My Story of Purity

Our student ministry has been doing a 4-week study entitled “Best Sex Ever.” Greg Kelley, our student pastor, has done a great job keeping the topic of sex light-hearted, but informative and challenging. There have been no stones left unturned. This has not been the typical “church talk” about sex. He has gotten into some gritty details on things that even the Bible is silent about. But the Bible isn’t silent on God’s plan for sex and why he limits it to marriage in order to prevent the pain and damage it causes in the wrong setting.

Tomorrow concludes the series and he has asked me to speak on my journey of purity. This is the transcript of the talk I’m giving.

So Greg and I were sitting at Taco Bell one night discussing this series and I casually mentioned how rewarding it has been to have waited. I know I don’t look it, but I’m going to be 30 years old this year. And I am living proof that it is possible to wait. I’m not saying it is always easy, but it is possible. And it has everything to do with what you fill your mind up with. So I’m going to share some experiences, offer some advice, and remind you of some verses that will help you in this journey.

You know, I can recall back in high school one of my best friends in class one day looking completely upset. I asked her what was wrong and she said she did something that she was going to go to hell for. Turned out, she had sex that weekend. And the guilt was pretty apparent. Well, for a time. We hung out a lot and I remember going to the movie one day and she began to hold my hand—mind you we were just friends—then she started shifting my hand toward her. It was very uncomfortable and I pulled back my hand. She told me she was very lonely and needed me to touch her. Looking back on that, she had tasted the sweet flavor of sex, but in her guilt and confusion, she had come to equate her worth with her physical emotions. In the end, I had to break off the friendship because it was damaging. That’s a radical step that I had to take in order to protect myself.

Who we let be closest to us is vital to our own health. And it’s really because high school is a time when we really start developing our values and beliefs. I saw a lot of PDA and heard a lot of talk that really left me asking myself “why does this matter so much?” Somewhere along the way society has taught us that love is equivalent to sex. If God is love, someone who doesn’t know God will equate love with something else. In fact, I read a statistic that said some 80% of prom attendees will engage in sexual activity. That’s staggering! So if I want my values, my beliefs, to be founded in God’s love which is eternal, I have to make the conscious decision to not make the physical aspect important. To not make it a big deal. And that is a day-by-day, sometimes moment-by-moment, decision. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I really don’t think we do ourselves any favors by focusing on an exclusive relationship with another person while in high school. In a time when you are developing your own faith, your own relationship with God, it is too distracting to try and focus on another person too. It just opens the door to temptation because your attention is divided. And until we build maturity in healthy relationship with God and other people, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to be exclusive to someone. Now I’m not saying don’t date. By all means, go on dates our outings or whatever you want to call them. Guys, gain experience in how to treat a woman. Ladies, learn how a man is supposed to treat you. As you do, guard yourselves on how much personal information you share. If you give yourself fully on the emotional level at this stage in your life, the only place left to go after that wears out is giving yourself physically. That’s another guard you can put in place. So when I say don’t be “exclusive” I mean when you are going out, go with a group of friends. This will ensure accountability and will close the door to temptation. You have no business being alone; if you are, that’s removing the final hurdle to engaging in sexual activity.

So instead, focus your life on building up your character, your values, your education, your faith. That way you will be ready for the next stage of your life. Marriage—and sex for that matter—is about putting the other person’s needs before yours. So how can you possible do that when your own identity is still being forged? Enjoy the company of the opposite sex. Choose to not make physical intimacy important. Choose to focus on building yourself up from the inside.

College rolled around and man, were the temptations prevalent. There were periods of time it was very difficult to even avoid situations where sex was blaring at me. Yes, even at a Christian college. I was an RA and had to do periodic room checks for cleanliness. Many rooms had porn in the form of videos and magazines, with no attempt to hide them. It’s a destructive, double standard to view that stuff. And the thing is porn will only make you feel good for a short time. Aside from it not having anything to do with real life, it’s a temporary fix. When I worked at the crime lab, we had a “rule” about meth labs that said they weren’t really a meth lab unless there was porn and Mountain Dew. Occasionally, officers would watch that junk as I did my job, claiming they were “looking for evidence.” There are so many things like that that I’ve seen in my 20’s…I wish I could un-see them because whether I consciously allow it to or not, it does affect the notions I have regarding physical intimacy.

