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.
The following is a news release by a Finnish Member of Parliament. Whether you follow the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tipitaka, the Gathas, the Jain Agamas, the Dharma Wheel, the Bible or any other religious literature, this case before Finland’s Court can affect any religious practice by which people try to guide their lives. Finland is a democratic republic along the lines of the US, but closer to Israel in number of parties and coalition type management of the government. And since becoming part of the EU, it is anyone’s guess as to how EU diktats will affect their historically egalitarian governance. Since Finland is part of the EU, the following bears watching as it may impact laws and policies continent-wide, and could spill over the Pond to challenge the US and Canada to follow suit. “No man is an island.” I encourage you to pray for Ms. Räsänen and the nation of Finland as they waddle into dangerous waters which may well be a watershed moment for religious freedom around the globe. Ms. Räsänen has kindly put me on her email list and I am confident she would welcome any message of support from any place in the world (email below), and most of all, that we who follow Jesus are praying for Finland. Jesus is coming soon. “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”
Press Release April 30, 2021
Three charges filed against a Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen. “I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as it needs.”
Yesterday morning, I received by phone the information that the Prosecutor General has decided to prosecute me in three cases. The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” A charge has also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland published the pamphlet.
The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 in my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet in Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible verses from Romans 1:24-27.
The third charge is about my views presented in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I visited a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.
The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have committed threatening, defaming or insulting actions against a minority group. In all these three cases, the question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. I would not have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend. The Bible’s teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.
The Apostle Paul’s teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God’s word about sin are rejected, the whole core of Christian faith is made empty: the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sake of everyone’s sins and the way He opened into eternity.
There is a difficulty here far greater than a sentence of a fine or an imprisonment: a demand for censorship; an order to remove my social media postings or a ban on the publication of the pamphlet. If one defies the court’s verdict, it leads to demands of penalty payments. This sort of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings.
It is noteworthy that with regard to the pamphlet case and the tv episode with Stiller, the police stated that there was no reason to suspect a crime. The pre-trial investigation should not have even commenced according to their decision. The police stated in their decision: “if some of the views in the Bible were to be regarded as per se fulfilling the criteria of an agitation offense, the dissemination of or making the Bible available would in principle be punishable as an offense of agitation.” This has deeply to do with free speech and freedom of religion.
I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected. A conviction based on the Christian faith would be more than a superficial opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom speech and religion as far as is necessary.
The offense of agitation requires intentionality. In our Criminal Code the concept of intentionality is placed as criteria regarding the purpose of the author and the fact that the author perceives the nature of the act as a culpable legal infringement. In evaluating guilt, one must strive to genuinely understand the background and purpose of the author. As a Member of Parliament, I have been involved in the enactment of this precise amendment to our legislation. It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.
I want to encourage others to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights.
The Prosecutor General has previously publicly said that she has, because of my cases, received inappropriate messages. I hope that no insulting messages would be targeted against her.
As recommended in The American Conservative blog, consider writing a polite but firm email to Ms. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General: firstname.lastname@example.org and to the Finnish Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mikko Hautala, at email@example.com.
The word “mystery” in the Bible does not mean what most people seem to think. The first definition of the word is “anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.” However, other definitions are more fitting: “an event that remains unsettled until the very end,” or specifically, “any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.” I.e., a mystery is not something about which we are still in dark; it is something that is being or has been revealed, though it was once hidden.
Now to the singles reading this, I will offer very little to aid you in your sexuality, other than to note that Jesus was a young adult single. I can offer (in another blog sometime) advice on this matter, but only as an observer and student of Scripture, because I am “the marrying kind.” Jesus, the apostle Paul and others, both men and women, were not, and they lived fulfilled and purposeful lives without spouses, and with complimentary relationships without sex.
As for the MPA Rating, the R is a slight overstatement. Spoiler: there is no lewdity, nudity, or excessive foul language or violence, but the subject matter IS something which you probably don’t want children to read without parental input. If you have come here for the R rating, please stick around for a few minutes and read about the mystery of a marriage. Regarding Same-Sex marriage, I refer you to an earlier blog.
