Rated PG-13: Christianity and Sex

Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex?
September 26, 2022 by: Rebecca McLaughlin (in Crossway.org, an excellent free resource for book reviews.)

Beliefs about Sex
One day, to try and catch him in his words, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matt. 19:3).  Some Jewish rabbis allowed divorce for any reason.  Others only allowed it in cases of adultery.  The casualties of the more permissive view were women, who could be abandoned freely.  Jesus replied, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4–6)

Jesus goes right back to the beginning of the Bible, when God creates us — “male and female” — in his image. (Gen. 1:28)  These are the first words the Bible says about humanity.  They are also the first planks in the raft of human equality.  We tend to see equality for men and women as a self-evident truth.  But it is not.  It started as a Judeo-Christian belief.1

Beliefs about Equality
Jesus connects God’s creation of male and female in Genesis 1 to a pivotal verse in Genesis 2.  God makes man first, but then says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18)  This role is not inferior.  In the rest of the Old Testament, God himself is most often described as a helper.  What is more, the creation of the woman is not an afterthought.  In Genesis 1, humanity is told to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).  It is literally impossible for man to accomplish this mission without woman!

In Confronting Jesus, this follow-up to Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin shares important biblical context to help all readers explore who Jesus really is and understand why the Gospels should be taken seriously as historical documents.

Right after God says he’s going to make a helper, he brings the animals to the man and gives him the chance to name them.  But no animal is a fit helper for the man (Gen. 2:20).  God does not discover this by trial and error.  (Maybe an orangutan? Nope. How about a chimpanzee? Nope.)  God already made the animals before he said he would make a helper for the man.  Parading the animals before the man emphasizes that the woman is different from them.  Instead of being like an animal, she is like the man.  To underscore this point, Genesis describes God putting the man to sleep, taking a part of his side — almost like taking a cutting from a plant — and making the woman.  On seeing her, the man exclaims, “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23)

Just like in English, the Hebrew word for woman (ishshah) includes the word for man (ish).  The first words God speaks about humans in the Bible were that he would make them — male and female — in his image.  The first words a human speaks in the Bible celebrate the relationship between male and female.  They are followed by the verse that Jesus quotes in his response to the Pharisees: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)

Man and woman are cut from the same cloth.  Marriage is in one sense a reunion, as man and woman become “one flesh.”  In case we missed the role of sex, the narrative concludes, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  This is the picture to which Jesus points when he’s asked about divorce.  If a husband and a wife are “no longer two but one flesh,” if God himself has joined them together, then who are we to tear them apart?  But we do.

The Spiritual Significance of Sex
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful short story, Zikora, begins with a woman in labor.  As the story and the labor progress, we see Zikora texting the father of her baby.  He was her long-term boyfriend who abandoned her when she declined his proposal — not of marriage, but of abortion. 

“’I’ll take care of everything,’ he said.”2  She had told him she was stopping birth control and thought he was on board.  But he had said they had miscommunicated.  “‘Kwame,’ I said finally, in a plea and a prayer, looking at him, loving him. Our conversation felt juvenile; an unreal air hung over us. I wanted to say, ‘I’m thirty-nine and you’re thirty-seven, employed and stable, I have a key to your apartment, your clothes are in my closet, and I’m not sure what conversation we should be having, but it shouldn’t be this one.’”3

We find out later that Zikora had an abortion at age nineteen.  She was pregnant by a guy she had met in college.  “’I don’t do commitment,’ he had said, ‘but I didn’t hear what he said, Zikora recalls; ‘I heard what I wanted to hear: he hadn’t done commitment yet.’”4 

In the first century, poverty and fatherlessness often led to infants being left outside to die.  Today, they are the biggest drivers of abortion — which is often less the flower of a woman’s so-called right to choose and more a bitter fruit served up to women who feel like they don’t have a choice.5

Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.

In some ways, the divorce of sex from marriage that we’ve witnessed in the twenty-first-century West is not unprecedented.  Some form of commitment-free sex for men has been a feature of most societies throughout history, and women have borne the consequences: social, emotional, and physical.  But Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.  This makes sense of his hard words about adultery and other forms of sexual immorality.  Sex is not just a pleasurable act.  It is not even just a means for having kids.  It is an expression of a one-flesh unity, made by God to picture Jesus’ love for us.

The Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matt. 19:7).  Jesus replies, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:8–9)  This teaching protected women and children from being abandoned.  It presents marriage as a permanent commitment that can only be undone by adultery.  As usual, Jesus takes what the Old Testament law said about sexual ethics and tightens it up.  Even his own disciples are shocked (Matt. 19:10).  So why does Jesus — who never married — see marriage in these uncompromising terms?  Because it is a picture of his own love for his church.

Whenever people ask me why Christians are so weird about sex, I first point out that we are weirder than they think.  The fundamental reason why Christians believe that sex belongs only in the permanent bond of male-female marriage is because of the metaphor of Jesus’ love for his church.  It is a love in which two become one flesh.  It is a love that connects across sameness and radical differences: the sameness of our shared humanity and the radical difference of Jesus from us.  It is a love in which husbands are called not to exploit, abuse, or abandon their wives, but to love and sacrifice for them, as Jesus did for us.  In Adichie’s story, Zikora’s college boyfriend often said, “‘I don’t do commitment’ with a rhythm in his voice, as if miming a rap song.”6  With the same consistent rhythm in his teaching, life, and death, Jesus says to us, “I do.”

