Good for us, Bad for Him: The Meaning of Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.  Why is it called that?

From the perspective of a Christian pastor, allow me to explain. Good Friday the day is about Good Friday the event.

On Good Friday the day we remember Jesus Christ’s deaths on a Roman cross. Crucifixion was 1st Century capital punishment, with a twist of torture thrown in for sadistic fun. The Romans invented crucifixion as a cruel show of force intended to terrorize the masses in the countries they occupied.

It worked.

The New Testament writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us this gruesome act happened on a Friday afternoon.

Good Friday the day points us to Good Friday the event: Jesus died for you. That’s why we call it good. Good for us, bad for him. Good Friday the day celebrates (if you can call it that) the event.

So the real question of Good Friday centers around the phrase that’s become cliche: “Jesus died for you.What does it mean?

All of our highest moments are stories of heroism and sacrifice born out of love. Sacrificial death moves us like nothing else.

  • A Mother covers you her daughter like a human blanket while lost in the winter wilderness, freezing in the act. You are saved.
  • A Father jumps into a raging river to save you his son, and perishes. You are rescued.
  • Maybe the most moving story in our time starts like this, “On September 11th, a fireman rushed into Tower One…” Your life is spared.

What moves us is not that it happened (because it’s always a tragedy), but why they did it. They did it because they knew it was them or you. Either they would suffer or you would suffer. And they bore the pain.

When we say “Jesus died for you” it means all of that and then some.

If you haven’t seen Mel Gibson’s 2004 gruesome depiction of Jesus’ death via Roman crucifixion, here’s a cursory outline:

  • His back was lacerated to the point of hamburger by someone trained to take a human body just to the edge of death without pushing them over.
  • A crown of 2″ thorns was shoved on his head in mockery of his claim to a King’s throne.
  • All crucifixion victims where literally nailed to the uprights. Long, thick metal spikes were hammered through the wrist bones of each arm and through the tops of the feet.
  • To catch a breath (and this was an intentional part of the torture), the victim had to push up on their feet and eventually died of suffocation.

It was a horrific death. Good for us, bad for him.

And it was completely unjust. A sham trial was hastily put together by religious leaders bent on retaining power and position at all costs. The governing political/military leader didn’t want to be bothered and literally washed his hands of the event. Together they whipped the people into a mob frenzy who then shouted for his death, becoming complicit in the charade.

In short, Jesus was murdered by the State and by the Religious Establishment.

If the footage from the body cams were brought out, if the internal memos were printed in the Wall Street Journal, the evidence would show, without controversy, the guilt of the officers and the cover-up of the higher-ups. It was dirty all the way down.

In his pre-emptive press conference outlining and defending their actions, the main religious leader ranted: “It’s better that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” (John 11:50)

To add insult to injury, his disciples–who’d learned from and followed him for 3 years, pledging their lifelong faithfulness–ditched and ran.

And he did it for you. He knew it was him or you. Either he suffered or you would. And he chose the pain. Good for us, bad for him.

He bore in his body on the Cross—like that sacrificial Mother, like that protective Father, like that heroic Fireman—the wrath of forces he did not originate; human cruelty, treachery, injustice, hypocrisy, cowardice, sin. And he did it knowing all along it was for you. Out of deep love for you—his beloved son, his beloved daughter—he laid his own life down.

Very rarely,” the Apostle Paul said, reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ death, “will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-9

Good for us, bad for him.

What to do when tragedy strikes (again)

The world is full of terror now. And we’re all worn out by it.

The latest is a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand, leaving dozens dead and dozens more injured.

(Note: The world has always been full of terror, the 24/7 news cycle just makes us in the mostly safe West more aware now)

Terror is the weaponization of fear.

And that weapon is designed to immobilize. Which is why people use it. It immobilizes the populace while the terrorist progresses with their hate. It gives them the tactical advantage of unrestricted movement.

So when it strikes—and it seems to strike so often today—we are immobilized, frozen, stuck.

And in our frozen state, we can only stare helplessly as we watch hate move freely through the streets of our shared humanity.

