Friday, February 27, 2009


It's the little things...

Some friends in church gave us a wireless internet router that they were no longer using, so now we have wifi at home!!!

Finally, Stephanie and I can both work on the computers at the same time. We both use the internet a lot for our work, so this should free us up some to be working at the same time.

And there's always the fact that now we can play games while the other is working, too....[whistles]...doh-dee-doh.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ash Wednesday Tomorrow!

Don't forget that Lent starts tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.

I'm excited that our church is doing something different this year: 40 For 40.

Come check out what we're doing!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rivalry Game Tomorrow!

Stephanie and I will be at the IU-Purdue game tomorrow.
I'm excited to be back in Mackey Arena for another game...let alone the IU-Purdue game!

I'm expecting the game to relatively boring. Too bad we don't play at Bloomington this year. That might help it be a little closer.

I'm picking Purdue by 20.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I can't see my main blog page....hmmm....

Time to troubleshoot. Sorry for the inconvenience!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Sex

Sermon:"Good Sex" (preached 2/15)
Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:18-25

Scripture Lesson: Song of Songs 4:8-5:1

I grew up on a farm. A beef farm to be specific. We had cattle at our farm, my grandpa’s farm, and my uncle’s farm. Cattle were a big part of my life, but I have to admit that it probably sounds weird that umm...well, I learned sex ed. from the animals. You see when you grow up on a farm, it’s hard NOT to notice certain things happening.

I remember one time when I was little, I asked my dad, “What are those two cows DOING!?!” Dad replied, “Well, they’re playing.” That answer worked for a while, but as I got older I realized that Dad’s answer was true, they were “playing,” but it was a much different game than I had imagined.

Nowadays, Stephanie hates it because I speak of the physical dimensions of human sexuality very much like I do those cattle. Believe it or not, what we look for in mates is pretty much identical to what a farmer looks for in a breeding herd. A muscular, powerful, virile, and healthy male. Or a female with a good birthing capacity, adequate milk production, and a healthy posture.

But guys trust me, girls don’t like to be compared to cows. I know this from experience, so if you’re needing brownie points after Valentine’s definitely don’t want to say that your girlfriend has the hips of a cow. Bad move. Don’t try it.

In all reality, though, we forget that we are animals. We’re influenced by our biology, and we have certain desires that come simply because we’re human males and females...But the question is: Are we more? The Bible begins with this question, so let’s dig in and turn to Genesis 2:7.

Genesis 2:7

Dirt and Breath - Then the LORD God formed the human from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the human’s nostrils, and the human became a living person.

We are creatures of duality. We are made of dirt and formed from the every other creature, yet unlike every other creature, we are made in God’s image and God breathed into us...and this is pretty important because the word for breath and spirit are the same in Hebrew. We are dirt and spirit. As Rob Bell says, “We are angels and animals.”

“Angels and Animals” - The cattle that I saw growing up were ruled by instinct. They ate. They slept. They chewed cud. And periodically, they would mate. The cow never thought, “Does he really love me?” The bull never feared if “she is as committed to this relationship as I am?” Not at all. When the chemicals burst forth from the cow’s brain, the time was right, and the deed was done.

But we’re different from that, aren’t we? Sex is more than just a biological instinct for us. Don’t get me wrong, it is biological, but we have some other needs and desires that are wrapped around human sexuality.

Biology - If you doubt that biology has something to do with sex, try putting 30 15 yr. olds (half male, half female) in the same room, turn down the lights, and give them comfortable chairs. You’ll biology buzzing everywhere.

There was a father who knew it was time, so he sat his 6th grade son down to talk. He says, “Son, I think it’s time we talk about sex.” His son replies, “Sure, dad, what do you want to know?” There’s alot about sex that comes naturally because of all the instincts built into us.

Our biology encourages us to reproduce our genes. In fact, our biology encourages us to cast our genes out generously within the gene pool, if you get my drift. So when teach abstinence one of the great challenges is that we’re swimming upstream against our own make-up...our own biology. And before you think this is so terrible, it’s important to remember that it’s actually a good thing. Without this deep rooted desire, we wouldn’t reproduce and the species would die. And if the desire to share genes weren’t strong, the gene pool could become shallow and lead to inbreeding and/or poor genetic make-up.

But aren’t we more than our biology?

Control - One of the great medical breakthroughs that we’re living through is the discovery of genetic dispositions. In other words, we’ve discovered that some people are predisposed to certain diseases more than others. Some are more likely to have high cholesterol. Others are susceptible to alcoholism. While others are more likely to develop colon cancer. Alot of who we are and even what happens to us is written in our genes. But is that all we are?

Since I have the gene for high cholesterol, does that mean I just eat fatty junk food since it doesn’t matter? If one of you has the genetic disposition for alcoholism, does that mean that you can’t help being an alcoholic? Not at all. We are more than our genes. We’re more than animals. Just because I have a sex drive doesn’t mean that I have to be driven by sex. And, while this seems common sense, it’s amazing how many people don’t believe this. Critics of abstinence sex-ed programs often state, “they’ll do it anyway, so why fight it?”

What’s amazing to me is that sexuality is one area where we give ourselves over to our biology. Rob Bell points out that 2 famous hollywood actors, both beautiful, both famous for being professional, fit, and well trained actors, did a movie together. He was married at the time, and she had left a marriage.

Before long, he was divorced, and they were spending time together. Shortly, they were married, but before they were married, before he was divorced, they were seen together. They said they were just friends...well, we know better now. They’re response? “We couldn’t help ourselves.”