Notes:

  1. Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, vol. 2, trans. J. C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914), 65.
  2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zikora: A Short Story (Seattle, WA: Amazon, 2020), Kindle.
  3. Adichie, Zikora.
  4. Adichie, Zikora.
  5. For more on this, see Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging 5 Contemporary Claims (Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021), 75–80.
  6. Adichie, Zikora.

This article is adapted from Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels by Rebecca McLaughlin for Crossway.
Dr. Rebecca McLaughlin (PhD, Cambridge University) is the author of Confronting Christianity, named Christianity Today’s 2020 Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year. Her subsequent works include 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about ChristianityThe Secular Creed; and Jesus through the Eyes of Women.

 

A Last Look at Love, Marriage and Sex in 2021

Today I will take a last look (for the present time) at love as it applies to marriage and then next week we will begin to look at some current issues in the news.

2021-12-04 Wedding BandsAs I have mentioned in previous blogs, there is one and only one distinctive that defines a marriage.  Every service and provision except one that a husband and wife give to each other can be done by another.  This is evident in how The 5 Love Languages and Love and Respect can easily be applied to other relationships.  Even in His Needs, Her Needs, many of the emotional needs can be met by someone other than one’s spouse.  In fact, that is what Dr. Harley warns against, simply because if someone other than one’s spouse meets some of those needs, this could result in the development of an affair.  Thus his text is subtitled, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.

Yet, many spouses may be handicapped or have some disability that prevents them from supplying one or more of those basic emotional needs, and there are people who make their living supplementing what a spouse cannot; e.g., companions who take people to shop or provide recreational outlets, financial advisors who regulate purchases and manage a spouse’s money, housekeepers who supply domestic support, etc..  But there is one service that others cannot supply without significant consequences.

James notes that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”  That is to say that all sin IS sin, and that the most important issue is WHO is sinned against.  In his thinking, there is no difference between the various sins listed in the law as all of them are offenses against God’s holiness.  However, the apostle Paul makes a distinction of one sin that is different from any others,  He says in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that “Every sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”  Furthermore, Jesus even indicated there are differences in ‘levels of sin’ when He told Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)

So it is that the distinct aspect of sexual copulation is reserved for those in a committed relationship, a covenant of marriage.  This is more than a contract.  In a contract, Party 1 says, I will perform function A if Party 2 performs function B; Party 2 agrees to perform function B as long as Party 1 performs function A.  Contracts are mutually accepted constraints and responsibilities that remain dependent on the performers.  If Party 1 fails to provide function A, Party 2 is released from being required to provide function B, and vice versa.

But the Bible sets up marriage differently: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24)    Notice, the first responsibility is on the husband; nothing is said in Genesis about a wife’s role in the marriage, other than the sexual union of becoming one flesh.

This is consistent with the rest of Scripture that puts the onus on a husband to love his wife as he loves his own body; to be faithful to the point that even the Lord’s disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)  There is a mutuality to this relationship as Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, but it starts with a man’s responsibility to provide conjugal relations and affection for his wife, and then moves on to instruct that neither the husband nor the wife has final say about their own bodies, but rather the other party is in charge.

So where does that leave us in the covenant?  The current emphasis on “covenanting” in marriage is that even if one party does nothing to fulfill his or her part, the other party is still fully responsible for doing whatever they agreed to in the marriage ceremony: to love, honor, cherish, keep oneself only for one’s spouse, etc.  One friend once explained, “Any marriage that is based on a 50-50 agreement is dangerously close to dissolution.  Only a marriage based on 100-100 is safe.”

Drs. Harley and Eggerichs both point out in their books and websites that if someone attempts to do the exercise of providing for a spouse’s needs based on the idea, “I’ll try this for a couple of weeks and see if I get feedback that is acceptable,” he or she is likely to be sadly disappointed.  The issue is not to get your way in the marriage, as if The 5 Love Languages, the Energizing Cycle or supplying emotional needs for a spouse were means to manipulate a spouse into doing what you want them to do!

The bottom line for the Christ-follower, whether man or woman, is to please our Master, Jesus.   Suppose a husband said to his wife, “Let’s not talk any more.  We have enough memories of all our conversations and I have no desire to converse.  We can always text, email or even write letters, but let’s stop talking.”  Or imagine a wife who says, “Let’s not have sex anymore.  We have enough memories from our bedroom and I have no desire to do it anymore. We can always cuddle and hug, but let’s stop lovemaking.”

The responsibility to provide your spouse’s needs are not dependent on their willingness to provide for yours!  Our responsibility is to the author of life, our Creator, and He will judge or reward us according to what we have done while in these bodies.  NOTE: this is not about salvation, which is accomplished by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection, but He will reward us based on the work we have done as His followers. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.)

So whatever your relation to your spouse is like, it is up to you to fulfill your responsibility to speak your spouse’s Love Language, to show Love and Respect unconditionally, to provide for their basic emotional needs, and to enjoy The Gift of Sex that is exclusively reserved for those in a covenant of marriage.  It is that which expresses most clearly our relationship to Christ as part of His church.  It is the distinctive that defines a marriage and no one else is allowed by the Creator to supply.

The Gift of Sex – A Review

The last three weeks (1, 2, 3) I covered book reviews of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love And Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley.  Today’s book review, The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner, more than any of the others, is for married people, although singles can benefit by understanding some of their married friends’ issues.  Remember, the best expert on ANY relationship is Jesus, who was an adult single and never experienced sex, even though He “invented” it.

