to look for him. This is a picture of an experience where the Lord is gone and we don’t know where to find Him; we don’t know how to restore the fellowship with the Lord that we enjoyed before. Eventually, as she was looking for the Lord, the other daughters of Jerusalem, the other believers, asked her why she was seeking him. She began to describe him and when she was finished speaking of her bridegroom to them and telling them how special he was, they asked her, “Where has your beloved gone?” From her description, they wanted to seek him with her. She responded that he had gone to his garden. The garden represents our spirit. She found him by speaking of him to others. The Lord uses those kinds of experiences to draw us more to Himself, to help us realize how much we need Him.

Another way of looking at these experiences is that the good land is full of mountains and valleys. The mountains represent wonderful, high experiences such as we may have at a conference where the speaking is rich and enlightening and the atmosphere is filled with the enjoyment of the Lord. A valley is what we may experience when we come back home. The characteristic of being on top of a mountain is that you can see for miles; you have a clear view. One time I was hiking up a mountain that was surrounded by others of various sizes. The higher I got, the further I could see. Each time I got a little higher, I could see another peak that I had not seen before. So, typically at a conference, you can really touch the Lord, are in the atmosphere with so many others exercising their spirits, and are enjoying the light of a rich ministry of the Word; you see a lot and it is wonderful. But when you get back home, difficult circumstances or simply the routine of everyday life, bring you down into a valley. However, water does not flow on top of mountains but in valleys. The real experiences of the Lord being our life supply are in the valleys.

You said that the bride found the bridegroom by talking about him. How do we speak to people about the Lord if we are dry and feel like we have no life to give?

Even though the bride had lost the sense of the Lord’s presence, she had already had many rich experiences of Him and had grown in life. When she began to speak, she was not speaking according to what others had taught her but according to her own experiences of the Lord. She was speaking of the One she had come to know intimately in so many aspects. She really did have the Lord to give to people even though she had temporarily lost His presence. The fact that by the end of her speaking she could again sense His presence in her spirit, shows that she had turned and used her spirit to speak of the Lord. If we don’t turn, call on the Lord within, and exercise our spirit to speak, our speaking will be dry and lifeless. We need this kind of spiritual exercise to give something of life to people. We shouldn’t depend on our own feelings but on the Lord who is in our spirit.

First Corinthians 14:32 says, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Our spirits are not subject to our feelings but to our wills; we can choose whether and when to exercise our spirits. According to the context of this verse, if we are excited and want to share something, we can wait for others and still use our spirit when our turn comes. The opposite is also true; even if we don’t feel like it, we can repent, turn, and choose to release our spirit. We do have the Lord within. Often times, it is our self with its feelings that is in the way, preventing the Lord from coming forth. 

On one hand, we want to be a testimony for the Lord and share life with others openly, but in doing so we may come off as a fanatic to people who don’t understand us Christians. I have become a little more conscious of what I am saying via Facebook, especially now, at a time when most employers are looking at Facebook to determine a person’s true identity. I would like others to know I am a Christian, but I wouldn't like to be labeled a fanatic and thereby lose a rare opportunity because of the impression I give online. It’s dilemmas like this that make me want to delete my account or just be hidden with little activity. I feel others may consider my behavior strange. Should we be careful how we interact in public on Facebook or should we simply be free to share and enjoy without so many considerations?

There was no such question not so many years ago. Facebook is a good representative of all the modern things on the internet. I work in fraud management and so I pay attention to news articles related to it. An article I read today was about how much you can tell about a person from what is on their Facebook profile, especially when you put it together with information you can gain about them from other sources. Cell phone cameras record, not only the date and time, but also the geolocation with each picture. Anyone who can see your Facebook page can tell where you were at a certain time. With a number of pictures from your daily life, someone can piece together your daily schedule and, if they have an evil intention, they can use that information. This can become very dangerous for the person doing the posting.

So, in general, we should be careful about what we post, not just because it can give a wrong impression to a prospective employer. Of course, that is a real possibility; many people have lost job opportunities because of what they have posted, typically foolish or wild things they have done.

“Should I be somewhat hidden and have little activity in my Facebook profile?” I think that is a good idea. Modern technology, with features such as facial recognition, is making it harder and harder to keep any privacy. When you put personal information on Facebook, you are multiplying what people can find out about you. Even if you only share it with your friends, hackers can probably access it anyways.

Concerning our testimony, everyone at work knows I am a Christian. Today, one of the other Christians came by and opened up about himself. I just asked a little question about his family and he opened because he has come to trust me. I don’t share a lot at one time to the people at work but I do not hide it either. Some of the unbelievers also are free to open to me and I with them about the things I do related to my Christian life and the church life. I hope the Lord can use my testimony at work to help the believers and save some of the unbelievers.

I have been refraining from posting many photos of myself serving or at conferences/in the field because I feel like it may be somewhat boastful. At the same time however, I realize that others may be encouraged by these pictures and I see many others posting pictures that encourage me. For some reason though, I feel uneasy about displaying them all. Could this just be a personal speaking from the Lord to me? Or should we be careful with how much spiritual activity we are showing to others?

First, I would like to address the question about this just being a personal speaking of the Lord to me. We do have to be careful about judging others by the standard of what the Lord has spoken to us. We need to be generous with others. To use the example in the question, if the Lord is telling me not to post as much as I see others posting, I cannot condemn the others because they are doing something the Lord does not give me peace to do. We should be strict with ourselves concerning what the Lord has spoken to us but be generous with others. Our natural tendency is to criticize others and make excuses for ourselves. So yes, it could be a personal speaking from the Lord to you about how much to post online.

The second question is about being careful about how much spiritual activity we should show to others. If everything in my Christian life is up front and displayed to others, I am like a tree where everything is above the ground and there are no roots underneath. The hidden experiences we have of the Lord are our life supply and support. We should not make a show; we should keep some things hidden. For example, If I only pray with others or in the meetings and never pray in secret, my prayer is just a performance. We do things to serve the Lord and, of course, not everything can be secret, but we should not look for others’ recognition and praise. In modern terms, we should not put everything on Facebook. There should be things that we have gained of the Lord that are secret, that only the Lord knows. For example, some of the sacrifices we make for others for the Lord’s sake should be secret; we are seeking His reward when He comes again, not people’s admiration today.

For a young person my age, girl friends are a no go because of all the things you spoke about earlier, right?

Beginning a relationship with a girl should be with marriage in view if it works out. Of course, a first date is not a marriage proposal but if the relationship develops, it should lead to marriage. That is normal and healthy. I would go even further and say that it should lead to marriage within two years. To my observation, being engaged and courtship shouldn’t last longer than that. So, if you are soon going to graduate from college and expect to soon start a career, you can begin to consider seeking who to marry and starting a relationship with her. However, I consider it unhealthy to have a girlfriend if you are too young to consider marriage or you have no intention of marrying her even if the relationship develops.

If you are together with a certain girl, your feelings will grow; you will become emotionally connected by feelings for each other. When our feelings grow, our hormones start to flow and we fall in love. The normal, healthy condition is that this leads to the permanent relationship of marriage. To start this process, then break it off, and repeat it with someone else time after time like teenagers in the world do, is very unhealthy. It will be a damage to your marriage relationship later.

Before we are ready for marriage, it is much more profitable to concentrate our attention on getting a good education and using our free time to serve the Lord. Each of these things are good investments that will pay off for the rest of our lives. If you had grown up in a primitive society where life was hard, there was no possibility of more education, and you had suffered a lot because you had to help the family survive, maybe you would be ready for marriage as a teenager. You would have learned to endure suffering and would not think of ending your marriage just because you found out that you were suffering in it. But for us, we need to wait until we are ready. Just go to sleep until you are ready. Even if you are ready but there is no one that seems to be the one for you, don’t get anxious; wait on the Lord and give yourself to the church life. The church life is not only spiritual, it is also a social life where there are opportunities to meet and get to know sisters in a normal way.

What happens to a person outside of the will of God? God has a will for you, but if you are not in that will, what becomes of you?

One brother said that if you do what the Lord says once out of every ten times He speaks to you, you would be the top Christian; we are so prone to not listen to the Lord. So, if I choose to marry someone besides the one whom the Lord had prepared for me, perhaps my marriage will not be what it could have been but now that I made that choice, my wife is the will of God for me. We all make mistakes; we all do things that we regret later, but even our mistakes are under the Lord’s sovereignty. It doesn’t mean that we made a mistake so we are doomed to the outer darkness. We can still confess, repent, turn, and come back to the Lord. The Lord will put that mistake under His blood and we can go on again. Being outside the Lord’s will is temporary; we can turn and come back to Him and be in His will again even if there are consequences to the mistake we made. Being in the Lord’s will is also not permanent; if we neglect Him and turn away from Him, we take ourselves outside His will. Where we are is conditional but our salvation is not. We have received the Lord; He is going to bring us all the way into His perfect will even if it takes a thousand years. In the end, we are going to be everything He desired of us.

I have heard that it is impossible to be good friends with a sister and not more than that. That statement has always bothered me. I have friends in the world. Am I naive to think that it is possible with sisters also?

We should be friendly, open people including with the sisters. The danger is when there is one in particular because then our feelings will get stirred up. If we are focusing on one, we will get emotionally involved. If we are friends with the sisters in general and there is not one in particular, then it is probably OK. But if there is one in particular because we are attracted to that one in particular, then we will get emotionally involved. It will be more than just friends.

In all things, including relating to sisters, there is a balance. The normal healthy living for almost everyone is to get married. We should not keep ourselves so separate that we never talk to sisters; how would you begin to develop a relationship when the time comes that you should? Learn to be considerate of them and helpful when they need help. But also protect their feelings by not showing too much interest in one in particular until the time comes when you both are ready to begin the process of courtship and marriage.

I am soon going to graduate and have been looking for job opportunities. Most of the jobs available are commission based sales positions. Is taking such a position a bad idea or can we pray to the Lord to take care of our attitude, motivation and actions and take such a position? I used to think that I wouldn’t do it but I have found that in certain situations, it is easy to lie. I also am concerned that I would get caught up with money.

For most people, that kind of career is really hard on your Christian life for exactly the reasons you just mentioned. You are concerned about money, you are concerned about making the sale, and you need to make sales to survive. If you are good at it, you know what to say to convince people to buy what you are selling. But what will you do when you know that what the customer wants is not the best for them? There are many temptations related to selling. It is much less tempting to either be making something or providing a service that an employer is willing to pay for.

The other reason there are so many sales positions available is that only a few people can do it well. Most people who try, fail and get no commission. That is also why sales positions are commission based. That puts all the risk for failure on the salesman; if he sells a lot, everyone is happy; if he sells nothing, that is his problem. The company is not out much, if anything.

What makes a woman happy?

Most women grow up wanting and expecting to get married one day but they are not thinking primarily of sex. They are expecting a loving relationship with an intimate friend. A husband who never communicates with his wife is cheating her out of something she needs. She needs him to take an interest in herself, in her joys and sorrows, and in the family. She also needs her husband to communicate with her and involve her in his life. A wife needs her husband to do his best to provide for and protect herself and the family. A wife needs her husband to help in the practical care and chores around the house. A wife also needs an unconditional love that does not change when she is too much or too little, not living up to the standard of what a wife should be. In addition to all these, a Christian wife needs to be able to pursue and serve the Lord together with her husband. This means that they need to have times to pray and read the Bible together and share in each others’ spiritual journeys.

Does this seem too hard? Putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own is what it means to grow up. That amount of sacrifice is what it takes to make a happy marriage. That is why marriage life is one of the best environments for you to learn to deny yourself and bear the cross. Yes, the standard is high; that is why we need the Lord. A husband who meets his wife’s needs in the ways listed above will win her love, respect and appreciation if she is at all open to the Lord. It may take years, but don’t be discouraged. She is a work in progress in the Lord’s hands as you are also. Even though you may want to be the best husband, you won’t be able to make it until you have accepted the Lord’s dealing over many aspects of yourself. In the mean time, don’t be surprised if your wife is disappointed as she finds out what you are really like. She also needs time for the Lord to gain her heart.

What if the wife I marry is always unhappy even when I try to please her? How can I change her?

Even if you married an unbeliever or a sister who becomes unhappy and blames you for everything rather than turning to the Lord, you still can learn to deny yourself and gain the Lord. You cannot change her just as she cannot change you. Only the Lord can do real transformation work in anyone; even He can’t unless we allow Him. Of course, He has reserved a thousand years in the next age to give time for even the most stubborn of His children to finally relent and allow Him to gain their hearts. So, if your wife won’t turn to the Lord, simply take that as another opportunity for you to deny yourself again and turn to Him. There is no guarantee that your wife will turn, but you can gain the kingdom reward of reigning with the Lord. The Lord knows your every situation. He is not seeking a life of ease and pleasure for you; He is seeking your growth and transformation. Perhaps that is what you need. You will never be able to fully understand your wife. Something that makes her happy one time may make her angry another time. All you can do is as a hymn says: “There is always something over, When we, from the Father’s hand, Take our portion with thanksgiving, Praising for the things He planned” (Hymn 595).

It is definitely wise to seek a life partner with whom you can pursue and serve the Lord. To be careless in this is most foolish. However, the Lord knows what we need. Things often do not work out as we hope. That is why we need a certain amount of maturity to be ready for marriage and constantly need the Lord in marriage.

Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” Does that mean that having sex is sinful or a matter of lust even when you are married?

No, that is not what this means; it means that sin is a part of our human nature. John 3:6 says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Our parents can only give us physical life; that is why we need another birth.

Having sex within a marriage relationship is not sin; it is ordained by God and can be pure and holy. In fact, the Bible commands husband and wife not to deprive each other (1 Cor. 7:5). But sex between husband and wife can and should be much more than a duty. If you as a husband win your wife’s respect, appreciation and love, she will eagerly and enthusiastically give herself to you in your intimate times together. This is infinitely more satisfying than the attempted gratification of perverted lust. If you indulge in pornography, you are cheating yourself out of this experience. Even when you are married, the monster of lust within will crave the perverted rather than what is normal according to our God given human nature. Don’t feed the monster; starve it. I mention this matter of lust because today’s world is fully polluted with it.

I want to be pure for the Lord, grow in life, and bear fruit so that I can reign with the Lord in His kingdom. However, I have a problem that I can’t overcome. When I sit down at the computer with no one else around, there is a strong urge within me to visit a pornography site to view the images there. I hate it but I can’t seem to help it. It leaves me feeling dirty and like a hypocrite if I come to the meetings and try to exercise my spirit. What can I do?

Before answering this question directly, I want to describe how you got to this point and where it is leading to. Lust is the expression of the evil side of the flesh. It is an element of the fallen nature we all inherited from Adam. It has many forms: some lust for sex, others for booze, others for prestige, others for fame, others for people’s admiration, etc. But even though we all have this nature within us, some find it to be a much more of a problem than others. Why?

Lust is a terrible monster. However, even the worst monsters appear cute and harmless when they are babies. If you smoke a cigarette just once, it is still easy to take it or leave it. The urge to have another is still tiny and easily managed. But each time you have another, you are feeding that monster and it is growing stronger and soon it is stronger than you are.

