A Little Context For Me

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

If There Is A God, Where Is He?

This post is part of conversation. I decided to include an edited version of that exchange to give some context for what will follow.

Anonymous: If there is a God, where is he? I want to believe. But it’s been 2000 years since God even made his alleged appearance. I mean, if he cares, where is he?
Me: I am getting ready to walk out the door, but I need to come back to this. I so hear you! I was asking the same thing not too long ago. 
Anonymous: I am glad to hear that you at one time felt the same way. Because it gives me hope. 

The easiest and probably smartest thing for me to do would be to stick to all the pretty church answers on this one. You know a few historical facts, a couple of clichés, and an encouragement to “just keep believing.” But let’s be honest, those things are often more of frustration than help. And to be even more honest, I really don’t know what else I have to offer other than to say you are not alone.

I had to smile when I read that your last message. The idea that knowing that about me gives any hope is one of the more amusing things I have ever encountered. I guess it is because you are on the outside looking in, and I am on the inside looking out. I actually had to step outside myself for a bit and try to imagine what I must look like to someone else. I know I am busy with the Scandalous stuff, I do posts here, and I talk a lot about God and what I think about him. I suppose that has to look like some pretty massive faith, but don’t let me fool you. Faith is tricky thing to find and to hold onto, and I don’t think the battle to keep our faith is ever really over – or if it is then I haven’t reached that place.

The first time I lost my faith was right after my divorce. I had prayed so hard for God to save my marriage, to help me be a better wife, or to fix my husband. When God didn’t answer any of those prayers, I prayed that one of us would die. I had bought into the lie that divorce was never an option, and I believed that I had stay in my abusive marriage if I was to be a good Christian girl. When that didn’t happen, and I knew that I had to leave, I believed that God had failed.

There were only two reasons, in my mind, why God would fail to fix my marriage:

1. He was not strong enough to do so.
2. He did not care enough to do so.

Now, if God was not strong enough to save my marriage then, obviously, he wasn’t worthy of being called God. And if he didn’t care enough to save my marriage then why should I care about him?

Over the next four years I would fought to rebuild my faith – not that I realized that was what I was doing. I just thought I was screaming my anger at the heavens with some sort of twisted death wish. I was so hurt and angry that I often didn’t have the words to express what I was feeling, so sometimes I just screamed. There was part of me that even hoped that I would make God mad, mad enough to take me out with bolt of lightning as punishment for my blasphemies and curses, because even his anger would have been better than being abandoned.

Now I know that there was a part of me that never stopped believing that God was real, but it was that part of me that made me so mad. If I truly believed that he was did not exist then my anger would have been foolish. It would have been pointless, and probably a good indicator that I really had lost my mind, because really? Who gets that furious with their imaginary friend?

And that was the first step to realizing that I still believed, that my faith wasn’t entirely lost. I knew he was there, my hurt, frustration, and anger with him was my first shred of evidence that he was real. Sure, I couldn’t see or touch him. I couldn’t hear his voice or introduce him to my friends. I just knew that somewhere in my rage there was someone to rage at.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in all of this was that for the first time I was taking God seriously. I mean really seriously. I wasn’t playing pretty church games with him or trying to buy him off with good Christian girl behavior. I was letting him see me – the real me. The me who was broken, bloody, and pissed off. The me I don’t show in public. The me I keep locked up and hidden away from the world lest someone decided that hauling me off in one of those fancy white jackets that tie in back needs to be done for my own good. The me that I only let to play when I am with people I trust. And I have to tell you, that me ain’t pretty or polite. Not many people can handle her.

But God did. He just waited for me to cool off, settle down, for the sting to leave some of the wounds. He didn’t run away or try to rush me through what I now know was a grief over so many failed dreams. He didn’t interrupt my ravings or tell me that I was being irrational. He just waited.
For four long years, he waited knowing that the only interaction I was willing to have with him was to dish out some more abuse in his direction.

Then one day when I was ready, he showed up – no, wait, that is wrong. He showed me how he had always been there. I just wasn’t ready to see him until that moment.

Sometimes the hardest part of faith is being okay with the fact that God is sovereign. It means that he gets to set the terms and limitations of everything, even when and how he is going to reveal himself in our lives. Of course, his timing is never what we would demand and how he chooses to appear in our lives is seldom what we think we want. The thing is that no matter when or how he decides to play out that moment, you will know that it could not have happened one second sooner and his way was so much better than you could have imagined.

I don’t have any formulas for how to make God appear, not even for myself. All I know is that if we keep chasing him, he will be found. It might take a while, and I pray that for you it won’t be four years, but if it is I promise you it is worth it. That is the only hope I have to offer, but if you could see it from the inside out like I do you would know that is one of the greatest hopes we can ever offer another.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Everything Happens For A Reason - An Emily Rant

Ya’ll need to hold on to your hats and buckle up for this one. I have had it, and I am gearing up to sound harsh, judgmental, and downright mean, but you know what? I don’t give a flying rip.

Yesterday, I sat with a woman in tears. And if you know me, you know I would just assume you pull my fingernails out rather than try to comfort someone sobbing their eyes out about how their life is falling apart, but I did because while I can be rather cold hearted at times, I thought it was the right thing to do. I let her go until she calmed down, and then she said something to me that made me want to slap her – “I have been doing everything right and following all the things that God has told me to do, and not breaking any of the rules he has laid out for my life. I just want to know when is it going to be my turn to get blessed?”

Seriously? Sister, I know your life, and I can tell you that first sentence is a flat out lie. I don’t know if it is one you bought into, one you manufactured in that little messed up mind, or if you really believe that you are without sin, but, sweetie, honey, you have not been doing what God told you to do, and you are definitely not doing everything right.

Now, let me just clarify that I do NOT believe that doing everything right is a prerequisite for receiving God’s blessing. That’s just bad theology. The truth is God gives us way more than anyone of us deserves.

Somebody is whining, “What about the starving children in Africa? Did they deserve that?” Come on, let’s get real for a second. Number one that is stupid cop out when I just watched you have a meltdown over the fact your cable is getting cut off. You don’t give a rip about the starving kids in Africa or you would send that $50+ a month to making sure that at least a few of them got fed. You start doing that and we will talk about the kids in Africa. Until then stop using them as some great gift from the cosmos to avoid my second point.

Which is – God is holy. Let me unpack that for you, it means that he is so much greater and more than you and I will comprehend. He set apart, wholly other, and apart from his decision to love us has no cause to become entangled in this mess of a world that we inhabit. He only does so because for some inexplicable reason he has decided he desires to know and be known by us. Any revelation of himself that may be deign to give us should bring us to our knees in awe, but we are such self-centered buffoons that we think we are doing him some sort of favor by reposting Bible verses on Facebook.

But back to my friend and her little problem, or should I say friends and their little problems?

The truth is a whole lot of you are buying into the same damn lie that you are a good person who deserves better than life doled out to you. That just because you haven’t murdered someone God should be scraping and bowing to you for such restraint, but the all the while you are doing what you please, when you please with the rest of your life.

Oh, sure you will send me a message lamenting the fact that your husband is a douche bag, but neglect to tell me you have been slipping around with a guy on the side. You will tell me how awful it is you don’t have money to feed your kids or your dog, but I can see that bag of weed in your car. You will tell me how everyone is so mean to you, but you can’t be bothered to show the slightest courtesy to anyone you don’t think has the means to help you. You will bemoan the fallen state of this world, but when is the last time you fed or found shoes for someone in dire need of both or either?

You see, I am running out of patience and mercy for each and every one of you claiming to be a Christian but only act as if it is some type of game token you get to trade in for stuffed bunny. I am fed up with all of you who want to act as if you are the victim of some grand and cosmic plot to ruin your life just because you didn’t get the lollipop or the gold star.

Life is hard, and a life of faith is harder. It demands things of you that will make you uncomfortable, that  will make you hurt, and will make you bleed. The life of faith is a life of sacrifice, and I am not talking about throwing an extra twenty in the offering plate. Big whoop! Do you thing that God needs your money? Do think he will be bribed or bought off? Exactly how small is your god anyways?

No, the God of the Bible demands more. He demands you, all of you. That includes your time, your energy, your money, and yes, even your sexuality. He wants it all, and he has laid out some very simple rules about how you give it to him. Rules that you don’t get to rewrite or ignore because they are inconvenient or uncomfortable. Rules that you don’t get to wave away or water down when they get in the way of your supposed happiness. Rules that were put in place to make sure that nothing gets between you and the God who should be the most important thing in your life.

