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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Buying Into the World's View of Sex

Last time, we said that there were two extreme views about sex even in the Christian community. The first was the view of the prude – that sex was really Satan’s invention, not God’s. That view holds that sex is always dirty and a necessary evil required to keep the race going. How foolish. Sex is a wonderful gift created by God and given to us to enjoy fully within the confines of marriage. It was His plan and His invention.

The second extreme and opposite view that Christians fall into is buying in to the world’s view of sex – in other words, the kinkier the better, or the more often and with the more partners the better. This is equally an abomination that leads to promiscuity, adultery, pornography, and homosexuality – all of which are SIN! All of which is condemned in Scripture. No! What the world chooses to call sexual freedom is the kind of freedom appropriate to dogs, not moral, responsible people created in the image of God.

Sex truly is a gift from God, isn’t it? It is sacred. It is powerful. It is something far too precious to be squandered outside the bounds of a lifelong, committed marriage relationship. Yet everything in our culture is designed to make it cheap and common. Everything from blue jeans to cigarettes to pickup trucks are sold using sex. TV and movies are filled with sexual scenes and innuendo, and most often between unmarried people. The days of Ozzie and Harriet are over in the media.

The “National and International Religion Report” (1988) reported that the average teenage girl sees 1,500 sexual acts or references to sexual acts on TV each year, plus she sees an average of 25 sexually explicit “R” rated movies (One has to wonder where their parents were during all this). But, may I remind you that 1988 was relatively clean compared to now. How do we expect our kids to remain pure with that much sexual stimulation? But that kind of sex isn’t sacred. It isn’t holy, It isn’t as God intended.

Nowadays, you can read all kinds of garbage from the so-called experts trying to not only justify, but encourage that kind of behavior. Just looking at the magazine covers of the various women’s magazines reveals how prevalent this philosophy is. They have articles with titles like, “Flirting helps a marriage.” Oh, really? An open marriage is as much a contradiction as a jumbo shrimp or a humble politician. A husband and wife can never develop the intimacy God intended unless there is an exclusivity in their relationship.

God says for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife – one woman for a lifetime (Why do you think it’s called wedlock?). This cleaving involves a sexual cleaving – body to body – which is God’s plan.

We in the church must develop and teach the right perspective on sex and reject the extremes. Sex is God’s blessed gift to us to enjoy with complete freedom within marriage. Repeating Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” We may freely and joyously give and receive our bodies to our spouse with abandon knowing God approves and applauds. But sex is also so precious and holy, and powerful, that it must be protected behind barriers. It must be guarded within the confines of the marriage relationship. Only then will it be all that God intended. Only then will it bring the joy and satisfaction that God intended. And only then will it be totally guilt free.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cleaving Body to Body

We have been examining Genesis 2:24-25, which says:
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined [or cleave] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
We have said that the process of becoming one flesh is the process of cleaving. Ah, but what cleaves to what? Oh, boy, this is going to get juicy. I almost need to make a disclaimer about now, “Caution: Parents with small children should be advised of mature content.”

But really, if we can’t talk about sex from a Biblical perspective in church as Christians, we leave the world with the only microphone. Theirs will be the only position heard by our kids. And they scream their message out loud and clear from every venue.

But remember: God created man to be a trinity of body, soul, and spirit. The husband and wife are to be united on each of these three levels. But, the first we’ll cover is the union of body to body through sexual intercourse. If this union doesn’t take place, the marriage can be annulled. They would say that the marriage has not been consummated. No sex, no marriage. God also thinks this sexual union is important. After all, sex was His creation, wasn’t it? He thought it up and designed it into our bodies. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

God created the man and the woman with very different bodies, complimentary bodies, so that they could perfectly fit together in sexual union.

And the reason? Genesis 1:28 tells us, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “’Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth.’” How else can we multiply without sexual union?

But, wait a minute. That was before the curse, wasn’t it? I thought sex was part of the curse, that it was dirty and naughty, or something. Many in the church are confused over the role of sex, not realizing that sex is God’s gift to us. Many in the church somehow think sex is the devil’s gift, not God’s. They think that sex is somehow always dirty. But it only is outside of marriage. Inside marriage, it is a beautiful, God ordained activity.

Parents often give kids the idea that sex is evil by saying something like this: “Sex is filthy, wicked, and disgusting, and you need to save it for your husband.” How ridiculous! And they think that Pastor’s only engage in sexual intercourse for the purpose of procreation, but they never enjoy it. What a warped, unbiblical concept.

To any of you who think that, let me point you to you the words of 1st Corinthians 7:3-5:

3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Are married people expected to have sex? Of course! The only exception is by mutual “consent” for a time “period of fasting and prayer.” God is making it clear here that we really owe sexual enjoyment to our marital partner. The older women (Men could never say this and get away with it) should teach the younger women that they most often should say “Yes!” rather than “No!” Lots of husbands would like to engrave these words on the headboard of their bed. But don’t misuse this, men, or your wives might too.