Gift of Sex“Men and women are different.  Women desire sex and open up sexually when they feel loved by and connected with their husbands; men connect and feel loved through sex.”  This preliminary explanation in the preface sets the tone and direction for the rest of the text.  Men traditionally start this connection by asking a woman for a date and getting to know her.  The Penners compare this process to Christ loving the Church and initiating the model by which a man is supposed to love his wife illustrated in Ephesians 5:22-33.

“The husband loves, adores, and connects with his wife;
His adoration allows her to open up sexually;
His affirmation ignites her passion;
She invites him sexually;
He feels validated, so they both end up happy;
It’s a win, win!”

Two major contentions of the Penners are 1) that a man is never truly satisfied unless his wife is; 2) that a woman must believe she is worthy of pleasure and that she has a right to be sexual; her body is designed not just for reproduction, but also for sexual satisfaction and pleasure.  They note that there are many individual permutations of the assumptions they lay out in the book, but there are general principles that can be applied to enhance sexual function in marriage to make the partnership most satisfying to both.

2021-11-27 Milky Way LoveThe first major section of the book is subtitled “A Biblical Perspective.”  They point out that sex was not a result of the fall or a human idea.  Maleness and femaleness was God’s design to enable humans to understand the relationship between Him and His creation.  “It is part of the original perfect creation of mankind.”  There is nothing dirty or sinful about sex as long as it is practiced in the guidelines the Designer set up: an exclusive monogamous husband and wife in a covenant commitment for as long as they both live.  Throughout Scripture the husband-wife sexual relationship is used to symbolize the Divine-human one.

The Bible teaches sex is for unity, procreation and pleasure and assumes a healthy passion.  “Our sexuality is not something to be diminished as we become more ‘spiritual.’  It is part of us as spiritual, godly persons and is good.”  Its guiding foundation is that men and women are equal – not identical in either roles or behavior, but in terms of value, ability and position before God.  We are expected to give ourselves to each other in marriage under the mutual command of 1 Corinthians 7:2-5, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband… Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time.”

Paul recognized, that while he would prefer people to be unmarried as he was (he was most likely a widower), human passions are very strong and for many, marriage is the best way to avoid falling into sins of adultery or fornication.  “Let them marry (i.e., and enjoy sexual release) – it is no sin.”  (7:36)

From this basis, Penners go on to describe as clinicians in “The Physical Dimension,” the body parts involved, with more details about the sex organs than many need to read.  However, this also provides helpful material, especially if one is in any measure uninformed about sexual responsiveness of the opposite sex from a biological perspective.

Following this, Penners characterize “The Total Experience” with such chapter titles as “Getting Interested,” “Having Fun,”… “Meshing Your Worlds,” … “By Invitation Only,” “Letting Go,”… and “Cleaning Up.”  With skills developed by teaching hundreds of Christian Perspectives in Sexual Enjoyment seminars, they adeptly address pragmatic details many texts on marriage relations omit, usually on the assumption that Christ-followers will discuss intimate details – an assumption that is often inaccurate.  Frequent references back to the basics of 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5 ground their advice solidly in Scripture.

2021-11-27 When Sex Is Not WorkingAlthough “The Total Experience” mentions a few obstacles that may come up, “When Sex Isn’t Working” goes into great detail to help couples find and explore the roots, evidences, and solutions to problems in a sexual relationship.  The longest section in the book suggests that there are lots of dysfunctions that may occur within marriages.  From “You Want To Do What?” to “Pornography and the Internet,” the Penners take us on a survey of some of the most common obstacles to sexual fulfillment in marriage.

Parts of this section hark back to The 5 Love Languages, Love and Respect, and His Needs, Her Needs“The starting point for resolving any difficulty is always effective communication.”  While the Bible strictly confines sexual activity to the marriage relationship, no guidelines are given about what is acceptable in lovemaking activity.  Again, using Biblical ethics (e.g., Paul’s concern not to offend a brother by eating meat sacrificed to an idol; see Romans 14:13-16) they proficiently address differences in views husbands and wives may hold toward lovemaking actions and move a couple toward a satisfying acceptance of each other.  The entire section is filled with very practical and explicit advice for how to meet and overcome apparent dilemmas in sexual satisfaction.

2021-11-27 Happy CoupleThe final brief section, “Enhancing the Sexual Experience,” explores how to invite God into the bedroom.  Remembering that sex was His idea, the Penners go on to address how to talk lovingly with each other about sexual issues, if outside help in the form of counseling is needed, and they close with some questions asked in various seminars.

Good reading for any couple considering marriage, for enhancing an already good one, and great helps for any in conflict over sexual issues.  And it is helpful for the unmarried to sympathize with married friends.  The underlying assumption, only addressed specifically in Love and Respect, is that the involved parties are people of good will toward each other.  If this in not the case in your life, there are other issues that need resolution first, with books and resources available to help.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.”  Hebrews 13:4

His Needs, Her Needs – A Review

Two weeks ago and last week I mentioned the four books (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner) that most influence my thinking on love and marriage, but each has lessons that are applicable to other relationships in life.  In fact, last week my elder sister, who never married, and I were discussing these blogs and her comment was that she grew a lot in her understanding by reading a couple of books on love and marriage.  They helped her in her association with our Father in Heaven, in communication with others and in talking with married friends about their relationships.

