Powerful words from a 6 year-old ☆

first grade rocksA young couple I know has four amazing children, and I love seeing them bounce into church on Sunday mornings.  The night before school this fall, young mom asked oldest son, Drew, to think about something he might say to his younger siblings the next day.  She didn’t tell him what to say, and expected he would say things like, “Have a happy day,” or “Play nice.”  Well, read this and be amazed at what came out of this boy’s mouth!

“Today is Drew’s first day of first grade.  As we drove to school he took a few minutes to talk to each of his siblings:

‘Abigail, even though I’m going to school and you are staying at home for school (kindergarten), I’m real proud of you.  You are a good girl and you are still my best friend.  I love you so much.  And you are a beautiful daughter of the King.

‘Simon, You are crazy.  I’m praying that you will be a good boy today, that you will listen to mom and make good choices.  I will play with you when I get home.  I love you, buddy.

‘Essie, you are so silly and goofy.  Don’t grow up too much today.  I’m sorry I have to go to school and I will miss your birthday.  I know you will be a good happy girl all day.  You are a beautiful daughter of the King.  I love you.’

As if that wasn’t enough . . .

‘Mom, I love you.  You do so much for me.  I’m real proud of you.  I hope you have a good day.  You are beautiful.  Don’t be late picking me up.’

Yes, I cried.”

Wow!  This articulate little boy – and so many like him – is our future!  I anticipate that he and his family and friends will stand firm in the relationship they are building with Jesus!  His will not be an easy world.  We see more and more derision of those who are Christ-followers, don’t we?  Many paint all of us with broad brush strokes because of the unwise and thoughtless – perhaps trite and downright stupid – words and acts of a few who identify themselves as Christians.  Fortunately, it’s not up to me to decide whether they are or not.  That’s God’s business.

It’s getting less and less popular to believe that the Bible is adequate to be our guide.  Our culture sees it as outdated and jaded in its content.  Folks like to pick out a phrase and use it as proof text that the whole of scripture has outlived its usefulness.  But, my guess is that most will adhere to much of the Ten Commandments to largely shape their moral compass because they see the value of the relational “do-nots:”

  1. Do not murder.
  2. Do not commit adultery.
  3. Do not steal.
  4. Do not give false testimony.
  5. Do not covet – envy – what others have which you do not have.

Just about any crime against another falls under one of these categories..

There are five more Commandments, though.

  1. Have no other gods before Me – the Lord your God!
  2. Have no idols which you honor and worship instead of Me – the Lord your God!
  3. Do not misuse the name of God in any form – use it in a way which dishonors the Lord your God!.
  4. Take a Sabbath Day – a day of holy rest.
  5. Honor your parents.

Jesus summed up all ten of these in a succinct sentence:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)  I believe that if the “Love your God” part is in place, the “love your neighbor” will also fall into place.

I have the privilege of seeing Drew and his brother and sisters grow up knowing and expressing the love of Jesus, and also have the privilege of praying that they and their peers will grow in their knowledge of Him, learning discernment as they face all sorts of opposition to their beliefs.

Oh yes, have you noticed that when folks are so vitriolic in their criticism of Christians’ intolerance that they are practicing the intolerance they are criticizing?  Just a thought.

 

Thoughts about Ashley Madison ☆

mirrorMy guess is that until a few weeks ago, most of us had never heard of Ashley Madison.  Then, it seemed that name was popping out all over the place.  First Josh Duggar, and then an infamous list of folks leaked into public view.

Actually, Ashley Madison is not a new site.  It’s been around since 2001.  The name sounds innocent enough, but even a cursory search brings these self-descriptions:

  •      *  Infidelity site
  •      *  Online personals and dating destination for casual encounters
  •      *  Married dating and extramarital affairs
  •      *  Site slogan:  “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

Well, no attempt to cover up the real purpose here.  Of course, it is not the only website dedicated to helping folks stray from their wedding vows.  If you google™ the words, “encourage adultery” over 500,000 entries show up for exploration, including other explicit websites encouraging infidelity.

There seem to be two main thoughts which demonstrate a crazy double standard:

  1.   Cheating on one’s spouse is a rather popular, expected, and even accepted activity.
  2.   If it is so commonly accepted, then why does its public exposure become such a shame-filled event?

Suddenly, morality which is laughed at as a general rule becomes a big deal!

Unfaithfulness, commitment, and pre-marriage celibacy become subjects of great debate, generally painted with broad “impossible and unnecessary to carry out” strokes.  But when these things are exposed in the lives of public figures, we are disappointed because we hold them to a higher standard from ourselves.

