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Into Thy Word Ministries teaches people how to study the Bible in a simple, clear, and concise way, discipling pastors and missionaries, providing seminars, speaking,church consulting, discipleship tools and resources for Christian growth.






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Love, Sex and Real life!!!

By Richard Krejcir

Into Thy Word -

  

 

Love, Sex and Real life!!!

Taken in part from articles By Tim Stafford

 

I Want a Boyfriend! Q I’m a junior in high school. All of my teen life I’ve never had a boyfriend or even a date for dances. I want to wait for the guy God sends me, but it’s taking forever. Then when I see other friends of mine who are couples, I cry because I don’t have a boyfriend. The guys in my youth group are friends, and they’re really nice to me, but I need something more. Please help me!

A I wish I could help, but the truth is, you’re in a difficult spot. You feel you’re ready to begin dating. That’s a natural urge, and it comes to most people at your age. The trouble is that romance involves a lot more than natural urges. It involves the unique combination of two personalities, and the timing of romance is often different from the timing of biology. You can count on your body to feel the urge for love, but you can’t count on the right guy to connect with you on schedule.

You have some limited control in attracting guys. You can be friendly. You can look your best. You can involve yourself with activities where you’re likely to meet guys. You can take the initiative: asking guys out, planning parties or trips, getting your friends to introduce you to interesting guys. You don’t have to just wait around for a guy to notice you. You should do all that you can, if only because it’s part of developing your character and building self-confidence.

Results aren’t guaranteed, though. You can look terrific and act very outgoing and still not get a boyfriend. Some people are late bloomers. It’s not uncommon for girls to go through all of high school without dating, and then find their social calendars filling up fast in college.

What to do? Make sure you don’t lose track of yourself. Your character, your relationship with God, your friendliness and service to other people--these are the factors that will decide whether you come out of this stage feeling frustrated and unhappy or satisfied and at peace. These are the factors that will ultimately decide whether you make a good partner or a lousy one. God willing, you’ll find the right guy at the right time. The more difficult question is: What kind of person will you have become by then?

Why Can't I Fool Around? Q Everybody says that feeling each other's private parts is wrong until you're married. I don't see why, because I know that I can stop before I have sex with my girlfriend. Can you show me some verses to help me out?

A I feel strongly that touching each other’s private parts is wrong outside of marriage. But I can’t quote a Bible verse that says exactly that in so many words. To be truthful, in the Jewish culture of the Bible, this question would never have crossed anybody’s mind. In those days, an unmarried guy would rarely (if ever) be alone with a girl--let alone touch her private parts. When two people were ready to get that close, they were ready for a commitment--the commitment we call marriage.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." It’s immoral to "cheat" on this--to try to take the sexual benefits of a marriage relationship but not make the commitment. That’s the opposite of "honoring" marriage.

When two people touch each other’s private parts, I believe that’s a sexual intimacy that can’t just be friendly. It’s not fun and games. It exposes each person’s most vulnerable self. It’s a memory that will never disappear. That you can "stop" is irrelevant. (And how do you know you can stop?) This is a pleasure and an intimacy that only married people are meant to enjoy, because when you do something that reaches so near to the soul, you want to be sure the person you share it with will be there forever. Only marriage gives you that assurance.

Too Young for True Love? Q My boyfriend and I have been dating for about six months. He's my best friend in the entire world, and we both feel God calling us towards marriage. I'm a junior in high school, and he's a sophomore. I know we're very young, so I'm wondering, is it too soon to be in a relationship this serious? Right now, we both feel like we've found our soul mates, and the more we grow in our faith, the closer we grow together. Is there any way I can be sure he's the one? At this point in my life, do I even need to be sure?

A No, you don’t need to be sure about finding "the one" right now. You don’t even need to be thinking about it. At this point, you can just be happy that you’ve found somebody who means the world to you. Congratulations!

You should know, however, that it’s rare for high school romances to last. Some do. The vast majority doesn’t. You’re both in a period of life when you’re changing rapidly. You can become a very different person in a very short time--and so can your boyfriend. So it’s the wrong time to think about marriage.

Right now, concentrate on helping each other grow as human beings and as Christians. This relationship can be a wonderful experience even if it doesn’t last. Look at it this way--do you wish you were still in the classes you took as a freshman? Probably not, but are you grateful for what you learned there? Relationships, both dating and just friendship, can be similar. You don’t have to stay in them to learn a lot from them.

God can use this relationship in both your lives--to make you more sensitive, to deepen your understanding of life, to bring you closer to God, to teach you how to serve other people. These are the questions you ought to be asking right now: How do I help him become a better person? How does he help me? What can I learn from and appreciate in this relationship?

He Wants More Than Friendship Q I've been very good friends with a guy from my church for a few years. In the past few months, things have begun to change. He seems much more physical around me. He likes to sit really close to me and rub my back. This is making me think he may want to be more than friends. He's a great guy, but I really just want to be friends, for now anyway. How should I handle this? Should I ask him how he feels about me or just push it aside?

A I believe in talking. If you think he’s sending unspoken messages, and those messages make you uncomfortable, I’d think you’d want to get that out in the open. It may be painful to do so, but more harm will come from the confusion and uncertainty that result from not talking honestly. It’s hard to be true friends when you don’t know where you stand.

When you have this conversation, make every effort not to embarrass him. Don’t talk to him where other people are likely to overhear, and by all means don’t share the details of the talk with any of your mutual friends. Also, don’t go in with assumptions--it’s possible he never had intentions other than friendship. If you go in with, "I think you like me, and it’s making me uncomfortable," he’s automatically on the defensive. He’ll have an easier time talking if you lead off with a simple, "I’ve been a little confused about our relationship lately. Do you like me as more than friends?" Give him a chance to explain himself, and be sure you make your feelings very clear.

At that point, you will have done all you can. If he starts acting weird around you or avoiding you, that’s his problem. Your only choice would be to wait and see if he snaps out of it.

What About Interracial Dating? Q I have a really great friend, and he and I were thinking about dating. There's one problem, though: He's white, and I'm mixed (my mother is white and my father is black). Well, one of my guy's friends told him that interracial relationships are wrong, and he did a 180-degree turn on his feelings. One week he really liked me, and a week later he was like, "You're just my friend, my feelings don't go past that." I think he let what others said influence him. How could I approach him? Should I?

A Let’s start with the Bible. God’s Word says nothing against interracial relationships. Quite the opposite. Paul wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). All that separates people is swept away by Jesus, who unites all his followers into one family. Racial separatism has no place in the family of God.

However, as you have discovered, we live in a race-minded society. Unfortunately, even some Christians have attitudes that are bigoted and racist.

It sounds to me like your friend is easily influenced. Perhaps he really wasn’t sure how he felt about you. But when a little pressure came along, he discovered his loyalty was limited. That’s sad, but it’s good you discovered it now. To form a lasting relationship, you have to be strong. That’s true for everybody, and especially true in interracial relationships. If your friend lacks that strength, you’re fortunate to learn it now. It hurts, but it would have hurt a whole lot more later.

So how should you approach your friend? As a friend. For the sake of his own growth, he needs to hear how his weakness affected you. Try to keep him as a friend, but don’t beg him to reconsider dating. If romance ever becomes a possibility again, he should be the one to initiate it--and apologize.

Are We Ready for Sex? Q My boyfriend and I have been together a year and seven days today. I love him more than anything in this whole world. But just telling him that I love him is never enough to express how I really feel about him. I know a lot of people express their love for each other by having sex. I used to think I'd wait for sex until I was married, but I really want to show my boyfriend how much he means to me. Should I ask him if he's ready to have sex? It would be the first time for both of us. I know that making love is very special and should be shared with someone you really care about. That's why I want to do it with my boyfriend, but I'm not sure if it's right or not.

A I’m glad to see that you realize how big of a decision this is. But it seems that you have an overly romanticized idea of sex--particularly of "the first time," which is almost never the blissful experience you see in the movies. A lot of people, especially girls, report deep disappointment with their first sexual experience. I mention that because you seem to be focusing on the message the "first time" will send. The real issue should be the message you send by adding sex to your relationship. It’s not a one-time thing. When you bring sex into a relationship, you can be sure it will remain sexual as long as you’re together--whether you actually keep having sex or just can’t get it off your minds.

Some people remember "the first time" as the beginning of a lifetime of wonderful love. Some remember the first time with shame and regret. Others--probably the majority, these days--remember it as an insignificant little fling they had when they were young and naive. For them it’s about as meaningful as their first airplane ride.

When the Bible says something positive about sex, it’s always talking about sex between married people--people who have publicly vowed before God and before their friends and family that they will never break apart, no matter what. For these couples, the "first time" is incredibly wonderful because it’s the beginning of a love affair that never ends. That kind of relationship, and only that kind, is what sex is meant to be a part of.

We know what God intended for sex because he tells us in the Bible. Genesis 2:21-25 talks about the union between Adam and Eve, and verse 24 says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." When marriage comes first, sex is a beautiful way to bond two people for life.

When you get sexually involved outside of marriage, you use sex in a context it’s not meant for. You end up dishonoring marriage--your marriage, which could be far in the future and probably won’t be with the guy you’re now dating.

I read somewhere that the percentage of high school couples who eventually marry each other is less than 1 percent. Of course, everybody thinks they’re the special couple that will never part. Their love won’t ever die, they say. They might even believe their words, at least until they spend a summer apart, attend different colleges, get preoccupied with their jobs or meet someone else. Whatever happens, 99 percent of these couples never get to the altar.

I can’t tell the future, and I won’t pretend to know what will happen to you. I do know what happens to most people who get involved "the first time" before they’re married. Most of them go on to other partners. They experience extra heartbreak when they lose the partner they thought would be theirs forever. But they carry those memories on to the next partner. They have sex with their second partner, too, and their third partner. Pretty soon it’s not quite as special. It’s just something to do.

Most of these people get married eventually, though rarely to each other. Some of them have wonderful marriages. Many don’t. Either way, by treating sex the way they do, they dishonor marriage.

You’re at a crucial point in your life. Will you go for pleasure now and take your chances on the consequences later? Or will you hold out on expressing total commitment until that happy day when you’re ready to make a total commitment? I hope you’ll wait, because it’s much, much better for you--and for your boyfriend.

By the way, waiting doesn’t mean you have to be in misery. It’s difficult to put your desires on hold, but there’s also a certain kind of excitement in it. It’s like the excitement of waiting for Christmas and not ripping open the packages early. Something this good, and this important, is well worth waiting for.

Is This Real Love? Q I’m 16 and my girlfriend is 14. We’ve been together for 11 months now, and we both really believe we’re in love. But her father, who is also our youth pastor, has told us that teenagers are more likely to be "in lust" than "in love." We fell in love over time. We tell each other "I love you" on a regular basis. We don’t just say it, we really mean it. I love God, I love myself, and I love her. So I guess I’m trying to ask, is it possible for two kids like us to be in love?

