That’s What She Said!

If Michael Scott were a real person, he’d giggle through the entire Song of Solomon. There are just so many sexual innuendos.

Those who believe the rumor that Christianity is a sexual straight-jacket haven’t read Scripture very closely. When I was a student pastor, I decided to address the rumor head on.

I walked onto the stage and told a crowded room of high school kids something they had never thought of before. Judging by their reaction, it was certainly not what they expected to come from the mouth of a pastor.

“Tonight, I’m going to tell you how to have the best sex life you could ever possibly imagine.”

It might’ve been the only time in church history where teenagers high-fived each other about a sermon.  Needless to say, I had their attention and began to speak an incredibly freeing and Biblical truth into their hormonally charged confusion.

God wants you to have the best sex life ever.

Think about it. Does it make sense that God – who was able to create the sun, moon, billions of galaxies, the Pacific Ocean, and animals that can fly – designed us with complex organs made specifically for sexual activity then was surprised that we liked to have sex?

Did He frantically say to Himself, “Oh no, you mean they think it’s awesome?! I better do everything I can to stop it!” Of course not. In fact, the power and importance of sex is precisely why He says so much about it.

Believe it or not, sexual intimacy was the first command He ever gave to humans. After creating man and woman in His image, God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) If you’ve ever taken 7th grade Life Science, you know what He’s talking about.  But His message was much different than the one we hear today. It was simpler. Clearer. More powerful.

There are so many opinions and ideas about sex in our culture that it can become quite confusing. Jesus, however, said something interesting one time about sexual confusion, “In the beginning, it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8)

It is imperative, then, that the church think well about such things.  As Christians, we have been given the message of reconciliation and are called to represent Christ on earth (2 Corinthians 5).  This message claims that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has completely redeemed all components of our being, including sexuality.

So, sex is not simply a topic for debate, but an avenue through which we see and understand the gospel more clearly. In other words, it is a really big deal.

As a result, Christians must work to cultivate a robust, Biblical theology of sex.  Not only this, but we must be ready to take that theology and engage a sexually confused world with the saving power of the gospel. This will require understanding the truths of Scripture as well as wisdom in how to talk about those truths with our friends and neighbors outside the church.

So, where do we start?

God’s Word

Always begin with Scripture. Here are some passages to study and consider:

Genesis 2:22-24
Ephesians 5:28-31
The Song of Solomon
1 Corinthians 7:8-9
Matthew 5:27-30
Proverbs 7
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Hebrews 13:4

Other Resources

Books

God’s Design for Sex (A book series for children)
by Stan & Brenna Jones – varied lengths:
The Story of Me (Ages 3-5)
Before I was Born (Ages 5-8)
What’s the Big Deal? Why God Cares about Sex (Ages 8-11)
Facing the Facts: The Truth about Sex and You (Ages 11-14)

What’s the Meaning of Sex?
Denny Burk – 272 pages

 This Momentary Marriage
John Piper – 192
Download it for FREE here


Video Messages

“Radically Single: Authentic Christianity as Men and Women.”
David Platt – 17 minutes

“Slow-Motion Sexual Revolutionaries?”
Russell Moore – 47 minutes

“Moral Purity in Your Marriage”
Russell Moore – 66 minutes

“Gospel Ministry to the Same-Sex Attracted”
Sam Allberry – 43 minutes

“Sex and the Supremacy of Christ”
John Piper – 52 minutes

Don’t listen to anything that describes sex as the most important thing in life. Biblical love is never defined in sexual terms, but in sacrificial ones.  The Apostle John told the first century church, “By this we know love, that He (Jesus) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

If intimacy found its ultimate grounding in sexual expression, Jesus would never have been able to express love on earth. True love, on the other hand, sacrificially seeks the good of others. It places sex, as John Piper says during his message, in proper “orbit” around the sun.  Our sexuality is at its best when Christ is at its center.  