2021-11-20 His Needs Her NeedsToday’s review of His Needs, Her Needs is perhaps the most focused on marriage so far, in that his subtitle is “Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.”  In fact, pages 21-34 and the entire chapter 13 (How to Survive an Affair) concerns the assumption that an affair has already occurred.  We will focus our attention on issues he addresses to avoid this scenario, which in turn, can have applications to other relationships.

Dr. Harley has found in interviews with thousands of couples over twenty-five years that most “marital experts” fail terribly at helping couples save or enjoy their marriages.  The common thread he discovered (and what Chapman and Eggerichs allude to) is that people get married because they find each other irresistible; the common problem is that somewhere in their life together, they “fall out of love,” i.e. they need to restore the feeling of love that drew them to each other in the first place.  However well they may communicate and problem-solve, “unless this helps trigger the feeling of romantic love, spouses feel cheated in their marriage… If you’re in love, you are caring for each other the right way.  If you’re not in love, you should learn the right way to show you care… to create and sustain romantic love.”

2021-11-20 Ten Emotional NeedsIn answer to the question, “What could your spouse do for you that would make you happier?,” Harley classifies almost all the responses into “ten emotional needs”: (alphabetized) 1.Admiration, 2.Affection, 3.Conversation, 4.Domestic Support, 5.Family Commitment, 6.Financial Support, 7.Honesty/Openness, 8.Physical Attractiveness, 9.Recreational Companionship and 10.Sexual Fulfillment.

He provides a very helpful Emotional Needs Questionnaire in Appendix B to help the reader determine and evaluate their spouse’s effectiveness in meeting those needs.  (The questionnaire is attached here, and permission is granted by the publisher to photocopy or print for use in your marriage.)  At the conclusion of the questions, he challenges each to rank the five most important of the ten.  This should not be just in terms of most desperate need.  For example, a woman whose husband does not take care of himself, maybe smells bad and is generally a slob, may think that Physical Attractiveness that drew her to him in their dating life is her most important need, where it may be simply the most felt need.  But as he begins to work on meeting her needs, this may slide into the background as she recognizes this simply interfered with their conversation or letting him show affection. 

“Often the failure of [spouses] to meet each other’s emotional needs is simply due to ignorance or each other’s needs and not to selfish unwillingness to be considerate.”  From his surveys and research, he has found that while no “one-size-fits-all,” there is some commonality to how most men and women answer the questionnaire and rank their most important emotional needs.

The First Thing She Can’t Do Without is most often Affection, the “cement of a relationship.”  And he guides us guys on how any man can learn to be affectionate without sex; yet he affirms that within a marriage, “when it come to sex and affection, you can’t have one without the other.”  He suggests asking one’s wife to write up a list of “Affectionate Habits to Create” and another of “Affectionate Habits to Avoid.”  Knowing what your spouse needs never meets that need; we must learn new habits that change that knowledge into action!  Just as James says, “Faith without works is dead,” so good information and intentions are worthless if we do not follow through.  A woman’s need for Affection is one of the most common and deepest emotional needs.

The First Thing He Can’t Do Without is most often Sexual Fulfillment.  “The typical wife does not understand her husband’s need for sex any more than the typical husband does not understand his wife’s deep need for affection.”  And so begins an excellent examination of the differences men and women experience when approaching this intimacy that takes a marriage into the picture of Christ and the Church.  He even notes counseling couples in their 70s who discover sexual incompatibility was simply a matter of not understanding each other’s needs. 

He applies the Golden Rule as Jesus taught, Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”  Affection and sexual expression must be mutual, demonstrated in a husband’s care and sensitivity to his wife’s needs and if one meets the other’s needs as they would want their needs met, they will usually find a spouse willing to meet theirs.  If either spouse is unwilling to meet ‘your’ needs, the first place to look is at oneself: Am I meeting his/her needs?

The second most common needs found in women and men are Conversation and Recreational Companionship, respectively.  Both of these areas take specific and determined effort on the part of the companion lacking that need to learn how to converse and how to enjoy recreatonal times together.  But Harley does not leave us hanging with a guy wondering, what does she want to talk about and why 🤯; nor the gal thinking of the horror of every Monday night having to watch TV football! 😱

With perceptive questions at the end of each chapter, the readers are guided into discussing how to meet each other’s needs within a framework that will prove satisfying to both; Questions for Her; Questions for Him; To Consider Together.

Remember how we talked when we were dating; we could spend whole nights chatting and wonder where the time went?  Remember the fun we had together as a couple learning what pleased each other?  Each of the ten emotional needs is dealt with per chapter with practical proposals to work out in ways that will enliven each other’s spirits and take a couple “from incompatible to irresistable.”  “Couples start out irresistable and only become incompatible as they leave each other’s basic needs unmet.”  You’ll enjoy reading his description of The Irresistable Man and The Irresistable Woman. 😉

His helpful appendices include a detail on each of the ten emotional needs (Appendix A), the Emotional Needs Questionnaire (B), and a Recreational Enjoyment Inventory (attached here) to help couples explore how they can renew the pleasures of leisure activities they enjoyed while dating.  His hope for couples reading his books or visiting his website: “Learn to become an expert in making your marriage the best it can be.”