I argue our collective apathy to the news of ‘yet another shooting’ is the result of that terror.

It’s too hard to even care.

And yet.

And yet, our common humanity cries out for recognition. In the words of John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, (we are) the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

That’s it right there.

We are involved.

So what do we do?

“Thoughts and prayers” seem so trite. But what else do we have when we are personally far from the world’s latest mass shooting?

Political action is so slow and divisive. But policies have impact, maybe not full or perfect impact, but impact nonetheless.

Grieving is so hard. But that tests the limits of our humanity and exposes the shallow well of our compassion.

I am a Christian pastor, so my responses are shaped by Christian Scripture and Christian imagination. I like it that way.

You may not be a Christian, but there is a category in Christian Scripture I’d like offer. I think you’ll agree our common humanity needs it.

The Greeks called it “Agape” (Uh-GAH-pey).

It means, simply, “sacrificial love”.

For Christians, sacrificial love is most clearly outlined by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all of us. The mes. The yous. The terror victims. The terrorists.

John Donne outlined it as a love of refusals.

As in, refusing the things that harm humanity.

As in, refusing to stay uninvolved.

As in, refusing apathy no matter how appealing a shelter it might be.

In the face of terror, sacrificial love compels me and you to REFUSE:

  • to turn off my emotion.
  • to accept numbness as normal.
  • to categorize people so I can feel more comfortable labeling someone I don’t know.
  • to not name evil, ‘evil’, every single time.
  • to see any person in any way other than as my neighbor.
  • to not care about the tragedy because they share a different faith or have no faith.
  • to treat people like objects, thereby categorizing into “us” and “them”, allowing “us” to not care about “them.”
  • to gloat, ever.
  • to not grieve.
  • to not examine my own prejudices.
  • to not care about root causes, digging til we unearth the conditions that led this person/these people to commit this act.
  • to not care.
  • to start believing this is normal.
  • to think I am unaffected when this “clod be washed away.”

I refuse.

Why I’m one of the people with a smudge on their forehead today

Today, you might be seeing people with what look like black smudges on their foreheads, like the people above.

And you may be wondering, “Why?”

I’m one of those people, so let me explain the backstory and tell you why I do it.

Today is what millions of Christians around the world call, Ash Wednesday. I’ll explain what Ash Wednesday IS, but I really care more that you know WHY.

• Ash Wednesday isn’t about putting dirt on your forehead. I know, it does look like that sometimes. That “dirt” is actually the sign of the Cross.

• Ash Wednesday includes a service at a Christian Church I attended today, and at the end, a pastor (might be a priest or lay leader at another Church) put ashes on my forehead in the sign of the cross while saying, “From dust you came, to dust you will return.” Hence the name for today, “Ash Wednesday”.

• Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent–a 40 Day period of time before Easter where Christians pause and do a bit of self-examination. Self-examination is about self-awareness for the purpose of change. Many Christians give something up for Lent as a way to remind themselves of what Jesus Christ did in giving up his life for us on the first Good Friday.

That’s the backstory. Here’s why I joined millions of fellow Christians today and put ashes on my forehead:

They remind me life is short. I came from dust, and I’ll return to dust soon enough. Advertisers remind me time is short so they can get my money. The Bible reminds me life is short because God intends for my life to count. Here’s how Peter, one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, puts it: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall...” (1 Peter 2:4) True words.

They remind me life is a gift. I can’t explain the phenomena of human consciousness (neither can the finest scientists), so I receive it as a good gift instead. My very breathe is a gift from God. Good gifts from great givers are things we treasure.

They intentionally help me pause. With everything in such a hurry (Did you get my text? See my tweet? Like my last Instagram?), it seems we rarely have time to stop and reflect on anything anymore. Today’s service helped me do that and remember again God’s creation–me and you and this blue ball of gas and soil–are what matters.

They point me to my purpose. I’m looking to maximize my life and make the most impact I can. Like my pastor says, I want to “be in it to win it.” I can’t do everything, but I’d like to do something that makes a difference in the lives of other people. Serve the poor. Right an injustice. Help my neighbor. Do good work. Share my faith. And I know the fact that God entrusted these brief days of my life to me means God has a purpose for me. I’m holding on to that with all I’ve got.

