The ART of Dating
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Tommy Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas opens the Song of Solomon to gather helpful advice for today's dating man or woman.
Tom NelsonTom Nelson has been the pastor of Denton Bible Church, in Denton, Texas since 1977. Each year, Tom speaks to over 20,000 Song of Solomon Conference attendees and countless others via radio. In addition to the Song of Solomon materials, he is author of three books: The Book of Romance, The Big Picture: Understanding the Story of the Bible, and The Problem of Life with God. Tom has been married to Teresa Nelson for more than 30 years, and they have two grown sons, Ben and Joh...more
On today’s broadcast, Tommy Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas opens the Song of Solomon to gather helpful advice for today’s dating man or woman.
The ART of Dating
Bob: Many couples today don't understand how to have a godly marriage relationship. Pastor Tommy Nelson says one reason is because those same couples never understood how to have a godly relationship before they were married.
Tommy: There's three things needed in a dating relationship – time, cultivation, and restraint. Because when you spent time regarding and respecting a person, the natural phenomena of romance is to give yourself. That's the way we're made, and you've got to shut it down; you've got to take care of it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 1st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today about the healthy art of pursuing one another before and after marriage.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I think dating and courtship have become something of a lost art – not just for singles but think about married couples. We talk to a lot of married couples who tell us that it didn't take long after the wedding vows were exchanged before the romance was gone from their marriage.
Dennis: Marriage has robbed a lot of couples of their romance, and a lot of guys think that the prize is won; that she is his now forever; and that he doesn't need to cultivate the fire that should burn between them as a couple.
Bob: Do you continue to try to court your wife?
Dennis: Oh, absolutely. I mean, if you didn't, what would happen? You could lose the excitement about the relationship. I think it's a part of why God gave us attraction and courtship and dating in the first place, and I think it's important for married people, well, frankly to never stop dating. Single people know how to do it well, but married people forget the process, and they forget how important it is to win that other person.
I think, in some regards, Bob, we are constantly in a battle over the heart of our spouse. There are things that will capture her heart or his heart – business, for him; the children for her; civic responsibilities, duties, hobbies, many of these things can capture the romance, the mystique and, before long, we don't have a relationship that's truly intimate.
Bob: That's what made it easier when we were single, wasn't it – that we didn't have all of the distractions that we have later on when we're married?
Dennis: Well, but dating was the goal. What a man would do is turn on the afterburners, and I mean he would be going for the objective. It's been fun to watch our kids kind of move into this and watch them, from time to time, start "dating" someone, get kind of serious and kind of move into a semi-courtship, I would say, and in the process of that become so focused on it. Well, it brings back those memories when I was focused. And I think it's good in marriage to regain that focus on the other person. We all need it.
Bob: Well, this week we're listening together to a series of messages from the book of the Song of Solomon delivered by Pastor Tommy Nelson who is the pastor of Denton Bible Church, and it's an outstanding series that explains to us what the Bible teaches about the love relationship between a husband and a wife.
Dennis: Tommy has been married to his wife, Theresa, for more than 20 years. They have two teenage sons, and he teaches singles every week at what's called the Metro Bible Study, and this is one of the larger Bible studies I've ever heard of. There are more than 3,500 singles in this Bible study. So it's not your basic intimate group here.
And, by the way, what you are about to listen to has been passed around on military bases, in homes, husbands listening to it at drive time in their cars. This is one of the most outstanding tape series you'll ever hear on the Song of Solomon.
Bob: Well, Tommy delivered this message that we're about to hear to a group of singles, as you mentioned. There were a few married couples scattered throughout the audience, and the principles really apply to us whether we're married or whether we're still pursuing a mate. Let's listen together as Tommy Nelson talks about the art of dating.
Tommy: (From audiotape.) Don't you love dating?
Watch this – in dating, three things are desperately needed, and this is the wonder about this book. It doesn't go that deep, but it just goes wonderfully simple. You have to have three things. You have to have time, where you just have a non – you don't have any strings attached, where you just spend time with a person, and you don't spend time in a place that makes provision for the flesh.
A guy says to me, "We went out to the park at night and got in the back seat and got tempted." Well, of course, you did.
If you didn't, you've got a problem.