Love And Respect – A Review

Last week I mentioned the four books (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner) that most influence my thinking on love and marriage, but each has lessons that are applicable to other relationships in life, as Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages for … illustrate.  The principles are easily adaptable to any interconnection that one values.

2021-11-13 Love & RespectLove & Respect (The Love She Most Desires and The Respect He Desperately Needs) begins with The Crazy Cycle.  This is Dr. Eggerichs’ description of the merry-go-round many couples run on day after day, week after week, even year after year.  He presents a “simple secret to a better marriage” as a principle that is much simpler to state than to act out: “When a wife feels unloved, it is especially hard to respect her husband.  When a man feels disrespected, it is especially hard to love his wife.”  I.e., if a man unconditionally loves his wife, she will probably respect him; if a woman unconditionally respects her husband, he will probably show her love.

2021-11-13 The Crazy Cycle“A husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.”  This leaves no room for selfish thinking on the part of either spouse: “I will love my wife after she begins to respect me;” or “I will respect my husband after he begins to love me.”  Without love a wife will tend to act without respect; without respect a husband will tend to act without love . . . and the Crazy Cycle takes us on a ride that never seems to end! 

It is as though we keep flipping a light switch without lights coming on, and instead of checking a light bulb, breaker box or circuit, and trying to find the cause of the problem, we just stand at the switch like idiots and keep flipping it, wondering why the light does not come on.  “Craziness happens when we keep doing the same things over and over with the same ill effects.”

One of the cultural conflicts he addresses is the idea that respect should be just as unconditional as love!  He notes in Ephesians 5:33 that Paul instructs “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  In our society we tend to accept the idea that love should be offered even when it is not earned; in fact, if someone does something to ‘earn’ love, we tend to discount that action as self-serving.  In the same way, we should view respect as something that does not require ‘earning,’ but should be offered because the Bible says so.

That unconditional respect is taught in the Bible is clear from 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”  This refutes the deception of our enemy that respect must be earned.

Wives tend to be wired to show love, but without understanding how important respect is to a man, she will not show him love in a way he understands.  God made men in such a way that respect does to the soul of a man what love does to the soul of a woman.  In turn, men try to earn respect by demanding it from a wife who wants more than anything to show him that he is loved.  And his attempts to demand respect nullify any attempts he may make to show her love.

2021-11-13 Blue and Pink SunglassesDr. Eggerichs believes this happens because men and women are wired differently, as though men have blue sunglasses and hearing aids and women have pink sunglasses and hearing aids. What is done and said by a husband with love for his wife does not communicate the love he feels because she sees and hears it through a different lens and hearing aid.  In the same way, a wife may try to express respect for her husband, but because he has different “receptors,” he fails to see it correctly.  And so the Crazy Cycle continues.

2021-11-13 The Energizing CycleThe challenges of the Crazy Cycle are tremendous, but hope is to be found in the Energizing Cycle.  With a clever acronym (COUPLE), Dr. Eggerichs makes valuable suggestions to a man who wants to show his wife that she IS loved, with six chapters to guide a man with good intentions to his goal of loving his wife as Christ loves the Church.

He describes a wife’s basic needs as desiring for her husband to be Close, Open, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyal and to Esteem her (COUPLE).  If a man faithfully applies the principles the good doctor explains in these chapters, he will go a long way on the Energizing Cycle by showing his wife that she IS loved.  Each chapter coaches a guy even on how to say that he wants to get close, be open, etc..  We guys need directions in spite of our tendency to try to put together Christmas toys and read the instruction sheet later. 🙄

The next six chapters spelling CHAIRS as an acronym will help wives discover how to “spell respect to their husbands.”  An interesting experiment Dr. Eggerichs tried with some women was a challenge for them to test the importance of respect to their husbands: “Spend some time thinking of things they respected about their husbands… then go home and, wait until the husband was not distracted and say, ‘I was thinking about you today and several things about you that I respect and I wanted you to know that I respect you.’…  After saying this, they were not to wait for a response, but just to gently begin to leave and see what would happen.  Then he goes on to help women who may have difficulty coming up with anything to respect about their husbands, which may take a woman back to why she married him in the first place, but emphasizes God’s design for marriage, that alone is worthy of respect.

CHAIRS stands for Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, and Sexuality.  Each of these is presented in a Biblically sound fashion that does not suggest “the man is in charge,” but rather reflects the way a godly man will see leadership.  Conquest addresses a man’s desire to conquer the challenges of life with success at what he does.  (If you ever ask a man, “Who are you?” most of us will respond with what we do.)  Hierarchy presents a man’s desire to protect and provide for his wife and family; Authority uses Jesus’ model of it:I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:24-27); Insight deals with a man’s desire to analyze and counsel; Relationship addresses a man’s need for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship with his spouse; and Sexuality deals with a distinctly “blue sunglasses” phenomenon of desiring intimacy through sexual union.

2021-11-13 The Rewarded CyclePart Three of the text talks about the Rewarded Cycle in which his love is expressed regardless of her respect with is demonstrated regardless of his love which is expressed …  And as a new cycle is begun, Dr. Eggerichs explains that the real reason for Love and Respect goes beyond whether or not a spouse responds appropriately.  Unconditional love and unconditional respect will be rewarded!  Matthew 5:46-48 says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet [respect] only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?… You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Ultimately, you are obeying your Father in Heaven and He is 100% reliable and will reward you according to His grace and love, even if we do not see the results here on earth.