Consider for a moment what most modern American marriage relationships look like. Now this a VERRRY broad generalization and not to be taken as a model for how a marriage must work, but just an observation of how most in our nation work. He mows the lawn, maintains the vehicles, does minor repairs around the house, works outside the home, and sometimes shares some of the housekeeping or cooking. He maintains the checkbook, figures their taxes and spends some time with the children. She does most of the cooking and housekeeping, organizes vacations, makes reservations and is primarily responsible for raising the children even though she may also work outside the home. And he shows love to his wife and she shows respect to him, and they satisfy each other sexually.
If they are more affluent they may hire a landscaper to maintain their lawn, and they will take their autos in regularly for maintenance. If anything in the house needs attention they just call a repairman. They may hire a CPA to do their taxes and may even have a personal financial manager to pay their bills, and tell them how much they can spend on amenities each week. Perhaps they will employ a cook and a housekeeper or order meals from a service that provides on time delivery. The cook may do the grocery shopping and the housekeeper maintains their cleaning supplies. They may sign up for a cruise or tour group and leave the travel arrangements entirely to the tour company. A nanny could be hired to come in daily, or an au pair may live with them and share meals with the family.
All of these services can be hired without incurring any personal guilt or judgement from society.
However, if they indulge in sexual infidelity, there will be consequences. These may involve separation, legal actions, social stigmatism, and maybe divorce. There will be changes in family relationships beyond the couple, including children, in-laws, shirt-tail relatives and family friends. There may be job losses or changes, housing rearrangements, financial hardships, and a complete reorienting of their lives. All because of violating onefeature of the marriage relationship.
This suggests that there is something unique about the sexual relationship in a marriage that makes it apart from all of the other intimacies and details of the “normal” marriage. The Bible supports this idea in 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”
The husband who does not tend to his wife’s sexual desires risks pushing her away, either into the arms of another or into volunteerism or vocational obsessions. The wife who does not tend to her husband’s sexual desires may find him falling for promiscuity, prostitution or pornography to gratify them. The unique thing which elevates their marriage above every other relationship a husband or wife may have is their sexuality, specifically their sexual fidelity.
Every marriage is as unique as the couple involved. No two are exactly alike, but there are certain commonalities that can be recognized in any successful and pleasant marriage.
The first is a common faith, a recognition that the marriage is not just for their happiness, but is a “mystery,” a reflection of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31-33)
Let’s reveal this “mystery!” Jesus said the pattern for marriage was laid down by God at the creation: “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.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Problems in marriages come because none of us is completely sinless as Jesus was (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). So when you put two fallible people together and tell them to love and respect each other (Ephesians 5:33), there will inevitably be conflicts, as each of them needs the other to discover where their selfishness lies. It is in the curing of that selfishness that married couples become a model of Christ and the Church.
The second is a developing intimacy that will increase and expand as they live together. Sexual expression will likely be a part of that intimacy even when age or illness deteriorates the actual sex act of consummation. An acceptance of a spouse’s body in the same way one sees his or her own body will grow in this intimacy (Ephesians 5:29). Just as one looks at his or her reflection in a mirror and tolerates developing wrinkles or extra body fat or minor defects, loving and respectful husbands and wives will become more comfortable with each others’ bodies, and can enjoy physical intimacy that reflects what the Scripture means when it says “the two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Note the inclusivity and exclusivity of this expectation: Nothing is forbidden in the marriage sexual relationship as long as it is mutually agreed and not harmful. However, it is ONLY for the two committed to the marriage. (See for more about this.)
As books have been written on these subject, I will simply refer you to some of best I have encountered and encourage you to explore this wonderful subject of what makes cohabitation a marriage by reading a couple of these references: Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman The Gift of Sex by Dr. Clifford and Mrs. Joyce Penner The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. William Harley
Star Parker@UrbanCURE Star Parker is a columnist for The Daily Signal and president of the Urban Center for Urban Renewal and Education.
As so much despair has gripped our nation during this difficult time, I decided to go into our nation’s most distressed communities with a message of hope and truth. I have been working on policy issues dealing with race and poverty through my organization, UrbanCURE, for 25 years.
We purchased billboard space in hard-hit cities across the nation and posted a short, time-tested message that strikes at the heart of what drives poverty. The billboards show a picture of a young black man or young black woman and say: “Tired of Poverty? Finish school. Take any job. Get married. Save and invest. Give back to your neighborhood.” The billboard then refers to Proverbs 10:4, which says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
This is a message delivered with care and love. It’s a message I know is true. It is so true that it produced an immediate reaction from Black Lives Matter, which contacted the billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor, demanding that the billboards be taken down.