A You bet it’s possible. When a person feels love, it’s very real and very powerful. And if you and your girlfriend continue to date and develop a more mature, deeper relationship, your love will become even more real and more powerful. Yes, it’s possible to be very much in love when you’re 16 or 14 or even 12.

But don’t ignore her father’s words. True, his "in lust" comment is maybe a little cynical and probably stems from years of knowing teenagers who "loved" each other one week, then wouldn’t speak to each other the next. But most likely he also knows that some people do feel love when they’re teenagers. I think her father’s real message is, "Take it easy." Think of his words as a reminder to not rush your relationship.

To be honest, I don’t think it makes much difference whether your feelings could be called "real love" or not. Your feelings are real to you, and that’s what counts. Yes, there are a million kinds of love. Yes, sometimes those feelings change from week to week, even day to day. And yes, maturity has a lot to do with whether those feelings will last.

You and your girlfriend might be developing a love that will last forever, or you might break up a month from now. Don’t worry about that right now. Your job isn’t to label your feelings or predict the future. The only job for you and your girlfriend is to continue to grow as people and as Christians. Encourage and strengthen each other. Help each other grow closer to God. Care for and respect each other. If you do those things, your feelings will take care of themselves.


How Can I Stop Lusting? Q I was sexually active before I became a Christian. Now I want to wait until I get married before I have sex again. But my thought life is filled with lust and images of past sexual experiences. I'm not dating anyone right now, but I'm afraid I won't be able to control myself when I do go out with a girl, or that I'll get married too fast for all the wrong reasons. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this?

A I do have suggestions, but I want first to say how impressed I am that you’re thinking about these issues now. Most of the time I hear from people who have already put themselves in harm’s way. They’re halfway down the drain before they try to stop!

It’s far better to anticipate problems before they appear and to strengthen your defenses. The most powerful aid in resisting sexual temptation is an accountability group made up of your peers and a mature adult leader. Find a handful of Christian guys who will meet with you weekly for prayer, honest sharing, and mutual encouragement. You might start by asking your pastor or another Christian adult you trust to give you some names of guys who have the maturity and commitment to meet with you. Be honest with these people, and they can be a tremendous source of strength for you.

I’d also encourage you to develop the habit of daily personal prayer and Bible study. Pick a time that works for you--first thing in the morning, last thing at night, whatever--and spend 15 minutes or so focusing your mind on God and his will for you. You might even want to memorize some verses that deal specifically with temptation, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13. Many, many people have found that this discipline of daily devotion to God carries them through difficult times.

Finally, if you haven’t already found a church, make a commitment to get involved in a church where you can worship God with other Christians. It’s amazing to me how often people skip over this crucial aspect of spiritual growth because they can’t find the "perfect" church. As somebody has said, if you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it--because then it won’t be perfect. Church is just a group of ordinary people who want to do their best to love and serve God together. As you grow closer to God and to other Christians, you might find it easier to ward off those lustful thoughts.

There are no guaranteed tricks to keep sexual temptations completely out of your life. Only a connection with Christ that’s stronger than your temptation to sin can keep you from giving in.

Why Should We Stop Having Sex? Q I know everyone says sexual relationships are only for married couples. But my boyfriend and I have been dating for three years and are having sex. We are now in college and are very serious about each other. We know we are destined for marriage, and we pray day and night about our future together. People say sex ruins relationships, but it has brought us closer. We have complete trust in each other. We take sex very seriously, and it is something very special to us. Our relationship is not in any way based on sex; it is based on a solid foundation in God. We have dedicated our lives to him and him only. What we want to know is if sex is wrong in our situation. Like I said earlier, we are sure God has marriage in our future plans. Nothing is keeping us from getting married right now. We are ready. But we still want to know if sex is wrong.


A Thank you for writing so honestly. I’d like to be equally honest with you. I believe your sexual involvement outside the bonds of marriage is wrong. The Bible tells you to wait, so you need to wait. It’s not just "everyone" who says sexual relationships are only for married couples, it’s God.

Maybe you’ve heard that argument but don’t think it applies to you. Let me help you see why it does apply to you. I’ll start by simply asking a question: Why aren’t you married? You say you are committed and sure that God wants you to marry. You say that nothing is keeping you from marriage. But evidently something is keeping you, or you would be married already. What keeps you from a lifelong commitment? My guess is you think you can’t afford to be married, or maybe your parents won’t support your education if you’re married. Maybe it seems more convenient to get married after you’ve finished college.

Those are all reasonable answers. But they all make the same basic point: Something is more important to you than your commitment to each other. Your parents, your finances, and your educational schedule--some force is holding you back. You’re not ready to be married because the commitment of marriage implies that you have put this one person ahead of everything else in life. Think of the wedding vows: "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer." Apparently you aren’t quite ready to take those vows. And it follows that if you’re not quite ready for the vows, you’re not quite ready for sex. Sex is the natural and joyful expression of a completely committed married relationship. You go "all the way" with your body because you have gone "all the way" with your life.

This isn’t just my theoretical preference--this is reality. You can’t be "sort of" committed any more than you can be "sort of" pregnant. You either are or you aren’t. And dating, even serious dating, isn’t a permanent commitment. Marriage is.

Think about it: What happens to your relationship if something drastically changes? What if you, for example, are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? What if your boyfriend’s family suddenly goes bankrupt and he has to drop out of school and get a job? What if one of you experiences a powerful mood change, and suddenly you’re not so sure that you’re meant for each other? What if you have a terrible fight and realize you are a lot more different than you thought you were?

I don’t want to throw fears at you. I truly and sincerely hope that you two move smoothly ahead to marriage, and that your marriage proves to be a very happy and fruitful one. My point, however, is that life is not necessarily smooth. Life offers a lot of bumps, and that’s why married couples need to make a deep and absolute commitment, before God, to stay together through thick and thin. You haven’t done that yet. There’s still a very real possibility you won’t marry each other and that you’ll someday remember this relationship with shame and regret.

That may seem impossible under current circumstances, but who says that current circumstances will remain the same? Thousands of formerly engaged couples could stand up and cry out as witnesses: It is possible for what seems to be the most perfect relationship to break apart.

There is a better way. And it’s much more joyful in the end. It’s the way God intended: to make your final and complete commitment before God and all your friends, and to live together as husband and wife from that day on. That’s the day you publicly commit your lives to each other. And that’s the day your sexual life together should begin.

You’re off that track now, but you can get back on it again. You can’t undo the past, but you can rethink the future. Stop having sex until you are husband and wife.


Is He Too Young for Me? Q I have a problem. I am almost 17 and my boyfriend is 15. I am exactly one year and eight months older than he is. This is my first relationship with a guy, and everything is going all right with us. But is it wrong for me to be dating a guy so young?

A No, there’s nothing wrong. Age differences are relative. Some people seem "older" or "younger" than their chronological age. Besides, as you get older, age differences affect you less and less. (If you were 32 and he was 30, nobody would even notice.)

When you’re at different life stages, though, that can be a problem. For example, relationships rarely work if one person is in college or in the working world and the other is still in high school. So keep that in mind. Right now you and your boyfriend are both in high school. After you graduate, things are likely to change. Enjoy your relationship now, but understand that it’s going to take a lot of work to maintain it after you graduate. Maybe you’ll both decide staying together isn’t the best idea at that point, which is OK. You can still enjoy what you have right now.

Where's the Guy For Me? Q I'm so sick of guys! I'm getting to the point in my life where I really want a boyfriend. But not just anyone. I'm looking for someone I can talk with about God, someone who can keep me on track spiritually. I don't know of any quality Christian guys in my school or even my church. I used to have crushes on particular boys all the time, but now the guy I want seems to exist only in my mind. God says that if we delight in him, he will give us the desires of our heart. I've been praying for someone special for a long time, but he's nowhere in sight. Am I not pleasing God or what?

A Let’s start at the most basic issue: You aren’t aware of any guys your age who meet your most basic criterion of being committed Christians. If that’s the case, I think you need to move around a little. If you want proof that there are good Christian guys out there, ask your parents if you can check out some of the other youth groups in town. If there’s a Campus Life club or Young Life group at your school, try that. Another plan is to go to a Christian camp or take a summer missions trip. Don’t think of these options as matchmaking time. Instead, think of them as chances to make friends with some solid Christians, both guys and girls.

As to your frustration with God, the scriptural promise you’re referring to is Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." What that verse is telling us to do is focus our lives on God. And as we grow in our understanding of God’s will, the things we want out of life, the desires of our hearts, will be more like the things God wants for us. So does that mean God will send Mr. Right your way someday? Only God knows. But as you concentrate on God and watch him working in your life, you’ll be able to trust that no matter what the future holds, it’s God’s best for you.

You might also want to read the rest of the psalm, which fills out the meaning of "delight in the Lord." For example, the next verse tells you to "Commit your way to the Lord," and verse 7 says, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." Get the idea? You can’t really delight yourself in God when you’re angry and impatient.

I’m sure it’s frustrating to want a guy and see none in sight. Most girls have felt the same way. However, you really don’t want just any guy. You want the kind of guy who’s right for you. But just because he’s not staring you in the face doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. Relax, trust God, and believe that he has good plans for you. In the meantime, make sure you’re living the way God wants you to live. That way you’ll have something to offer that "dream guy" if or when he shows up.


Her Parents Are Too Strict? Q I have been dating my girlfriend for seven months now. We're both 15. My problem is that her parents won't let her go out with me alone and are very skeptical of us even dating with groups. I can understand their concern, but we didn't even have our first kiss until two months into our relationship. We are not very physical at all. I know the Bible tells us to honor and obey our parents, but my girlfriend won't even talk to them about it. I think her parents would understand and be more flexible if she would just talk to them. What should I do?

A It could be your girlfriend feels just fine with the way things are. Maybe she doesn’t want to go out with you alone. Maybe she’s still nervous about dating. At any rate, I think you had better start with an attitude check. Are you really respecting her opinions and feelings? Are you willing to accept that this situation may not change?

If you feel so strongly about resolving this issue with her parents, the logical move is to ask her if you can talk to them yourself. Most parents respect a young person who will come directly to them and express his or her beliefs. If it’s OK with your girlfriend, I’d recommend you try this. Be respectful and listen to what they have to say. If you want them to trust and respect you, you need to do the same for them, even if they don’t change their minds.

 

Q: Is Love at First Sight Real?  Is it possible to fall in love at first sight? It seems like people always say that's not real love. But what about Jacob and Rachel in the Bible? They seemed to love each other at first sight.at first sight.

A--It is possible to fall in love at first sight. In fact, it happens all the time. Lots of couples, like Jacob and Rachel, were smitten from their very first encounter.

Still there's a reason why people throw cold water on "love at first sight." It's a beginning, just the very first seed of a lasting love. If the love doesn't grow and mature from that first seed, it won't amount to much. Often it doesn't. Often love at first sight is just a shooting star that flames up brilliantly but is gone in a moment. Just because you feel giddy and in love doesn't necessarily mean the feelings will last.