“He has brought me to the banqueting house, his banner over me is love.”
Song of Solomon 2:4

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Good Reads for The Fall

I’m always on the lookout for a good book. The best ones I’ve come across were recommended by someone. I’ve written before on the importance of reading, and want to throw out a few that I’ve found helpful or interesting. If you’re looking to add to your list this fall, consider…

  1. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (254 pages)
    Keller gives approachable answers to deep philosophical questions about Christianity. If you’re struggling with whether or not the teachings of Jesus are true, this is your book. If you’ve never critically evaluated your own faith in Christ, get it.
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    “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life to busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

  2. “Why an Historical Adam Matters for a Biblical Doctrine of Sin” by John W. Mahony (17 pages)
    This scholarly article published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was a short, helpful explanation of the importance of a real Adam and Eve. With the rise in popularity for evolutionary theism, understanding the various interpretations of Genesis 1-3 is critical.
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    How essential is it, given what the Bible says about sin, to maintain that Adam was a historical figure? What do we lose if we deny this point? In order to answer these questions I will proceed in three steps: (1) I will survey the biblical view of human sin; (2) I will discuss the various interpretive options proposed by current evangelicals who are questioning the actual historicity of the Genesis account; (3) I will conclude by arguing that the biblical doctrine of sin requires an original image bearing couple, rooted and grounded in history.”

     

  3. The Problem of Pain: How Human Suffering Raises Almost Intolerable Intellectual Problems by CS Lewis (154 pages)
    Although I disagree significantly at points (i.e. Lewis’ Darwinian view of humanity), he lands in orthodox places and forces you to face tough questions gracefully.
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    “Pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that Ultimate Reality is righteous and loving.”
  4. Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots) by Matt K. Lewis (219 pages)
    I listened to Lewis on a Podcast recently and was interested in his assessment of the current political world. He pushes back on the conservative “echo chamber” and suggests that our society has become polarized in Washington because of it. Read it before November’s election.
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    “New technology allows us to avoid coming into contact with opposing viewpoints. There is no common culture or consensus. It’s entirely possible nowadays to go through a day and avoid hearing information that challenges your assumptions.”

     

  5. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. (224 pages)
    Every Christian should read this. Moore analyzes the Bible Belt South with aggressive clarity and refocuses Americans to the original message of Christianity.
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    “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first. Therefore, we cannot build Christian churches on a sub-Christian gospel. People who don’t want Christianity don’t want almost-Christianity.”

  6. Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney (67 pages)
    Whether you have small children at home or are trying to figure out how to start family devotions with teenagers, this little book will be very helpful. Whitney takes away all the typical excuses by replacing them with practical (and realistic) suggestions.
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    “Husbands, fathers- if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today.”
     
  7. Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavin (336 pages)
    Sometimes, you need to read something fun. Klavin’s novel is about a cop who solves top secret crimes. It gets real interesting on nights with a full moon because…you know…he’s also a werewolf. You might find the gore a little much. Either way, find a Werewolf Cop for your reading list.712XqhTMN8L-682x1024

There’s one more that I’m excited about…

8. Dear Frankenstein: Letters of Hope to Pieced Together Families by Blake Hudspeth
I’ve been working for the last few months on a short, free eBook that will be available this month. My aim is to encourage families that need hope. The ones on the brink of collapse, or perhaps are now on the other side of divorce and just want to keep their head above the water. Watch for it on this blog in the coming weeks.
Ad Cover

My family didn’t become functional overnight. Each person made important decisions en route and learned many lessons through tears. You will find them embedded throughout this book. Every chapter is a letter addressed to you- someone who needs hope. They will not teach you how to build a healthy, blended family. But they will give you hope that it’s possible.”

Happy reading!

How Heavy Becomes Light

If you ever feel like throwing your back out, try moving a bouncy castle by yourself. Works every time. Our church has one, and it taunts me whenever we have a block party. “Just grab one other person,” it says. “You’re so big and strong. You’re basically the strongest person here. You could probably just lift me by yourself.”

It took several humbling block parties, but I know not to listen now. That inflatable weighs too much for one or two men to carry very far. When there are five or six, however, you can carry it across town. “I don’t feel like I’m helping all that much,” we say to one another as we walk to the destination. Heaviness dissolves when weight gets placed on a group of people.