Am I saying that following the rules gets you salvation? No, I am not. I am saying that when you truly get it through your thick head and hardened heart that God loves you, and I mean stupid passionately loves you, you want to return that love. You want to do the things that please him, and you will ruthlessly rip out everything in your life that stands between you and him. You fight anyone and anything that threatens to intrude upon that relationship, and you will not be content with giving him anything less than your everything because you realize that he is your everything.

So that internet flirtation? It has got to stop. The extra pens from the office that fall into your purse? Need to stop coming home with you. Cussing the slow driver in front of you? Not an option. The addiction that controls your life? Suck it up, and get the help you need to get over it. The guy or gal that you keep tripping over on your way out of a bed you should have never been in?  Who said our faith didn’t require human sacrifice? Time to give them up too.

Look, the point is that it doesn’t matter what it is that you think it is your right to have or what you deserve. I can guarantee you aren’t getting either one right now. And the only reason you aren’t is that in God’s infinite mercy he has decided to give you a little more time and space to get with the program. For some of us, he’s turning up the heat. He’s letting us bear the consequences of our bad decisions, and he is letting us reap the harvest of the lies we sowed. He is not doing it because he is cruel or unfair. He is doing it because he loves us, and he wants us to see how our actions have not been honoring either to him or to ourselves. He is helping us understand that everything he requires of us is for our good, not his because he is already good. And oh yeah, changing course can hurt and if usually comes at a pretty high cost to our pride and comfort, but God was never a fan of pride and the peace he offers is makes comfort look like worn out blanket left on the side of the road.

And hey, if you want all this stuff you think you deserve, go on and get it. He will let you have it, but stop whining when he doesn’t miraculously show up to make things easy on you. For while God’s love is unconditional, expressions of that love are not. And demanding that he bless you while you wallow in your sin is like demanding your spouse be faithful while you act like the town bicycle. So you choose, but think about the decision you are making and have enough backbone to be honest about what you are choosing.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Who Are The Nephilim? - Part 8 Enoch, Peter, and Greek Mythology

This part of an ongoing series about the Nephilim. To start at the beginning click here: Who Were The Nephilim - Part 1

For is God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until judgment, if did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly… 2 Peter 2:4, 5

We discussed this passage some in the last post, but there was one word that I word that I wanted to wait to tackle because this one tiny little word opens up the door for a whole new world of questions. If have studied this topic before, then I am certain you already know what is coming. If you haven’t then I think you will find it interesting. Any guesses on which word it might be?

If you guessed hell, you are getting close. However, this is one of those times when the real word has been obscured by the translators. Now before you go getting any ideas about grand conspiracies in Bible translations, you should know that this is not a bad or deliberately misleading translation. It is simply the word that makes the most sense when we translate Greek into English. The main difference is that in this case, thanks to our Greek mythology, comic books, and sci-fi, we happen to be more familiar with this word in the original. That word is Tartarus. So if we were reading the verse and retained the Greek, it would say:

…but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness…

This is the only place in the Christian Scriptures were we find this specific term. We do find the term used two times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that was widely read at around the time of Jesus and used by many early Christians. There are some variance between the manuscripts used for Septuagint and the manuscripts used in today’s translations of the Bible. So don’t freak out when you go to your Bible and the verses read nothing like the ones below. The point I am trying to make is that the concept of Tartarus is not unfamiliar to Jewish audiences or the Jewish writers of the Christian Bible, and it was a term easily borrowed to describe similar concepts.

And when he has gone up to a steep mountain, he causes joy to the quadrupeds in the deep (tartaro).

ἐπελθὼν δὲ ἐπ’ ὄρος ἀκρότομον ἐποίησεν χαρμονὴν τετράποσιν ἐν τῷ ταρτάρῳ (tartaro) Job 40:20

and the lowest part (tartaron) of the deep as a captive: he reckons the deep as [his] range.

τὸν δὲ τάρταρον (tartaron) τῆς ἀβύσσου ὥσπερ αἰχμάλωτον ἐλογίσατο ἄβυσσον εἰς περίπατον Job 41:24

In these verses, Tartarus is used to refer to the deep in 40:20 and the lowest part of the deep in 41:21. It is place where God has held the monstrous beasts, the Behemoth and Leviathan, captive. Despite their fierce natures, they are nothing but pets to the Creator of the universe and he keeps them contained in a place fitting of such gruesome creatures. And what could be more gruesome than these terrors of the ancient world? How about angels who failed to retain their proper estate?

We can also find the term Tartarus in the Book of Enoch. Here we learn that Uriel is the “holy angel of thunder and of tremors.” However, in the footnotes, we find an alternate translation that reads, “holy angel of the world and Tartarus.”  This immediately follows a conversation between Enoch and Uriel concerning the fate of the angels who sinned – angels who are bound in a terrible place awaiting judgment.

The fourth source for the term Tartarus has already been mentioned, and that is the Greek myths. What I find to be so fascinating are the numerous parallels between the Greek stories of Tartarus and the Biblical account in Genesis 6. I won’t take the time to retell any of them here. You can find them easily enough with Google. If you do take the time to research these tales, notice that most contain one or more of the following themes:

1. A lesser god/being revolts against a greater god.
2. The lesser god/being shares forbidden food, fire, or knowledge with humanity.
3. Sex is common between divine beings and humans.
4. The product of these unions are demi-gods, neither fully human nor divine.
5. Tartarus is the place of punishment reserved for the vilest offenders.
6. Those cast into Tartarus are often bound.
7. Tartarus is presented as below the earth or under a mountain.
8. Titans, an ancient race of giants, are primary characters within the tales.

Even a casual reader will readily pick up on the parallels between the Enochian story and the Greek myths. Nor are these the only ancient tales that share these themes, the only difference is a shared language between the Greek poets and the Biblical authors whose words overlap and coincide making the parallels more obvious. However, as we grow more familiar with the basic traits of the Biblical and Enochian accounts, we could move on to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Irish legends of the Tuatha de Danann, the Red Headed Giants of the Native Americans, Hindu tales, the Nordic Asgard, or the Oni from Japan to see that the tales of gods descending to earth to mate and to destroy is buried in the collective psyche of almost all cultures. And just as Christians have defended the veracity of the Flood accounts by appealing to multicultural retellings of the event, I believe the same can be done in the case of the Nephilim.

In fact, I find it rather curious that few have bothered to make such a case for the authenticity of the beginning verses of Genesis 6 but will do so for the remainder of the chapter that contains the flood account. Why is it considered proper to maintain the supernatural aspects of Noah’s ark but to remove the supernatural aspects attributed to the Sons of God? For even if the sparse verses of Genesis leave much open to speculation, we have demonstrated how Jude and Peter acknowledge the overarching premise of Enoch as having some bearing on reality through their quotations of the text.  
Next time, we will look at more New Testament quotes from the Book of Enoch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why Won't My Wife Have Sex With Me? - Rated R for Mature Audiences Only

This post is going to be rated R. I will be dealing bluntly with several questions that men have asked me about sex, and I will be doing so to in no uncertain terms. If you are easily offended or squeamish about sex, turn back now. However, if you are looking for some real answers about why your wife may not wish to have sex with you or why your sex life is fizzling, then you might want to read on. Ladies, feel free to use this as conversation starter for your marriage. 

My wife never wants to have sex anymore, is typically how the conversation starts. Then I get a whole list of things that the husband wants to do with his wife, but how she never responds to his desires. Now, fellows, let me just start out by saying that most of you drop the ball with your wife right here. You are talking to me and not talking to your wife, because when I ask you if you have told her that these are things you would like to explore in the bedroom 80% of the time you tell me, “No, I just know that she wouldn’t.” Seriously? You are not a mind reader. This is an established fact, and no, you cannot tell me that you know your wife well enough to know the answer unless you have already discussed it.

Look, I know you hate using your words, and it feels incredibly vulnerable to open to the one person who has the most power to hurt you, but you are going to have to do it if you want things to change.

