Stories and Disordered Sexual Passion

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Stories move us, especially when the body gets the deeper meaning of powerful stories. Stories hold deep meanings that can’t be explained, only caught at the gut level, and when you catch it, it changes you, body and mind. Nathan D. Mitchell says that “our bodies make our prayers” Meeting Mystery, 224). I believe that, because I can say whatever I want to you, I can pray the fanciest of prayers, and make it believable to you, but my body can’t lie like that. When I eat terrible food that friend has made, I can say to them, “Oh man, this is so good!”, but my body is screaming at me, “Get this out of me!”

In James K. A. Smith’s Volume 2 of Cultural Liturgies, Imagining the Kingdom, he introduces the word praktognosia (56), meaning “know-how,” or to get something intuitively, at the gut level. This is how passions and desires work. Our bodies desire things passionately, usually at non-cognitive levels, and they feel things in the same manner. “I understand in ways I don’t know, and it is my body that understands” (58). We get things many times because our body responds to it before our minds conceive of the meaning. Stories have that kind of power to affect (move emotionally) our desires and actions, intersecting our bodies and minds.

In many ways, we have become so accustomed to analytical, systematic, scientific methods of learning and communicating, that we have lost the art of telling stories that “move” us into action or necessary change. This is especially true in the Christian culture, when desires are disordered and destructive. Many times, our answer to someone whose desires have gone whack (insert all of humanity here!), we respond with an answer that is behavioral and does not address the heart of the desire. For example, when a young man confesses looking at pornography, we say, “Hey dude, you gotta be in Word more”, or “How’s your prayer life”, or “Call me each time you struggle with this and I’ll help hold you accountable.”

Now, I admit that those are not bad things to do, but the issue I take with many “Christianese” responses to sinful desires (particularly sexual desires) is our lack of addressing the desire, and redirecting our imaginations to greater desires, desires that actually give life, not destroy life. Some of my greatest triumphs over sexual temptations are because I’ve had friends redirect my desires, rather than trying to shut down my desires. Trying to shut down our passions and desires by starving them out is not what we were meant to do as humans. There is a time for abstinence, but it’s not the long term solution. Our desire must be changed.

When we shut down desires and passions, we are bound to break eventually, because God gave us strong desires and passions, but they have been disordered. Sexual desires are inherently good, when they are order properly and directed towards the right person. We need holy imaginations to consider that our desires for things we can’t have are actually not desires that will bring us the joy and “fun” we wanted to have. In this case, our desires are weak desires. C.S. Lewis puts it best on the first page of his short excerpt entitled, Weight of Glory:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We are indeed half-hearted creatures, with weak desires and imaginations that have been lost. We need a divine awakening of imagination. We need to be better story tellers, more transparent in our story telling, offering our passions through story, and imagining the good life through story. It is the story that captures our bodies, and our bodies know-how passions and desires work. When we capture our imaginations for goodness, our bodies know and our actions follow suit.

The body gets what the body wants. When we feed the body with corrupt desires and illicit imaginings, corruption and illicitness follows. When we feed the body with good desires and holy imaginings, goodness and holiness follows. Maybe our disordered culture of sexuality needs better story tellers of what the good life really is. It seems as if our pop culture has told better, more convincing stories than anyone else, using sex to sell, and making millions off of disordered desires.

It’s time we tell better stories. We should know (and deeply believe) after all these years, that pop-culture isn’t fooling anyone, as we can clearly see how it’s stories have contributed to miserable marriages, lonely people, and confused children, who continue to cope by jumping into and living out of the destructive story of pop-culture. Imagine with me for moment, that the good life is faithfulness to one spouse, great sex in the context of a committed marriage, staying when it was easier to leave (kind of like Jesus did on the cross for us), the joy of being true to yourself, and the dignity we can all offer men and women by not objectifying them. Wouldn’t that be a sweet world to live in!

Our desires don’t need to be ignored or buried, they need to be re-storied with the true story of the universe, the only story that holds the answer to the pitiful place we are in as humans; the story that we all praktognosia when properly heard or seen. The story of God re-gathering his family together and reordering this world to the way it was supposed to be. Imagine stories that were birthed from this story. Imagine stories that give contextual witness to the goodness of God’s plan. Imagine stories that re-framed respecting women as economically profitable, and giving dignity to our bodies a virtue more desired.