Two actors famous for being in shape, learning new accents and skills for films...Two actors known for spending countless hours beyond exhaustion...they couldn’t control themselves?

Why is it that we give a double standard to sex? We can control other things but not it? In all fairness, we control little of our biological urges anymore. We’re obese. We’ve ammassed wealth. We’ve built walls of safety and fences to keep others out of our stuff. We attack people different from us.

Are we animals? Yes. Is that all we are? No. God breathed his Spirit into us, and we carry within us the divine. And we are more than our biology. Be it promiscuity, adultery, or homosexuality, we are more than our genes: We are called to live lives pleasing to God. God has given us self-control. What makes us different from the animals? Truly, what makes us different from the animals? The ability to CHOOSE SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM OUR GENETIC DISPOSITION.


Denial - This is exactly the opposite of some others’ thinking. There are others who believe that since we are spiritual beings that we should forgo the flesh...that the desires of the flesh are bad, wicked, and evil...or perhaps more positively the desires are merely base desires and not worthy of our spiritual nature.

This line of thinking encourages the denial of the flesh, the denial of urges. And herein lies the problem, it is a way of thinking that lives in denial. Instead of balancing or controlling desire, many ascetics, of whom many are religious people have taught that we should abstain from sex.

Dangerous Celibacy - So why is this so bad? What could be wrong with people advocating a broad celibacy? Well, nothing per se except when the celibacy is coerced or forced and really rooted in an ancient philosophy that hates the human body.

I think we’ve all seen way too many reports of “celibate” religious figures abusing children in their care. And no matter what any primate in Italy may say, the problem is documented all the way back into the Middle Ages, and occurs more than just in the USA.

You see when people who are not willing or able to take vows of celibacy do so, they begin to stuff and repress their sexuality...but like any force, their sexuality must come out in some form...and in these cases it comes out in unhealthy ways taking advantage of the weakest of society, children.

Or you get Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine. Did you know that Hugh Hefner’s parents were ultra-strict Christians. They never hugged or kissed as a family when Hugh was growing up. He was taught over and over and over again that sex was bad and dirty. So does it come as any surprise that he would grow up transfixed on the very thing he was denied? Later in life, his mother apologized for her lack of affection toward him, to which he replied, “Mom, you couldn’t have done it any better. Because of things you weren’t able to do, it set me on a course to change my life and the world.”

Don’t get me wrong, celibacy is not the issue: The issue is having a negative view of something that God created and said was “good.” Sex is not evil. Our hearts are what can be evil. And anyone who broadly teaches that our bodies or that sex is evil, well, they are promoting a dangerous celibacy that is doomed to cause problems...severe problems. Problems that are really going to hurt others.

We’re neither animals nor angels. And when we pretend that we’re either or, we get all messed up. We are in fact both at the same time, and unless we learn how to be fully human, animal and spirit, only then will be able to live out our sexuallity the way God intended. Only then will we be comfortable in our own skin...That’ s right the key to being sexy is learning how to be human, the animal and spirit of God together.

Good Sex
1 Timothy 4:1-5
- Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain kinds of foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.

Hidden Sources - We have to be careful where our views of sex are coming from. Roman Stoicism and Greek asceticism are largely responsible for Christianity’s negative view toward sex. Our Jewish or OT heritage is largely positive on the subject. The NT has mixed statements, which means we have to dig deeper and work harder to figure it all out.

The Easy Way Out - Avoidance - But it’s always easier and more expedient when we have an agenda to just avoid an issue.

Sacred by the Word of God & Prayer - This is why we’re talking about this. Sex and its many issues within our culture are too big to ignore. God’s word says that we have to search through Scriptures in prayer with God finding what God would have for us and our sexuality.

When Sex Is Bad

The 3 P’s
- 1 Cor. 6:12-20 - giving of ourselves in order to get something else in return. People prostitute themselves all the’s just that the currency changes. It might be sex for love or sex for gifts and stuff or sex for power and fame. Unfortunately, too many people have a narrow definition of what it means to give yourself as a commodity of exchange.

Porn - Matt. 5:27-30 - Lust, dreaming of others, wanting what you can’t have, porn is one of the most profitable industries in the USA.

Promiscuity - Col. 3:5-6 - Just feeding your stomach. Doing it for the simple reason that it feels good.

Person vs. Object - objectifying others or yourself

Good Sex
What makes Sex Good?

Love - Eph. 5:25 - Love as Christ loved the Church - remind marriage as the model for God’s love in the world. A self-giving love...not a self-taking love.

Unity - Gen. 2:23-25 - One Flesh, Good sex, beautiful sex is within the confines of a committed loving marriage relationship.

Enjoying Naked - Prov. 5:18-20 - We must learn to enjoy the physical experiences of sex. And I know that this is a very difficult task. It will take a lot of effort, I know. But notice this comes after Love and Unity because ALL, and I mean ALL scientific evidence clearly states that sex is best in the midst of a committed, longterm marriage.

Enjoying being open and honest, vulnerable, and safe. Enjoy being captivated by someone and captivating someone else.

We’re neither animals nor angels. We’re human, and for us sex is good because God made it and God is good. So as your pastor, I encourage everyone to have Good Sex...and not settle for anything less...don’t settle for less...for to settle on anything less is to deny your humanity...and what you were made for. We were made to be in committed relationships and to experience love and unity of spirit and heart and soul. We were meant to be naked and unashamed, one flesh, and in love.

