Marshall Segal – I Long to See You: What Apple Will Never Replace

Have smartphones and social media really done anything to strengthen your most important relationships?

Your experience may not be mine (I’m sure for many it’s not), but I’m finding our recent advances in technology have not made for more meaningful communication with my family and closest friends. If anything, they have siphoned off something of the urgency and intentionality out of those relationships — out of me in those relationships.

New technologies do offer amazing potential for those with the maturity, discipline, and love to use them well. Text messages enable us to use spare seconds to exchange notes and encourage each other. FaceTime allows us to see the person we’re talking to in real time, suddenly making a phone call more personal. And of course, smartphones and social media almost immediately widen our network of relationships, allowing us to “keep up” with many more old friends while constantly introducing us to new people.

But I suspect that while new technologies have made many new things possible and many old things easier, they have not translated into deeper, more intimate relationships like we might have expected. Has all of our technology made the whole world a little closer, but left us farther than ever from the ones we love most?

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Marshall Segal – Do You Know How to Rebuke?: Recipe for Speaking the Truth in Love

When was the last time someone sat you down to tell you that you were wrong?

These have been some of the most memorable and important conversations in my life, the conversations when someone I loved — father, mother, mentor, pastor, roommate, friend, wife — had the compassion and courage to tell me when I was out of line. However I felt in those difficult (and often painful) moments, I now treasure those memories — the kind confrontations, the caring corrections, the loving rebukes.

We all need a steady diet of friendly course correction, because our hearts — even our new hearts in Christ — are still susceptible to sin (Hebrews 3:13; Jeremiah 17:9). Do you value the hard conversations that keep you from making more mistakes, and guard you against slowly wandering away from Jesus?

To continue reading the rest of Marshall Segal’s article, click here.

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Marshall Segal – 10 Things You Should Know about Dating

1. Live on mission…and then find a spouse.

Instead of making marriage your mission, make it God’s global cause and the advance of the gospel where you are, and look for someone pursuing the same. If you’re hoping to marry someone who passionately loves Jesus and makes him known, it’s probably best to put yourself in a community of people committed to that. Join a small group, not just a group of single Christians but one actively on mission together. Get plugged into a ministry in your church that’s engaging the lost in the local community. Focus on the harvest, and you’re bound to find a helper.

2. Keep the end in sight.

In all your dating, keep your last first date in mind. The only thing worth dating for is a marriage—a lifelong, life-on-life love like Jesus’s love for us. Nothing else is worth all the risks we take when we begin to share our heart with someone else. Nothing else can protect us from diving in too quickly or jumping ship when things get hard. Nothing else can stand out enough from the world around us to say something significant about Jesus. Marriage has to be the big and beautiful goal of our dating before we are ever ready to date well.

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Marshall Segal – Kill Pride Before It Kills You

At some point today, someone will probably compliment or praise something you do or say. If not today, it will happen tomorrow, or sometime next week. How will you respond? How do you typically respond?

How we respond to praise from others, especially over time, reveals how highly we really think of ourselves. I’m not talking about every specific email or conversation or social-media update, but about the trends in our emails and conversations and social media. Is our default reaction — our gut heart-level response — to give God credit and glory for our gifts and achievements at work, at home, and in ministry? Or, are we more likely to privately savor that moment for ourselves, to turn the praise over and over slowly in our minds, like a piece of caramel in our mouths?

Every compliment or commendation we receive comes charged with potential for worship. When we quietly, even politely, enjoy affirmation or praise without even thinking to acknowledge God, we’re not only missing an opportunity to worship him (and to call others to worship him), but also robbing God of the glory he deserves for every gift we receive and everything we achieve.

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Marshall Segal – Does Dating Prepare Us for Marriage – or Divorce?

The common trends in dating today are more likely to prepare you to get divorced than to enjoy and persevere in marriage.