What stories or imaginations have captured you either negatively or positively? Which stories have you believe in that are producing death in you? What stories are you telling to yourself? To others? It’s time we pay attention to the stories we are listening to and telling, and be better stewards of humanity and our sexuality, before we lose another generation to disordered sexual passions.

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From Addiction to Absolution

At the core, the drug addict isn’t running to drugs because he made a series of bad decisions. He runs to them because they have become the one thing that can provide relief from pain, pleasure, and an escape. At the core, the porn addict doesn’t run to the computer screen or the bookstore because he has let his mind go too far. He runs to it because it is giving him something that relieves him from the lack of intimacy, acceptance, and pleasure. At the core, the workaholic doesn’t work all the time because he is so in love with what he does. He works all the time because it gives him a sense of significance, acceptance, or the right kind of living. The same can be said about the shopaholic, the Facebook addict, and the one who controls their eating. At the heart of all of these addictions is a deep idol that drives us to satisfy it, a desire that has convinced us that “this” is the one thing that can fill our deep, empty well.

For instance, a woman who has become promiscuous with men and has not cared for her own protection or body, is not in love with the thought of being with men. Rather, her deep idol of being wanted, accepted, or worth something (even if for a moment), drives her to do whatever she can to fulfill that need or to get a temporary relief for the night. She doesn’t care for her body because the deep idol of wanting to be loved is controlling her. She will labor to serve this deep idol and make it happy at any cost. The sad thing is, many of us (men especially) don’t see this inner struggle and think that many of these women really want us to take advantage of their physical beauty and please ourselves by using them. That is a different blog for a different day.

To counsel this woman to stop her destructive behavior would be useless. The deep idol knows that even if she stops this behavior for a while, it is still in control  because it has become the ultimate thing in her life. She will just move on to another behavior (that may or may not be as outwardly destructive), but she will be mastered by her deep idol that is driving her to be loved.

So here’s the deal, it is not wrong to want to be loved. We were made with this desire. The desire to want to be loved is God given and is a longing of everyone’s heart. But when we sell ourselves to any and everything so that we can attain “being loved”, we become slaves to “being loved” and will never be satisfied. This is why worship of anything other than God is so destructive, because everything except God can be taken from us. Idols fail 100% of the time. This is why God hates idolatry, not because He’s some angry deity who is always looking to smite the disobedient, but because He knows He is the only “slave master” who can deliver exactly what His slaves need. He’s the only”idol” who will never fail and cannot be taken from us. So when He sees His kids running to things that only bring a moment of satisfaction and ultimate destruction, He hates it!

We see His hatred for it in Deuteronomy 29:16-19 when Moses speaks to the Israelites about their time in the wilderness, just before they enter the promised land: “You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’

Detestable. Beware. Poisonous. Bitter. Stubborn. These are just a few words that stuck out to me when reading this passage. When we serve created things over the Creator, it is detestable to God. We must beware of letting our hearts be drawn to temporary relief, because if we want relief over God Himself, the words poisonous and bitter become words that describe us, and this isn’t what we want. We are just wanting to be loved, accepted, worth something; we just want some pleasure and joy. So behavior change is “out” (not an viable option at this point) because what’s driving our behavior is not God. Affection change is “in” (the only viable option at this point) because God must be our new and first affection so that our behavior can change for good, which is what will actually give us what we want; joy, pleasure, acceptance, love. How? Because when our affections are changed and we desire God, we get God.

This is called absolution or redemption. Not the redemption of our souls, but the kind of absolution I’m talking about is the rehab that needs to take place because of our lives of temporary and selfish pleasures and our misplaced longings of acceptance from created things. Our misplaced affections which has led us to all kinds of addictions has brought alongside of us a trail of pain, destruction, habits, wounds, friends, family and thoughts that all need to redeemed. Remade. Redone. Reprioritized. Redefined.

This work is slow and painful and not for the faint of heart, but it is for everyone. This work is not instant, so if you’re still wanting a quick fix, you’re still serving your deep idol, not Jesus. This work is the kind of work that is done by those who know they need Jesus more than oxygen. This work leads to a life of fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. This work leads to a life that is truly free, and freed to be loved and receive love. This work leads to God looking beautiful, magnificent, powerful and awesome in the life of those who trust Him. Make Jesus look good. Do the work, but don’t go at it alone.