The fact is I wish I could tell you that you can pray to God to help you avoid temptation and that you’ll succeed. The truth is you may struggle the rest of your life, even after you are married. I pray for daily strength. Daily! But I have to work at it too. When I pray for strength, I’m also committing to fill my mind with other things. When I first moved to Little Rock, it was really hard on me to leave OBU. I tried to make up the pain in other, unhealthy ways. But I saw the slippery slope I was on and took a radical step. I told a pastor my weaknesses—the things that without God, I would give in to—and asked him to hold me accountable. If I knew someone was keeping tabs on me, I would be much less likely to give in. Because let’s face it, sin is fun or we wouldn’t do it. The problem is it’s only temporary. God’s way is eternal and you have to drill that so far into the foundations of everything you are, that when the temptation is there, you can look past its immediacy and choose God’s better way. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 18-20 says “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

How do you keep that truth present so the decision is automatic when you are in that situation? Well, something is going to fill that space between your ears. You can let it be the things that will end up bringing pain after the pleasure has worn off, or you can let it be the lasting, positive things of God. Like healthy relationships, your education, a hobby, ministry work. What kind of music do you listen to? Is it filling your mind subconsciously with the wrong ideas of love? I choose to listen to music with positive lyrics. Some of it’s mainstream; some of it is not. The point is: fill your mind with the positive so that there’s no room for the negative.

But you have to choose to do so. We can sit up here and testify about the benefits all day, but you must choose to follow through with what is being taught. You know, I have not had one girlfriend in my life. Not one. I’m not saying girlfriends/boyfriends are a bad thing. I think it is important to learn how to build healthy relationships with the opposite sex. And I did so all through college and even now. I simply chose to spend my mental and physical efforts on getting a degree, a good job, a home, maturing my faith, growing my ministry, engaging my visions. I’ve obtained a lot of those goals, and as I told my guys in my SME group, I’m finally at a point—in my goals and more importantly, in my relationship with God—that I have the maturity and responsibility to put another person before me. You see, I have always been a loner. It doesn’t bother me one bit to live alone, be alone, or go it alone. It has always been just me. That’s a huge, lifelong lesson of selfishness to overcome. But by following God’s direction, He was and is able to grown me and prepare me. I may never get married. I’ve often considered that God may have called me to be single. That’s okay because I’ve chosen to be content. Well, except with the whole never getting to have sex part. Just kidding. But in the last few months, God has been changing my heart and for the first time, I’m open to building a significant relationship with a woman. And praise God that He has helped me through my 29 years of life for that one day when I just might have a wedding night and can honestly, wholly give myself for my spouse. Now that is God’s best when it comes to sex. That is why we cannot give in to the temporary pleasures, the immediate gratifications. Choose the right company, avoid the tempting situations, build healthy with God and other people, fill your mind with the positives. Arm yourselves now so when temptation is staring you right in the eye, you can say “my God is greater than this and He has something better prepared for me.” That’s how I do it every day.

Below is a statement given to me by a friend. I read it as the closing prayer.

Everyone longs to give him/herself completely to someone-to have a deeper soul relationship with another-to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But God to a Christian says “No. Not until you are satisfied and content and fulfilled with living, loved by Me alone, with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me-to have an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone……I love you My child, and until you discover that in only Me is your satisfaction to be found, you will not be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you. You will never be united with another until you are united with Me-exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing-one that you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you. You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things. Keep experiencing the satisfaction knowing that I am taking care of you. Keep listening and learning the things I tell you….You must wait.
Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry. Don’t look at things others have gotten or that I have given them. Don’t look at things that you want. Just keep looking off away up to Me or you will miss what I want to show you.
And then when you are ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than any of you would ever dream. You see, until you are ready, I am working even now, this minute to have both of you ready at the same time-but until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me and the life I have prepared for you, you will not be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me, which is perfect love.
And dear one, I want you to have this most perfect and wonderful love. I want for you to see in the flesh a picture of Me, your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty and perfection and love that I offer you with Myself. Know that I love you always. Believe and be satisfied.”
“I Am God Almighty”
God we claim this promise in the name of Jesus Christ, whose grace and love gives us the strength to wait for your best. Amen.

