Preparing Your Family for Easter

This past weekend, I had a conversation with one of my small group girls who grew up in a family with very nominal beliefs, but this year as a first year seminarian, she got invited to five different Ash Wednesday services. But, as she confessed, she had no idea what Ash Wednesday was, so she went to Google and was so overwhelmed about what she read and what to expect that she didn’t go to any of them.

I grew up in a family with a parent in ministry, but our church never practiced Lent, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, or even Good unnamedFriday. That was for the one little Catholic church in town. We had an Easter Sunday service (maybe a sunrise service), everyone wore their new Easter clothes, and we ate a scrumptious meal after church with an Easter egg hunt that afternoon. Oh, and don’t forget the lavish Passion Play production that the church put on for Easter weekend.

We all have different backgrounds and different levels of exposure when it comes to Easter, and you can read the previous blog posts we have done (see below), but this year, I want to let you know about an exciting new resource that you can use for yourself or, if you have kids, with your family to help them know about “the greatest rescue mission in history.”

Scott James, one of our Elders at Brook Hills, wrote this two-week devotional that families can beginning on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) through the week after Easter. It looks at the overall message of redemption, and it helps parents unpack the importance

This past Sunday, Brook Hills Kids had a fun time celebrating the release of this book with Scott, who serves as a fourth grade Faith Trainer at the church.

This past Sunday, Brook Hills Kids had a fun time celebrating the release of this book with Scott, who serves as a fourth grade Faith Trainer at the church. Here, John Tice (left), our Children’s Minister, presents Scott (right) with a cake that our kids and leaders enjoyed on Sunday.

of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how these truths affect our lives today. You can simply read the devotional as a family, and the book also provides suggestions for family activities that parents can use with kids of all ages. If you’re new to the concept of family worship or family devotions, this would be a great resource to start, for each devotion only takes about ten minutes to do, and it reminds our kids and ourselves that Easter is more than just “bunnies and baskets.”

If you would like to purchase a copy of Mission Accomplished, you can do so for $10 at the Brookstore at our church, or you can order a copy from this site.

If you want to learn more about Easter itself and about how to cultivate family traditions that point to Christ during Easter season, read the following BH Women posts:

Fathered or Fed?

Fill in the blank: I want ______________.

Today, I have wanted meat (my new workout regime has me craving protein), a wicker tea tray, a cute Aztec cardigan, Piper & Leaf tea (Front Porch Blend and/or Peach), water, time alone, to be thinner, a magic solution to moving issues (going from a larger kitchen with a pantry to a smaller kitchen with no pantry, #movingprobs), a book contract, tickets to Wicked, everything I have pinned on Pinterest, a haircut, salvation for the Togolese, and not to waste time with the girls God has put in my life. Oh, and let’s not forget, a husband. And that’s just the list off the top of my head from today.

We all have things we want. We have appetites – God-given appetites. The problem comes with where we go and what we do to satiate our cravings. Look at Eve in the Garden of Eden. She had a desire for wisdom (Gen. 3:6), which in and of itself is a good thing, but she sought wisdom outside of God, listened to horrible counsel from the serpent, and ate the forbidden fruit, introducing sin to the human race. Abraham and Sarah had a desire for children so strong that after decades of infertility they chose for Abraham to have sex with Sarah’s servant to produce a child instead of waiting on God to fulfill His promise (Gen. 16), and Esau hungered for food but chose to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:29-34). Along these lines, G.K. Chesterton once said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” We all have desires for acceptance, affirmation, security, etc., but like the man searching for love from a prostitute, if we do not turn to God as our sufficiency then we will find nothing but emptiness and a craving that becomes even more insatiable.

Why the Hunger Pains?

Have you ever stopped to think why God allows us to hunger (not literally)? I had lunch today with a precious Samford girl wrestling with the common college student question of what God has for her after graduation, and she noted how if she had the answer up front, she would not be spending as much time turning to God. Her lack of an answer right now – her lack of what she wants, which is direction and the security it brings – has caused her dependence on God to increase and her relationship with God to deepen.

Immediate gratification might lead us to utter a quick thank-you to God for His good gift (maybe, if we remember), but God wants more for us than we want for ourselves. Sometimes He withholds to teach us to hunger rightly. The hunger is already there, but when the fulfillment of that hunger is beyond us, it should motivate us to turn to Him. Now, this does not mean that we treat God like our personal genie where if we turn to Him, we’ll magically get what we want. Another conversation today with a different girl involved her recognizing that her motives for becoming more consistent in time with God and for pursuing greater contentment in Him found root in an attempt to manipulate God into giving her a husband. “If I do this for God, then He’ll give me what I want.” She recognized this as the false theology that it is.

As Russell Moore puts it, would you rather be “fathered or fed”? Do you want what you want when you want it? Will you manipulate circumstances, take control, and make it happen for yourself (whatever “it” is)? Or do you want Him more than you want “it”? Would you rather have Him? Can you sing the following lyrics and truly mean them? “Give me Jesus! Give me Jesus! You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.”

Open Hand or Vise Grip?

When I was dating this guy during my seminary days, I had an “open hand policy” about the relationship. While I was in this relationship, my pastor at the time preached sermon after sermon about having a blank check with God. Think about that – a blank check. My mind flashes back to the ’90s Disney movie with the kid who somehow gets his hands on a blank check, fills it in for a million dollars, cashes it, and blows it on a house, stuff, and entertainment. To intentionally hand someone a blank check requires an incredible amount of trust.

My open hand policy was a variation of the blank check. I could either hold that relationship with an open hand, or I could hold on to it with a vise grip. Tightly gripping it indicated my desire for control, to make things happen the way I wanted them to. But an open hand demonstrated my trust in God to either make the relationship progress or to take it away if it wasn’t His will. Well, guess what. It wasn’t His will. The open hand policy – the blank check – got me a broken heart (and motivated me to take up running. Gotta love exercise-induced endorphins).

What I wanted was the happily ever after. The ring. The wedding. The person to have and to hold till death do us part. The two kids with the Pottery Barn house and the dog (although the dog was negotiable). I wanted to be fed. I had a desire, and I wanted God to fulfill that desire (still do, in fact).

Sometimes, God’s sovereignty conflicts with our desires, and His plans for us do not correspond with our desires. God cares about what I want and about what you want. But He also knows what is best, and sometimes, what I want is not what’s best for me. He loves me enough to tell me “no,” to protect me from getting what I want, to protect me from myself. He’s more interested in fathering me, but often, I would rather prefer being fed. His fathering me in that dating relationship meant that the relationship ended, and in hindsight, I am so thankful.

What God has prepared for me may not line up with what I have prepared for myself, but it is so much better (1 Cor. 2:9). As I look back on all that God has taught me and grown me and on all of the college girls He has given me the privilege to walk alongside, I  think how I could have so easily missed all of this had I gotten what I wanted five years ago. What He had for me was so much greater than what I had planned for myself, and the greatness of it has been measured in Kingdom impact, changed lives, and a deeper relationship with God.

It is easy to trust God when I am being fed. It gets tougher when I am hungry with no food in sight and when I have to rely on Him to provide and to satisfy. But I turn to Him more often when I lack. My longings propel me to God. The problem is not my desire for marriage (or even for someone just to take me to dinner and a movie). The problem begins when that desire becomes greater than my desire for the Lord. Have you submitted your preferences and desires to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Do you have an open hand policy, a blank check, with Him?

Now vs. Eternity

A desire to be fed brings my attention to the here and now. My vision narrows, and everything else lessens in its importance except the fulfillment of that desire. I become irritable – maybe even angry – at whatever interferes with my pursuit and attainment of said desire. But a desire to be fathered draws my attention to what is eternal. It becomes easier to forsake the momentary for what will last. I endure the hunger because I prefer the end result.