Better Than Google Play

I have to admit… I love this ad. The video was written and put together so well, it tugged at my heart strings and dipped into my passions and made me want to join those little girls shooting arrows at injustice! “Hate, love, laugh, cry. Watch, listen and play. Feel with your heart.” This Google Play ad teaches us about our humanity in such a beautiful way, that we long to feel and remember the good and fight against the bad, to make life count, to be on the side of justice and joy. This is indeed what we were created for: life, beauty, adventure, justice, sacrifice, generosity, love.

But the end of Google’s ad gives us a glimpse into their ‘profit-driven-answer’ as to how this life can be lived to the fullest… Go to “Google Play, and play your heart out.” “Get more apps and games. Watch more movies and listen to more music. This is truly living!” Now, I’m not against good music and movies, I love them, a lot… but they are not the way to life, and beauty, and adventure. They ultimately leave us empty and void of life. Try it… Play games all day, or look at Facebook and watch everyone else’s life that is better and happier than yours, and see how you feel after wards.

The digital social world looks so good, but the fall from the “high” is a big let down. This type of numbing so that we can live a happy life looks even better when the way to real life, at least what history has shown us is found in sacrifice, suffering, and courage. It’s much easier to feel good by watching a movie or buying a new app, but Jesus’ answer is radically different, much like history’s answer has shown us.

Allow me to speak on behalf of God for a moment, because Jesus demands to be heard in this conversation, for many reasons, but one especially from the gospel of Mark. In the opening chapter of Mark’s letter, Jesus utters the most spectacular announcement of all time: the kingdom of God is here! (Mark 1:15). But what’s even more spectacular is what happens after Jesus announces this spectacular statement, He displays what this statement means and looks like.

If we read through Mark’s letter about Jesus, we would see that He lives and teaches like no other religious ruler ever has. Each miracle, every sermon and movement toward the poor is calculated to beat back evil and restore creation to its Maker. The blind see. The deaf hear. The lame walk. The sick are healed. The social outcasts are socially restored. The untouchable are touched. The oppressed are freed. The oppressors are condemned.

Then at the end of Mark’s letter, we see that Jesus’ plan all along was to take all that was broken in the world, and absorb it for us. This means sin done against us, and sin we’ve done against others (and ourselves) is consumed by Christ, but it came at a high cost for Jesus. He became cursed by our cursings and was rejected because of our reputation. Thankfully Jesus, being God, died, and and then was resurrected, and when He did, he put to death the death of death and has now offered us, through sacrifice, suffering, and courage, the greatest gift of all… the “Way” to true life, true beauty, true adventure, true justice, true generosity, true love.

The point isn’t to hate on Google play or apps or movies, buy them, have fun with them, watch them, enjoy them with friends and family, “play your heart out”, but don’t run to them to answer questions about life, or look to them to define beauty and sacrifice, or allow them to create a cyber world that’s more real then your neighbor next to you, or your wife or kids.

By Jesus’ word and works of power, He is bringing the kingdom, the ultimate and most satisfying app on the market! You can’t buy it though… you must believe Him and then share Him with others, because He’s the ultimate flesh-satisfying and soul-defining gift to the world. Don’t play without Him!

What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

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Las Vegas is famous for many ‘riskay’ things, and this phrase has become the trademark of the city’s gambling sector: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. This is implying that what you do here in Vegas won’t hurt your wife, husband or loved ones, as long as they never find out what you do here. Worse yet, there is a belief that illicit behavior won’t even hurt the person doing it.

This same thinking is wrapped up into the old adage that goes like this: “What we don’t know, won’t hurt us.” When I was a kid, I used to talk about things like, “What if the fast food worker spit in your hamburger?” or “What if your hamburger was dipped in the toilet?” You know… things that everybody worries about, right? I remember talking and thinking about this every now and then when we would eat out. The conversation always ended, in my mind at least, “As long as I don’t know, I’ll be fine.” I was a garbage disposal as a kid.