Claims from Black Lives Matter — laced, of course, with profanity — that our message is racist, inaccurate, and self-hating are a crude distortion of reality.
I know the accuracy of our message from my experience in life. I was once a young woman with disdain for the “establishment,” living off welfare and going nowhere. Then two Christian businessmen straightened me out. Their message and guidance saved my life.
Aside from my personal experience and my daily learning as a Christian, I also know the truth of this message from years of policy work that has been going on in Washington. The impact of the “success sequence” on poverty is well documented. Brookings Institution scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill published their findings in their book “Creating an Opportunity Society,” in which they report that those who follow three steps — finish high school, get a full-time job, and get married before having children — face a 2% chance of being poor.
Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang of the American Enterprise Institute followed on this work, showing that among millennials — ages 28-35 — there was a 53% incidence of poverty among those who did not follow these steps and a 3% incidence among those who did.
But regardless of whether or not you want to believe me or agree with me, what about freedom of expression? What about the inherent importance of keeping dialogue open and free in our nation, with a goal of reaching truth? How can shutting down communication serve anyone’s interests?
Shutting down dialogue, shutting down free and open exchange of ideas, is exactly what Black Lives Matter wants. It said as much in a Facebook post to the billboard vendor that read, “At the end of the day, messaging and narrative control is priceless.”
Unfortunately, Clear Channel Outdoor responded to the intimidation of Black Lives Matter and took down UrbanCURE’s billboards, saying, “We strive to respect a wide variety of viewpoints on diversity and racial sensitivity.” But can shutting down a powerful and truthful message because Black Lives Matter doesn’t like it reflect respect for “a wide variety of viewpoints”? The nation’s shock after the terrible murder of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman was justifiable. But the pushback unfortunately put wind in the sails of Black Lives Matter.
The question is: What does America, and what do black Americans, need? What will fix our problems? For sure, suppression of free expression will make no one better off. These are communities that need truth, that need love, that need empowerment.
This is the message we are delivering at UrbanCURE.
I hope Clear Channel Outdoor has a change of heart and is not intimidated by Black Lives Matter to breach contract and not publicize UrbanCURE’s message on its billboards.
In the Garden, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)
We tend to infer from the conversation in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve were somehow physically unable to see their nakedness. However, from the Genesis 2:25 language and later understanding that we gain from Bible study, that is not likely the case. Not so much blinded, but oblivious to what did not matter.
In the perfect environment without storms or snow or burning sun, what need was there for clothes with two people who lived in perfect harmony and love? They tended the Garden and cared for the animals who were naked, and they had nothing to hide from each other, from the animals, or from God.
What was missing from their knowledge that they could gain from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? God had made everything “good” day by day, and in the end “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) They knew everything good that was in creation, naming the animals and working the soil to growing delicious food, eating fruit from perfect pear and apple trees. Now look at the name of the Tree from which Satan tempted them to eat. What could they learn? Only evil!
There was something to learn; something which their eyes had not seen yet, in all the “good” that God had made. But it was not something they would enjoy as much as Satan made it sound: “You will be like God!” (Genesis 3:5)
Don’t you wish you could go back to that setting and yell to Eve, Don’t do it! It’s a trick! It’s a lie! It’s what Lucifer wants to be: like God (Isaiah 14:14), and since he has failed, he wants to pull you and Adam down, too! He wants to spoil this perfect creation and make it as evil as he is! . . . But we were not there, and likely we would not have understood any better than Eve did.
So she ate and gave to Adam to eat, also, and suddenly they did see things they had not noticed before! It was as if their eyes were opened for the first time since creation. In an unconscious sense, they probably knew that they were naked before, but because it did not matter, it did not register in their cognition. It simply was something they did not think about. But now, their awareness of their failure to obey a simple command that only required them to trust the benevolent Creator who would visit them every evening brought into sharp focus that there was nothing they could hide! And NOW they had something that they wanted to hide!