Think of it this way – one of the most vulnerable things a woman can do is to present you with her naked flesh. We have been told over and over again by so many that our bodies are not good enough, sexy enough, thin enough, curvy enough, or hot enough to please any man, and every time we reveal them to you we are taking a risk. It can be a scary and vulnerable thing for us to do in ways that you may never understand, but we should not be the only ones taking a risk when it comes to sex. Using your words is one way you can help build intimacy. For most of you, this is the only part of the post you need to read because words are all your wife is waiting for to act.

While we are on the topic of words, let’s talk about compliments. Women love compliments, but just telling us that we are beautiful is not really a compliment. We see it as lazy and dismissive. We want specific compliments and this doesn’t just go for our bodies but it can be. So if you love our smiles, tell us that. If you think we have beautiful eyes, tell us that. If you love the meal we prepared, tell us that. If you appreciate how we take care of our children, tell us that. Whatever it is that you notice about us and enjoy that is what you should tell us about.

The other thing you should know about words is you have to listen to them. If you wife says that she needs or wants something, you should realize that we are choosing to be vulnerable to you and respect that. And it is not enough that you hear us, you have to demonstrate that you hear us. For instance, if she says that she needs the trash taken out, take the freaking trash out. If she says that she hates when you don’t shower before you come to bed, take a shower already. If she says that she loves it when you touch her back, touch her back. Women have had it pounded into their heads that we need to be a fierce and independent if we are to be real women, and it is hard to ask for your help. It feels like weakness, and as our husbands we need you to protect our weak places.

So what does this have to do with sex? It is simple. Women need to feel secure in order to enjoy and fully participate in sex. If we can’t trust you to get a job, help around the house or with the kids, or be where you told us you would be, why in the world would we trust you with hearts and bodies? If you aren’t taking good care of your body, why would we expect you to take care of ours? If you aren’t celebrating our accomplishments in everyday life, how do you expect us to feel like you can celebrate what we offer you sexually?

Many men kill their sex lives without ever realizing what they are doing. One often repeated folly is only saying or doing nice things for their wives when they want sex. In a woman’s mind this means one thing, you are using us. And no one likes to be used. Did you know that one sincere compliment a day will buy you more fun in the bedroom than amount of grumbling and complaining? And if you offer it up when there is no chance of sex we are more likely to see it as sincere? Also prompted compliments do not count. Sorry, guys, they just don’t. If we have to ask how we look, if you liked dinner, or noticed the new haircut, you have actually lost ground.

We want to know that you are paying attention to us, and you do that by actually noticing the things we do because we know that men pay attention to the things they love. And if you can tell your buddies the exact mileage on your truck, the details about how you rebuilt your Harley, or the stats of your favorite ball team, we know you can remember the things we tell you. If you aren’t remembering what we have said you are telling us that the truck, Harley, and ball team are far more important than we are. The same goes for the opening day of dove season, when the crappie are running, and the exact spot you were standing when you shot that prize buck. If you can remember all that you can remember birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentines.

Allow me to offer some thing you need to keep in mind and some realistic things you can do get what you want.. I know that sounds manipulative, but let’s face it, manipulation isn’t always a bad thing. Ask anyone who loves their chiropractor. If the goal is a better, healthier marriage and nothing is being done in an underhanded way, then go for it.

1. Moms with young kids often “touched out” at the end of a day, particularly if they are breastfeeding. The last thing we want is another person pulling on us. So take the kids out to the yard to play, offer to let your wife take a bath without Legos being shoved under the door or kids pounding on it the entire time she’s in there. It is amazing how thirty minutes of not having anyone making demands on you can recharge a battery.

2. This is going to seem counter to the last one, but this is where you have to use discernment and really pay attention to your wife – touch us when you do not want sex. A hand on the back when we walk past, a quick peck in the middle of a project, or a nuzzle while we do the dishes all given without expectation or demands helps us feel like we are being valued and loved throughout the day.

3. She is exhausted. Remember everything you take off your wife’s plate makes more room for you. If you help her conserve energy by washing the dishes, picking up the living room, or putting the kids to sleep, she will be more likely to have some energy left to devote to you.

4. Oral sex. This is probably the most frequent complaint I get from men. Their wives won’t give it to them. There are four common reasons for this:

You don’t keep it clean enough. So if you want it, wash it.

You are greedy. You want to receive but you don’t want to give. So again a wife isn’t feeling valued or honored in this area.

She doesn’t want to finish you this way. Be okay with keeping it limited to foreplay if this is how she feels.

You have forgotten that her throat is not wall to be beaten down with your battering ram of a penis. Do not jam her head down on it as if it were. Let her control the depth of the stroke.

5. If she has done things to prepare for some sexy time, you need to acknowledge it. I know one man who hasn’t seen his wife in lingerie for three years. Why? Because the last three times she put it on and he acted as if he didn’t notice – once she pranced through the bedroom where thigh-high stockings with a seam up the back and high heels, he wouldn’t put his phone down. Another time she sat on a boat dock in nothing but a teddy, and he decided he wanted to watch a movie. The last time, she walked in the bedroom and he never said a word. He just turned off the lights and went to sleep. An appropriate response would be, “Oh wow!” or just grabbing her up kissing her.

And it’s not just lingerie. If your wife has shaved anywhere she does not typically shave, she is sending you a message. If she has made arrangements for the kids to have a sleep over, then she probably is looking forward to some fun time with you. If she has candles on the table, don’t turn on the TV, just don’t, and don’t say you have to run over to you buddy’s house after dinner. She has other plans for you.

6. Some of you have not because you ask not.  So initiate. Too many times a man is waiting for his wife to make the first move but never expressing his needs or desire for her. That's a major turn off for most woman, and it is the number one complaint I hear from wives – "He never initiates! When we were dating, I couldn’t keep him off of me. Now he just goes to bed and unless I make the first move then he just falls asleep. I wish he would be more aggressive." Nothing says you want your wife more than making the first move. If we are having to initiate more often than not, eventually we are going to quit because we don’t want to feel like we are getting pity sex from our husbands. It is far easier to go without than to have your lack of desire for us rubbed in our faces.

7. Ditch the porn. I don’t care how harmless you think it is, stop it. You are communicating to your wife that she is less appealing to you than images on a page or screen. It completely demoralizes us, and it is effecting your ability to perform sexually with your wife. You may not notice it today or next week, but at some point you will find it impossible to get an erection without porn and if continued, not even then.

8. Do not turn us down. If you want us to keep coming to you for sex, quit telling us no. The most important thing in your life aside from God is your marriage, and one way to protect it is to honor those times when your wife takes a risk by expressing her desire for you. I know you are fixing the car, worried about bills or work, and that you might be worn out but when we approach you we are often willing to do all the work. You can kick back and enjoy.

9. Ask us what we enjoy. We are experts on our bodies, and we will always know them better than you do. Add in hormonal fluctuations and the things we enjoy from one time to the next can often change. For instance, breast sensitivity can change drastically for some women through the course of our cycles, so sometimes we want a lot of attention there and other times it could hurt for you to touch the girls. So listen to what we are saying, because no, you do not know what we want better than we do. You just don’t and you never will. You might introduce us to some new things that we can enjoy, but if we say that we need something specific to orgasm then you need to do that. Stop questioning, just do it.

10. Forget your “signature move.” Please, just do it. I know your last fifty girlfriends claimed they loved it, but at some point it gets old and annoying – if it didn’t start off that way. No matter how impressive it may have been, if it is not pleasing to your wife then you need to stop.

11. News flash – we have more than four body parts. Really we do! You should explore them, all of them. Unlike most men, we need sex to be a full body experience and jumping right to the fun bits is just annoying because we aren’t ready for that. Take some time and get us worked up before you going to your favorite places. We will let you know when we are ready for you to go there.

12. Speaking of time, we need more of it. I mean physically and mentally, we actually require more time to achieve an orgasm then you do. It has nothing to do with how much we want you or how turned on you make us, it is just how we are wired, and there is nothing we can do about it. Now this does not mean that we need a half hour intercourse. It means that we need more time to become aroused, and often our heads need time to catch up to the arousal our bodies are feeling. So you kissing, petting, and nibbling for fifteen minutes or more should be standard. Set a freaking clock if you have to, but slow down before you jump in.

13. Foreplay! Do it, lots of it, and it shouldn’t start in the bedroom. It starts with a great kiss before you leave for work, a call on your lunch break, and some kind, loving words throughout the day. And then when you get to the bedroom, don’t quit.