Being enslaved by the lust for a smoke or for over eating is bad enough but it mainly affects yourself. Being enslaved by alcohol is worse; it can destroy both yourself and your family. Being enslaved by sexual lust is even worse. What began as juvenile curiosity grows each time you indulge it; each look feeds the little monster and it grows a little bigger and stronger. As it grows, so does its appetite. Lust is never satisfied; it always wants what is forbidden. Thus it drives those enslaved by it until they themselves become monsters. For now, that monster is satisfied with viewing a certain level of pornography, but sooner or later it will demand more. It will not be satisfied with viewing images, it will demand the acting out of those fantasies with other people. Eventually, the monster is not satisfied with doing perverted things with other adults, it demands what is still forbidden—doing them with children. The end result is a sexual pervert who ruins the lives of others in addition to his own. Then in jail, everyone hates the perverts because they hate the idea of someone doing those things to their own children. I described the whole process so that you would be warned; don’t start. If you have started, if you are already being swept along by lust, you need to break this addiction no matter how hard it is.

You may think that it is too much to say that looking at pictures of nude women or practicing masturbation will lead to becoming a sexual pervert. However, I would point out to you that it is common to see on the news that a respected leader of the community is found out to possess or even make pornography involving children. They did not begin to do that all of a sudden; they began with so-called “soft porn”, things that were not so extreme but fed the little monster of lust within. Because they did it in secret, no one knew, but the monster was growing. Eventually, the only things that would satisfy the monster (temporarily) were things that society still regards as criminal—pornography involving children which leads to actual abusing of children. The pervert ruins not only his own life but the lives of others also, especially the children who were exploited to produce those images or whom he personally abused. If you are only part way along this road, you may think that you would never go that far. However, no one becomes a pervert all at once; it is one little step at a time. In today’s world, the next step is only a few mouse clicks away. The more often you indulge the flesh, the stronger the temptation becomes to take the next step.

Satan’s lie is that “Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” These are the words of a prostitute (Prov. 9:17). Actually, in natural, human relationships, nothing is as sweet and pleasant as a healthy, loving relationship in marriage and its expression in physical intimacy. Both God and man honor that. But indulging the flesh leads to the depths of the Pit (v. 18).

The Bible says that he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:7-8). This is the process of how it happens. Don’t think this cannot happen to you. No man is born a pervert but any man who keeps feeding the monster within will become one. On the other hand, if you avoid feeding the little monster, it will remain small and manageable. If it is too late for that, the only escape is to starve the monster. The longer it is starved, the weaker it will become. Even so, it will never die as long as you are in this mortal body; feeding it even once will revive it in all its ugly strength. Realizing this should make us afraid, very afraid, of anything that feeds the flesh.

Feeding or starving the flesh is actually no different than taking care of our spirit. If we continually feed our spirit, it will grow stronger gradually conforming our whole being to the image of Christ. If we continually feed our flesh, that is what will become stronger. We should never think that the little things we do each day do not matter much. If we feed our spirit day after day with things of God, we will eventually bear His image. It is not a matter of trying; that doesn’t work. But taking in His Word, calling on His name, meeting with the saints, speaking of the Lord to others—all these, if done in spirit, will conform us to the image of Christ. On the other hand, pornography, evil video games, movies full of violence and lust, music that stirs up the flesh, fashion magazines, gossip, and things like these will eventually conform us to Satan’s image. Whose image do you want to bear? If we do neither, neglecting our spirit and trying to control our flesh by our own power, then we are feeding our self. We may not become a pervert but we will be far off from God and His purpose. If we are somewhat successful in self improvement, we will become self righteous and proud, despising those who cannot live up to our standard. This is Satan’s image in another form. We may not be the kind of person described in the last half of Romans chapter 1, but we will become a self righteous hypocrite as described in chapter 2—equally condemned by both God and man. I would ask again, whose image do you want to bear? We need God’s light to see how hateful the flesh is so that we can deeply repent of those of its works that still remain in our lives.

Ephesians 4:22 says, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts”. Our old man, our fallen self, grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. Lusts corrupt our person. We may have been born into a good family and have a promising future, but if we secretly indulge lusts of the flesh, they will gradually corrupt our whole person.

So what can we do if we are already being defeated by a little monster within? The first thing is to not only repent and confess the sin, but also to be deathly afraid of the flesh. It really is a matter of life or death. Second, there usually is some trigger that awakens the monster. We need to also avoid that trigger or situations where we have opportunity to indulge the flesh. For example, one brother had looked at pornography online to the point where he could not sit down at his computer without being tempted. He still needed to use his computer; getting rid of it entirely was not an option. So he moved it to an open place in the house and made his wife the administrator. She set and was the only one who knew the password. He could not use the computer unless she was there to let him. Thus, he no longer put himself in the situation where his flesh would rise up to defeat him. Don’t think that you are strong enough to defeat the monster; don’t even wait until you are face to face with it to try to flee. Like this brother who asked his wife to help him, avoid the whole territory where the monster hangs out. Of course, the third aspect of overcoming the flesh is feeding our spirit, diving into the church life, and developing the gifts the Lord has given us to gain a profit for Him. Your vessel cannot remain empty. Are you going to fill it with garbage (monster food), vanities of this world, or eternal treasures? The choice is yours.

Of course, sexual lust is not the only expression of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 lists more examples: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Any of these types of things can make a person into a monster. For example, many evil things have been done to others by those who have been overtaken by jealousy. If we allow any of these things to grow in us, we will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” This means that we will miss the reward of reigning with Christ in His 1,000 year kingdom on earth. The believers who are overcome by the flesh will have a 1,000 years to repent of their living and gain what they could have gained in their lifetime. After the 1,000 years are completed, the Lord will bring in the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sorrow (Rev. 21:4). All the believers will be there enjoying the Lord for eternity.

Romans 13:11-14 says, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” The Lord’s return is very near. If we are not concerned about gaining His approval when we stand before Him at His judgement seat, this means that we are sleeping. It is time to wake up! It is time to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light!

One of the very first things to do in terms of dealing with the flesh is to “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.” This means that we should avoid the things and situations that would stir up our lusts. Don’t give your flesh opportunity to get stirred up. This is serious. Don’t make excuses. Deal with it as if it is already as serious as what it leads to. Do whatever it takes to deprive the flesh of any opportunity to fulfill its lust. Indulging lust is like scratching an itch that itches more every time you scratch it; it is never satisfied.

Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Don’t think that you can control your flesh once it is stirred up. Rather, flee away from anything that stirs it up. But don’t just focus on the negative things, pursue the things of the Lord. The way of victory involves both fleeing and pursuing. As I said before, our person, our vessel, cannot remain empty. If we do not fill ourselves with the Lord and His interests, Satan will certainly take the opportunity to stir up our flesh to fill our person with something that it desires.

Also, the way of victory is not an individual pursuit. It must be “with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” If we are being defeated, Satan would make us feel unworthy to come to the meetings. This is his tactic to keep us from gaining the encouragement and supply to overcome. The times when we are struggling are the times when we most need the support of the other saints. Of course, we should not be hypocritical, but to confess our failures to the Lord, repent before Him, and then come to the meeting to open our heart to Him afresh is not hypocrisy. It is a necessary aspect of pursuing the Lord. If we ourselves are still being defeated by a certain sin, it may help to make ourselves responsible to someone who we can trust and who will genuinely care for us. This could be our wife if she already knows or suspects that we have this kind of struggle or it could be another brother. Of course, we would feel shameful to confess our failures to someone else but asking for help is better than remaining defeated. We could make a promise to them to tell them each week of any time we slipped back into our old weakness. The fact that within a few days we will need to make a report to someone else including the shame of any defeat may be enough to keep us from falling. A medical doctor I know used this method to help his patients who wanted to lose weight. They had to come to step on the scale in his office each week. If coming back to see him was two weeks away, they would relax and not control their eating the first week and never make progress. The weekly report helped to keep them from slipping back.

First Corinthians 6:9-10 says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Notice that along with the gross outward and defiling sins, this passage includes those who are covetous. Perhaps in reading this, you feel that it does not apply to you; you have not done any of those evil outward things. But how about the matter of being greedy, wanting the best for yourself instead of for others? We all have a fallen flesh. We all need to repent.

Another of Satan’s lies is that we are hopeless, that we can never change. Praise the Lord for verse 11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Even though we may have been ensnared by the flesh, we can confess, repent, turn and be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God; in other words, by calling on the Lord and turning to the spirit. We have a way of escape! We can still gain the kingdom reward. Praise the Lord!

Still, we need to realize that our flesh will never change; that part of our being is always full of lust. As long as we are in this body, we are in danger of falling again no matter how long we have been victorious. Even if you have only gone to a certain extent and no further, it still bothers your conscience and interferes with your relationship with the Lord. The flesh is always waiting for an opportunity to fulfill its lusts. This fact should drive us to the Lord for His salvation and to the church life for the supply of the body.

One more thing: don’t think that only you have struggled with the lusts of the flesh. Many others who love the Lord have still had a very difficult time to break through in this matter. There is help available if you are willing to ask for it. Of course it is shameful to be enslaved by lust and the natural reaction is to hide it. However, there is good Christian help available; it is much better to ask for it than to continue to be enslaved.

How should we relate to someone whose interest in sex makes us feel uneasy?

Question:

A brother I know is going through this weird situation and my experience is too limited to be of any real help to him. So he has allowed me to seek fellowship about his personal experiences because he knows that he needs more help to figure out what is going on. There is an older man who has shown interest in him. He’s a Christian, teaches at a public school and has a pretty good family. He leads small groups and has a position in his church, mentors other young men, is involved in Christian organizations, and is well respected in the community because he is a good role model. The teacher started talking to my friend, taking him out on road trips with his family, going to the gym with him, grabbing food with him, and inviting him to his home. He goes out of his way to spend time with him and cares for him and tries to help him. However, the teacher does things that make my friend uneasy, such as often talking about sex and homosexuality, inviting him to join him in a hot tub naked, and urging my friend to confess struggles with sexual impulses. The older man tells him that homosexuality is a sin like any other. This teacher is supposed to be a Christian, a respected leader and a husband; can Christians really be like that? My friend feels uneasy about where this is going so he has stopped talking with this man. Do you think this is enough? How should he handle this weird situation?”

Answer:

This is definitely not a healthy relationship; you must tell your friend that he cannot let it continue. The first issue is the older brother’s encouragement to confess to one another and open up about sexual problems. If you really are struggling with these issues, it can be wise to seek guidance from someone older whom you believe has the experience and care to help. In this case, however, it seems that your friend was not seeking help but that the older man was initiating the topic. By itself, this fact does not indicate whether this was out of genuine concern or because of improper seeking to indulge his lust. From the rest of the story though, it is most certainly the latter. Even if this could be based on genuine concern, that an older person is asking someone to speak about his own struggles related to sex should raise a caution flag. You cannot be trusting just because he “seems to be well regarded by the community.” The community may not be aware of shameful things done in secret. The fact that this was a frequent topic of fellowship is a strong indication that his asking was not out of genuine concern but related to his own lust.

There is a principle to follow related to confession. We need to confess all our sins to the Lord Jesus, but not all of them to others. If our sin is just in our heart, we need to confess to the Lord alone. If it has directly harmed someone else, then we need to also confess to them. Examples of this would be if we stole or borrowed and never returned something belonging to them, we should confess also to them and return what we owe with something extra. Another example would be words spoken to or about them in anger. Again we should ask them for forgiveness in addition to confessing to the Lord. Only if our sin is widely known may there be a need to confess and ask for forgiveness publicly. There is no teaching or example in the Bible showing us that we should confess all our sins to another person.

The business of this man inviting your friend into a hot tub naked together is altogether not proper. Then to use those occasions to talk about sex proves this man’s intentions are impure. In addition, the talk of homosexuality being a sin like any other is a not-so-subtle invitation to get involved sexually. His compliments, hugs, kisses, etc. are all designed to stir your friend up sexually. He needs to reject any and all such advances, especially from someone old enough to be his father.

This is a good illustration of how defiling sexual lust is. Here is a Christian man who is a teacher and respected youth leader who is on the path to destroying his marriage, career and reputation by getting involved sexually with his students. Not only so, his involving them with his lust is starting or advancing them on the same path.

The gospel of grace as it often taught totally misses the matter of the kingdom reward or discipline. This is probably a factor in why this Christian man can treat his sinfulness so lightly; he does not know God’s government or that he is on a path to God’s severe discipline. He does not seem to take seriously the fact that when Christ comes again, the first thing that He will do is judge all His children. Some will receive the reward of enjoying His wedding feast and reigning with Him for a thousand years. Others will suffer His discipline for that thousand years. Only after that period of the Lord’s kingdom on earth does the new heaven and new earth come where there will be no more sorrow and all the former things are forgotten.

I encourage you to give a copy of this question and answer and also the previous one about lust to your friend. Hopefully, it will help him to cut off all communication with that older man. Your friend should also give copies of these questions and answers to that older man. Hopefully, he would realize the seriousness of what he is doing and have a true repentance or at least be afraid to do it again with someone else. But even if that man does repent genuinely, your friend should not have anything to do with him for quite a few years. The lust monster is very strong; once it has grown, it needs to be starved for years before it would become weak enough to be managed.

It seems that your friend overlooked things that made him uneasy far too long. You cannot trust others simply because of their reputation. If someone’s friendship makes you feel uneasy, then you probably should keep your distance. Don’t let someone else draw you into their sins.

When we go to a young people’s conference, we enjoy it a lot and are very encouraged. The things of the Lord are fresh and real to us. Why do we seem to get weaker every day when we return home?

Hebrews 3:13 says, “…exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” This verse shows us that one day is enough for our heart to become hard. That is why it tells us to exhort one another daily. Each day we need to encourage one another. In the conference, we have morning watch, messages, fellowship, and time to share something of the Lord with others. All these things soften our hearts. When we return home, we may begin to do some of those things for a few days, but soon we go through a day without any of these things and our heart becomes very hard again. Every day we must contact the Lord and have fellowship with Him.

Second Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” “Being renewed day by day” shows us that one day is also enough for us to become old; all our enjoyment of the Lord becomes something in the past and nothing is fresh to us. That is why we need to be renewed day by day. We need to help each other day by day. Don’t become an “old” man with a hard heart. Sometimes one who is twelve years old becomes such a hard, old man. We need the help of the brothers and sisters each day. We have it in the conference, so we are alive while we are there. We need to help each other each day; together we can go on.

Questions on Relationships and Careers
Is it OK to date a brother or sister from another congregation?

The requirement according to the word of God is to have fellowship with a true believer. This is the basic requirement. A brother or sister from another congregation is a brother or sister but we must be very practical because it is not just a matter of a brother or sister because one day if you marry you have to decide what kind of Christian life you both will have. One day you will children. Where will they go? Who will they follow? This is something very practical. So, you must have fellowship about all these things and think about these points. You can pray to the Lord, “Give him the vision of the church, of the oneness.” This is something that you really need to bring before the Lord. You have the basic requirement but you cannot take this as something I can do. You need the Lord’s guidance because it is something very practical. He may tell you, “ We can marry but you will not go to your church as you used to do.” What will you do? Can you marry? “I love you.” It is not just a matter of love. You have a vision from the Lord so you need to pray a lot about this matter. We are not God to tell you that you can or cannot. You have to pray more. It is very good that the other one is a brother or sister, but what kind of Christian life will you have? You must consider this in a very serious way.