My Story of Purity

What is Church, Exactly?

In the last hour or so, my heart has suddenly become heavy. I’ve been on-again-off-again inviting a friend (who’s identity I’ll obscure) to come to my church some Sunday mornings. Sometimes he’ll have to work, which is totally understandable. Other times, it was because he was working the night before or that afternoon. Reasons that struck me as odd, but I didn’t totally know his schedule, so I let it go. But now it has come to light that he doesn’t like church. I don’t know why. But I told him I’d stop pestering him until we had a chance to talk.

My mind is racing with thoughts and I need to get them out. My friend often comes to community group on Tuesday nights. It’s not even really a community group, the way they are intended to be at my church. It’s more like a “house church.” I mean, we can run 20-30 people sometimes. So how is that different from the building down the street that is open Sundays, instead? It’s not different in my mind. Church is not a building, as any follower of Christ will tell you. The church is the body of Christ. It is also referred to as the bride of Christ. Each member belongs to all the others; it only works when we are all doing our part. Our purpose, our significance, our meaning is found there. Committing to go to church in a house, but not church at the building with a large auditorium is contradicting. The only difference is in my friend’s mind. The truth is–whether he accepts and admits it or not–he can’t stay locked up with his “holy huddle” that is community group and ignore the rest of the body of Christ because he doesn’t like it. I can only imagine that something must have happened to really destroy the institution in his mind.

I’m here in Little Rock because of my church. I would have left a long time ago to pursue other career options if it hadn’t been clear to me that God has purposed me to this body for this time. I find my greatest joy serving there. The Bible says we are to celebrate together in our triumphs and support each other in our troubles and trials. This is my family. Yes I have blood relatives whom I love very much. But in heaven, we are all going to be united in Christ as brothers and sisters.

Our pastor has often said that a Christian without a church is a contradiction. And I really do believe that. Not to Bible beat anyone, but Scripture is clear on this point. If a Christ-follower were to tell me they didn’t believe in church, I would start with asking about their essential beliefs. I know the church does not always act according to God’s design. But the character of God cannot be judged based on the flawed character of people. Even if they are our brothers and sisters. We’re all forgiven and we need to remember that, even when it’s especially hard. (Particularly in dealing with people who hold on to so-called traditions for tradition’s sake. What a turn off that is when we are called to meet people where they are. Only through relationship building will we earn credibility to love that person toward God. That’s another “sermon” though. LOL)

In my mind, why let the memories spoil the chances of experiencing God’s best? “Pew fillers” are not any better. The church doesn’t owe us anything. We are called to take part in God’s work, and God uses the church to do that work. Worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and evangelism. That’s why we’re here. So why don’t we become active and make the church what it SHOULD be? We have a choice: to be bitter or get better. For the sake of loving God and loving others, I hope we will always choose the latter.

What is Church, Exactly?

What the Puck?

Okay I just have to vent for a second. The Dallas Stars played spectacularly in Game 1 and 2 of the quarterfinal round for the 2008 Stanley Cup. Their power play game was top notch. It’s what they do best. They went up 2-0 for the series. Now they are back home for two games. An even better advantage, one would think. Apparently it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to use the cliche excuse that they were overconfident, so I’m just gonna break it down based on my limited knowledge of the game.