I'd urge you to think of love at first sight as a stepping stone to real love. Think of it as a signal that there is potential in this person who seems so right from the very start. But don't stop with potential. Invest the time and patience to find out whether this is a love that can grow. Be sure the person shares your faith in Christ. Explore the person's character. Understand what this person values. Learn everything you can about him or her. Find out whether this person can be part of a love that endures.

And let your love grow steadily. Enjoy the bright burst of light, but make sure there's fuel for the long run. You don't need love like a shooting star. You need love that lights up your whole world and stays alight. That kind of love may begin at first sight, but it needs solid fuel to last.

My Boyfriend's Too Possessive


Q:  My boyfriend doesn't want me to hang out with my best friend. I love my boyfriend, but I've had my best friend for eight years. I don't think it's right for him to decide who I can spend time with and who I can't. When my boyfriend wants to be with his friends, I never complain or say no. What should I do?

A--Your problem is actually pretty common. There are lots of guys (and girls too) who think that dating someone means you own them. But your boyfriend doesn't own you, and he shouldn't be the one to choose your friends. Dating this guy means you care for him in a romantic way. It doesn't mean you've turned your life over to him.

While it might not be easy, you've got to tell your boyfriend to quit being so possessive. You have every right to spend time with whomever you like. If your boyfriend isn't willing to accept that, you need to end the relationship.

I'm telling you this as a warning. Jealous boyfriends can be dangerous boyfriends. They're usually insecure and feel a need to protect themselves by controlling other people. Often they're angry and quick-tempered. Mix it all together and you've got a recipe for big problems.

Many abusive dating relationships start out like yours. A guy tries to control his girlfriend by dictating who she can be with--him--and who she can't--everyone else. I'm not saying your boyfriend is an abuser. I just want you to be aware that his behavior might be an early warning sign of a problem that could become very serious.

Even if your boyfriend doesn't seem potentially abusive, his attitude doesn't bode well for your relationship. If your boyfriend doesn't think you're capable of choosing your own friends, how can he respect other decisions you make? It might be tempting to just go along with him and stop seeing your best friend, but that certainly won't make you any happier. Tell your boyfriend you trust him to choose his friends, and he needs to do the same for you.

Why Can't I Date Non-Christians?

You write a lot about Christians not dating non-Christians. Most of your responses are based on the idea that dating is a step toward marriage. I understand that dating can often lead to marriage, but I don't understand the problem with casually dating non-Christians if it's not serious and it's not going to lead to anything major.

A--I used to think exactly the way you do. Some dating is just casual fun--a bunch of friends pairing off to go to a dance, for example, with no serious intentions of romance. That seems harmless, and it usually is. So I used to advise people that dating non-Christians was OK if you kept it light.

I began to change my mind because of the letters I received. I learned that it's very hard to keep the lines clear. What is "just casual fun" for one person might be, under the surface, very serious to his or her partner. Also, feelings change. Dating might begin as a casual relationship but very suddenly develop into something serious.


Then you have a big problem. You've launched into a powerfully emotional relationship, yet you lack any foundation in common beliefs. You're stuck, having to choose between your faith and your feelings for this other person. Such relationships usually end in heartbreak for both people. I emphasize "both"--it's really no favor to a non-Christian to date him or her when the relationship can't go anywhere. And it's never easy to choose between your faith and someone you care about. When the Bible tells us "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14), the intent is to protect Christians from relationships where their faith can be compromised.

I've concluded the territory is too dangerous. Too often people end up hurt. Too often what begins as fun ends up with passionate feelings--and bitter tears. Have fun with all kinds of friends, and hang out with groups that are a great mixture of people. But reserve dating for those who share your fundamental beliefs about God.

Is It OK to Daydream about Sex?

I've had a crush on the same guy for three years, and I can't get over him. I daydream about him, and in my dreams, we get pretty physically intimate. Is that wrong? Is it OK to daydream about sex as long as you don't have sex in real life?

A--Daydreaming has a purpose. It lets us explore our future and our fantasies. It helps us form hopes and goals. It gets us in touch with what we'd like our lives to be like. Somebody who daydreams about becoming a doctor may really become a doctor. Somebody who daydreams about great inventions may become an engineer.

That said, not all daydreaming is good. You want to focus your daydreams so that you're not dreaming about something immoral.

For this reason, I think it's wrong to daydream about the details of sex with somebody you're not married to. That's lust. I believe Jesus' words in Matthew 5:28 apply here. He says, "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." And who knows how your daydreams might affect your behavior with this guy. Can you really get to know and respect him as a person if you're used to thinking of him in a sexual way? Probably not.

So what can you daydream about? You can safely imagine the two of you talking and getting to know each other. You can picture yourselves with other friends, or with your families. Think about the reasons you like him so much. Is he funny? Friendly? Smart? Compassionate? Let those qualities be the framework for your daydreams. That way, you can explore the possibilities of a relationship with this guy while still obeying God's commands to keep your mind and heart pure.

I Feel Left Out of Her Life

Q: Im in a relationship with a girl who is a very strong Christian. Before I met her, I didn't know anything about Christianity, but she has helped me come to love Jesus with all my heart. Recently, my girlfriend went on a retreat and had a very intense and emotional experience with God. She says she doesn't know how to explain it to anybody because it's something she has never experienced before. I'm still figuring out this whole Christianity scene, so I'm not as strong a Christian as she is. The situation has caused a lot of tension between us. We don't fight, but she is very distracted and distant. I love her so much, and I don't want to let something this special go away. What should I do?

A--If I understand your situation correctly, you'll probably only stay close to this girl by getting closer to Jesus. Of course, you don't do that to keep a girlfriend. You do it because it's right and good in itself.


It sounds as though she's had some experiences with God that have made her see everything in a new light. It's so new she can't explain it, and maybe she'll never be able to explain it fully. If I guess right, though, it's making her look toward Jesus a lot more than she ever has. The only way she's going to keep you in view is if you're standing near Jesus when she looks that way.

It's got to bother you that she's distracted and distant. But try thinking about it this way: It's as though she's been blinded by the sun, and she can't see anything else just now. Give her space and time to refocus her vision. Try to make your life the kind she'll love to see when she's ready for you to be part of the picture again.

You say you're not as strong a Christian as she is. I encourage you not to underestimate how quickly you can grow. God looks at the heart, and the heart can change in an instant. You don't need to duplicate your girlfriend's experience with God. Just let God work with your own gifts and personality. Pray, read your Bible, be committed to a church, and build friendships with other Christians. Keep working on your own faith. Stay focused on God, and work toward living a life of integrity.

 

Once You're Engaged, Is Sex OK?   I don't believe in sex before marriage, and I don't believe you should have sex when you're only living together. But what about sex when you're engaged? Does the Bible say you have to wait until the honeymoon?

A--Our system of engagement and marriage is quite different than what people followed in Bible times. But the Bible does consistently offer this directive: Sex is the joyful communion of married people--those who have committed their lives to each other until they are parted by death.

Engaged couples still aren't committed to each other for good. Yes, they do feel very committed. But the fact is, engagements can be broken. I have known a number of wonderful couples who broke their engagements. I've even read that as many as half of all engagements don't result in marriage.

Engagements serve as a kind of "waiting period" in which the couple can carefully and thoughtfully prepare for the great day when they marry. It's not wise or good to rush ahead of that waiting period. You aren't married until you make a public commitment to love each other for the rest of your lives. And that means sex has to wait.

 

How Can I Get Over My Old Boyfriend?  I became a Christian about a year ago, and when I did I broke up with my boyfriend of four years because we were having sex. We really loved each other and I still have strong feelings for him. He has another girlfriend now, but I can't forget him. I've tried going out with other boys, but they just can't take his place in my heart. How can I get rid of the feelings I have for him?

A--Getting rid of feelings takes time--sometimes a long time. Whenever you become deeply attached to someone, the feelings will last. And when sex is part of the relationship, it creates an even more intense bond. One well-known author has written that sex bonds two people together like glue bonds two pieces of paper. Once the papers are stuck together, you can't separate them without something tearing. What you're feeling is the torn bits of your old boyfriend's personality still stuck to your life. You're also missing the pieces that were torn from you. Those feelings will be there a long time.


But I think the feelings will fade. I can't tell you how long it will take. Some people might be over a relationship in a year or less. Other people take longer to get beyond the past. You can help yourself out by making a clean break from your ex-boyfriend. While it may be hard, do your best to steer clear of him, at least while your feelings for him are still so strong. The idea that two people can "still be friends" after sharing an intimate relationship may sound good, but it rarely works. The best advice is to go on with your life.

Sometimes people attempt to get over a past relationship by replacing it with a new one. As you've discovered, it doesn't work. Instead, get involved with friends, with church, with school and with your family. Stay busy with activities you enjoy. Keep your mind and body healthy, and eventually you'll experience a healthy recovery from a difficult breakup.

I'd also like to congratulate you for your commitment to living out your faith. In choosing to follow Jesus Christ, you've made a move that will benefit you for the rest of your life--and on into eternity.

Becoming a Christian can sometimes be a wrenching and painful move--something like being born all over again. Newborn babies don't start doing pushups their first day in the new world. They need time to gain strength and recover from the birth process. You're a newborn Christian who has been through a dramatic "birth." Give yourself some time to gain strength. Get the nourishment you need to grow through fellowship with other Christians, daily devotions and prayer. The day will come when you'll look forward to the future rather than looking back on the past.

 

I Can't Get a Date!

Q I'm one of those guys that girls don't like and won't go out with. I don't know why, because I'm really a good guy. There's a girl I like in my youth group, but I'm afraid she might reject me, too. Should I ask her out?

A It's a strange thing. Even though most of us want to love someone and be loved back, we can be pretty picky about who that someone will be. Unfortunately, people often judge on the basis of external factors, leaving out anyone who doesn't quite fit the mold of what's considered cool or attractive. It's unfair, and often cruel, but it seems to be a fact of life.

During high school, the focus on appearance and style is at its peak. But as you get older, you'll find that other qualities, like honesty, kindness and integrity matter as much, if not more, than the externals. Often, people who were considered unpopular in high school go on to make more of their lives than the popular kids.

In the meantime, I hope you have a friend or two who recognize what you already know, that you're "really a good guy." Having at least one good friend can take some of the sting out of the rejection you feel.

That brings me to your question. What should you do about the girl you like? I'd emphasize building a friendship. Talk to her. Listen to her. Let her know you like her as a friend. Allow her to see the quality person you are, and get to know what she's like, too. Your friendship may lead to romance, but let that happen slowly and naturally-if at all. Start with friendship. Stick with friendship. It will feel better and last longer than the jagged ups and downs of romance and rejection.

