If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
The other day I posted a portion of a Facebook conversation among some respected theologians concerning what the Bible says about premarital sex. During that online discussion someone mentioned that this was the least “sexy” conversation about sex they had read. Dr. Lawson Stone responded with this beautiful description about what “sex” and “sexy” really is.
“As for “least sexy” conversation, sex is about SO much more than “sexy.” Sex is about helping your wife recover for months from a very difficult delivery of a baby you sort of had something to do with; sex is about loving the wrinkles and grey hair or thinning hair. Sex is about sitting by the bed wishing you could be the one suffering instead of them. Sex is about still feeling off balance when you have to go without your wedding band for some reason. It’s about staying together through times when you don’t feel in love, don’t feel dedicated, don’t feel “committed” but remember that before God and his church you made a promise, a covenant, and you’ll honor it–and discovering that those who keep faith with that formal, so-called legalistic boundary enter a garden of joy known only to those who surrender. “Sexy” in our culture is a sad, pale cartoon made up of too much cleavage, too little self-respect, too much butt-crack and too many tramp-stamps, and over-tight clothes; it testifies to emptiness, a hunger, but not real desire. Lots of energy, but is it really passion? Lots of smoke, but not a fire to light your life, warm your soul and nourish your heart. The eyes of the goddess are painted, but the eye-holes are empty. The courtesan looks alluring, but the heart is stone-cold. As long as we keep chasing “sexy” we’ll never find the real thing. Instead, we get Madonna and Lady Gaga. And we deserve them.” – Lawson Stone
As Christ followers, our foundation of faith is built upon the belief that God is intentional about life, that there is meaning in his creation, and that our life has purpose. If life has meaning then the things we do have meaning. If life is to be cherished, then our relationships are to be cherished. If life is sacred, then don’t waste it. Why do we take one of the most intimate actions in our life and treat it like a pat on the back? Sex isn’t supposed to be locked away never to be used, but neither is it a common commodity so easily to be discarded. Your life and those around you are too wonderful to be treated so casually. Commit to one another, commit to life, and then discover what real sacred love is.
If you missed Wednesday’s blog, click Premarital Sex and The Bible.
Thank you to Dr. Lawson Stone for today’s contribution.
Meghan Vogel, a 17-year-old was set to come in last place after just winning a previous race. She didn’t have to be last. She was quickly catching up to a girl whose body had dehydrated and had taken a fall. Meghan, instead of avoiding last place and running past the girl, helped carry Arden McMath to the finish line and boosted her competitor across the line ahead of herself. See the full story and video here.
Is this not part of the picture of the Gospel of Christ? Too often we Christians feel we are in last place regarding respect in the community. We feel hobbled by poor characterizations in the news and entertainment. In the process of us trying to gain traction we end up walking over the broken and tripping on the lost. We forget that the mission of the Christian life is not to get to Heaven and shout at everyone and gloat, “See?! We were right and you were wrong!!” The people who offend us are the mission. The broken and lost are the mission. In Christ there is no need for us to step over anyone. Our life’s worth is not defined by the ideas of success and champions of this world, but simply in the fact that we belong to Christ. If that be the case, then we can stop along the way, consider the value of others, and lift them up, even our competitors, so that they may not loose but have life.
Meghan Vogel was a winner even before she began this race. She was not a winner because she won some visual victory filled with medals and public accolades. She was a winner because on her way to the finish line she lost so that someone else didn’t.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
How engaged are you with the world around you? We have gadget upon gadget to help us “engage” the world. We are in information overload. We know more about people and the world and each other than we ever have, but are we truly engaged? We eat lunch and dinner with friends but while we dine we log more time on our phones checking texts, tweets, and Facebook statuses of friends we barely know or barely see. We are loaded with television, movies, and sports. We are entertained and amused. The reality is that as much information as we have, we are less engaged than ever. We can’t see our friends for our Facebook.
I am not claiming that these social tools are bad, obviously since I am currently using one of these tools to engage, but I am wondering how much our information seeking, entertainment watching, and social media posting is used to keep us one step removed instead of one step closer to our surrounding life. Instead of engaging the world outside we are collecting information to catalog and control the world outside.
If this consumerist escapism is as deeply engrained in our cultural worldview as I think it is, I wonder how much it has transformed our ideas of our worship of God. Has our worship and relationship with God turned into an opiate? Has our faith withdrawn us from society, caused us to disengage from our neighbors? Has the practice of our faith simply been a trade in of one coping tool for another? Or does our faith in Christ and Christ’s work in us result in something more.
Karl Marx said the following:
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Is he right? Is religion the “opium of the people?” I wonder sometimes if Christian worship on Sunday mornings in western culture has become what I like to call “worshiptainment.” I wonder if Christian small group studies have diminished into surface self-help psychology. What Marx observed was people using religion to disengage the world around them. The people were overwhelmed by the injustices and hardships of their circumstances that faith became a mental coping mechanism that helped them “hold” on, until they were dead and in “heaven” as they understood it.
I believe this approach to the Christian faith is not what God intends. Ephesians 5:1 says,
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
To be like Christ is to do the things Christ did and does. God became flesh. God engaged the world, he did not withdraw. The letter to the Ephesians was a call to community in Christ for the sake of us being united in God and united in one another. (Ephesians 1:10). Paul goes on to outline the main places this mission is played out; marriage, parenting, and work. The over all mission is to engage one another in acts of love in service in all parts of our living as grounded in Jesus Christ.
