“My boyfriend expects me to have sex. Everybody’s doing it. I don’t see what the big deal is . . . besides, I like it too.”
When I heard these words from a girl I’ve watched grow up, it broke my heart. She didn’t care what the Bible had to say on the subject, and she didn’t want to hear my opinion either. It broke my heart because I knew it broke the Father’s heart.
The trail of devastated lives left in the wake of behavior that is destructive, should deeply concern all of us. In the name of tolerance and personal freedom, too many people have accepted a worldview that is damaging the souls, minds and lives of millions.
For the record, I’m not some right-wing-prudish-self-righteous-and-out-of-touch-religious fanatic.
I’m a man and husband trying to walk in purity and in faithfulness to his wife.
I’m a dad and granddad who’s deeply concerned for his family.
I’m a pastor who has seen firsthand over and over again the emotional and physical devastation of people who do life their way rather than God’s.
That being said, here’s my concern: We live in a culture that has normalized the abnormal. We now embrace without reservation what used to be considered morally unacceptable or at best questionable.
Back a thousand years ago, when I was in high school, the girl who “slept around” and dressed provocatively was considered a loose woman. Lots of guys might have wanted to get into her pants, but none of them wanted to bring her home to meet their mom. For millennia, sex outside of marriage was considered wrong and immoral. Now it’s simply a common recreational activity—no big deal.
Today, according to several studies, the average age a boy or girl loses their virginity is 16 or 17 and many are much younger.
Back in the dark ages during my childhood, a PG-13 movie rating meant no nudity and no F-Bombs. Now partial nudity and at least one or two sexually crude words are commonplace in PG-13 movies.
Once upon a time, the hot TV programs were The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie. You actually could sit down with your grade school children and enjoy TV shows together. Now sex is the overwhelming common denominator in everything from sit-coms to medical dramas to crime shows. Can you think of a primetime program that doesn’t include somebody sleeping with someone outside of marriage? If fact, today if you’re a virgin, you’re considered weird—a nerd and a loser.
When I was a kid, Victoria’s Secret commercials would have been considered soft porn, and you had to buy a “dirty magazine” to get the real stuff. Now these ads are on just about every TV channel, and you can find porn on the web for free and in many popular apps (like Twitter and Instagram).
Like it or not, here are some realities for your consideration:
God created sex for marital pleasure and procreation and to develop a deep emotional bond between a husband and a wife.
Every time people give themselves to someone sexually outside of marriage, they give away an irretrievable piece of their soul that God intended for them to give to their lifelong marriage partner. By the time they get married, these people have far less of themselves to offer their spouse.
Sex is supposed to be a gift given by one man to one woman and one woman to one man that seals the covenant of marriage.
It’s okay to admire beauty, but lust is selfish and destructive. Porn objectifies and dehumanizes precious people made in the image of God.
Sexual promiscuity, immorality, and fornication have always and will always be forbidden by God. (Check out Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19) By the way, here’s the definition of fornication: “Consenting sex involving unmarried persons; any unlawful sexual intercourse including adultery.” Sound familiar?
I know I’m swimming upstream. I know how out of date it is to encourage moral purity. But purity matters. It matters to God because we matter to God. It should matter to us because people matter to us.
One last thing you need to hear from me: We all sin. No one is perfect. Every living person on this planet has failed in the area of sexual purity. Remember, Jesus said that if we even look at a person and lust we have committed adultery in our hearts.
Not for a moment am I suggesting that we treat anyone poorly or without love as if we’ve got it all together. However, in the name of love, we also can’t afford to embrace what God rejects. He never rejects people, but He does reject sin. And for the record, God is the only One qualified to define what is and isn’t okay, and He does so clearly in His Word.
Why? Because He’s a killjoy? No.
God gives us relational guardrails for our benefit and protection. He gives us a path to follow (narrow as it is at times) that leads to life.
Most of us can relate to the image of a pinball machine with the ball getting whacked from one bumper to another. I think that image is a vivid picture of our 21st century lives that are busy and complicated with technology that doesn’t always make life easier. We get bumped around a lot in a world filled with noise. If your smart phone isn’t ringing, it’s dinging endless notifications of texts, Facebook posts, and emails. And if your device isn’t going off, the one of the person next to you is.
Looking just at email overload, did you know there are 196.3 billion emails sent worldwide every single day? The average daily number of business-related emails sent and received by a person is 121. The average office worker spends 28% of his or her work day on emails. (No wonder the US Postal Service is going bankrupt.) And most of those emails require attention and action.