What do we do when a sister who is not meeting anymore is dating at a young age and some of the younger sisters are asking why she has a boyfriend?

Our leading brothers always give a direction to us based on the word of God and based on their experience before the Lord. We must trust what the brothers are telling us. If they tell us, “Don’t date at a young age. It will damage you”, we must believe this. If there is a sister that is doing this, it is her problem. Don’t ask, “Why can she do this but I cannot?” You must follow the Lord; don’t look at others. You must be faithful to the Lord, to the vision that the Lord gave you. If the brothers said, “Don’t do this”, don’t do it. You will be blessed. You must be under the authority of life of the brothers. They love you. We talked to the teenagers in the young people’s conference. They said, “My father always tells me ‘No’. ‘Can I...?’ ‘No’.  ‘Can I...?’ ‘No’.” Then we asked all the others; all the fathers say “No”. It is not only your father. God our Father says a lot of nos. The 10 commandments are a lot of nos. This is to protect you. It is not because they hate you; they love you. They say “No” because they know that all these things will harm you, hurt you and cause you to suffer. 

I would ask them, "Are you jealous of someone who is playing with fire? She will get burned by this. Why do you also want to stick your hand into the fire?" The people of the world do it and suffer messed up and unhappy relationships their whole life. Is this what you want? Or do you want God's best? Are you willing to wait for that?"

How can we help the young girls and boys realize that loving the Lord at a young age is better than dating and what the world is doing?

We must help them to believe what we are speaking. They must touch our love. We speak because we care for them. Help them to believe that these things are not good for you. “Everybody does these kinds of things.” You are not everybody; you are special. The Lord will be responsible for you. He has the best for you. You must believe this. The Lord will always give you the best; this is our God’s heart. 

There are a lot of sisters here but not a lot of brothers.

This is everywhere, not only here. Every country is the same in this. In the Bible are Martha, Mary and Lazarus, two sisters and one brother. Usually this is the ratio everywhere. 

How do we meet brothers that have the vision in other churches?

We are also concerned about this; we care for the young people. Sometimes in a conference we prepare an environment for brothers and sisters from different localities to get to meet each other. A lot of good brothers and sisters are shy and don’t speak to each other. We prepare a very healthy environment for this. There were some coworkers there to guide the movement from table to table to have opportunity to meet and speak and let God do the rest. You must be open in this point. Many times there are brothers and sisters in our locality. One brother may have a feeling for a sister but she has a feeling for another brother who has a feeling for a different sister. This happens. You need to be open to the Lord. Many times our counterpart is just in front of us but we cannot see. God must reveal him or her. Don’t be closed. You must pray and be open. My brother has a testimony about his marriage. A brother introduced a sister to him and his reaction was always “No”. But the brother persevered, “She is a good sister.” One day he came to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t have any feeling. If she is the one You have prepared, You have to give me a feeling for her.” When he prayed this way, one day he woke up feeling full of love for that sister and spent the whole next meeting just focussed on her. You must be open to the Lord; give the Lord the opportunity to reveal His choice to you.

Is there any problem with a sister marrying a brother younger than her?

No problem if it is God’s guidance. I know many very good couples in the church life where the sister is older than the brother.

What should be the maximum age difference between the couple?

This is very hard to say; it depends on the Lord. According to my experience, 4 to 8 years may be ok; it depends on the couple and the situation. It is something that the Lord will give the guidance. 

How should a young couple behave in front of other young people to be an example?

The way a young couple should behave is a way that does not lead others into temptation. So, if my wife and I have an attitude that brings temptation to others, that is bad. When we are with the young people, just be like young people. We don’t need to have any kind of special attitude in front of others. At home we can express our special attitude in private. 

Sometimes it is difficult to overcome the temptation of dating an unbeliever. How can we overcome?

You should ask me, “When you were young, did you have the temptation to date an unbeliever?” Sure, this kind of feeling comes in our being, but how was I protected? I feared the Lord. “Lord, I can do this but I will hurt your heart. If I do this I might be happy but You will be sad. I don’t want to hurt You.” The temptation is there because all my classmates had girlfriends or boyfriends. I was the only one that was alone. For three years I was called, “the uncle of the year”. No problem, the Lord was happy with me. This gave me a lot of comfort. This is why you must exercise your spirit to enjoy the Lord to overcome this kind of temptation. If you feel that you are alone, the Lord will tell you, “You are not alone; I am with you.” This was my experience those three years when I was called “the uncle of the year”. Amen, He is with me.

What can one do to stop having feelings towards someone that I have been involved with in the past? This person is not good according to God’s will; however, I am still a very close friend with this person. What can I do to forget?

The matter of feelings is something that you can feed it or not. When the feeling comes, you can feed it and it will grow, or you do not feed it and the feeling will disappear. The question is whether or not you feed the feeling. If the person is too close, then it is better to find a way not to meet this person so that you do not have temptation to feed this feeling. If you know that the Lord doesn’t want this, then ask the Lord to kill the feeling. Exercise your spirit; love the Lord and this feeling will disappear. But if you are always thinking, then you are feeding the feeling.

What are the consequences of having a baby outside of marriage?

If you have a baby outside of marriage because of a mistake and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive you but the consequences remain. 

Can I get divorced and still come to the meeting hall?

The matter of divorce has to be determined case by case. You cannot just say that you can or cannot. When a brother or sister brings a case to us, we need to know in detail the whole situation in order to bring the matter before the Lord and ask the Lord what to do. This is not something that you just say yes or no. There are some principles; the Lord is against divorce. Of course, there are special cases. Who is the one that broke the oneness in the marriage? There are a lot of items involved. Every situation needs to be brought before the Lord to ask Him what to do.

I have no interest in marrying a sister. I would rather marry someone outside the church.

Why? To marry a sister is a principle in the word. It means that you have a life together. You can serve the Lord together; you can pray together; you can read the Bible together; you can read the children’s Bible stories together. To marry and unbeliever is to bring a problem to yourself. I cannot find a reason not to marry a sister. You can experience genuine oneness with a sister, spirit, soul and body. This is really important. If you marry an unbeliever, your wife will bring you child to the world to worship idols. What will you do? Will you say “Amen, good”? She will kill your son in front of your eyes. You will not be able to say anything because you chose this.

How can we discern whether the feelings we have come from the spirit or emotion?

First, you have to learn to exercise your spirit. Second, you have to learn to fear and receive the word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is like a sword that cuts and divides spirit and soul. You must let the word enter into your being in a very deep way. This will make a separation of spirit and soul and you will begin to discern what comes from the spirit and what comes from emotion. You must also know the word of God. If you know the word of God, you will be saved from many situations. You will not need to ask about many kinds of situations because the word already says, “Don’t do this.” If you have a feeling to do it, you don’t need to ask if the feeling comes from your spirit or from your soul. That feeling comes from your soul because the spirit will never go against the word. That’s why it is important to know the word. If you know the word you will have a foundation to have better discernment. With a good foundation, you will realize when a feeling is not according to the principle of God; it came from your soul. But there are things that are not mentioned in the word. For example, “Should I go to Mexico City?” This is not mentioned in the Bible. Then you have to pray; if you have an exercised spirit and are sensitive in your conscience and intuition and are strong in your fellowship with God, then you will know whether you should or should not go. So, you need the word and the spirit to discern whether a feeling comes from the spirit or from emotion. Of course, the word of God is an important foundation to the action of the spirit. For instance, there are some Bible experts who say that while the Lord Jesus was being tempted, Satan knew exactly when to come and tempt Him: “Now He is hungry”, but the Lord had a good foundation in the word. The Lord was hungry. Is it not reasonable to get some food? When you are hungry, does the feeling to get some food come from the soul or the spirit. You need a good foundation in the word.

When a brother is thinking about marrying a sister, should he always expect her to take his vision or should he be flexible to accommodate her vision?

The secret is to be joined to the Lord. If you are joined to the Lord, both will have the same vision. Of course, everything needs fellowship. Fellowship is important. Fellowship is not only to bring to bring things to one another; it is to bring things to one another and both bring them to the Lord. 

How does a brother or sister deal with rejection from the other party?

We must have wisdom in dealing with matters of rejection. If you have a feeling for some brother or some sister, it is good to have fellowship with a leading brother so that he can give you some comfort. Then he can go and ask the other party. If the other party does not have any interest at the moment, it is better that the approach is through a leading brother so that you don’t have to suffer a direct rejection. If this brother or sister is not the one for you, be sure that God has prepared another one. However, if someone tells you that a certain brother or sister has a feeling for you, don’t say “No” immediately. Go before the Lord and pray. “Lord, this person has a feeling for me. What do You think about it? Give me a clear leading.” 

What should I do if a leading brother or family member does not approve of a relationship?

If they don’t approve, forget about it. Obey. There is a reason why they did not approve. They are saying “No” not to torture you, but according to their spiritual discernment this brother or sister is not good for you. You must believe this. You must listen. 

What do you do when you are moving to a different city with no proper church life because of school or work?

Preach the gospel and begin the church life there. No problem. Most of the churches in Brazil began this way. Preach the gospel and begin the church life. If you are going to a city because of work or school, who sent you to this city? The Lord. If the Lord sent you, go preach the gospel. This is a chance to have a lot of experiences of the Lord. This is marvellous.

What if there is a church life there but they are not very proper in their standing?

Preach the gospel, gain a group of people, and wait for the Lord’s leading. If there is confusion in this city, preach the gospel and gain some to fellowship together and read the word together and see how the Lord will lead you.

How can we know if the Lord wants us to migrate somewhere else for His testimony and what are the basic things that we should take care of before deciding to go?

First, the Lord will put some feeling inside you, and He will put the same feeling in the ones who are taking care of the work of God and also in the leading brothers of the church. If you have this kind of feeling, you must pray and must have fellowship. If it is from God, this kind of feeling will also be in the ones who are leading the church. Of course, you must have fellowship: “Brother, I have this kind of feeling and this kind of calling.” All the leading ones fear the Lord; they will hear your testimony and bring this feeling before the Lord: “Lord, is this OK?” They will not decide by themselves; they will have fellowship with the Lord and the Lord will tell them if it is of Him. For instance, I had fellowship with a brother who said, “I want to move to Africa.” Other brothers felt that this was very good but the leading brothers in his city wanted to know why. Then we had fellowship. When they heard the things that had happened for this brother to make this decision, then they said, “Go, it is very clear that this is the Lord’s leading.”

I have heard that there are certain types of careers in law that are not healthy for a Christian life but others are fine. What types of jobs in law will not interfere with my Christian life?

If you work as a lawyer to defend someone, how will you act? If a criminal comes to you, “You have to defend me. You must say that I did not kill that man.” “Did you kill him?” “Sure, but you have to prove that I did not kill him. You will need to lie a lot and have a problem in your conscience with this kind of work. In Brazil, there are many careers in the government that use lawyers in different areas without involvement in the criminal area. It is better to find this kind of career as a lawyer. That is just to define things according to law in the government. This will not cause problems in your conscience. Try not to do anything that will cause problems to your conscience. 

Can you give an example of a career that is not healthy?

If you are not strong in the spirit, psychology will hurt you. If you are strong in spirit, you will know how to handle it because the Bible shows us what a human being is. This is our foundation. Psychology has their ideas and interpretations but they are according to man. What you have is according to God. Don’t let these things control you; just know how to handle all this knowledge and information but your foundation is already set.

Is it healthy to be ambitious with your career goals?

It is good because you must do everything in the best way, but you must know where the limit is. If you must sacrifice your church life, your Christian life for your ambition, you should not. But when you work as a professional person, you should be the best. For example, in our business we try to do our best in everything and our company has a very strong testimony of God. All the people respect us because we always do the best we can. This is not a matter of ambition; it is a matter of testimony. You cannot say, “I will serve the Lord. It doesn’t matter how I do in my career.” Where is your testimony? Your ambition must be for your testimony, but do not give yourself to this. Give yourself to the Lord, but with a good testimony. The boss must say that this is my best employee. This is a testimony. If he says that you are the worst, where is your testimony?

What are principles that you should have as a Christian in a stressful working environment?

God gave us different careers and put us in different environments. Why? To make us overcomers. There is not any good environment like paradise. When you are working you deal with a lot of people. Where there are people, there are problems. The firs time I began to take care of the farm business, there were some people that I hired to do some work for a certain amount of money. After some days, they went on strike wanting more money. Another day they went on strike again for more money yet. The fifth time I said, “Lord, burn them.” There is no easy environment. We have to learn to overcome. Then I began to learn spiritual lessons at work. As the boss I was suffering a lot. Ninety percent of my spiritual experiences are due to the work I had. They were not through perfecting meetings or praying; they were in daily living in a stressful working environment. These are the moments that you have to apply the words that you have received. Jacob is the best example in the Bible under Laban as his boss.

How can you keep yourself from falling into the trap of mammon?

First, we must have a controlling vision of Christ and the church to guide us. We all work to gain money but you must say, “My life is in the Lord’s hands. He will give me whatever He wants.” We must learn according to the word to be content with having food and clothing. Of course, we must do our best for the kingdom. My family’s business belongs to God; we are just the managers. When I see the amount of money, I say, “I don’t need this for me.” Do you need one hundred thousand dollars a month? You can be fine with two or five thousand a month. When God gives you more you must understand His message. It is not for you, it is for God. We must remember this. One experience that I had was the first time in my life when I was shaken. I was going through a test. Our farm did not have a good harvest and we were passing through difficulties. Suddenly, there was an opportunity to gain thirty million dollars. Can you imagine this amount of money? I was shaken. Wow! What is this? It was a test. It was just an opportunity; the money was not yet there. Then I began to imagine what I could do with thirty million dollars. Then the Lord led me to the portion of the word when the people of Israel entered into the good land and took Jericho. What happened to all the spoil of Jericho? Everything was for whom? It was one hundred percent for God. When I read this, I said, “Amen Lord. If you give us thirty million dollars, it is one hundred percent for you.” This consecration was a deliverance for me. We didn’t get the thirty million dollars but God was testing my heart. He asked me through the word that if I gained these riches, would I give them all to God or not? Can you imagine offering that much and have zero dollars for me? God was testing my heart. After the test, the Lord could give me things with no problem. I thank the Lord for this. 

How can one preach the gospel in a master’s program where all the people are very smart and highly educated?

Even all the highly educated people have their crises because they are human beings. A human being is a human being. You have to identify the signs that someone is in a crisis. When someone enters into a crisis, they need help. So many smart people go to drugs or that kind of thing because they have problems. If you give the testimony of what you are or of some experience you have, then one day when they have a crisis they will know who to go to. They will have the feeling that you will be able to help when they need it. You open the door. The first thing I say everywhere I go is that I am a Christian. With this I put a limit. Then all the people that have problems look for my help. You do your part, the Spirit will bring people to you. They must know and see that you are a Christian; this is to shine. You speak and let God do. If you don’t speak, you don’t have a testimony. Then they will not come to you to ask for help. So, we just give our testimony and let God work.