"The Desire"

Sermon: "The Desire" (preached 2/8)
Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:18-25
Scripture Lesson: Song of Songs 2:1-7

What Is The Desire
To Love & Be Loved
- In the history of romance, there’s a story told thousands of times over. It goes something like this young couple’s discussion:
"Since I met you," the man said, "I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't drink."
"Why not?" she coyly asked.
"Because I'm broke," he answered.

Ishtar, Venus, & Helen - Love and desire often go hand in hand, and while we laugh at this story, we know there’s a grain of truth within it. Young men are willing to spend everything, give everything for the object of their desire.

In the ancient world, people spoke of the “god of love”, actually, it’s almost always the goddess of love. One of the more ancient stories is of the Babylonian goddess Innana-Ishtar. She was the beautiful goddess of love. Wild and fierce she was also the goddess of strife. Hand in hand with her beauty was her untamed lust for death. One story talks about her bathing in the blood of dead soldiers on the battle field.

The Greeks and Romans called her Aphrodite or Venus. She again was a beautiful goddess of love. No one knew where exactly she came from except that she came up out of the Sea...Now mind you that the Sea is a treacherous and evil unknown in Greek and Roman stories. If you look in the book of Revelation, the Beast of the anti-Christ comes up out of the Sea. So in the very conception of love, the Greeks believed that romantic love itself was born out of the treacherous unknown. To put her in an even worse light, Venus was married to the ugly, crippled God Vulcan; however, as you might guess, she was having an affair with...Mars, god of war.

Ancient Greeks and recent movies have told the story of Helen of Troy. A woman of such desire that men waged the largest war in ancient history just to have her as their own. Her love and her life was a bitter tragedy of love and death intertwined.

Humans have always understood the inherent danger of love and the desire it brings. But, even though we know about it, it doesn’t mean we’ve become any smarter about it. In fact, I believe that as we’ve traded in our stories, we’ve lost valuable teaching moments regarding a very, very beautiful yet treacherous human experience: The Desire to love and be loved.

Discontinuity & Continuity - One of the best comments that people often give their significant other runs something like this: “He/she totally gets me.” We want to be “gotten.” We want to be understood. We want to know and be known. Deep inside us a very strong need to be so close to someone, to become so intimate that we become one. You might know married couples or even best friends that complete each others’ thoughts and sentences. They’ve been together and connect so well that they seemingly think as one.

Conversely, in marital counseling, I’ve heard such things as “She just doesn’t get it.” “I don’t even know him.” “We have separate lives.” The opposite, these statements are the shared longing for a connection that’s just not there. What they want so desperately is to be united, to be one.

In an excellent article to which I am greatly indebted, Kyle Keefer and Tod Linafelt compare the works of Georges Batailles, the movie Breaking Waves, and the Song of Songs. The article points out that all three are trying to work through one of the frustrating treasures of human existence. Continuity & Discontinuity. The desire to become one.

As I’m sure you all have realized by now, we are separate beings. I am different from you. You are different from me. And you are different from you [point from one person to another]. They call it Discontinuity. We have a discontinuity of being. We are separate, different. We don’t share the same exact feelings, thoughts, experiences, and desires. I am unique. You are unique. This discontinuity is a fundamental part of our individualism, and while it does make us unique and special, it is also the source of our loneliness.

We long to be REALLY connected to something, to someone. We want for someone to understand how we feel, how we work. We want someone who “gets us.” As I said before, we want to be gotten. To have unity is what [author] calls continuity.

Desire, yes, desire itself comes from this experience. You see each of us experiences on a daily basis discontinuity, yet, we hope and want and we desire to have continuity, to be united, to be one with someone else.

God, Sex, & Death - Two weeks ago, I spent some time sharing how God and Sexuality were connected, and today, again, we see them intersect. You see our desire to connect, our desire for continuity finds a home in three areas of human existence.

Some look to find unity in a higher power. In many religions, people believe that the ultimate joy is finding “at-one-ness” with God. Hindus believe that one is united with Brahma, Jews, Christians and Muslims see being at one with God as the ultimate joy. I would venture a guess that many of you here today want to find a continuity with God. I know I do. I desire to experience God running all through my life.

Depending on your point of view, along those lines, there is also a unity in death. It’s something we all experience, and whatever happens in all of it, we’re brought to the same state. Now that’s a bit misleading, because some of us believe in Heaven and eternal life and even eternal death; however, in death, the very process of death, humans find connection and continuity. Who doesn’t grieve with and for a family who loses a child. Who doesn’t feel the sting of a spouse who lost their love on a battlefield far away. As macabre and odd as it sounds, humans actually experience continuity in the process of death. Later we’ll even hear the Song of Songs author compare love and death.

We also experience a taste of continuity in sex. In the awkward indignities of this beautiful, biological response to reproduce, we humans find something transcendent. The truly sensual nature of sex, the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and feelings of the act are so exceptional that throughout history people have believed that the act is actually spiritual. That’s right, back to a connection with God.

In sex, we are totally vulnerable. We are stripped of the clothes that hide, and we unite our bodies together. The two become one flesh. It is physically, the closest we can come to being continuous.

God, Sex, & Death, 3 places we humans taste continuity in the midst of a world that isolates and separates. As we dig into the book of the Song of Songs, we find that all three are present...and that all three are NOT equal experiences of unity...though each have their place in the human experience.

His Banner Over Me Is Love
The Banner
- In chapter 2 of the Song of Songs the Beloved confidently states, “His banner over me is love.” In the ancient world it was difficult for large armies to organize themselves. In the midst of the chaos of battle, soldiers needed to be able to communicate where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to do. Banners were used for each unit. Each soldier would belong to a unit, and each unit had a unique banner. So each banner was a sign of belonging and identification.