Indeed, God said this in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” There is nothing noble or spiritual about having a lousy sex life for a married couple. There is nothing Christian about settling for boring while the world goes for the gusto and the truly satisfying sex lives.

Let me tell you, God is no prude. He wouldn’t have included the Song of Solomon in the Bible if he was. That book is erotic. It describes in detail the joys and techniques of marital love-making. The Hebrews wouldn’t even let their young men read this book until they were married.

Have you ever wondered what can be done in the marital bed? Just read the Song of Solomon and let your imagination run wild. Obviously God intended sex to be pleasurable, both for the husband and the wife, all within the confines of the marriage bond. They could thoroughly look at, touch, and enjoy each other’s body. But, sex is so special, so sacred, that it should be protected and never squandered outside of marriage.

In Proverbs 5:15-19, we see a call to both marital fidelity and marital bliss. It says:

15 Drink water from your own cistern, And running water from your own well. 16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be only your own, And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.
This passage clearly tells us to stay home to enjoy sex. Don’t spread your lovemaking around. They say there are two things a cowboy would never share: his horse and his wife. But within marriage, we are to fully enjoy one another’s body. We are to be completely satisfied with one another. This is as God intended. This is how He designed us.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What Does It Mean To Cleave Unto Your Wife?

Genesis 2:24 records the Words of God about marriage. It says: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The King James translates it a little more descriptively as “cleave.” But what does it mean to “cleave?” What does it mean to become one flesh? How can two separate individuals join together so tightly, so intimately, so permanently, that God calls them one?

Peter Marshall, former congressional chaplain, wrote:

“Marriage is not a federation of two sovereign states. It is a union – domestic, social, spiritual, and physical. It is the fusion of two hearts – the union of two lives – the coming together of two tributaries, which after being joined in marriage, will flow in the same channel in the same direction. . . . carrying the same burdens of responsibility and obligation.”
That’s what marriage is: two people becoming one flesh – one permanent union – as they “cleave” together. Yes, it happens symbolically during the marriage ceremony, but also more and more, bit by bit, over a lifetime as they continue to “cleave” together.

One counselor said:

“Every variety of marriage, if it is to be successful and enduring, has one requirement. . . . two people shall be ready to sink themselves in the creation of a new unit bigger than either of them. The creation must be important to them. They must accept their relationship as the permanent framework of their lives.”

Or, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, “So then they are no longer two, but one flesh.” They become tied together so tightly, so intimately, they are no longer two, but one – one flesh.

As W. J. Fields put it:

“This concept has profound implications. Husbands and wives often think of their spouses as their ‘other partner’ in marriage. They think of themselves as two individuals who have contracted to live together as man and wife, each a completely separate entity with his own rights, privileges and desires. But instead of being two separated individuals, they are two parts of one unit, each of which is necessary to make the unity complete. Therefore when the husband loves his wife, he is not loving another person at all. He is loving a part of himself. When the wife loves her husband, she is not loving another person. She is loving herself.”
That almost makes me think of the Trinity. There is one God existing in three separate persons – a great mystery. We, in some very rudimentary way, are types of that in marriage. Two become one.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but it is all theoretical. How does this have any real life application? The word “cleave” means to glue. To be bonded together, to stick together like peanut butter cleaves to the roof of your mouth. Two individuals, a man and a woman, are joined together for life into a single entity with a glue so strong you can’t pull it apart without tearing something. Each individual submerges himself or herself into the unit – the marriage. They become one flesh. This happens as the man and woman join together body to body, soul to soul, and spirit to spirit. We will cover each of these three ways in future articles.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Intimacy is Tough

Chuck Swindall wrote this:
“There were two porcupines living in Alaska. It was very cold. To keep warm, they decided to draw close together. But when they did that, they needled one another. So they pulled apart. But again they got cold. And so they moved close again, and they got needled. Poor porcupines! They were continuously either cold, or else needling one another.”
So much for intimacy between porcupines. But isn’t that the way it is with people too? Alone, we are miserable, lonely, empty; so we get married. But together, we needle one another, aggravate and hurt one another. Like one guy said, “Women! You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”

The result is that half of all marriages fail and end up in the divorce courts. Most of the rest experience disillusionment, sadness, and hurt; yet they endure despite all that. They endure, not because they experience a good marriage, but because they tough it out and won’t give up.

But is that the way God intended marriage to be? No! Not at all! Doesn’t God want us to be able to draw close and be warm and comfortable? Yes! Absolutely!

That is exactly God’s purpose in writing Genesis 2:24-35:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
Yes, we are to live together in perfect peace and unity – and with intimacy. That is God’s plan and His will.

