Sunday, May 26, 2013

Principles for Healthy Sexual Intimacy: Post 4 of 4

(This comes from a handout I've previously given to couples entering marriage.)

#4    The question, “what kind(s) of sexual intimacy are appropriate?” is not easy to answer.

Some general ideas:
A.    Uniqueness: Every relationship and every person in the relationship is unique. Sexuality is different for each couple. Some people have physical problems that make normal sexual intercourse impossible or painful. Some individuals have varying levels of sexual drive at different times of the month or for extended seasons of their lives. Sexual activity (in these cases) is not necessary for a healthy marriage. Admittedly, sex is a gift from God so it is not wise to take or leave God’s gifts based on our own preferences. And yet at the same time, we live in a fallen and broken world. This brokenness impacts many bedrooms. We should pursue redemption, restoration, and healing, but there is no guarantee of “glorious restoration” until Christ’s glorious return.
B.     Mutuality: Sexual pleasure for both husband and wife should be the goal of each sexual encounter. A husband should not demand an orgasm without committing to bring a similar pleasure to his wife (likewise for the wife). This unselfish aspect of sexuality suggests that certain practices of domination, sado-masochism, and bondage fall out of line with appropriate sexual behavior.
C.     Sacrificial: Similar to what is listed above, sexual activity is not easy. Men need to be patient with regard to the amount of sexual activity, foreplay, and clitoral stimulation. Orgasms do not come as easy for the woman. Time and tenderness are necessary. It has been wisely encouraged that husbands should commit to bring their wife to full orgasm or to the brink of orgasm before moving to penetration. This will help the man stay focused since it is difficult for some men to stay engaged after orgasm. The wife should also be sacrificial, often encouraging sex more often than she feels like it. It takes sacrifice for a woman to intentionally focus her mind, heart, and body on sexual activity.
D.    Pleasurable: If any part of sexual activity is painful, scary, or deemed inappropriate by one spouse, the other spouse should honor their spouse’s feelings immediately. If in time the spouse thinks the activity should be acceptable, they should discuss it with their spouse outside of the bedroom. If necessary, outside counsel should be pursued.
E.     Spousal-centric: This means that arousal, passion, and mental focus should be centered on the spouse with regard to sex. The use of pornography, fantasies, or other partners (for example, orgies) goes against God’s intent for intimacy. Intimacy and attraction are to be fueled and fostered between one man and one woman. God designed the husband’s and wife’s body to work together to bring about deep unity and pleasure. Early in your marriage and at points in your marriage (illness, before/after pregnancy, etc.) you may need the help of lubricants, but beware of bringing in sex toys and other non-natural elements to the bedroom. Your spouse is enough.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Principles for Healthy Sexual Intimacy: Post 3 of 4

(This comes from a handout I've previously given to couples entering marriage.)

#3 Sexual intimacy is properly experienced when a husband and wife both give of themselves for the pleasure of the other on a regular basis.

NIV  Proverbs 5:18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

NIV  1 Corinthians 7:3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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.

NIV  1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind… it is not self-seeking…. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Principles for Healthy Sexual Intimacy: Post 2 of 4

(This comes from a handout I've previously given to couples entering marriage.)

#2 Sexual activity is the unifying act that serves as the climax of an outward covenant and emotional intimacy.

NIV  Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

We leave all former relationships and join, by way of promises and covenants, our lives with another person.  The “leaving” is a public act…what is traditionally known as a wedding ceremony, the signing of documents, and the establishment of a home. The “cleaving/uniting” is the emotional intimacy that is necessary as the foundation of any relationship. Sex, without any promises, leaves risk for abandonment and abuse. Sex, without any emotional intimacy, becomes a selfish pursuit for pleasure. Leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh are like 3 legs to a stool. If any one leg is missing, the stool will topple.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Principles for Healthy Sexual Intimacy: Post 1 of 4

(This comes from a handout I've previously given to couples entering marriage.)

 #1: Intimacy is heightened when it is only shared between a husband and wife.

God has designed certain aspects of the body and soul to be preserved for marriage. These are special treasures that lose their uniqueness and specialness when openly shared with others. You can lose intimacy by sharing details of the marriage bed with others or by sharing your body and/or soul with another. The covenant of marriage is the protective covering for rich intimacy.

NIV  Proverbs 5:15-17 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.