Handle the stinking puck! I swear they couldn’t pass the puck to save their lives! Players were losing it right out from under themselves. Turnovers all day, creating scoring opportunities for the Ducks. Poor passing! In fact, twice they had delay of game penalties. Those result from a defensive player purposefully or accidentally shooting the puck out of play. That’s right….they passed it completely out of the rink, over the glass, into the stands.

Finally in the third period they capitalized on two power play opportunities. But it was too late. 4 goals in the first 15:00 minutes of the game had already sealed it for the Ducks. And the Stars couldn’t get anything done during a double-minor power play near the end. Ouch, guys.

Only thing I can figure is God is punishing me for not going to community group tonight. Had I finished painting, cleaned up and gone, and watched the game later, they would probably have won. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway… My bad, Stars. My bad…

What the Puck?

Tornadoes, Dirt Cookies, and Other Tragedies

Tornadoes and floods dominate local news. Polygamy cults, organized student beatings, and a nation without food headline world news. What should we think when we see people and nature acting so violently? How does all this possible make sense in the face of a God of love?

We’re told God is sovereign; He’s in control. And that really is the answer. Not everyone understands that, though. Sin is prevalent, but people cannot judge the character of God based on the flawed character of man. The incredible power of choice was given to man and in the beginning, man made the wrong choice. Ever since then, God has been working to make us right to Him again. First through a rigid set of laws; then through the amazing grace of Jesus. God didn’t take the power of choice away, so people can still make bad decisions. The Bible doesn’t indicate it rained until the separation due to sin occurred. Even nature was disrupted by sin!

When we as Christians see the devastation from seemingly endless severe weather, we pray, we help, we console. The sun will shine again. When we see reports of Haiti’s people literally without a crumb of food–so that the people are making “dirt cookies” from butter, water, and dirt in order to fill their stomachs–we are called to pray and take action as the body of Christ.

To my friends that read this, none of this is likely new information. It’s just the news has been overwhelming to me lately, and it really just helped me personally to type it all out and remind myself again. God IS present through the bad things that happen, and He can work through His children to bring about good. So let us not drown in the sorrow of so many tragedies, but let us put on the armor of God and stand firm for the cause of Christ. A conversation at work or school about all this mess may lead to an intentional conversation about the sovereignty of our Lord. Those who suffer through these times who don’t know Him have nothing to cling to for hope. Now that’s the real tragedy.

Tornadoes, Dirt Cookies, and Other Tragedies

First week back…

Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost Friday again already. It’s been a fairly interesting week. My first day back I had an irate student in my office protesting her absences. She claimed I did not allow her to enroll in a section that would not have conflicted with another course, so she had to enroll in the one she’s in. And now she has too many absences. Long story short, I checked the audit history on the section she claimed was closed and it never was. She simply enrolled in the wrong section.

You know, I really guess humans have always been “blameless.” It’s just absurd how far some people will go to make everyone else think it is not their fault, when they themselves know on the inside the truth. But maybe if they say it enough out loud that it isn’t, they’ll make themselves start to believe it. Which leads to the impression that everyone else believes it too. But how much more of a burden is it on your spirit to keep up the lies? Wouldn’t it simpler in the long run to just say “Crap, you’re right. My bad.” Then we can focus our energy on coming to a solution.

Well anyway, there are merely four weeks left to this semester. There’s still so much to do! But as one of my instructors said, the fact of the matter is when the day comes, it will be over, whether we finished or not. I’m really proud of my chemistry class. They are working hard and I’m getting a lot of affirmation as I see them “get it.” A&P is a little more awkward. Sometimes I feel really disconnected, like I’m not explaining things well, and that they aren’t making the connections to the big picture that is the human body. Either way I look forward to only leading online sections this fall. Which means I’ll be writing A&P for online this summer.

By the way, I finally signed up for Twitter. Check it out on the side column. Twitter is a “micro-blogger.” You can send a short text message via cell phone, IM, or by the website to let people know interesting tidbits about your day. To kind of fill in the gaps between main blogging, if you will. It’s pretty cool if you want to join up too.

First week back…