I was thinking about all of this when my brother showed me this picture of a McDonald’s sign in California. Some of McD’s food is hazardous to your health, so much so, that California McD’s, by law, must post this warning in their stores. My brother told me that even though this sign has been posted, sales have not been hindered. This made me rethink the old adage and I began wondering what it takes to change people, even though they know something will cause harm to them.

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Eating a McD’s big mac that has so many preservatives bugs or mold won’t even eat it, or going to Vegas and giving your soul away to someone who is there just to pay rent and cover their bills, have caused so much damage to our bodies, but we still do them. Seems strange that this belief of what we don’t know won’t hurt us is still allowing us to ignore dangers and toxins in our lives.

We didn’t know so many toys were made with lead, but they hurt many people. We didn’t know certain foods were infected with salmonella, but it got us sick. We didn’t know building products with asbestos were bad, but they’ve been very toxic. We didn’t know that porn was destroying our minds (it’s scientifically proven that sex addicts destroy their brains, literally), but now we have a sexually addicted culture that consumes and marginalizes predominantly children and women.

What we don’t know can and has hurt us, but what’s even more disturbing is that this McD’s picture reveals to me is that even though we know things hurts us, even destroy us and others, we still do them; we still offer them to others. Not only that, they are some of the most profitable industries in our ‘sophisticated’ culture (fast food, porn, and cheap consumable products). What we desire, we get. So the problem is that we have desire issues.

What we desire, we get. So merely saying, “I want to act differently” or “I want to stop doing those things” isn’t enough to get people to stop the foolishness. We are still eating cancer causing food, we are still performing sexually illicit, brain damaging acts, and big industries are still producing cheap consumable products for a profit only to waste our resources and environment, because we consumers buy them.

Our desires are what need to be challenged and changed, and this doesn’t happen by mere will power or behavior modification. It happens by realizing and owning that we’re all part of the problem, and as hard as humanity tries, as ‘sophisticated’ as we get, we can’t solve the problem of evil and illicit human desires.

What we need is to desire something or someone who is not corrupt, and will not corrupt. What we need is people who are willing to submit and surrender, not to their desires, but to the only One who is not corrupt, and will never corrupt.

An ‘Exploitative-Image-Free’ reading of Sinead O’Connor’s Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

This morning there are a lot of websites circulating an open letter to Miley Cyrus from 47 year old pop star, Sinead O’Connor, regarding Miley’s recent publicity moves and videos. In this letter (which is very raw and explicit), Sinead is painfully honest to Miley, and in pop culture’s own way, was trying to love her and other women (girls) who are looking up to Miley and want to follow in her footsteps.

The unfortunate part of the websites that are circulating the letter, which is found on all kinds of news, music, and entertainment websites, is that they are showing more exploitative images of Miley and others trying to get more people to read the letter from their website ‘prostituting’ women’s bodies for money and more hits on their site. The very websites who are praising Sinead for her calling out Miley (in love), are hypocritically using Miley’s naked images to get more hits on their site.

I think we all could learn a thing or two from Sinead’s letter (which I am not endorsing every part of it), so I posted it here on my site just in case there’s anyone who wants to read it without all the other degrading images of Miley and other women who were created in God’s image:

Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your “Wrecking Ball” video was designed to be similar to the one for “Nothing Compares” … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way “cool” to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.

I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.

The music business doesn’t give a sh– about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, “they” will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men oggling you give a sh– about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f— about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f— about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f— about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f— about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted.. it’s so not cool Miley.. it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf—er who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

My Thoughts About the Same-Sex Issue: To My Jesus-Following, Gospel-Loving Friends

This is my small attempt to respond not to the Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriages, but an attempt to respond to the “Christian” divide over this issue. So let me be clear, this is not to anyone who doesn’t call themselves a follower of Jesus. This post is to those who claim to love and follow Jesus as Lord.

I think the main issue at hand here is this: Is same-sex activity a sin, or not? This seems, to me, to be the main issue that’s at hand for most of my friends who are Jesus-following, gospel-loving people. If you disagree with me, that fine, just allow me the internet space to share some of my thoughts. Let me break up some of my Jesus-following friends into different corners for a moment.

One corner is saying: “God is love, and it’s not unloving for two faithful women to commit themselves to each other in marriage and share their lives together. I couldn’t imagine Jesus ever getting angry at those women and ask them to not share their lives together in that way.”