We're Afraid We'll Give in to Sex


Q I'm trying to abstain from sex until marriage, but I don't think I have enough self-control. Everywhere I turn, I get the message that premarital sex is OK. My boyfriend and I are both Christians, but we've come very close to having sex. We're afraid we'll give in to our urges. What can we do to keep from making that mistake?

A I believe many people, Christian or not, start out thinking it would be nice to wait to have sex until they're married. Many of them don't make it, not even close. It seems they can't help themselves. It sounds like that's how you feel. A rushing river is pulling you over the falls, and you're holding on by your fingernails. It's a frightening feeling.

You're in the powerful grip of a sex-obsessed culture. After riding the river of culture all the way to the edge of the falls, it's awfully hard to suddenly decide you're going to be "different." If you don't want to go over the falls, you need to get out of the river far upstream.

What I mean is, couples have to decide what they do and don't want to do early on in a relationship. Too many couples jump into dating without much thought, following their physical urges until one of them becomes uncomfortable with the level of intimacy. But by then, they've set quite a trap for themselves. The privacy, the darkness and the late nights all lead toward more and more physical intimacy. If they date long enough, they're almost bound to get to the brink of the falls.

It sounds like you and your boyfriend are at that brink. But you don't have to go over the edge. I suggest the two of you take a step back and make a plan for your relationship. Start with the question, "What are we trying to accomplish by dating?" Most people will say they want to have fun and get to know each other. You can do both of those in plenty of non-physical ways.

You don't have to be out late to be together-daytime dates can be just as fun. You don't have to be alone. Being in a group or at a crowded event is usually more enjoyable. You don't have limit yourselves to "romantic" things like going to movies or dances. Instead, volunteer together, take in a sporting event or check out a local museum. Spend time with your families. Be creative and look for ways to talk together and learn about each other's interests.

And you need to break away from sexual touching and intense kissing. Think back to your reasons for dating. What do you accomplish during an hour of making out? Other than some physical thrills, not much. In fact, your letter tells me your physical activity has both of you worried and frustrated, two feelings that do little to help a relationship grow.

I recommend you limit your physical contact to holding hands, short hugs and one brief kiss a day. Sound prudish? Maybe. Sound impossible? To some people, yes. But only because they're in the grip of our culture. But you are in the grip of God, who will give you the self-control you need to get out of the river before you tumble over the brink.

My Boyfriend's Confused about Love

Q My boyfriend and I were reading Hind's Feet on High Places together, when he stopped on a sentence he'd underlined.

He said this sentence explained why he didn't believe in saying, "I love you." It read:"... I am afraid. I have been told that if you really love someone, you give that loved one the power to hurt and pain you in a way nothing else can."

It makes me so sad that he views love like this. He loves Jesus and knows Jesus loves him, but he has a hard time loving people. He had some problems with his parents in the past, and I think that's where these feelings come from. I really care about him and want to help. What's your advice?


A Your boyfriend has done a difficult thing. In pointing out those underlined words, he's let you know he sees some missing pieces in his life. It takes courage and sensitivity to know that something's wrong with you, and to admit it to someone you care for and respect. Your boyfriend did that. Treasure the trust he has in you.

It sounds as though your boyfriend has been deeply hurt and feels like he'll never recover. He needs hope. That's where you come in. Your faith in him, and your faith in God's active love for him, can help change his mind. Any number of Bible passages speak about God's love, and you can gently guide him in applying them to his life. In 1 Corinthians 13, you'll find a thorough study of what love is (and isn't). Also, have him take a look at Philippians 1:6, which should be branded on the memory of anyone who lacks confidence: "[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." For your boyfriend to learn to open himself up to loving others, he'll need to rely on Jesus, not himself. You can quietly remind him of that, again and again.

When people experience broken and abusive relationships, they can fear the vulnerability of love. They've been hurt too often. In response, many become hardened and careless. They put up walls, which only reinforce their isolation.

Your boyfriend hasn't done that. He recognizes something's wrong. He's trying to be vulnerable. It seems he's come to trust you because you care for him deeply. He has also found Jesus, who will persistently love him and sustain him. With time and patience, I'd say his chances for discovering what love is really all about are good.

Having Sex Was a Big Mistake

Q Last year, I had a Christian boyfriend who meant the world to me. When we broke up, I was miserable. But what was worse than losing my boyfriend was the horrible realization that a big part of me went with him. We had been sexually active. I was left with shame, guilt and a broken heart.

I felt that because of my sin, nobody could ever love me again.

I still can't get through a day without thinking about the things we did and feeling horrible about them. Even though I know God has forgiven me, I'm still struggling to forgive myself. I won't forget the pain for a long time. The few minutes of pleasure were definitely not worth a lifetime of guilt.

I wish somehow I had been aware of the consequences of my actions before I let my hormones take over. Because sex is glamorized in our society, I ignored the teachings of the Bible. As a result, I caused grief to myself and God. I want to tell other teenagers it's just not worth it. Pregnancy and STDs aren't the only risks. I'm left longing for real love, but I fear I'll never find it. I'm writing in hope that others won't make the same mistake I did. I got a lot more than I bargained for.

A I don't know if any warning can get through to people determined to go their own way. But I hope your experience will help at least one person to think long and hard about where he or she is heading.I feel for you in your emotional pain, but I'm afraid you'll face a lot more of it. Grief and guilt are part of the road you must travel for a while longer. But if you cling close to God as you travel that road, you'll arrive at the proper destination. Healing will come: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).


I Want to Keep God First

Q Whenever I love someone, or even like them a lot, I start to feel guilty and uncomfortable. I feel like I've put God in a lower position, or replaced him with a human being. How can I keep my love for God alive when I fall in love with another person?

A You probably feel guilty and uncomfortable because your emotions are stirred when you start a new relationship. Those intense feelings of hope, excitement and fear can be profoundly disturbing. Love can shake you up.

The only subject that can stir comparable passions is God. That's why people often fear they are losing touch with God when they fall in love. For the first time, they feel emotions as strong or stronger than those God inspires. It's like an eclipse, where the moon's shadow blocks out the sun. It's disturbing to feel that somehow God has been replaced.

In reality, however, God is not in competition with human love. During an eclipse, the moon doesn't block out the sun forever. Likewise, our feelings for God may be eclipsed temporarily when we fall in love. But if we follow God's direction and pursue love in a way that honors God, we'll come to the point where our love for God overflows in a whole new way. Remember, the sun and the moon are not really in competition. The moon has no light at all without the sun. In the same way, your love for someone of the opposite sex draws all its strength and joy from God himself, who created us so we could love each other.

When you feel the confusion of growing love, take care to remain obedient to God. While your emotions may be bewildering, God's directions for your life remain clear.

I Think About Sex a Lot...

Q I'm 14, and I think about sex a lot. Am I normal? Does God say it's wrong to think about sex, even if you're only thinking about it in the context of marriage?

A Thinking about sex is very normal at 14. And as long as your thoughts are healthy, I don't know any reason to believe that God disapproves. Sex is, after all, a wonderful part of his creation, one of the great joys and adventures of life. So it's natural and normal to be curious about sex and to look forward to sharing it with your future spouse.

It's also normal for teenagers to think about sex more than most people. Right now, your body is changing and you're discovering many new feelings. You're getting prepared physically and emotionally for an exciting future. It's like you're in training for the big event: Marriage. It's not always easy to wait. But anyone who's trained for something important knows that the best way to get through the training is to stay focused on the prize at the end. Sex is so terrific, it's worth the tremendous effort and patience it takes to make sure it's everything God intended it to be: the physical expression of a lifelong commitment.

Of course, you can think about sex in very destructive ways, too--ways that become obsessive and distract you from real living, and ways that are disrespectful or hurtful to yourself and others.


To keep your thoughts about sex from moving in a dangerous direction, there are a few things you can do. Avoid movies, music and magazines that promote sex between unmarried people or stir up lustful feelings in you. Find a Christian friend you trust and can talk to about your thoughts. Read what the Bible has to say about sex (check out Matthew 5:28; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). And ask God to help you keep your thoughts healthy and honorable.

My Teacher Touched Me...

Q One day my science teacher asked me to stay after class. He touched my face, and told me I was beautiful. I smiled and said thanks, but I had no clue what this was leading to. Then his hand left my face and went to my shoulder. He said, "I want you to know that I love you." I said OK. Then he began touching me all over. I told him I had to go. Before I left, he kissed me on the forehead.

This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me. I NEED HELP!!! I feel so weird about this. I don't know if I liked what he did or not. In one way it felt strange because he's my teacher, but in another way it felt good. What should I do? Please help.

A You should go immediately to your parents, your pastor, or another adult you trust and tell what happened. You are going to need their emotional support and help in taking the next step--reporting your teacher to the authorities, like the school principal and/or the police. What your teacher did is illegal. It's also a terrible thing to do to someone. If he did it to you he is probably doing it to others. He needs to be stopped.

Next, you need to talk to someone, like your pastor or a Christian counselor, about how you feel. You are already experiencing strange feelings about this, and those feelings may continue for a long time. You really need someone compassionate and understanding to help you sort through your feelings. Also, find one or two Christian friends to talk and pray with you.

What your teacher did was wrong.

I pray that you will seek out the help you need to heal.

How Do I Read His Mixed Signals?

Q My boyfriend, Dan, and I broke up because our relationship was getting a little too physical. We are both Christians and believed we would get into trouble if we stayed together. But now I'm confused. Dan and I still flirt a lot with each other, and he knows I still like him. But whenever we talk, he acts like he's not interested in me at all. He says the past is the past and that we probably won't ever date again. He also says it annoys him when I flirt with him. Why does he flirt with me, then tell me we won't go out again?

A Let me start by saying you and Dan showed a lot of maturity by breaking off a relationship that seemed to be getting too physical. For now, you are probably better off in this non-dating relationship. But the confusion you say you feel is obviously making it hard to determine what kind of a relationship you really have.

Here's my best guess about Dan. I think he's confused too, like you. He's made what he believes is a rational decision, to agree to a breakup. His heart, however, isn't completely cooperating. He can see you still like him, and part of him probably feels the same way. So he flirts with you, just like you're flirting with him.


Another part of him, the part he considers rational, still thinks both of you are better off separate. Because he's trying to control his own feelings, he talks to you in a way that makes it seem he's not interested in you. But I think he's really talking to himself, trying to convince himself that breaking up was the right decision.

Which side of him will win? I don't know. What I do know is that dating, and breaking up, is often very hard on both parties.

I suggest you find a time to meet with Dan, sitting down in a public place (like a fast-food restaurant) to talk about your relationship. Don't plan on trying to get back together. Don't even expect him to make up his mind about what he wants. Just ask: How can we be friends during this awkward period? How can I help you through it? How can you help me?

In the meantime, cut down on your flirting. It will be hard, I know. But flirting isn't helping him sort out his feelings. And it's not helping you prepare for the possibility that you won't date Dan again. Focus on being friends with Dan and see what happens from there.

We Don't Think Premarital Sex Is Wrong...