14. And no, we do not expect you to have or maintain an erection for the duration of bedroom foreplay. We know that they come and go, and most of the time we aren’t worried about it because we know how to bring it back, barring a legitimate medical problem. Which in that case, go to the doctor and get it checked out. Not only could it be a sign of a greater medical issue, we just assume that by not trying to get that fixed you don’t really care about having sex with us. I know one man who did not address this issue for six years, and then was surprised when his wife cheated. Now, I am not excusing the wife’s actions, but he already knew what the problem was and the fix was easy – as demonstrated by the fact he got it taken care of the first month after the divorce. Don’t be that guy.

15. Do not come to bed exhausted every night. Put the phone done, step away from the computer, and turn off the TV. We want to be a priority and if you come stumbling into bed and offer us the crumbs of your day, we are going to have a hard time getting excited about that. Now, if you have a legitimate reason to be worn out, don’t worry. We understand that and appreciate all that you do for us and the family, but when you do have days when you could devote some time and energy to your wife and don’t, we notice.

16. Do not roll over the instant you are done and start talking about the bills, mowing the yard, or the hole in the roof. I know that in part this is how your brains are wired, but seriously, give us this moment to just enjoy. Don’t ruin it by dwelling on problems, because to us it sounds like you weren’t really in the moment with us.

17. Do not maul us when you are drunk. Look, I know that alcohol helps free up some of those inhibitions, but no woman likes the smell of your beer or whiskey breath. And we really hate how you can’t pay attention to us when your mind is clouded like that. It’s disrespectful and frustrating.

18. If we say something hurts, do not stop for a second and then try to do it again two seconds later. You are just going to hack us off and reluctant to trust you in this area.

19. Your penis is not a magic wand. I hate to break it to you, but it is not. Most women don’t care to look at it, we don’t want pics of it, and we may not even climax when you use it with us. Why? Because the majority of women cannot achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. We need clitoral stimulation. This does not mean you are a bad lover or failure in the bedroom. It just means our bodies were designed in such a way that to really please us you have to pay attention to our needs, and not your own. If you do not know where the clitoris is located, ask your wife to show you and ask her how she would like you to touch her there. (Pro tip - this counts as foreplay!)

20. Do not betray our trust – in or out of the bedroom. Lie to us, play us, make us look like fools, or expose our weaknesses to another and sex with you will not be something we enjoy. In order for us to feel the type of safety and security we need to really turn loose and be in the moment means that we cannot be on our guard against the person we are with. So defend us and our marriage so that we can enjoy those moments when it is just the two of us without having to silence all the doubts and fears that play through our heads.

Look, I know that all of these things might not pertain to your individual situation, and reasonable arguments only work with reasonable people. But over the years, these have been the chief things that wives tell me they wish their husbands would understand. So I encourage not to dismiss any of the suggestions. Instead, talk to your spouse, ask her if these are things that matter to her, if she would like to see any changes, or if she is satisfied with what you are doing. I am not offering this as a universal prescription, I doubt there is such a thing for our sexual relationships, but I am offering them as way for you start the conversations that matter. And if you are communicating with your spouse then your marriage is going to be better for it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Reader's Question - Is Remarriage a Sin?

Reader’s Question –

Jesus said, whoever divorced his wife and married another commits adultery. When I married my husband (who has been in a previous relationship) I knew this. But I shrugged it off. And I thought that it probably didn’t count in our situation. But it’s pretty cut and dry. And honestly, I’m scared to death I’m going to hell for being an adulteress. What are your thoughts?

The first thing we have to do is look at what the Bible has to say about divorce. We know that God made provision for it in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In Malachi 2:16 we are told that God hates divorce, and this is one of the most quoted verses about divorce out there. However, if we are going to quote it we need to read it in context and pay attention to what is and is not being said. God does not say it is a sin, he says the reasons for the divorce are a sin and he hates that his people are acting in violence, hurting one another.

This brings us to Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:1-10

First, there is a set up. The Pharisees ask Jesus a dumb question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus doesn’t take the bait, and points them back to the passage in Deuteronomy mentioned above when he asks them, “What did Moses command you?” In other words, he was saying, “Of course, it is lawful for man to divorce his wife. God already addressed that when he gave Moses the law. And then Jesus explains why the law was given, and it was given because people have hard hearts.

Think about this with me for a while. What would cause anyone to do the things that lead to divorce? What causes someone to cheat, to abuse, to control, to be insensitive, to deliberate choose to do things that hurt another human being – particularly a person you have vowed to love and who has vowed to love you? If you answered a hard heart, then you win the prize. (Go buy yourself a cookie and enjoy!) God knew that people are lousy at keeping their promises to him and each other, and that no one can force another to be true to their word. So he gave us an out for when someone breaks their promises to us and allow us to stop being hurt. That is how much he loves us!

He desires that marriages remain intact and that we grow through this intimate union, but he set a boundary in place. He said you don’t have to be the victim of another person’s harden heart. You can be free, and you can put an end to the violence committed against you.

Before we go any further, let’s back up and take a look at what was really going on in this conversation. We have already shown how the whole thing was a set up with misleading question the Pharisees asked, but a set up for what? In Jesus day there were more than one type of Jew. There were the liberal and the conservative Jews, each interpreting the law according to their own bias. The liberal Jews said that divorce could be had for any reason and still be lawful, all a man had to do was establish that his wife was displeasing to him. (I don’t know about you, but my morning breath is pretty displeasing to everyone, including my husband, but I don’t think that is grounds for divorce.) The conservative Jews said that divorce was only allowed in cases of adultery. The whole point of this question was to get Jesus to declare whether or not he was liberal or conservative. It had absolutely nothing to do with the right and wrongness of divorce – that debate had already been settled along party lines.

So Jesus, being the brilliant person he is, sidesteps the whole issue of party politics and cuts right to the heart of the matter – if you divorce then you are causing another person to sin. This was particularly true for the women whose only options were to remarry or to become prostitutes in order to support themselves. Men could decide not to marry again and carry on with their lives.

And if we go back and read Matthew 19:1-12, we get pretty much the same break down of the issue, but it is interesting that if go back a page from that to Matthew 18: 5, 6, you will see that the person who causes another to sin is held to be the guilty party – even more so than the one sinning! And the consequences are severe. Jesus is driving home the point that divorce is not to be taken lightly, but he never renounces the Torah’s provision for remarriage. Remarriage was not only allowed, it was expected under Jewish law.

If we turn on over to 1 Corinthians 7:1-16, we find that while Paul encourages married people to remain together, he recognizes that it is not always within the believer’s power to keep it from happening. He goes to say that if an unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse is “not enslaved.” I believe that Paul is saying that the vows of marriage no longer bind the divorcee. And it is important to note that he never renounces the provision for remarriage offered under the Hebrew law. How do we know that remarriage was expected under Jewish law? Two reasons: Deuteronomy says that a woman who was divorced and remarries a second man cannot return to her original husband if she divorces him. Notice that the second marriage is taken for granted, and there is no decree that the second marriage was wrong. Two, it is recorded within the Rabbinic teachings that remarriage is encouraged after divorce.

Now, back to the reader’s question, is she going to hell for being an adulteress? No. I don’t believe so, and here is why. Even if I thought I remarriage was a sin, I still have to believe that God is big enough and loving enough to keep his word to forgive all sins we may ever dream up. He is not a liar, and he does not break his promises.

I also cannot imagine where breaking our promises or vows within a new marriage is the right thing to do. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if we dissolve a second marriage we are merely compounding our folly. If the original relationship was ended for reasons that are not Scriptural, then repentance is the correct response, and forgiveness needs to be sought with God. However, once that has been carried out then we need to accept God’s grace and trust in his loving nature so that we may live holy lives now. Now is the time to not only embrace God’s mercy, it is a time to become a living example of how God’s love changes our lives and brings new blessings in the midst of our brokenness.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Divorce: The Great Church Idol - An Emily Rant

It happened again today. I answered the phone to hear another woman crying. We had a fight. He left. I don’t know what to do. Should I stay? Should I go? Am I honoring my wedding vows by remaining? Am I enabling his behavior by not leaving? I am trying, should I try harder? He’s great guy. He has so much potential. Life is stressful, chaotic, and he would never behave this way if things just weren’t so hard right now. Money is tight, the job is hell, and we just haven’t been able to have sex as often as we did before we had the kids. I know this is weighing on him, but I don’t know how long I can keep being the strong one. I am trying to be supportive, but I am at the end of my rope too. I told him that but he won’t hear me, he won’t listen, and I am afraid I am being too demanding. I hate telling you this, I don’t want to make him look bad, and I feel like I am failing at my marriage.