The 5 Love Languages – A Review

2021-11-06 Two In LoveFour books come to mind when anyone talks about love, marriage or personal relationships: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner.  Each author approaches relationships from a Gospel perspective, i.e., men and women are created in the image of God, expected to build relationships with each other, and are different from birth . . . and ‘vive la différence!’

The best life, they claim, is to follow God’s pattern established in Adam and Eve and explained by Jesus and the Apostles.  It is not a restrictive, “Don’t do that” theology, but a liberating, expansive and freeing philosophy which looks for the best in every individual.  Remember, in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s and Eve’s sin was to eat from a forbidden tree.  BUT that was the ONLY tree forbidden!  Genesis 3:2-3 has Eve telling the Serpent that they could eat from ANY tree in the Garden except ONE.  That left a lot of trees open for consumption.

And for those who think the nakedness was somehow sinful and Adam and Eve were just too stupid to realize it, read again.  They were as God created them, and had nothing to hide until they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the forbidden tree.  When a child has done nothing wrong and a parent asks, “What are you doing?” he will simply answer, “I’m just . . .,” no big deal.  But if he has done something he knows the parent disapproves of, his response will be to cover up his tracks.  “Nothing!” . . . with eyes averted, hastily looking right and left, up and down for any excuse, hoping that his action will not be discovered.  That was the nakedness Adam and Eve were trying to hide.

That is the nakedness we now hide as well.  None of us is without sin, none has lived fully as God intended us to live, and the result is we need clothes to hide who we are.  All of us are afraid, at some level, of exposing ourselves fully, even to someone who loves us, just as Adam and Eve were afraid to expose themselves to their Father, who they knew loved them.  The nudist and the communist make the same mistake of trying to live free from guilt and selfishness before we are fully redeemed in the New Jerusalem (coming soon).

2021-11-06 - 5 Love LanguagesThe Five Love Languages presents the idea that each of us is wired to give and receive love in different ways, and that by recognizing the “language” in which you and your significant others express and accept love will help to identify the roots of conflicts, connect more deeply, and begin to grow closer together  The five languages Chapman describes in detail are Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.

Everyone’s personality determines how we understand love.  We see love expressed in that language which is most natural to each of us and we usually attempt to show it in the same way.  However, if the person we love “speaks” a different love language, the communication breaks down and the loved one “feels” unloved; their “emotional love tank” becomes emptier without refilling and misunderstanding and conflicts emerge.

Chapman’s website has a Quiz that one can take to help identify your particular love language.   For a starter enticement to purchase one of his books, he provides a seven-day devotional, one for “him” and one for “her” that, even without purchasing a text, can go a long way into improving any relationship, especially a marriage (but not restricted to that).  There are several free downloads for anyone just wanting to learn if one of his books is worth buying.

In Dr. Chapman’s Gateway to the The Five Love Languages he summarizes each of the languages as this:

Words of Affirmation — Actions don’t always speak louder than words.  If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you.  Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important — hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward.  Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time — In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention.  Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there — with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby — makes your significant other feel truly special and loved.  Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts — Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.  If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you.  A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous — so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service — Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love?  Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an Acts of Service person will speak volumes.  The words he or she most wants to hear are, “Let me do that for you.”  Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them, tell those with this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch — This language isn’t all about the bedroom.  A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy.  Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face — they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.  Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.”

One of the best features of Dr. Chapman’s practice is that The 5 Love Languages is not just for married people.  The 5 Love Languages of Children is available for parents; a Singles Edition for the unmarried; a special edition For Men (probably for those of us who have a hard time getting it! 😏); a special one for Teenagers and another for Military Personnel.

Whether you are in a special relationship or just wanting to develop personal awareness of those around you; children, colleagues, friends; take a look at The 5 Love Languages and see if there may be insights that will help you communicate more clearly to those for whom you care.

Guest Blog: A Biblical Guide to a Better Sex Life by pkadams, Blue Skies and Greener Pastures

With so many foci on homosexuality, gender dysphoria and transgenderism (as if someone could “feel” their way to being other than the way they were born 🙄) an important issue for Christ-followers to focus on is what the Bible teaches about sexuality.   Remember, sex was God’s idea BEFORE the fall and with His guidance, is not sinful. 

 It has been quite a while since I addressed this subject (see for “Rated R, The Mystery of Marriage,” and before that for four weeks of “Three Weeks of Sex.”)  This week pkadams provided a very excellent Scriptural perspective on sex.  I cover her 10th point about good books in the April 17, 2021 blog.   I suspect an ad slipped into pkadams’ blog and reordered her bullet points, so I renumbered them.

From pkadams, Blue Skies and Green Pastures:

2021-10-23 A Biblical Guide to a Better Sex Life

Lately it seems like there are sex experts on every social media outlet and in bookstores and on cable TV.  So since it’s so popular, I thought I would add a less common perspective, one that is backed up by the Bible and God himself.  Wait!  Don’t click away!  I’m seriously going to give you some good advice on how to make your sex life better.