The other corner is saying: “God is love, and therefore we should love the homosexual community in the same way we should love anyone else who is human and sinful. But God is love and He gets to define what love is and who can share their lives together. It’s only a man and a woman who can do that, and same-sex sexual activity is a sin and should not be accepted.”

Still, there could also be another corner that says: “God hates homosexuality and it’s gross and should not be allowed in the church at all.” In my opinion, this is not a biblical stance and does not portray the love of God in Scripture and should be avoided by anyone who calls themselves a Jesus-person.

What I want to add to this discussion among my friends in various corners is this: Same-sex marriage and our support of it or not is not the main issue; “love” is the main issue.

[On a side note though, I am in support of same-sex unions, not because I think it’s okay, but we can’t make it illegal in the same way we can’t make adultery illegal in our context. I am also in support of giving certain rights to same-sex unions that doesn’t keep them from living with the rights of other families. But I do not agree that marriage is up for debate as to what it means. God ordained marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24), and woe is me if I am going to say it’s anything else than what God says it is.]

Okay, the issue of love. A biblical definition of love could begin with this verse from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I like that definition, maybe because I’m biased to God’s word, the Bible is a good starting place for this discussion, because the definition and implications of “love” has been radically skewed. So in the case of love between two men or two women, the Bible never condemns that. Take for instance, David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1), Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17), Jesus and John (John 13:23), or Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2).

I give you these examples of same-sex love and commitment from Scripture, but not one of these love relationships involved sexual union. Parents love their children with deep affection. God loves us deeply and intimately. But parents’ love for a child and God’s love for people is not love defined by sexual union. God is certainly pro-love. God is love (1 John 4:8)!

In my opinion, the argument about homosexuality isn’t whether love is okay between different groups of people. Of course love is okay, indeed it is mandated to love all peoples, tribes, and nations. Love is always God’s will. So what is the argument? The argument, I think, is whether or not sexual relations in the above referenced biblical example is what God intended.

The Bible clearly speaks against adult children and their parents or siblings engaging in sexual relationships. Parents and adult children are consenting groups who could certainly love each other deeply and have a strong connection, but the Bible rejects sexual relationship between these groups.

God is love, and love is “always” right between “all” people, but sex is not the same as love and shouldn’t be represented as if it is. The Bible’s definition of love is very different than our culture’s definition of love. Love isn’t defined as attraction, sex, or intimate passions (I am not saying that same-sex relationships are only made up of attraction, sex, or passions). What I am saying is that attraction, sex, or intimate passions are not the definition of love.

The gospel of Jesus demands love between all (Mark 12:30-31), but not sex or marriage between all (Mark 10:6-7). I think it is beautiful for two women or two men to share their lives together intimately. Ruth left her country and her people to devote herself to Naomi. Listen to what she says to Naomi: “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17).

This is a beautiful picture of self sacrifice, life-long commitment, and love between two women. This is the type of love the Bible speaks of when it says love never fails; love always hopes; always perseveres. This is the kind of love that is displayed in Jesus dying for those who didn’t deserve it, you and I (1 John 4:9-10)!

Love is seeking another’s good while putting aside our own desires, sacrifice, and restraint. This is what Jesus modeled on the cross for us. His death means we live.
My overall point is this: Love is “always” right, but adding sex to love isn’t always right. To illustrate this point, nobody has a problem with a brother loving his sister, but every normal person I know is put off at the two of them engaging in sexual activity. Why? What if they were careful not to get pregnant? What if it was just sexual foreplay, but not “intercourse”?

If biblical teachings are disregarded or are freely interpreted however ones cultural lenses see it, then on what grounds would we be able to object to an adult son and his mother marrying one another? When we toss out the Bible (or freely and unaccountable interpret it; and I mean this for both sides of the issue) because it’s teachings aren’t what the “majority knows to be true”, then we are left with a morality that says anything is right if it feels right to me at the time. This is relativism at it’s finest and it’s dangerous.

This is the same kind of thinking that certain fundamentalists have used with church history and their view of women, or slaves, or the neglect of the poor. Just because the majority believes something to be true, doesn’t mean we say, “The ship has sailed and we better get on it.” I say, “Stay off that ship because it doesn’t float, or at least won’t float for very long.”