The conversation is always the same, and when I tell people this the assumption is always the same – this must not be a strong Christian woman, this has to be non-believer, or someone new to the faith. Good Christian girls don’t end up in these situations, and if they do, then they pray through, fight for their marriage, and will be rewarded with a miracle.

To all of you who think this way, I want to say one thing – YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Now, don’t go acting all sanctimonious on me. I know that this is not what you are wanting to hear, but it is time you get a clue. So just consider me your very own little clue dispenser. Glad to be at your service.

But, Emily, I support the sanctity of marriage. Divorce is a horrible, evil blight upon our society - *cue the rattling off of statistical data and appropriate Bible verses.*

Please, don’t bore me. I have heard it all before, and so has everyone else. So instead of repeating a bunch of regurgitated, one sided, short sighted, and Biblically inaccurate bull crap, let’s have a new conversation. Let’s talk about the women who have died, the kids who grew up in toxic homes, and all the wife-zombies out there. What? Never heard of a wife-zombie?

A wife-zombie is that woman in your church who can parrot all the proper Christian jargon about what it means to be a good Christian, how to run a good Christian home, and the grand prescriptions about how to be a good Christian wife. She smiles at all the right times, has a gentle word of encouragement, and is clinging to her faith through sheer grit. She knows all the *right* answers, but the truth is she doesn’t feel like any of them have ever paid off for her. She has been working the formula for years, but her husband has been slowly sucking the life from her one day at a time for years. She has all the latest Christian self-help books, attended every seminar, renounced all the wrong things, and prayed all the right ones.

For her there is only one path to relief – that someone dies. And knowing that does not make her life any easier because now she had to carry around the guilt of wishing her husband would be hit by a semi-truck or concealing suicidal tendencies that terrify her for the sake of the kids.

But, Emily, that’s not my fault! She just needs to have more faith!

Really? Listen to yourself for one freaking second. She needs to have more faith that God is going to force her husband to do all the things that this man has actively resisted for years? She needs to have more faith that God is going to zap this man’s freewill from existence? She needs to have more faith that another human being can be manipulated into submission through the proper application of prayers and Scriptural proclamations? Are we talking about Christianity or voodoo here?

Look, I do believe in the miraculous. I do believe that prayers have power to change the world, and I do believe that with God there is no such thing as a hopeless situation. But I also believe that humanity has been given an incredible and costly gift, we call it freewill. We get to choose, good or bad. We get to choose and being a Christian does not give you the right or ability to override anyone else’s choice. And as much as we may hate it, that means even an abuser gets to choose, and no person on the face of this earth gets to take that choice away from them.

And this is why you are part of the problem, your pious rules about how a good Christian wife should behave has robbed women of the very tools they need to protect themselves against an abuser’s choice and to seek the help she may need in order to get help both for herself and the man she loves. Women will go to great lengths to hide their husband’s flaws from the world. We call it honoring our husbands as we cover up and deny the damage he is doing. We think that we are being faithful and strong bearing the burden by ourselves. We excuse and deny that there is a problem so that they will not be shamed before the world and our church friends. We know that in the end we will be blamed for the choices our husbands make and will judged without mercy.

Everything from how we cleaned house, disciplined the kids, dressed, did our hair, and had sex will be held up for public scrutiny and ridicule. We will be given all sorts of great sounding but ineffective advice while the abuser is shielded from the consequences of his actions. Bible verses will be ripped out of context and used as battering rams against our already bleeding hearts, and everyone will get to feel so smugly superior to the broken and bruised. And we endure it all because we had too much faith in the power of church formulas to stop the abuse.

But, Emily, abuse is wrong! We don’t condone that!

Yes, yes, you do. You do it when you tell her that she should not set boundaries or limits on his spending, on the amount of time he spends in front of a computer, or the time he spends with his friends instead of his family. You do it every time you tell her that she needs to respond to his anger with love and kindness, instead of refusing to be an emotional or physical punching bag. You do it when you remind her that he is a weak and flawed human being who needs her love and support more than she needs to a partner to stand by her side. You do it when you try to silence her when she asks for help. You do it when you condemn her for leaving when her words were not enough to gain his attention. You do when you excuse his laziness, his inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions, and the unhealthy ways he tries to meet his sexual needs. You do it when your only word of advice is submit.

Am I saying that Christian wives should not submit? No, I am not. In a healthy relationship where men are following their part of that command to love their wives as Christ loves the church, submission is easy – a joy even. Sure, there are individual and specific circumstance where our obedience to God’s Word might be tested, but when we know that our husbands are truly seeking the best for us and our families we can submit without fear of being used or intentionally hurt. In these marriages, submission leads to freedom because the two of you will be working to mutually empower the other to become better people.

And while we are on the subject, let me just say that overall the church has been teaching this whole concept wrong. We focus on the death while completely overlooking a far more important factor – yes, Christ died for his bride, but before he died for her he lived for her. He endured all the hardship that this earthly existence had to dish out and he remained kind, loving, and dedicated to demonstrating what love looks like even when it hurts. This is the example that men need to be following, because let’s face it. Stepping in front of a bus is far easier than getting on one so you can go to a job you hate everyday so that your family can enjoy the little luxuries like food and a roof over their heads. And if you or your husband isn’t working to provide for his family, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the Bible says he is worse than an unbeliever. Also, if he is strutting around calling himself a Christian while failing to provide, he is a liar, thief, and manipulator who is deserving of the correction and discipline of our community of faith. So any woman who calls out her husband for this sin is not in rebellion, she is a faithful student of the Word.

Do you know what the punishment is for those who claim to be believers and do not live according the dictates of Scripture? They are to be cut off from fellowship – in other words, the wife has every right to pack her stuff and leave or toss his stuff out on the yard. It is her call and no one has the right to deny her that. In fact, if anyone does then they are in violation of the Word and fellowship should be denied to them if they will not receive correction. This is Scriptural and it preserves lives and marriages. It is not churchy answer formula; it is the way God declared it should work.  

Every marriage will face a rough place, a time when the worst of who we are as human beings will be on full display for our spouse. That is normal and to be expected, but if we fault women for seeking answers to address ongoing patterns then we are not being who we have been called to be as Christians. We are being cowards, failing to face the reality that we live in a fallen world, denying that we are accountable to and for each other, that we have an obligation to defend those in need, and yes, to advocate that victims of abuse leave their abuser if necessary.

And another thing. We have got to stop trying to shove all the broken bits of a marriage back together and declaring it a miracle. An apology and plea for forgiveness is not a fix, because apologizing and begging for forgiveness is something every abuser does quite well. Why do you think so many women stay so long to begin with? Because he said all the right churchy phrases, even was nice long enough to regain her trust, only to show his true colors once he felt secure enough to get away with it once again. We don’t get to act like it never happened, to sweep it under the rug, and pretend everything is alright now. True reconciliation can only occur when there has been true brokenness and repentance that can only be measured through a consistent demonstrations of a changed heart and nature.

Oh, divorce doesn’t look good. We hate it when those in fellowship with us fail in public. We take it as a direct reflection on our church bodies, but this is misplaced concern. It is a revelation of what we truly worship and esteem, and exposes that our fear of looking bad outweighs any perceived obligation we have to God and his Word. There is no excuse for it, and make no mistake, we will be held accountable for every one we have caused to stumble or endangered through our idolatry.  For idolatry is what we are practicing every time we bemoan divorces power to corrupt more then we celebrate God's power to redeem and to heal.We are creating an image of what good Christian people do, with no regard to what the Bible actually declares. It is time we wake and stop protecting images, God has never been a fan of them, and start protecting the hearts and lives of those most in need of our compassion and support. Maybe then they will cease to see the powerless and loveless image God we have presented to them and come to know their value as his creation and child - a child that he loves enough to set free.

For a look at why divorce is NOT a sin, click here:  http://misdirectedmusings.blogspot.com/2015/12/readers-question-should-i-get-divorce.html

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Scandalous Tale - Sex, Social Media, and Ministry

What happens when you put over 600 women in closed Facebook Group and ask them to talk about their most intimate issues? You learn:

1. The Church and Christian communities have been far too silent on issues of sex, women’s health, and relationships.

2. We all struggle in these areas. The specifics may change from woman to woman, but we are all trying to figure out how to balance our faith and our flesh, trying to be good stewards of each.