What advice can you give us young people who are facing these big choices concerning marriage and careers?

First, you must learn to have fellowship with God. Second, you must learn to trust God. To trust God means to believe in God. I was sharing an experience that I had a little over a month ago. I felt oppressed and I was praying, praying, praying. I was in a good fellowship with the Lord but still I felt oppressed for almost three weeks. “Lord, what’s happening? I am praying but I still feel this way.” Then the Lord told me that I was praying but not believing. Then I believed. Immediately, I was released. I believed and I was freed. Maybe you are suffering a lot of doubts now. Just believe and you will be free. Put it in the hands of the Lord and believe. Be sure that all the leading brothers want to help you. Learn to open your heart and have fellowship. Let the Lord do the things He wants. For example, in this young people’s conference, we prepared an environment for the young people to have fellowship with one another. During the international conference we will do the same because we really care for our young people. Then pray, exercise your spirit, and learn to overcome. The Lord will surely bless you.

I just wanted to ask you about something that has been on my heart recently regarding the matter of fornication and relationships with worldly people. I know we have spoken much on avoiding fornication altogether, but I was wondering what happens when a saved one commits this sin. What happens to them before the Lord? Is there hope for that saint to come back to the Lord? Is it so serious that that person has no future with the Lord or in the church? How does this person deal with the shame and the sense of failure before the Lord? My impression from the Bible is that the Lord did deal with and save many very sinful people in the New Testament, but I'm not really sure how He dealt with the believers.

There is always room for repentance. If one who has sinned has a genuine turn away from the sin and back to the Lord, the Lord forgives and fellowship with Him and His people is restored. Dealing with the sense of shame and failure is the same as any sin. All sin is shameful; it is only a matter of degree. The sense of shame should lead us to forsake any trust in ourselves and put all our trust and hope in the Lord. If we do not trust ourselves, we will not allow ourselves to enter into a situation where there is a possibility of fornication. In other words, we will avoid flirting and avoid being alone with someone of the opposite sex. Because we are aware of the weakness of the flesh to do good and the strength of the flesh to lead us into sin, we avoid the situations and environments that would give it opportunity to cause us to fall.
 
There is an example in the New Testament of the brother in Corinth who took his stepmother as his wife. Paul rebuked the church in Corinth for not putting him out of the fellowship of the church (1 Cor. 5:1-5) so that his sinfulness would not contaminate the rest of the church (vv. 6-8). However, when the brother repented, Paul told them to forgive and comfort him (2 Cor. 2:5-8). In other words, he was to be received back into the fellowship of the church.
 
However, even though the Lord is merciful, willing and able to fully forgive any sin, His forgiveness does not release us from the consequences of sin. The best example of this in the Bible is King David. In the episode with Bathsheba, he coveted, committed adultery, deceived, stole and murdered. The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to him to tell him that the child would die, someone else would take his wives, and the sword would not depart from his house (2 Sam. 12:1-15). David immediately repented and confessed his sin, but all these consequences happened. The Lord’s forgiveness and all David’s prayers and tears afterward did not release him from the consequences. So, even though the Lord is willing to forgive and fellowship can be fully restored, the consequences of sin can be very serious because fornication is a serious offense to the Lord’s purity.  
 
One possible consequence of deliberately choosing to indulge the flesh with the intention of repenting later is that it leads to a life of living according to the lusts of the flesh. If we despise the Lord’s grace even after we have tasted it, there is no guarantee that we will have a heart to repent later. Genesis 6:3 reads, “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” Our flesh always inclines toward sin. Without the Lord’s mercy, how would we ever repent? If we don’t repent, we will reap the corruption of the flesh in this age (Gal. 6:8), and will certainly miss out on the reward of the kingdom in the next age (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5).
 
If the fornication produces a child, this also may lead to serious consequences. If you marry, the practical needs of a place to live, etc. may force you to cut short your education and take whatever employment you can find. This can easily lead you to be trapped in a job far less both in suitability for your talents and in income than you could have achieved. If the pregnancy does not lead to marriage, it can easily be that the father never takes responsibility for the child and the mother joins the ranks of the poorest class in society, unwed mothers. If you are the father, then you may need to provide support for the child for decades. 
 
Of course, the other possibility with fornication is catching a nasty disease. In terms of disease, having sex with someone is about the same as having sex with every partner that they have ever had. They may be carrying the germs from any of those encounters. About the same time that aids was becoming treatable with expensive drugs so that it is not the automatic death sentence that it had been, some of the other sexually transmitted diseases were becoming resistant to the treatments that were effective previously. Now they can be deadly even with the best treatments available.
 
When the Bible and the church warn against fornication, it is not to rob you of pleasure but to save you from a lot of grief and suffering. Don’t be so foolish as to think that none of these consequences will happen to you. Sin has consequences for which the Bible uses the term corruption (Gal. 6:8). Don’t believe the lies of the enemy and the world that would tell you that the fleeting pleasures of sin are worth it. Taking drugs for the temporary highs they produce is another sin with similarly serious consequences.
 

Choosing a Marriage Partner
Why should I get married?

Marriage is of the Lord. He made us with both the capacity and interest to get married and have a family. Healthy, stable families are a great testimony to the world. Secondly, not many of us men are like the apostle Paul who was so given to his commission from the Lord that he could remain single without needing to indulge his natural desire for sex. So the Bible tells us that it is better to marry than to burn with desire (1 Cor. 7:9). Thirdly, the church in any locality needs a core of saints who are together long enough to be transformed and built up together to bear the Lord's testimony there. This is almost always through families because they are more likely to remain in one place than single people who can easily move. Fourthly, we ourselves need the challenges and adjustments related to marriage and raising children in order to mature and be transformed.

I know that the Bible says that we should not be equally yolked together with an unbeliever. What else should I look for in a potential wife?

Men tend to have the problem of paying too much attention to outward appearance. They can totally lose their mind when seeing a pretty face. Don't forget that the pretty face of a young woman will change as she ages. That is not enough to make you happy for the rest of your life. This is obvious if you stop to think about it; so don't forget about everything else just because you are enchanted by a pretty face. One thing that you should consider is how your life will change once you get married. There is a worldly notion that if I find someone compatible with me, then we will just fit together without needing to change. This is nonsense. If you are not willing to invest in a marriage relationship, then you are not fit to be in one. (Note to sisters reading this: If you use this statement to condemn your husband, you will be tearing down your husband rather than building him up. You will be making what you consider a bad situation even worse.) The biggest change for a new husband is related to responsibility. Before he was mainly responsible for himself, but now he committed to being responsible for his wife and children as well. Let's come back to the original question. Life also changes significantly for the bride. How well she is prepared for these changes makes a big difference in how happy she will be in her new circumstances. In turn, her happiness or unhappiness, probably more than anything else, affects the atmosphere in the home. There is a lot of validity in the saying, "Happy wife, happy life." This is where being together in the same church life is a big advantage. This gives you opportunities to observe some of the key characteristics that may indicate how well she will fit into the role of wife and mother. For these observations to have any validity, they need to be made privately before she knows that you are observing her. The role of wife and mother requires a lot of serving of her family. If a woman resents having to do that, it will be very hard for her to be happy unless you are rich enough to afford a maid and nanny. There are many needs for service in the church life. Does the sister you are observing help with things such as cooking, cleaning and washing dishes without being asked? Or does she avoid these things as much as she can? If she is happy taking care of the saints and the meeting hall, she will also be happy taking care of her own home. I could be content with having people come to my place but not my wife. So, I realized early in my marriage that if I wanted the saints in my home regularly, I needed to help her with cooking, cleaning and tidying up. Still, she does these things much more than I do. Secondly, how is the sister with children? Dors she like to be with them? Do the children like to be with her? Can she keep them interested and engaged in constructive play and activity? Raising children is by no means easy. Their mother, the one who will spend the most time with them, is the one who will have the most influence on them. Of course, the father is also responsible for the children and their upbringing, so he will need to work together with his wife. He cannot shirk his share of this responsibility. Nevertheless, choosing a sister who is already learning to care for them is wise. Thirdly, observe how the sister relates to her father. The way she relates to her father is likely how she will relate to her husband. Does she respect and honor him? Or does she talk back and ignore his wishes and advice? If she criticises or talks back to her father, this is an indication that she only focuses on what she considers to be his shortcomings; she has no respect for his qualities. If not beforehand, once you get married your wife will quickly find out your shortcomings. Your marriage will be very unpleasant if she begins to despise you. Of course, the opposite is also true. If you respect and appreciate your wife's qualities and what she does for you, this will help to make your relationship pleasant. If you begin to despise her, you will make your marriage miserable for both of you. Lastly, observe how the sister works together with others. Does she insist on her own way, or does she remain silent and then be unhappy with the way chosen? Is she sometimes happy and engaged and other times moody and withdrawn? Does she hold a grudge against someone? All these kinds of things can be signs of trouble later on. Observing these things may not seem very spiritual. Both marriage partners loving the Lord is a help. However, simply loving the Lord does not make dealing with issues in practical areas of living easier unless and until you allow the Lord to do His work within you. That may take many years. It is wise to also confirm your observations with someone older whom you can trust. Ideally, this would be your father rather than your mother who would be more likely to get emotionally involved too soon. Otherwise, another older brother could be a help. This kind of observation takes you out of the realm of paying too much attention to someone's looks. Once you get married the inner beauty of her person is much more important than your wife's physical attractiveness. Make a rational choice; then find out if there is a mutual interest in getting better acquainted. If the relationship is developing toward engagement and marriage then you can let your heart fall in love.

What if the sister is in a different locality?

Not being able to observe someone in various situations is certainly a disadvantage in being able to discern their true character and personality. It may be that you have an opportunity to spend time there or ask about her participation and function in the church life. In whatever way you can it is best to find out what kind of person she is before expressing interest to her. If you see a sister at a conference who is attractive and exercised, then begin to correspond with her and date her, everything may seem wonderful. However, simply based on that you do not know much about what she is really like. To me, it is a lot safer to choose from among the sisters that you can observe in their participation and service in the regular church life.

Can a man go further with the Lord with a wife or without a wife?

The great majority of men need a wife to go further with the Lord. You are no longer living just on your own; your life is intertwined with another. The Lord can use the responsibility and adjustments that come with getting married to do His work of transformation. A husband and father needs to face many situations that he never did while he was single. Things get exposed that even he himself did not know were in his heart. If a man is open to the Lord in all these things, willing to receive the Lord's light and repent, then he will go on with the Lord. Of course, Paul is an example of an exception who did not need a wife and family. He had an extraordinary calling from the Lord for the gospel and the churches to which he was fully committed: spirit, soul and body. But if you don't have such a calling, you probably need a wife and family.

If you can't find a sister here, is it OK to look for a wife in a different church?

I have been encouraging you to observe various aspects of a sister's character and readiness to take on the role of a wife and mother. However, the spiritual side is also important. Differences can be a source of issues between the couple. If you are both from the same locality and growing spiritually, then there should not be too many issues. If you are from different localities that are in the same fellowship among the churches, there also should not be too many issues. But if you are in different Christian groups there are many more possibilities for significant issues. While you are just a couple you might feel that it is OK to go separate ways for fellowship, but where will you bring your children? In the Bible churches are defined by the locality they were in, not by teachings, practices, leaders, etc. Locality should not be an issue if the two churches are in the same sphere of fellowship. If you mean different churches according to the modern concept of what that means, then there is a much greater possibility of that leading to significant issues.

If I am ready to contact a sister, what then?

I assume by your word ready that you mean, first of all, that you yourself are ready to get married within a couple years if it would work out. You need to be ready in terms of both maturity and in having begun or about to begin a career to support your family. Dating is not a game that you can do just for fun. The sisters are too precious to play around with their emotions by showing interest when you are not prepared to get married if it works out. I also assume that you have been observing the sister and think that she might be the one for you. The very first thing that you need to find out is whether she is at least open to the possibility of establishing a relationship with you. Whether you ask her yourself or have someone you can trust to inquire for you is not important. I believe that it is best to begin with spending time together to talk about both of your interests, life goals, experiences with the Lord, etc. A good relationship requires good communication. Then, if you both are interested in building a relationship, you can begin to do things together that you both enjoy. Hopefully, you have been able to keep your emotions in check up to this point.

Establishing the Lord’s Headship in Your Home – A Word to Wives
Is your home what you expected, hoped for, and prayed for?

“And [if] My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways; then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer from this place” (2 Chron. 7:14-15).

In the history of God’s people, the Lord called them and built them into a nation; yet, they were not faithful to the Lord. Eventually, they were taken captive. These verses are a promise of the Lord at the time of the dedication of the temple. This was the high point of the history of the children of Israel. They had come into the good land. Even though they had many failures, eventually the kingdom was established with a proper king and the whole nation was working together to build the temple for God’s dwelling among His people. Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple that the Lord would honor the prayer made at the temple. He realized even then that God’s people would not always be faithful. So his prayer included a petition that if God’s people were unfaithful to the point that God allowed them to be carried away into captivity but remembered God’s house in captivity, the Lord would hear and forgive them. These verses are part of the Lord’s response. 

In the picture in the Old Testament, the temple, captivity and land were physical things. The land was physical and the healing was physical. As the people of the Lord in this age, the age of the Spirit, these items refer to spiritual things. To be enjoying the riches of the land is to be enjoying the Lord. We who have received the Lord have tasted how sweet and wonderful it is to enjoy the Lord. Yet, we get carried away captive by seeking other things and we lose that enjoyment. When the children of Israel were worshiping idols, in their primitive superstition, they thought that this idol could give them prosperity, that idol could give them lots of children, another idol could give them protection, etc. They were seeking all these things. Modern man does not usually think that a little statue is going to give those things but still is seeking after the same things. It is our seeking of all the other things in the world that takes away our enjoyment of the Lord. How do we know that we are in the place that the Lord wants us? We have that fresh, real, living enjoyment of the Lord. The Lord is real to us; the Lord is supplying us. This is what we want. “Lord Jesus, we want to be touching You, enjoying You, even if Your things are against our concepts.” 

Before we come to some verses, I want to ask you, “How is your home? Is your home what you expected, hoped and prayed for? Or, is it something else?” I don’t want you to expose yourself or your husband. Just ask yourself, “How is my home? Is the Lord Head of my home? Is His headship real in my home? If not, why not? Is my husband doing his part in my home? Is my husband expressing the Lord in my home?” My burden is not about some wonderful teachings. Neither is it new; things like this are often shared at weddings. But I want to take it out of the realm of what I should do into the realm of experiencing the Lord, touching the Lord, having the Lord living in me. 

Is the position of the wife taught in the Bible relevant today?

In answering this question I am going to do something that I never dreamed that I would do. I am going to refer to a book that I heard of and read recently with a lot of interest. This book was written by a lady who is a senior executive in a large corporation, very successful in her career. She does not believe in Jesus; but she is for women’s liberation. I couldn’t imagine that a strong, accomplished lady like that would take the attitude and position she did at home. From her writing, I got the impression that she grew up in a home with at least some Christian influence, but she did not receive it. What did she write that I would refer to?