Let’s look at what happens in a typical home: The husband comes from a big family that is easy going and rambunctious. He always thought the bedpost was a convenient place to hang his underwear. She comes from a quiet, orderly home. She just assumed that everyone picked up their own underwear. You have guaranteed conflict in this match-up, and these are just over petty differences.

We haven’t even mentioned finances, sexual frequency or responsiveness, distribution of household chores, spiritual issues like where we go to church, and child discipline issues. Or, what about the big one – Where do we spend Christmas? Do we spend it at your Mother’s house or at mine?

It’s funny – when you get married, you only have to satisfy one person. Why isn’t it easier? We stand in bliss at the altar promising to love and cherish till death do us part, and within months we are singing the words to that old country song:

“Why don’t we get along? Everything I do is wrong; Tell me, what’s the reason I’m not pleasing you?”
How sad, but how often true. And it isn’t surprising. We come together with built in, ready-made incompatibility. We have different backgrounds, different ideas on how things should be done, and we are by design created differently. Our bodies are built differently for different functions, and we even think differently. Yet we are expected to join together in marriage and live intimately till death do us part.

It takes a lifetime of work adjusting to one another, but the blessing of an intimate marriage is worth the effort. What is necessary is summed up in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We will be talking about how this is done in the next few blogs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Care of the Elderly

Last time we talked about how it is only fair that we repay our parents for the eighteen years or so they cared for us. We can do that by taking care of them when they get older and can’t take care of themselves. 1st Timothy 5:8 told us that if we don’t, we are “Worse than an infidel.”

But, now I want you to see what Jesus had to say on the subject. In response to the accusation of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow the traditions, we read this in Matthew 15:3-9:

3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
The disciples of Jesus may have ignored the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, but the Scribes and Pharisees ignored the clear teaching of God’s Law. Rather than honor their mother and father in the way 1st Timothy 5 tells us to – by caring for them – the Scribes and Pharisees claimed they had dedicated all their money to God. How pious that sounds. But in the meantime, they used the money for themselves.

The point is again, the way we honor our parents is by supporting them in their old age. Is it really commanded? Yes, according to the passage. Matthew 15:6 stated, “Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect.” No amount of other good deeds will prove we are pious, if we neglect our parents, if we do not provide for our parents. Instead, we only prove our hypocrisy.

James 1:27 concurs: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” This doesn’t mean to visit orphans and widows empty-handed. We are not on a social call, but we are there to supply their needs.

If the family won’t do it, then who must? 1st Timothy 5:16 answers that: “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” If the family won’t do it, it is the church’s responsibility. It is not the government’s role. We have allowed the government to take over way too many responsibilities that really belong to the home and to the church.

But this responsibility should even be applied to the believing wives whose husbands have abandoned them, or have run off with another woman. This is especially true if she has children to care for. The family, or church by default, should support her so she doesn’t have to abandon the kids to daycare so she can go off to work to support herself.

But, oh, how we have drifted from the Biblical mandate. Quoting from an article in the U.S. News and World Report:

“But Americans increasingly expect government to do this job. Temple University Demographer Joseph McFalls remarks, ‘It’s really not so unusual for one institution, such as the family, to give up some of its functions to another, such as the government. Families used to be responsible for the education of children and the care of the aged; the government does both now.’”
But, McFalls isn’t decrying this phenomenon. He goes on to call for even further government intervention into families. He believes what Hillary said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” NO! It only takes a family. Each government intrusion has only made things worse. One only needs to look at the mess our society is in, or look at the terrible job being done by the government schools to realize this.

Today, we call on government to take care of all our needs, including care of the elderly. But Social Security is an actuarial nightmare – a time bomb waiting to go off and leave us baby boomers busted. There is no way the coming generation can afford to support a growing and enormous crowd of unproductive old people, and that includes me.

Nor can we expect much sympathy from our kids who have been trained by us to ship off our responsibility to others as we ship them off to day care at ever younger ages. We send them off for others to raise so we can pursue our own goals. But if a career is the most important thing for a daughter to pursue, she won’t be around anyway to care of mom or dad when they get old. Care of the elderly is a hands-on experience that requires lots of time.

What kind of kids are we raising? Are they ones who will take care of us when we need them? As one child told his mom, “You better be nice to me. I’ll be the one picking out your nursing home.” What kind of example will they see in us?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Forsake Dependency, But Never Our Parents

God said in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Some translations use “forsake” in place of leave. They say that a man should forsake his parents, but can that be a legitimate translation? Yes, it is an acceptable translation if you look at the word definitions, but not in the way you might think. We are to forsake our dependency upon our parents, but never forsake our parents.