So if you object to a mother and a consenting adult son marrying and joining one another is sexual matrimony, I must ask, why? Because it is non-traditional? Because it’s gross? Because it’s illegal in our country? Should we lobby towards making it legal for those parent child relationships who want the same marriage rights?

Dale Kuehne mentions that Aristotle lived in a culture where same-sex relationships were acceptable and common, but Aristotle claimed that marriage is to be only between a man and a woman. Why? Because sexualizing a relationship brings slavery into the friendship, where each person is trying to get something off of the other. Sexualizing friendships will always undermine the friendship; this is true in every relationship.

Kuehne goes on to say, “Do you know anyone who has been married for 7 years, and after those 7 years, their sex life is what holds that marriage together?” The answer is no, but our culture has made sexuality the penultimate in a relationship. What is it that fulfills us? Is sex really the answer? Is being married to the person I’m attracted to most? There’s nothing (person, place, or thing) we can imagine, that if we get it we won’t become bored with, and there’s always going to be someone or something more attractive to you.

This is why it’s so important as believers that we truly believe that if we are in Christ, then mysteriously we are seated in the heavenly realms with the Lord at the same time we are here in the flesh, and that the relationship we have with the Divine, God Himself, is the only relationship that won’t terminate on itself because He’s perfectly loving and eternal.

When we are connected to the Divine in this way, we will not live and think that “in order to live the best and most fulfilling life, we have to be in a sexual relationship with the person whom we are most attracted to.” No… actually we will be able to be more committed people to our family, friends, children, bosses, and co-workers. Being in a love relationship with Jesus is so utterly satisfying; so much so that we are free to live our lives never fully being able to gratify the desires of our flesh.

We must, as Jesus-following, gospel-loving people, think through this issue better and biblically. Let’s be better students of the word, and better lovers of people. The times and the gospel demands it!

Ruth week 3: Risky Business

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawnchair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home at in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera. When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude of 16,000 feet. At first, he did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing ; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

There’s not much that we wouldn’t do for a good thrill or to gain some sort of significance. After all, “a man can’t just sit around.” We need life to be exciting, thrilling; we want to feel significant, wanted, accepted. This morning, we encounter a really crazy story in Scripture that seems to be a thrilling, nerve racking experience, with some sort of pursuit of significance in a very risky way. The unfortunate thing is in our day and age, this chapter often gives us freedom to find thrills and significance from relationships, and we miss the big picture of the message of Ruth 3. Ruth 3 gives us a glimpse of 2 hope-filled women who are trusting God for significance and put themselves out there in a way that could bring about more pain, more rejection, and more hopelessness.

THE PLAN
vv. 1-5: Naomi – She has a plan and she is not going to waste a stroke. We see Naomi in this story move from being an oppressed victim, to an awakened, hope-filled orchestrator of righteousness. As long as Naomi remained a victim, she would remain motionless with no strategy or never put to use what God has given her to work with. She doesn’t stay in her junk, but she chooses to see where God is working and work along side Him. Naomi’s plan is clear: to win for Ruth a godly husband and a secure future, and preserve the family line.

But we have to admit that Naomi’s plan is crazy. Naomi tells Ruth to wash up and anoint herself. In modern terms, she says, “Ruth, go take a shower, shave your legs and armpits, pluck your eyebrows, put on some nice perfume and lotion that makes your body shine, get all dressed up and then go to Boaz’s office, follow him home, and after he goes to bed, sneak in to his house, lay down at the foot of his bed and cover yourself up with his blanket.” That’s racy! That plan would sell box office tickets in our day, but none of us (in our right mind) would encourage our daughters to do this).

Everybody, including Ruth, must think she’s crazy! Not to mention what people would be thinking: “And just where do you suppose that will lead, huh!?” To which Naomi gives her hope-filled answer in the last part of verse 4: “…he will tell you what to do.”

Okay, this is what we do know: We do know that Naomi’s plan is for Boaz to marry Ruth, but why not just go talk to him the next day? Why plan something that could possibly blow up in a sinful way? What did she mean by “lie at his feet?” Does that mean sleep with him or just lie there and freak him out when he wakes up in the morning? We have to agree, that this is not prescriptive counsel for us today.