How the devil must have laughed and jumped with sadistic glee at the success of his deceit. He grinned as he saw their futile attempts to sew fig leaves together. He laughed as he heard the Creator coming to visit them in the Garden. Because he was without understanding of God’s unbounded mind and ignorant of His eternal plan, he thought he had dealt a terrible blow to God.
Ever since, we have worn clothes. Every society (with the exception of a few nudist nuts) has required some kind of cover for the body. Add the mess that came after the flood with snows and rain and hail, and clothes became necessary for most of us most of the time just to survive the damaged environment. But apart from protection from the weather, we have always worn clothes, and societies have developed complex systems of clothes to express rank and social importance.
Only in the marriage relationship is nudity acceptable (or under a doctor’s care, but that’s for another blog). We usually marry at 20-30 years old and most of us have accumulated a lot of emotional baggage by then. How do two flawed people with so many things in their past that they would prefer to hide, stand naked and unashamed? And what about when we get out of shape or age begins to change how nice things looked on our wedding day? Can we return to “naked and unashamed” or are we always going to hide until the end of days?
In The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, the authors make a case for marriage being a place of safety and exposure. They note that sexuality is part of God’s plan, not a deviation from it. “The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people . . . The husband-wife sexual relationship is used throughout Scripture to symbolize the God-man relationship.” They provide astute advice about body image and how to deal with body issues in a loving, mutually supportive and realistic context that removes the pressure from having to be a beauty-pageant winner or a world-class body builder.
The key of it is their perspective on mutual submission to the Lord of Life. Jesus restores purity where there once was only shame and disgrace. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) He welcomes us into His family with open arms and forgiveness for all our past; such complete forgiveness as though the sin never happened!
God cannot reverse time and change what you did in the past. He cannot restore your virginity; He cannot remove the marks left in your mind from rape or immoral behavior; He cannot go back to the Garden of Eden and remove the fruit from Adam’s and Eve’s hands. What He can do is make you sexually pure again. He can bring you into His garden of love, grace and forgiveness, and even though you know the difference between good and evil, He can guide you into discovering all that is not just good, but “very good,” again. You can stand before Him and your spouse, “naked and unashamed.”
The first part of this is again, uniquely a “guy article,” but the last part is for members of ‘the female species.’ 😉 And some of the uniquely male parts could be valuable for helping women understand men. A wise friend recently reminded me there are three kinds of people in the world: 1) Those who know that they know (or understand). 2) Those who know that they do not know. 3) Those who do not know that they do not know. The problem is to distinguish between the “1s” and the “3s” because someone who does not know that he/she does not know will think he/she knows. “Oh, Iiee understand!”
Recall Eggerichs’ “blue and pink sunglasses and hearing aids.” (See October 21, 2018) There is no way in Heaven or hell that I could or will ever understand the experience of carrying another human inside my body. Or of even having that capacity! In the same way, there is no way that a woman can understand the nature of sexual temptations to which a man is subject. I must accept that I was a #3 and now am a #2 regarding carrying a baby, and women must admit they begin as #3s when approaching this subject of masculine temptation. Any other approach is a recipe for frustration, annoyance, and anger.
A man can be a paragon of virtue and he will still have to face temptation just as Jesus did (Matthew 4, Luke 4). However, very few of us men are as pure of motive or determined of purpose as our Lord. There simply are not many Josephs around who would resist an attractive and powerful woman making an appeal for sex (Genesis 39). Fortunately, there are not many “Potiphar’s wives” around either, as women usually have a much smaller appetite for sex that lasts many fewer years.
Keep in mind your attitude as a father toward your children. How far would they have to run to get away from your love and forgiveness? Incarceration or abusive behavior by a son will change the character of the relationship, but it is long hard struggle to actually “divorce” from a father’s love, or from Father’s love. As men, we must allow the mercy of God and His grace to motivate us to living as Jesus lived, that is, in right relatedness to Father and to others around us, even our enemies (February 22, 2015).
The command to love one’s wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and to love others as well, is contrary to human nature and takes supernatural power. This kind of love constrains a man from feeding on pornography. Treating a woman as an object for one’s own pleasure without considering the effects on the woman is a high point of selfish arrogance. If when you consider viewing porn you remember, even for a moment, that you are looking at someone’s beloved daughter or mother or sister, its power is significantly diminished.