Podcast link https://anchor.fm/blueskiesandgreenpastures/episodes/You-can-have-a-better-sex-life–Ep-54-e190ing or https://open.spotify.com/episode/3W5FH1YUQPXEI56G3wfVVX?si=Ag75oxxtTSCRF2ix3aSt_g

  1. Become a Christian. Yes, studies show that Christians have better sex lives than non-Christians! It’s a myth that Christians have boring sex lives. Sex is a gift from God and people who see it that way are more likely to enjoy it.
  2. Love your wife or husband according to God’s instructions. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches us that wives should submit to their husbands, which means she should respect him and his God-given authority in the marriage. It also teaches that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church, meaning as much as they love their own bodies. He meant that in a marriage each partner should love and respect each other, but there is a proper role for each. And the man is to submit to God. In a marriage with this type of healthy respect for God and each other, you are going to have a better sex life because you have peace in the home.
  3. Take care of your health, including your body, your mind and your spirit. Sex involves all of these. Older married people, and some young ones, sometimes ‘let themselves go’ by not getting exercise, eating right, drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, being a workaholic, smoking, and worrying. And too much time sitting and scrolling the internet is not good for you. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so take care of it. God made you in His image. Feeling good about the way your body looks also helps you feel better about sex! Also, take care of your appearance and hygiene; don’t expect your partner to be okay with a stinky, slob. Keep a good attitude and be thankful for your life and marriage. Ask God to transform your mind.
  4. Stay faithful in every aspect of the word. Do not cheat on your wife through any of the many ways that are available nowadays, including text relationships, internet chat rooms, or actual adultery. Beware of emotional attachments to co-workers and friends of the opposite sex. Don’t talk bad about your spouse behind their back. There is a reason that God mentions adultery in the Ten Commandments. It will destroy your marriage.
  5. Remember why you married your spouse and take time for romance and dating even after the honeymoon period is long past. Schedule time to have fun with your spouse, not just have sex. Build the relationship and you will improve the sex. Buy her flowers. Bake him a cake. The volume of scriptures that mention enjoying your wife are a good indicator that God values a happy marriage. A happy marriage also means happy children!
  6. Beware the temptations and traps of the devil that come in the form of seductive women or men. From the beginning, sexual sin has been one of the most destructive sins. The devil knows that the sexual urge is strong, and even though it is created by God for good, it can be used against us. Keep your eyes and mind free from thoughts about other women or men and you will protect your marriage. A pure marriage is a place were both partners can trust each other and feel free to be intimate. Stay far away from pornography. If needed, install porn-blocking software to prevent temptation. And warn your kids!
  7. Be a good person. Yes, be honest, trustworthy, kind, considerate, thoughtful, generous, patient, loving and sensitive! If you do all this, you will be much more likely to find ways to please your spouse in the bedroom. Most of us do not want to have sex when we are angry or resentful for being ignored, mistreated, lied to, or taken for granted, so make sure to show love to your spouse before you have sex, not just after.
  8. Make sex a priority in your marriage. This may not be a problem for everyone, but I keep hearing stories of sexless marriages, or of one person being interested, but the other is not. If you have health or emotional problems that are blocking you from enjoying sex, please seek help. As I mentioned above, poor health such as high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes, hormone imbalance and depression can affect your sex life, mostly because of the side effects from medications. Don’t give up. Ask your doctor for help. It is not a sin to use Viagra or whatever you need, within a marriage relationship. The Bible says that couples should not deprive each other lest they fall into temptation. If your marriage is unhappy, work on it. If you’re busy, schedule it!
  9. Don’t be afraid to have fun! Get creative and try new things. Sex is not bad, or nasty, or sinful, or dirty. Unfortunately some people are taught the wrong things when they are children or in some religions. God never intended us to feel guilty about our bodies or sex. He just said that we should ONLY have sex within marriage. It’s okay to wear sexy clothes or have sex in the hot tub. Let down your guard with each other. Being honest about what you like increases love and intimacy and trust! If you are the one who is struggling with being able to relax and enjoy sex, I encourage you to pray about it, and know that God really is okay with your enjoying yourself.
  10. If you need more specific help, buy a book about Christian marriage that includes the topic of good sex. Having a spouse and a good sexual relationship is a blessing! Enjoy it to the fullest and be sure to thank God for the joy. Beware of secular sex advice, or at least choose carefully. Lots of ungodly advice out there! As with all pleasurable things, use wisdom if you are not sure about something. God put limits on sexual behavior for our own good. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that having multiple sex partners is okay, whether they claim to be Christian or not.
  11. BONUS TIP! Make your bedroom a special place. Don’t watch TV, use your computer, scroll your phone in bed. You can do that in the living room. Have nice sheets and pillows! Make it smell good with a candle or essential oils. Keep it clean and tidy. Have nice lighting. Have music available. You know, like a hotel room, LOL!

[Editor’s note: I don’t know whether pkadams thinks LOL means “Lots Of Love” or “Laugh Out Loud!” 😊  You can ask her on her blog site in the comments.]

Planting Bushes as Planned ;-) – Wordless Wednesday’s Intermezzo Blog

Like I told my bride, “I WILL get the hedge planted.  You do not have to nag me every two or three years.” 😂  Well, walking in Lowe’s to stay out of the heat, we noticed some Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus) on sale as well as some Dwarf Alberta Spruces (Picea glauca Conica), all priced for out-of-season as the planting time in Kentucky is about over.  So we bought twelve bushes and four trees to spread across a side fence in the back yard.  The little more than three hours work would have been less if we did not have so many limestone rocks and the neighbor’s tree roots.