We don’t know exactly what Naomi’s strategy is and the author is okay not tying that up for us, but we do know that Naomi seemingly wasn’t intending for Ruth to get lucky that night with Boaz as many would think.

THE PROPOSAL
vv. 6-9: Ruth – She says, “Alright old bitter mom-in-law, I’m not sure of your plan, but I like that you’re livening up a little bit.” Ruth apparently goes right along with her plan and is placing her trust in Naomi (hope must be really contagious!). But we learn that Ruth doesn’t do all that Naomi tells her to do.

As Boaz wakes at midnight and is startled to find a woman at his feet, he asks, “Who are you?” Good question! I can just imagine what’s going through Boaz’ head at this point, so this question is a good start.

Ruth says, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (v. 9) She was, in effect saying, “You are the one who can redeem our family and I would like to be the one to whom you pledge your faithfulness to in marriage.” In modern day language, “I’m not here for sex, but I am here to ask you to seal the deal and marry me, share your inheritance and give me a child for the clan of Elimelech.” Great proposal huh? Any normal man would run, but we soon find out that Boaz is anything but normal.

This is where Ruth doesn’t adhere to her mother-in-law’s instructions. Instead of leaving the situation dangerously open to misunderstanding, as a godly woman, Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right away. Her goal was to be redeemed and get married, not to have a seductive night of passion to manipulate Boaz to redeem her and Naomi.

Ruth was not intending to give Boaz an invitation to have sex (They were both God-fearing and knew that pre-marital sex was forbidden by God; OT and NT Scripture forbids it), rather we see the depth of Ruth from this comment, “Spread your wings over your servant.” The same word that Boaz said to Ruth in 2:12 (referring to finding refuge under God’s “wings”).

Ruth tells Boaz that he is God’s agent to reward Ruth, not knowing that this was Boaz’ intentions in the first place. Ruth says, “You are the wings that God desires to use to redeem me and bring me to a safe place. Would you be that man?” I think Boaz had every intention of being this man, but didn’t want to presume upon the young beautiful Ruth. He respected her and wanted her to desire to be redeemed by him.

THE PROBLEM
vv. 10-12: Boaz – Now it’s time to see Boaz’ plan unfold. And out of the gates, he remarkably comes up with beautiful, mature words for it being midnight, and him being startled and presumably buzzed:

“10 May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter (this is how we know that Boaz got the message loud and clear from Ruth; he intends on treating her as an Israelite; purity). You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.

Ok, this had to have been a bitter blow to Ruth. At this point she was probably feeling that things had been going well for her, but the DTR talk went bad. I can imagine Ruth wondering to herself whether she is going to have to repeat this midnight extravaganza with another man or not. Ruth launched off the ground in her lawn chair and is now uncertain about how to get down, and is likely cold and frightened.

THE PROMISE
But Boaz, the man, he will take care of it for her. Listen to what Boaz says:
v. 13: Remain tonight [sweetie], and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. [You can take that to the bank. So for now,] Lie down until the morning.”

The stars are out in all their beauty, the mood is right, they are alone, she is all dressed up, he is relaxed, it’s midnight; and he says this? What a man! What a woman! For the sake of righteousness he doesn’t touch her and he even is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that there isn’t a closer redeemer to redeem her. What a dude Boaz is!

Boaz tells Ruth to stay until dawn and secretly leave not because he had ill intention, but so that her mission wouldn’t be misinterpreted by witnesses. Oh that may we have more Ruth and Boaz’s! Oh that for the sake of righteousness we would turn from what feels right and good! Oh that we would choose what is right even when we feel that we deserve it! Oh that we would reject the tone of our culture that says “If it feels good, then do it!” There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Ruth and Boaz chose what is right according to God’s good plan and the end was the protection of the line of Jesus, our savior! Let the morning dawn on your purity. Don’t be like the world. Be like Boaz. Be like Ruth. Profoundly in love. Subdued and discerning in communication. Powerful in self-control. Committed to righteousness.

THE PROVISION
vv. 14-18: 14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Boaz sends Ruth home with six measures of barley (80 lbs. worth; Ruth is no weak woman) as he has shown he is always committed to taking care of Ruth and Naomi and Naomi reassures Ruth that Boaz will not rest until he has followed through concerning her request. Game is on and this provision is just a glimpse of the kind of provision Boaz is going to offer Ruth. This is also a glimpse of the kind of provision (salvation) God ddesires to work on our behalf. God’s salvation is holisitc (body and soul).