Romans 13 – "Make no provision for the" what? "For the flesh in regard to its lust." Don't give your body a chance. Francis of Assisi called his body "brother ass," because it will not do what you want it to do. Serve God, body – hee haw – no, we ain't doing that – squat down.
You can't trust your body. So this couple is going to spend time, and if you'll look in verse 12, they eat together. If you look in verses 17 and 16, they have a picnic. They've got a date, and they're out in the open enjoying each other. So you spend time with no strings attached.
The next thing you do in a relationship in dating is that you cultivate respect, you cultivate respect. Look at verse 15 – this is how you respect each other. You go from regarding to respecting. "How beautiful you are, my darling." How beautiful you are – "your eyes are like doves." When you see a dove, you are gentle toward it, you want to reach out and hold it, you want to treat it tenderly.
He looks at her beauty, but it's a deeper beauty. It's what Peter called "the precious quality of a quiet and gentle spirit that is expensive, literally, in the sight of God." He says "I respect you so much."
Verse 16 she says "How handsome you are, my beloved, and so" – and do you see that word, fellows? It's the word "pleasant," that's the same word used by how David felt about Jonathan, his best friend. And if you look at the next verse, it just tells you what pleasant means. Verse 17 – the – she says, "Our couch" – in 16b – "is luxuriant. The beams of our houses are cedars, and our rafters cypresses." The interpretation is apparently this – they are out in the open having a picnic. There are cypresses and cedars, and she calls it a "couch and a mansion." What this means is the man is so pleasant, the man is so nice, the man is tactful, the man is so respectful, he is such a good listener that she says, "When I am with you, I am a millionaire, I am a queen, and all I need is you – just being with you."
Girls, that's how you should feel to the guy that you married. You notice, fellows, we haven't laid a glove on her yet. We hadn't touched her, we hadn't kissed her, and she says, "I am a millionaire out in the open. All I need is you. Our couch is luxurious because you are so pleasant."
When you regard and respect each other, I want to show you what happens to you – chapter 2, verse 1 – Ladies, she is speaking. Girls, look at what she says about herself in 2:1 – "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley," they are both singular nouns. Roses and lilies do not grow in clumps, they are singular. She says, "I am the most special woman on the face of the earth."
Guys, in chapter 1, what did she feel about herself? "Don't stare at me because I am not that pretty. My skin is sunburned." Now what does she say about herself? "I am beautiful." Why? Because this fellow treated her so lofty.
Verse 2 – because this guys says, "Like a lily among the thorns is my darling among the maidens," which translated means every woman in the world is hands off. You are the singular most glorified wonderful woman in all the universe. Do you think that makes a woman's heart beat when a man tells her that?
Verse 3 – not only does her view of herself go up, but look what she thinks of this man. Fellows, do you want a girl to admire you? Treat her like a singular queen. Verse 3 – "like an apple tree among the trees of the forest so is my beloved among the young men" – meaning every other guy does not meet any need that I have. You are all that I need. Verse 3b – "In his shade I took great delight and sat down. His fruit was sweet to my taste." Shade means that he can protect her; that she could come underneath his wing.
The New Testament puts it like this – that the man should nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body and as Christ does the church. That means that my wife can never be afraid to get close to me because she knows I'll never hurt her, I'll never demean her. I'll never treat her in a hard way. She can submit to me is the most logical thing in the world because I'm the guy that will die for her.
"In his shade I took delight, and I rested. His fruit was sweet to my taste," meaning to nourish her. What this means, guys, is that if you want to go to my wife and say, "Mrs. Nelson, Theresa, you are incredibly lovely." That's okay, because I told her that this morning. Oh, yeah. I sat right there at the breakfast table, and I looked in her big green eyes, and I said, "You have a delicate beauty," and I said, "You know, you're as pretty as the day that I marriage." "Oh, go on." "Yes, you are." "Oh, no, you think so?"
"What do you want?" "Nothing."
He provides for her, he protects her. Fellows, look at verse 4 – "He's brought me to his banquet hall" – that's an open place, a public place. We're not now having a picnic, we've gone to Luby's, we've gone to Furr's, we're gone to Wyatt's, all right? "He's brought me to a banquet hall," in a public place, "and his banner over me is love."