3. Shame has been the leading contributor to the lack of education, self-destructive behaviors, abuse, and the inability to celebrate this great gift of sex.

4. How laughter heals and eases us through the hard lessons.

5. The power of having others invest in your well-being through a kind word, prayer, and tangible support.

6. The joy of discovering your story can help another on their journey.

7. That when you give people a tool they already know how to use, they will create something amazing with it.

When the Scandalous Ladies Facebook Group took off on May 29, 2016, we had no idea what we were in for. The group exploded from three members to over one hundred and fifty in less than three hours. In eleven days, we broke three hundred and fifty, and we are still growing. The pace has slowed a bit, but growth isn’t measured in numbers alone.

During that time, we have had over a dozen women make connections with counselors, eight couples have gone into marriage counseling, and hundreds (that’s right, HUNDREDS!) of women have reported that the overall quality of their marriages have improved. The tales of new found freedom and joy in being a woman are told daily, and the friendships being formed have transformed lives.
Our network and combined resources have helped one woman get out of an abusive relationship and into a safe home, another family is being helped through a hard financial time, and the women of Scandalous gave sacrificially in a successful effort to remove girls from a life threatening situation overseas. Even the men are voicing their praise, as their wives have opened new dialogues about sex and proposed they explore some new adventures between the sheets – or other places!

And we do not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon! Since May we have started a Scandalous Moms group, and this month we launched a public page where men can join in the conversation. Soon we hope to launch a series of international (yes, that’s right! International!) conferences and retreats.

I am sharing all of this with you for two reasons:

1. Yes, would love your involvement and support! Ladies, consider this your personal invitation to join the Scandalous Ladies Facebook Group, and to take part in the discussions on “A Scandalous Faith”, our public page.  Men, we need to hear your voices so join us on the public page too, and please, don’t be shy. We want your insights and opinions that is why we started “A Scandalous Faith.

2. I want everyone to know what a powerful tool social media can be, and I want my Christian and Church friends to pay attention.

Within the Christian community there has traditionally been a huge push for outreach and ministry within our communities. These are admirable and needed aspect of fulfilling the mandates of our faith, but let’s face it, we tend to over complicate things. We focus on big events, massive (and often top heavy) programs, or other ways that we can address the masses with some sort of impersonal ministry machine. We stop looking at people as individuals and meeting them where they are. Instead, we get lost in the program and the structure, defending the machine instead of stopping to value the person the machine is supposed to serve.

This is why I think Scandalous works. You can’t talk about sex, sexuality, and relationships without addressing the person. Our machine is secondary, it is the tool we use to meet people where they are. It doesn’t need to be protected, it does not eat up all our resources, and it serves only one function – it connects us with the people that we are here to serve. For us that machine is social media. It is free, we all have it, we don’t have to teach our people how to use it, and we didn’t reinvent the wheel. We used the tool at hand, and made it serve our purposes.

We took all the things that church people like to complain about when it comes to the internet and flipped it on its head so we could use it to our advantage. Impersonal? Yes, but reinterpret that into anonymous and nonthreatening. Too much sex? Oh, yeah, but maybe that is just one way people are saying they need to talk about these things. Crude humor? Sure, but maybe that is how people express their discomfort as they try to establish a dialogue. Eats up all your time? You bet, but maybe it is because people are looking for something to invest their time in that really matters. Hate filled speech and drama? Absolutely, but maybe that is because there is no place else they can express their need for passion.

We didn’t invent this formula for how to have vital and thriving Facebook community. We stumbled into it by asking people to do one little thing – tell their stories. That is it. Tell your story, let us know that we are not alone wrestling with these major life issues, help us understand how you cope, how you survive, and show us how we can be important in your life. Maybe that is just a place to vent, maybe it is providing a safe space to ask the questions you can’t ask anywhere else, maybe you need someone to laugh with you, or maybe you need someone who is willing to cry with you too.

People will tell you what they need, but you have to be listening. They are saying need community. They need to know that they matter, that they are more important than the cogs of some ministry machine. They need some place to invest, to know that they have the ability to make a difference, and that their experiences matter. And that is all we have provided. The women and men who have joined us on this journey are the ones who have made it work. The amazing team of men and women who have so selflessly devoted their time and energy to fanning this spark of an idea into flames have done little more than provide a place where others mattered – really mattered, not for the numbers that can be tallied on a spreadsheet, but rather for the strength each brings to the table for the rest of us.

We in the Christian community need to stop lamenting over a lack of resources or our inability to get people through the doors of our buildings. We need to go to where the people are, and right now that is social media. But beware, you can’t treat people like projects or offer help in the same manner that you would pitch peanuts to a monkey at a zoo. You have to be willing to give, not a program, not an event, and not some pretty little prepackaged Christian band aid, you have to give yourself. And you do that by giving them your story – your successes, your failures, your humiliations, and your victories because that is the only way they are going to see not just you but the God we serve, the God redeems all things.

It is time we stop being afraid, that we stop hiding behind all the glam and glitz of programs, and using them as an excuse for not being present in our communities or blaming the internet for keeping people away from the good we are trying to do. It is time we showed up. The online community is a community, a very real and thriving community that has extended an invitation to us, so now it’s time to remember your manners and show up. We did and were welcomed with open arms.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reader's Question: How Do Single People Not Give Into Lust?

Reader’s Question:

How do single people not give into lust? At least married people get to have sex. If a (single) person is trying to stay Godly, it sure isn’t easy.

Let me begin with a confession, I was single for over a decade between my marriages, and I wasn’t always successful in combatting the temptation to lust myself. It was a constant, ongoing battle to keep my thoughts and desires in line. The good news is that God redeems all things even the battles we lose, if we are willing to take them to him with honesty and sincerity. And one of the ways he is redeeming my failures is through being able to share the lessons I learned during that time.

One of the first things we need to acknowledge is that we were designed to have sex, to crave it even. There is a level of intimacy that only occurs within a sexual relationship, all sorts of healthy benefits are experienced both participants, and let’s just face the facts, nothing feels as good as sex does when it is done right. Now, I know that we aren’t supposed to admit this, particularly not to single people, who are all virgins in our perfectly sanitized view of the world, but this brings up two other facts that we need to acknowledge:

1. The majority of single people, including Christian Singles, are not virgins. With most people becoming sexually active at an average age of 17 and the high divorce rates, the majority of the single population has been sexually active as some point in their past even if they are abstaining now.

2. We do not live in a perfectly sanitized Christian world, and to create such a view of it for ourselves is called lying. To paraphrase Jesus, cut it out and really look at the world around you. Luke 4.

So now that we know that sex is a part of our lives and was meant to be so, we need to figure out what to do with this God given desire that leads so many of us astray? I don’t claim to have definitive answers, but I can share what worked for me after plenty of trial and error on my part.

We have to stop fighting it. I mean really, we have to stop actively resisting the urge to lust. I know this is counter to everything you have ever been taught, but follow me on this. What am I thinking about when I am trying to convince myself not to lust after a hot piece of man meat? If you answered the hot piece of man meat, then you are correct.

As a friend so aptly put it last night, “We are a tapestry of many things. We are all of them. If we struggle too hard against part of oneself, it gets stronger.” Lust is one of those things that makes up who we are, we are not going to eradicate, but we can direct it. In fighting it, we are declaring its power to define and control us. And as I sit here today, looking back at some of the men I lusted after, I am so glad that my lust does not get to define me.

Now, obviously, I am not saying that we should just give into lust. What I am saying is that we need to use some different tactics – tactics that do not always look like they have anything to do with the problem.

First step: Figure out what feeds your lust. We want to starve it into submission, so we cut off the food source. Pornography, erotica, romance novels, romantic movies, and that piece of eye candy that keeps drawing you back to the coffee shop that you really don’t like otherwise? Yeah, he’s got to go too. Obviously, we can’t cut all the beautiful people out of lives, but we can and should distance ourselves from the ones we aren’t required to be around. It’s like the purging the kitchen before starting a diet, get all the junk food out of the cupboards and pitch it. Yes, they still serve an amazing coconut pie at the diner down the street, but it takes a lot more work to indulge those appetites if you are having to get dressed, start the car, and fight traffic to shovel some in your face.

