Tag Archives: Bible

Wrestling with God

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Thursday Night: Blog post titled “Looking for a Fight“. Nuff said.

Friday Night: I don’t feel like reading my Bible. I don’t really feel like praying. God, I’m just kind of sick of thinking about You, right now. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I want a break. I am usually more alert at night than I am in the morning, so I do my devotions just before bed. I skipped them that night.

 Sunday Morning: I spent Saturday night at my parent’s house [warmed the bed in my old room which is now very different, but still somewhat familiar] and awakened Sunday morning to the bustle of my family members as they prepared for church. Yawn. At home, with no one but my cat to wake me, I often sleep through the morning church service. With no excuse, I rise out of bed and wind up at church only slightly late (as opposed to the 30-45 minutes I usually come in late to my own church if I get up at all).

 

So I stroll into my parents’ church, and after the worship service comes to a close the pastor approaches the front and the powerpoint displays the following passage:

Genesis 32:24-32

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’

But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’

And he said, ‘Jacob.’

He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’

Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’

And he blessed him there.

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’

Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”

 

Pastor’s point? God invites us to wrestle. He’s not afraid to fight. He wants us to get close to Him. You must get close to wrestle.

 

 

 

Yoke or Burn

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Okay – I don’t talk about sex on this blog very often… or in great detail. Mainly because I find it awkward to write about the subject. But it is important.

DISCLAIMER: Do not take this post as personal dating advice. I am not offering advice. I am simply bringing up a point – a point which may be slightly controversial in the modern church community.

Mr. UnpaidTherapist called me into his office this week.

“Sarah,” he said. “I know that you already know this. But I feel the need to tell you again. Do not marry someone who isn’t Christian…”

He continued by describing the failing marriage of a couple he counsels. Wife is Christian. Hubby’s not. Marriage is falling to pieces. He then listed three women we both know who struggle in marriages with non-Christian men. He doesn’t want to see me face the same trials.

I listened to his lecture and chose not to respond. I’m not terribly comfortable sharing what I am going to post on this blog with a 45 year-old man at work. Nope.

But I’ve really been pondering this whole dating/marrying non-Christians topic lately. The entire basis for this advice against marrying someone with no faith or a different faith is that verse in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6. Verse 14 declares, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Now before anyone who doesn’t follow the Bible gets offended, let me explain that this is not saying that Christians should cut off all contact with people who do not agree with us. I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ’s entire lifestyle would argue that concept. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors [who were infamous for cheating people].

“Yoked” essentially means joined, united, or brought together to accomplish a specific task or purpose. A yoke pulls two animals together to push a plow. Harnessed together, they create a more powerful force.

Okay, so when Christians quote this verse, they often continue to the “joining” of a married couple. They say that a believer and unbeliever should not be unequally yoked. Mr. UnpaidTherapist did not quote the verse. But this is the sentiment he was getting at. Believers and unbelievers should not unite in marriage… it will only cause problems…

Here’s my problem: If you read that verse in context, Paul was not writing to the Corinthians about marriage. Instead, he was discussing teachers. He was telling them not to become involved with false prophets and idols. Not once in this chapter does he mention marriage or anything closely related to marriage. If Paul intended to advise believers not to marry unbelievers, why didn’t he bring it up in one of the chapters that actually talked about marriage?

On the other hand, in passages like 1 Corinthians 7, where it would make a lot of sense for Paul to give advice about whether or not Christians should marry non-Christians, Paul gives no such command. Instead verses 12-16 indicate that an unbeliever who remains in such a relationship is sanctified by his or her believing spouse and that their children are made holy rather than unclean. As a whole, I do not believe Paul encourages believers to unite with unbelievers, but I do not see where he actually says it is wrong.

Apparently I like to go backwards… so if we jump back in Chapter 7 to verse 9 we see the reference I made in a different post recently. “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am, but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Glance over 1 Corinthians and you will quickly realize that Paul warns these people up and down to flee from sexual immorality because it is so detrimental to their bodies and their spiritual health. Over and over again he tells them to avoid it. If you can’t keep it in your pants, get married!