Q I'm writing because all I ever hear about is how people have sex after seeing someone for a very short time, or sleep around with many people, etc. If there is ever anything said about a long-term relationship with two mature people in love, sex is always shown as the thing that ruins the relationship.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years. We are very much in love with each other, and he is my very best friend. We started to have sex after being together and getting to know each other for more than 19 months. Neither of us regret anything or feel any disgust or disgrace.

We are more "in love" than we ever were. Making love has brought us to a higher level in our relationship and closer than before-as friends, not just as lovers. We've never pressured each other and we are always protected from pregnancy and diseases. And it's not like we feel like we have to have sex all of the time. We have a great time hanging out together and with our other friends. Maybe we are a minority, but I love my boyfriend with all my heart and I am happier than ever.

I wanted you to know there are young adults who realize the seriousness of having sex. I know the Bible says sex should be saved for marriage. If I was older, I would want to marry my boyfriend. Unfortunately, college is coming soon and being married would make school and life much more difficult. I don't mean to be disrespectful. I only wanted to share my feelings.

A I certainly don't feel you've been disrespectful. On the contrary, I'm honored that you cared enough to write. I'm also glad to clarify my views.

I have no trouble believing that you and your boyfriend have a mature relationship, and that sex expresses something deep and loving between you. That's probably not the way it is for most high-school students, but it certainly happens. My concern isn't that sex might ruin your relationship. My concern is that you're missing out on the best God intended for you.


I know sex can be loving and sensitive in a relationship like yours. But it can't ever be all it's meant to be: An expression of an unbreakable commitment of love. Sex is to be a part of love that goes on forever, that's absolutely secure even in the worst personal crises, that's capable of creating the proper environment for bearing children. And I believe none of that happens until you've made the commitment of marriage. Furthermore, you're endangering your future prospects for ever experiencing love and sex as God intended them.

You also say that you're "always protected from pregnancy and diseases." I don't know what types of "protection" you're using, but I'm guessing you know that there are no guarantees. Women taking birth-control pills sometimes get pregnant. And all types of sexually-transmitted diseases, including AIDS, have been contracted even when using a condom--even when the condom doesn't break. The only "guaranteed" protection from pregnancy and STDs is to abstain from sex.

I'm sure you love your boyfriend, but you're not completely committed to him. Other things matter more to you than him. How do I know? You told me. You said you'd be glad to marry him except that it would be inconvenient while you were in college. In other words, a smooth college experience matters more to you than being committed to him for life. How would your relationship fare in a real crisis? Believe me, sooner or later all relationships get tested by problems, deep problems. You simply don't have the commitment to face that. You'd break apart.

It's true, you might develop real commitment gradually, even as you sleep together. Some couples do. But most don't. From what I've seen and heard, the percentage of high-school students who sleep together as teens, get married and stay married is very small. There's a reason for that. When you start making love with limited commitment, you usually don't feel much need to increase the commitment.

And you're young. You're both going to experience many changes in the next few years. Without a strong commitment, you likely won't make it through them.

If you break up, you'll enter your next relationship with a past. You'll have sexual memories which will never go away. You'll carry memories of your boyfriend into the next bed. And you'll tend to follow the same pattern of sex without full commitment in your next relationship, which may not last either. That's the reason many people end up with a complex sexual past. That doesn't mean they can't have a good marriage someday. Some do. But a lot don't. It's certainly not the best God intended. It's not a unique bond of love.

I hope everything works out well for you. God is in the business of redeeming all kinds of mistakes and missteps. He isn't looking for ways to doom your future. Rather, he wants you to try living life by his directions, so you can experience the depth and richness of real, lasting love.

I'm Glad I Waited

Q When I graduated from high school, one of my relatives gave me a subscription to Campus Life. Your column and one particular story have had a profound effect upon my life. The story was about a young man and a locket. Every time he got into a serious relationship, he gave the girl a beautiful new locket. On his wedding night he gave his bride a locket, but by that time he had given away so many, the locket didn't seem very special anymore. You opened my eyes to the importance of virginity. As I've become an adult, I've seen the unhappiness that premarital sex has caused in a number of my friends.

After a couple of dates with a guy, I would tell him the "locket story," and inform him that I was a virgin and planned to be one until I married. Of course, there were some guys I never heard from again, but that didn't always happen. I discovered there are guys who value virginity. I have dated two guys who were virgins themselves. One is now a very dear friend. He introduced me to my fiance ´Jeff.


When Jeff and I get married, we will both be virgins. This has been so important because during the years we've dated, we've developed a strong relationship built on a deep friendship. From what I have seen, sex can sometimes get in the way and cause people to stay together who perhaps should be apart. I have no doubt about Jeff and me, because sex is not "fogging" our minds.

Thank you for the influence you had on me. May God bless you.

A God bless you, too, in your marriage. And thank you for writing. I must say I admire your courage, telling the "locket story" to the guys you went out with. It takes guts to stand up for your beliefs. Aren't you incredibly glad you did? Imagine what you might have missed if you had played down your convictions.

Questions you would like to have considered for this column should be sent to: Love, Sex & the Whole Person, Campus Life, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188. You can also reach Love, Sex & the Whole Person via fax (630-260-0114) or e-mail (CLedit@aol.com).

Goin' Out

-Have an indoor picnic in the middle of winter. Make a giant sun out of paper to stick on the wall and throw a blanket on the living room floor. Turn on some music by the Beach Boys, eat hot dogs and potato salad and drink lemonade.

Jill Osborn Cedar Falls, Iowa

-Get together on a Saturday morning, head to the local bakery and pick up a dozen doughnuts. Drive to the houses of a few friends and surprise them with breakfast. It's a great way to include your friends in your relationship.

Kristen Ong La Mirada, California

-Plan and cook a meal together to serve to your family. You'll have a great time and you might discover some hidden cooking talents!

Scott Lee Seattle, Washington

-Get together with another couple and play card games from your childhood, like Go Fish, Spoons or Old Maid. Have the losing couple make dessert for the winners.

Beth Hardcastle Nashville, Tennessee

I Can't Get Over Her

Q I'm going through a really hard time right now. My girlfriend dumped me after 10 months. She'd already started going out with other guys before we broke up.


I've forgiven her for this, and I'm trying to get on with my life, but it's really hard. Since I hang out with some friends who go to her school, I still see her a lot. It's hard to see her flirting with other guys. How I should deal with this?

A It takes time for wounds of love to heal because those wounds can be very deep. With that said, I'd like to give a couple of cautions: In your effort to get over your pain, don't try to start a relationship with another girl right away. You need time to heal. A relationship would only complicate matters for you. Second, don't try to pretend you're not hurting. In other words, don't bury your feelings.

Instead, you need to deal with your feelings. It sounds like you've got some good friends to hang around with. They can help you heal. Talk to a caring friend about what you're going through. Ask him or her to pray with you and to help keep your spirits up as you recover from your breakup.

But I think the best solution to your problem is the most obvious one: Stay away from your old girlfriend. Do you have to hang out at a place where she's always around? Can you find some other place to go? Seeing her is bound to bring up all the old, painful memories. Someday you'll be able to see her and not have these feelings, but for now, you need to try and keep your distance. Try to hang out with your friends elsewhere.

You've already done the very best thing you can do: Forgive her and move on. Now, it's time for you to literally move on to another place.

My Friend's Having Sex

Q A friend of mine has gotten far away from God. She's dating a non-Christian, and I just learned they're having sex. I'm not sure what to do. I know she's heading for trouble. Should I tell her parents? What can I do to help her?

A Start by praying for her, daily. It's the best thing you can do because it calls on the most powerful force in her life: God. You may be able to help her, but mostly it's up to her and God. So pray.

Then, tell her what you're praying about. I realize this is very hard to do. She may not want to listen to you. Even so, tell her you're going to keep praying for her and being her friend. Don't bug her about it. Once you've made your feelings known, give her the time and space to think about her choices.

There's also the chance that your friend may want to talk. I've known people who acted calm on the outside while they were dying on the inside. They knew they needed to change, but couldn't see how to do it. Your friend could be feeling that way. You won't know unless you talk to her. Let her know you're worried, that you care about her and want to help her in any way you can. Don't preach at her or judge her. Just be there for her and listen to her.

Whether or not you tell her parents depends a lot on the kind of people they are. Not all parents handle such news well. Some get extremely upset, which only makes matters worse. So before you decide to tell them, think about what their reaction might be. You probably don't want to be thought of as a snitch, but you're not obligated to cover up for your friend. If you think it might help your friend, talk to her parents.


As you try to help your friend, remember, only God can change her heart. But through your love and prayers, God can use you to bring her back to him.

My Boyfriend Needs Christian Friends

Q When my boyfriend left for college, we decided to put our relationship on hold. He became a Christian while we were dating, and I always felt kind of responsible for helping his faith grow. Now that he's gone, I want to make sure he's got other Christian friends who will help him keep in touch with God. Is there a way I could contact a Christian group at his school so they could look him up? I just want to know someone will be there for him.

A You're right to be concerned. When you move to a new place, it's a real challenge to find others who share your faith. It's a crucial issue for your boyfriend right now--and for anybody going away to college.

The tricky part is this: A person really has to want to find Christian friends. It's important for you to remember that your boyfriend--not you, not anyone else--is responsible for his faith. So instead of making contacts for him, talk to him about his faith and about the importance of finding Christian friends at college. He'll probably appreciate knowing you're concerned about his faith.

If you still feel like you want to do more, you can write or call the college and ask for information about Christian groups that are active on campus. Some excellent national groups are: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Navigators, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Other groups may be purely local, or affiliated with a particular church near the college. Pass this information along to your boyfriend and encourage him to check out these groups.

Finally, maintain your own friendship with him. While you don't have to be his only Christian friend, you can certainly continue to pray for him, write to him with words of encouragement, and offer support as he goes through the transition into college life.

I'm Too Shy to Talk to Her

Q There's a girl at my church I'd really like to get to know better. The problem is, I'm kinda shy. I've been writing letters to her, but I think she's getting tired of that. How do I get the courage to talk to her?

A I congratulate you on showing enough courage to write to her. Lots of people never get that far. Evidently, she knows you like her, and since she's been reading your letters, she may be open to getting to know you better. But the problem still remains: How do you open your mouth and talk to her?

There is no quick cure, only gradual improvement. You have to overcome your shyness in small doses. Start with a question. Ask her something like, "What's your favorite sport?" "What did you do over the summer?" "Who's your toughest teacher?" Get one question out and listen to her answer. Then, answer the questions for yourself. Before you know it, you've had a conversation. If she wants to keep talking, great. If you're still too shy to say more, just say, "I'll see you later. Take care of yourself," and go on your way.

In other words, you don't have to have a heart-to-heart talk right away. The main thing is to make progress. Small, simple exchanges will help you to get comfortable. And doing this will let her know you have a voice after all!


Should I Believe the Rumor?