Let me tell you what that means. Generals on the field would identify their troops by a banner. God is called "Jehovah, our banner," that you fight under Him, He owns you. It's the idea that a general owned his troops by putting up a banner. Solomon owned this woman, and she willingly gave herself. Do you know what his mark of ownership was? Love. Now, watch what else grows.
Verse 5 – "Sustain me with raisin cakes because I am lovesick, refresh me with apples." Do you know what a raisin cake was? They were considered by the Jews to be aphrodisiacs. This girl is sensuous. This woman says he provides for me, he promotes me, he protects me. I admire him, I love him, I feel so good because he treats me this way. "Sustain me with raisin cakes, I am lovesick." That is a passionate verse. What that means is "I want him."
Verse 6 – Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me. What position is that? Let his left hand not be around my head, be under my head, and his right hand embrace me. I love to touch this to little old ladies. What do you think that means, ladies? "I really don't know."
I'll tell you what it means – incidentally, let me get a little preaching right here, this is why it's so hard to find a commentary on the Song of Solomon because we all think that God is so mystic in the Holy Other that He doesn't know what passion is. Where do you think we got passion from and desire from? We got it from God.
We think, sometimes, we say, "God, help me deal with my lust." "You're what? What's lust?" No, He knows what it is, and that's why the book is so often taught in allegory as Christ to the church because we can't imagine this being real. As a matter of fact, in the early century of the Christian church, the Jews got together, and they had a council as to what was and what was not their books as you saw gathering New Testament book.
In one of the books they had a problem with canonizing. It was Ecclesiastes because of the occasional use of sarcasm in the Song of Solomon – because the book was so passionate. Jewish boys were not permitted to read this until they were older because it would stir the passions, and it does.
Now, don't look at the verse. This woman says, "Because of how you treat me, I esteem myself, I love you, because of your protection, provision, your promotion of me. I want you, I want your left hand under my head, I want to be one with you." What do you think the next verse will say? Don't look. Do you think God will speak and say, "Foul woman, nursing these loathsome feelings."
"And Solomon took her hints and whomped her." Do you think it will say that?
This woman wants him – look at what the next verse says – Solomon says, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles, or by the hinds of the field" – in the Book of Proverbs Solomon refers to your wife as you are to "love her like a graceful doe and a loving hind. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times." He speaks of this woman in the highest of gentle terms as a brown-eyed doe, that you move so tenderly with. And he speaks to his harem for their aid, and he says, "I adjure you, by the gracefulness of this woman." Look at the rest of the verse – "Don't arouse or awaken" – and the word "love" there is in the neuter – "love until it pleases." Solomon is saying, "Sweetheart, that feeling that you feel is good, but it's waiting to be awakened on a later day."
I asked my wife one time – we kept ourselves pure with each other going into our marriage, and I said to her, "Theresa, if I had pressed, would you have gone to bed with me?" And she looked at me, she said, "No, but maybe." I said, "Really?" She said, "I wanted you. I loved you."
You know, sticking this thing on your finger doesn't kick your sex drive in gear. You want that person, and Solomon says it's good but it's not yet. What grows in marriage? Her admiration of her, of him, and her restraint. There's three things needed in a dating relationship – time, cultivation, and restraint. Because when you spend time regarding and respecting a person, the natural phenomena of romance is to give yourself. That's the way we're made, and you've got to shut it down, you've got to take care of it.
At some point in your dating relationship, you're going to meet a person that gives you tenderness, and the guy gives you tenderness, and the girl gives you respect, and it's going to feel so good that you're going to get married, and the assumption of that marriage is they're always going to be respectful and tender. They'll always be that way, and that's an okay assumption.
If that person in the dating relationship was treating him with respect and tenderness because of the nature of God, the Word of God, the example of Jesus, the unction of the Holy Spirit, and the example of the body of Christ – those are steel things of virtue and character, and they never go away. And when you get married, you're going to have times that you don't feel like it, but that holy guy is still going to treat you that way because he fears God, and that woman is still going to be submissive and kind and tender because she fears God, and that's a good assumption.
But if you get to dating and build a relationship, and you don't communicate, and you go to the easy fix of sexuality and sensuality that looks just like love when you're doing it, it looks like love. You can't build a marriage on that. It will give way, because at some point in your marriage, sex, very shortly, is going to be not just an act of passion, it's going to be an act of devotion and love, it's going to be a tangible commitment that you make to that person.