If our worship withdraws us from life, we’ve missed the point of worship. Do we need a break from the destructive forces of the world? Yes. Did Jesus withdraw to be alone with God? Yes. But these were all done with the purposes of continuing engagement with the lives around us. Worship without mission is pointless and mission without worship is powerless.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit filled the lives of the disciples and all those who came to call Jesus as their Lord. Pentecost is the day that God empowered people to go on mission into the world to reveal the hope of the Gospel of Christ. Pentecost was the act of worshipping God, being commissioned by God to engage the world with his love, and the gift of the power to do so.
Today we stand with that same mission, promise, and power. We do not become Christians to escape hardship, but to engage hardship with the power of God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Christ we are more than those things that seek to conquer us, or degrade us, belittle us, and devalue us. In Christ we are given mission to move into the world in strength, to no longer have to disengage the world. We have nothing to fear, but can face the fears of the world with power and love. In Christ we can be change agents in the world we live. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a calling and mission given to us all.
As you prepare for worship this Sunday, look over these verses above, read through Acts 1 & 2, and Ephesians. How does your worship of God transform your life? Are you engaged in the world with the power and love of Christ?
Your kids are great and all, but my kid is awesome… and for no better reason than she is my kid. I love my kid and nothing can change or take this love away. Every now and then I will ask her if she knows that I love her while I am tickling her. The other day I decided to ask her if she knew “how” I loved her. She answered, “you love Mommy!” I said, “Yes I do and that is one way that I love you, but there are other ways too.”
I went on to tell her that I love her by playing with her, and taking care of her, and buying her toys. She perked up at that one. I told her that I loved her by feeding her, putting her to bed, and reading her stories among others things. I explained that there are many ways that I love her. I then asked her if she knew how she loved me.
What does a child of this age do to show a parent they love them? She can’t take care of me. She can’t protect me. She can’t buy me toys or feed me. I sat there for a second after asking the question and then told her how she loves me. I told her that she loves me by trusting me to take care of her and provide for her. She loves me by the excitement she shows when I come home, by inviting me to play with her and her toys. She loves me by depending upon me and desiring my attention. She loves me by responding to my love.
There is nothing we can give God to earn his freely given love. There is nothing we can give him that he needs. But he delights in the fellowship of our play, our laughter. He delights in the invitation to our mundane and sacred living. He delights in our trust and reception of his guidance and love. In this kind of love there is nothing on our part to “prove.” It is an action that requires no scheming. It is a love that requires us to be still and know that he is God.
With no anxiety to prove that God loves me and that I love him, it certainly opens up room for me to love others. Sydney was right; I do love her by loving her mommy. That’s also how I love God.
If you missed this Sunday, you can check it out here.
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one
another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Are you able to recognize opportunities for you to demonstrate God’s love to others? If so, do you act on these opportunities or do you let them slide by? If you aren’t able to recognize these opportunities, what can you do to intentional seek opportunities to practice God’s love?
“Wives submit to your husbands”… now there is a Hallmark card for you. Did you pick that one up for mother’s day? Ephesians 5:22, “Wives submit to your husbands as TO THE LORD.” Is Paul crazy? Can you just see this hung on one of our banners at church? Perhaps a new song on your Christian radio station. I can only imagine the letters that would be written.
What do we do with scripture like this? There are a couple of things that are done with it.
- We take it just like it is and use it to dominate others.
- We justify it away and say, that was a cultural writing only applicable for that time and no bearing on our society today.
- We assume Paul to be a misogynist and only embrace the stuff he writes that we like.
- We look at the broader parameters of the scripture and find out what is really being said here.
Number 4 is the right answer, but too often we live out the first three. The problem with the first three is that we lose scriptural authority and unloose a thread that could unravel without end. But that is a blog for another day and I want to talk about submission.
Cultural influence does play a role here but if we look at those cultural roles and rules we would see that Paul was quite ahead of the curve when it came to respecting the humanity of others. The culture at the time was male dominated. There was really no reason Paul would need to say, “wives submit to your husband.” It was understood. Women had no property rights, voting rights, or much authority at all. So what was Paul saying?
The letter of Ephesians was couched in the framework of serving one another, creating healthy community, through the imitation of Jesus Christ. Paul was not telling women to treat their husbands as “gods” but to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ… which the Church does out of response to Christ’s acts towards us, acts of service, acts of love, acts of commitment. It is what Paul says to the husbands that is radical. “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church.” Jesus died for the church… remember? This was a radical thought then and remains so now. Christ did this with no thought as to if we would respond or not, he did it because it was the right thing to do that would bring about life.
What would happen if we lived toward one another in a way that was not dependent upon other people’s response, but upon the right thing to do that would bring about life in them and ourselves?
As we prepare for worship this Sunday, let us read Ephesians dressed in what Paul says in Ephesians 5:1
“be imitators or God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
With that lens, how does this change your commitment to your spouse, your friends, your enemies? To allow God to transform you, means making the most out of the opportunities to practice his love. The best place to begin that practice is in your home.
Pray and pay attention:
- That God would continually transform your heart and mind.
- That you would learn how to imitate Christ,
- That you would see the opportunities he presents and practice his love.