A noted characteristic of physical poverty involves a lack of foresight and planning for the future because people in poverty live in the moment. They are concerned with today and what is directly in front of them. For someone without adequate food or other basic necessities, why would I plan for tomorrow or a year from now or ten years from now when I don’t even know if I will make it through today? But most of us humans (including us as Christ-followers) live with this poverty mindset when it comes to our desires. Why wouldn’t I satisfy myself today? If I do not look to the return of Christ, to the glory of what is to come, and to the worthiness of Almighty God, then why shouldn’t I feed myself when I’m hungry? We need a vision of the eternal! We need a greater vision of our God!

We serve a Savior who put on human flesh and who felt what we feel. He experienced desire. He hungered. And as He spent forty days in the wilderness after His baptism, Satan tempted Him (Matt. 4). As the Creator of the universe, He could have easily fulfilled His own desires, but for Jesus to have done so in the wilderness would mean that He elevated His desires above communion with God and fulfillment of God’s mission. Jesus had a vision of God and of His purpose that enabled Him to resist temptation, to resist His own desires.

Dealing with Cravings

Did you know that most cravings subside after thirty minutes? Knowing this, when desire wells up inside, I can choose how to endure those thirty minutes (or however long the craving lasts). I can be ready with a game plan. A plan that does not involve retail therapy, alcohol, porn, loads of chocolate (or whatever your comfort food is), people, or anything else that we try to substitute for God. Psychologists call this “urge surfing.”

How do you normally respond when those moments of intense desire hit you? What’s been your MO thus far? How has it been working for you? Are you a prisoner to your own desires and affections? Have you made an idol out of them? Do you want “it” more than you want God? Here’s the thing, giving in to your desires fails to subside the burning, fill the ache, or enduringly satisfy. There’s a difference between satiation and satisfaction. You give a starving kid a bowl of rice, and his hunger will be satiated. But his body will not be satisfied with all of the nutrients needed to function properly and to sustain his life in good health. Which scenario do you prefer for yourself – satiation or satisfaction?

Let your cravings lead you to God. Everything else is but a poor substitute for what only He can provide. What are you thirsty or hungry for? How are you currently satisfying those desires? Identify those longings or your current methods of satisfying yourself. Expose the counterfeits, the things that you are substituting for God. Confess sin and turn from it. And meditate on the goodness of God and the truth of His Word.

“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him. If I can say yes to that question, can’t I say yes to pleasing Him? Can’t I say yes even if it means a sacrifice? A little quiet reflection will remind me that yes to God always leads in the end to joy.”
Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity

For more on this subject, I recommend Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore, Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick, “Fathered Through Temptation” by The Village Church, and “The Idolatry of Appetites” by Marian Jordan Ellis.

Are You Frating?

Don’t you hate emotional limbo? You know what I’m talking about. It’s that phase of a relationship where you don’t know if you’re just friends or if he’s feeling it too (you know, that there’s something more than just friendship going on). So you wait to see if he will initiate a DTR (define the relationship) talk. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait some more. “Will it ever happen? What is taking him so long? Will he just let me know where we stand? For the love!”

The waiting is agony. We mull over every conversation, every text message, every hangout. We dissect it all looking for “signs.” We read into everything (or we want to at least hope that there’s something to read into). We’ve invested so much time and mental energy and angst – and we don’t even know if we’re actually dating!

What is frating?

Are you familiar with the term “frating”? Are you just friends? Or are you dating? If you don’t know, then you’re frating. Prime example: Luke and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls. For the first couple of seasons, everyone could see there was chemistry between these two. They were great friends, which says something considering Luke didn’t really do friends. But it took five seasons for them to actually admit they liked each other and to finally term themselves as a couple.

Is that what you want – the real life equivalent of five seasons before you know where you stand with the guy you’re currently hanging out with? Think about it, if he decides he’s not into you, you’ve wasted all of that time and mental/emotional energy on a relationship that was headed nowhere.

Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves in pseudo-relationships with guys who are not willing to initiate, act, and commit? If you can identify with what I have described, why did you put so much stock in that friendship? Why did you invest so much? What were you hoping to get out of it? What desire were you attempting to fill – a desire for attention? Affection? Affirmation? Acceptance? Security? Significance? Satisfaction?

Go back through that list of seven core desires that I just rattled off. I wasn’t listing them just to list them. Which of these drives your interactions with men? It might be a combination of desires. But what are you seeking in a relationship with a man instead of seeking from God? And where is that getting you?

Exactly.

The Need for Emotional Purity

We commonly talk about physical purity in our youth groups, college ministries, and pulpits, but purity in our actions begins with purity in our thoughts and affections. We act the way we do because we think the way we do, and we feel the way we do because we think the way we do. What do we allow to fill our minds? What do we daydream about? What do we long for and desire? Does it line up with Philippians 4:8 (whatever is good, honest, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise)?

In relationships, we often set ourselves up for failure. Have you ever seen a horse race? The gates fly open at the start of the race, and the horses launch out galloping full speed, blazing down the field towards the finish line. All too often, we do this with our hearts. We meet someone and quickly become emotionally intimate with them. Please do not mistake me, I am not referring to the speed of a relationship in which there are communicated intentions as well as commitment (so if you’re in a relationship that’s on the fast track, which is becoming quite common at Brook Hills, you can ease off the defensive). What I am taking issue with is emotional closeness and attachment void of communication regarding the status of the relationship.

While roles can be reversed, let me present the stereotype we are all familiar with, and it’s a stereotype for a reason. Girl meets boy. They hit it off and become fast friends, spending lots of time together. Everyone assumes they’re a couple. She assumes they are an item. They text frequently, talk often, and hang out. They click, and she feels that he gets her and cares about her. She shares with him things she’s never told anyone else – hopes, goals, prayer requests – and quickly considers him to be her best friend (in many cases, he has reciprocated with similar behavior). In her mind, she has already started planning their life together, their happily ever after. Then one day, he shows up and wants to introduce her to his new girlfriend. Or she finally can’t take it anymore, confronts him about the relationship, and point blanks ask him where they stand, and he awkwardly (and probably angrily) retorts that he only sees her as a friend (or a sister) and nothing more. When word gets around the friend group, everyone is shocked, and her girlfriends assign him the label of jerk, douchebag, etc. Both leave with frustration, bruised emotions, and deflated egos. “How did I miss this?” she wonders.

Better yet, how do we avoid this?

Which Comes First?

Answer me this. Which should come first in a relationship – intimacy or commitment?

It’s not a trick question, so I hope your response was commitment. We see this pattern with God’s design for marriage, for He allocated sex to occur after marriage. Because of the commitment a husband and wife makes “to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live,” sex becomes a beautiful expression of their love for each other as well as an act that draws them closer to each other. This is God’s design for physical intimacy, but I believe it is also His design with regards to emotional attachment between members of the opposite sex. God clearly warns us not to awaken love before it’s time (Song of Sol. 2:7; 3:5; 8:4), and Solomon’s bride isn’t just talking about sex here.

Here are a few guiding questions for you with regards to gauging your emotional attachment:

  • Have your emotions been stirred up more than what is appropriate for the current commitment level of the relationship? For example, are you mentally planning your future with him when y’all haven’t even had a DTR?
  • Do you feel slighted if you learn that he has spent time with another girl? Do you feel that girl is encroaching on what is “yours”? Do you cling to him? Ladies, he is free to date someone (or hang out with another girl) if he is not dating you, and if y’all have not established that you are exclusively together, you are treating him as though he belongs to you and owes you fidelity when you are not engaged or married (or have even communicated that you are dating).
  • Are you jealous for his time and attention?
  • Is he your go-to person? When you are lonely? When you need advice? When you need a handyman? When you need someone to make you laugh, know about your day, fill time when you are bored? I am not saying that you must refrain from asking men for counsel or help, but is he consistently the one you go to?