The idea women cannot grasp here (#3s) is the power of sexual urges that is able make a man deny the Presence of the Holy One (August 20, 2016). This is every man’s battle! How many women have sat brokenhearted in a counselor’s office and begged for understanding, “If he loves me . . . how could he look at her like that? how could he care about her? how could he enjoy porn? how could he . . .??? But that understanding will never come because this is a uniquely “blue sunglasses” phenomenon. Sorry, ladies, but even you are not as important to a Christian man as the Lord, and we men seem to be able to ignore Him at times.
However, men, the battle is winnable! A man can reach a point at which he can overcome temptations and there are concrete steps we can take to win. We will always feel the temptation. The birds will always fly overhead, but we can become very proficient at preventing them from nesting. (Another significant “guy phenomenon” is the desire to know what to do. We really like to fix things!) It is important to realize simply praying and reading the Bible, while helpful, is not enough. There are specific mental disciplines, invoked in the Bible, involved in overcoming temptation.
The first step is recognizing when and where temptation occurs and making a plan to minimize its allure. If you know a lion is roaming about (1 Peter 5:8) you will behave differently. There is an enemy who is watching for an opportunity to trip you up! Read The Screwtape Lettersfor insight in this.
This could involve getting rid of one’s computer as one brother did. A few years ago, I asked him if he could get email yet and he replied, “No, C.A., I’ll never have a computer again. I won’t have a smart phone that accesses the web. It’s safer for me here.” He knows where his weakness was and rather than risk his spiritual wellness or his relationship with his wife, he will go the rest of the many years ahead of him without something most of us feel is essential. While we may not need as extreme a solution, the idea is to get rid of “every weight and sin that clings so closely” to us (Hebrews 12:1).
The second step is to set our minds on the Presence of the Lord and whatever positive can replace the temptation (See attached Changing Your Thought Patterns). This calls for taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). One could place a chair in a room for the Lord to make himself aware that Jesus IS there even when he seems alone. Maybe paste of picture of your daughter in a corner of a computer screen or on your smart phone as its opening screen to remind you that every woman you see there is someone’s daughter.
Third is the long haul! This is the retraining of our mental habits. “Spiritual growth is in large measure patterned on the nature of physical growth . . . There is much in our culture that infiltrates our attitudes unconsciously and makes us expect spiritual formation to happen instantaneously rather than through steady progress.” (Robert Mullholland,Invitation to a Journey) Just as a child does not jump out of a crib and start running marathons, we need patience that the Lord is at work in us (Philippians 1:6) and not become discouraged by recurrent failures (Proverbs 24:16).
Lastly a small word of advice to girls and women, if you have any inclination to help men deal with their uniquely male temptations. Some women dress with intentional provocation and selfish desire to be wanted by any man, and that is “a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms” for another blog. This is not a “blame the victim” viewpoint, but encouragement to consider how you would dress and act around your father, and do so for Father. You want to look nice for dad and want him to admire you, but common sense says you do not dress to tempt him to lust. Many women simply dress and act out of ignorance for how difficult it is for a man to keep his eyes where they belong.
If you have to hold your blouse in when you bend over, change blouses next time or wear something under it. Cover your midriff. Do not wear leggings that show off every dimple of cellulite without some modest cover, and think about how much skin you will show walking up a set of stairs in your skirt or dress (1 Timothy 2:9). Be aware that most men will not admit to feeling tempted, especially in our #MeToo moment, but be cautious in your friendships with men other than your husband, just as you would want him to be cautious in his friendships with other women. This goes especially for working colleagues with whom some spouses spend more time than with their husbands or wives. Remember it is every man’s battle, and some guys do not even want to fight it! Simply become aware of how your attire and actions affect the men around you and dress and act to please your Father.
This is distinctively a “guy article.” The vast majority of women will not understand . . . cannot understand the nature of temptations to which a man is subject. They are wired with “pink sunglasses and hearing aids” while we guys are wired with “blue ones” per Eggerich’s book referred to last week. Of course, there are degrees of this, some women experiencing the same level of temptation from the same sources, but we aremostly different; not better or worse; equal, but not the same. Equal, not in the sense that four equals two plus two, but equal in the sense of chocolate or caramel; both delicious, but different.