They aren’t about being more religious. Religion–the root word–means “to re-connect”, so it’s not bad to be religious (I guess unless you don’t want to be connected). But what I mean is that I’m not doing it out of obligation. I’m not doing it to earn God’s favor, earn the Church’s favor, please my grandma or my pastor. I’m doing because I am follower of Jesus, and I want to pause and listen for his guidance.

They remind me–most importantly–of Jesus. We Christians are CHRISTians. Our very identity and name is drawn from the one we follow–meaning, Jesus is the pattern for our lives. When we don’t know which way to go, we follow Jesus. When we want to do good, we follow Jesus. When we need rescuing, we follow Jesus. When we aren’t sure how to treat our neighbor with dignity and respect, we follow Jesus. And Jesus Christ, in sacrificial love for humankind, gave the brief days of his life for mine and yours, breathing life and purpose into them.

And that’s why I have dirt on my forehead.

When you hate…

Hate is a universal emotion. To make sure we’re working from the same dictionary, hate is defined as “intense or passionate dislike (of someone).” Hating is part of the human experience.

If you are a Christian, that becomes a problem. We aren’t “supposed to” hate. But we do. And so we don’t know what to do.

I’ve found that many Christians get stuck in not knowing what to do with hate because of a syllogism. A syllogism is a train of thought that “proves” an outcome. It has a premise, an observation and a conclusion that serves like a logical “proof” of your premise. The syllogism around hate goes like this:

  • Christians rise above intense feelings of dislike. Christians don’t hate.
  • I, from time to time, have intense feelings of dislike (Okay, let me be really honest, HATE) for someone.
  • Therefore, I must either not BE a Christian or if I am, I must not be a very good one.

And there you are, stuck in hate with no way out. You are left feeling like you have to choose between hating or being a “good” Christian. It’s binary.

2 RESPONSES THAT DON’T WORK

When it comes to what we DO with our hate, we so often get stuck in a binary response. (Binary: Two. Either/or. One OR the other. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t). Binaries usually only make the situation worse, burrowing me deeper into hate.

#1 I ACT on my hate (physically or verbally), spinning violence into the world. Workplace shootings, child abuse, spousal abuse, car bombings are all results of this response. The person doing it, I guarantee you, thinks this is the ONLY way to resolve the issue. They are in the grip of their hate and self-righteously think they are justified in their violence.

#2 I stuff it, shoving the hate inside like garbage, where it rots me from the inside out. The result is seething bitterness, and often, disease. Their body cannot handle the dis-ease, and so tries to expel the pain.

THE THIRD WAY (that leads to a fourth). 

The Psalms are broken into categories: Lament, Praise, Thanksgiving, and, maybe most helpfully, Cursing. Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139 & 143 (that’s 19 out of 150 if you’re keeping track at home. 13%) are Psalms where I curse my enemies. 

Full-stop. THAT is in the BIBLE???

And therein is the third way. Instead of acting on or stuffing my intense feelings, I take my strongest emotions to the God who made me and loves me. This is psychologically brilliant. I am freed from a) acting on it and b) holding it inside. I can let it out. I give my hate–in it’s true, ugly dimensions into God’s care. And I leave it there. 

THE FOURTH WAY

Jesus takes hate one step further. He read and quoted the Psalms (the Psalms are quoted by Jesus more than any other Old Testament book), so he knew their dimensions and emotional range. He had enemies. Enemies who dogged him. Tried to trap him. Make him look bad. Hated him. And eventually killed him. He had good reason to hate.

He read and quoted the Psalms (the Psalms are quoted by Jesus more than any other Old Testament book), so he knew their dimensions and emotional range. He had enemies. Enemies who dogged him. Tried to trap him. Make him look bad. Hated him. And eventually killed him. He had good reason to hate.

There’s an ugly reality to uncover out at this point. Without Jesus’ teaching on and fulfilment of the Psalms, we would be left with the religious impulse to sanction our hate (and violence) in the name of God. People do it all the time. “See, the BIBLE SAYS we’re to curse our enemies. This means God is on our side and hates the same people we do.” This lie has kept societies, cultures, nations, families, states, cities and churches stuck in the cycle of hate for years.