Love & War - In a subtle connection between death (here symbolized as war) and love, the Beloved identifies herself by the Love of her Man. “His banner over me is love.” His love was sign of safety, a comfort.

Identification - Within the confines of a committed relationship, mutual identification is essential. The Genesis text puts it this way, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Part of becoming husband and wife is the process of uniting two lives into one. The banner of Love hangs over a healthy marriage. Each spouse can identify themselves in the other while retaining their own identity within the marriage.

Losing One’s Self - However, the text is also clear that we are free to be ourselves within a relationship. Genesis say, “They were naked and unashamed.” Too often we scan past this part too quickly as we blush at the word “naked;” however, it’s important we pause here. For nakedness isn’t just a lack of clothing. Nakedness can also be the uncovering of our hearts and souls. The kind of relationship that God intended for a man and a woman is one where each person is free to be exactly who they pretenses, no pretending, no trying to be someone we’re not.

One of the dangers of desire is the loss of self. Too often a wooing young man or perhaps a desperate wife trying to make a relationship work will give up their self. They will cover their own nakedness with the clothing of what someone else wants them to be...or what they think someone else wants them to be. Instead of a banner of Love, providing a safe freedom to be who we are, Desire can lead us lose who we are...dooming any relationship.

However, the opposite can doom a relationship, too.

My Lover Had Left, He Is Gone
“I’ll Call You Tomorrow”
- I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase used before...and I’m sure you know the connotation that it carries. And too often the lack of sincerity behind it as well.

Chapter 5 - The Lover is Gone? - In chapter 5, the young woman has what most scholars agree is a dream. A nightmare to be exact. You see her Lover was at the door, but when she opens the door, he is gone. She looks and searches the city, beaten and abused by the experience, she is left alone...abandoned. Apparently, she’s heard about how easily it rolls off guys lips, “I’ll Call You Tomorrow”...but she also knows that guys sometimes aren’t still around the next day.

Too Close for Comfort - When two people begin to enter a relationship, their lives begin to touch, and as the relationship deepens, the connection deepens. Soon those boundaries of personhood begin to overlap. Our discontinuity, our very individualism begins to be encroached. However, like the young woman’s nightmare, some people get spooked. Fearing a loss of self, the moment the boundaries of self are touched, they flee the relationship. The Lover is gone, He’s not at the door, and there will be no phone call.

So where am I going with this? While the Song of Songs is primarily an erotic poem extolling the virtues of love, it also offers a warning: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Song of Songs is about Desire. Actually it’s about THE desire...the desire to love and be loved.

THE Song of Songs
The Desire
Our Design
- The Bible is fairly clear that we were made to love and be loved. If God is love, and we are made in the image of God, then we can conclude that much of who we are identifies with love. Returning to our beginning this morning, we desire to have unity, to be continuous beings. To have the fellowship or relationship with God and others such that we “get each other.” We are hardwired for Desire...We were designed to Desire.

Who’s Master? - But, the problem is that Desire sometimes gets the upperhand. We want to be with a person so much that we’d do ANYTHING to be with them. We feel lonely, and it’s easy to fill that loneliness by spending a night in someone else’s bed. Perhaps, we don’t like ourselves, and it feels good to be wanted like he wants you...

Interestingly, Desire shows up within the Hebrew text in some odd places, and each time it is akin to being Master. After the Fall, God tells Eve that her desire will be for husband...but most scholars understand this as a statement of contested mastery in the relationship...In other words, the power struggles of husband-wife are rooted in Desire.

Just a chapter later, Cain is being told by God that sin desires to be master over him. Desire leads to mastery.

And now, in Song of Songs, we are told not to awaken love until it other words, “Be careful with love. Be careful with relationships. The Desire we have to love and be loved can become your master and destroy your life.”

Strong & Whole Self - So what do we do? Be it an unhealthy surrendering of self to the altar of desire or a fear of one’s individuality being swallowed up, the remedy is the same: Know thyself. Who are you? You are a child of God. You bear the image of God. You have worth because God made you just the way you are. You don’t need some guy to tell you that you are special...that you are sexy. As she proclaims in the Song of Songs, “I am a Lilly of the Valley, the Rose of Sharon,” the young woman is comfortable in her own skin. Tell me again? What is the definition of sexy? That’s right Loving yourself...being comfortable in your own skin.

There is little sadder than staring out across a college campus on Saturday morning...watching girls walk home in the same clothes they went clubbing in the night before. I always noticed that they walked with their heads down avoiding eye contact with other pedestrians. One night stands aren’t sexy, and there’s no condom to protect the human heart.

You also don’t need a girl fauning over your car, your money, or your popularity. Guys you don’t need a girl on your arm or in your arms to be a real man. Conquests aren’t God’s measure, and being sexy has more to do with integrity and character than muscles and least for the girl that will stay with you through thick and thin, who will be a good mother, and a great wife.

Brothers and Sisters, and especially my younger brothers and sisters, unless you are whole and healthy on the inside, your relationships will continue to struggle. If you don’t respect yourself or your body, he won’t either. If you don’t know how to let someone in your life, in your heart in a healthy way, you will always be matter how many women you sleep with. I’m amazed by the number of people who have sex without ever being truly naked...of being real, open, and vulnerable. If you leave the Desire to be loved by God unmet, your body, mind, and heart will seek to fill it with the love of something or someone else...and it will always fail...leaving you more empty than ever.

The only way to keep Desire in check is to understand it...and yourself. We were made to love God and be loved by God. Understanding that our deepest longing can only be met in God through Jesus Christ is the only way we can find true’s the only way we’ll be happy with’s the only way we can be truly naked and unashamed...and it’s the only way we can have successful relationships and marriages.

