Tag Archives: church

Wrestling with God

Standard

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.

 

 

 

Reflections: Love, Respect, and Sex

Standard

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

Okay, I skipped a few weeks on responding to these 700 club episodes. I’ll admit, it is no coincidence that I procrastinated on this specific episode. For one thing, I’ve written a lot about sex recently. I kind of wanted a break. Bur another reason I avoided this one is because I’m simply not sure how to respond.

I agree with parts of the teacher’s philosophy. I’m not so sure about other parts. I agree that sex within marriage is God’s plan and that it is absolutely the best way to go. I don’t suggest sex outside of marriage. However, his words leave me wondering how a couple will readily embrace the sexual union inside of marriage after training themselves to stay so far away from it.

That is always my issue when I look at the church’s approach to sex. I feel like this “Bad, bad, bad, stay away!” approach immediately followed by “You’re married now! Everything goes!” is just a disaster waiting to happen. I’m not necessarily sure what else to suggest, however.

Purity isn’t the part I struggle with. Single purity that leads into married purity is the issue I struggle with – if that makes sense. I think the sky high divorce rates within the church are a decent indication that whatever the church is teaching about sex and marriage right now isn’t very effective. I still feel as if the church uses the words “lust” and “attraction” synonymously. And I don’t think they should be interchangeable. I believe there is an important line that separates the two. I’m just not sure if I could point out that line.

Your thoughts?

Yoke or Burn

Standard

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: Satisfied in Singleness

Standard

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

I enjoyed this one particularly. I have to admit, the very first point that the primary speaker makes is one that I have also thought to myself time and time again. I cannot stand it when someone hears how long I’ve been single and responds with shock because I’m “so pretty”. I always think what she thinks immediately – that there are lots of ugly married people. And then I  turn to the obvious point that pretty does not necessarily make a woman into a wife, let alone a good wife. Yes, attraction matters. But it’s not just about being pretty.

After loving her sentiment on that point, I kind of hated a different point she made. I disagree with her comment about wanting to be married for the “wrong reasons”. Sex has a bad rap in the Christian community. The Bible soooo clearly says that if you “burn with passion” – get married! In other words, it is okay to desire a spouse in order to fulfill your sexual desires! That being said, the church has turned things all around and seems to teach that singles should want to be married for every other reason on the face of the planet and that sex is just a nice little side thing that comes along with marriage. I’ve been told that I should be so wrapped up in ministry that one day I will just happen to bump into someone else who is absorbed by ministry and we will get married and have an even more powerful ministry together. Sounds good – right? And yet, I don’t see that philosophy in scripture. I never found the verse telling singles only to marry in an effort to further ministry. Nope. Bible says instead that you should get married if you want sex. Sex is not a “wrong reason”. I could continue on this point… but I’ll shut up.

Finally, I like that she pointed out that some of our most influential and foundational leaders in the faith were single. I agree wholeheartedly. Paul made excellent points when he wrote about singles being able to fully devote themselves to God without the distraction of family or spouses. However, I would not go so far as to say that we are the “pillars”. I mean, Jesus was single, and He is quite obviously “the” Pillar. But besides that – I don’t think singles are any more or less important than married people in the church. We are all important. We all have different roles. Let’s make an effort to act out our roles to the best of our abilities – single or married.

Dating and Relationships: The Church Rules

Standard

The Rules

  1. A boy and a girl must never ride together alone in a vehicle. Not for any distance, any purpose, or any length of time. The ONLY exception to this rule applies to a boy and girl who are brother and sister. Obviously, any other combination of male and female riding in a car alone will lead to the car being pulled over so they can have wild sex in the backseat before they arrive at their destination. Obviously.
  2. Boys and girls must sit at least a Bible’s width apart at all times. Those tiny New Testaments the Gideons leave around don’t count. We’re talking regulation biggest-Good-Book-we-can-find size.
  3. A female must wear clothing which covers every portion of her body from her chin to her knees. If she has pretty legs, those should probably be covered also. Beauty tempts young men. Men should never have to face temptation. If clothing is truly “appropriate”, men may even forget women have boobs – which is exactly as it should be since men are incapable of controlling themselves around women they find attractive.

These are the top three rules pounded into the teen-aged girl’s head about dating or relating to the opposite sex by Sunday School teachers and youth leaders nationwide. Boys cannot be trusted around you. You cannot be trusted around boys. If ever you two are left alone together, babies emerge nine months later. No exceptions. None.

For a girl who actually wants to be pure, these rules are very intimidating. You see, when I was young and naïve, I believed I could accept a ride from one of my male friends. But by the time I was 17, I understood how inappropriate that looked and that he would likely rape me at some point during the five minute drive. At one point in time I believed that it was a good thing for a man to look at me and recognize my beauty. Before I exited adolescence I realized that my beauty is wicked and dangerous when noticed by men. When I was a little girl, I loved to cuddle close to the men in my life. But soon after puberty hit, I learned that all physical contact with the opposite sex is completely unhealthy and will somehow give me AIDS.