The Ashley Madison hacking incident has become a mirror exposing what is really going on in hearts and minds of people from all walks of life.  It has shown us that we’re all on a level playing field.  No one is immune from being tempted to do what we know to be wrong.  No one!  Folks from every walk of life are worried their name is on the list.  Of course, those who are Christians in the public arena are especially up for public ridicule if their names do appear.

There are numerous articles summarizing what the great needs are for a husband or wife.  Well, newsflash  these are needs for all men and women, married or single!  It’s just that we onesomes miss out on the built-in other person to help bring these things to life. Now, I’m also realistic enough to know that many married folk miss out on the fulfillment of these things, too, because we are a broken human race.

Anyway, these articles all seem to cover the same topics.

  1. Wife:  love, affection, protection, security, commitment, appreciation, value, compassion, partnership.
  2. Husband:  respect, admiration, peace, commitment, acceptance/participation, sense of purpose.

While sexual satisfaction is also a part of these needs, the lack of the above is what really sends men and women outside the covenant of marriage to gain a sense of fulfillment and understanding.

Let’s face it.  Adultery is not a new thing.

God addressed it through Moses when He gave the Ten Commandments.  (Exodus 20:14)  We have no record that the people asked Moses, “What is adultery?”  They already knew well the temptations to worship false gods, speak loosely of the God Who created them, to not set aside a special time to worship Him and to rest, to murder, steal, lie, covet things not belonging to them, AND to commit adultery.

So, why is it that we are surprised when a website such as Ashley Madison leaps into public view?

Because we think we are better than we are!

We forget that no matter now perfect and good we try to be, we cannot achieve perfection and goodness on our own.

That does not stop us from trying, however.

Oh my!  I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what I want to say.  Keep looking for some sequels! 🙂

CELIBACY – Gift? Choice? Discipline? ☆

wait hereA number of years ago as I closed a college women’s Bible Study, one of the students said to me, “I’ve never known anyone before who has the gift of celibacy.”  I can still see the admiration in her eyes – and can still feel the absolute gut-wrenching punch I felt inside.  I drove home in tears with this question:  “You didn’t do that to me, did you, God?”  I was in my early 30s.

I’ve wrestled with that question for what for some readers is more than their lifetime of years.  Earlier editions of Webster’s Dictionary define celibacy simply as the unmarried state, or as a vow made not to marry, particularly for religious reasons.  Somewhere along the line it also came to mean abstinence from sexual activity.

I find it interesting that while the Bible never uses the term, celibacy, it is well understood that abstaining from intimate physical relationships is the recommended way of life for those who do not have a spouse.

Gift?

Many Bible scholars use I Corinthians 7:7 as proof positive that Paul calls this way of life a gift.  “I wish that all of you were as I am, but each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (NIV)  He appears to be speaking of the practice of abstinence from physical intimacy in and out of marriage – limited abstinence by agreement of husband and wife if married, total abstinence if not married.  For the unmarried person, Paul goes on to say in verses 8-9:  “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:  It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

So, what happened to the gift?  Is it returnable?  Is it acceptable in some cases, not in others?  Is it one of the more specialized gifts termed as spiritual?  Are the effects instant if you accept it?  When and where do I get it?  What if I am one of the “burning” ones?

Hmmmmmm.  I wonder.

Choice?

Now, my stance on Scripture is constant.  I believe II Timothy 3:16-17 implicitly:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  So, that’s how I handle my frustration at times when I wish the Bible went further in some of its explanations – especially for the onesome.  Even though verses specifically for the single are few, they say exactly what God intended to say on the subject.

Our lives are rarely without choice in some form.  We choose to make God the center of our lives.  we choose modes of conduct, such as to steal or not steal, to envy or not to envy; to respect or to disrespect; to be faithful or to cheat.  We choose what to eat, wear, say, and do.

My personal opinion is that celibacy is a choice God leaves up to me.  Now, sometimes choices are made willingly – or unwillingly.  Both depend on what we conclude are the right things to do.  Why in the world would I choose celibacy when every part of my being desires that close connection with another person?

  • *  Well, first and foremost, I believe it is what God requests of me in order to serve Him faithfully.
  • *  I believe that physical intimacy involves giving of the deepest parts of my being to another.
  • *  I want the deepest parts of my being to be entrusted to my husband, not just anyone.
  • *  I want my husband to whom I give the deepest parts of my being to have mutual spiritual values.
  • *  I want to avoid distraction of physical/emotional complications caused by short-term intimate social relationships.
  • *  And so, I choose celibacy.

Discipline?