But the pots were small, so the digging went fairly quickly.  Placed a rock in the bottom of each hole to stabilize the plant and make the roots grow around it, not that the westerly winds will blow through the fence, anyway.
The Burning Bushes were planted with just a little of the root ball above ground and the Spruces just even with the grade.  I plan to mulch pretty soon . . . “Honey, you don’t need to nag me every eight or nine months to add the mulch!” 😁

I have marked the date in my smartphone for the next few years and will give an annual report here on Wordless Wednesday each year. 👌
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Okay, I DID do the mulching today. 😊

The Beauty of Spiritual Language

I was planning to write about prophecy of end times again, but in prayer felt a ‘nudging’ of the Holy Spirit to address a subject that in times past has been a source of division and conflict within the Body of Christ – speaking in tongues under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I was covering some prophecy ideas on the weekend of Pentecost, , so here is the trade-off.

2021-08-07 - The Holy Spirit

From the early 1900s (I read about this; I am not THAT old! 😅), when the Holy Ghost (as He was called back then) began moving in lives to experience what the apostles and disciples of the book of Acts experienced.  A common feature of these more modern day disciples was to first experience “speaking in tongues” similar to what occurred in Acts 2, 10 and 19.  The experience was called “being baptized into the Holy Spirit” as John the Baptist had prophesied Jesus would do to His followers.  “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 1:7-8)  This theme was reiterated by Luke in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles.  And it is clearly this “baptism” that began the Church Age in which we now live.

However, many mainline churches at the turn of the last century were upset by the emotionalism and lack of coherent theology of many of these “tongues-speakers” and repudiated these phenomena as being emotional excitement and works of the flesh; some even declared them demonic.  But the clear dedication to Jesus on the part of many of them, and the missionary zeal exceeding that of the mainlines resulted in the formation of new denominations that welcomed and encouraged people to seek God for “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” with an initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

In the 1960s a “neo-charismatic movement” began to take hold with people within more traditional mainline churches and almost every denomination world-wide found itself addressing “praying with the Spirit.”  (See also Romans 8:26 and Ephesians 6:18.)  Episcopalians led this transformation but Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and most other denominations adjusted from their “‘Tongues’ is of the devil” stance to honor Paul’s explicit instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:39, Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  Baptists were a little late to get on board, but leaders like Bill Gothard honored this scripture in his presentations and made headway among his almost entirely Baptist audiences of thousands.

The excesses of some in groups like the Assemblies of God, The Foursquare Church and others who insisted that speaking in tongues will accompany the baptism into the Holy Spirit as an initial evidence of such infilling led to almost a two-tier system of spirituality.  But the sincerity of most in these denominations, and their patient defense of speaking in tongues and development of Biblical theology of the experience, combined with their missionary zeal, resulted in phenomenal growth and world-wide acceptance among Christian denominations.

Although most current arguments against speaking in a “spiritual language” refer to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14, an honest appraisal of these instructions to a church that was getting too enthusiastic will reveal he was NOT discouraging speaking in tongues, but rather trying to preserve the practice through correction, balance and guidance, not prohibition.   He even begins the subject with an affirmation, Now I want you all to speak in tongues…” (1 Corinthians 14:5).  The point is to make a distinction between tongues as a gift for ministry in the meetings of the Church and tongues as a grace by which any believer can draw closer to The God Who Is, such that Paul could assert, I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).  Obviously he was not doing that in meetings of the Church but in his personal prayer times. 

2021-08-07 The Beauty of Spiritual LanguageTo summarize some points from Jack Hayford’s superb text (The Beauty of Spiritual Language) on this subject, speaking in tongues is not unbiblical nor outdated.  It is not a “transcendental experience” as with cult meditations or surrender of the will in a mystical stupor.  It is not a “status symbol” as though one who speaks in tongues is better than one who does not.  It is not a ‘cure-all’ for difficulties in living for God nor a badge of holiness.  It is not a substitute for spiritual growth or Bible study.  As one Christ-follower told me, there is one and only ONE evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost given in the Bible: You will be witnesses!” (Acts 1:8).  So “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is essentially coming to a place of wanting such intimacy with The God Who Is that one becomes open to anything He wants to do in and through you.  It is wanting “to know that you know that you know” who He is and that your testimony of Him will not be based in dry lifeless theology of book knowledge but in experiential knowledge so intimate that the only human comparison is that of a marriage where two become one flesh (Ephesians 5:32).  When you know Him the way Adam knew his wife and she conceived (Genesis 4:1), you cannot help but talk about it.  Who ever heard of a married man who loves his wife that did not want to tell you about her!?  The nature of a good marriage is such that a man can not speak very long with anyone before his wife comes into the conversation. 

Jesus is the baptizer into the Holy Spirit, an action that all four of His biographies assert (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33).  If you come to Him with this request, He assures us He will not turn us away nor let us be deceived, but meet our heart’s desire to know Him better. (Luke 11:13)  So just come to Him and ask, because the promise is for YOU and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). 
Worship Jesus as you listen to the Maranatha Singers sing the Spirit Song and invite Him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

Without Christianity – A Wordy Wordless

In his newest book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, atheist Tom Holland, who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, claims the morals of the western world would not exist without Christianity.  This is a really interesting read, especially coming from a historian of such repute, yet not a Christian.

2021-07-28 Tom Holland Quote

For more interesting reading, just enter Tom Holland Atheist Historian in your search engine and find gems like this: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/religion/2016/09/tom-holland-why-i-was-wrong-about-christianity.