And if you have to regularly explain the relationship to other people, that should be a red flag! Y’all need to have a DTR and figure that thing out. Either decide to date or pull back. If people cannot tell if you are free or dating, then the two of you need to figure out what is going on in the relationship.

When You Are the Perp

Until this point, I have focused on situations where we allow ourselves to be the victim, the back-pocket girl, and maybe you have been played like an Xbox. But as much as guys get the rap of being players, we can play the game too. We become the perpetrators when we make him our back-pocket guy.

I have a noticed a trend with Father’s Day and Mother’s Day sermons. Mother’s Day sermons tend to be so encouraging. Pastors elevate the Proverbs 31 ideal or give a thirty-minute (a little longer at Brook Hills) explanation of biblical womanhood preceded or followed by a standing ovation for all the wonderful ladies in the room. But Father’s Day? In that sermon, the men tend to get pounded about how they are not being men but little boys in grown bodies. Maybe it’s because the pastor is male and, thus, feels that he can be more direct and confrontational regarding his own gender. While I don’t want to beat you down, ladies, I do want to confront you regarding the relational sin we are all guilty of, for the guys aren’t the only ones to blame here. We need to own our share of the guilt.

We are all familiar with that verse in Proverbs 4:23 which states, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” But what does that mean? Ask yourself what are you setting your heart on. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 provides some additional insight on this subject. The context for verse six has to do with Paul’s warning about abstaining from sexual immorality and controlling our bodies “in holiness and honor…that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (4:4, 6-7).

That word “wrong” in verse six means “to take advantage of, outwit, defraud, cheat.” It connotes the idea of defrauding a fellow believer and/or their future spouse. It is taking advantage of someone and robbing them (and their future spouse) in some way. Obviously, this refers to physical actions, but it can also include emotional involvement with someone who is not your spouse. While Paul does desire to protect believers physically and emotionally, he also aligns defrauding with impurity and is concerned about them living in a way that glorifies God and honors others. Defrauding another person does not line up with the holiness that God calls us to as His people.

Here are some ways we as Christian women defraud and take advantage of our brothers in relationships:

  • The relationship is one-sided. Do you let him buy you meals or do things for you when you are not interested in him? Do you call or text him only when you are lonely or emotionally vulnerable? Basically, do you use him for how he makes you feel?
  • Do regularly complement or “encourage” him? My roommate brought this one up when we were talking about this post, and it nailed me because I have been guilty of it! Men like affirmation. They like to know they are respected. And don’t we all like to be encouraged and to know that others think well of us? But do you do this regularly to the same man? Do you “encourage” in a manipulative way because you want him to recognize how awesome of a girlfriend you could be or to see that he needs you in his life?
  • Do you flirt and give avid attention to someone whom you are not actually interested in? Maybe you like how it feels to turn a guy’s head. Or maybe seeing their interest or having them pursue you makes you feel better about yourself. You bait the hook, and every now and again, you reel him in just a little and just enough to keep him around. If you are a Downton Abbey fan, this is what Mary does with Tony Gillingham and her other suitors in season five. Bottom line, you are not being fair to the poor chap. Don’t toy with his heart. Be careful about showing consistent attention to a particular guy if you are not interested in him, and avoid singling him out and making a beeline for him when you see him. You are not treating him with the respect that he deserves as a human being and as your brother in Christ. Side note, if you see a sister doing this, lovingly call her out on it. Encourage her to stop flirting with the guy if she does not care for him.
  • Are you hanging out with him to fill up time until (if) someone better comes along? This is not a good reason to hang out with anyone! If you are always looking for the next best thing, you are being inconsiderate and unloving to that person.

Bottom line: be honest with yourself and with God about why you interact with men the way you do. If you are a female player, the actions I have described above are symptoms of heart issues, and you need to spend time with God and evaluate your own heart. Identify and confess sin. If you need to seek forgiveness from someone you have hurt in the past, take the steps to do so. And ask your girlfriends to help you gauge your interactions with men and to ask you questions about your motivations.

I don’t want to make you paranoid about your friendships with guys. Wait – can guys and girls even be “just friends”? If you treat him as though he is your surrogate boyfriend, then no. If it appears to the rest of the world that the two of you are in an exclusive relationship, then no. Can you honestly say that you are treating him like a brother, or do you have competing motivations for the time you spend with him and how you interact with him? Are you emotionally teasing and flirting with one another?

You can be friends with men, but you need to be careful with your own heart and be respectful of them. Do not be afraid of having a clarifying conversation if you are not sure about how he might be feeling. “I just want you to know that I think of you as just a friend” is okay to express – just make sure that your actions align with what you are verbalizing and that you are not giving mixed signals. Honestly, I’m a big fan of hanging out as a group of friends. It provides a neutral, safe environment to get to know folks. But if you spending one-on-one time, particularly lots of one-on-one time, with someone of the opposite sex, then y’all need to either pursue dating or pull back. The exclusivity communicates to everyone around you that you are a couple, and it hinders others from thinking of you as “available.”

Can I just say that arranged marriages in the Bible sure made all of this a whole lot easier! Relationships are messy. Add our sinful natures to the mix, and they can be downright frustrating and dramatic. As a single twentysomething, this article contains things I have felt and watched, and just because I am writing on the subject of frating and emotional purity, I am not exactly the love doctor or an emotional guru who has everything figured out. Writing this article has exposed sin in my own heart. But I do desire to serve my brothers well in my friendships with them. I don’t want to defraud them, and for most of the single men in our church, I would give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they desire to do this whole friendship, dating, and relationship thing right, even if they do not always know what right looks like. We should have grace with one another, assume the best about each other, and be quick to forgive one another.

In conclusion, I offer a few questions to consider regarding your friendships with other single males:

  • Do your conversations and interactions with each other glorify God?
  • Do your words, actions, and heart line up with regards to how you talk with, speak to, and think about that male friend? Do they accurately reflect how you feel about him? Do you treat him as the brother in Christ that he is (see 1 Tim. 5:1-2)?
  • If the friendship were to end today, could you exit the relationship with a clear conscience, without shame, and without being devastated?
  • Could you tell the person’s future spouse that you honored both of them in how you treated him? Or would you be embarrassed by the way you treated him?

 If you would like some additional resources on this topic, check out Emotional Purity by Heather Arnel Paulsen, The Mingling of Souls video clips by Matt & Lauren Chandler (Chandler also has a book by that title), and The Song of Songs sermon series by Breakaway Ministries. In fact, there’s one Mingling of Souls video that I just have to include below because it jives so well with the subject of this post!

God’s Design for Sex

Today’s post was written by Shawn Grubb. She and her husband Rob lead a couples small group at Brook Hills. Click here to read Shawn’s previous post (“Purity In A Perverted World”) on the BH Women Blog.

Yesterday, Dawn Stephens’ post discussed how to get started when having the sex talk with your kids. If you missed that post, click here to read it. For today, Shawn Grubb piggybacks on that subject by providing foundational information about God’s design for sex, and this post contains a selection from the “Developing a Generation of Sexual Purity” booklet that she and her husband wrote.

In the Beginning

God is the architect, engineer, and builder of sex. It is a carefully planned part of our humanity. It was created for our good and His glory. God’s Word says in Genesis 1:31 that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Then, in Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The God of this universe said that man needed a “helper” (which is “ezer” in Hebrew for “strong aid”). In order to fulfill this need, God would craft woman – the perfect partner for man.

When God told Adam to name all the animals, Adam noticed he did not have a suitable companion. “So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air, and all beasts of the fields. But for Adam no suitable helper was found,” (Genesis 2:20). Then God formed woman from the rib he took from Adam and brought her to the man and he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” In the next verse (Genesis 2:24), God says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” They are united, as husband and wife and the two become one flesh through the sexual union. This sexual union was God’s idea, not ours. Sin was nowhere in the story to this point. Sex was created by God as a beautiful gift to man and woman.