There are three sources of temptation and none “make you do it,” as the comedian used to say, “The devil made me do it.” No, I am afraid we must face it that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14) However, the temptation may not originate with the self, as in Jesus’ case in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. He was “led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)
In other cases, temptation may come from without, but not necessarily from the devil to whom we often give too much credit. “There are six things that Yahweh hates,seven that are an abomination to him:
1) haughty eyes, 2) a lying tongue, and 3) hands that shed innocent blood,
4) a heart that devises wicked plans, 5) feet that make haste to run to evil,
6) a false witness who breathes out lies, and 7) one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) There is no demon mentioned in this passage which is couched between Solomon’s warnings about adultery and fornication. (See Proverbs 5 to 7.) Rather, these are temptations that come from other sources in the world. Granted it is a world corrupted by the evil one, but every detail of corruption is not to his credit nor blame. He is neither that smart nor attentive to trivia.
Thus, our three sources of temptation are the world, the flesh and the devil. However, the crux of it is our human nature makes temptation tantalizing. It is our lack of self-sufficiency, our need for outer sustenance, or our desire for physical human comfort that appeals to us and makes us susceptible.
This was true even of the God-Man, Jesus, who was God in human form; the Eternal Son of God, coequal with the Father and Holy Spirit, eternally pre-existent before the creation of the world, and through whom the world was created (Colossians 1:15-19; Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1-3) We will not go into the nature of the trinity (see June 4, 2018), but just note that Jesus was fully God and yet, fully human. And the human side of Him could get hungry, needed to sleep, would wake with a hard-on, had human longings, could bleed and feel pain.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) This verse reveals three important things to remember about temptation:
1. We are not alone when facing temptation!
2. Temptation is conquerable!
3. Temptation is NOT sin!
Not only did Jesus face the same temptations, every man you know, every man you see, every man who has ever lived has faced the same temptations that you and I face (1 Corinthians 10:11-13). Bottom line is: I am not that special! And neither are you. This is important to remember, especially in the context of sexual temptation, distinctively a “blue sunglasses” temptation. Most guys feel special when a woman pays them attention. Most women can be made to feel special by a guy’s attention, but a woman’s sexual temptation is different from a man’s.
However, it is only in the committed faithful relationship of a husband and wife that specialness is true. It is when he said, “You are the only woman for me,” and when she responded, “You are the only man for me,” that each of them became truly special. Any other “specialty” is a certain road to Sheol (Proverbs 5:5).
No matter what the source of temptation, internal or external, the battle is finally fought in one’s own heart and mind. This puts it within the range of victory! The truth is that it is up to me if I am willing to be suckered into believing a decoy for joy. It is also up to me to reject the artificial for the real.
The hardest part for most men to discern is when temptation becomes sin. The old adage is, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your tree, but you can stop it from building a nest!” Most of us will feel guilt over the fact that we feel temptation, but this is a misplaced sense of fault. Only you can tell when you have stepped across that invisible line into letting the bird start his nest, but there is no need to feel guilty about it flying overhead.
Remember even Jesus felt temptation! He really was hungry when Lucifer invited Him to short-circuit His redemptive path and turn rocks into bread; haven’t you and I lusted after a donut or piece of pie that we thought would satisfy? Jesus really wanted to show the world that He could do us all good; all He had to do was jump from the Temple’s top and everyone would believe in His miraculous power, right? Jesus reeeeeally wanted to rule with justice, mercy and grace; and what a wonderful benevolent Master He would be! All He had to do was worship the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2)
But in each temptation there was a deception that Jesus called out. And in every temptation we face there is a hidden lie that the world, our flesh or the devil will try to hide. If we can identify the bald-faced lie this will remove the temptation’s power. “That donut really will not add that many calories; that money will not be missed by a big corporation; that woman/man would be so nice to be close to; no one will know about this porn.” But the temptation is NOT sin! It is the yielding to it that is.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is getting what we do not deserve.
Last week I discussed some of what makes a marriage a marriage as opposed to a business relationship. The truth is that the love and respect a husband and wife provide each other shows up in all aspects of their life, not just sex. However, sex is the distinctive that makes the marriage relationship most different from all others. It is an intertwining of pleasures that is forbidden outside the marriage because that would cause hurt, confusion, distrust and possibly disease.
In Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love and Respect, he presents the idea that just as a woman is wired to give and understand love, a man is wired to give and understand respect. He notes wisely that “the journey to a godly, satisfying marriage is never over.” This is an ongoing relationship that must be tended much as one would tend a garden. You cannot pull out weeds and plant seeds once and leave the garden alone for years and expect good crops every fall. In the same way, a couple cannot say their vows, experience a good relationship at the start of their marriage, and expect it will always continue that way if they never give it attention.
Using the premise of Ephesians 5:33, “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband,” he notes that most of us readily agree to the idea that love should be unconditional. He then says respect should also be unconditional! Most of us, even men, react against this idea, because we have been trained culturally to think that respect must be earned. However, that is not necessarily the case. In the military a person is “respected” because of the number of bars on his/her uniform. He or she may be a jerk of a person, but we treat them respectfully because of the official position.
Before anyone gets too excited or angry that he is advocating a military style marriage, please rest assured that he balances this with the husband’s responsibility to love his wife. What Eggerichs finds interesting is that husbands are never told to respect their wives just as wives are never told to love their husbands. He figures it is because of the way God created each of us, male and female, and wired us to see the world differently. The “blue hearing aid and blue sunglasses” a husband wears mean that he hears and sees things differently than his wife who wears a “pink hearing aid and sunglasses,” and vice versa. I will not give a complete book report here, but encourage you, if you find this intriguing, to get a copy of his book and consider what you find in it to be true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
After dealing with the basic attitudes toward marriage and the need to come back again and again to weed-pulling, seeding, pruning and all the other regular features of gardening, let’s address the sexual union of a husband and wife. I encourage you to get a copy of The Gift of Sexby Clifford and Joyce Penner to explore their thoughts. Remember, neither Adam or Eve, nor your husband or wife, came up with the concept of sex. It was the Creator’s idea and He planned it to be a source of unity, procreation, safety, and pleasure. “Our maleness and femaleness, our sexuality is not something added on or part of our sinful natures; it is part of the original perfect creation of mankind. The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people.”
This text builds on Eggerichs’ foundation that marriage should effect a mutuality of personalities, not a place for “standing up for my rights.” The commitment of a godly husband is to be to his wife like Jesus is to the Church; ready and willing to die for her. Not just in a crisis moment of an assault, but in everyday decisions of how to treat her when you are sitting down to supper, opening the mail, cleaning the house. It is not an easy thing to die to oneself as Jesus did on the cross, but that is what a husband is called to do; to put aside his wishes and meet his wife’s deepest needs.
In the same way, a wife is not to assert nor usurp authority and hen-peck a husband. She is to submit to his authority as the Church should do to Christ. And again, not just in a crisis, but in everyday things like going fishing, helping with the lawn care or walking the dog. As noted, it is not an easy thing to die to oneself, but that is what a godly wife is called to do; to put aside her wishes and meet her husband’s deepest needs.
Then comes the conundrum! “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:4) One wonders if Paul was just setting us up for an argument! Who is in charge!? What does a husband do whose wife does not want to have sex? What does a wife do whose husband wants to have sex all the time?
Paul lays down some guidelines in 1 Corinthians 7, but very little specifics. That is because every couple is different. For some, the “limited time” of 1 Corinthians 7:5 may be a couple days or even hours. For others it may be months or even years. However, a couple should “come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” And it should be recognized that such abstinence within a marriage should come from “mutual agreement.” The gist here is that there is communication in a marriage about sex. For many, this is as foreign as speaking Latin!
Just as Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed,” a husband and wife must learn to communicate without shame. We are supposed to be getting ready for a new Paradise in which there is no shame, and marriage provides one of the best testing grounds to see how well we are preparing. (Not the only one, for sure, as Paul addresses those who are not married as being no less prepared for holiness.) But for those who are married, consider reading The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, and again, see what you find in there to be true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Next week, we will discuss a distinctly “guy phenomenon” (mostly) of the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.
If you have come here hoping to find lurid script or lewd pictures, please do not leave frustrated. Stick around and read the following blog about what marriage is supposed to be and you may find you did not come here by accident simply because of the title, but destined by a Divine appointment. These are important ideas anyone considering marriage should know. This is not comprehensive as there are many good books covering this material, but my 1000-word blog might get you started on a good path. Next week I will discuss issues for satisfying sex and the third week will describe the difference between lust and temptation to lust.
