The meaning of divorce (godly marriage)

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Two weeks ago my older brother sent me a message to let me know that he was divorcing his wife.

It was like a punch in the gut.

I messaged him back telling him our story of how God turned our marriage around using the marriage course and I pleaded with him to get help from the God who can bring light into the darkest of places. But it was to no avail. He had already determined that was the action he would take and nothing was going to change his mind. All that is left for my wife and I to do is to support his soon-to-be ex-wife in whatever way we can.

Why does divorce affect me so deeply?  Because I understand it’s true meaning.  So let’s take a look at what the bible says about divorce.

The Old Testament and Divorce

Now actually the OT testament only hints at how divorce worked amongst the Hebrew people. For example, it makes no mention the provisions made in the ketubah (marriage contract) of the money that had to be paid to the wife if the husband divorces divorce her and only mentions the certificate of divorce when addressing the issue of remarrying your wife.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD.” (Dt 24:1-4a)

It appears to say that if something is so bad that it warrants divorce then it’s clearly so bad that remarriage is out of the question. This protects against hasty decisions and protects the woman against exploitation. Indeed, the combination of a certificate verifying her status and receiving at least her dowry back upon divorce meant she had a chance of life unlike women in other cultures.

The New Testament and Divorce

Fast forward about 1500 years and this passage is no longer about remarrying but about the meaning of “indecency” that Moses commanded them to divorce their wives for.

There were two schools of thought on this: Rabbi Shammai took the conservative view that the sole grounds for divorce was some grave matrimonial offence whereas Rabbi Hillel who took the liberal view that any trivial offence such as burning the dinner or the husband losing interest in his wife.

You’ll never guess which view was preferred by the Pharisees and indeed the population at large and hence why they asked Jesus whether it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause (Mt 19:3)

Jesus and Divorce

So what does Jesus say about divorce?

Well Jesus would have none of this – he takes them back to how marriage was designed in Gen 2 – one man, one woman, one flesh, joined together (literally glued) by God in a lifelong covenant (Mal 2:14) and no man should ever separate what God has joined together! (Mt 19:6)

“The man who hates and divorces his wife…does violence to the one he should protect,”.
Mal2:16

This is a hard teaching. Small wonder that the disciples despaired saying “it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10)

Jesus makes clear that the commands about divorce were a concession due to man’s hardness of heart (Mt19:8) and not part of God’s plan at all.

Remember the man and woman and the Spirit are a prophetic image of the Trinity. God is many but One eternally. Divorce caused by our hardness of hearts ruptures that image.

Paul and Divorce

However, Paul gives us more insight to the meaning of marriage – not only is it an image of the Trinity but it is a prophetic image of Christ’s marriage to His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:31-32).

Hence to divorce is to proclaim that Christ gives up on us.

Now Israel repeatedly broke their covenant with YHWH and ran after other gods (Jer 3:6).

How did God react?  He wanted to forgive them and have them return (Is 54:6-7). Hosea was even commanded to marry a prostitute (Hos 1:2) to demonstrate YHWH’s commitment to Israel despite their waywardness.

Today and divorce

2000 years on and history repeats itself.

We have the conservative camp (like Rabbi Shammai) that says you can’t divorce except for adultery – even if one spouse is abusing the other.

We have the liberal camp (like Rabbi Hillel) that says you can divorce for whatever reason as God wants you to be happy.

The argument is over whether Jesus really meant what he said or whether we can excuse it due to a cultural thing or whatever gives us what the hardness of our hearts desire.

And Jesus is still calling us back to the heart of marriage and its prophetic declaration about the nature of God and Christ’s love for us.

Reality and hope

Anyone who says marriage is easy is lying – it will bring us to the end of our pride and ourselves as we journey into oneness.

There should be no surprise that it is hard as Satan, the anti-Christ, desires to destroy anything that glorifies Christ and since marriage prophetically speaks of His eternal love for us then of course it will be a target. Of course he’s going to tempt us with lies like “the grass is greener on the other side” or “you don’t feel it anymore” or “it shouldn’t be this hard” or “you deserve better than this”.

We will find ourselves on our knees calling out for His help to overcome our selfishness and hence it is no surprise that the biggest indicator of a marriage surviving is whether a couple prays together. We need Christ’s help and the support of the Body of Christ to daily take up our cross and walk the path of love.