Her second marriage was in a mess. Her relationship with her husband was terrible. He did not like to be with her and did not want to do the things that she considered as his responsibility. She doesn’t describe the process, but she changed her attitude toward her husband. I don’t know how your home is or how your relationship with your husband is, but you can decide for yourself how much this may apply to you. Before this lady changed, she had her way to do everything. She is a strong, intelligent, accomplished lady. In all things from how to wash the dishes, how to drive, how to take care of finances, in short, almost everything in their life together, she was telling her husband what to do and how to do it. The more she told him what to do, the more he was the opposite. One day she realized that she was treating him like a little boy. She was trying to teach him as if he was four years old, teaching him everything. The more she treated him like a little boy, the more he behaved like a little boy. She was acting as if she was his mom and he was acting the same way he had reacted to his mom when he was a little boy. He did not want to listen to her; he would turn her off. He was becoming more and more distant, not wanting to be with her. Then she changed.

The name of the book she wrote is The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. Instead of telling him what to do, she did exactly the opposite. She asked him. She took a different position. She began to leave things as his responsibility. To her, managing the finances was stressful until she left them totally to him. She refused to look at the bank account or say anything about how to manage the money. She gave the bills, the bank account, and all financial matters to her husband. She just asked him what she could have for her spending. Of course, he was not used to having to take care of that so one day the electricity got turned off. He hadn’t paid the bill. After that, he never let the bills get that far past due again. She didn’t complain or get angry with him; she just told him what had happened. She didn’t remind him when he made a wrong turn off the freeway. She took the position of being surrendered to him. The more she did that, not just in bills or driving, but in many things in their lives, the more he changed to become responsible. Not only that, their relationship changed. She found out that when she was taking the attitude promoted by women’s liberation—“I am independent; I can pay my own way; I don’t need you; I can take care of myself”—this made him less and less inclined to do anything for her. When she took the opposite attitude, she found out that he wanted to do things for her. He wanted to make her happy. When she was asserting her independence, he couldn’t do anything to please her. When she took the attitude of being dependent and appreciating the things he did for her, the more he wanted to do things for her.

This book gave me confidence. The Lord asked the sisters, the wives, to submit to their husbands. Here is an unsaved lady in the world whose husband is also not saved. Of course, she did not have anything in view beyond having a sweet, intimate, loving relationship with her husband. But we have something more. We want the Lord to be able to flow through us in our home and make our home a blessing to others. Anyway, that book gave me confidence: “Lord, what You are asking of the wives is not something crazy; it is not something to suppress the wives and make them miserable.” 

How does a wife influence her husband?

First Peter 3:1-6 says, “In like manner, wives, be subject to your own husbands, that even if any disobey the word, they will be gained without the word through the manner of life of their wives, seeing with their own eyes your pure manner of life in fear. Let your adorning not be the outward plaiting of hair and putting on of gold or clothing with garments, but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptible adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, which is very costly in the sight of God. For in this manner formerly the holy women also, who hoped in God, adorned themselves, being subject to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose children you have become, if you do good and do not fear any terror.”

If we really express the Lord, what will our experience be? If we really live according to the Lord’s life and desire, what will our experience be? Our experience will be what we said at the beginning; we will enjoy the Lord to the uttermost. We will be full of joy. This is an indication to us. Of course, this is not the joy of having some new thing. I don’t know what would be dear to your heart, perhaps some new clothes or something new in the house. I am speaking of the joy of being right with the Lord and being right with our family, of having the Lord living and growing in our heart and in the members of our family. 

Do we believe the Lord? Do we really believe that when the Lord asks the wives to submit to their own husbands, He is giving us the best? Do we trust the Lord to the extent that we would let ourselves be submissive, choose to be submissive like this lady I talked about? Other questions I urge you to consider are, “Is the Lord the Head in your household? Whose responsibility is it to establish the Lord’s headship in your house? How many heads can there be in a home?” A common trait among women is to be similar to the lady previously mentioned before she changed her attitude—forcing their husbands to do what they want, teaching their husbands how to do things. If you are telling your husband what to do and how to do it, how wash the dishes, how to drive the car, how to take care of the finances, etc., who is the head? You are making yourself the head. You are excluding the Lord from being the Head in your family. We want the Lord to be the Head. 

What would happen if you took the attitude and position of submission? “Honey, you make the decision. How should we handle the children? What should we do?” What would happen with this kind of attitude? Your husband would begin to need to make decisions and take responsibility. When you make all the decisions, he may not feel responsible for anything. He does not even have a need to seek the Lord; his wife is telling him what to do. Of course, your husband is not perfect. He will make some mistakes and poor choices, but he can no longer blame you. When he sees your attitude of trusting him and deferring to him, he would begin to feel responsible. If he is a believer, he would begin to feel his need of the Lord’s wisdom and leading. In a sense, he is forced to seek the Lord. Previously, his wife may have made the decisions and blamed him when he did anything not according to her instruction. It seemed that it did not matter what he did; he could never please his wife or make her happy. His natural reaction in this situation would be to turn off and withdraw. He would communicate less and less; he wouldn’t want to take care of things. Even if he did do something on his own, he would get blamed for not doing it the way his wife would have. This includes the things that his wife expected him to be responsible for. He also would not like to be at home. 

What I am speaking of is not so much in the spiritual realm. Even this non-Christian lady with a non-Christian husband saw her husband change when she changed her attitude. A man naturally wants to be the hero to his wife; he wants to be able to protect, take care of, and please his wife. In other words, a husband responds to how his wife treats him, but probably not right away. Eventually, a husband would respond and be different. Even if he would not respond, a submissive Christian wife can be at peace because she has taken the place God has chosen for her. How he is is actually his responsibility, but his wife influences how he is very much, more than you could imagine. When a man’s wife is always on his case, always telling him how to do things and thinking her way is always better, she is making herself responsible for everything. The more she is on her husband’s case, the less he would feel responsible. Her telling him what to do produces the very opposite results than what she wants. Most wives who initiate a divorce from their husbands would blame their husbands for the breakdown of the marriage relationship. They fail to see how much they have influenced him negatively to be the way he is.

Of course it is hard for a wife to live according to what God requires. Verse 4 says that this is very costly in the sight of God. It means denying yourself. It costs a lot, but God honors it. If we really pay the price of ourselves, we touch the Lord’s joy; the Lord can be real to us. Sarah call her husband “my lord” that time when the Lord came to visit them at their tent. The Lord came walking with two angels. Somehow, Abraham recognized the Lord. Perhaps the Lord’s appearing to him previously had been in a dream so that he had seen the Lord. That man was Jesus. He is not limited by time, so He could visit with Abraham 2,000 years before He was born of Mary. He spoke of being with Abraham and the Jews said, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). The Lord Jesus came and Abraham recognized Him. He stayed long enough for Abraham to send a servant to kill a calf and prepare it and for Sarah to bake cakes for the guests. When it was ready, Abraham presented the food to the Lord and the two angels. After the guests ate, they had a sweet fellowship with Abraham. The four men were outside the tent and Sarah was just inside the tent listening. The Lord said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and then Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Gen. 18:10). Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89 when this occurred. So, Sarah laughed within herself and said, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (v. 12). To her, either of them having a son was impossible, so she laughed at the idea. Then the Lord said, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I indeed bear a child when I am old? Is anything too marvelous for Jehovah?” (vv. 13-14). She was in the tent, not laughing out loud, but she did laugh. When the Lord asked why she laughed, she was afraid and said, “I did not laugh” (v. 15). But in that experience, Hebrews tells us, she believed. Anyways, that is when Sarah called Abraham her lord, not to his face but within.

How is the headship of the Lord established in a home?

Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord; for a husband is head of the wife as also Christ is Head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the Body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be subject to their husbands in everything.” This is the word to the wives. The matter of headship is spoken to the wives. That is why I said that it is the responsibility of the wife to establish the Lord’s headship in her home. How? By being subject. If she takes the position of the head, the Lord is excluded from being the Head. But if she is subject, she makes a way for the Lord to be the Head. As a Christian wife, no doubt you want your husband to express the Lord, to take the position under the Lord to express the Lord to the whole family. To help him, you need to take this matter of being subject. Don’t think, “I know how to do things and how things should be. Husband, you have to listen to me.” Take the opposite attitude, trusting in the Lord.

Of course, your husband is not the Lord, he makes mistakes and may not know what to do. Still, take a position of being submissive. Here is a simple illustration. Perhaps your husband washes the dishes and they are not washed well. Instead of instructing him how to wash the dishes, just say, “The dishes are still greasy.” Let him figure out how to wash the dishes without leaving them greasy. There is a difference in telling him what to do or teaching him, to just pointing out a need. Perhaps you would say, “The way we are dealing with the children is not working very well.” Then pray together. This is completely different from blaming and belittling him. Do you think that this will work? It is a matter of whether we believe in the Lord. Do we believe that the Lord had the best in view for us when he put this requirement on the wife? Do you believe that the Lord can touch your husband if you give everything over and take him as your head even if he is not very responsible? What if you are wiser than he is or have better ways to handle things than he does? The Lord will work if we give Him the way and we will have His joy when we touch Him and live according to Him. When we fail, we can come to the Lord: “Lord Jesus, I said that again. I am sorry, Lord. O Lord Jesus. Take away the resentment in my heart toward my husband.”

If you just take this sharing as good advice and do it, that will not mean that much. Our goal is not just to be a good person. We want the Lord to be living and growing in us. We want the Lord to be living and growing in each member of our family. We want our homes to be under the headship of the Lord in reality. How is the headship of the Lord established in a home? By submission. The Lord does not force us to receive Him or obey Him, but He does reward us with Himself when we do. There is no better way for a wife to help her husband to submit to the Lord than for her to submit to him. By submitting to her husband, a wife is submitting to and honoring the Lord. Thus, she is giving the Lord the ground to do the same work in her husband’s heart. He may not deserve the honor and respect that accompanies submission, but the Lord does. The lady I referred to found that by surrendering to her husband she gained the love, companionship and partnership in the home that she needed. When a Christian wife does it for the Lord’s sake, she has a much higher goal and reward in view, but the Lord will likely also reward her with a home filled with these earthly blessing as well. If she is waiting for her husband to turn and be what she wants him to be before she submits to him, she is likely hindering him rather than helping him to gain the Lord at home.

My speaking to the brothers was not about headship but about filling their homes with the Lord’s love. Our natural concept might be that the sisters should fill their homes with the Lord’s love and the brothers should take care of the Lord’s headship, but it is actually the opposite. The responsibility of the sisters is to take care of headship and the responsibility of the brothers is to take care of the Lord’s love. This speaking is to the sisters. Don’t feel that I did not have a word just as direct to the brothers; I did. The word to them is not, “Brothers, you need to be the head, so you need to rule over your wives.” No, that is not the Lord’s way of being the Head. But in the past a sister asked me, “We hear a lot of things about the sisters having to deny themselves. When do the brothers need to deny themselves?” The Lord has to deal with every one of us. He is the real Head; none of us are the head. When we put ourselves in the position that He has for us, He fills us with Himself, including His life, His joy, and His presence. This is much more precious than any “rights” that we think that we have or stand for.

Testimony 1

This is very, very experiential. I remember before I got married we were both so strong-willed. We went through the whole gauntlet that was being shared today. I was teaching my husband how to do things. At one point, I said, “Lord, I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this.” It was something that I had to do for my husband, but the Lord said, “Stop thinking about how you are going to do it and think about how you are going to please your husband.” It changed my whole concept. For some years now my husband has been taking care of the finances and I have learned to keep my mouth shut. I am still learning to keep my mouth shut in so many different areas, but the Lord is faithful. My husband does want to do things to please me. I hope that you younger sisters don’t take so long to learn. We have been married a long time. By fifty years I was finally learning to keep my mouth shut. I am happy for this fellowship, especially for the dear young sisters. 

I created a lot of stress for myself. I was raised in an institution rather than a home so I had no idea what a mother was, what a father was, what a husband was. But that is no excuse. The only reason I am mentioning that is that I don’t think that you need to wait so long to catch on. Most of you grew up in a family with an example of parents. You should have learned some things from observing them.

When we were first married, we were in a denomination where the husband was definitely the head and the wife submitted in everything. Actually, that made it easier for me. I didn’t know how things should be. I just did everything I was told to do. After we were in the church life for some time, the Lord said, “You have a spirit. You need to learn to operate and have a relationship with your husband in Me.” I made so many mistakes trying to find my spirit. One day my husband said, “I wish you were like you used to be.” Eventually, I learned and am still learning to know my spirit. I am so very thankful for you young sisters because you know you have a spirit where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. The Spirit of the Lord will speak.

Response:
This sharing reminded me of one thing. When you are directing your husband in all things, you are making yourself responsible for everything and he is not responsible for anything. He does not feel responsible for anything because his wife has the “right” way to handle everything. Do you really want all that stress, all that responsibility?

In Matthew the Lord was teaching His disciples about prayer. This included what is commonly called the Lord’s prayer. One item of that prayer is, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (6:12). Dare you pray, “There are those who owe me something; in other words, they have offended me, but I have forgiven them. So Lord, forgive me the same way?” Verses 14-15 say, “For if you have forgiven men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; But if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses.” This warning is not talking about eternity, but about the Lord’s judgment seat related to entering into the kingdom to reign with Him. This especially applies in our home; and there, especially with our spouse. No relationship on earth is as close and as constant as a marriage relationship. So spouses bother each other all the time. How are we going to be? Of course, if we say, “Now I am going to be different,” that doesn’t work. What works is repenting, confessing and turning to the Lord each time we fail. Sometimes, I also need to confess and repent to my spouse. But at least, I always need to confess to the Lord and allow the Lord to shine in me. We need to bring the Lord into our reactions, into our emotions, into our choosing.

Testimony 2

When I came to the church life, I was focused on my marriage. I don’t know what my husband was thinking about our relationship, but I was focused on it. At that time, I didn’t see that it was because of my strong personality that there were issues. I wanted to have everything my way. When it didn’t work out my way, I strongly felt that I needed salvation. Then the Lord saved me, saved my marriage, and saved my family. I can strongly testify that the Lord’s way is the only way that works. I had many, many problems in my marriage and I sought advice from a good friend who is much older than me. But she told me, “I have nothing to offer you. I have no advice to offer to you.” Today, I see that this was all the arrangement of the Lord. This also showed me that the world does not have an answer. Only the Lord Himself is our answer. This is very important to me. When I stand before the Lord, I want to have the peace that I have been right before Him. That is more important to me than who is right or who is wrong about any issue. Many times I unconsciously stand on who is right and who is wrong. Then I see myself feeling that I am right and wanting to hold on to that. But in these days, the Lord often reminds me, “Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because the end is death.” I have experienced the death. When I catch myself going that way, I pray, “Lord, save me. Turn me. Help me set my mind on the spirit.” Then the Lord is faithful. Even though we don’t see the way, when we turn to Him, He is the way. When He is the way, I don’t even know how but the problems are resolved and there is peace in the family. For example, I have a daughter. Today, I feel that I need to repent. What kind of example of a wife am I setting before my daughter? I don’t want her to have to go through all these struggles in order to learn to be a proper wife. I make so many mistakes every day, but the Lord is the right way. His way is perfect. The only word I have for the young sisters is, “Yes, be subject to your husband and the blessing will be with your house.”