If you will notice, he did not say that if you are struggling to control your sexual appetite you should wait until you find the godliest person alive and then get married. He did not say that you should only get married to someone who will accentuate and empower your ministry. He did not even say you should at least hold out for someone of the same faith. All Paul said was that if you really want to have sex you should get married. Period.

If a believer marries an unbeliever, they will naturally disagree at times. And yet, every married couple disagrees about some things. Mr. UnpaidTherapist is right, I’m sure, about the trials that come with these types of marriages. However, my question is this: Are those potential trials easier or harder to face than the desire for sex while I am still single?

The church community teaches that Christians should not date or marry non-Christians as a general rule. However, the church community also has a sucky divorce rate and a lot of extramarital sex scandals. I don’t buy this sentiment that all non-Christian men are skunks (and yes, that sentiment is rampant in the church realm). I also don’t buy the idea that all Christian men will make good husbands (don’t even get me started on that one…).

If we place two scenarios side by side, which one wins?

Scenario 1 shows a girl who is holding out for the right Christian man to come sweep her off her feet. This guy is hard to find. Therefore she remains single until she is about 36. Needless to say, a typical woman in her twenties and thirties has some significant sexual hunger. These are her most fertile years; she was created to desire sex. Although she waited to marry until she found Mr. Right at age 36, she was sexually active on a number of occasions prior. From ages 18 to 35 she slept with 9 different men. Each sexual encounter left a mark.

Scenario 2 displays a young lady who married her high school sweetheart at age 19. Although she was always a church-girl, he never showed much interest in the things of God. He gets irritated at how she “lives” at the church and how she always wants to give away their money to those dumb missionaries. But he loves her and he is loyal. They have their struggles, but he would never dream of leaving her. He is her one and only and she has made a choice never to leave him either.

Well? Who appears to be better off? I’m not telling anyone to lower their standards. I’m not advising anyone to marry the next jerk that asks them out just because they’re feeling kind of horny. But I raise the question: Is being “unequally yoked” in marriage really such a big deal? Is the common advice of “wait for Mr. Right – no matter how long it takes” really such a good idea in this sexually charged world? Is this ever-popular Bible lesson about believers only marrying believers actually biblical? What do you think?

Reflections: Are You a Leader?

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http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

Episode 2 was more primarily aimed toward men. That being said, I’m still going to respond.

First of all, I feel the need to emphasize that more than any other thing – what I want from a man if I am to get married – is godly leadership. I can probably count on one hand the number of men I know that are still single and within my age range whom I can truly view as potential spiritual leaders.

With that in mind, I would like to voice a dilemma. Many of my Christian female friends and I have noticed a devastating truth in the Christian dating scene. Godly men are not pursuing. It’s past the point of “maybe this guy isn’t pursuing me because he simply isn’t interested in me”. It’s quite obvious that these guys aren’t pursuing any women. The ones we find most desirable happen to be the ones who haven’t, to our knowledge, asked a girl out in the last 3 years. The reasoning? They are just “so” into God right now that they don’t want to be distracted by women. I get it. I’ve used the same argument. Here’s the thing: God never said that all dedicated Christians should be single. Yes, there were some very influential singles in the Bible. Yes, Jesus was single. But no where does my Bible say that all the decent Christian men in this world should stop pursuing Christian women. Although I believe the man in the video had the best of intentions, I kind of want to tell him “SHUT UP!!!!!” when he said that men should work harder on “being the right one” than “finding the right one”. He said that becoming the right one will attract Christian women. As a Christian woman who has been “attracted” by these kinds of guys, I want to argue with him and say, “Do one without neglecting the other. Work on becoming the right kind of guy while you find the right kind of girl.” As a Christian girl does not want to have to completely throw herself at you to earn your attention, you are going to have to pursue in order to marry one of us. There is nothing wrong with wanting a wife.  Find one, would you!

Final thought: I kind of didn’t like when he said that non-Christian men will view women as nothing more than trinkets or toys. I think he has a serious point, and that in some cases he may be correct. But I don’t believe that the secular world is completely void of men who value and respect women. That was an overstatement.