Dating is an intentional pursuit of marriage, not casual preparation for it. Unfortunately, many of us are being told we must date early and often if we ever want to be ready for marriage. For instance, one popular Christian dating book reads, “Dating is an incubator time of discovering the opposite sex, one’s own sexual feelings, moral limits, one’s need for relationship skills, and one’s tastes for people.” Sounds practical and reasonable on the surface. Until you think about putting yourself (or your daughter) into someone else’s “incubator” for a few months, or years, while he or she tries out their “sexual feelings” and “moral limits.” We put too much of ourselves at risk in dating to donate our hearts to someone’s romantic experiment.

The truth is we have given dating far too much credit, and far too much power in our pursuit of marriage. And because we misunderstand and misuse dating, we end up making more and greater mistakes in our search for love.

Wait to Date?

Wait to date until you can marry. That’s my advice for the not-yet-married, reflecting on my personal experience (and failures) in dating and on years of walking with others falling in love (and often falling harder out of love). In short, if we are dating in order to marry, we need to be ready to marry before we begin dating.

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Marshall Segal – Is Theology Your Idolatry?

We have often loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself.

The Bible warns us about the dangers that come with our knowledge of God, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. “You cannot serve both God and theology.” Good theology is a means to enjoying and worshiping God, or it is useless.

Has your theology turned into idolatry? Has your knowledge of God ironically and tragically drawn you away from him, not nearer to him? Here are nine questions that might help you diagnose theology idolatry in your own heart and mind.

1. Does your theology draw you to God?

Does greater knowledge of God lead you deeper into prayer? Maybe the surest test of our theology is whether it produces greater intimacy with God. No one needed to tell Jesus anything about God, yet that didn’t in any way dilute or diminish his need to pray. Instead, it deepened and enlivened his commitment to meet his heavenly Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).

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Marshall Segal – Don’t Go to Bed with Your Anger

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Anger is not just polarizing among people, but within a person — within me. Ironically, anger in others offends us, while anger in ourselves comforts us — scandal and consolation, both wrapped in red. To surrender our anger feels like mutiny against our own heart. To store our anger for another day feels like a warm fleece blanket on a cool winter night.

We’ve all felt the furnace of wrath rising in us like molten mercury in a thermometer. Different sparks light the fire for each of us: disappointment, failure, disagreement, stress, betrayal, finances, exhaustion, and more. Whatever it is on any given day, anger can leave us lying in bed, contemplating another one-night stand against someone (or everyone).

Then the ten words come to mind we’ve tried hard not to memorize: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). With that strange and familiar chorus ringing in our ears, we may begin to loosen our grip on our wrath and consider how to move toward a spouse, or parent, or son or daughter, or friend, or co-worker to confess, confront (if necessary), and reconcile.

But why? Well, because God said so. But have you ever stopped to think about the wisdom in treating every day as another excuse to forfeit our fury with one another? Consider five reasons (among many) why God is good to ask for our anger each night.

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Marshall Segal – A Gutsy Prayer for Grown Men

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You probably admire someone in your life for the love they have for Jesus. You hear it in their voice, see it in their smile, and feel it in their love for you. You know this person has communed with God — personally, intimately, regularly. You assume they have a vibrant and consistent prayer life, even though you’ve never seen their private prayers. And you wish your relationship with God was more like theirs.

It’s obviously no surprise that Jesus’s disciples experienced such closeness with him. Luke writes, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1). We can safely assume that Jesus prayed with his disciples, probably regularly. They had heard him pray. Yet this was different. “Teach us to pray,” really meant, “Tell us what happens when you are alone with God.” What Jesus says in the next few verses are the boldest, and most important, words to take with us into prayer.

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)

You may have memorized a version of the Lord’s Prayer when you were younger. It’s simple enough for children to commit to memory. But we need to remember that Jesus gave this prayer to twelve grown men. This is not just a prayer for sixth-grade Sunday School, but for all of life. Jesus taught these men this simple, yet awe-inspiring prayer, and then sent them into the world to be persecuted and eventually killed for their faith. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a childhood toy to be shelved and remembered with affection. It’s not for nostalgia. These are words to be rehearsed and held with conviction, through whatever we face or suffer in this life, until our final breath.