A while ago I became frustrated because things were not going the way I wanted them to go. Then the Lord spoke to me: “How about you pray for your husband? Instead of complaining about this and about that; instead of thinking he should be like that. Pray for your husband.” I wasn’t praying for my husband that the Lord would have a way in our home. Instead of complaining, I needed to start giving my husband to the Lord.

How can I be filled with the joy of the Lord when my husband's demands are unreasonable?

Here is an illustration that has nothing to do with marriage, but the same principle applies. Watchman Nee was telling the saints that if we really honor the Lord and take His way, we will be filled with the Lord’s joy. One of the saints was a peasant farmer in south China where they grow rice. Rice grows in standing water. It doesn’t grow on dry land; it needs standing water. In that area in China back then, there was not enough flat land for all the farmers. So this farmer had his field on the side of a hill. The farmers dug out the side of the hill and made dykes. They made themselves a little area of flat land, it could not have been that big. I don’t know how steep the hill was, but anyways it was a slope. Then the farmers would carry the water up from the stream every day to keep water in their field. The farmer who had the field below the brother knew that the brother was a Christian. So he had the boldness to come one night, dig a trench in the brother’s dyke, and drain all the water down into his field. The brother wanted to be a good Christian, he wanted to take the Lord’s way, so he just repaired the dyke and carried water all day to fill up his field again. The next night the farmer below did the same thing. By the second or third day, the brother came to Watchman Nee and asked him why he did not have any joy. He was not fighting against his neighbor who was stealing his water. Watchman Nee told him that the Lord’s way, according to the principle of the second mile, is to carry water to fill up your neighbor’s field first and then carry water to fill up your own field. When the brother did that, He had the joy of the Lord. Not only so, when the neighbor saw that, he repented and received the Lord. The farmer who was a brother had the Lord’s joy while carrying water for his neighbor because he had chosen the Lord’s way.

In a sense, what I had to share with the brothers was more complex. The Lord’s word to wives is not hard to understand—just submit; but perhaps it is harder to practice. However, when we take the Lord’s way from our heart like that peasant farmer in China, we touch the Lord’s joy and this gives us the strength in all kinds of things. Then we can see the Lord work. Actually, it is not getting our own way that makes us happy; it is touching the Lord and seeing Him work. This gives us much more joy than us being able to fix things or situations and making them the way we want them to be.

I used to install kitchen cupboards. The salesman told me that a man came into the showroom and chose the most expensive cupboards they had. The salesman asked him, “Are you sure that you want that style of cupboard? It is so expensive.” The man told him, “It is cheaper than a divorce.” His wife was that set on what she wanted. Are we going to be that strong for what we want? Or are we going to take the Lord and be content with what He gives?

Do we always need to obey our husband?

There is a difference between submission and obedience. Most of the time, these two things would go together but there is a difference. Obedience is an outward action; submission is an inward attitude. It is not uncommon for someone to obey outwardly but with a rebellious attitude. It is also possible to disobey with a submissive attitude. In practical outworking, obedience has limits but submission does not. For example, if your husband tells you to do something that you cannot, either because of your conscience or because of your own limitations, you may disobey but should still have a submissive attitude. Sometimes he may say things rashly or in anger. This is when you need to use your spirit to discern when or to what extent you should obey. 

My husband does not do his share of the work in the home; I have to do almost everything. How can I make him do what he ought to do?

Many wives are unable to trust their husbands and take control in their marriages. Often wives start trying to teach their husbands how to do everything from washing the dishes all the way to big decisions such as buying a house. This produces 2 results. On the side of the wife, she gets overwhelmed and stressed. Meanwhile, the husband feels like he is being treated the same as his mother treated him when he was a little boy. Unless he is truly spiritual, his natural response will be to withdraw and spend less time with his wife. The more she tells him what to do and how to do it, the less inclined he will be to do anything. Then the wife often gets upset and blames him for not doing his part so that she has to do everything. This drives the husband away even more. A marriage does not need to be like this. Most often, it is the wife who makes the difference by giving the headship in the family to her husband. In other words, she allows him to make the decisions and do things his own way. This makes him feel responsible and needed with the result that, according to his natural desire to protect and care for his wife, he takes responsibility in the family. By letting herself be vulnerable and allowing her husband to learn even though he makes mistakes along the way, she is building up her husband and home. Not only does such a submissive attitude on the part of the wife make for a happy marriage, it honors the Lord and brings His blessing upon the family.

Filling Your Home with the Love of God – A Word to Husbands
Is the atmosphere in your home full of joy?

“And [if] My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways; then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer from this place” (2 Chron. 7:14-15).

These verses are part of God’s promise to Solomon. When Solomon was dedicating the temple, he prayed to the Lord and he acknowledged that God’s people would not always be faithful. So he prayed that if the people were not faithful, but they would still pray toward God’s house, the temple that he had just built, “Lord, hear. Lord, forgive.” The Lord responded, “If My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways; then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.” These things in the Old Testament are a picture of something real in the New Testament age. The temple as the dwelling place of God can be applied in different ways, but the way I want to emphasize this morning is that it is our spirit. God dwells in our spirit. Of course, you can also apply it to the church, but in this message I want to dwell on the matter of our spirit. God dwells in our spirit. When we seek other things, we end up drifting away; we get out of our spirit, go away from the Lord and end up captive to those other things. They take us away from the Lord. But the Lord promised, “If My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves...” God’s people did get taken captive but some among them did humble themselves and did pray. Daniel and others were praying toward Jerusalem and for Jerusalem for God. This symbolizes praying toward the Lord in our spirit. The Lord promised that He would heal their land. When they got taken captive, they were away from the good land, so they enjoyed nothing of the good land; they were far away from it. All of us who have really touched the Lord have enjoyed Him in our spirit. We have experienced the joy of the Lord but often have been taken away. When the Lord promised, “I will heal their land”, for us that means that He would come and restore the joy of the Lord that we had previously experienced in our hearts and lives. We want to be living in the joy of the Lord in our experience; we want the Lord’s life and joy to be filling our hearts. We want it to be real and living to us. 

What does it mean to dwell together with your wife according to knowledge?

We are coming to some things that we probably know, but I am doing my best to bring us out of the realm of “I know I should be like that” into those things becoming the living out of the Lord in our life. The title of what I hope to express is “Filling Your Home with the Love of God”. First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in like manner dwell together with them according to knowledge, as with the weaker, female vessel, assigning honor to them as also to fellow heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” In this meeting I am going to speak in general terms and ask questions. I don’t want you to answer out loud, but in your heart. I don’t want to expose you or your wife, but I want you to consider these things. Here it says, “Husbands, in like manner dwell together with them according to knowledge”. What does “according to knowledge” mean? “Does it mean that they are different from us and need understanding?” Can you make this more practical? “They are more emotional.” Sure, anything more? “When they start talking, talking, talking, it means trying to understand even though I am often tired and don’t want to hear so much. I want to filter it out but I need to realize that she is a weaker vessel and I need to show her honor by hearing her and trying to understand.”

What would be the difference if this verse said, “according to righteousness”? “It would be according to laws.” “With knowledge means to be more long-suffering, more flexible, more tolerant.” “I like Brother Lee’s footnote: ‘I.e., in an intelligent and reasonable way, governed by human and spiritual knowledge that recognizes the nature of the marriage relationship and the weakness of the female, and not governed by any passion or emotion.’ Even though she may be more intelligent than you, even though she may have a higher education and be more capable in a lot of ways, yet a man, generally speaking, is more governed by logic, and a woman is governed more by emotions. It is wonderful the way God made us, but it is not for conflict. It is for coordination; it is for confirmation. Like the other brother said, she needs to talk. I like that it should be in an intelligent and reasonable way, governed by human and spiritual knowledge. In the Christian life, the spirit should control the mind, emotion and will. If I let my passion and emotion come in, there is a big fight; God is not expressed. But if I touch my spirit, then my spirit controls my mind. If what she says would get my ire up, the Lord can come in and help me to be quiet. Sometimes, I should not be quiet. I need to say something so that she knows where I am. In this case, it should be the Lord speaking.”

What is a common weakness of wives?

When we really are touching and expressing the Lord, we are filled with the Lord’s joy and supply. The Lord can do in us what we never could do ourselves. So we need to let go ourselves, let go of our emotion, anger or whatever it is. Let go of that to touch the Lord, to turn our heart to the Lord. “O Lord Jesus.” The verse mentions the weaker, female vessel. A very common weakness of women is not only to be emotional, generally speaking, but to expect all things to be done the way that they think they should be done. Many women often scold their husbands and tell their husbands what to do and how to do it. This is very common. A female weakness is to expect that they would be happy if they could arrange everything, including their husbands, to be the way they want. Often, wives try to make their husbands to be the way they want him to be. Actually, it is not true that a wife would be happy if she could fix her husband. The real happiness comes from touching the Lord, not in having the outward situation just the way we think that it should be or just what we like. The Lord does not give us that. But a female weakness is to try to arrange everything the way they think that it should be. 

The Bible tells husbands to dwell together with their wives according to knowledge. If it were according to righteousness and your wife condemned you for something, you might feel that you have the right to point out her failure, her weakness. “You condemn me for this; I can condemn you for that. You are not right either.” What would be the result of this reaction? If you get into that realm, there will be a fight. Certainly, the Lord will not be there. Don’t try to relate to your wife according to righteousness. Your wife may condemn or scold you about things but you must understand that that is her weakness. She is not able to be that forgiving, understanding, or tolerant. You also need to realize that a wife does a lot for her husband and family. She sacrifices herself. If she gets stressed and overwhelmed, she will likely say and do things that are not pleasant. Are you going to have the understanding to be able to not react? 

What if I can't live up to my wife's expectations?

First Peter 3:7 continues, “Assigning honor to them as also to fellow heirs of the grace of life.” Your wife is a fellow heir. She does have the Lord within. Even though she has her weakness which is often expressed in criticism of her husband, in correcting him, in telling him what to do, or in reminding him of his errors. If we respond out of ourselves, we are just asking for trouble. We need to turn to the Lord. Often I realize that my wife is right but I can’t make it to live up to all her expectations. So, sometimes I need to confess to my wife, “I am sorry.” More often, I am silent outwardly but inwardly asking the Lord for His forgiveness. 

We ourselves will stand before the Lord’s judgment seat one day. We trust in the Lord’s forgiveness and hope that we will be approved by Him. He said that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We just confess: “Lord Jesus, I cannot make it but You live in me.” Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love their wives. We may feel that we know we should but it is too hard because of how she is treating us.

How can I make my wife feel cherished?

Ephesians 5:25-29 says, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she would be holy and without blemish. In the same way the husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his own wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ also the church.” This passage is often read at weddings, but easily can be taken in the realm of “I know that this is what I should do.” The realm of “I know I should” does not last. We can have the best intentions. Every proper husband gets married with the intention, the desire to be a good husband, to love his wife. If we are at all a proper person, we would have this hope. We would hope to be a proper, loving husband, but our nature is not like that. So, if we are in the realm of “I know I should be like that,” we can’t make it.

There was a time in my marriage after some years of being married when my wife and I were not happy with each other. I was not happy and she was not happy. We were making each other more unhappy. This was after we had been married somewhere  between 5 and 10 years. At that point (I cannot remember what she was doing), I picked up the thought, “If she is going to treat me like that, I won’t love her anymore.” Instantly, the Lord rebuked me in my heart, saying, “If I treat you like that, where will you be?” Right away, I realized how much I depended on the Lord’s love and forgiveness. So, right away in my heart I said, “Lord, please forgive me. Lord Jesus, I cannot live without Your love. I cannot go on without Your mercy and forgiveness. Lord Jesus, forgive me for such a thought. I don’t want to be apart from Your love, from Your mercy, or from Your forgiveness.” The Lord was showing me myself. As soon as the Lord spoke that, I was instantly aware of how much I was short, how much I needed the Lord’s mercy, forgiveness and eternal love. The Lord allowed that time of my wife and I getting on each other to the point that we were really not that proper with one another so that He could expose what was in me and I could turn. The Lord wanted to touch something in me that I didn’t even know was there. I thought that I was a patient, nice brother, but it so happened that after some years whatever I was ran out. It really ran out, so I needed the Lord. I had to turn because I began to realize something a little deeper of myself. If we want the Lord’s love to be real to us in our experience, we have to give it to our wife and family. We cannot expect the Lord to treat us differently than we treat our family, especially our wife. 

One of the items in the Lord’s prayer is, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). Verses 14-15 say, “For if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; but if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses.” There is no exceptions to this principle. Your wife is not an exception, regardless of how she treats you. You need to express the Lord. How do we want the Lord to be toward us? We want His forgiveness. We don’t come up to His standard. Perhaps you do not commit outward sins so much, but Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Even if we don’t do sinful things outwardly, if we are not living out the Lord, we are short of His glory. It is not only a matter of avoiding mistakes, it is a matter of expressing God. That requires us to be in our spirit. How much of the time are we in our spirit? How much of the time are we in our self? So, we are short of the Lord’s glory. We need His forgiveness always. When we turn from our feelings, from our reactions, from our wanting to strike back when we are getting criticized or bossed about, we can turn: “Lord Jesus, I need You. Lord Jesus, I need Your love. Fill me with Your understanding. Lord Jesus, I need You to express Yourself in my home to my wife.” The Lord will not have a different attitude toward us than we have toward others. The other person who is in our life the most and who may offend us the most often is our wife. The principle of “Lord, forgive me as I forgive others, as I forgive my wife” should give us a holy fear: “Lord, I need Your mercy and forgiveness. I depend on Your love. Lord Jesus, operate in my heart to put these things in my heart toward my wife.” 

Even now, my work is stressful, not physically. There are all kinds of issues to deal with and I am in a senior role where I need to take care of many things. I am right in the middle so that at any one time I am working in up to a dozen different projects. Every day things come at me. There may be issues with this application or that function. I am trying to deal with one problem, I have another task where the deadline is today, someone comes with a question, and before I can answer, someone else comes with a problem to solve. I am right in the middle of all of that so I often come home quite exhausted mentally and emotionally. What do you think happens when I get home? “I need you to do this. What does this message on my computer mean?” We do have a habit to read some verses and pray together before we go to bed. But when I want to relax, sometimes my wife tells me, “We need to talk.” 

What is the husband's role in a home?

Of course, the word to the wife is to submit to her own husband. Then what is the husband’s role? It doesn’t say, “Rule over your wife.” We would think that the opposite of submission is to rule. It doesn’t say that. The Lord is the Head of the church. How is His headship expressed? What does the Lord do? First of all, the Lord worked, especially in His work of redemption, to take care of His counterpart, to provide everything that she needs. He provided for His wife and He sacrificed Himself. He did not spare Himself; He sacrificed Himself. If we are going to express the Lord in our homes, the Lord’s characteristics need to be there. We need to provide as best we can, financially, but even the more in other ways. We need to take care and thought for our wife and family to provide what they need.  This is not just a matter of providing food, shelter and clothing, but also other things. One thing that has been mentioned already is that the wife needs to talk. In my case, I have been in the midst of people coming to me with problems, questions, and things that I need to take care of. Some I know how to handle; they are not an issue. But some I do not know how to handle and they become hard to deal with. Perhaps our wife has been home all day. In my case, my wife is taking care of our grandchildren. Of course, that is also stressful; I could not do that. But she may not have had a chance all day to have an adult communication expressing her concern or her heart. So, she needs to talk. Fortunately, I work for a big company and can leave my work at work. Some people don’t; they come home and sign into work and work on their own time as well. Regardless of what happened at work, I need to turn when I come home. My wife is asking something of me and wants me to respond immediately; otherwise, I will get scolded. I need the Lord Jesus. I need to turn and let the Lord come into my heart practically right then so that He can be expressed in my home.