Jesus tells the truth about the religious lie. Hate leads to retribution. It’s an endless cycle. Love leads to restoration. It alone heals the hate.

Take your hate to God, yes. But after you give him your hate, go on with him to love. As Jesus so famously said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the cursing Psalms. I give my hate to God, and in doing so it is transformed in the furnace of God’s enemy-oriented love into love for my enemy.

As in all things in the Bible, Jesus is the fulfilment of what we don’t understand, including the cursing Psalms. I give my hate to God, and in doing so it is transformed in the furnace of God’s enemy-oriented love into love for my enemy.

I preached a message* about this subject and offered this as a prayer for when you hate: “I hate him, but you love him. Here, you hold my hate and hand me your love.”

 

 

*You can find it here, in our series called “Texting God.” The title is ‘Praying When You Hate’.

 

 

4 Mental Hacks to De-stress Christmas

One study found that Christmas Day—regardless of your climate—is the number one day of the year for heart attacks. The most likely culprit? Stress.

Maybe we should change the song. Everybody on the chorus! “It’s the most stressful time of the year…

So with that in mind, here are 4 mental hacks to de-stress Christmas.

#1 Lower (or get rid of) your expectations
Frustration is a function of unmet expectation. In other words, trace back your most recent frustration and you’ll find at the root some (usually) unspoken, unmet expectation.

You expected someone would buy you a great gift. They didn’t. You were frustrated. You expected Aunt Sallie wouldn’t raise her eyebrow like she does when she’s getting ready to let someone have it and make a scene. She did. You were frustrated. Aunt Sallie, I’m only asking for one Christmas without a blow-up! Ahhh!! #Frustrated.

Frustration works that way every time.

So this may seem ridiculous, even impossible at first. Why not have

Why not have low expectations? Or even no expectations?

Why? It’s your unspoken expectations that create your frustration and disappointment. If you hadn’t expected a gift, you’d have never been frustrated. Aunt Sallie is Aunt Sallie. Your expectation of her behavior is what caused your frustration. #thefrustrationisonyou

So for this hack, reverse engineer Michelle Obama; when your expectations demand that you go high, go low.

  • Choose low expectations about how the presents you buy will be received. “You’re right, that tie is a ridiculous gift.
  • Choose low expectations about how many presents you’ll get and who will get them for you. “What do I really need, anyway?”
  • Choose low expectations about your get-togethers and how they’ll go. Aunt Sallie isn’t going to change because you want her to change. “Love you Aunt Sallie!” #loveyourfamilyanyway

Here’s what having low expectations does not mean.

It does not mean planning on being disappointed, it simply means letting go of needing a certain outcome in order to feel good. The disappointment comes when the outcome you needed didn’t happen! #AuntSallie

When you lower your expectations, you receive a gift. The Present. You are immediately able to be present in the current moment and receive it as a gift. Your expectations about how things “ought to go” keep you from receiving the gifts God brings.

#2 Resist the urge to splurge
Our economy is built on you buying things.

In fact, there is a Marketing Machine behind every single purchase you make. Marketing teams in conference rooms know more about you and your buying habits than you’ll ever know (and it might frighten you if you did).

For example, have you ever thought about the time, energy, strategy and money spent to get a flyer into your hands urging you to buy eggs on sale “THIS FRIDAY ONLY!!” for $.99?

A Machine people. A MACHINE.

Still don’t believe me?

You are exposed to 5,000+ ads and brands each day. Of those 5,000+ ads/brand exposures, your eyeballs directly see 362 of them. Crunch the numbers and you uncover that being awake for 16 hours in a day means you are seeing two ads every minute.

The Marketing Machine knows exactly how to manipulate you to see and buy its products. This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s a simple fact about how our economy works.

Job Number One of the Marketing Machine is to make you dissatisfied with what you have. “It’s old/outdated/broken/no fun anymore/out of style/_______.” Those are magic words to the Marketing Machine, a sign it is doing its job of hacking your mind.