Personally, I believe a celibate life involves both well-considered choice and intentional discipline!  Self-discipline is one of the spiritual fruit mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22.  While this verse does not specifically connect it to intimacy issues, there are a host of scriptures which tell us to avoid unfaithfulness of all sorts, including sexual issues.  Where I used to rant and rave at God about the battle of hormones vs. faithfulness to Him, I find that disciplined practice brings a solid consequence of more consistent contentment with where I am now.  Let me illustrate.

I am a pianist.  I began piano lessons when I was about 4 years old because I would stand at the piano and pick out tunes I heard – mainly hymns.  My mother helped me begin to develop the gift of music.  Along with that came a bunch of choices.  I discovered along the way that my tastes moved toward traditional baroque, classical, and romantic composers:  Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Hearing music by composers like these just blessed a depth of my soul unlike much of contemporary music.  And then came discipline.  I decided to major in piano performance in college.  I thought I was pretty good as an incoming freshman piano major.  And then, I met my piano professor!  He took me way back to some basics I thought I had far surpassed.  I had to learn every piece at a snail’s pace.  BORING!  Then, one day I discovered that when I could play pieces from memory up to tempo, it was almost as if I could read them in my mind.  Learning them very slowly to begin with brought freedom from memory lapses, and great confidence and fun in performance.  I learned that discipline, while is often not fun, brings great reward!  I’m sure great athletes think the same.  What we see in public is born out of thousands of hours of private repetition and practice and study.  Discipline enhances the gift and the choice.

That is exactly how I feel about the discipline of celibacy after practicing it throughout my life.  It helps manage my thoughts and actions.  Choice of what I watch on TV and how I exercise my love of reading is managed by the discipline of knowing what causes me to move into areas of intimacy which simply are not available to me at present.  You know all those Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas?  Girl always gets boy, even in the most impossible of circumstances.  Even those I have to watch with discernment, because sometimes they feed a yearning in my heart which is not one God has chosen to fulfill – so far anyway.  There’s nothing wrong with the movies.  But, discipline has taught me that I need to discern the vulnerability of my heart to choose whatever I read and watch and think about in order to cultivate the quality of my life.

So what do you think?  Gift?  Choice?  Or discipline?  For more of my thoughts on this, see the first posts of this blog:  “I Corinthians 7 – a new look.”

What in the world is a “Christian sexual atheist?” ☆

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The Christian Post ran an article in the Spring of 2014 called “Sexual Atheism: Christian Dating Reveals a Deeper Spiritual Malaise” which highlights an alarming reality in today’s single society.  It uses information from a 2014 survey done by christianmingle.com called State of Dating in America.  While this was not limited to those who claimed to be Christians, a significant number of Christians participated.  It is worth your while to look at all 81 pages of this report which includes dating etiquette, deal breakers, expectations, and a host of other information.

Out of 2,600 singles from 18 to 59 years of age, over 80% believe that engaging in any sort of sexual activity with someone outside of a committed relationship is considered as unfaithfulness.  This includes flirting and texting suggestive messages and pictures.  But, even though fidelity is given lip service, about 25% would consider marrying someone who has been unfaithful to them, with a slight % increase of those who admit to having been unfaithful in a relationship.  So, faithfulness is important, but not so important that it is a limiting boundary in many lives. In the scale of faithfulness and temptation to infidelity, the temptation often proves more appealing – of greater value – more important – irresistible.

The Christian Post article says that 63% of the Christians surveyed indicated that they would have sex before marriage.  This is not terribly surprising to us given the world we live in today.  Sexual messages smack us in the face in advertising, movies, and online opportunities.  We all know folks who choose to live together outside of the marriage commitment, and sometimes children are also in the picture.  And, we are not surprised.

Some who say they have given their lives to Jesus Christ and are committed to honor and glorify Him are ones who admit they are sexually active outside of marriage.

What has happened to disconnect these folks from honest and straight-forward teaching on moral conduct and holy living?  Is this just a reaction to strict and discompassionate lectures of the past?  Is it just a reaction to the common command, “No sex before marriage,” with no solid and honest help to deal with a normal strong desire built into us by the God Who created sex and everything else?

What has happened to honest exploration of Scriptures such as I Corinthians 6:12-19:

  •      * I can do anything – but everything is not beneficial.  I have choice!
  •      * God created me to glorify Him in what I choose to do.
  •      * Immorality – sexual practice outside of its intended parameters – is harmful to the body.
  •      * Therefore – choose not to harm your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit – in this way.

A much more pressing issue is, the Church has said “don’t” for centuries.  But the question of “why” has not been answered adequately in order to build a good enough reason into single hearts to comply.

Just as “because I say so” is not necessarily a convincing statement to a defiant child, “because God says so” is not necessarily convincing to a person whose hormones are screaming for release.