Are you looking for a place to start in prayer, for words strong enough for the heavy challenges and hardships before you in our broken world? Listen to Jesus pray, again.

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Marshall Segal – Never Harmless, Never Private, Never Safe: Fighting Porn with Superior Pleasure

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I know the enticing enslavement of pornography firsthand. I fought and lost, on and off, through high school and college. I clicked on my first pornographic site in the sixth grade when a classmate sent me an email and disguised the link to look like something for a project.

At different times during that next decade of battling my sin, experiencing small victories and often as many defeats, I had the thought that marriage might cure me. In the back of my head, I thought I just needed a wife to satisfy all my sexual desire and impatience. So I allowed myself to dive into relationship after relationship, knowing I hadn’t dealt with the impurity that plagued me.

The reality was that no relationship could have ever solved my sexual sin — no relationship, that is, except for knowing Christ. I was looking to girlfriends, and to the hope of a future wife, to fill a craving only God could fill. I was focusing on self-discipline, dating, and marriage, when God was trying to teach me about joy and show me where to find real pleasure.

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Marshall Segal – When the Not-Yet Married Meet: Dating to Display Jesus

Dating is dead.

So says the media. Girls, stop expecting guys to make any formal attempt at winning your affections. Don’t sit around waiting for a boy to make you a priority, communicate his intentions, or even call you on the phone. Exclusivity and intentionality are ancient rituals, things of the past, and misplaced hopes.

I beg to differ. It’s not that this new line of thinking is necessarily untrue today, or that it’s not the current and corrupt trend of our culture. It’s wrong. One of our most precious pursuits, that of a life-long partner for all of life, is tragically being relegated to tweets, texts, and Facebook pokes, to ambiguous flirtation and fooling around. It’s wrong.
Dating That Preserves Marriage

There is a God. And this God created and rules his world, including men, women, the biological compulsions that bind them together, and the institution that declares their union and keeps it sacred and safe. Therefore, only he can prescribe the purpose, parameters, and means of our marriages.

If fullness of life could be found in sexual stimulation, or if it was just a matter of making babies, the “forget formality and just have sex” approach might temporarily satisfy cravings and cause enough conception. But God had much more in mind with romance than orgasms or even procreation, and so should we. So must we.

When people in the world are expecting less and less of each other in dating, God isn’t — so among the single we have to work harder in our not-yet married relationships to preserve what marriage ought to picture and provide.

Mom, Where Do Weddings Come From?

Nothing in my life and faith has been more confusing and spiritually hazardous than my pursuit of marriage. From far too young, I longed for the affection, safety, and intimacy I anticipated with a wife.

Sadly, my immature and unhealthy desires predictably did much more harm than good. I started dating too early. I stayed in relationships too long. I experimented too much with our hearts and allowed things to go too far. I said, “I love you,” too soon. And now my singleness is a regular reminder that I messed up, missed opportunities, or did it wrong.

Maybe dating has been hard for you, too, for these reasons or others. Maybe Mr. (or Mrs.) Right has started to look like Mr. (or Mrs.) Myth. Maybe you’ve wanted the relationship or liked the guy or girl, and you’ve never had the chance. Maybe all the suggestions and advice you’ve collected has become a confusing mess of good-intentioned contradictions and ambiguity. It’s enough to leave you like an 8-year-old, asking, “Mom, where do weddings come from?”

Expecting More from Marriage

The vision of marriage we see in God’s word –– the beautiful, radical display of God’s infinite, persevering love for sinners –– makes it worth it to date, and date well. The world’s approach can provide fun and sex and children and eventually even some level of commitment, but it cannot lead to the life-giving Jesus after whom our marriages are to take their cues.

Friends who enjoy sex with “no strings attached” will find pleasure, but not the peaks waiting on the other side of mutual promises. The happiness of marriage is not only or even mainly physical. With the sex, there ought to be a deep sense of safety, a sense of being loved and accepted for who you are, a desire to please without the need to impress. When God engineered the sexual bond between a man and a woman, he made something much more satisfying than the act itself.

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