Second step: Find your vision.  I know, what does this have to do with lust or sex? Everything.

Have you ever taken the ice cubes out of a glass of sweet ice tea? Did you notice the holes in the tea where the ice cubes once were? No, me neither. Our minds operate in much the same way, take out one thought and another thought is going to rush in to fill the empty space.

However, have you got in a hurry poured the tea just a bit too fast, and had it splash all over the table? What floats right out the top and out of the glass? The ice! And this is what you must do with that vision. You have flood you heart, mind, and soul with it to the point that all the icy lust (or would it be lusty ice?) ends up on the table.

This is why it can’t be just any old vision. It has to be the type of vision that consumes you to the point there isn’t any room for anything else in your life. It has fill you up and run out all over the table and the floor, so that everyone who comes in contact with you knows this is your passion – and that is why this is so important.

Passion that needs to a target. Some thing or someplace where it can be unleashed without fear of damaging ourselves or someone else, and ideally where all the strength and power of it can do some good. The problem is that our flesh craves passion. I do not even have to explain to you the truth of that statement. Anyone who has ever felt hungry hands on their skin knows this is true, and it is so easy to dump the passion into the nearest gaping maw. It’s a simple, it’s natural, and we do not have to put one ounce of effort into it, but when you feed all that passion to your flesh it becomes lust.
And you have to keep all that passion somewhere, because even if you determine not to feed your flesh with it and just bottle it up and hold it in, it becomes something else. We call that bitterness, and that is not something you want laying around your heart. All it takes is one hot day and those bottles explode, all over you and everything you love.

Third step: Select what I call some “Go To Thoughts.” These are some prepackaged thoughts that you can pull up on the fly when you feel those lustful urges begin to well up, and this one way you are going to use your vision as way to combat lust. When you build your vision, don’t just have some grand but vague idea, get specific.

For instance, it was not enough for me to say that I wanted to help other women avoid the mistakes I had made or to help them heal from similar experiences. I had decide how I wanted to do that. I envisioned conferences, retreats, and meetings in my home. I planned out the venues, the session topics, how I would present the information, and who I wanted involved. I began designing a house that would be a warm and inviting respite for my guests. Then I began to research how to make this happen, I talked to others pursing or living a similar vision, I went back to school, got the necessary degrees, and I began looking for the best ways to use the tools I already had on hand.
Most importantly, I knew that everything I wanted to accomplish would be endangered if I lived a life that was counter to the very ideas I would one day be sharing with others. And with that knowledge, I was able to flip my thinking. No longer was I saying no to my desires which only left me feeling deprived and sorry for myself. I was actually saying yes to something that was so much more important to me than a few minutes of pleasure – and I like saying yes to me!

Now this is where those “Go To Thoughts” come in, if a lustful thought pops up, you have something to replace and displace it with. Instead of telling yourself no, you say yes to the vision. Instead of telling yourself, don’t think about that (which inevitably leads to thinking about that), you tell yourself to think about that future you have envisioned. Stroll through that house in your mind, tweak the placement of those windows, move the sink to the other side of the kitchen, decide you want a red couch and not a blue one. Practice saying those words you want others to hear, plan an event, research conference centers in Houston, and call a friend to get their advice. If you are pursuing your vision with passion, there isn’t going to be a lot of time or energy left to entertain lust. In other words, you aren’t going to have anything to feed it.

Step four: I am not putting this here because it is the least important. I am putting it here because if you only remember one of these steps, it need to be this. Get honest - raw, brutally, and nasty honest with yourself and God.

I believe anything in excess is sin, and that is all lust is – an excess of desire to please and serve one’s self by using someone else as an object to exploit. It is saying that the pursuit of my pleasure is greater than God’s desires for me. Lust does not ask for another’s consent or bother itself with their object’s desires or what might please them. Lust demands that its object’s pleasure be fulfilled in our desire for them, that the object gives itself as a sacrifice to our wants, and that all we know to be good, true, and right be pushed aside so that we might have a moment of bliss.

What an affront to the God of Love! The God who demonstrated how love puts aside its own comfort and pleasure by leaving his place in heaven, to walk among us as one of us, and to die a brutal death upon a cross so that we in turn might walk in love with him. A God who became the sacrifice because he loved you so much that he would extend an invitation to a relationship where each could experience the joys of knowing and being known – where love is given and received, not simply taken to satisfy his desires.

God placed boundaries on our sexual expressions for a reason. He knew that if we allowed lust to rule us we would be destroyed by passions. He knew the emotional, mental, and physical scars that unfettered lust leaves upon us, and he asks to respect the boundaries so that we can avoid the pain that makes his heart ache on our behalf. Because that is what love does, it places the needs of another above our own. God’s ego and heart is not so fragile or hungry that he must appease us to that he might bask in the shallow affirmations of those who can only love when it feels good. And he does not need our obedience so that he can feel like the great and powerful Oz. Instead, he loves us with a love that is selfless enough to put our needs ahead of any wants he might have, and in doing so exemplifies the splendor of true and holy love.

So we get honest, we repent, and we honor God’s love for us by placing his desires and good pleasure above our own. We acknowledge that anything God loves as much as he loves us is worthy of highest form of love from another, and we honor the God of Love who lives within us by offering the highest form of love we may give another. And when we love like that, lust loses its grip on our hearts. It becomes a momentary distraction whose power to define us has been lost, because we have surrendered that right to the only one truly capable of defining his creation.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Who Were The Nephilim? Part 7 - The Peter, Jude, and Enoch Connection

This part of an ongoing series discussing who were the Nephilim, to start at the beginning click here.Who Were The Nephilim? Part One 

Now that we have established a definite link between Jude and the Book of Enoch, we are going to look at the second most easily identifiable link to Enoch found in the Christian Scriptures, 2 Peter chapter 2. Yes, the whole chapter, so I suggest you grab your Bibles and follow along as I will not be quoting every passage for the sake of brevity.

Let’s begin by looking at the connection between 2 Peter and Jude, from there we will see how this ties back to the Book of Enoch. If we read these passages together, the shared themes become obvious:

◦ false teachers and false prophets
◦ a focus on sensuality; Jude 4 and 2 Peter 2:2
◦ the denial of the “Master”; Jude 4 and 2 Peter 2:1
◦ angels kept in chains until judgment; Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4
◦ references to Sodom and Gomorrah; Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6
◦ slander against the glorious ones; Jude 8 and 2 Peter 2:10

Look at how closely these two passages mirror each other:

But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as a wage for their wrong doing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have trained their hearts in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed in the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrong doing…These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness is has been reserved. 2 Peter 2:12-15, 17

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of Balaam’s error and perish in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves, waterless clouds, swept along by winds, fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame, wandering stars, for whom the utter darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 10-13

Why is this important? Let’s think about for a moment. The Bible is a very compact and concise bit of work when we consider the sheer weight and significance of the truth contained within its pages. I believe that everything God chose to have included in it is there for a reason, and if he allows repetition then it is a pretty good indication we should listen up, there is something important about these concepts, and we need to figure what it is.

Another reason I think this is so important is that two passages affirm each other. It would be so easy to dismiss Jude allegorical or some esoteric work not meant to be understood by the masses, but, unlike Jude, we kind of know Peter. We have an idea of his character and personality. Peter is a salt of the earth kind of guy, he deals with the nuts and bolts, the tangibles. He’s practical and down to earth, right up until the supernatural smacks him in the face – then he’s in awe, but you have to prove it to him first. And knowing this about Peter lends a weight to his words and, by extension, to Jude’s and Enoch’s.

Additionally, the parallel passages give us greater insight into the words of the other. Consider these verses with what we find in Enoch:

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment. 2 Peter 2:4

And the angels who did not stay within their own potion of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgement of the great day – Jude 6

And there my eyes saw how they had made instruments for them – iron chains of immeasurable weight. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying, “These chain-instruments – for whom are they being prepared? And he said to me, These are being prepared for the host of Azazel, that they may take them and throw them into the lowest parts of Hell; and they will cover their jaws with rough stones, as the Lord of Spirits commanded. 1 Enoch 54:4, 5 

And throw upon him jagged and sharp stones, and cover him with darkness; and let him stay there forever, and cover his face so that he may not see the light, and that on that great day of judgement he may be hurled into the fire. 1 Enoch 10:5,6

When we put all of this together we get more complete picture. Peter tells us that the angels sinned, but Jude tells how they sinned, both tell us that they were kept in chains of gloomy darkness until the day of judgement. But it is Enoch who gives us the rest of the story, what happened when the angels left their position of authority and their proper dwelling, and why this such a bad thing that God would demand the angels’ imprisonment in chains.