And if you don't have the holiness of God, if you don't have love and devotion, you're not going to feel like doing it. So now what happens is the couples draws apart. He doesn't give her tenderness, she doesn't give him respect, and they start manipulating each other. She cuts him off sexually, he cuts her off in tenderness, they get mean, they get mad, they grow further apart, and then you know what happens? They start going outside the marriage to get tenderness. He goes outside the marriage to get respect. She goes into a bunch of civic duties. She goes back to her mama, she goes to her buddies, she goes and starts a new career, she goes back to school. Any and all of those things can be good, but when they're used as a substitute for the mate, that's the way you have an affair.
As we close, some of you may be sitting there saying, "Man, have I blown it." I had one guy after this walk up, and he said, "My mother wrote you."
"No." The wonderful thing is, none of us are like we should be, and that's, people, why you have in Christianity a fellow who died upon a cross that was the very Son of God – to die for what we could not do, to convert us, to give us the desire to do what we ought. That is Christianity, and no matter how foul you may have been, Jesus Christ can wash you clean. If you knew about me what God knows about me, you wouldn't come. But if I knew about you what God knew, we wouldn't let you in.
Bob: Well, we've been listening together today to Tommy Nelson, the pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. He's been talking from the book, the Song of Solomon in the Bible, and I'll tell you what, it brought back some memories of the dating years.
Dennis: I'll tell you, and I'm glad they're memories. I'm glad I'm married. You know, and although we've talked here today to a lot of single people about their habits in dating, frankly, if you're a mom or a dad, and you've got little rugrats running around the house, toddlers or elementary-age kids, and you may wonder what does this have to do with you, it has everything to do with you. Right now you can purpose as a mom or a dad to enter into these discussions with your kids.
I have recently been spending some time studying the Song of Solomon, Bob, and I am going to purpose to go through this book with my college-age kids, and I think it would be appropriate even to talk about this with our high school students. To talk about how sex was blessed by God, and there's a book in the Bible – one of the 66 books that talks about the goodness of God as expressed between the union of a man and a woman in marriage.
Bob: You know, we have had friends who, when the time was right in their relationship, we have given them these series of messages from Tommy on CD to listen to as they're getting ready to get married. But I think you're right – I think this is something that a father and a son can go through together; a mom and a daughter can go through together.
I think we have a generation of young people who don't have a healthy, godly perspective on sex in part because of what the culture is doing but also, in part, because we haven't been helping them understand romance and intimacy from a biblical framework; helping them understand that it's a good gift of God in the proper context.
Anytime we have featured Tommy's messages on FamilyLife Today, our listeners have contacted us to request these audio CDs. We have them in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. If you click the red button that says "Go" right in the middle of the screen – actually, we've had that changed to a red heart that's in the middle of the screen – that will take you right to an area of the site where you can get more information about how to get these CDs and the companion workbook that goes with it.
You can listen it to it together as a couple, you can pass it along to a couple you may know who is getting married, or you can use it, as we've said, father and son, mother and daughter, to help your children understand a biblical view of relationships, which is one of the things we need to be helping our children get a handle on as they grow into adulthood.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red heart in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you right to the area of the site where you can request the CDs from Tommy Nelson. There are other resources available from us here at FamilyLife related to romance and passion and intimacy in marriage, and with Valentine's Day coming up, you may want to browse what is available on our site for some possible Valentine gift ideas.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or call us – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
You know, last year at this time, we featured a couple of messages on FamilyLife Today from Pastor C.J. Mahaney and his wife, Carolyn – basics on the subject of romance, how a man should romance his wife and how a wife should romance her husband, and many of you contacted us to get copies of those CDs. This month, we want to make them available to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
We are listener-supported, and your tax-deductible contributions are what keep us on the air on this station and on stations all across the country. So if you can make a donation this month, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the CD that features C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney. Just ask for the Mahaney CD when you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make your donation. Or if you're online, and you're making a donation there, when you come to the keycode box, just type the word "love" into the keycode box, and we'll know that you want this particular CD sent out to you. It's our way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your partnership with us, and we appreciate hearing from you.
Well, tomorrow we're going to be back with Pastor Tommy Nelson hearing more about what God's Word has to say about love and intimacy and romance from the Song of Solomon – the Song of Songs. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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