A Weighty Command

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

Think about what He was saying. Give yourself to broken, hurting, and sinful people. That’s messy and difficult and draining. It’s also exactly why we fell in love with Christ in the first place. He gave Himself to us when we were the most unlovable (see Romans 5:8).

The Weight Lifted

The word “you” in Greek is plural. In the South, John 15 would read, “Love one another as I have loved y’all.” He was saying it to the church. These people were transformed by the life of Jesus and yet they still struggled with pride, lust, and selfishness.

He knew they could not carry the weight alone. It’s why He died to redeem them. It’s why He sent the Holy Spirit to empower them.

The church must not forget the measure in which she is loved and empowered. Together, as the body of Christ, we really can represent Him well in every social sphere. It’s a weighty call and life’s burdens tend to keep us from moving forward, but Scripture is clear about what we are to do.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Galatians 6:2-3

 How can we love the helpless and harassed? How do we comfort the brokenhearted? How should we embrace awkward situations? The same way we move a bouncy castle. Together.

If you think you’re “something” and can lift it alone, don’t be surprised when you throw your back out. You’ve deceived yourself. Instead, allow your burdens to be carried by those who have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and help bear the burdens of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we do, the Kingdom will be advanced. The broken will be restored. And we’ll look at each other and say, “I don’t feel like I’m even helping all that much.”

 

Into Your Hands I Commit My School Year

The smell of fresh crayons and the sound of sniffling mommas can only mean one thing. School’s back. But so are yellow leaves and football and cooler weather and books. It’s easily my favorite time of year.

Whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman wandering around campus or the parent dropping off a little one who’s skipping off to first grade, I encourage you to start the school year with a prayer King David wrote.

Psalm 31:3, 5
For you are my rock and my fortress;

    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

David leaned fully on the Fortress of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. In the shakiness of life, he ran to the Rock. “Into Your hand I commit my spirit.” It was a statement of absolute trust. The very same one Jesus uttered on the cross centuries later.

Every morning that I drop my daughter off at school is an act of faith. Many times, while driving away, I open my hands and tell the Lord, “I trust you. Whatever may come, I trust you.”

So, if you’re the student walking across campus this week or the tissue-wielding parent, open your hands with King David and say, “Into Your hands I commit all of it.” Take refuge in the Fortress of steadfast love, and enjoy the journey.

When Rest Won’t Come

There are no quiet seasons. I’ve yet to live a year of life where the volume wasn’t loud.

“If I can just get through high school…”
“When this semester of college is done…”
“It’s a unique time, we just got married. It’ll settle down…”
“It’s a unique time, we just had a baby. It’ll settle down…”
“It’s a unique time, we’re in grad school. It’ll settle down…”

It never settles down. The weight doesn’t lift. It simply transfers to something else. The sense of urgency that comes with the immediate can be deafening at times and lead to despair.

Volume smothers rest and fosters burnout.

KNOW THE REASON
I found that even vacation couldn’t take the pressure. Too much rest had been pushed off, and a week couldn’t make up for lost time. Plus, rest felt fidgety. All I could do was think about what I didn’t get done the week before, or how I could get ahead on the coming week. I wasn’t a workaholic, but I had a disability when it came to rest.

There was always something or someone that needed my attention, or so I thought. The idea would push me to check my phone, my email, my calendar – just one more time. The inner murmur would get louder and louder until I couldn’t hear anything else. Then burnout.

I blamed my pace, stage of life, and leadership capacity. None of those were the issue though. And, if you find stress at every turn, they aren’t yours either.

Those things certainly influence life’s volume level, but you’re the only one who can turn down the dial. That’s what I discovered. The problem wasn’t my schedule, but my heart.

KNOW THE SOLUTION
Jesus told the physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted,

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What’s interesting about Jesus’ invitation is that He’s calling people to work. “Take my yoke upon you…” The Gospel allows us to work from our rest. I’ve heard that phrase many times but hadn’t experienced it until recently. It’s one thing to say you believe this, but another thing altogether to live as if it were true.