“Multiple partners create mistrust, performance anxiety, and comparison evaluations that are barriers to the deepest levels of intimacy.”
-          From a helpful article by Louis and Melissa McBurney entitled “Christian Sex Rules” found at www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2008/september/4.34.html?paging=off

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are we as counter-cultural as 2nd century Christians?


“They share their table with everyone, but they don’t share their bed with everyone.”

This little description of 2nd century Christians has been preserved in the Epistle to Diognetus, an ancient document that gives us a feel for how the Christians were perceived in their early days.

This little description is as counter-cultural today as it was then.

We have "liberals" who share their table (think health care, social services, etc.) and their bed (think sexual license).

We have conservatives who don't share their bed (think sexual restraint/morality) but don't share their table (think conservative policies that let the rich get richer and the poor, poorer).

Those who believe in Jesus, however, should be different. 

We do have moral standards we honor. We do submit to the authority of God's Word. I don't have "freedom" to do whatever I like, with whomever I like. 

And yet, I believe in Jesus who died for the undeserving (Romans 5:8). We were all "poor in spirit," bankrupt with no means of pulling ourselves up by our own moral bootstraps. We were a charity case of the most pitiful kind. Jesus didn't teach us to fish. Jesus didn't make us come halfway before he gave us grace. Rather, Jesus did everything. He lived the life we couldn't live and then died the death we should have died. This good news makes anyone who believes it committed to sharing their table with anyone in need. There is no such thing as "deserving poor" or "undeservering poor." There are just people who have needs...and I'm here to meet them.

May our generation of Christ-followers be known as our ancestors were: “They share their table with everyone, but they don’t share their bed with everyone.” 



Thursday, May 09, 2013

Definitions by Dallas

Spirit is dis-embodied personal power.

Beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses.

A disciple is anyone whose ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in their place.

Dignity is a value that creates irreplaceability.

Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being.
Work is the creation of value.

Play is the creation of value that is not necessary.

--From the mind of Dallas Willard (professor USC), whose life was taken by cancer May 8, 2013: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/may-web-only/man-from-another-time-zone.html?paging=off

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

But my faith is feeble, fragile, and fragmented...

I often resonate with the panicked father who heard Jesus' demand for faith in order for his son to be healed of demonic possession. The father responded, "I believe, help my unbelief" (Mark 9:17-29).

God rarely works apart from human faith. Our trust and confidence in God's power, holiness, and goodness are God's standard  means of working in the world. Similarly, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. No faith, no salvation.

But where does that leave us? For on too many days, I want to throw in the towel. On too many days, my faith is feeble, fragile, and fragmented.

John Calvin rightly works through this issue in Book III, chapter 2, paragraph 7 of The Institutes of the Christian Religion: "But the human mind, when blinded and darkened, is very far from being able to rise to a proper knowledge of the divine will; nor can the heart, fluctuating with perpetual doubt  rest secure in such knowledge [i.e. faith]. Hence in order that the word of God may gain full credit, the mind must be enlightened, and the heart confirmed, from some other quarter. We shall now have a full definition of faith if we that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit."

Even faith is God's gift. I cannot manufacture faith. I cannot maintain faith. It is God's gift through the Holy Spirit. So even on the days when my faith is most fragile, I must remember that God will support and sustain me. In the darkest hours of my disbelief and in the valley of death, I need not fear evil for God is with me. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

"The grace of God does not find men fit for salvation, but makes them so." - Augustine

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Books Finished April 2013

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo -- The final chapters may be some of the most beautiful words in the human language outside of the Bible that describe the pain and joy of sacrifice, the marks of true humility, and the power of redemption. If only Victor Hugo would have left out the hundreds and hundreds of pages of useless French history, this book would be one of my most favorite of all time.

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright (a wonderful work on the nature of evil, the justice of the Cross, and the power of forgiveness that can make the future new heavens and new earth a more likely possibility in the here and now)

The Sower by Gary Hoag and R. Scott Rodin (a fantastic book on generosity and raising kingdom resources for kingdom work)

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer (I believe this is the best book on these two important subjects. His 3 summary applications to the book are simply this: Be bold, be patient, and be prayerful.)

Harry Potter (Book 7) - Carrie and I read this whole series aloud over the past several months. There is something beautiful about the evil enemy being vanquished by the sacrificial hero willingly choosing death to save his friends.