How is the love of God expressed in a home?

The Lord loves us with an eternal love without any conditions. He loves us. Praise the Lord, His love and His mercy are everlasting. The more we can touch the Lord’s love and the more we can let go of ourselves to express the Lord to our wife, the more His love will fill our heart. When we really let go of ourselves to let the Lord be the Lord in our hearts and turn in all these kinds of situations, the more the Lord’s love will be in our homes and we will gain it back from our wives. If we fight with our wives, we will gain anger, tears and resentment back. But if we turn away from all those things, coming out of that realm: “Lord, forgive me for even having such a thought, for even having such a feeling. Lord Jesus, this was not of You. Forgive me, Lord Jesus. I want to express You in my home. Thank You, Lord, for all the situations with my wife. They are just for me to realize how much I need You and to turn. Lord Jesus, I want Your love to fill my home. Fill my home with Your love. So Lord, begin with me. Lord Jesus, fill my heart. Lord Jesus, turn me. No matter how much I don’t feel like it, Lord, turn me. Give me Your heart, Lord Jesus.” Having such a heart and prayer will give the Lord a way in our lives and then He can have a way in our homes.

The husband has the responsibility and also the way to bring the Lord’s love into his home. The wife cannot do it. No matter how loving she is, if her husband is cruel, strict, righteous and hard, then the home will not have an atmosphere of the Lord’s love. We husbands have the responsibility and also the way. The way is simply the Lord, to turn to the Lord, to realize that I need the Lord’s love. So Lord, I want to express Your love. “Lord Jesus, I need Your love not just so that I feel good. Lord, may Your love flow through me to my wife even if she is in the middle of scolding me for a shortcoming.” Whatever my wife says (I know that she is often right; I failed in certain matter), she needs to be able to tell me. She needs to be able to point out my failures, shortcomings and mistakes. My part is to accept it without any feeling against her. Even when I don’t apologize to her, I try to turn inwardly. I try to never hold something against her afterwards. I touch her hand, I give her a little kiss, I try to show my love every time we are together. I try to express my love to her both in my words and actions. Then what happens? Yes, she pointed out a mistake and scolded me, but afterwards, it is over because I did not take it resentfully. I let it go so that when I tell her that I love her, I really mean it without something in the background.  What happens? She loves me and respects me. I get love back. When we were not so happy with one another years ago, we were deliberately hurting each other. The Lord was not being expressed in our home. In our case, the Lord needed to bring us through that so that we would realize how much we need Him.

So now I do have a function in the church life. Besides the Lord, my wife is my best critic. As an elder, I do have a function of caring for people and needing to get into their real situations, even not so good ones. I don’t discuss those things with my wife, nor do I tell her the fellowship from the elders’ meetings. But in other things such as the practical serving and other aspects of the care for people, we mostly serve together. Her portion strengthens my serving. She is able to point out when I was insensitive, when I did not understand someone, when I neglected someone. She is much more sensitive to others than I am. I need her portion; we serve together a lot, much more than those aspects of my service where it is not right that I include her. She doesn’t want me to tell her the personal things of the saints, nor the situations among the churches that she doesn’t need to deal with. I take care of those things with the other responsible brothers, or in certain private matters by myself relying only on the Lord.  In other things we can serve together, pray together, and read God’s word together. 

If loving our wives is to us a duty that we know we should do, we will never make it for the long run. Even if we think that we are making it, we are building up our self, not our relationship with God. But when we realize that is not how we are, our heart is not unlimited like God’s heart, we need to open to the Lord to take Him in. God’s love is not limited. Whenever something rises up in us, such as when my wife says, “We need to talk” and I don’t feel like it, we just need to turn. “Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus.” Inwardly I can turn and try my best to listen and not fall asleep. “Are you listening to me?” Praise the Lord, we can turn to Him.

Testimony 1

What we are talking about is, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matt. 16:24). This is never more applicable than in our relationship with our wife. We all know how we should be, but only the Lord can do it. We need to allow the Lord to do it in us. These things are very real. My wife and I have been married for 67 years. These things are still very real in our relationship. This fellowship is helpful for me even though I have learned a little bit. One brother told me, “A woman will get historical even more than she gets hysterical.” In other words, something that I have confessed and repented of long ago gets brought up again. We often need to say, “I’m sorry. I love you.” Then the forgiveness and the sweetness comes back into the relationship and we, the males, do get the love that we crave. Whereas, if we claim that we are right and she is wrong, we don’t get it.

 

If a brother is enjoying the Lord more than the sister, would the brother bring the sister into the enjoyment or would the sister take the brother out? It seems that the sister usually gets her way.

The brother’s portion is not to bring his wife into the enjoyment; his portion is to keep himself in the Lord. Do not try to fix your wife. You want your relationship with the Lord to be proper. You want to be touching the Lord. She may be angry; her anger may be historical, bringing up things that have been confessed and dealt with and should have been forgotten. This should not be a problem. Turn to the Lord to keep yourself in the enjoyment of the Lord, or to bring yourself back to the Lord. If you had been enjoying the Lord, probably she would not have gotten upset. But when you are far away from the Lord, you often would end up doing things that your wife does not like or thinks is not profitable. Then you are setting yourself up for a scolding. Then how do you react? Do you become sullen or angry inside? Do you give an angry word back? Do you ignore her and refuse to talk to her? Those kinds of reactions are not the Lord. Only when you turn your heart to the Lord, do you touch something of the Lord. 

Does the turning mean trying to bring her to the spirit?

No, you can’t do that. The turning is manifested outwardly by either listening or doing what she expects. It does not mean just withdrawing. A trivial example is that my wife does not trust herself with messages that pop up on her computer. Regardless what I am doing, perhaps I am trying to prepare to speak, when a warning box pops up, she comes to me right away. Often I really don’t feel like going to deal with it right away. But if I exercise to take care of that without getting annoyed, then it does not need to take me away from the Lord’s presence. If I get upset, I have lost the Lord’s presence already, whether I went to take care of her computer or not.

If you are too lenient with your wife, will she run over you eventually? Do you have to stand your ground sometimes?

We need to express the Lord. The Lord understands our weakness. He understands how hard it is to overcome sin or give ourselves. He lived a human life; He understands. So we need to have that same kind of understanding with our wife. It is not a matter of being lenient or strict. How is the Lord responding to each situation? Am I finding the Lord? Am I touching the Lord’s heart and wisdom in each situation? Maybe she is asking something that I feel is not of the Lord, that will cause damage. Do I respond in myself or do I bring the Lord into the situation? It is not about strict or not strict. Am I touching the Lord? Have I found the Lord’s heart and wisdom in this situation? Or am I just dealing with it in myself? 

Testimony 2

I had an experience on the last weekend when we were here. Two weeks before that, my wife asked me to arrange to go somewhere that weekend. Then the announcement was made to go to Metcalfe. At that point my wife asked if we were still going to go where we had planned. I said, “I don’t know what we are going to do.” I didn’t know what to do. When the day came I said, “We are going to Metcalfe.” That got me in trouble. These are the types of little things that we as husbands may consider not important. However, as has been shared earlier, a wife does so much.  When I come home, I ask my wife, “How was your day?” She says, “ I was with the kids all day taking care of them.” I don’t know why I even ask that question. I need to work out of town. This means that it is almost impossible to spend time with my wife. When I am working night shift, I only see her for one hour a day. The whole week is like that. In that circumstance, I got into trouble by not sticking with the plans we had made. You single brothers should search for someone who loves the Lord because most of the time they will be flexible. Then you will be able to participate in most of the church activities. But when she requests to go out, you need the Lord’s wisdom. I have gotten myself into trouble by being too “spiritual.” 

Should a married couple have separate or joint accounts?

Question:
I find that the biggest problem in marriage is often money. Should we have separate or joint accounts? Are you going to pay for this? There are a lot of divorces because of monetary differences both in the world and in Christianity. Even in my situation, many times that is the base of a lot of differences in the household. I know that you said to be in the spirit, be in the Lord’s presence. Should those who are not married consider that in a potential spouse?

Answer:
I want to touch this in a couple ways. Firstly, though it isn’t every household situation, it is fairly common that a man spends money on things for himself that his wife considers a waste. Then that becomes a source of conflict. He buys something but his wife thinks that it is just a waste. She is struggling to make ends meet for food and family expenses, but her husband buys something that seems a waste to her. In that kind of situation you can’t blame your wife. You need to accept the limitation. If your family finances are limited, you need to be limited also. On the other side, my wife limits her own spending on herself more than our present situation requires. So I encourage her to buy some new clothes. Rather than spending money for my own pleasure or entertainment, I allow my wife to the freedom for herself. Of course, she is not extravagant; she is more careful that I would want her to be. 

Testimony 3

There is one principle here that I heard a Christian financial adviser say. If you have your money and her money, if you have separate bank accounts, you need marriage counseling. Heirs together of the grace of Christ seems to be a principle. It needs to be our money. I am guilty often of making a decision but without seeking her input. It is to do with the farm but she asked, “Now you have spent all our money on that? What good is it? What is it for?” It is a marriage. Of course, none of what we are talking about works without the Spirit. We often pray, “Lord, help us to do this. Help us to express You.” I am not sure that kind of prayer is inspired by the Spirit. We all do need the Lord’s help; but we need Him to do it, not Him helping us to do it. We need to open ourselves and allow Him to operate through us. That is the way He works.

Testimony 4

There was a time until about ten years ago when my family was not struggling financially. It was very simple; I was earning the money for my family. Then the world went down into recession and I went down with it. My wife needed to work. Then our whole financial situation switched. We need to be flexible. Ten years later we are still struggling. By now it has become historical; it creates strain. I try not to take it personally. I am doing my homework, searching for a decent job. I search continuously but nothing stable has come of it. The Lord has allowed this situation. Only the Lord knows what is in each person’s heart. My point is that everything switched regarding our finances. It is good to make every major financial decision together. Then, if the source of most of the income changes, it is not so much of an issue. This fellowship is very healthy in touching the principles. The application is quite different due to our cultural background. In our culture it is very hard for the wife to accept that in some circumstances the wife makes more money than the husband. If that is the situation you are under, the pressure is on. What do you do if you hear about this day and night? “You should do this. You should do that.” It drives you crazy. We need the Lord; nothing else will last when the external factors make things tough. At the end of the day we have the church life to help us turn to the Lord.

In my case we don’t have a joint account. When I was going to school I accumulated debt. When we got married, my wife did not want to have any responsibility for my debt, so we have separate accounts. How do we deal with this?

As we heard already in this fellowship, it is important to be open. The matter of a joint account is that you both know how the money is used. Even if you do not have joint accounts, are you open with one another? Now I have had a stable job for 30 years. Previously I was in construction working as a carpenter. Right now the interest rate is less than 1%. In 1980 it went over 20%. At that rate rate construction just stopped. Construction relies on people spending money building or renovating. At a 20% rate for borrowing money, that was not happening. I had been working at one job; I got laid off. I took another job for less money; after a couple months, I got laid off from that. We did not have any savings. My wife was not working and was about to give birth to our fourth child. I had always been interested in a computer career. I had done some courses at university; I enjoyed them and was good at it. But I had not been able to finish my degree when I moved to Toronto for the church life. So I could never get a job in the computer field. But in the summer of 1980 the brothers felt that I should go back to school. My wife agreed because the unsteady work in construction during a recession was hard to handle. My parents also agreed. When I did go back to school, I had to pay for the schooling on top of needing to live. I got permission to do the three year computer program in two years if I took an extra course each term and only did one co-op term instead of three. We were in it together. My wife and children all understood that daddy was not working, so we could not get anything new. Even so, we were going further into debt all the time. The hardest part actually was after I graduated and had begun to work. At school I had applied myself and was the top of the class. Because I was the top of the class and because I had done very well in the one co-op term that I did do, I had a job when I graduated. But I was at the lowest level, a trainee position. I was starting over in my career and had debts to make payments on. The next few years were the hardest because now I was working and earning a little money. We had been doing without spending money beyond the most basic needs for two years. Emotionally, it felt like now that daddy was working, we should be able to get some of the other things we needed, but we still could not. 

Even now, some things my wife believes in I think are a waste of money. We spend a lot extra to eat mostly organic food, but since we can afford it, I do not make an issue of it. She spends a lot also on health services and supplements. Whether I go or not to those kinds of services, I feel the same. I do some level of physical exercise, just enough to maintain the level of fitness that I have and I feel fine. My wife feeds me quite healthy food and that, no doubt, helps. I am happy that my wife has prepared food for me even when it is not something that I would have liked. I am grateful for all she does for me.

How should I approach the situation when my wife is upset because I bought a coffee at Tim Hortons?

Most of the time it is little things that cause the trouble in a marriage relationship. What we have pointed to this morning is deeper than all the little things. With this kind of view of the marriage life and Christian life, we have an opportunity to have the best kind of marriage life that anyone on this earth can have. Yes, it involves the denial of the self and the giving up of our own way and our own will, but if you consider marriage on the earth today, how does anyone stay married? I would encourage the young brothers who are not yet married to do so because there are a lot of lessons that you cannot learn in any other environment. But if we can focus on the principles of what has been shared, we will be blessed. We are dealing here with the root of the issues in marriage life. The Lord is the only One who can live the proper kind of marriage life. When we take the Lord into our marriage and live by His life according to the principles that have been shared this morning, we will have the best marriage life in all aspects—financial, physical, emotional and mental.

 

Testimony 5

The sharing this morning is based on principles. The application is a little complicated but the foundation for it is the church life. It is not your money or my money. It is not your time or my time. It is the church life. In the church life the Lord can take care of even the little things. When He is the One enlightening and bothering within about things, it does not create issues in the marriage. Everything is given to us to have the best marriage that anyone can have in this world because of the church life. It does take time and cooperation, but in due time you can reach that level. 

Marriage Relationships
How can I make my house a house that serves the Lord?

Joshua 24:15b; Eph 5:22-33

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! Amen!

Here we are. What a rejoicing to be at the wedding of a couple who have given themselves to the Lord. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be at such an occasion. It is a great joy to see young people who, even in this matter that strikes our innermost heart so deeply, would put the Lord first above everything else. So we are here to rejoice with them.

They asked me to speak at their wedding. I am a kind of thoughtful guy so I began to consider, “What is marriage?” It is two persons coming together. They have two lives, two natures, two ways of doing things, and two dispositions. They have different ideas and different temperaments. If one is hot the other is likely to be cold. There are two lives coming together here today to have one life, a life together. This is not going to be simple; this is never simple. It isn’t the big things, often times, but the many, many little things become hard to take.