But there is also another part to this. We are made to love and be loved by others, too. And the key to loving others in a commited relationship is the big “S” not that one! Get your minds out of the gutter.

That “S” Word?
Submit - It’s been said by many a wise woman: There is only one thing that keeps a woman from being a happily married wife: her husband!

The word of love is actually submit. An ugly word that has been held hostage by the ignorant and misinformed. It has a bad history within the church as it has been used to defend men’s abuse and degradation of women. What amazes me, though is how often Christians, even today, misuse the word and how it applies to a marriage relationship.

A Bad History

The Forgotten Ephesians 5:21 - the word submit in Ephesians 5 only appears once, "submit one to another." Too often the "church" has used this section to lower women's status and make them subservient to men. Still today there are "family" ministries out there that promote "women should submit to their husbands. [period]" However, the entire point of this text is to show how ALL OF US should submit to each other: wife to husband, husband to wife. Wife should respect husband, husband should love his wife and look out for her best interests just as Christ died for the Church! There's no dominance in this! There's mutual love. Mutual respect. One flesh, side from side, side by side.

The LORD Is One
- In the end, all relationships are about Echad. Echad is an important word in the Bible.

The Great Shema - Deuteronomy 6:4, considered to be the holiest text by the Jews says, “Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” The LORD is one, the LORD is echad. Echad means “one.” God is Echad. Central to the Bible is the belief that God is one.

“One Flesh” - And as Rob Bell points out in Sex God, “It’s the same word as the “one flesh” in Genesis, “And the man and woman shall be one, echad, flesh. Central to Bible is the belief that God is one, not many, and sex between the man and woman has something to do with God. Who God is. What God is like. Adam and Eve are one as God is one. This marriage between a man and woman-their having sex-is about something much bigger than the relationship itself. It points beyond them to somebody else. - to God. The point of marriage isn’t marriage. It’s a picture. A display. A window that you look through to see something else. You see our world isn’t echad, it isn’t one. It’s broken, shattered, fractured, with pieces lying all over the floor....A marriage is designed to counter all of this. NOt to add to the brokenness of the world but to add to the oneness of the world.”

Marriage: A Symbol of Hope - Marriage and sex in marriage are symbols of hope for this world. We live as discontinuous beings with a desire to love and be loved...with a desire for unity...with a desire to know and be known.

Marriage is God’s way of bringing Echad to us. Marriage and Sex are about Oneness. Desire is about Oneness. Brothers and Sisters, God’s banner over us is Love. Rest in that. Brothers and Sisters, your Desire is to love and be loved by God...and nothing else will ever come close. Nothing.

You want a good marriage? Fall in love with God. You want great relationships? Fall in love with God. You want good sex? Let God love you. You want to be “gotten” to be understood? Let God love you for his banner over us is love. And our desire is to be loved by him. Amen.

"Kissing in Church"

Sermon: "Kissing In Church" (preached 1/25)
Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:18-25
Scripture Lesson: Song of Songs 1:1-17

There are some things that are just taboo. Kristie Hall wrote this story for Parents magazine....My boss and I have 6 yr. old boys in the same kindergarten class. One night our families ran into each other at a local restaurant, and we decided to share a table so that my son, Kobe, and her son could sit together. They were deep in conversation about what cartoon characters were on their underwear, when my son turned to my boss and asked, “So what kind of underpants do you wear?” – Kristie Hall of Texas (June 2006 Parents Magazine)

Some things, even in innocence are hard to talk about, and when someone starts blurting it out people gasp. People’s eyes get big. People call “Foul! You’re out of bounds.” Kinda like putting the word sex on a church sign. When the normal social bounds are breached, it upsets the norm, the safe, the way it always was or the way it should be. So you can rest assured that I did know that I would receive some comments about the series and the church sign. I have to admit I was a little shocked when someone called our house on Friday...FOUR days after changing the sign...I was expecting 2 at the most!

In all seriousness, I thought long and hard about this sermon series. In fact, I’ve been reading commentaries and other books studying for these sermons since November. Starting off I want you to know some things. #1 I take this very seriously. In fact, this is IMHO, one of the more important societal issues that I can preach of, and in light of this, I am aware that the way I speak and preach about it must be very intentional. So I want you to know that I don’t think this is a joke, though I do believe we can have some fun with our uncomfortability with something beautiful and made by God. It’s OK to laugh, I’ll probably laugh some, too, but I do want everyone to know I think this is a big deal.

#2 I’ll be upfront and say this, I believe that the “golden standard,” the Biblical “way”, or simply put it, I believe God created sex to be between one man and one woman who unite their lives for life. I take this from our Genesis reading and the many reflections on marriage within the Biblical text. This belief will shape how I speak of sex, relationships, and love.

#3 Through all of this, I think you’ll find that my emphasis will be on wholeness. A whole and healthy self, whole and healthy relationships with others, and most of all a whole and healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

#4 If you have problems with something I say or do, come see me. And this extends beyond just this topic. Part of being a Christian is offering grace to others. People make each other mad all the time...It’s part of life...However...however, being a Jesus follower means offering grace and forgiveness. So, if I offend you, come talk to me about it. It’s possible the offense is intentional and I’m wanting you to think about something, and that we can agree to disagree...But, maybe, I said something confusing or wrong, and I can then have the opportunity to say I’m sorry.

I just wanted to be clear about these things before we started. I don’t know why because this is such an easy topic, and we should zip right through it....