What do we mean by that? As adults, what should our relationship be to our parents? A good explanation is found in Ephesians 6:1-3:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “’Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: “’that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”
The first verse defines the relationship between children and parents. Children are responsible to obey their parents. And it tells us why – “for this is right.” But should a son obey his parents? Well, is he a child? If not, obedience is no longer required, not if the son is responsible for himself. Only those living under the roof of their parents or eating at their table must obey, not adult children who have made their own families. Yet parents still want to control what their sons do – what kind of car they drive, where they live, how many kids they have, how to educate those kids, and on and on. May it never be. Take advice from your parents, but don’t let them control your life.

What about the second command in Ephesians 6:1-3, the command to “’Honor your father and mother,” quoted from the Ten Commandments? Is there a stopping point with honor? Is there an age limit? No! You must always honor your parents as long as they shall live.

But that brings up a question: How do we honor our parents? Is it merely sending a Mother’s Day card? Is it merely not being rude of insulting? Of course not.

The answer is outlined in 1st Timothy 5:3-4:

“Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.“
The word honor, the way it is used in this passage, really means to support them; and in this case, it is talking about the support of widows. Specific this is calling for the support of those who are “really widows,” meaning widows who have no means of support.

In this passage, Paul calls this “good and acceptable before God.” What is good and acceptable? It is when you “repay” your parents – this is where the rubber meets the road. Repay them for what? How about for the eighteen to twenty years of love and support they gave you? It’s doing the only right and fair thing. They took care of you when you couldn’t take care of yourself. It’s only proper that you reciprocate when they are unable to take care of themselves. And notice: this is addressed to both children and grandchildren.

Is it tough? Oh, yes! But is it right? Oh yes! The Bible tells us that. 1st Timothy 5:8 tells us: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Even unbelievers will take care of their own. If we don’t what does that say about us?

1st Timothy 5:7 adds this, “And these things command, that they may be blameless.” Charity begins in the home. Godliness begins in the home. And this isn’t Old Testament legalism, it is New Testament commandment. We obey God by honoring our parents, and we honor them by providing for their needs when they can no longer provide for themselves.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Leaving Father and Mother

The two verses of Genesis 2:24-25 are not the words of Adam, but a commentary inserted into the narrative by God. This is God’s instruction to us as to what makes a marriage work the way God intended. And what does God tell us? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.”

This is the way it is supposed to be. God said! It obviously isn’t referring to Adam, since he didn’t have a mother and father. This is talking to us, Adam’s descendents. And God wants us to know the necessity of leaving our parents as we join with our wife, a cleaving in which a new family is born.

What does it mean for a man to leave his father and mother? Is this about “cutting the umbilical cord?” Is it to “untie the apron strings?” Absolutely! It is the act of breaking the parent child bond.

There comes that time when a young man must break off being the dependent child – when he is no longer responsible to, or under the control of, his parents. For years, he has been cared for and supported by them. He was their little boy who was given bedtimes and curfews and allowances. But now it is time to grow-up and give-up the security of home as he cleaves to a wife. It is time for a new family to be formed as this young man becomes the head of his own household.

One time Dr. James Dobson was talking about the most common problems in marriage. Surprisingly, one of the most common is when the parents and in-laws who won’t let go. They try to keep control even following their son’s or daughter’s wedding. But God said a man was to “leave father and mother.” The same applies to the daughter. And this means more than simply moving out and getting your own apartment. It means becoming autonomous – a separate family unit.

Now, obviously a little common sense needs to apply here. It doesn’t mean we can never borrow money from our parents or get them to babysit our kids, or have Sunday dinner with them on a regular basis. It doesn’t even mean we can’t live in an apartment they provide, or work at taking over the family business. The issue is the change in roles. We must go from being a dependent little boy as we grow into an independent man who can assume our new role as the head of a household - as a husband and father. Therefore, when dealing with the relationship with his parents, he must make sure, for the good of his own family, that he takes the responsibility.

Parents tend to want to keep control. Sons let them because it the easiest thing to do. Mom and Dad offer their help, but with strings attached. “After all we’ve done for you, how can you ignore our wishes?” Psychologically or otherwise, the pressure is put on for the son to conform to the Parents wishes.

Parents, shame on you if you do that. Sons, shame on you if you let them manipulate you. There must be a cutting of the dependency cord. Ask for their advice, sure. They are older and wiser. Take a loan if one is needed, and they offer the best rates. But do not let them attach strings. You are now on your own.

And Parents, let your son stand on his own two feet. Let him make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t always bail them out or support their foolish ways. Just say “No!” Parents, you must let them go. Sons, you must stand on your own two feet.

My wife’s Mom told her, “If anything goes wrong between you and Dan, you can’t come home. You must make it work.” Too often, the parents do just the reverse. “Oh, honey, you can always come home.” No! It is no longer their home. They now are the head of a new home. They have left their mother and father and have joined themselves to a wife.