If there are struggles then we stand with them as the Body and support them however we can through godly wisdom, prayer and practical support.

If someone is not living up to their calling in marriage then we should challenge them and use church discipline if necessary — always hoping that they will turn and repent.

However, for reconciliation there needs to be repentance and forgiveness. And without both of these divorce may occur. But let it always be with weeping that Christ has not been glorified and anything thereafter (even if they have successful remarriages) now no longer images the God who gave up everything for us to keep His covenant of love with us.

My wife and I have sought to support those in marriage struggles however we can and we have wept with those where there has been no reconciliation and then practically supported the injured party afterwards.

There has even been an occasion where I have had to rescue someone from dangerous spouse and then ensure they have somewhere safe to go.

However, in all these occasions I don’t rejoice over how things are better now – I weep for what should have been.

Yes the world is broken but may that never lead us to accept anything less than that which brings glory to Jesus, let us do all we can to declare His undying love to a dark world before it is too late.

Amen.

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Top 10 godly sexuality posts of 2017

Best blog posts 2017 v2

Now in the third year of my blog and things have only got more honest as I continue to share the revelation I have received my journey into sexual wholeness and to my true identity as a child of God and how that works out in my roles as a godly husband and father.

I can only continue to express my gratitude for those who handle my vulnerable posts with care and give me encouraging feedback and messages of support. Thank you so much.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Finding God in the darkness (godly worship)

This vulnerable post spoke of a period of depression I went through, how I sought to worship God in the midst of it and how He brought me through. (124 views)

9. A brief history of Christian sexuality (godly sexuality)

Despite not being written in the last year, organic search traffic has led to this entry into the top 10. It’s a very quick overview of how we have got mixed up, particularly in appreciating the goodness of our god given sexuality. (124 views)

8. Male and Female: transcendence and immanence (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how God designed male and female to embody his polar characteristics of (masculine) transcendence and (feminine) immanence. So that together male and female give the full image of God. (173 views)

7. Christ, the Church and Charlottesville

A topical post that sought to expose the lies that are being used to divide us and God given answers for unity. (184 views)

6. Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

The second entry for an older post. I talk about how addressing the root desires can help our children’s behaviour. (185 views)

5. Why is God expressed as principally masculine (godly sexuality)

There is much pressure on the church to change the image of God. This post builds on our understanding of what masculine and feminine mean and therefore why God is expressed as principally masculine and we are feminine in relation to Him, even though both male and female are in His image. (331 views)

4. How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

A follow up to my original post (and number 2 on this list), this one talks about how viewing women as mothers, sisters and daughters in Christ can transform relationships and put to death lust. (376 views)

3. Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

A topical post exploring how Hugh Hefner’s religious upbringing affected his sexuality and how we can learn from our mistakes. (1,414 views)

2. How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

The third entry from a previous year that is picking up a lot of organic traffic. In this vulnerable post I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (1,672 views)

1. Forbidden friendships – can men and women be friends (godly sexuality)

A guest post from Joshua D Jones on the need to develop godly friendships across the gender divide to experience the fullness of Christ’s body. (2,783 views)

Honourable mentions

  • The fourth older post (and last year’s top post) that is still receiving a lot of organic traffic is this one on recognising how bad behaviour is often an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose (112 views).

Four posts from 2017 that got bumped off this list due to traffic to older posts were:

 

Finding God in the darkness (godly worship)

Finding God in darkness

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?

This is how I felt two weeks ago.

Like a sunset, where the light fades so gradually that you didn’t notice it until suddenly it’s dark, that is what happened to me over the last couple of months.

It started with a work situation that got worse, and then I was pushing myself beyond what I should have done to publish my latest book until I had no resources left.

I asked my facebook friends to pray:

And I experienced the presence of God for a day. It was like the clouds parting and the sun shining through.

But yet the sun was always there – it’s just I couldn’t see it directly.

I still felt cold as on a winter’s day but the glory of seeing the sun brought hope that spring would return.

But after that day, when the clouds covered the sun again, it was tempting to think that “prayer doesn’t work” as it didn’t stay sunny all the time…

God is here

But I realised that actually prayer showed me the reality of the sun’s omnipresence.