Consider that most of what married couples do for each other can be hired out without serious consequences and without judgment from God. I hire a young man to do my lawn mowing and paid someone to replace my gutters. A couple could hire a maid to fix meals or a housekeeper to clean. Professional ‘organizers’ can come to your home to do everything from sorting your library to setting your computer files in order. Nannies can take over most, if not all, of the discipline and raising of children. A man and woman not married to each other can take a necessary road trip and even sleep in the same hotel room without sinning. Not that I am recommending anyof these options! Just laying them out there to show what makes a marriage relationship different from the one you have with your landscaper, nanny, or business associate.
There is only one function of a husband or wife that is not a payable one without incurring significant problems: sex. The problems come even in so-called “open marriages,” where trust is defeated, security destroyed, and personalities are warped. The Designer of marriage knew what He was doing.
Sex was not attached to Adam’s and Eve’s sin; it was not why they were expelled nor is it part of the punishment. It was not even their idea! The God Who Is There came up with the idea and gave the command and description of sexual union in marriage before the fall (Genesis 2:21-25). The two dimensions of marriage were evident right then:
1. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother . . .” – social and legal dimensions.
2. . . . “and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – personal and relational dimensions.
The social and legal implications are complex but can be summarized to say that every society has held certain regulations for marriage, whether it was as simple as Isaac bringing Rebekah into his mother’s tent (Genesis 24:67) or as complicated as the negotiations between European countries to marry their royals. There is a social side which is to say that the couple is recognized as an exclusive relationship by the society in which they live. This has usually been supported by legal constraints that rewarded marriage with special rights and privileges and penalized violations of whatever vows were promised in the ceremony.
The personal and relational implications begin with a husband and wife entering an exclusive physical relationship. No society has endured more than a few years that allowed any man or woman to share any member of the opposite sex he or she wished. The sex act has always been recognized as the epitome of the marriage relationship, i.e. what makes the marriage a marriage.
Adultery (sex with someone who is married to another) and fornication (sex with someone who is not married) are both condemned as abnormal behavior which the Designer did not plan. Yet the drive for sexual satisfaction has been at the root of innumerable conflicts between husbands and wives as well as the cause of wars and plagues.
The Bible is very clear that sexual immorality should not have any part of the life of a Christ-follower (Proverbs 6:20-35; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:5). At the same time, it elevates the sexual act to more than just a physical experience (1 Corinthians 6:16-20; Ephesians 5:31-32). The Holy Spirit is somehow present in the physical union of two people even if they do not want Him to be. The result of immorality is to twist something that is supposed to be a human representation of spiritual realities into a defiled temple. There is no case for having sex and not having consequences, even if no child results from the union, even if they do not know each other’s names and never see each other again! The damage to God’s temple is done in a way that no other sin effects!
James brings an equality to sins that we have a difficult time understanding. He says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11). The focus of James is on Who the offended party is when we sin, as we tend to rank sins by offensiveness to oursenses. But there is definitely a difference in the characteristics of sins and their consequences (See John 19:11 and Mark 3:29). Sexual immorality is thus condemned by the Bible and immoral practitioners are in serious danger of missing eternal life (Revelation 22:15).
Sexual union is recognized in the Bible as the plan for married couples whether procreation is part of the package or not (Proverbs 18:22; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:25-33). The Ephesians passage is the basis of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ excellent book, Love and Respect, to which I will refer more fully next week. The essence of it is that a husband is to unconditionally love his wife and a wife is to unconditionally respect her husband.
Part of the Good News is the redemption of marriages that changes them into models of Christ and His Church, just as much as it is about His redemption of all the evil we do before we become Christ-followers. Many believers have noted, after deciding to follow Jesus, how events of their past without Christ were woven into their lives so that the very sins that the devil wanted to use to destroy them became the leverage to turn them to the Lord. He can redeem your marriage as well and bring you to a place of peace and satisfaction that you have not known before.
My life is but a weaving Between my God and me. I cannot choose the colors He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow; And I in foolish pride Forget He sees the upper And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent And the shuttles cease to fly Will God unroll the canvas And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful In the weaver’s skillful hand As the threads of gold and silver In the pattern He has planned.