What & Why
God & Sexuality
The Odd Couple
- At first take, I know it may seem completely out of place to talk about God and human sexuality at the same time...especially in a place of worship. However, this Odd Couple do in fact know each other quite well. From the earliest findings of religious iconography, art, and stories, we find that God and Sex are intimately connected. The earliest statues that we can find of gods and goddesses were in fact what we call Fertility Gods...In other words, these items were used in religious ceremonies to promote fertility of crops...livestock...and yes even humans. Some religions even had temple prostitution as part of the religious ceremony. Unfortunately, this still goes on today in places like India.

What’s interesting is that some religions have found the connection between sex and the sacred as well, except their solution is absolute abstinence. Religions like Buddhism and parts of Hinduism and Christianity promote celebacy, or complete abstinence from sex.

So by either extreme or all in between, religions have wrestled with the connection between God and human sexuality. [Read Sex God by Rob Bell beginning middle p. 13 to p. 15 skipping some parts].

Old Testament Soap Opera - But, that’s all just philosophy of religion, what does the Bible say about it. Well, the Bible is full of the subject of human sexuality. Genesis 2, which we read, and which I read at every wedding I do. Unfortunately, we humans don’t always treat our bodies with such respect, and the OT is very open about this. Women desperate to get pregnant sleep with their fathers, men rape women, men raping men, fathers pawn daughters off as property, and kings with 1000’s of mistresses. In the story of Ruth, I hope you know that “feet” is a Hebrew metaphor...go back and reread the story...You’ll find it a bit more shocking. The OT covers the whole gamut of human existence because it is a human document. Yes, inspired by God, but written by humans in a very human world. So, I would like to point out that the OT is NOT shy about the subject. In fact, some of the more graphic sexual imagery in the Bible relate to the metaphor of God as husband and God’s people as wife. Obviously, God saw the connection, too.

New Testament (Read Carefully) - I know that some of you though have a hard time with the OT and look to the NT, which I might warn is a very dangerous thing, but that’s for another sermon on another day. One person who was critical of my sermon titles said, “I don’t think Jesus would be happy with you talking about these things.” Well, who does Jesus hang with...Fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes...Now let me get this straight: People actually believe that Jesus spent alot of time with prostitutes (and I don’t mean that in any bad way) and sex NEVER came up? Get real. A woman caught in adultery in John 8, and Jesus is right there commenting. Jesus has teachings in all the Gospels about marriage and adultery...and we don’t think Jesus talked about sex? I think you get my drift. But it doesn’t end there, and later on, I’ll use some pretty shocking yet practical statements by St. Paul about marital relations.

Lastly on this point, the metaphor of God’s people, the Church is continued as being the Bride of Christ. And throughout the ages, many, many people have found sacred romance in this relationship. So yes, the Bible does teach that our sexuality is closely related to our understanding and relationship with God because our sexuality is tied so intimately to our own personal wholeness. Let me say that again...the Bible does teach that our sexuality is closely related to our understanding and relationship with God because our sexuality is tied so intimately to our own personal wholeness.

That’s In the Bible!?!
The Song of Songs
“The Most Beautiful Song”
A Timeless Song (of Songs) - Jewish Rabbis have debated the intention of this book for ages. Is it what it appears on the surface? A set of love poetry about two lovers? Or is it an allegory, a story with a hidden meaning telling of God’s love for Israel? There is no clear consensus, and there never has been. What is interesting is that the book, despite which take, was chosen by the Jewish people as Scripture. A famous and ancient rabbi named Akiba once said, “The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”

Christians struggled with the same issue: Is it allegory or love poetry? Origen, a very early Christian theologian, believed that the Beloved woman was the Church and the Lover was Christ.

On the otherhand, John Donne, famous English poet, statesman, and pastor, wrote many love poems just like this. Were they about his wife or Christ? Were they about human romance or divine?

Bernard of Clairvaux, a medieval monk noted for his sermons, wrote 86 distinct sermons on the first 2 chapters of the Song of Songs alone. 86! That’s hard to imagine...but then again he was a monk.

Did you know that the Puritans talked about relationships and sexuality alot. In fact Zig Ziglar says the Puritans “were far more fun-loving than they’ve been accused of being, but they insisted that the pleasures of the flesh be subordinated for and to the greater glory of God. They were not ascetics, and they never even hinted that they wanted to deny or prevent the enjoyment of earthly pleasures.” In fact, he reports that Puritanism was a youthful, highly educated movement. The Puritans revived Cambridge University and founded Harvard only six years after founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans consistently extolled sex within marriage. One Puritan pastor was typical in calling sex “one of the most proper and essential acts of marriage,” to be enjoyed “with goodwill and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.” One congregation even excommunicated a man for sexually neglecting his wife, and believe it or not there were even laws about such things. Hardly the stick-in-the-muds that the Victorians paint for us...Ironically, the Victorians are the ones to think for our culture’s obsessive silence regarding the issue. 1880’s women’s psychology was committing women to insane assylums for the very thing you’d find written on the front of Cosmo magazine, so it’s no surprise that this era began the time of silence in the Church...We don’t talk about it, and as far as we know it doesn’t happen. Not surprisingly, the Song of Songs has hardly been preached...and when it has been, poorly.