Take a minute and let this Truth wash over you. So often, as women we have allowed the sin of this world, the perversion of Satan, and our own hurts and pains to cloud our vision of God’s design. Think about this Truth. God created sex. There was no sin anywhere around when Adam and Eve had sex for the first time. It was beautiful. It was intimate. It was good.

In Genesis 1:27-28, we see the first statement that God makes to Adam and Eve after their creation. “So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it’.” No doubt God is reveling in his creation of Adam and Eve, as sexual beings. It was beautiful! God said that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

Shame & Sex

Where did the shame come in? Why all the fear concerning sex? Why all the perversion? The shame of sex came when man and woman chose to sin, in the very next chapter of Genesis. They deliberately rebelled against a Holy God. At that moment, everything changed for mankind. Much happened as a result of the fall of man. From one sin came all sickness, death, disease, shame, fear, secrets, and ultimately separation from God. It was at that point that Satan began distorting our view of the sexual union. Suddenly, man and woman felt ashamed and they hid themselves from God, (Genesis 3:7).

One of the realities of sin is that its effects swiftly spread, like toxic waste spilled in a rushing river. Satan has deceived and polluted our world with his lies about sex. Sexual immorality is one of the most rampant, least addressed sins we face today. Check out these statistics:

  • “Most experts in the field agree that somewhere over 60% of American teenagers have had sexual intercourse by the time they finish high school. (Lillian B. Rubin, Erotic Wars, Farrar, Straus $ Giroux, New York, 1990)
  • 11 million adults visit adult-only websites in a typical week. (Leadership Journal, Winter 2006, pg. 35)
  • One million children are forced to work in the sex industry every year. Between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America are at risk for being trafficked into the sex industry each year. (Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007)
  • Since Random House bought the rights to the trilogy in 2012, the series, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has sold well over 100 million copies worldwide. Trailers for the movie adaptation of the first book have been viewed 250 million times, according to an ad aired in early February; it grossed over $240 million at the box office in its opening weekend.

With statistics like this, you may wonder if there is any hope. Are we destined to live a life of shame because of the fall and Satan’s influence in our world? Or is there a solution? If so, what is the solution? Certainly, there must be a way to reverse the trend that is so prevalent in our culture today. The Bible tells us that with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27)! Romans 8:1 says that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” That is why Jesus endured the cross. We don’t have to be doomed to a life of darkness and defeat and sexual perversion. Christ died on the cross to restore us back to Himself and to bring us from darkness to light. 1 John 1:6-7 says, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Jesus is the one who purifies us from our sins. Therefore, in order to change, we must first trust in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from our sins and begin to address the lies we have believed regarding sex. There is no way we can dream about training our children in the truth about sex, if we don’t know it ourselves! There’s no way we can dream of having healthy marriages, if we don’t allow Word of God to renew our thinking and change our behaviors.

 Lies About Sex & Our Pasts

What lies has the world fed us regarding sex? What does God say about sex? What should we tell our children? Most of us didn’t hear the truth from God’s Word about sex from our parents. We had to learn it on our own or from our friends. Now it is time to transform our thinking. Romans 12:2 says that we do not have “to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds!” It is time for us as Christian parents to renew our thinking concerning the sexual union. When we do this, we will experience freedom in our marriages and will be able to enjoy the intimacy with our spouse that God intended. As a result, we will be able to hand down a legacy to our children that will promote purity in their lives. As we embrace this purity, we will all be more equipped to fight the enemy’s schemes to pervert and misuse God’s original design. We will be able to take up the full armor of God and make a difference in our world, and by the Grace of God, we can begin to change the statistics we have just read.

Every person has a past. Sometimes that past has been very painful. We may have made wrong choices that have brought difficulty into our lives. Or maybe our pain is a result of someone else’s choice to sin (i.e. rape, incest, abuse). Regardless, when we have been hurt by sexual sin, whether the hurt came from our own sin or the world inflicting that sin upon us, this distorts our view of sex. We have a cloudy view of what God’s original intent for sex was. So, please take a minute and ask the Lord Jesus to open your heart and mind to His design. Ask Him to take this truth and wash away all the lies concerning sex and all the perversion this world has handed to us. Ask Him to clear your vision so that you can see His beautiful design absent of the stain of sin.

Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” If the Truth sets us free, the lie is what binds us. Jesus says in John 8:44 that the devil is the “father of lies.” In order to walk in freedom regarding sex, we must allow the Lord to show us the lies we have believed and we must hold them up to the Word of God. We must adjust our beliefs to line up with the God’s Truth.

God’s Truth Concerning Sex

TRUTH #1: God’s design for sex has always been procreation.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it’.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

The very first statement that God made to Adam and Eve is about blessing them in their procreation. God is taking great pleasure in his creation of Adam and Eve as sexual beings. Humankind goes forth from the hands of the Creator with this first command to flourish, fill the earth with their kind, and exercise their dominion over the other earthly creatures. So, in the very beginning of time, God’s command was to go, fill the earth through procreation and subdue it. God said it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Adam and Eve were, no doubt, quite happy to obey.

TRUTH #2: God’s design for sex has always been intimacy and knowledge.

“For this reason the man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

This coming together as one flesh is expressing a closeness and an intimacy that only can be experienced through the joining together in sexual intercourse. Poet-farmer Wendell Berry talks about sexuality in life, he explains, “it is centered on marriage, which joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined. This joining of two who know, love and trust one another brings them in the same breath in the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful and joyful” (Sex Economy, Freedom and Community).

This intimacy within the marriage covenant brings a deep level of knowledge that can only be understood through this oneness. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1). The Hebrew word used here for “knew” is the word “yada.” This word means to have a deep knowledge of something and is translated as sexual intercourse here in this text. Through God’s gift of sex, a husband and wife receive an intimate knowledge of one another that they have with no one else. This knowledge brings a depth to their relationship, like no other here on earth.

*Some of the above two paragraphs were adapted from Intimate Issues by Linda Dillows and Lorraine Pintus.

TRUTH #3: God designed sex to be a mysterious picture of Christ and the Church.

When husband and wife come together as one flesh in purity, it is a mystery on many different levels. The union between husband and wife pleases God so very much when kept pure. This relationship is so beautiful to God that He chose to compare the husband/wife relationship to Christ and the church.

In Ephesians 5:31-32 the apostle Paul writes, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” This marriage relationship and the intimacy God has given us through sexual union is actually an icon of the sacred union between Christ and the church! This is truly a mystery that deserves our time and prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what this means. No wonder Satan is attacking so many marriages through sexual deceit and adultery! Marriage is sacred to God and is a covenant relationship that is precious in God’s eyes. Marriage is meant to be a picture for the world to see the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ.

TRUTH #4: God designed sex not just as a physical act; it is a spiritual act that brings glory to our Creator.

“So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

We have been created in the image of God. Think about it! God created both man and woman in His likeness. So what happens when the two come together in one flesh? This is a beautiful picture of God’s character, the fullest earthly realization of the image of God! God’s glorious plan is brought to oneness between man and woman.

Sex is not just a physical act. Glenn Stanton writes, “The human sexual embrace, this most intimate and ultimate of all human giving and vulnerability, ought to take place in a union of total and permanent surrender of two people. That’s what marriage is: both public and personal dedication of a man and woman to forsake all and give themselves fully – body, mind, spirit – to another. It is impossible to separate the union. Where did we ever get the idea that we can separate our bodies from our mind and spirits and that our bodies could do whatever they like without consequences for the rest of our being?” (God’s Design for Sex series, How We Dishonor God in our Sex Lives). God, who is Triune, has created us in His image. We are made up of three parts: mind, soul and body. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Sex does not just affect us physically; it affects our mind, our soul and our body. When husband and wife come together in sexual union, it is a glorious picture of the image of God that we represent as His creation.