Added to the constant electronic intrusions, we still have meetings to attend, appointments to make, children to care for, dogs to walk, broken stuff to fix, new stuff to build, and hours spent driving from one crowded place to another so we can stand in line and waste time. Life is stupid crazy.
I spoke with a woman recently who said she completely ignores the no texting and no phone use (without being hands-free) while driving law. She told me she spends at least two hours every day shuttling her kids to school, soccer, piano lessons, and orthodontic visits. She said, “I have to multi-task while driving just to stay ahead of it all.” I gently suggested that she needed more margin and less madness in her life. I also asked her to text me her schedule so I could avoid her on the road. (She probably will text me while driving.)
So what can we do to at least limit the craziness?
Here are a few things you might consider:
Turn off all notifications on your cell phone or at least limit them to immediate family members. Why do we tolerate these interruptions? Most of us taught our children to wait rather than interrupt. The tyranny of the urgent is killing us. Besides, people tend to define something as urgent far too often.
Pick specific times each day or at most once an hour when you will check your email. Put it in your schedule as a routine. Even if you’re not ADD like me, constantly checking your email is a huge distraction that will severely limit your ability to focus on the task or person at hand. On normal work days, I check my email at 8 a.m., just before or after lunch, and at 5 p.m. My most creative time is typically the first three hours of my day (for me, that’s 5ish-8ish am.). The last thing I want to do is stunt my creative juices by getting buried in an avalanche of emails. By the way, I rarely check my emails before bed, and when I do I always regret it because it throws me into work mode, not sleep mode.
Schedule at least fifteen to thirty minutes once a day just to sit and do nothing but reflect, pray and think. If you’re a morning person, do it early. If you’re a night owl, do it late. If you have kids, do it when they’re asleep. But do it. It will seem unproductive. It will be difficult not to think about the fifty things you must do ASAP. However, my daily coffee time with Jesus is priceless to me. I sit in my favorite chair with a cup of java in one hand and my Bible in the other, and sometimes I don’t say a word. I just think, silently pray and ponder to prepare my soul for the day. Trust me, the fifteen minutes of sleep you might lose will pay dividends you never imagined.
Take an electronic fast one day a week. Don’t even turn on your computer or iPad. Turn off your phone or at least put it on do not disturb. That “emergency” situation at the office will still be there tomorrow, or somebody else will figure out what to do. Going unplugged on my one day off each week has saved my life, my ministry, and my marriage. I figured out some time ago, I’m not as important as I think I am, and to survive over the long haul requires margin in my life—margin only I can create.
Learn to practice the power of no. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to attend Your kids don’t need to become extracurricular junkies. It’s okay not to be busy all of the time. Seriously, it’s okay. Literally schedule margins into your calendar, and when someone asks you to do something during a planned downtime, simply say, “I’m sorry. I’m already booked.” Your value is not based on what you do or don’t do but on who you are.
One last thing to consider, that voice in your head that is resisting my suggestions, making excuses and rationalizing your pinball crazy life, is not the voice of health. (Don’t believe me, check out this short article on WebMD.)
Resistance to the machine is not futile. You can do this, but you must start somewhere and be very intentional. Decide now to put my suggestions into practice for just one month and see if it’s not worth the effort. I know from firsthand experience that you’ll find the rewards far outweigh the costs.
“I’ll be there. I promise.” And the person is a no-show.
“You can count on me.” And the word is not kept.
“I’ll do that for you tomorrow.” And the promise is forgotten.
Promises can be made through quiet words spoken with fingers crossed behind the back or by statements of conviction sealed with a firm handshake. Which do you trust?
When a promise is made, we expect it to be fulfilled. When fulfilled, the person receiving the promise is valued. If the promise is broken, the words are empty, leaving us disappointed and hurt. The person speaking it is discredited and the person receiving it is devalued. Broken promises are like glass shards in our hands, painful and sharp, leaving scars behind. We can live in the aftermath of broken trust for years.
How can we trust promises once we’ve been hurt? By turning to the source of solid promises, the Word of God. In 2 Peter 1:3-4 we read:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
It is mind boggling to imagine sharing in the holy nature of God, but that is what grace allows us to do. It does not mean we becoming god-like, but rather we can have a relationship with God through the promise of Jesus Christ. God reveals more of Himself to us, undergirded by His grace.
The grace of God helps us learn to trust God in a deeper way. I remember a time when an employer promised many good things—pleasant work conditions and regular pay increases. I believed they would come to pass. In reality, the opposite happened and things went from bad to worse. I knew I had to trust God even in the midst of the miserable situation. Turning to the Bible, I remembered God’s faithful character in the past, which then encouraged me to trust Him again. God’s promises gave me hope, changed my perspective, and directed my prayers.