And Job Number Two of the Marketing Machine is to convince you only buying something new will satisfy your now disturbed soul.

Take both bites and the Machine wins.

So do something entirely revolutionary. Hack the Machine and see it for what it is and resist.

Learn Paul’s lesson: “I have learned to be content no matter what I have.” Philippians 4:11

PS For an eye-opening read about how the Marketing Machine came to be and what it does to your soul, spend time with Rodney Clapp’s machine-hacking article “Why The Devil Takes Visa”.

#3 Intentionally make Christmas about people, not things
Part of the life-mission of a follower of Jesus is to learn to love people. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it usually takes a lifetime to get it right.

Now in order to authentically love people, you have to be with them and listen to them. To mix metaphors a bit, it’s similar to driving a car. To drive it, you have to be in it and at the wheel. It doesn’t matter if you say you drive a car, if you aren’t in it, at the wheel, you aren’t doing it. It’s the same with loving people. Time and open ears are the necessary ingredients to grow love.

If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, this still holds true. Your network of relationships is your real net worth. If your relationships are good, I’d bet your life is good. I say it like this to our Church often: So go your relationships, so goes your life. Learning to love people and use things instead of using people and loving things is a revolutionary shift that brings meaning into your life. Love is like that. It’s a carrier for the virus of meaning.

But you have to be with people in order to love them. Like you can’t drive that car without being behind the wheel, you can’t love a person without spending time with them.

So whatever you do during the Christmas season, hack your get-togethers by making them entirely about connecting with people—not giving things. #evenifAuntSallieisthere

#4 Plan to give
The consuming life lives by these kinds of subtle self-talk:

  • I really need X. My life will be better if I have X.
  • I’ll like myself more/be a better person/be more of a man/have better hair/be better looking/be younger/etc if I have X.
  • People will like me more if I have X.

This is the psychology of marketing, by the way. It’s the propagandizing language invented by the Marketing Machine.

And you buy it. And I buy it.

I have actually purchased a product because it promised me thicker hair. Don’t judge.

And I remember my actual thought when I did it: I’ll feel better about myself and people will think I’m better looking. I bought the Marketing Machine promise.

And it was a lie. Not only did I not have thicker hair, I didn’t feel better about myself and my kids still mocked my disappearing wisps.  

To resist this, we must do the opposite. We have to train our brains and our bodies to let God’s purpose flow through us. It’s the ultimate hack. If we don’t, the Marketing Machine will train our brains and bodies to let it’s purpose flow through us.

What is God’s purpose? To give. “For God so loved the world he gave…” John’s gospel tells us. If you love, you give. If you don’t love, you don’t give. Giving is a test of love. In fact, loving and giving are two sides of the same coin.

If you are a parent or if you simply love someone, you know nothing you ever receive beats the times you are able to give. The joy of giving far outweighs the excitement of getting, every single time.

Here’s the hack. Why keep the joy of giving to yourself? Let everyone in your circle, your family, your squad, experience the joy of giving. Christmas isn’t your birthday anyway.

Try these on for size:

  • Serve a meal together at a homeless shelter or work a local food pantry.
  • Give up giving gifts and spend the money on someone who actually needs something (that’s what our Christmas Offering is all about, by the way).
  • Sponsor a child through World Vision instead of buying more stuff you don’t need. For the cost of an Xbox, you feed, clothe, educate and give hope to a kid for 1 year.
  • Give to your local Church. They are heart-deep in helping people restart their lives. (If you’re in Northwest Indiana, here’s ours)
  • Give to the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries disaster relief fund.

Give. It’s a spiritual hack that rewires your brain and body to let God’s purpose flow.

Here’s my challenge. Start a new Christmas tradition. Make cookies. Cut down a tree. Build a fire. Those things are all great. But make the most important one a tradition of giving in a tangible way rather than getting. You can even include Aunt Sallie.