Truth #5: God designed sex to help guard us from temptation.

God’s gift of sexuality can be used powerfully for good or misused for evil. His gift is used for good through procreation, intimacy, knowledge, and a representation of the relationship between Christ and the church! God’s Word warns us of the temptations of sexual immorality, in which men and women take his gift and use it for evil.

Proverbs 5:15 instructs, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.” Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” 1 Corinthians 7:2, 5 also speaks about sex in marriage: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

The Christian deprived of regular sexual activity with his or her spouse may be tempted by Satan to sexual immorality. By no means does this suggest that if someone falls into sexual sin that it is his or her spouse’s fault. Just a few chapters later in 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul writes, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Clearly, we must take responsibility of our own sin and choose to flee temptation. However, we cannot deny Paul’s distinct call on the husband and wife to take seriously our obligation within the marriage bed.

TRUTH #6: God designed sex for our pleasure.

Proverbs 5:18-19 “May your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Yes! God wants you to enjoy your spouse. The sexual union in marriage is to be enjoyed by both husband and wife. Certainly every situation is different, but you may be thinking… “Not in my marriage!” The world tells us that the husband desires sex anytime, anywhere, for any reason, and the woman often dreads sex anytime, anywhere and for any reason. Is this just the way God made us, or is this another lie the enemy has fed us?

Let us look one more time in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul writes, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”

All too often we hear the first part of this Scripture, “the wife’s body does not belong to her alone…” but we leave the last part out. Did God give us different sex drives to torture us? Absolutely not! God did not create sex to be a hassle or a duty. Sex is God’s beautiful creation, given to us for many reasons, in which our pleasure is a part of that. He could have chosen to allow us to procreate by kissing or holding hands. Remember, He is God, and He created everything just the way He desired. We firmly believe that God’s design for sex was given for our enjoyment. This doesn’t mean that we don’t go through days or even seasons that our desire for our spouse may be at a minimal level. During these seasons, we must rely heavily on God’s grace, choose to obey his Word, and diligently pray for God’s blessing over our sexual union.

Pleasure is great! God is clearly not against us enjoying our sexual relationship within the context of marriage. However, keep in mind that sexual pleasure is a byproduct – an outgrowth of other things that are more important. If we pursue pleasure for pleasure’s sake, we stand a chance of it steering us wrong. We can experience pleasure from doing wrong, as well as from doing what’s right. There can be immediate fleshly pleasure in some of the most hideous sexual sins. So, let us seek first to honor God in our marriages, in our lives and in the sexual union with our spouses by being servant-hearted and selfless. Then we can trust God to bring the pleasure to our sexual relationship with our spouse that He ordains.

In summary, God’s design for sex is for procreation, intimacy, and knowledge. He has created the intimacy in marriage to mysteriously represent the intimacy of Christ and the church. This is not just a physical act, but a spiritual joining together of two people. When this intimacy is kept pure, it brings great glory and reveals the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. In addition to all of this, God designed sex to guard us from temptation and bring pleasure to the marriage relationship.

A final note to moms (and dads) seeking to train children in God’s design for sex and purity

Let us be aware that one of the ways that sin has stained our minds concerning our desire for sex is through a negative message on this topic. Most of us had parents that chose to remain silent about sex. Then others of us had parents that did choose to “have the talk.” However, it probably went something like this… “Here is a book, read it and if you have any questions let me know. And by the way, this is not something you should do before you get married. It is wrong and is a sin. You could get pregnant or even end up with some disease!” NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE!

Yes, these are all true statements about sex outside of marriage, but is it the best message to start with as we begin the education process with our children? Fast-forward a few years… a daughter gets married and the parents give the newlyweds their blessing and say, “go and enjoy!!” Wait! It’s not that simple. Our minds are programmed… “Sex is bad, it is a sin, it is wrong.” How do we just automatically push erase and learn to enjoy what God has given us?

Sex is a gift! Has anyone told you that? Has anyone told our children that? What should they think about the sexual union between husband and wife? How are they supposed to know the truth if we don’t tell them? Recognize that these negative messages are motivated by fear. We think if we scare our kids away from sex, then they will not have sex until they are married. In the meantime, we are choosing not to disciple our children in the Truth regarding God’s design for sex. The beauty and glory of the sexual union should be planted in our children from the beginning. There is a time and place to explain the consequences of sexual immorality but, ideally, not until after the truth has been planted. Out of this truth will grow righteousness and purity.

These truths are much too profound to go untouched! It is time to embrace this subject with God’s TRUTH and expose all darkness as it relates to the beauty of the sexual union within marriage. Through the power of the cross and the restoration it brings and through the power of God’s Word, God will bring forth a generation that is sexually pure! We can also regain the ground that the enemy has destroyed in our own marriages. It’s time to go to battle for our marriages and our children’s purity. The war between Satan and Jesus has already been won. However, the battles over our sexual purity and our children’s sexual purity still rage on. A generation of sexual purity is hanging in the balance. Christian parents, it is time to rise up and fight this battle! Embrace it in TRUTH! “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!” (John 8:32).

No Need to Whisper…Mom!

Today’s post was written by Dawn Stephens, who is the Women’s Minister at Brook Hills.

Recently as I was sitting at a table of young moms and the conversation turned to questions about our children’s sexuality, the voices got quieter. They whispered when they talked about it, sex…….why?

Why do we whisper in shamed and embarrassed tones about sex when the world is blatantly shouting about it with all its might? Why do we fret and stress over talking with our children about their God-given gift of sexuality when the world is clearly communicating a distorted picture across every media platform possible?

As Christian mothers, we have been given both the Scriptural understanding of God’s design for sex and the discipling opportunity to talk with our children about this gift He gave us all.

I understand some of us made poor choices in regards to our sexuality as young adults and that might affect why we are ashamed and feel ill equipped to teach our children about God’s design and plan for their bodies. But there is no need to be ashamed or to live handicapped in regret. For those of us who have submitted our hearts and minds to Christ and have trusted in Him as our Savior, He is and can be Lord over our sexuality, in all its brokenness and beauty.

His forgiveness of our sins extends back to those high school and college days when we lived for the flesh and the flirtation of the moment. His forgiveness covers our secrets and shame of childhood and “remembers it no more.” Therefore ,we shouldn’t either.

Sisters, walk in forgiveness of those poor choices and ask Christ to give you both confidence and peace to teach this next generation what God’s Word has to say about sex. Or if you were a virgin when you married and have no sexual sin in your past, but you were raised in a home that did not talk about “it,” that is okay. It doesn’t make you dirty or unladylike or anything else that the enemy might tell you are if you clearly and lovingly talk with your children about this most important part of who God made them to be…sexual beings.

Here are a few things to remember as you prepare to talk to your children about their sexuality:

  • Talk with your heavenly Father first and ask Him to forgive you of your sexual sin and to help you to live a life of sexual purity in front of your children in all its forms (your speech, entertainment choices, magazine/book choices ,and how you live with and love your spouse) as well as give you wisdom and love in how to talk with your children about their sexuality.
  • Talk with their earthly father second (whether you are married to him or not) and ask him how he would want you to talk with your children about their sexuality. This can open up some great conversations between the two of you about a most important topic in the lives of your children. You might be surprised at what you learn!
  • Make a plan with dad on how and when these important conversations need to take place.
  • Find a great resource(s) to both educate you on biblical sexuality as well as on the basic information all children need at certain developmental milestones. Below are a few resources I recommend:

My husband and I used the God’s Design for Sex series with our son. We all

Dawn and her 6th grade son Tyler

Dawn and her 6th grade son Tyler

sat down together and read the books (1 and 2) when he reached each developmental milestone. Then we asked him if he had any questions… those usually come later and at interesting times!

For young children (under 10) answer their questions as honest and appropriately as possible when they ask them. Don’t give them too much detail that they don’t need or don’t want to know, but encourage them to ask you first if they have any more questions about the subject.