Consider this quote from The Christian Post article;

“. . . nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct.  It is the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually.  It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46, NIV)  There is a disconnect between identity and activity.”

Well, my brain is off and running on this topic!  I hope this has spurred some new thinking for you.  Your comments most welcomed!

Did God really mean. . . ? ☆

OK.  I admit this is sort of a rewrite of the question a couple posts ago, “Did God really say. . . ?”  But, I have to also admit that both questions are inherent in many of the “answers” thrown at us from every direction.  And, I also must admit that the pendulum has swung 180° from when I was much younger.

When I was a high school senior, a sophomore girl was “sent to stay with her aunt.”  This was a euphemism for “she’s pregnant.”  When she returned, her little boy was raised by the grandparents and treated like he was the girl’s little brother.  Apart from all the whispering among students, nothing was said at school about it.  No lectures on teenage pregnancy and how to avoid it.  No admonitions on what happens when people go “all the way.”  I guess it was assumed this was a rare occurrence and not worth much mention.  And, no, this was not in the 1800’s. 🙂

When I was young, there was really not much preparation about what to do with rapidly rising hormone levels and what it meant in terms of relating to the opposite sex.  I’m not so sure it is much better now.  There is so much input now, that young folks simply do not have a place to put it.  The public ways of expressing that relationship have certainly mushroomed.  Experience and emotion prove too difficult to control.  The consequences of unfaithful activity wreak havoc on lives daily, and we have no way of knowing just how today’s actions will impact these same lives years from now.

The words faithfulness and fidelity have taken a big hit.  Of these two words, Webster says:

  •                  Firm in adherence to promises.
  •                  True and constant in affection or allegiance to a person to whom one is bound by a vow or ties of love.
  •                  Firm in observance of duty.
  •                  Worthy of confidence and belief.
  •                  Adherence to what is right.

I think most people would say these things have worth, but unfaithfulness is thrown in our faces daily.  We see broken promises all around us in all sorts of relationships.  Unfaithfulness, affairs,and  immoral and illegal acts are the subject of 90% of movies and TV programs.  Unfortunately, these things are often presented as things which are just an inevitable part of life.

But, what causes the deepest pains in people’s hearts?  The unfaithfulness and infidelity of someone we love deeply – broken trust and bad judgment in the heat of emotion.

One side of our society’s mouth supports faithfulness and fidelity.  The other side is curved into a snide smile – particularly with regard to celibacy prior to marriage.  The boundaries of what constitute “having sex” are stretched more and more – maybe to ease the conscience.  But, if the boundaries are of smaller and smaller consequence, why do folks feel guilty when they are identified?

When God gave Moses the 10 commandments, they appeared to concentrate mainly on outward action.  But, Jesus exposed the real meaning of them by specifically addressing two of them.  He said that hatred in the mind and actual murder are related, or that lust in the mind after someone is an act of adultery.  So, something does not become sin only when the body acts?  Oh, oh.  (Matthew 5:21-22; 27)

Why all the pain in face of infidelity?  Because God built the human heart to have the intention of glorifying Him in thought, word, and deed.  Pain results because the human heart still has an expectation of fidelity and trust and faithfulness because of the infinite expression of God’s faithfulness from the beginning.  Has God changed His mind?  In light of the common thought that humans just cannot control or resist raging hormones and unbridled imagination, has God adjusted His thinking?  Are His instructions for moral conduct different in the 21st century than in the 1st simply because of changes in the mind of humanity?  A big NO to that!

So, how can a single person live out faithfulness and fidelity in the midst of a society which laughs at them, but is also broken by their lack?

In my very first blog post here under “I Corinthians 7 – a new look – Part I” I wrote:  “I believe that every word of Scripture is ‘breathed by God’ to teach and train us in righteousness.  (II Timothy 3:16-17).  So, I think the shortness of instruction in I Corinthians 7:32 and 34 to unmarried men and women is exactly what God intended to say to us.  Both have the freedom to be more concerned about the Lord’s affairs because they do not have a spouse.  That is unequivocally true!  But, with all due respect, trying to encourage singles with only these words may fall short.  What do we do with our hearts?  How do we conduct our relationships with faithfulness?  Who serves as our sounding board?  Who is as fully vested in the decisions we must make, and helps us make them?  How do we have meaningful conversations without having to make an appointment?  How do we handle intimacy when even simple things are not ours to enjoy, let alone deep things?  How do we satisfy the need to be touched?  Who chooses us?  Who puts romance in our lives?  These are places where unmarrieds live every day!”

I hope this blog stimulates you to find answers to these questions and to share specific questions you may have.  Talk to you later. 🙂

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