As I read over this story in chapter 3, two words kept coming to my mind: thrill and significance. We are often moved by one or the other. Or maybe we are moved to do something thrilling in order to find significance, much like Larry the lawn chair pilot. This chapter is definitely thrilling and full of blood pumping action, and Ruth and Naomi are surely looking to find significance, and for a moment it seemed that Naomi was looking outside of God’s will for this kind of significance. But we see Ruth turn the corner and fall back on holiness and trust in God’s provision. Her motive to lay at Boaz’ feet was not a self-centered desire for thrill & significance. Rather, it was a God-centered thrill & significance that led her to do this seeming foolish, reputation ending act.

The part of the story I didn’t read about Larry the lawn chair pilot was that later in his life, he did volunteer work for the US Forest Service, then later broke up with his girlfriend and flight crew member of 15 years and could only find work sporadically as a security guard. Finally, 11 years after his “dream flight”, Larry committed suicide at the age of 44. The thrill and significance he sought never lasted, and actually left him more empty and lonely.

Thrill and significance: these two cravings are the very things that God uses to draw us to Himself, but they are also used by the enemy to keep us from being faithful to God in the way that Ruth and Boaz were in this story.

One quote regarding teen pregnancy says this: “Teenagers are far more likely to have babies when their lives begin to seem pointless and when the doors to the future seem closed.” There is a very close connection between saying “life has no point” and saying “life has no edge”.

Thrill & significance is what we all long for, but when we make thrill & significance our chief goal, we lose out. “I just want to have fun.” “I just want to be accepted (be significant).” “There’s noting I wouldn’t do to get (blank).” Thrill & significance pursued as a means to your happiness is empty and devastating.

If we put these two deep cravings together, I think what we’re saying is this: “I want my life to have meaning that is exciting to me and others. I want my life to be admirable. I want life to be a thrill; I want more joy in my life. I want to live for something that I would give my whole life for. I want to now that I’m gonna be somebody”

When we define ourselves by what we do, then when we don’t do (or fail to get) that thing that defines us, we cease to be significant (there is no thrill in life). Now oddly enough, the 2 things that keep us from being faithful to God are the very things that are satisfied when we are faithful to God.

Some of us would ask, “How in the world could Ruth and Boaz be this faithful, or generous?” They weren’t looking for cheap thrills and false significance. They were looking to be faithful to God. Their pursuit to be faithful to God gave them the very things they (and every human) longed for: thrill & significance. The other thing we find in Scripture is that you weren’t meant to try and be Boaz. The picture of Boaz is a picture of redemption that God works out on our behalf as we turn to Him for redemption. We can’t be the Boaz…we are Ruth, we are needy, we need to be redeemed and are relying on His power to save us. This is a glimpse into the gospel.

Can you identify times in your life where you have run to cheap thrills and false significance? Can you identify the affects the let down of those thrills have had on your life? Did those thrills make you feel significant? If so, how long did that feeling last?  What might you be overlooking today that God has already provided for you to receive the thrills and significance in Him? Or what has God called you to do, but you have not acted on it?

You are free to obey, and your obedience to God is the beginning of the thrill & significance you were meant to find in Him and His plans for you. You are not bound to the law. If you’ve made the wrong decision in the past, you will be ok! You will not be zapped dead by God. He will not forsake His promise to you. He has already redeemed you through Christ, if indeed you receive Jesus as your King. He will continue to redeem you, and give you the faith to obey and then you will walk in the thrill of being with God and receive your significance from you God says you are.

There is another One who forsook cheap thrills and false significance; He was deeply committed to God’s will; He trusted in God’s timing so much so that He obediently was led to the cross because of the hope set before Him, and the joy that would come to many. He forsook cheap thrills and false significance so that you could have eternal thrills and divine significance. This Jesus the Christ, the greater Ruth and Boaz.

Jesus is the One who set all things right.

Jesus’ righteousness makes many righteous.

Jesus’ plan gives us purpose, and thrill, and significance.

Jesus is the redeemer we need to turn to.

Let’s Pray!