For older children and teens, talk honestly and clearly about the topics in our culture that they ask questions about or mention in conversation, always giving God’s plan as the foundational truth. Create an environment of openness and approachability with your teens. They will tend come to you more often if they know all questions are good questions!

Finally, don’t make this too big and bad in your minds! Remember, God made sex for our good and His glory, and He will help us accurately and appropriately teach our children about one of his most good gifts – sex!

Another recommended article is “How Do I Talk to My Daughter about Sex and Masturbation” by Sissy Golf.

Love & Marriage

Today’s post was written by Phyllis Herron. She and her husband Pat lead a Marriage Prep Small Group at Brook Hills for engaged and newly married couples, and they have a passion for pointing marriages to Christ.

If I were to ask you if women are good communicators, most of us would say “Yes!” We communicate with our parents, in-laws, girlfriends, our kids, our kids’ teachers and coaches, the grocery store checkout clerk, our co-workers, people at the gym, and even the mailman. We probably think that we are even the better communicator in our marriage. But can you talk to your husband about sex? I don’t mean to discuss whether “it” will happen tonight. I mean can you talk about what you like and don’t like and why? Can you describe what feels good and what doesn’t? Do you check with him to see if he’s satisfied in that area? If we can’t talk about sex with our husbands, how can we be comfortable in the act of sex?

Along these same lines, do you have secrets from your husband? I’m not suggesting that you have to account for every word you say in a day or what you had for lunch. But are there things that you intentionally don’t tell him? If so, why are you hiding it? The answer could lead you to an issue that the two of you really should deal with. If you don’t want to tell him about the conversation that you had with a co-worker of the opposite sex, could that indicate that you are attracted to some aspect of that co-worker? Your husband needs to know how you feel, and you need to allow your husband to fill that aspect in your marriage instead of that relationship with your co-worker. Are there things you tell your best girlfriend or your mom that you don’t tell your husband? Again, this should be a red-flag that there’s something that you need to talk with your husband about.

I believe that communication is one of the foundations of a great sex life.

How often do you say yes to your husband when he initiates sexual intimacy with you? How often do you say no? This topic is foreign to most engaged couples we talk with. They are trying everything they can to stay pure and not engage in sex, and they can’t comprehend saying no. I have a friend who has been married for almost ten years and has never told her husband no. Think about this with me for a minute – how many of you want your husband to be the spiritual leader of your family? Based on the number of questions we’ve had on this topic, probably most of us. If we want our husbands to lead and initiate and then we take control and tell them no, are we allowing or even encouraging them to lead? I want to be like my friend! I want to encourage my husband to lead and support him.

In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul urges married couples, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Now, I can almost hear the sighs and see the rolled eyes. What about when you are tired after a long day of work and family? I struggle with this. By the time I climb into bed at night, I’m already half asleep and already wishing I could sleep longer. Lots of times, I’m just not thinking about sex, and it really surprises me when my hubby initiates it. That’s a major difference in men and women! However, if I allow myself to actually like the idea and be okay, actually happy with it, my body really does respond. So give yourselves a chance to answer positively instead of the automatic no.

Next, how many of you like your bodies? Some of us might admit that we like parts of our bodies, but some of us don’t like anything. We see every imperfection. Here’s a news flash – our husbands don’t see our imperfections. They love our bodies, and when they see our bodies, it usually leads somewhere. The only way I can halfway understand this is to think about how much I love when my husband and I have one of those moments when we laugh at something only we can understand and think is funny and then equate that to how much he loves my body.

So, I’m actually talking about two of the three kinds of love in the Greek language. There’s phileo love, which is friendship love and really describes the husband and wife as best friends. Think about Romans 12:9-13 where our attitude and commitment impacts the relationship. Next, there’s eros love, which is characterized by passion and sexual desire. This is not bad – read Song of Soloman, and you’ll get lots of passion and sexual desire from that married couple. God created erotic love to be shared in our marriages. I think that most women would say there’s not enough phileo in their marriages, and most men would say there’s not enough eros in their marriages. But really, there’s not enough of the third kind of love – agape love. We think about agape love as how God loves us. But, think about 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, commonly called the love chapter. These verses describe when you give and don’t expect anything in return. Phileo and eros both give and take in their actions of love. Agape love is when you give love unconditionally and not because your spouse is wonderful or has done something nice. You give agape kind of love to serve your spouse. We’re only able to do this because God demonstrates agape love to us when He accepts us unconditionally.

So, I know you are thinking what does agape love have to do with sex? Actually, it has everything to do with sex. Our marriage relationships aren’t complete if we are missing any of these three aspects of love. We need the agape to accept each other and love each other no matter what. We need the phileo to share love together as best friends. And we need the eros to experience the oneness and pleasure that sex brings in marriage.

A great book (especially for singles, but even for married folks) having to do with our attitudes about sex is Love, Sex, & Lasting Relationships by Chip Ingram.

It Feels Good To Be Bad: Confessions of a Tease

Today’s post was written by Jamie K who works on our Student Ministry Team.

“It feels good to be bad, to break hearts, to make you sad.” One of my favorite songwriters wrote these lyrics, and it’s pretty catchy. It’s good to be bad…but is it really? That good feeling didn’t last for me, and an entire generation will be fiercely disappointed when the bad girl lifestyle doesn’t pay off the way it promised.

designThere is the kind of girl guys want to date, then there’s the kind of girl they want to marry. Of course, I heard that one before. But how are you supposed to get married if you can’t get a date? And what does it say about me if all the other girls have boyfriends and I’m single because I’m the virgin Mary of our friend group? I realized early on that it just wasn’t paying off to be good.

Being called “sweet” or “cute” was not a good thing! “Cute” like the dress you kind of like but not enough to actually buy. “Sweet” like some unfortunate child trying their hand at singing and failing miserably. No. The girls who won the attention were hot, mysterious, and just a little bit bad. They said sultry things like “trouble can be a whole lot of fun.” I WANT TO BE THAT COOL! So I did what all cute little girls did – put on the act of being a little bit bad. Fortunately, my imitation of the “bad girls” was horrifically awkward until college and even then I could only pull off the tease. As a Christian, I thought this was a good compromise: pretend to be bad but don’t actually follow through on it. Then I could have the attention and not really be sinning in the process. However, toying with the appearance of sin proved just as destructive and desolate and, yes, sinful. See, my heart still desired the same things-to get attention, to be the object of adoration, to get what I wanted no matter the cost. And worse, I arrogantly believed I found a way to get around God’s rules, to work the system.

Our culture does an excellent job convincing women that to be attractive is to be sexy and to be sexy is to be dangerous. Show just enough skin to get his mind going. Give him a little, but always leave him wanting more. Women want that attention for any number of reasons, but power and insecurity top the list. I have guys drooling at my feet; therefore, I am powerful and worth something! I can make them my slaves and manipulate them into bowing at my kitten heels. I can get whatever I want. So I tempt and tantalize with my words, with my eyes, with my body. I sacrifice purity in small ways because men want experienced women (no one wants a bad kisser, right?). I take up smoking the occasional cigarette or showing a little skin or making out with a few guys just to keep up appearances so they see I’m “not that innocent” (thank you, Britney Spears). Honestly, I wanted to take the place of God in relationships. I wanted to control men’s hearts and affections with just a flash of my baby blues. I wanted to prove my own worth rather than believing that my worth is found in Christ. And it led to destroyed hearts and relationships. And I regret ever leaving behind that sweet, naïve girl for the lies the world sold me.