Before, I was a single person, not a child anymore, but someone who had somewhat grown up. I was independent by myself for some time. So, when I wanted to do something, I just did it. When I wanted to go somewhere, I just went. Whatever I felt, I did. If I was somewhat spiritual, I prayed about it and then I went. But now everything is a little different. I think I should go there but what does my wife think. Even in trivial things—I am hot, I want to open the window—not that simple. In my own case, often I just wanted to relax. I just wanted to relax, but my wife has this, that, the other thing for me to do. One brother called it the “honey do” list. When the children come it is even more complicated. Here is another one with another life, another will and another feeling. If we remain in ourselves, if we hold on to ourselves, then we will become frustrated by not getting our own way. These kinds of things begin to spoil the marriage relationship. The love that was once so sweet turns into bitterness and the husband and wife begin to blame one another.

It might seem that it is better not to get married. The thing is that the Lord made us this way. We need marriage. Very few of us have the ability to have a proper human life without getting married. We need it. The Lord made us this way and yet its so hard.

Why did the Lord make us in such a way that we need someone else to be with us all the time, to bother us all the time, to limit us, and to push us this way or that way? The Lord has a plan; the Lord desires His Bride. The Lord desires a bride that would match Him. Where was He going to find such a Bride? In His marvelous plan He made man. He wanted a corporate Bride from among men. But He wants a Bride that matches Him and what we are is altogether not matching Him. So how is He going to get that Bride?

The Lord needed a way to deal with us; He needed a way to conform us to His image. The most practical thing, the most daily thing, the most moment by moment and day by day thing is our life together with our spouse. This life in such a close relationship with another person gives the Lord a way to deal with us in many fine details. Then the Lord has a way to bring us into the reality of the spiritual teachings that seemed so wonderful when we heard them but were still somewhat theoretical to us. We heard messages, we saw something of God’s purpose and our spirit was stirred within. We received a kind of vision for our living and yet somehow it wasn’t that practical to us. How can the Lord bring us into spiritual reality? The most practical way and the way we have heard many times in many kinds of illustrations is in the family life. The Lord in His wisdom has made us to need and desire a family life.

So in my own experience, after some time in marriage, I came to the point that I was being bothered by the way my wife was treating me. I began to wonder whether I should really love her. “Should I really love her, the way she’s treating me?” Of course I was blind to the way I was treating her.... But I didn’t get very far along this line of thought before the Lord came in. He brought me to these verses in Ephesians chapter 5. He told me, “If My love to you was conditional, where would you be?” When the Lord spoke that in my heart, I had to repent. I had to turn back to the Lord and say, “Lord Jesus, Lord forgive me for even having such a thought in my heart. Your love to me is so unconditional and it’s so practical. In Your love for me, You gave Yourself to me and You have provided everything I need. You gave Yourself. You sacrificed even Your very person. You endured the shame and suffering of the cross. Lord Jesus, You gave Yourself in such a way to me and here I am with such a small heart that if I don’t get my way I want to withdraw my love from my wife to punish her. Lord Jesus forgive me.” I had to repent and I had to reconsecrate myself to the Lord. What’s more, I had to change my attitude completely toward my wife.

But still, the Lord doesn’t deal with us all at once and then we live happily ever after. This couple has spoken to us of their desire that their life and their house could be for the Lord. I had such a desire. This verse in Joshua 24:15 is so inspiring so I wanted my house to be for the Lord, but there still was a problem. I am kind of sloppy so I wasn’t too concerned how the house looked. I wanted to invite the saints over but my wife said, “You can’t invite the saints over with the house looking like this.” I began to realize that if I wanted to have the saints over whenever I wanted then I would have to help my wife around the house. I would have to help with cleaning, the dishes, the cooking—all kind of things. If my house is going to be for the Lord then I can’t just sit and stay in myself and relax the way I like to relax while my wife has to do everything. It won’t work. If I want my house to be for the Lord then my person has to change. I cannot go on the way I am. I have to go against my laziness and sloppiness to keep my house a proper testimony for the Lord and a pleasant environment for others to come into.

The Lord uses practical things to transform us. Once we give ourselves to the Lord, the Lord is very, very practical and marriage is very, very practical. I pray that the Lord would honor the testimony and desire of this young couple that their house, their whole future could be for the Lord. May they give Him a way to bring many others into the reality of Christ. This will require their cooperation day by day and step by step. At least one of them needs to be willing to turn to the Lord. If only one is willing to really turn and take the cross then that one will give the Lord a way in the home and in the relationship. It takes two to fight but it doesn’t take two give the Lord a way. Your spouse may become most unreasonable and even mean. What will you do? Will you fight back? Will you withdraw and seek comfort elsewhere? Will you seek a divorce? Or will you cast all your anxieties on the Lord and come to Him for the grace to treat your unreasonable spouse with the same grace that the Lord has shown to you?

Right at the beginning marriage is so sweet. Especially if you are really in the Lord then the honeymoon is not just a day or a week but a long time. Nevertheless, your marriage life will not be a honeymoon forever. There will be many times in many ways when you need to turn and let the Lord gain a little more in your heart. In this way you can continue going on with Him and day by day your life will be growing in the Lord. There is no better life; there is nothing more wonderful than to love and serve the Lord and let the Lord work in us. When we are in ourselves we become miserable and we make others miserable. But when we turn to the Lord and touch the spirit and let the Lord speak to us and transform us, then the Lord has a way. Our life will be a life of rejoicing, going on with the Lord and giving Him a way to bless our spouse, our family, and all who we meet.

Whose responsibility is it to bring the Lord into a relationship that is failing?

Many people would answer “both” to a question such as this. In other words, their concept is that the marriage partners share the responsibility for making the marriage successful and godly. This concept is wrong. There are two reasons why it is wrong even though it may seem reasonable. First, it leaves the door open for each to accuse the other partner of not doing their part. “I can’t do anything because he/she....” Both spouses may want the situation to be better. Both may desire to have a home filled with the love and joy of the Lord. Both may even earnestly pray for this. However, the thought that the responsibility is shared causes one to have expectations of their spouse. Each is confident that they know how their spouse needs to change for the marriage to be successful. In other words, each may feel justified in blaming the other for the marriage breakdown.

Secondly, the thought that the responsibility is shared is not according to the standard of the New Testament and the capability of the new life we receive when we believe in the Lord Jesus.  Things can go so wrong in a marriage that the spouses come to view each other as enemies. However, the Lord commanded us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:43-47). Genuine love for our enemies and for those who persecute us is a characteristic of the life of God. It makes us sons of our heavenly Father in our living and expression (v. 45). Verses 38-42 tell us not to resist when someone is hurting us, taking what belongs to us, or compelling us unreasonably. Who can do this? Only the Lord Jesus. But we have His life in us! He can do in us things that are humanly impossible. His life has the power to deliver us from living in the flesh or the soul for our own interests. The Lord will not fill us with His joy nor reward us in His kingdom if we are living by our own life and effort and thus come short of the standard of His life.

This means that either spouse can bring the Lord into a relationship that is failing. Neither needs to wait for the other to change. The first one to turn can gain the Lord the most because being the first to repent, confess and ask forgiveness, both to the Lord and to your spouse, requires putting yourself aside the most. Of course this is hard; it requires letting go of all the offenses that you have suffered and the resentment in your heart. But the result is worth it, both in terms of gaining the Lord yourself and in giving the Lord the ground to work in your spouse. So, if your relationship is failing, You are responsible to bring the Lord into it.

General Questions
In what way do you feel the Lord is presently leading you?

When God created man and woman, He told them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen. 1:28). Mankind has done this physically but God's spiritual children have not adequately fulfilled His desire. A major limitation among Christians has been that the main pattern is of the stronger ones caring for the rest. The limitation is that there are never enough stronger ones to meet all the needs and inevitably some feel neglected. The Lord is leading us to try to bring all the saints into a life of bearing fruit and building up one another. We are trying to help the saints form family groups of mutual care with four or five families helping one another spiritually and practically. The goal is not just to care for one another, but together to serve the Lord, bear fruit, and rasie up churches for the Lord's testimony.

How can you equip younger and weaker saints to be able to bear fruit and raise up churches?

In the past we tried various ways to raise up young people and new believers. Giving messages is not that effective. Even if the message is attractive and they enjoy it, hardly anyone remembers much about it a day later. So we encouraged the saints to attend trainings where books of the Bible or topics was covered in a thorough way, including reviews and testings on what was presented. We also spend a lot of time in home meetings where we try to give specific help to meet the needs of one person or family. One on one care is often more effective than general help to a group of people. Another way we tried to help the saints was to give some of the ones we viewed as more promising a charge, a field of labor, and let them take the lead in that area and try to do something. All these things have their value but still we did not see the Lord's blessing as much as we hoped.

Right now we are laboring to help the saints in three ways in addition to the ways mentioned above. For some of the saints who are available, we have a full time six month labor that we call a Gospel Propogation Perfecting (GPP). It includes lessons to know the major aspects of the gospel in detail, but the main emphasis is in actually going out to bring the gospel to people. We are very much burdened that the things we learn would get put into practice and become our living. The second way we have begun to labor is to have a gospel school on Saturdays for the young people. It is similar in nature to the GPP with a class in the morning and going out in the gospel in the afternoon, but it is not as intense. The third way we are just beginning to labor is with the family groups of mutual care. We hope that this could provide a way for all the saints to care for and build up one another. Of course, these three ways of labor are related to one another. The young people going out are effective in the gospel but it is the family groups that are more able to provide the consistent care to raise up new ones.

Why is the portion of the young serving ones not honored? How will they grow and develop without a field of labor?

These questions are based on a concern that if the young people only serve under the leadership of older saints, they will never get opportunities to learn to be leaders. They need to be given freedom to do something on their own. That way, even though they may make some mistakes, they will learn and eventually they will be able to take proper leadership. This concern came out of an observation that many saints came into the church life as young people in the 70s. Since the churches were just being established, they had no one else to rely on; some of them had to rise up to be the leaders. Thirty years later, the churches are relatively stagnant and the ones who were taking the lead are still here. Let the young people go and let them try to bring some freshness into the churches free from the shackles of the religious traditions that have developed among us.

In principle, it does not seem healthy to us for the long run that there would be a young people's work in the church separate from the church itself. The work carried out by the apostles in the New Testament established churches and ministered to them but was not within them. When speaking universally it is correct to say that the local churches are local expressions of the Body of Christ and that there is no other Head but Christ. However, in 1 Corinthians 12:27 Paul tells the church in Corinth, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." The body here is the local church and the members are the individual believers in the church. In this context, the "head" in verse 21 is not referring to Christ but to a member in the local church who functions as the head there. Each member has his portion and none should be overly exalted or despised. Yet, all function in coordination under the leading of the head. If there are separate works within the church we will never arrive at the body life depicted in 1 Corinthians.

Not only here, quite a number of churches in this area have given the young serving ones the freedom to try to care for the young people apart from the oversight of and coordination with the elders. To our observation, the results have been mixed. Some of the young serving ones have been learning to plan activities, events and meetings for the young people and to take responsibility for them. However, some of the things, especially some of the music, have become worldly. Overall, this has not brought in the flow of the Spirit and blessing of the Lord that we all expect.

Thus, according to both teaching and experience, we do not believe that giving young serving ones a field of labor separate from the rest of the church is the best way to help them develop into healthy, functioning members of the body of Christ. We are currently burdened to bring the saints in the church life into a living of bearing fruit and building up churches for the Lord's testimony. Some of the young people have been learning to bring others into dynamic experiences of receiving the Lord and of helping others to love the Lord and consecrate their lives to Him. We value learning to take the lead in arranging meetings and activities for the care of the young people. We value even more, learning to seek the Lord for a living word for their spiritual supply. But most of all, we value lives that are fruitful in begetting, nourishing and building up others to also be fruitful in the same way for the increase and spread of the body of Christ. This is what we are beginning to see the Lord doing among us. This is how we hope to see all the saints, including the young serving ones, grow and develop.

How can we protect children from becoming victims of a predator?

It is not enough to keep children in seemingly safe environments. They also need clear teaching concerning what is acceptable and where to draw the line with the older people around them. Before they enter kindergarten, they should be taught about what kind of touches from adults are ok and what are not. Specifically, they need to be taught that no one should touch them where they pee unless they are sick or hurt and it is mommy, daddy, a doctor or a nurse. If anyone tries that or wants to kiss them on the lips, they should tell mommy or daddy no matter what that person says. Being warned about this kind of behavior, even by people they know, is just as important for children as being warned not to accept candy or rides from strangers.

A young person who has not been taught can let things go way too far before realizing that it is not proper. Before the age of puberty, boys especially should be warned about what pornography, viewing pictures of nude women, will do to them. That and any kind of sexual play, such as masturbation, fondling one’s own sex organs, will begin to feed the monster of lust that is within them. Girls also, though they are not as likely to be the instigators of sexual contact, can easily become victims and need to be warned against what is unhealthy. If anything that someone, especially an older person, does to them makes them uneasy, they should ask a parent or another older person that they can trust about it. This is especially important if the one making them feel uneasy asks that they keep it a secret. Children need to know that they should tell mommy or daddy every secret that an older person tells them.

If God desires to build up the church on earth, why does He allow Satan to attack it so much?

First of all, I would say that Satan cannot attack the church at all unless he can find a flaw or a weakness that gives him an opening to attack. These weaknesses are things such as sins, ambitions, self seeking, pride, etc. As sinners, even though we have received the Lord's grace and salvation, many such things are still hidden in our hearts. Many times we are not even aware of them but sooner or later situations arise that bring the hidden things to the surface. Afterward we may be surprised that we could have done certain things. We never imagined how sinful our hearts are but actually the sinful nature of the flesh remains until we die or the Lord returns.

 

This means that the Lord must bring us through many different kinds of situations and experiences in order to transform us into His image. Jacob is the best example in the Bible of the Lord's transforming work on a person. He wanted the Lord's blessing but he himself was a schemer and a cheat. So the Lord forced him to run away from home to live with his uncle who cheated and mistreated him for 20 years. Even after that Jacob suffered one trial after another but in the end his name was changed from Jacob, which refers to his grasping, cheating nature, to Israel, which means "prince of God". What a transformation!

So, are things such as gossip, slander, misunderstanding, unfair treatment, etc which come our way from Satan? No doubt they are. He is the hidden source of every evil. Does God allow Satan to attack us? Yes He does, because in the end those trials work out for our good. If we stand through the trial, our faith is strengthened by it. On the other hand, if we are defeated by a trial then we begin to lose the sweetness of the Lord's presence and to drift away from Him. Sooner or later, if not in this life time, then in the coming kingdom (I am speaking about defeated believers, not unbelievers.), God will have a way to bring us to repentance and back to himself.

It is similar in the church corporately. Ambition, pride, self seeking, gossip, natural opinions and preferences, etc. give Satan openings to attack. Some may be defeated and leave the church but the church as a whole is purified and strengthened by the trial. A whole group of the Lord's people may go astray but others will need to define the truth more clearly to stand against the error. Without such things the Church would not advance. Satan has been attacking the Church for 2,000 years and causing much damage but within the church, the stronger part, the overcomers, are much closer to fulfilling God's eternal purpose than ever before.