 

5 (or so) reasons to save sex for marriage



A Few Caveats
#1 This isn’t an attempt to make you feel guilty.
This is a post arguing for a different kind of sex ethic. It’s not a post meant to make people feel bad for choices they’ve already made. I work as a pastor, which means I am tasked with announcing redemption and hope to people who’ve made a mess of things.

We are all—religious or not—obligated to help the next generation define and own values that make human life flourish. This is for them.

#2 Caveat emptor! This post is from a Christian pastor. So if you think I’m trying to make a case for Christian morality as a good way to approach sex, you’d be right. But if you think I’m saying you have to agree or you are automatically categorized as ‘one of the unclean’, you’d be wrong.

#3 Christianity isn’t is a message perfect people shout at everyone else about how awful they are. I know what you’re thinking. Some Christians DO make it that. And I hate it because they are wrong–both in content and spirit. The heart of Christianity is ironic. It isn’t for people who have it together, it’s for people who can admit they don’t. So on the subject of sex, I recognize that virtually everyone is broken. I’ve yet to meet a person who is “normal” sexually. This post is an attempt to offer a different sexual norm—one that’s actually several thousand years old.

Related sidebar: An oft-repeated hack argument says the Bible is unclear about what constitutes sexual norms. “Hey, Abraham had multiple wives, ergo, polygamy is cool with the Big Guy.” A quick hermeneutical lesson is fitting. The Biblical authors often report behavior without commenting on behavior. In other words, we are meant to read the broader context to determine if a given act is morally sound.  The lesson of polygamy in the Bible? Pain between humans is always the result.

#4 Sex is a gift from God. Nowhere in the Bible’s message about sex is there prudery, embarrassment or negativity about sex itself (have you read the erotic poetry of Song of Solomon?). But like the hammer my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, it can be abused. The Bible’s prohibitions are about the badness of the abuse, not the potential of the gift.

So why bother writing about this anyway? What’s the big deal?

Here’s a fact. With the exception of a few religious outliers, our culture no longer feels any guilt about sex. In fact, even the idea that someone would wait–for any reason–to have sex seems silly, maybe even oppressive. Like a girl I worked with during my first job in High School stated as fact: “I mean, if it feels good, who’s going to wait?”

Now it needs to be said that guilt has never actually worked as a long-term sustainable motivator (granted, some people certainly try). But for a good part of the 20th Century, it functioned in a way that kept sex-after-marriage-is-best as the way most people approached sex. And even if it didn’t keep sex before marriage from happening, it was at least the accepted way people knew they should approach sex. I’m not arguing that was good, simply saying that it was. Again, this isn’t an attempt to guilt you.

But that is gone. If you grew up in America of 30 years ago, you might still feel some guilt about sex. But if you grew up today or at a distance from Church culture, you don’t really get what the big deal is. In fact, you might think I’m a bit nuts. I’m asking you to have an open mind.

So I think we can agree on two things.

One, it’s a new day with regard to sex.

Guilt is out. Hooking up is in. Restraint has been replaced with permissiveness. So here’s what I’m asking. Since it’s an act that can give us more than one disease that can kill us, sterilize us or deform us, isn’t it worth questioning if this is a good development? Maybe, just maybe, the current thought patterns of our culture with regard to sex are inadequate to the human experience. Are you open to questioning what you believe to be true about sex?

Two, we’re conflicted about sex.

Here’s what I mean.
On the one hand, our laws say sex is something unique. For example, codified into law is that idea that what an adult male or female does with his or her body parts around small children is a moral issue; Or what an over 18-year-old boy does with an under 18-year-old girl; Or what a military officer does with another person’s spouse.

We even punish–as a society–people who violate those norms.

But at the same time, we are incredibly permissive about sex in general. Anything—literally—goes “as long as you don’t hurt the other person.” Any. Thing.

Here’s what we are saying: “It’s moral, except when it’s not.”
CS Lewis described our confusion 75 years ago: “Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

I would argue we aren’t the happier for it. Our new day is creating a tribe of sad, lonely people who get their jollies in fits and starts. We have a generation who believe the Act-That-Will-Complete-Me is just around the corner.

So here is a reasoned offer to rethink how you treat sex and teach it to the next generation. Again, this post is for them. 