Guys, as this video was aimed toward you: What did you think?

Reflections: Are you Dateable?

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A friend of mine steered me toward a new series regarding singleness. http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

I believe the first one I watched (Are you Dateable?) made a lot of sense, so I plan to watch and respond to each episode. Feel free to offer your own feedback after viewing.

The expert in the first episode refers back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

I have to admit, I have always wondered about these words. Each and every time I read them, I ask the same question: What if you don’t love yourself? That word, “as”, holds a lot of power. I felt like jumping up and down when this man immediately addressed my ever-present question. I loved his point and I agree.

We are all screw-ups. We all make mistakes. We all act viciously at times. We all say things we regret. We all do things we regret. We all look in the mirror and find things we don’t like at times. We all have issues. Issues often make us ultra-aware of how unlovable we are.

Then there is God. The Bible is funny in that a large portion emphasizes mankind’s flaws. In other words, it agrees with all of our self-conscious, regretful, shame-faced feelings and says God is good, but we are not. And then it goes on to show that God deemed us lovable anyway! Although, we aren’t perfect, He proudly declares that we are made in His image! We disobeyed His loving guidance, and He gave us grace. “Try again. I’ll send my son, Jesus Christ, to give you another chance. And I will give you My Holy Spirit to help you along as well. It’s going to cost a lot… My son’s life, in fact. But you are worth it.”

I tear up as I envision my heavenly Father and His love for me. He offered up His only Begotten, in order to adopt me in! I can give Him my lopsided, scribbly picture – my attempt to portray the sunset He created… and rather than point out my mistakes and toss out my artwork, He smiles at that picture and hangs it upon His refrigerator. “That’s what my daughter drew for me!”

The Lord infuses value into His people. When I go to Him, I can pour out  my flaws, my weaknesses, all of my ISSUES, and God turns them all around. He heals me, teaches me, works with me, blesses me, and after all that when I screw up again, He keeps on loving me.

When I see the way He loves me, I cannot help but begin to see things from His perspective, and love myself as well.

Stereotypical Man

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“Men are pigs. They can’t help themselves.”

 

I hear the sentiment from all kinds of women in all kinds of places. This stereotype shoots across cultures and religions. Men cannot control themselves around women. Men are lustful. Men only think about sex.

 

I’m sure this is a real problem within the male race. However, this stereotype implies two falsehoods:

  1. Women      do not wage a similar battle against sexual temptation.
  2. Men      should not be held accountable for sexual sin because they have no control.

 

The other night I stumbled across Proverbs 7. The author (Solomon, I believe) recounts a situation with a seemingly clueless young man and a crafty, seductive woman. The woman spends the chapter luring the man into her home to have relations. The man spends the chapter being lured. Simple enough. Although the man in this scene falls for this provocative woman’s tactics, Solomon does not speak of any stereotype indicating this man had no control. He, instead, points out this man’s lack of wisdom. Then he warns his own son, and he teaches him that wisdom will protect him from women like “her”.

 

He says, “Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” (v. 25-27 KJV)

 

Tell me: If  men were not able to control their sex drives around women, why would Solomon even bother with this statement? Solomon knew that saying “No” to a woman like that would be difficult for his son. But he also knew that it would be possible.

 

I thought it was interesting that men, in general, take most of the heat for being sexual aggressors while this woman in Proverbs made all the moves. The man was an almost-innocent bystander. No, he was not completely innocent. But he was also not the leading offender. She dressed up like a harlot. She caught him. She kissed him. She perfumed her bedroom. She invited him home while the husband was away. She did most of the dirty work.

 

Next my mind wandered back to the story of Joseph. Joseph was doing his work, taking care of Potiphar’s household when “his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, ‘Lie with me.’” (Genesis 39:7 KJV)

 

Joseph, being a man and everything, lost all control and screwed around with the beautiful woman… Oh, wait – that’s not what happened?

Once again, the woman victimized the man. She pursued his affections. She did everything in her power to seduce him. When Joseph turned from her advances, she became angry and framed him.