Q There's a guy I like and I think he likes me, too. I want to date him, but a friend told me he's into pot. I don't want to confront him, because we're still getting to know each other. How do I find out if this guy really is smoking pot?

A It's always hard to know when a person is giving you information because they care about you or because they just like to gossip. So talk to your friend a little more. How does she know this guy's into pot? Did she see him smoking?

Did she hear about it from someone else? You need to ask a few questions, and work from there.

You also need to be open to what she has to say. When you like someone, it's easy to ignore some of the warning signs of a potentially bad relationship. And drug use is certainly a major warning sign. Make sure you're willing to accept the truth, whatever it may be.

So how do you get to the truth? After you get more information from your friend, ask the guy directly. That's not confrontation. It's just a question. If he asks why you want to know, you can just say, "Because I really like you. But I don't want to date anybody who smokes pot."

Who knows? If you discover he really is smoking pot, your friendship might be the influence he needs to quit. But I would also advise you to be aware of the bigger issue here. If this guy's a Christian, and using drugs, I'd say his problems are bigger than you can handle. If he's not a Christian, I'd advise against dating him, regardless of whether or not he smokes pot.

That said, I'd encourage you to learn the truth about this guy. And you stand a much better chance of finding out the truth by talking to him than by talking to other people about him. That's a good way to deal with lots of reports you "hear" about other people.

Will Our Long-Distance Love Survive?

Q I recently went on a missions trip with hundreds of other Christian kids. During the trip, I met a wonderful guy. He was a very committed Christian, and we really hit it off.

We feel like we're in love. But we have a problem: He lives in North Carolina and I live in Indiana. We never see each other. I thought my feelings might fade when I got back home, but I find myself thinking more and more about him every day. And he said the same about me.

When we were together, God was very much a part of our relationship. We did devotions together and prayed almost every day. Can this relationship work? Should we pursue a romance or just a friendship? Can God keep us together even though we're apart?

A When you're hundreds of miles away from someone you care about, the difference between a friendship and a romance is all about feelings. You miss a long-distance friend, but you really miss a long-distance love. That's why nobody in their right mind would want to fall in love with somebody who lives half a country away. It's extremely inconvenient.

(I know; I lived 2,000 miles away from my wife before we were married.) You're bound to feel frustrated. Nevertheless, it happens. You have these feelings for each other, and you have to decide what to do with them.


You might as well be realistic. You said you expected your feelings to fade away once you two were apart. You know that without the chance to see each other on a regular basis, those intense feelings die out. Somebody else comes along and makes you forget the guy who's miles away from you.

Although that hasn't happened yet, it still may. Yes, God can keep you together if he wants to, despite the distance. But that's his job, not yours. You're wise to just enjoy the relationship a day at a time, keep it going for as long as you like, and let it dwindle away if your feelings change.

In the meantime, you have a friend you like and admire. That's a precious gift. Try not to attach too many strings to the relationship. You don't need to vow that you won't look at anybody else, or try to decide now whether God has meant you to be together forever.

Instead, strengthen the bond you do have. Write each other. Share your lives with each other. Pray for each other. Make the most of this friendship with someone you care for deeply. And let the future take care of itself.

Can We Regain Control?

Q My boyfriend and I have been going out for about a year, but over the last few months we've gotten ourselves into a big mess. Whenever we see each other, we start to feel sexually aroused and, unfortunately, act on our desires. We haven't had sex, but we've gotten close. We know what we're doing is wrong, but we can't seem to stop.

Our relationship used to be so godly and pure. We know and love the Lord with all our hearts, and have really encouraged each other in our spiritual walk. I don't know where we went wrong. Is it possible for us to have a godly relationship again? Is this God's way of letting us know we're not right for each other?

A It would be impossible for me to say whether or not God feels you're right for each other. Yet I do believe you're both experiencing sexual feelings that are very normal and human. Sexual feelings are a natural part of a loving relationship. But God is very clear that we are to control ourselves sexually. God wants us to learn how to resist temptation--to be thankful for our sexual nature and yet be able to avoid its misuse.

Is such a thing possible? Yes, though not easy. You're dealing not only with your own sexual urges, you're also dealing with the ideas planted in your mind by our sex-worshiping society. Most couples aren't strong enough to resist those ideas by themselves. With the help of others, however, it's possible to go against the tide.

You need to find someone who will pray with both of you regularly, talk with you about your struggles and check in on how you're doing. I'd recommend you find somebody older--someone you can relate to, and whom you trust to keep confidences, like your youth pastor, or a trusted older sibling. Ask God to help you find the right person. Knowing you have to report back to a third party can be a big help in controlling your sexual urges.

You also need to surround yourselves with friends. In the next few months, try to avoid being alone. Go on group dates, spend time with your families, take a younger sibling to a movie or out for ice cream. If you can't resist temptation, avoid it.

Finally, I would suggest the two of you put aside all physical contact for a while. That means no hugging, no kissing, no back rubs, nothing. Then, start from square one again. Treat each date like it was your first date. Do no more than you would have on your first date.


It's never easy to step back from a sexual relationship. It's like climbing back up a waterfall. But it is possible. And as you work at building a relationship that honors each of you and God, you will experience a joy greater than any of the physical pleasures you're giving up.

 

Should I Get Her a Promise Ring? Q This girl and I have been dating for about a month. Now her dad says we can’t see each other because of our age difference (she’s 14 and I’m 18). We both respect her father’s decision and definitely won’t defy the rules he has set down for us. However, we love each other and are committed to each other. We’ve both decided to wait for one another until she is allowed to see me. My question is, do you think it is a good idea for me to get her a promise ring? What exactly does a promise ring stand for?

A That’s a good question. People know what a wedding ring is, and they recognize an engagement ring, but what’s a promise ring? I think it can stand for whatever you want it to stand for. The "promise" is up to you.

I admire the fact that you respect your girlfriend’s dad enough to accept his decision. It must be rough on you, when you and your girlfriend love each other so much. Still, her dad’s concern is easy to understand--the difference between 14 and 18 is huge. Considering the life changes ahead of you both, you would need a powerful love in order to stay together. You’re sure you have that kind of love, but it’s tough to tell after only a month of dating.

If you and your girlfriend can make it through this time apart, you won’t lose too much--though the time won’t be easy. If, on the other hand, you lose interest in each other, that will be a sign that your love is not quite as mature as you think. You’ll avoid a lot of heartbreak.

I’d advise against the promise ring, because I think there’s a fair chance your love won’t stand the test of time. I’m saying this not because I have some insight into your personalities, but based simply on the many "cases" I’ve observed. Let’s face it: Most young loves don’t last--especially loves between people whose ages are so different. The odds are against you. If your love begins to fade away and your girlfriend is wearing a promise ring, it could be like wearing an anchor. It could make it harder for both of you to move on.

You’re better off to keep it simple. Either your love will last, or it won’t. A promise ring, with its vague commitment, won’t help you stay the course. It could lead to unnecessary pain.

Where Should I Draw the Line? Q I went pretty far with my boy friend. Actually, really far. We didn’t have sex or anything--and there is no way I’m going to have sex before marriage. But I like doing a lot of things with guys I date. I think it’s OK to do what feels good, because I know I’ll stop short of having sex. Where do you think I should draw the line?

A I’m glad you asked about drawing the line. It’s something you’re going to have to do as soon as possible if you really want to save yourself for your future husband. It’s not enough to have made up your mind against sex outside marriage. When you push the limits physically, several things are bound to happen.


First, what feels good at first soon stops feeling good enough. Remember the first time you held a boy’s hand? It probably felt like nuclear fusion. But pretty soon it just felt sweaty. Same thing with brief kisses: At first they’re explosive, but soon they’re just ordinary. That goes for anything short of intercourse. Your body will push you on by slowly dulling the feeling you get from whatever you’re already involved in. You have to go farther and farther (and longer and longer) to get that good feeling.

Then, it gets tough to stop. As you become more and more intimate, touching more and more, you’ll have a stronger desire to go all the way. It’s a powerful drive, and you can find yourself just barely escaping.

Eventually, you stop wanting to stop. You still have a choice, but after pushing the limits so far, you stop wanting to choose. You want to give in. At that point, the fight is almost over.

But why go through all this? I think people should make up their minds. Either sex is something you do with anybody who is "special"--and that’s what a lot of people today believe--or it’s best kept within the total commitment of marriage. If you intend to wait until you’re married, then why fool around now? You’d be much better off limiting yourself to brief kisses and hugs.

Is Oral Sex Really Sex? Q My fiancéée and I are waiting to have sex until our wedding night. But we were told by several people that oral sex is acceptable before marriage. We were wondering if that’s true. We don’t think it is, but we are getting a little antsy to try it. We won’t be getting married for another year, and it’s tough to wait.

A The Bible doesn’t go into detail about oral sex or any other type of sexual interaction between a man and a woman. The best we can do is apply logical, biblical thinking to the kind of question you’ve asked. Naturally, different people can reach different conclusions. Frankly, a lot of people want to reach different conclusions. Some people have talked themselves into believing that oral sex isn’t really sex.

It’s clear to me, however, that oral sex is out of bounds for unmarried people. Remember, the Bible doesn’t tell people to save sex for marriage simply to avoid pregnancy. God has a deeper, more spiritual concern.

The Bible says that when two people have sex--and I think that includes oral sex--they become "one flesh." There’s a powerful spiritual bond between the two--a bond that affects them whether they want it to or not, even if they are just prostitute and client! (1 Corinthians 6:12-20 addresses this situation.) Within marriage, this bond is wonderful--God himself seals it. But outside of marriage, this bond is tragic and confusing, leading people away from their true commitments to God. That’s why Paul told the Corinthian Christians, who thought it wasn’t a big deal to have sex with prostitutes, to run away from such behavior.

When you have intercourse with somebody, you make yourself naked, physically and spiritually. You’re about as vulnerable as you can be. Isn’t oral sex just as intimate, just as vulnerable? I can’t see much difference, on a spiritual and emotional level, between oral sex and intercourse.

You and your fiancéée are committed to doing what’s right. I encourage you to stay with this commitment. Waiting is difficult, but it’s well worth it.

Long-distance Love: Is It Worth It? Q I am a 17-year-old guy who is very interested in a girl who lives far away from me. She has one of the most attractive personalities of anyone I have ever known. Do you think it’s a good idea to try to pursue a relationship that is long-distance right from the outset?


A This is not an abstract question for me, since my wife and I had a long-distance engagement. I know from personal experience: It is not a good idea. It’s awful. Nobody who has ever done it would recommend it.

The problem is, you don’t always have a choice. If you fall terribly in love, you just can’t help it.

If you can convince yourself not to pursue this relationship, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. But if this girl is as appealing as you say, you might want to give it a try and see what happens. That way, you won’t have to wonder about what might have been.

