Is Premarital Sex Really that Bad?

June 28, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Marriage, Wisdom | 1 Comment

For years I’ve preached about its woes, and for years Cathy and I have told couples in counseling about its dangers.  So is premarital sex really that bad?

Two recent articles have shed some interesting light on this topic.  The first one is not new but has recently come to my attention.  It is written by Willard Harley, best selling author of His Needs, Her Needs.  I have said one reason to avoid premarital sex is that the biggest predicting factor in divorce is sex before marriage, and it’s just the opposite of what the media would report.  Couples that sleep together before marriage are way more likely to divorce than those who don’t.  Dr. Harley’s article confirms this and sites numerous studies that have demonstrated it.  Be sure to check the second part of the article, a link at the end called “Next letter” to see the studies.  Here’s the link to the first part:  http://www.marriagebuilders.com/graphic/mbi5025_qa.html

The second article was just in the news recently.  In it Dannah Gresh, author of What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex, talks about the chemical reaction sex has in our bodies and how that can cause problems in the casual “hook up” scene and with long-term relationships later on.  Among other things, she sites a study showing that young people who have sex before marriage are more likely to suffer depression and attempt suicide.  Here’s the link to her article:  http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/31/my-take-there%E2%80%99s-nothing-brief-about-a-hookup/?iref=obinsite

What I find interesting is that neither of these articles even mention another reason to abstain before marriage – the trust factor.  Couples who have sex before they are married will inevitably have a trust breakdown later in the relationship.  There is a reason for this, but I won’t take time to write about it now.  The breakdown of the trust factor can be overcome, but the marriage will take a lot more work than it should.  It’s easier just to wait.

Of course the biggest reason to abstain from sex outside of marriage is that God tell us to.  These studies just prove he knew thousands of years ago what’s best for us.  The fences of sexual morality that God places around us are not prison fences to keep us from fun, but zoo fences to keep us safe while we fully enjoy his creation.

Trustworthy Forevermore!

June 25, 2011 at 8:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

          Psalm 93.  This short little poem may seem at first reading to be a bunch of disconnected statements.  It has certainly seemed that way to me at times; and again today as I read through it, I wondered what these thoughts were doing together in one short psalm.  However, when I reread this little gem more slowly, something came to mind that seems to tie it together.  Psalm 93 begins with two verses of praise for God who is majestic and strong, whose throne endures forever, but then it seems to randomly go off about floods and seas for two more verses before returning to praise in the final phrase.  It occurred to me that some of the most powerful things they knew in the ancient world were the weather and the sea.  This poem compares God to sea and flood, but then, as one familiar with the Psalms might expect, tells us that the LORD is mightier than them.  The closing verse praises God for his trustworthiness and holiness.  The “aha” thought that tied it all together is this: The most powerful things they knew in their world were not trustworthy.  They couldn’t predict the weather or the mood of the seas; they were, so to speak, at the mercy of the elements.  But God, who is more powerful than both sea and weather, is totally trustworthy.  They were at the mercy of God’s mood too.  But that is a secure place to be; that is mercy indeed.  God is more powerful than anything we know, yet you, O Lord, are trustworthy forevermore!

An Open Letter

June 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

An open letter to the members of the International Christian Church, and other Church of Christ communities that teach the same things and use the same methods:

I can appreciate a group of people that has great zeal for Jesus and that emphasizes the Bible as God’s Word, and I can appreciate those who want to be all that Jesus said his disciples should be.  But there is a question about you that puzzles me.

You call yourselves “sold-out disciples” of Jesus, and that sounds wonderful, even exciting to me.  But my question, for those of you who can be totally honest, is this “Are you really?”  You like to emphasize what Jesus said his disciples are or should be, and, from my experience in talking with some of you, you claim that your members meet that standard.  Do they?  Do you, really?  I would encourage you to look inside yourselves and see if you can answer that question honestly in a positive way.  Remember that Jesus said a man’s lustful thoughts make him guilty of adultery; he said a man’s anger makes him guilty of murder. (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28)  Be honest with yourselves, only you and God really know and no one else needs to know; have all your efforts to be sold-out disciples changed your inward thoughts from hatred to love and from lust to purity?  All the time?  Anything other than that seems to fall short of the sold-out discipleship you so confidently claim.

Over the years, every time I’ve conversed with one of your members about the necessity of baptism for salvation, and there have been several occasions, I come away feeling uneasy, not because we disagree, but because of how the conversation is handled by your members.

You presume to teach the rest of us the truth.  OK, the Bible tells us we should always be ready to make a defense for the hope in us.  However, those I’ve talked to have never made that defense with gentleness and reverence as the passage says, only with combative and interruptive behavior not fit one who teaches God’s Word.  The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but must gently correct those who oppose him, demonstrating patience when wronged.   Those of your persuasion I’ve talked to over the years could in no way be described as gentle, reverent, or patient; in fact, quarrelsome is a much better description of what I’ve run into through these discussions.  (Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:24-25; 1 Pet 3:15)  Do you fit the profile of a disciple here?

I am not asking this question because I am totally pure in these matters.  I am not.  I am asking this question because I know and readily admit that in myself I can never meet the standard of discipleship Jesus demanded.  No matter how sold out I may be, there is a depth of sin in my life that keeps me from living a life of perfect discipleship.  I’m willing to bet, if you’re honest with yourself, you will say the same thing.  Yet you seem to indicate that only those perfect disciples are real disciples.