If we only had Peter would just know the angels sinned. If we only had Jude we would think that angels coming to earth would be a bad thing, but we know from other events in the Bible that this is not always the case. So we need Enoch to flesh out the narrative for us. We do get a connection to the Genesis 6 with further reading in both Peter and Jude. We could even glean that the sins committed by the angels were sexual in nature, but the references to the imprisonment of the angels would make no sense if we only draw upon canonical sources because Enoch is the only place we find this information. Enoch is the one who explains why Peter and Jude both believe that Sons of God from Genesis 6 were imprisoned and how this imprisonment was accomplished.

Does this mean that we give the words of Enoch the same weight as canonical sources?  No, and I explain why in this post, Why Wasn't The Book Of Enoch Included In The Bible?. However, it is a useful tool to help us understand how the writers of the Christian Scriptures understood the events of Genesis 6. There is no doubt that Peter and Jude believed that Sons of God were what we call angels. They understood that these beings were supernatural, and their misconduct with human women had a profound impact on our reality. So much so that twice we are told of their deeds, God’s retribution against them, warned of following in their teaching and examples, and encouraged to rejoice in God’s triumph over them.

 I know this has been the long way around to answer what seems to be a simple question, but I don’t want to just give you pat answers. I want you to see for yourselves what the Bible has to say on this matter. And, hopefully, provide you with a few tools to go even deeper into your study of Scripture, to see how it is all tied together, and must be taken as whole to understand the individual components. We are just scratching the surface of the Peter-Enoch connection, and we will explore it further in the next post.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Who Were The Nephilim? Part 6 - Who Are The Holy Ones In Jude?

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14-15

This is part six of an ongoing series, to start at the beginning click here: Who Were The Nephilim Part 1

In many ways this a bit of a footnote in our journey, but I wanted to include it for two reasons:

1. It demonstrates the honored role that humanity plays in God’s divine plan, and we can all use a reminder on that one.

2. We can begin to see how the roles of humanity and the angelic are intricately woven together throughout the Bible, today, and will be in the future.

Too often we tend to view the supernatural elements of the Bible as something foreign and completely distinct from our earthly existence. The idea that miracles and divine proclamations seem to have little to do with the day to day drudgery of life, but the Bible reveals that such a view is flawed. And if we stop examine even the most basic elements of our faith, we cannot avoid the fact that our identities are based upon God’s supernatural intervention in time and space in the person Jesus. Without his supernatural birth, life, death, and resurrection, there would be no such thing as Christianity. So why then do we arbitrarily chose to ignore other supernatural aspects of what God has declared is true?

Stop and reread the opening passage above. What do you envision? If you said, “God returning in glory surrounded by his holy retinue of angels”, then you and I have that in common. I think that is the natural response, but what if our vision is too small? What if God has more in mind? What if his divine plan includes you? Includes me? Rather mind blowing, isn’t it?

And what if I am not just blowing smoke up your skirt? Well, I don’t think that I am. Allow me to demonstrate.

The word for “Holy Ones” in Jude is hagioi. In most other places that this word is used in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) it is translated as saints. You can see that in Acts 9, Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:2, 2 Corinthians 9:1,12; Ephesians 3:8,18; Philippians 1:1 – I could go on, but I think you get the idea. It is easy to see how these two terms virtually interchangeable in the context of the Christian Scriptures, and almost always refers to people. Case closed, right?

No, wrong. We have to bear in mind that we are dealing with a New Testament writer quoting an Old Testament phrase. So we need to go back to the Hebrew Scriptures and see how the phrase was used in its original context. (PSA: A text without a context is a pretext! Always, always, always keep the words and phrases within their proper context to understand the proper meaning and application. Anything less is proof-texting and fraudulent!)

In the last installment, I showed how this phrase was used there in Deuteronomy 33:2. The root for the Hebrew word found in this verse is kodesh. If we look up the definition of this word in the Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon we will find that one of its definitions is saint, but this is still not digging deep enough. We need to look at how the word is used so that we can keep it in proper context.

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? Psalms 89:5-7

Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and heavens are not pure in his sight. Job 15:15

Then I heard a holy one speaking and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” Daniel 8:13

If we take time to look at these verses, and particularly if you go back and read the rest of the chapters where they are found, you are going to see that these are all events that occur in heaven. The Psalms passage is quite explicit, as is the passage from Job, and when you realize that the passage in
Daniel is taken from a one of his prophetic visions where he sees into the heavenly realm then I think it becomes pretty obvious that we are not talking about humans in any of them. The writers are making direct references to angels.

Does this mean that the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures conflict? Only if we stop our investigation there. Let’s look at a few more passages. 

Until the Ancient of Days came and judgement was given for the saints (holy ones) of the Most High, and time came when the saints (holy ones) possessed the Kingdom. Daniel 7:22

As for the saints (holy ones) in the land, they are the excellent one, in whom is all my delight. Psalms 16:3

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints (holy ones) for those who fear him have no lack! Psalms 34:9

The passages above refer to groups of people, but we also find it used of individuals.

And Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, who is holy, and will bring him near to him.” Numbers 16: 4,5

And she said to her husband, “Behold, now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way.” 2 King 4:9

When the men in camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy ones of the LORD, the earth opened up and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Psalms 106: 16,17

And this is just scratching the surface. We could spend days looking up passages that talk about the nature and expression of holiness and who is qualified to be a Holy One. If we did that it would be abundantly clear that a Holy One is anyone who has set his life apart in service to the Lord – angel or human. For it not our holiness that qualifies us, but rather the holiness of the God we serve sanctifying our existence.

What I find fascinating about the references above, and throughout the Bible, is the Holy Ones are frequently tied to the idea of judgment and vengeance on those who are, as Jude puts it, “grumblers, malcontents, following their own lustful desires; they are loud mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage”, (Jude 16). We know that God will use his angels when he exacts judgment, that is clear in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, but we often overlook the fact that we are a part of this future reality. And the judgment in which we will help enact is not reserved for humanity alone, but rather includes the angels who rebelled. Find that hard to believe? Check out these passages:

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment. How long will judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. They have neither knowledge or understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth for you shall inherit all the nations. Psalms 82

Or do you not know that the saints (holy ones) will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2,3

The one who conquers and keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over nations, and he rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken into pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. Revelation 2: 26,27 

And this brings us back to Genesis 6 and our original question: who are the Nephilim? A question that we began to explore by establishing the identity of the Sons of God as angels who had taken wives from among humanity, and in doing so left their proper habitation. And our conclusions are strengthened through the proper understanding of who the Holy Ones are and what our role shall be in the time to come.

The identity of the Holy Ones is only a mystery if we bifurcate the natural from the supernatural. If we believe there is some great divide between physical fact and divine truth. To do so creates a false dichotomy that leaves us floundering the midst of creation, never really knowing our place, and discounting the plans that God has for us. We were never meant to live apart from or in ignorance of purpose and destiny that our Creator has for us, and the results of living in such way leaves us with tepid visions of eternity where we sit around strumming harps all day, with the placid faces of drugged cows, and being nothing more to God than ego stroking pets. Is it any wonder our faith fails to excite any longer? For who would wish for such an existence? Why wouldn’t the debauchery of hell as portrayed in today’s culture being far more alluring?

The Bible never presents a world in which spiritual is some distant hope or illusion. The spiritual, the supernatural, woven into the fabric of the universe, and we have been called to our God ordained places as his Holy Ones, here in this moment so that we might be prepared for eternity. And we take our place by walking the steps of Lord Jesus Christ, walking in compassion, love, and kindness, by standing against injustice, and extending hope to those around us. The time for judgment has not come, and for that we should be grateful, using each day to declare the wonders of God who loves us so much that he calls us children and invites to be an active part of what he is doing now and in the future. This knowledge should inspire us to live more holy lives and empower us to be faithful in the endeavor. For the strength and vitality of our faith is found not in intellectual assent and dull reason, but in the life giving presence of a Holy God.