God is here with me in the darkness, as David wrote in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me

He is with me in the darkness and as he also wrote in Psalm 139:

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

I might not feel him, but He is here.

What I can do is acknowledge that truth and thank Him for being here with me.

Shiva

In Shiva, the Jewish grieving process, they a friend or member of the family sit with the bereaved for 7 days. They don’t say anything they just keep company and listen.

There’s something so godly about this. They act like the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who is with us in our distress.

This is how Christ fulfils His promise of being with us always. This is the truth whether we feel it or not.

I just have to open myself up to that truth.

I felt like someone on an operating table undergoing open heart surgery. Therefore I just have to be still and cease my striving and let the Great Physician operate on me.

I was done with crying out for change and rescue, I was in a place where I just had to sit and open myself up to him.

Sometimes that involved just sitting and letting the words of worship songs speak truth into my life (especially if my thoughts are spiralling down – songs catch my attention and break my chain of thought).

Sometimes that involved reading the Psalms of lamentations where David expresses the reality that I’m going through. But mostly it was just sitting acknowledging the truth of His comforting presence.

Sometimes it was just pouring out my heart like David. Even though it might feel like I was talking to empty space – the act of talking establishes intimacy with the One who is always there, and let’s the light pour in as I was honest about my struggles and disappointments – even with how He has not rescued me the way I was hoping.

Sometimes, like David in Psalm 22, it was remembering the previous times of darkness, like when our babies died, but then recalling how He met us in those times.

And gradually the healing came.

Healing

He revealed that my current circumstances had triggered a repressed memory of bullying by a former boss where I was hauled into her office and was being told what I should and shouldn’t do.

Now the Holy Spirit only ever brings up things that He was to shine light into and bring healing. So I knew that He wanted to transform this memory – I needed to see Jesus in this memory.

I asked “where were you when that was happening?”

I have an active imagination – which is why I hear God speak to me through stories and then write them in turn – and I wanted to be sure it was Him and not just me imagining Him in the memory. So I had determined that if it was Him then He would do something I wouldn’t ever expect in my imagination.

And it happened – I saw Jesus in my memory hugging the boss and telling me how she had not been loved by her mother and so she sought to control others to help her cope with her out-of-control life.

This broke me. No longer was I in the memory feeling like a little boy and helpless. I rose up from my seat and responded to what Jesus was doing and starting praying for her. This not only transformed the memory but also called the godly man out of me.

This has now gradually filtered through to my current life – the circumstance at work has found it’s proper place. It’s annoying and I don’t think the current direction the company is taking is the right one – but it’s no longer causing the anxiety it did and I am gradually feeling better in my head and able to function normally.

Spring is coming.

Summary

If it helps here is a kind of rough summary of how I worshipped (gave God worth) in the darkness:

  1. Admit the truth of where you’re at
  2. Admit the greater truth of Immanuel – God with us
  3. Use songs, psalms and talk to express to Him and yourself where you’re at and the truth of who He is
  4. Recall His works and faithfulness in the past
  5. Rest and receive all that He has in the present

Father, for those reading this who are where I was at – ,may You meet them like You met me. May they know You are there, even if they can’t feel You. May they rest in Your everlasting arms. Help them to open up and deepen their relationship with You and receive all that You have for them in this season. In name of Jesus who has experienced the worst the world can throw at us and who is with us now through the Comforter. Amen.

Teaching Children About Authority in Christ (godly parenting)

Authority in Christ 2

It is my great pleasure to host a guest post from Kevin E Winters who runs Doing Life on Fire Ministries and is the author of two books on hearing and discerning God’s voice.

This is an abridged version of Kevin’s excellent teaching. The PDF of the full version is available to download here or you can download an mp3 of me reading it here or watch/listen to it on YouTube:

From Torment to Tormentor

What do you when you are a grown man and you have monsters coming out of the closet and things touching you in the middle of the night? Well that was my experience in the early nineties. You see, at that particular time in my life, God was introducing me to a gift called discerning of spirits. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this training period but God used it to teach me about the badge of authority we have in the name of Jesus that makes demons tremble. Eventually, it was me doing the harassing.

This all happened my single days. Then I found a good “thang” and we had children. One of them started showing signs of prophetic gifting very early and spoke of seeing things. It became apparent to me that I needed to train my children because I now knew that the monster in the closet was very real.