Over the last year, I’ve found that my rest and my faith are inextricably linked. If I cannot rest, it’s because I’m not first resting in Christ. Here are two realities from The Gospel that bring me rest each day:

  1. I am accepted by God in Christ. My worth, therefore, is not tied to the opinions of others. When my life isn’t driven by the fear of rejection, the volume lowers.
  2. All my failures have been paid for by Christ. I don’t have to be afraid of it. When my life is not adrenalized by fear, the volume lowers.

When we find rest in these spiritual truths, we have freedom to rest physically and mentally. Sometimes, we just need to sleep-in. It’s a good first step anyway. But sleep won’t ultimately rehabilitate a crippled heart. I had to create rhythms of rest that found their footing in Christ.

KNOW YOURSELF
For someone on the verge of burnout, hearing “Pray and read your Bible more” will only sound like another thing to tack on a “to-do” list. There’s no one-stop shop here. True and complete rest begins in our hearts with Christ. Everything hinges on it. And yet He has created us as spiritual, emotional, physical, relational and mental beings. When we are not finding rest in Christ, there are warning signs in all of these areas.

It helps to take a step back and look for your warning signs. Here were a few triggers I look for in my own life. If these begin to happen, I know that I need rest:

  1. I see my spouse as draining.
  2. I’m short with my children.
  3. I begin to spend too much time thinking about details that don’t really matter.
  4. I constantly check my phone.
  5. I feel like my schedule is drowning me.
  6. I don’t have time to exercise or mow my lawn.
  7. I go more than two days without writing.

At least one of these happens every week. It’s why I have to run to the truths of Christ daily, where fears are stilled and strivings cease.

And, as important as it is to know when you need rest, it is just as important to know how you rest well. Here is how I’m learning to combat burnout on a weekly basis:

  1. Turn off my phone
  2. Get 8 hours of sleep (every night)
  3. Take my wife on a lunch date (every Friday)
  4. Listen to a life-giving sermon
  5. Read my Bible slowly
  6. Roast coffee
  7. Write
  8. Read something unrelated to work
  9. Go to the library
  10. Watch a movie

What’s your list? You need one, and you need to guard it with your life. But most of all you need to remember that it will simply become another to-do list if your heart is not first resting in Christ.

Don’t burnout. True Rest is waiting for you.

Deaf People Don’t Hear Zombies

Most historians agree that Benjamin Franklin never used Snapchat. So when you get a friend request from Ben_Franklin1776, it’s probably a fake account. But what if the real Benjamin Franklin sent you a snap? The dog-mask one that licks everywhere. He thinks it’s hilarious. He loves dogs I bet.

That’s ridiculous. Benjamin Franklin is dead, and dead people can’t Snapchat dog videos.

We’d listen to him if he came back to life though…right? If the real Benjamin Franklin showed up in your living room, and said, “Greeeeetings! I have a message betwixt us fellow knaves.” You wouldn’t shush him and say, “They’re about to do the rose ceremony! I know Justin’s going to pick Samantha. She’s perfect for him. And he’s willing to move from Atlanta so she can keep her job. They’re going to make it. I know they will. After the rose ceremony, Ben.”

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You think we’d all listen to someone who came back from the dead, but you’d be wrong. Jesus told a much more serious story about it in Luke 16. There were some men who claimed they were quite religious. They even looked so on the outside, but Jesus knew their hearts.

The men worshipped money and fame rather than the God of love and grace. In Jesus’ story, one of the men looked an awful lot like them. His name was “rich man.” Not much of a name, really. The other was named Lazarus. He loved God and God’s Word.

When the men died, Lazarus went to be with Abraham in Heaven and the rich man was separated from them in a place of torment. He realized how wicked his life had been and said this across the chasm,

“I beg you, Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house— for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”

Abraham said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Spiritually deaf people won’t listen.  They heard the Bible (Moses and The Prophets) for years, but hadn’t obeyed it. His story was a mirror in their face. But like the five other brothers, it wouldn’t bring repentance.

A life of hearing and a lack of faith are the two markers of spiritual deafness. Nothing – not even a Man rising from the dead – can convince those who have stopped up their ears with disobedience. May it not be so with us. By the grace of God, let us hear Moses and the Prophets testifying about the One who would set us free (John 5:39-40).