Is It Getting Hot In Here?
The Song of Songs
It All Started with a Kiss
- In a culture that did not allow public displays of affection, imagine the shock of first time readers when they encounter these words taken literally from the Hebrew: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Wow, even in our day, that’s a great way to start a book. Right from the beginning the Songs of Songs is a radical document. It starts with the hunger of a lover’s kiss, but it gets better. But, I’d like to pause, and just point out the power of a kiss. One can stop the world in a moment. A kiss cements the vows of a marriage. A kiss is powerful symbol of love. It has power. If you remember the movie, “Pretty Woman” the call girls teach each other, “Don’t kiss on the lips...don’t make it personal.” A kiss can be treacherous...afterall a kiss can and did betray. Too often, I’ve heard “they were just kissing.” Yeah, and I was just lighting sticks of dynamite, too. A kiss has power because in that one intimate moment, we make ourselves completely vulnerable. In a kiss, there are smells and tastes and touch (notice the wording wine, perfume, mouth). In my opinion, we undervalue this act. We say that it’s OK for teens AND adults to kiss without reflecting on what it means or does. Yet, all of our teaching stories say something different...You ask, “what stories?” Snow White is kissed to life by a prince. Sleeping Beauty is kissed awake by a prince. Ariel has to kiss her true love by Sundown, the toad turns into a prince when kissed, the Beast turns into a prince when kissed by the Beauty. Kisses have power, and the ancients knew this well.
In fact, a large study on what makes marriages last pointed out that only ONE thing was in common between all long lasting marriages, religious, non religious and of different ages and cultures...It was an intimate embrace of a hug and kiss before bed. It ALL starts with a kiss. So the first thing we are confronted with is the power of a kiss.

A Romance...a Wild Romance - Winston Churchill was a member of a Master of Ceremonies club. He won every time there was a contest. He could speak on any topic at any time. They thought they had him one day when without notice they gave him the topic, "sex." He rose and said, "Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure," then he sat down.

I'd like to highlight a couple of interesting lines from the poetry today. The Lover says this in verse 9: "You are as exciting, my darling, as a mare among Pharoah's stallions."

Now today, you'd probably get slapped for calling your girlfriend a horse, but there's actually something to this. You see in ancient Egypt, the most prestigious wing of the military was the chariot corps. They were superbly trained. They were often nobility. They had the best technology of bows and chariots. The horses of the chariot corps were some of the best in the ancient world, and to add to the prestige, Pharoah himself often led the chariot corps. It was his to command and lead into battle for he had a special chariot led by the most beautiful white stallions. It was an awesome sight to behold on the battlefield.

So back to the text. She is a mare among Pharoah's stallions? I don't know how many of you have seen a stallion who is anywhere near a mare in heat, but I assure you this: The stallion goes crazy. Case in point: Once a Canaanite king was being attacked by Egypt, but he had no cavalry or chariot corps of his own...and he came up with a brilliant solution. As Pharoah's chariots were starting to approach, the Canaanite king had a mare in heat run across the battlefield. This lit a fuse under the chariot stallions who went berzerk and could not be controlled by their chariot pilots.

So here's what he's saying: "You, my love, are SO sexy that when you walk by, it's like a mare causing stallions to go crazy." We would say it like this, "You drive ALL the boys wild!" He's not shy in praising her...on the contrary, any meaningful romantic relationship must have physical attraction. He is not vulgar; rather, he is playful and complimentary. His words though come at just the right time...

Missing the Trees in the Forest - For just before this she has put herself down. She speaks of herself being "common." Of not being "fair." But his discourse shoots right through this: He is encouraging her: "No my love, you are beautiful. You are exquisite." And yes, "You are sexy."

Ladies no man is worth your time unless he loves you. And, you young ladeis are who I'm really addressing here: Unless he spends time encouraging you and building you up, he's not worth your time. Now words can be cheap, but over time if a man encourages you and tries to do what is best for you, he's a keeper: however, if it's all about him; if it's all about what he wants; if he gets what he wants and the comments end; he's not worth your time.

A man worth your time has a name that is "like perfume." In other words, he has character. Guys, you want to be an attractive man? Be a man of strength and character. Stand for what is right. Do what is right. Treat women with respect. Encourage others in faith and life.

It's easy to miss some of these finer points of the love story, but they are subtle reminders of what makes a romance...of what truly

I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It - Katie Perry (real name Katie Hudson) - Xtian singer, failed, tried the secular industry, partied, experimented, and wrote a hit song, “I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It.” This subject is important, in a day when divorce is the norm. Single parents struggle to make ends meet. Teen STD’s are at an all time high (with a caveat that if you ask me later I’ll explain). AIDS is a global killer, and the Church itself is struggling with sexuality.

Why We Must Talk About This
Look around...No, Wait, Don’t...
- I intend no offense, but I can’t believe there are people who still believe that the church shouldn’t talk about this. We have to. We’ve tried the silent thing or the “Just don’t do it.” thing for too long. It’s time to wake up and to see humanity and the human experience for all that it is. It’s time to read our Bibles for the first time and see that there is more in there in common with our world than with us, who are in the Church, and that in case you missed it was a slamming indictment. We live in a post-Christian world, and our engagement with culture is needed more than ever. Hiding away not talking about the real world has got the church right where it is today. The quaint Sunday morning social club. It’s time to engage the hard issues, the uncomfortable topics, it’s time to follow Jesus with ALL of our lives...even the private parts of our lives.

Who We Are - I’d like to go back to something that the Song of Songs author and Rob Bell both point out: Our perception of ourselves, our ability to live in our own skin has so very much to do with our sexual lives...and with our relationship with God. I can’t stress this enough. In marriage and in singleness, when we have struggles with relationships and our sexual lives, it’s more about our hearts than anything. And the travesty has been that we can’t talk about things like sex, lust, affairs, pornography, and marital problems...