God calls us to be completely pure and set apart from the world. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Our Father loves righteousness and purity and innocence. He warns us away from toying with sin…because it’s not harmless. And here’s some practical advice – God is right. The bad girl thing doesn’t actually work. You may get a man’s attention with the bad girl persona, but to keep that interest going, you have to sacrifice more and more physically. That feeling of exhilaration from “a little trouble” quickly fades, and it takes more and more to keep him with you. You have to become perverse to remain “interesting” and “dangerous,” and one day, you will no longer recognize the woman in the mirror. Sin will take you farther than you thought possible, and you will end up broken, clutching the shattered, empty promises that were whispered in your ear when you started this whole charade.

Praise God that He can redeem us from the bad girl mentality and bring restoration to our destruction! Praise God that He is a loving Father and actually does lead us in what’s best for us. So why am I writing this? Because I work with teenage girls, and I see it playing out in their lives all the time. I see them falling for the lie. I see my own friends in their 20s still falling for the lie. I see its destructive power, and I am so tired of watching it happen over and over! My hope is that we will be women who shine light on sin and expose it for what it is so that our friends and sisters and cousins won’t fall for the same lies. I want to be like Solomon warning his son against the destructive power of evil. I want my precious 15 year old cousin to keep that innocent, sweet countenance and to see how stunningly beautiful it really is. I won’t let the world’s lies be all she hears. So I tell her the truth and pray that God would protect her from believing the lie. And I hope that you’ll tell her too. I hope that you’ll be another voice imploring with truth in a world ruled by the father of lies. Ephesians 5:11 says “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Let’s get to it, ladies!

Coming Out Of The Closet

My first exposure to homosexuality came in middle school when a new girl came to our school. Vivacious in personality, she loved boy bands (this was the era of “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Want It That Way”), and she had a strange expression that she used whenever she found something to be weird or crazy or when she wanted to issue an insult – “That’s gay!” My best friends at the time (and still to this day) have Gay as their last name, and around middle school, I started noticing the odd looks and snickers that would come when our families would be at restaurants together (“Gay party of nine!”). Then Queer Eye for the Straight Guy hit television. But while I learned what homosexuality is, for me it occurred outside my small town Christian bubble. If someone did struggle with same sex attraction in my hometown, they would not have dared tell anyone about it because of the ostracism they would have faced.

Fast forward to college when I left my bubble. Many of the middle schoolers I worked with were either openly gay or were trying to sort through which gender they were attracted to. And one of the first girls I met and became friends with at college had recently broken up with another girl, had started living with a guy, and was trying to figure out whether she was a lesbian or bi. As you can imagine, I did not always know how to respond to things she would say, for she operated under a completely different framework than me. In the summers during college and grad school, I worked as a camp counselor and had a fellow staffer whom I mentored and who talked about her best friend (a girl) in the same way that most girls talk about their boyfriends. Both came from dysfunctional families, and from my perspective, codependent described the nature of their friendship. And that codependency morphed their friendship into something more. Homosexuality quickly became more than a political issue to vote on as my state sought to outlaw gay marriage. I now associated names and faces with the term. I begin seeing how my beliefs and my voting record would affect people whom I knew and cared about – people who needed Jesus and His gospel.

As with most Christian college students, I did not always voice my beliefs in a respectful and loving way (if you’re into Meyers-Briggs, I’m a heavy “J,” very black and white). After reading some research by Barna about what unbelievers think about Christians, I became convicted about being known more for what I was against rather than what I am for. “Hate the sin and love the sinner” is so much easier to say than to actually do. It’s messy and complicated. How do I care for someone without worrying about them becoming attracted to me? Sleepovers with friends start becoming awkward and taboo in middle school/high school when friends start voicing their same sex attraction. What do I do if my college roommate is gay? And what if it’s a family member who comes out? While I disapprove of the nature of the relationship, I am still called to be kind and loving to that person and their partner. So how do I actually hate the sin and love the sinner? And we have not even touched the subject of Christians who might struggle with same sex attraction themselves. How should they respond to temptation? Is our sexual orientation fixed? Will God change homosexual desires into heterosexual desires, or will same sex attracted people have an attraction for their same sex for the rest of their time on earth? And is homosexuality actually a sin (and if so, why)?

Obviously, one blog post cannot sufficiently address all of these questions, so for the subject of homosexuality, I am providing you with resources and descriptions that can assist you in thinking through various issues related to homosexuality. It is in no way exhaustive, but it is a start to a conversation that we should be having as Christ-followers.

What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

How Do I Share the Gospel with a Gay Friend, Classmate, Professor, or Family Member?

Other Helpful Resources Regarding Homosexuality

Is BDSM Biblical?

A couple of weekends ago, I was driving back to Birmingham from Atlanta on I-20, and I noticed a billboard for an “adult store” that contained a picture of the 50 Shades book with the slogan “Create your own Red Room!” Even if you haven’t read the books (which I haven’t), you know the implications of such a statement.

Inspired by the 50 Shades books and movie, a company named Lovehoney Ltd. owns global rights to the branded Fifty Shades sex toys and even has a “Red Room Collection” of bondage items. The Chicago Tribune reports that sales of BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) products have more than doubled in this country since 50 Shades became a bestseller. Sales of such items grew to $609.8 million in 2013, and even your neighborhood Target is currently selling 50 Shades sex gear.

But 50 Shades and that billboard on I-20 are just more blatant about an aspect of sex culture that is growing more predominant even on primetime television. In the past couple of years, I have turned off the TV (or more accurately, my laptop) when watching shows like CastleForever, and even BBC’s Sherlock when I realized that a particular episode was delving into the sexual underworld consisting of dominatrixes, BDSM practices, and all that those things involve. But with the release of the 50 Shades books and now the movie, that underworld has gone from taboo to mainstream as many fans have begun applying what they are reading to their own relationships. BDSM is on the upswing, moving into bedrooms across the country, even in Birmingham suburbia.

BDSM is not just kinky sex. It involves abuse, pain, dominance, and even a contract, and as Gary Thomas writes, “Let’s be honest. If your lover leads you to a place that looks like the ‘Spanish Inquisition,’ you’re in a horror movie, not a romance.” The words BDSM, sadism, or masochism may not mean much to you, or it may bother you that I am daring to weigh in on what’s right and wrong in the bedroom – your bedroom. Can I tell you why I’m writing this article? Because I desire for God to be glorified in the marriages and the sexual activity of His people. Because I know that if we as believers would have the courage to address what the world blatantly discusses and displays, we could proactively help the next generation identify sin and resist temptation. And because I am tired of just being reactive when it comes to walking with my friends and my college girls who are dealing with sexual sin and its effects – I would rather help my sisters avoid such things. Therefore, BDSM is something I will address even if doing so causes eyebrows to lift, faces to blush, or people to become uncomfortable. But if you know me, you also know that my heart is to do this in a way that is clear, respectful, appropriate, and points people to Jesus.

First, let me clarify that BDSM differs from sexual play, but as Dannah Gresh notes in Pulling Back the Shades, “Sexual play, even within marriage, crosses the line if it ever causes physical harm, is degrading, or violates your will.” Sadism involves a “dominant” who enjoys inflicting pain on another person, “the submissive,” and a masochist is the one who enjoys receiving the pain and humiliation. A sadist might use tools such as whips, crops, handcuffs, etc., but sadism can also include verbal abuse. Why would anyone want to incorporate such aberrant practices in their relationship? Would you really want to sleep next to someone who takes pleasure in causing you pain? And if you are wanting to do these types of things to someone else, what does that indicate about your desires and about your beliefs regarding yourself, others, and God’s design for sexuality?

Although the concordance in the back of my Bible lacks the words “sadism” or “masochism,” we do see plenty of description regarding God’s design for men, women, marriage, and sex, and it is His design as stated in His Word that demonstrate how BDSM aligns more with sin’s perversion of sex than it does God’s design.