5 SELF-FOCUSED REASONS FOR THE NEXT GENERATION TO SAVE SEX FOR MARRIAGE

#1 You never have to play the comparison game. 

“So was I your best?” “Were you thinking about someone else?” “You like me better, right?”

Great sex with someone you love is inherently vulnerable. You are risking rejection at the most intimate level. Sex is physical and emotional. Save sex for marriage and marry someone who saved sex for marriage, and you never have to worry you weren’t the best. Instead, you learn together, fumble together and learn to make it great together. There’s never the worry they are secretly comparing you to someone else. Like someone I heard say, (a guy obviously) “You can either do 1 thing with a 1,000 women or 1,000 things with one woman.”

Sex inside marriage—that only stays inside marriage–never, ever has to go there. Instead, it becomes a sacred secret that grows in beauty, wonder and attractiveness.

#2 You won’t get any diseases. 

Google images of gonorrhea. Or syphilis. On second thought, don’t. They’re disgusting.
“But that’s why we have modern medicine”, you might say. Maybe. However, it’s worth asking if you want a life-long case of Herpes you have to tell all future partners about. You also never risk your fertility via an STD.

No sex before marriage means no unwanted diseases.

#3 You’ll empower someone to trust you and never be jealous of you.

If you don’t have sex before marriage, your spouse has great assurances that you won’t have sex outside of marriage. Controlling yourself before you were married proves (for the most part) you can control yourself after you’re married.
Saving sex for marriage builds trust. Relationships are only as good as their level of trust.

In 20 years of marriage, my wife and I have never had a fight because my wife was jealous or worried about me spending time with another woman and vice-versa.

#4 You’ll save a million bucks. 

Did you know that the cost to raise a child through High School is estimated at 1 million dollars?

Do you want to avoid becoming an accidental father or mother? Do you want the next 18 years of your life planned for you? Do you want to have to wrestle with whether or not you should have an abortion? Save sex for marriage and you never wrestle with those questions.

In fact, one way to statistically guarantee that you’ll live at the poverty level all your life is to have sex young, get pregnant young and raise a baby by yourself.

#5 You’ll get a better spouse. 

It’s pretty hypocritical of us guys, but we often want to marry the virgin queen while dating the girl who wants to hook up anytime. To be more blunt, we want some girl somewhere to save herself for us, but we want to have our way with as many women as we want right now. Total double standard.

Be the guy (or girl) who saves themselves, and you set yourself up as the gold standard.

4 UNSELFISH REASONS TO SAVE SEX FOR MARRIAGE

#1 You’ll set an example.

We are always passing on something to the next generation. There is no such thing a neutral, value-free ethic wherein we let children choose their own way. Despite it sounding urbane, smart and sophisticated to “let our children choose their way”, it’s stupid and lacks insight into human nature. We are shaped, then we choose.

#2 You’ll be wise.

Who’s wiser than the person who doesn’t give a flying flip about what everyone else thinks? Thomas Jefferson said: “In matters of style, flow with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

#3 People will see you as an oddly appealing leader.

Someone who saves sex for marriage and doesn’t give a flip what you think about them is someone people admire (even if they’re afraid to do so publicly). Taking a stand in one area leads you to be able to take stands in other areas. Be that kind of person. Who cares what everyone else thinks? What do they know, actually? Swim against the current and stand out.

#4 You’ll be personally responsible for helping to change the sexual ethic in Western Society.
In a fascinating, best-selling book, Clotaire Rapaille recounts how he helps companies and organizations find a culture’s “code” and market to it. Based on an extensive research process, he articulates with one word or one phrase what encapsulates a culture’s mindset about a given subject with startling accuracy.

Do you know what word he found encapsulates sex for Americans?

Violence.

I’d like to be part of changing that for the next generation. What say you?

The (actual) foolishness of preaching

If you preach, you know how foolish it is. 

Someone comes to listen to you talk, then goes home. Then hopefully comes back next week and does it again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What power is there in that? How can my sort of simplistic mumbling possibly make a difference in a life?