 

It seems to me that modern society turns its head from scenarios like the two above. These are definitely not the only instances of sexual sin referenced in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, men and women are shown battling sexual temptation. I referenced these two specifically because they seem to embody the issues that are often ignored these days.

 

Let’s face the facts: Both genders are guilty. Humans lust. Humans struggle with sexual temptation. Enough with this “He’s a man; he cannot help it.” Enough with this “She’s a woman; she can’t be in it just for sex.”

 

Once we quit pointing figures, we can begin to work on solutions.

A Coffee Encounter

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“I do not believe a person needs to attend church in order to go to heaven.”

I looked him in the eyes, evenly. “I don’t either.”

His face became puzzled. “Then why do you want me to go?”

I had explained to this man earlier that I wanted him to go to church because I believe in Heaven and in Hell. I told him that I could not force God upon him, but that I at least wanted to be sure he knew more about Jesus Christ because it makes me sick to envision him in Hell someday. Oh yeah, and I did not want to be the one to teach him about Christ. Hence, the invitation to church.

“I believe that you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to go to Heaven. I want you to come to church so that someone other than me can teach you about Jesus. I did not want to talk to you about Jesus because you like me.” I slowly poured forth my reasoning.

His eyes twinkled, but he still looked slightly puzzled. “What makes you think I like you?”

I fixated a “You’ve got to be kidding me!” expression onto my face and crossed my arms. He started to grin and then reiterated, “What have I done to make you think I like you?”

Several obvious signals stood out in my memory. I made a quick reference to something he had done earlier that day and then challenged, “Tell me you don’t like me!”

“I can’t,” he conceded. Then he smiled shyly and looked away for a second. When he met my gaze again his eyes were still twinkling.

After that issue cleared up I returned to my initial point. “Sometimes a man who likes me will tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear. I did not want to tell you about Jesus because I did not want you to make a decision based on your feelings toward me.”

My latte vanished within the first fifteen minutes of our conversation. But we sat and talked for over an hour. Our discussion ranged from church and salvation, to drinking and smoking, to hunting and motorcycles, to marriage and past experiences, to why bad things happen if God is merciful, and back to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m sure I’ve skipped a few things as well.  All in all, I enjoyed the time spent together immensely.

Which leads to my next dilemma. What do I do in the future? Now that I have shared the gospel with this man, Operation Flirt to Convert is complete. He knows all that he needs to know in order to make a decision. If I move further I will cross the line into Missionary Dating. I kind of wish that I had hated the entire Coffee Encounter. But I didn’t. I loved every minute of our friendly debate and humorous banter. The more serious aspects of our conversation also intrigued me. His point of view, even where it differed from mine, was very interesting. I almost hoped he would make me angry or disgust me. Then I would not have to contemplate a next step. I would simply walk away.

As it stands, I’m not sure how to proceed. He assures me that he will come to my church sometime under the condition that I sit with him. He does not want to sit alone like an outcast in an unfamiliar place. I understand that. Unfortunately, now that he knows about Jesus, I do not feel such a strong desire for him to attend my church. Now that the Good News has reached him, I worry about the trivial things that escaped my imagination previously.

Suddenly I am extremely aware of how potentially awkward I may feel while I introduce this man, whom I have no clear relationship with, to the other attendees at my small church. He is not my boyfriend, not my husband, not my brother, cousin, uncle, or any other kind of kin. He is not a friend visiting from out of town. He is not close friends with someone that I know. In all reality he is a random stranger whom I’ve met a handful of times and have no reason to still be connected to – except because he likes me and I want him to meet Jesus.

Sitting across from a table, sipping coffee wasn’t so bad. Sitting beside him in a pew sounds terrifying. What will I do if he slides his arm behind me across the back of the pew? Exactly how close must we sit together? Does “Bible’s width apart” apply? If so, where might I find a bigger Bible? Instead, might I be able to borrow one of my pastor’s kids to sit between us? Or will that cause us to look like a family?

GAAAHHHHHHH!!! When did this all become so complicated? Note to self: Cats are so much easier than men. Let’s skip Flirt to Convert next time the opportunity arises.