Look back at Genesis 3 with me. After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, God approaches them in the Garden to confront them about their sin and to deliver the consequences. Genesis 3:16 states, “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Let me clarify what this verse is not saying. Submission and headship are not a result of the Fall but are part of God’s original design for marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). When God tells Eve that her husband will “rule” over her, this word “rule” describes more than just leadership. It points to dominion, mastery, lordship, and harsh oppression. Because of sin’s distortion, aggression – including an abuse of authority against women – would be a sinful tendency of men (passivity is also a tendency), but God’s design for men involves male headship – not male dominance.

Because of sin, women also air on one side of the sinful spectrum or the other – passivity or aggression. Passivity shows itself in “Dora the Doormat” who doesn’t think for herself, allows others to run all over her, and cannot tell anyone “no;” in “Needy Nora” who cannot be alone, is clingy, and must always have someone else around; or in “Victim Valerie” who never claims responsibility, never is at fault, feels entitled, and thinks that everyone is out to get her. And in women, aggression shows itself in “Wear the Pants Wanda” who dominates and runs over others to get what she wants; in “Feminist Fran” who thinks she can do whatever she wants with her body, who holds men responsible for female oppression, and who takes even gentlemanly behavior as an insult; and in “Seductive Sarah” who uses sex to her benefit and likes the power she can have over men. Granted, these stereotypes play on extremes, but you can see how both men and women lean towards either passivity or aggression because of sin? And can you see how sadism aligns with the aggressive tendency and masochism with passivity? As Allen Ross states in his commentary on Genesis, “…the woman at her worse would be a nemesis to the man, and the man at his worst would dominate the woman.”

Furthermore, think about what marriage depicts – the relationship between Christ and the church. Is Christ a sadist? Does he enjoy inflicting pain on His people? Is that how He shows His love for us? No! “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Christ demonstrated His love through self-sacrifice. He died to give us life, and He did this knowing that not everyone would return His affection. In Ephesians 5:28-29, Paul commands husbands to “love their wives as their own bodies,” which involves nourishing and cherishing them – not injuring them.

To the wife, God instructs her to submit to her husband and to respect him (Eph. 5:22, 33). When women try to dominate, manipulate, or control others – specifically their husbands – they sin. Also, Proverbs 14:1 states, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” The submissive wife refrains from tearing down her home, from tearing down her husband. The submissive wife honors her husband with her thoughts, words, and actions and encourages him as he leads. Furthermore, biblical submission does not go along with sin nor does it instigate it. For women to become masochists demonstrates, at the very least, ignorance of biblical submission, or maybe it shows that a woman desires submission but acts on that desire in way that is perversely submissive. BDSM serves as a counterfeit, a substitute for wanting a man to act like a man, to take charge, and to initiate. In light of all of this, engaging in BDSM within the context of marriage makes a mockery of the gospel demonstration that God designed marriage to be.

But what about sex toys?

I cannot even accurately count the number of weddings, engagement parties, and bridal showers I have been involved with since my college days, but I would guess that it hits somewhere close to triple digits (last year alone was ten – one engagement party, four bridal showers, and five weddings). But confession, I am not a fan of lingerie showers. Thus far, the lingerie showers I have been to have been tame in comparison to many that some of my friends have attended, but even at that, I have been taken aback by some of the things that are given as gifts at lingerie showers, even if they are given in jest.

As girls in my college small group are getting engaged and married (hence the amount of showers and weddings on my calendar for 2014 and 2015), a question I am hearing voiced has to do with sex toys and what is permissible in marriage. They know the world has an “anything goes” attitude about sex when it involves two consenting adults, but no one has ever taken the time to discuss with them what the Bible says regarding a host of sexual issues, including this one. Now, sex toys and BDSM are not necessarily synonymous, but because the two do overlap and because the Bible does not specifically mention sex toys, included below are a few helpful questions to consider regarding the use of sex toys in marriage. The point here is to help you think critically about what you incorporate in your marriage.

  • Does it go against God’s design? For example, the involvement of sexual fantasy about someone other than your mate, erotica, pornography, or the involvement of another person in your sex life would be against God’s design for marriage and sex.
  • Does it harm either of you?If it results in injury such as bruises or cuts or is hurtful in any way, then it is not appropriate. The same goes for anything that causes emotional pain or makes one feel demeaned, humiliated, or abused.
  • Is it loving?Think of how 1 Corinthians defines love. Does the action align with what the Bible says is loving?
  • Is it habit-forming?If it becomes something you cannot do without or if it begins to have mastery over you (such as an addiction), then your marriage would be better off without it.
  • Does it benefit your marriage or tear it down?If it hinders your ability to be satisfied by your mate or to trust your mate, then it is not good for your marriage. What are you both comfortable with?

God’s not anti-pleasure. Keep in mind, He’s the One who created sex in the first place! So if it does not go against His design and His Word, if does not cause harm or have mastery over you, and if it fosters love and true intimacy in your marriage, then go for it! God wants you to enjoy having sex with your mate, but the Enemy wants to deceive you and to make you feel as though you are missing out. If you are single, he might be trying to convince you that you are missing out by not being married and having sex. If you are married, the lie might be that BDSM could spice up your sex life and that you are missing out if you do not at least try it. This is how he got  to Eve – by questioning God’s character and by telling her that she was missing out, that God was withholding wisdom and pleasure from her (Gen. 3:5-6).

With all of this, avoid becoming legalistic about your sex life, but be wary of going to the other extreme by accepting or tolerating things without considering how they line up with God’s design. As Dr. Juli Slattery states, “God is greatest proponent of your pleasure-not the pleasure that is sweet for a season, but the deep, profound satisfaction that only grows sweeter with time. Once you understand what God has said ‘no’ to, you are free to have a great time exploring all he has given you to enjoy.”

Bringing Sexual Sin to Light

Today’s post was written by a Brook Hills member who is a college student at Samford.

As I begin to tell my story, I think about the constant freedom that the Lord has shown me from my sin this last year and a half. Masturbation, a sin that had once controlled my life, now has no hold on me. That is not to say there is no temptation, but rather my heart has been transformed.

I began noticing at a young age that I was a sexual person and began exploring that part of me when I was around nine years old. I had no idea what I was doing or what it even meant, but I knew it felt weird and good all at the same time. I continued masturbating from age nine to college with a few years of exception in between. When I became a senior in college, I realized that masturbation was continuing to take hold of my life, and I needed to bring it to the light in some way.

I opened up to a really good friend about it one night (so nervous as to what she would say) and found out she had also struggled with it too. That’s when I began to realize way more females my age had this deep dark secret as well. It wasn’t just me. This friend and I began to pray together, asking the Lord to remove this hold that had been on both of our hearts for some time. We began to keep each other accountable and to check in on how the other one was holding up. Through constant prayer, accountability, and the Lord’s continued grace we slowly became free of this sin. We were going 2 to 3 to 4 months with no acts and seeing how our hearts began to transform over time. Christ gave us more confidence.

We told our discipleship leader, and through her prayers and incredible support along the way, we would go even more months with no acts. That being said, there were temptations along the way. I felt more tempted when I was alone or when I was feeding myself lies. Getting away from my loneliness and running toward Scripture, a song, or even a walk always helped. I also would call up one of my accountability partners just to talk and to get my mind thinking of something other than what I was feeling.

Being proactive in my temptations and catching them before they got to the action is the key. I had to be mindful of certain TV shows or movies that would trigger inappropriate thoughts. I didn’t realize how much those types of images can be glued to your brain. As my story comes to an end, I am reminded of how this issue is not talked about much in regards to women. But believe me, it is a sin that women also struggle with and one that is kept in those dark places of people’s hearts. The most freeing and joyful thing that I could have done was bring it to the light, and I would encourage anyone struggling with masturbation to tell someone and to take that leap of faith. Lastly, I give everything to Christ our Savior who brought me out of darkness, who continues to renew my heart daily, and who reminds me that He went to the cross for my sins and it is finished.

For more information on what it looks like to address the sin of masturbation in your life, read this post.