That puts us honest people in a bind.  We must go on playing the game so we look good to our leaders and church friends, even though we know ourselves to be something different inside, and thus throw our honesty out the window, or there must be another way.  I thank Christ Jesus who gives a righteousness that’s not by law, that’s not a result of my supposed sold-out discipleship.  It is a gift from God.

I’m not a perfect disciple of Jesus, but I have a perfect Savior.  I’m counting on his life to save me, not on my own merit of baptism or discipleship.  When you are able to honestly admit your shortcomings and inner failings, trust Jesus to save you apart from all self efforts.  Then you can respond to Jesus in thanks and love for his great gift.  Then you will discover the really good news called the Gospel.  Then, and only then, will you discover what real discipleship is all about.

Insist on These Things

June 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, God's Love, Grace and Faith | 3 Comments

Paul told one of his younger pastor appointees to insist on certain things, “so that those who trust in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” (Titus 3:8)  As a pastor myself, I must ask on what things Paul thinks a pastor should insist.  Here is what the previous verses say in summary form.  We were once led astray, but God saved us.  His salvation is not because of our good works, but is according to his mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  He saved us by pouring out the Holy Spirit on us to wash and to regenerate us.  He did it all through Jesus Christ.  (Notice that God and Jesus are both given the title of “Savior” in this passage)  We can be justified by his grace and become heirs of the hope of eternal life.  It doesn’t get much more basic to the Gospel than that.  In other words, what preachers are to insist on is the Gospel – the true Gospel – the God-centered Gospel: the Gospel that glorifies God and recognizes our sin; the Gospel that puts Jesus in his rightful divine place as Savior; the Gospel that focuses on God’s doing rather than ours works; the Gospel of grace.

Isn’t it interesting that what causes our hearers to devote themselves to good works is not pushing good works, but insisting on God’s grace!  If you’re a pastor, preach grace; insist on it!  If you’re a lay person, sit under a pastor who preaches grace.

A Tale of Three Kings

June 8, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

I haven’t done anything with my blog for a long time primarily because I’ve been on vacation (and not because I was raptured away!).  I did read a couple of books while out that are worthy of mention here.  The first was Gene Edwards, A Tale of Three Kings.  I found this little gem well worth the time to read and ponder.  The book is the story of Saul, David and Absalom, and it causes the reader to ponder his own motives in leadership and submission.

On the negative side, I didn’t particularly like the style.  Edwards is indirect, telling the story without really telling the story; it was assumed the reader knew the biblical account, at least in outline form.  This method is great for effect on occasion, but an entire book of it, short though it is, can get old.  I was also disappointed that Edwards puts in some things that simply are not biblical.  I am not opposed to writers putting in extra material, which is not a part of the biblical narrative, to fill out the story.  Movie writers in particular have to do this to make a movie, and Edwards has to do it to make his story work too.  However, I am opposed to putting in material that contradicts or changes the biblical narrative, and, unfortunately, Edwards makes this error occasionally in A Tale of Three Kings.  For example, he says God took a house-to-house survey to find a man worthy of the kingdom, as though David made himself qualified and God found him.  That paragraph bothered me, since God had David in mind from the beginning, and raised him up to be the king.  From way back in Genesis, the kingly line was to come through the tribe of Judah.  These unbiblical parts are not significant enough to change the points that are made in the book, but any such deviations from the biblical narrative tend to make me leery of Edwards’ other writings, though I haven’t read any of them.

Overall the book was very positive.  I had to stop and ponder my own self-sufficiency and pride on numerous occasions while reading.  The story is presented in a way that shows the inward workings Saul’s and David’s hearts, revealing their rebellion and submission.  David was anointed as king by Samuel, and Edwards ends that part of the story with these insightful comments:  “Quite a day for a young man, wouldn’t you say?  Then do you find it strange that this remarkable event lead the young man not to the throne but to a decade of hellish agony and suffering?  On that day, David was enrolled, not into the lineage of royalty but into the school of brokenness.”  There the young man learned many “indispensable lessons.” (p. 9)  God has many indispensable lessons for all of us to learn in the school of brokenness.  I’m afraid I haven’t learned them well enough.

The best part of the book is chapter 15, which begins “What kind of man was Saul?”  Edwards emphasizes all Saul’s gifts and accomplishments because he was anointed of God, calling Saul, “one of the greatest figures of human history.”   “He was everything people today are seeking to be … empowered with the Holy Spirit … able to do the impossible … for God.  A leader, chosen by God with power from God.”  (The gaps are not my selective quoting but Edward’s own style.)  Later he adds, “Many pray for the power of God.  More every year.  Those prayers sound powerful, sincere, godly, and without ulterior motive.  Hidden under such prayer and fervor, however, are ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant.  The person who prayers such a prayer may not even know it, but dark motives and desires are in his heart … in your heart.” (pp. 40-41)  Touché!  I stand convicted.  Edwards concludes “There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life.” (p. 41)  May we all pray for inward transformation to Christ likeness rather than outward displays of God’s power!  Reading this little book will inspire that prayer.

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