What’s really sad – is that I wouldn’t even call the churches I attended legalistic. It scares me to consider what truly legalistic congregations are teaching young people if I learned such skewed lessons where I went. Unfortunately, teenagers hear from their Christian leaders that they cannot be trusted – they cannot even trust themselves – to make good, healthy decisions regarding the opposite sex. Fear tactics are fired at them in the name of purity. Instead of being trained to enter healthy relationships, teenagers are taught to avoid relationships at all costs because relationships lead to sexual immorality.

According to the typical Christian youth leader, I am a success story. I escaped high school with my virginity intact. But if you ask me, purity is so much broader than virginity. And if successful means terrified of intimacy and unwilling to be vulnerable to a man, then I agree. I am very successful.

But sometimes success is overrated.

A Coffee Encounter

Standard

“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.

Flirt to Convert: Prelude to a Coffee Encounter

Standard

Coffee Encounter

I originally planned to write on a completely different subject this week. But today’s events altered my plans. Flirt to Convert v. Missionary Dating? Where is the line? Is one tactic acceptable, while the other is not? Are neither acceptable? Or are both okay?

Let us start with my definitions of each term:

Flirt to Convert: a tactic involving two single people. One person is Christian. The other is not. Christian uses flirtatious banter (including lengthy chats, lots of smiling, perhaps giggling, etc) to become acquainted with Non-Christian. Interactions may be casual and light-hearted, but Christian’s aim is always to drive Non-Christian toward a relationship with Jesus Christ. Relationship does not become deep and intimate. Dating is a no-go.

Missionary Dating: also a tactic involving two single people. One person is Christian. The other is not. (Sounds the same so far, right? Here comes the difference.) Christian wants to date Non-Christian, but knows that the Bible says something negative about the subject. (Something about Christians and Non-Christians can’t share egg yolks …) Christian chooses to date Non-Christian despite their difference in faith, with the declared intent to win over Non-Christian for Christ. Common sentiment expressed by Christian would be “Maybe if we date for a while, he will see Jesus in me, and then he will get saved!”

Personally, I believe that the Flirt to Convert approach is completely okay. I tend to be rather flirtatious by nature. What I consider friendliness, others deem flirting. I have accepted this phenomena and moved on with life, okay with the fact that others call me a flirt. I feel as if charming a man into conversation about Jesus is not such a terrible usage of my flirtatious personality.

Missionary Dating, on the other hand, rests on my “Don’t ever do it” List. First of all, it almost never works. Sure, there is an exception to every rule. Some Christian, somewhere dated a Non-Christian and the Non-Christian got saved afterward. As a general rule, however, this does not happen and I am therefore opposed to the practice of Missionary Dating. I refuse to marry a man who is not Christian. If I were to date a man who is not Christian, I would either be leading him on or headed down a path that goes against my convictions.

Summation: According to the Cat Lady, Flirt to Convert is on the safe list and Missionary Dating is not.

However, my current predicament causes me to doubt all previous beliefs regarding this issue. You see, tonight I will attend a “Coffee Encounter” with a man who is not Christian and who has made clear that he is interested in me. I call it a Coffee Encounter only because I am in denial and refuse to refer to it as a date. He invited me out to dinner. I counter-offered, “Let’s meet somewhere for coffee instead.”

Typically speaking, I would have already told this man that I am not interested in any kind of romantic relationship. However, our conversations have been quite sporadic. Today, he passed me in his truck while I was walking to church and so he called me. It’s not like we talk often or run across each other daily. Usually, we stumble into each other completely at random, I invite him to church, he says he’ll go “someday”, and then we move on. With this completely informal, unpredictable form of acquaintanceship I have not been sure how to tell him I do not want to date him. I only want to be his friend and see him develop a personal relationship with Christ.

After a texting session which included questions from him about why I want him to go to church and comments from me about how we should talk about some of this in person… Now I have a Coffee Date – I mean, Encounter – with him after church tonight.

I suddenly feel as if Operation Flirt to Convert morphed into Missionary Dating. And I’m not comfortable with that. Those of you reading who are Christian, I covet your prayers tonight. I do not want to hurt this man. I do not want to be a bad witness to him. But I also do not want to date him or continue to lead him on. Please pray that things go well. And let me know, what are your thoughts on Flirt to Convert v. Missionary Dating? Those of you who are not Christian, how would you feel if a Christian were going through this debate specifically over his/her relationship with you? Do you think this is all petty or do you understand why it seems like such a big deal to someone like me? How would you want the Christian to proceed? Would you feel betrayed by a Christian who used either tactic on you?