The promises in the Bible are solid words of hope for the believer, like anchors to which a rock climber clings for life. Abraham received the covenant promise from God and grasped it until its fulfillment. David humbly accepted God’s word that one of his descendants would be on the throne forever. Mary believed the angel and gave birth to The Promise, Jesus Christ. The power of God’s grace enables the fruition of His divine promise. In other words, grace flows through God’s character to secure His promises. Because we have seen the declarations of God consistently completed in the past, we can firmly believe in them for today and the future. God is faithful to bring about the culmination of His promises.
God is faithful and true to His word. He sees the big picture, not just the day-to-day- struggles of life.
Do you need to strengthen your spirit today? Here some promises to encourage you.
If you feel vulnerable, rest in the assurance of God’s protection “I am your shield.” (Gen.15: 1)
If you don’t know what to do, seek the Lord for His guidance. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” (Ps. 25:9)
If you need empowerment to carry on, God pledges inner power and assures provision. “I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isa 41:10)
If you are weary, He vows His rest. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)
If you are lonely, believe the promise of God’s presence. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
Through focusing on God’s unchanging nature and believing His word, our trust in Him grows. Realigning our attitude with God’s promises can bring order to a chaotic heart. We can inner stability when uncertainty shakes our world. By the grace of God our hope is restored through His promises.
In a few months, Nancy will be hosting an online Bible study using The Grace Impact. If you are interested inmore information about this opportunity, please sign up for her GraceNotesnewsletter at http://www.nancykaygrace.com.
Most of us work fairly hard to project an image to others that is not always consistent with everything that’s true about us. We were taught from an early age that some behaviors are not appropriate in public.
Don’t burp, and if you do, excuse yourself quickly.
Don’t pick your nose or at least use a Kleenex.
Don’t pass gas, and if you do, blame the smell on the dog or the nearest kid.
Of course, manners matter. Crude, offensive behavior is never okay. There certainly is a place for decency and etiquette. However, all of us burp, pick our nose and break wind on a fairly regular basis. All of us. So why pretend like we don’t?
What about the other things people tend to hide?
Some have emotional scars that no one sees from the abuse they’ve suffered.
Lots of us wear blue jeans that are at least one size too small.
Many have secrets they pray are never revealed.
Some guys cry (a lot).
Some women have stretch marks.
More than a few of us snore.
And all of us have a propensity to sin. It’s the human condition on this side of eternity.
What we know about others and see in their lives is rarely the full, un-edited story.
My point in this rant is simple: Isn’t the love of God amazing?
He knows everything about everything. Nothing escapes His view. He knows every thought, word, and action, including our true motivations. (Check out Hebrews 4:13.)
When we smile and say, “I’m doing great!” and we’re not, He knows.
When we lift our hearts in worship, the very hearts that sometimes fail us, He knows.
When we tell Him we love Him above all, and yet we’ve fixed our attention on money or other material things, He knows.
When we pretend to be so perfect, yet our minds have imagined all sorts of evil, He knows.
When we do our best to look our best, yet our souls are empty and weary, He knows.
On a regular basis, I talk about the unconditional love of God. I believe in it. I depend on it. I need it. His love sustains me. It helps me sleep at night and gets me up in the morning.
But sometimes . . . sometimes when I fully realize the depth of His love for a burping, tooting, snoring, pretending, broken, and sometimes mess-of-a-man like me—it overwhelms me.
The me that God and I know may not always be the me you and others see, but I am loved, and I am His. The emotional cosmetics I use to cover my spiritual blemishes are a waste of energy because His grace covers everything. Absolutely. Every. Thing.
Perhaps we would do better to admit humbly to others and ourselves, “I’m far from perfect, but I am perfectly loved, so I will live free and without pretense. I am still in process and am growing, but throughout the journey I will live in grace and without fear.”
Maybe it’s time to stop pretending.
Make-believe might work in the kingdom of Disney, but in the Kingdom of God, it’s always better to remove the facade and it’s never necessary to hide behind a mask.
Maybe it’s time to stop blaming the dog.
And maybe it’s okay that you and I are not always okay. Even the most expensive and beautiful homes on the planet still have bugs and sewer pipes out of view.
Am I excusing sin? No.
Am I applauding spiritual laziness? Of course not.
Am I, however, encouraging you to embrace the grace that is yours and to live loved regardless of your imperfections? Without reservation. Why? Because the alternative is unthinkable for any child of God.
Dare I say it again? You are loved. Period. End of story. There is nothing you can do to make the Father love you any less or any more than He already does.
Why pretend to be more than you are when to be His child is more than enough?