I Don’t Want to Mess Up Again Q I am a college student who had a sexual past before becoming a Christian. Sex was always a big part of my life back then, and even now, I still battle my addiction to it. I have the most wonderful gift from God in my girlfriend, and I definitely don’t want to mess things up between us. We have fooled around, and it’s getting more difficult to stay pure, mostly because of my problem. What can I do to curb these emotions and sexual hungers? How can I apply God’s word to the ideas and thoughts that affect me daily?

A The fact that you’re honestly facing this problem is a very good sign. I wish we could somehow do away with all the temptations, but God has not given us that ability. I know it’s tougher for you, because you have old habits that still affect both your thoughts and your body. Really, though, it’s tough for everybody.

Here are some suggestions:

You say it’s mostly your problem, not your girlfriend’s. I’m afraid that noble-sounding position is just impractical. You have to say, "It’s our problem," and share it with your girlfriend. The two of you need to make a realistic plan to stay far away from tempting situations. You might consider such radical measures as not letting yourselves be alone together. You certainly need to stop "fooling around," as you put it. Set some boundaries (no deep kissing, no petting, etc.), and stick to them uncompromisingly.

It’s important to stay far away from the edge of the cliff. When you love someone, you want to be physically close to that person. When you get close, your body gets fired up and wants more. It’s natural and beautiful, really, in the proper context. But where you are now, it’s dangerous. It helps a lot if you set your boundaries on the very conservative side. Once you decide not to dance on the edge of the cliff, you take away a lot of tension and make your relationship happier and more relaxed. All that sexual struggle is really difficult to live with.

The most helpful tool for resisting temptation is accountability. I know a couple who, when their relationship became serious, covenanted with two other couples to meet regularly and share honestly about their sexual struggles. You may not know other couples whom you can trust in this way, but you probably know a pastor or a concerned older friend who would be willing to take on this role in your lives--but only if you ask!

Memorizing Scripture also helps many people avoid temptation. Start with 1 Corinthians 10:13, which is one of the best verses I know for dealing with temptation. Ephesians 6:10-20 is also good.

What you’re facing is tough, but not impossible. With God’s help, you can learn to control yourself sexually.


How Can I Help Him? Q I’m in a confusing situation. One of my close guy friends from school wants to become more than just friends. I like him, but not like that. Also, my friend’s from a broken family and is involved with gangs and drugs. Deep down I think he’s really a nice guy, just messed up and lost. As a Christian and a friend, I feel compelled to try to help him, but I don’t want to send the wrong message. What should I do?

A It is a ticklish situation. You don’t want to send the message that he’s "not good enough for you," yet you’re right to be wary of encouraging his romantic interest. As much as you want to help him, you won’t accomplish anything if you’re building on a misunderstanding. If he’s trying to make you his girlfriend and thinks you’re interested when you’re not, disappointment is almost sure to result.

Be sure to put it to him straight. Tell him you’re not interested in that kind of relationship with him. But let him know how much you value his friendship. His involvement in gangs leads me to think that he longs to feel loved and accepted by others. By showing him a more positive kind of acceptance, you are offering him an alternative to a potentially dangerous lifestyle.

You are a good friend for wanting to help him, and I think you can, but not alone. You need to identify some other Christians--guys, preferably--who can befriend him. I hope you’re part of a Christian fellowship where he could feel comfortable. Your part is to get him to that fellowship, make sure he’s welcomed, and then leave it there. Invite him to a couple events--even if you have to invent them yourself. He may not be interested. If that’s the case, I’d leave it at that.

Continue to encourage him to be friends not only with you, but with other people in your group. You won’t accomplish much by trying to be his only lifeline. He needs a connection to something bigger and stronger--a Christian community, and hopefully one day, Christ himself.

 

Will Romance Ruin Our Friendship? Q I think I’m falling in love with one of my best friends. We’ve been friends for a while and we do a lot of stuff together. Lately, though, my feelings have changed, and I think of him in a more romantic way. I want to find out how he feels without messing up our friendship. I’m afraid that if I don’t say something soon, he’ll meet someone else and I’ll never have a chance. Yet if I say something, it might mess up our awesome friendship. What should I do?

A Say something. You can’t capture friendship in a glass jar and preserve it. Friendships change. You move to new phases in the relationship. If a friendship is going to endure, it’s essential for the people involved to adjust to new realities. And the fact that your feelings have changed is a new reality. Whether you like it or not, you have to face it.

I wouldn’t worry a whole lot about what you’re going to say. Just be honest with your friend and be ready for him to respond. He might be surprised, he might be relieved, or he might be uncomfortable. But you owe it to both of you to talk about what’s on your mind and work it out together.

Your conversation might be great. It might be awkward. There’s only one way to find out: Talk. Real friends can talk about everything, even when it’s difficult.


Is It OK to Date a Non-Christian? Q I have always told myself I would never date a non-Christian, but lately I’ve been wondering if it’s all right. There’s a guy at school who is a wonderful person and honestly one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He has high standards like I do, and accepts what I believe, but I don’t think he’s a Christian. Still, I can’t help but like him--he’s such a great person! I’ve been praying about this a lot and have asked Christian friends for advice, but I’m still not sure what’s right. The Bible says we aren’t to be yoked to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), which I’ve been taught is a reason not to marry a non-Christian. But the Bible isn’t very clear about dating. These feelings just won’t go away, and I don’t know what to do.

A My advice is, stay where you are. You feel uncomfortable now, but not nearly as uncomfortable as you would if you fell in love with someone who didn’t share your beliefs. Then you’d feel like you were being pulled in two directions--one part pulled toward God, another part pulled toward a person you didn’t think you could live without.

You’re right that the Bible isn’t clear on dating non-Christians. Besides, "dating" means different things to different people in different situations. Sometimes there’s no emotion involved--it’s just a friendly way to go to a dance or to a movie. However, I think most people will admit that in the back of their minds, they think about the possibility of getting romantically involved with the people they date.

That’s why it’s simpler and much less heartbreaking to avoid dating people who aren’t Christians. It’s so easy to fall in love, even when you aren’t intending to! Once you’re seriously involved, it’s terribly painful and confusing to both parties for the Christian to make a choice between God and this powerful feeling of love. I’d advise you to stick to dating those who share your beliefs.

That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t befriend this wonderful guy! In fact, I hope you invite him to go to church or youth group with you. Talk to him about your faith. Ask him if he’s interested in learning about Jesus. You could help this great guy become a follower of Jesus.

How Far is Too Far? Q I’ve recently taken the vow to abstain from sex until marriage. I was not a virgin when I took this vow, so I know what it’s like to have sex. I think that makes it tougher for me to abstain, compared to someone who is a virgin. My question is, how far is too far? Is kissing and hugging basically all that you can do? Don’t misunderstand me--I want to do what’s right. I am trying to start my life over, and I don’t want to mess up again. Do you have any advice for me?

A Thank you for writing. It’s exciting to hear from someone whose life has been turned around. You’re right, it’s going to be more difficult for you to abstain from sex, since you’ve been sexually active in the past. That’s all the more reason for you to have a clear sense of where to draw the line for physical behavior.

The Bible doesn’t give any direct guidance in this area. It tells us to flee from sexual immorality, but it doesn’t tell us exactly where OK behavior stops and immorality starts. And it makes sense that the Bible wouldn’t completely answer that question, because people in the ancient world never would have asked it. People in those times were more straightforward with sex. They either did it or they didn’t. They didn’t play games.


I think you need to make up your mind. Since you’ve decided sex should wait for marriage, take that stand wholeheartedly. Don’t torture yourself by working your way closer and closer to sex and then stopping at the very brink. What would you gain? If you want to wait for marriage, your best bet is to limit yourself to brief kissing, holding hands and hugging. Those are wonderful ways to express love, and they leave lots of time and energy for growing closer to each other in mind and spirit. That kind of relationship can be completely right, and it leaves no regrets.

I Fantasize about Sex Q I know that lust is a sin, but is it lust when I think about being married and then having sex? I think a lot about how I want my sex life to be when I am married, and how I want my honeymoon to be, in great detail. Is that wrong?

A It’s not wrong to think about your honeymoon. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone not thinking about it to some degree. Sex is a wonderful joy and privilege, and it’s legitimate to anticipate it as part of a happy marriage, just as you might anticipate Christmas morning or graduation day.

But something else in your letter concerns me. You seem to be spending a lot of time daydreaming and fantasizing. This might be unwise. There are some questions I’d like to ask you. Is your everyday life interesting enough to keep you focused on the here and now? Are you leading a balanced life? Do you have friends you enjoy? Are you physically and mentally active?

I’m not saying you can never think about married life. In fact, it would probably be impossible to drive the subject completely out of your mind. It’s very hard to control your thoughts by just pushing them away. It works better to fill your mind--and your life--with other things that help you feel good.

As you’re increasing the number of positive images and influences in your life, you might need to work on decreasing the negative. You mention thinking about sex "in great detail," but you don’t say where those details come from. If the books, music, movies, magazines, Web sites or friends you spend time with are giving you ideas about sexual activity, you need to cut them out of your life. There’s no way you can stop fantasizing about sex if you’re filling your mind with this kind of material.

Overall, your best bet is to give yourself less of a reason to daydream--and less to daydream about. Join a club, get involved in your church youth group, take time to really meditate on God’s Word every day. And find a trusted friend who can listen to your feelings about relationships, God, marriage and life in general. Before long, you’ll be having such a good time in the real world, you won’t have much time to spend in a fantasy world.

I'm Addicted to Cyber Porn Q I have a very serious problem. I’ve been praying and working at it for some time, but I keep falling. I’m really hooked on Internet pornography. The stuff’s all over the Web, and it’s really difficult for me not to look. I’m also struggling with masturbation. In the past few years, I’ve learned that masturbation and looking at pornography are sins. But it’s really tough to stop these things. They’re destroying my spiritual life. Please help me!

A You’re in a terrible dilemma, and even if I told you that a lot of other people face the same problems, I know that doesn’t make it any easier. Perhaps I can help, though.

Your involvement with pornography and masturbation means you’re caught in a trap of warped sexuality. Pornography puts all kinds of awful ideas in people’s brains, cheapening the value of other people. Masturbation is a poor substitute for God’s gift of sex within marriage. Both disgrace the beauty and dignity of God’s creation, snaring people in a jungle of secretive obsession. It’s very difficult to break free, as you know.


I encourage you to make a clean break not just from pornography and masturbation, but from the Internet. Lots of people can enjoy the Internet and use it without being tempted by all the junk that’s out there, but right now you can’t. If you don’t absolutely need to be on the Net for your work or your studies, stay off it. You’ll find it much easier to resist temptation if you don’t go near it. If you have to be online, make sure you only use computers that are out in the open (like at school or in your living room), or ask a friend you trust to sit in the same room with you. Accountability can be a big help.

That’s why I’d also advise you to get involved in an accountability group. Sin thrives in secret. You need someone, or a small group of someone’s, who will meet with you daily or weekly for frank confession, encouragement and prayer. It will take a load off your mind. It will help you start to put your life back on the right path.