Bell shares this story...One day his 5 yr. old son asked his wife, “Mom, what does sexy mean?” She thought for a second and then replied, “Sexy is when it feels good to be in your own skin. Your own body feels right, it feels comfortable. Sexy is when you love being you.”
You won’t feel right about this conversation, and you won’t ever feel right with God as a part of the conversation until you are OK with who you are.

And here’s the rub, this way the Church has been dealing with sexual issues, aka SILENCE, won’t ever work because it silence doesn’t deal with the issue, it just hides it.

So I guess you might say that along with Justin Timberlake, I’m trying to bring sexy back. My aim is that in the midst of all of misuse of sex, in a culture that abuses the concept of true love, in a world that uses and throws away people, my aim is to bring up an uncomfortable conversation so that we can deal with the stuff in our lives. So that you can love being you...because Jesus loves you...because God made you wonderfully.

Because I don’t know about you, but I want to feel comfortable in my skin...I want to love being me because God made me in God’s image. That’s why we’re talking about kissing in church. We’re bringing sexy back!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Peter Rollins on the Emerging Church

All I can say is WOW! This video is an amazing combination of a brilliant young theologian and a brilliant interviewer. She was able to really draw out Rollins for the average listener. Kudos to her.

The discussion is in regard to the emerging church movement, and Peter Rollins' involvement.

Favorite quote of Rollins' is still, "I don't believe Christians are called to believe in the Resurrection. I believe they are called to live it."

I also liked his reversal of Christian development and its comparison to that of an person. Born into family. Grow into behavior. Develop thoughts, which grow against the family....Then, the thoughts become mature and incorporate the new thoughts into the family's beliefs.

This is by far and away the best theological interview I've seen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Boundaries Seminar

Every three years United Methodist Pastors in Indiana are required to attend a seminar on Boundaries in Pastoral Ministry. The seminar trains us on what behaviors are appropriate and/or inappropriate in ministry.

While it is a four hour conference that drags on and on...I am glad that our conference addresses these issues. Most of the things we talk about are common sense; however, the seminar often deals with real-life case studies...stories of how pastors didn't follow "common sense." Not by a long shot.

The seminar serves as a reminder that each of us must remain diligent in regard to purity and integrity. Boundary crossing sins don't "just happen." They are usually the result of poor choices and lack of discipline in regard to having healthy relational boundaries.

Unfortunately, they only invite pastors....I think alot of married adults could use this seminar. Boundaries are important, and the better we enforce them, the healthier our relationships are.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Today's Speedlinking brought to you by: Mark's Snow Removal Service..."If you wait long enough, it goes away...except in Alaska."

  1. Here is our church's "temporary website." It's actually a blog that we'll be using as a website. What are your thoughts on this? Is this good? Will it work? What's missing? My one frustration: Google Search crawls to it reluctantly...that's bad...really bad.
  2. How can procrastinators and people who wait until the end to get stuff done excel at what they do? Seth Godin says it's the art of Sprinting...a GREAT read! It really helped me understand that good planning along with a late surge can produce great results.
  3. Someone else who's mind works like mine..."What does God hate more...line cutting or people who get angry about line cutters?" A great tongue in cheek question about how we respond to rudeness and being sinned against.
  4. United Methodist House Churches!?! Oo, oo, oo, appoint me! Appoint me! OK, not really, we LOVE Winchester and don't want to move, but how exciting is this! What's your take?
  5. I hate arial font, but how can I argue with science? CommonCraft explains that easy directions reading makes easy tasks.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

World Congress on Evangelism

I took three weeks to reflect on the World Congress on Evangelism. It was an interesting conference. The speakers were for the most part pretty good, and I applaud the Congress on its choices. I didn't care for the main speaker as he seemed to be advocating some sort of return to Modernism and Doctrinal theology that "we can't translate into post-Modern culture." Apparently, the Gospel only fits in Modern philosophies [insert rolling eyes].

That being said, the conference was amazingly forward thinking for a Methodist event.

I have a few major learning points from the conference. This is the #1 thing I brought home:


Tyrone Gordon, a black pastor of a thriving church in the Great Plains, shared a story of an organist's attempt to bully him in his first appointment as an associate pastor. "We've never done that, we're not doing that, and as long as I'm here, we won't EVER do that!" His solution: He brought in special music for his first Sunday, which was warmly accepted by the church...His point: Too often we get wrapped up in the debate "By what authority do you do these things?" (the same question asked of Peter and John in Acts). It's time to move beyond this. The Great Commission has been given. Authority has been given. It's not time to tread cautiously, but boldy and decisively!

Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, said this: "There are somethings I don't leave up to a vote. We just do it...Some of the opposition in churches is based on a demonic stranglehold within society. We don't compromise or argue with demons, we exorcise them...Sometimes you have to go backward to go forward. We went from 100 to 60 in our first year, but that reduction is what allowed us to go forward." For those unfamiliar with Ginghamsburg, I think they're averaging around 3000 now.

Sometimes, being a leader means making tough choices or saying the hard truths, but that is the responsibility of the leader. I've given a lot of thought about these comments, and while they are shocking for many in the church to hear...I think they're spot on. In the church we've tried so desperately to please everyone, especially the "noisy few." Where does it say this is the role of the Church in Scripture?

Our mission is clear: Make disciples of Jesus Christ. Anything that impedes that mission is not from God, and is by definition anti-God. Maybe not intentionally, but nonetheless, it is anti-God. Anti-Christ. We've allowed this spirit to live too long in our churches. It's time to follow Jesus, to be bold, and to step out in faith...knowing that there will be obstructionists along the way.