You pour your heart and soul into preparing a message you hope is from God, you deliver it with prayer, passion and courage and people walk away asking “So where do you want to go to lunch?”

You listen to someone right after the service and they explain a life circumstance you just talked about and outlined a way through and they seem to have not heard a word.

Foolishness.

So for my friends who weekly give themselves because they believe in this sort of foolishness, I offer this list of hazards (and blessings): the actual foolishness of preaching. They don’t happen every week (if they all did, I’d probably quit), but maybe you can relate.

Hazards

  • Your joke intended to lighten tension instead offends/falls completely flat/you can’t tell a joke at all
  • Your words, carefully thought through in the mind and on paper, still come out wrong.
  • On the above, you’ll try to recover, but catch yourself in a quicksand of words you yourself wish would end (seriously, where are we going for lunch?).
  • You will fail to work to clarity on a key transition–excusing your sloppiness via deference to “experience”–and will be internally derailed and find it hard to get back into the flow of the message.
  • You struggle from the moment you open your mouth.
  • People will judge you based on your worst performance.
  • People will miss your motive and assume the worst.
  • People will fall asleep.
  • People will physically threaten you when you are done (I’ve had it happen).
  • The one person you were hoping would be there, comes on the Sunday when you feel like you were at your absolute worst.
  • You’ll walk off the stage, someone will say “Nice message Pastor” and your internal narrative will be something like, “Seriously? That was awful!” You smile anyway.
  • People will say “Good message Pastor” and you’ll know they are just being nice.
  • You won’t be able to land the plane and will keep buzzing the runway trying to land the plane again, one more time, any minute now, hold on, almost there, and.
  • Your gift will complicate your communication. If you are primarily a teacher, you’ll use too many words. If you are an apostle, you’ll be too demanding. If you are an evangelist, you’ll be too stringent. If you are a shepherd, you’ll be too vague and “nice.” If you are a prophet, you’ll bring so much thunder, everyone will tremble (and you’ll probably miss that you scared everyone instead of inspiring them).
  • As you reflect on the way home, the way you wished you’d made that transition, clarified that wording, or drove home that point will suddenly become crystal clear.
  • No one says a word to you after the message. Not. One. Word.
  • (You think) No one changes. At all. Ever.
  • People leave because you said something that offended them. They don’t talk to you, clarify or see if they misheard, they just leave assuming their offense was justified (and that you’re the biggest jerk in the history of jerks).
  • You’ll get into a fight with your spouse because you used them in an off-the-cuff illustration…again.
  • Someone will email you telling you how arrogant you are the same day someone emails you to tell you how humble you are.
  • You love/hate the process of preaching. It’s like giving birth every week only to find out your pregnant the moment after delivery.
  • You’ll know the reality of Spurgeon’s words: “Preaching is like throwing a bucket of water at a row of bottles.”

I’m sure you could add to the list (please do in the comments). But we know that’s not the final word.

Blessings

  • God will use your words–especially the week you feel it goes south like bad cheese–anyway. That will be the day people line up to say thank you.
  • You see people weeping as a point or story hits home.
  • People you think will never get it, radically begin to follow Jesus–and they thank you and credit the start of their journey to your preaching.
  • Someone will pull you aside at an unexpected moment and say, “I’ve learned so much about Jesus because of you. Thank you.”
  • Your own heart will be convicted, encouraged, and strengthened as you let the text read you first. You get to be the first one to “hear the word of the Lord.”
  • Your best content will be something you never thought about or prepared for but that came on the spur of the moment.
  • Through the foolishness of what is preached, people find the saving, home-welcoming love of Jesus.
  • Someone will tell you, just when you need to hear it, “You’re making a difference for so many of us. Thank you.”
  • Someone will come up to you and say, “How do you do that every week? Every week it’s exactly what I need to hear.” You’ll marvel at how the Holy Spirit works.
  • You’ll feel the flow as you do one of the things you know you were made for.
  • You get to sense the “holy moment” that descends on a congregation when the word of God is really heard (Shema’d) by the people of God.
  • You’ll marvel that someone with as many weaknesses as you actually gets to do this.

Foolishness.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21