I want you to feel hopeful about your future. This tangle of sick sexuality is distracting you from the wonderful things God intends you to experience, but you can escape. With the help of other Christians, I know you can break free from pornography and masturbation. You can move toward thinking of sexuality the way God intended--as a wonderful gift, rather than a trap.

A Man at Church Scares Me Q I went to youth camp a couple of weeks ago, and one of the men who went with our church as a chaperone really freaked me out. My friend and I both felt like he was undressing us with his eyes. The way he looked at me really bothered me. I see him every time I go to church, and he makes me really uncomfortable. What am I supposed to do?

A Talk privately to your parents and your youth director or pastor. Take this column with you to emphasize your point. Those who are responsible for your safety and spiritual growth need to be aware of how you feel. Even if nothing overtly "wrong" has happened, your church needs to exercise great care. Not just your well-being, but the well-being of others is at stake. I know it’s hard to talk to anyone about this, but it’s important for you to do so. If you don’t tell the leaders what’s going on, they might not find out until someone really does get hurt.

When you’ve talked to some adults you trust, it becomes their responsibility to look into the matter and do something about it. Your responsibility is to stay out of any situation where you might be alone with the man who makes you uncomfortable. It’s not your responsibility to tell all your friends about this man or do anything that would make people suspect him unfairly. As long as you tell some adults about your concerns and then stay out of uncomfortable situations, you’ll be doing the right thing.

 

How Can I Stop This Rumor? Q About six months ago, I ended an unhealthy relationship with a non-Christian guy. When we were dating, we became more physically involved than I had expected, but we didn't have sex. I have asked God's forgiveness, and I know he's given it to me. But now there's a rumor going around about me and this guy that is absolutely not true. How can I convince people that this rumor is untrue? I realize there are consequences for bad decisions, but this is a bad decision that I didn't make. It just doesn't seem fair.

A There's nothing fair about rumors, and they are very hard to stop. Some people want to believe dirt about other people. And if you make a fuss or try to convince people the rumor isn't true, they'll take your defensiveness as confirmation that the rumor must be true. You can't argue with those people. You just have to wait it out until they get bored and go on to some other subject.


Other people, though, aren't so ready to believe the dirt. You can have some influence on them, mainly by calling on a few of your most trusted friends. Tell your friends you've heard the rumor and you want them to know there's not a bit of truth in it. Ask them to make a point of saying something in your defense whenever they get a chance. You won't end the rumor, but you'll probably tame it a bit. The people who really matter will support you.

One last thing: When you're the subject of a rumor, the best way to defuse it is to live in such a way that people find the rumor hard to believe. So stay focused on sexual purity (there are some suggestions on page 38), make smart dating choices and be known as someone who holds on to her values. In time, the rumor mill will wind down.

What's So Bad about Cybersex? Q Is cybersex bad? I've done it a few times. Is that breaking the commandment about adultery?

A Yes, cybersex is bad, and you ought to cut it out. The standard excuse for cybersex is that it's OK because you can't hurt anybody, get pregnant, catch a sexually transmitted disease, or really cause emotional harm. You're practically anonymous! But the truth is, cybersex does lasting harm to the most vulnerable sexual organ: the brain. It plants the habit of treating sex as a meaningless, anonymous "game." God intended something quite different when he created sex.

You ask whether cybersex breaks the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." Technically, I'd have to say no, since adultery is defined as sex with someone who is married to someone else, and I assume neither you nor your cyber partner are married (although you have no way of knowing about your partner). In the broad sense, though, you're breaking all of God's commandments about sex. He means sex to be a joyful, meaningful celebration of the lifelong love of a married man and woman. When you engage in anonymous, meaningless cybersex, you're treating God's gift like a joke.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks about "anonymous sex" this way: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15). They didn't have cybersex then, but the basic principle is the same: You don't take a life dedicated to Jesus Christ and mess it up with filthy immorality. That's what you're doing when you get involved in cybersex.

People today think sex gives meaning to life. That's not so. God gives meaning to life. When you follow him, you have to get rid of the God-substitutes in your life. It's difficult, because many of those God-substitutes stick their claws into you and hold on for dear life. And you can't help but see all those God-substitutes, since we live in a society that worships them. The famous theologian Martin Luther said something 300 years ago that remains true today. It went something like this: You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair. What he meant is that we can't always avoid the sinful influences that surround us, but we can keep them from becoming part of our lives.


Will I Find the Perfect Girl? Q Lately I've met a lot of really interesting Christian girls, but some of the things I've learned about them are disturbing. For instance, they might have come from a broken family or experienced mental or emotional abuse. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to grow up in a loving and stable household, but how can I know which hardships can be overcome and which ones could potentially threaten a marriage? My expectations for a mate are high, and I don't want to marry someone who will cause heartache for me and my future family. I've also met some Christian girls who seem to have gotten their lives back on the right track after a few years of rebellion, like partying or sex. Will these problems tarnish a marriage that would seemingly be perfect otherwise?

A You're asking some very good questions. It's extremely important to understand a potential marriage partner's background, because that will surely influence your life with her. People who have been abused almost inevitably develop fears that need to be overcome. People who have had trouble with sexual immorality in the past might have a harder time controlling sexual impulses. People who come from broken homes don't always know how married couples can solve their problems, because they haven't seen it in their own homes. These and other experiences influence the way people behave when they get married. Past problems don't cause them to act a certain way, but they certainly influence them.

At the same time, such "imperfect" pasts can often lead to some good things. People who have dealt with difficult family situations in a healthy way, or who have learned to seek God's grace and forgiveness, often can bring a great deal of wisdom and insight to their other relationships. They know how to resolve conflict, how to work through hard times, and how to seek and offer forgiveness.

I also want you to know that a "perfect" background doesn't guarantee happiness. There's nothing wrong with having high expectations for your future spouse, but make sure you are also being realistic. Every human being on the planet has some imperfections, even those from "perfect" backgrounds. Try to be open-minded toward the girls you meet and get to know them for who they are, not who you think they should be.

When you're dating someone seriously, you should try to understand her as fully as possible. That includes the past. You want to understand her family background and the kinds of experiences she's been through. Not only do you want to know about the past but--and this is very important--you want to know how she's responded to it. Has she found ways to grow because of the hardships she's faced? The answer to that question can be a good indication of the kind of person she is.

There's no simple formula for picking the perfect marriage partner. Marriage is a risk. That's why the traditional wedding vows make both people promise to love each other in "sickness and health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer." Just about all married couples go through times when they wonder if they've made a mistake. And all married couples go through stressful or difficult periods. In those times, it doesn't matter whether your partner had a good past or a lousy one. What matters is the kind of love and commitment you both bring to the problems you face.


I Just Want to Be Friends Q There's a guy who's becoming more involved with my youth group but doesn't know many people. I'm part of our youth group's leadership team, so I've made an effort to talk to him and make him feel welcome. A few weeks ago after youth group, this guy asked me to pray with him. He prayed that he would start to make friends. While we were talking he started crying. Since I don't usually hug guys, I put my arm around his shoulders. Since then, he's started becoming a little friendlier with me, like wanting to always sit by me on a youth trip and wanting me to put lotion on his back (which I didn't do) when we went to the beach with the youth group. I feel like he's coming on to me, but I want him to get the message that I'm not interested. However, I don't want to turn him off from the youth group. I am the one of the only people who talks to him. Do you have any advice?

A You're doing a great thing by reaching out to this guy, but you need help. Your friend may not even understand the concept that a guy and a girl can be just friends. He'll never understand it if there's just one friendly person in the whole youth group and she's a girl. Put out the message to the other members of the leadership team, especially guys, that you need them to be friendly with this guy. Ask the others to give him some attention. Make it a group effort, not a one-on-one thing. That's why your youth group has a leadership team.

It's quite possible that you'll need to gently let this guy know you don't have any romantic feelings for him--that you just want to be friends. That can be a tough message to deliver, especially if you're the only person in the group who has reached out to him. If other people are friendly too, he'll have someone else to lean on.

Is It OK To Date a Non-Christian? Q I have always told myself I would never date a non-Christian, but lately I've been wondering if it's all right. There's a guy at school who is a wonderful person and honestly one of the sweetest guys I've ever met. He has high standards like I do and accepts what I believe, but I don't think he's a Christian. Still, I can't help but like him--he's such a great person! I've been praying about this a lot and have asked Christian friends for advice, but I'm still not sure what's right. The Bible says we aren't to be yoked to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), which I've been taught is a reason not to marry a non-Christian. But the Bible isn't very clear about dating. These feelings just won't go away, and I don't know what to do.

A My advice is, stay where you are. You feel uncomfortable now, but not nearly as uncomfortable as you would if you fell in love with someone who didn't share your beliefs. Then you'd feel like you were being pulled in two directions--one part pulled toward God, another part pulled toward a person you can't seem to live without.

You're right that the Bible isn't clear on dating non-Christians. Besides, "dating" means different things to different people in different situations. Sometimes there's no emotion involved--it's just a friendly way to go to the prom or to a movie. However, I think most people will admit that in the back of their minds, they think about the possibility of getting romantically involved with the people they date.


That's why it's simpler and much less heart-breaking to avoid dating people who aren't Christians. It's so easy to fall in love, even when you aren't intending to! Once you're seriously involved, it's terribly painful and confusing to both parties for the Christian to make a choice between God and this powerful feeling of love. I'd advise you to stick to dating those who share your beliefs.

That certainly doesn't mean you can't befriend this wonderful guy! In fact, I hope you invite him to go to church or youth group with you. Talk to him about your faith. Ask him if he's interested in learning about Jesus. You could help this great guy become a follower of Jesus.

I've Lost My Virginity Q I am 16 years old, and I've lost my virginity. People say that since I am not a virgin anymore, it's all right for me to sleep with anyone I want. I need some advice.

A You are hanging around with the wrong people. Virginity is a wonderful thing, but it's not the only thing that matters. Virginity (or losing it) has to do with what's past. The present and the future are far more important.

You made a mistake, getting sexually involved without the commitment and love of marriage, but it sounds like you don't want to make the same mistake again. God's grace and forgiveness are there for the asking. And once you've repented and been forgiven, you need to keep living the life God wants for you.

That won't be easy, though. Sex is very tempting, and you need a great deal of strength to resist that temptation. You certainly can't do that alone. You'll need God, a strong desire to abstain from sex, and friends who will support your decision. The people who've told you it's OK to sleep around are not that kind of friends, and they're not people you should be listening to.

There's a great life ahead of you if you go in the right direction. And you need to make sure the people around you want to go that direction, too.

 

 

For more letters or to check out a very cool web site:  

http://www.christianity.net/campuslife/ 

Questions you would like to have considered for this column should be sent to: Love, Sex & the Whole Person, Campus Life, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188. You can also reach Love, Sex & the Whole Person via fax (630-260-0114) or e-mail (Cledit@aol.com).




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