How to Convey the Idea

Jesus is Everyone’s Boss…Even Satan

First I taught my children that Jesus was like the Chief Police Officer. To really make this idea stick, I also told them that Jesus being a police officer meant that there were bad people who were breaking God’s laws. I them told them that these law breakers are spirits called demons. That really stuck with them and embedded Jesus in their minds as one with power to force bad things to do right.

You Are His Deputies

The next thing I did was teach them that as followers of Jesus Christ that we too are police officers. I then explained to them that as police officers we are also responsible for making sure the demons stay in line. To reinforce this idea I obtained three toy badges, one for each child. I then pinned it to them. Then I made them wear them around the house to solidify in their minds that they are indeed the ones in power over the demons.

I also used the substitute teacher to help them understand the concept of the deputy. I explained to them that the Bible says that Jesus went away to His Father to prepare a place for us, and as soon as He was ready He would come back for us. I then explained to them that in order for Him to leave He had to leave someone in charge to deal with the law breaking demons. I further explained to them that those people who were to take Jesus’ place is them…the Church. To make it plain for them I said, “When you go to school and the teacher is not there, who is in charge? They said, “The substitute!” Then I said, “So are you telling me that the substitute can assign homework? They said, “Yes.” Then I said, “Can they tell you what to do and send you to the office if you disobey them.” Again they said yes. Then I said, “So you agree that the teacher has given the substitute all of the same powers that he/she has.” Agreeing again, they said, “Yes.” Then I said, “That is what you are…Jesus’ substitute. And as such you can tell demons what to do and they will obey you.” I told them that the demons were not going to obey them per se, but they would respect the authority they have as a substitute. I ended saying, “That is what a deputy is, He is a substitute for the chief police officer.”

The Result

After teaching my children this lesson, demons decided it was time to test their understanding. Their goal is to try to steal the idea from our heart before it blossoms into understanding that we effectively use (Matt 13:19). So my children began to have different kinds of encounters. Now again, these encounters were not unique for my children. My oldest daughter was only 8 when she first reported to me that something was touching her in the night. She said, “Demon, leave me in Jesus name.” My daughter said that the touching stopped and to this day it has not happened again.

Bringing in Reinforcement

Modelling the Truth

Your children will have to see you walk out the truth in the same way that the disciples saw Jesus modelling His teaching for them. They saw Him cast out demons. They saw Him heal the sick. That’s why Jesus could give them power and send them out to do the work without Him being present.

Children do what children see! Why should they believe in the power of God that never seems available to you?

That means that you must be prepared to assist them in reinforcing their authority. One time all four of them were attacked with sickness. All four! So I went to each one of them and with confidence and calmness commanded the spirit to leave them and it did. As you can imagine, that was a confidence booster for them to see what they were taught come to life.

Now I can do this because I God has taught me some things that make this possible. If you want to know what He taught me you can hear the teaching yourself on my YouTube channel.

Restating the Truth

You are also going to find that some challenges are too big for their faith. The disciples also crossed paths with a boy that had a demon that did not respond to their authority or faith. But yet a few chapters before they were casting out demons with no problem. It is logical to assume that the resistance of the demon to their authority caused them to lose the faith they had earlier. Hence Jesus’ statement regarding them having “no faith.” When these moments occur take it as an opportunity to teach and model for them how to keep growing and going forward. I do a lot of reinforcing and restating the idea of authority in Christ.

If a farmer plants a seed and waters it but goes out the next day looking for a crop and becomes discouraged, we know s/he is impatient. A good farmer knows that it takes time, patience, and persistence to get a good crop. And let me tell you, as they get older, they will get tired of the reminder, but stay with it. My children roll their eyes sometimes but they also lay hands on each other when it is required.

Reinforcing What is Right

Lastly, you will need to reinforce standards of righteousness and stress the importance of holiness. I know that as Christians we are holy but Peter also reminded us to “be holy.” Paul also says, “be angry and do not sin, nor give place to the devil.” He seems to indicate that while sin has lost its power over the believer, it has not lost its appeal to the demonic. We must understand that there are some things that attract monsters to our closet.

Here is an example. My daughter is an incredible artist. One day her arts teacher gave her an assignment to draw a still life. So she chose to draw a Buddha statue. Nearly half of the way through the drawing she came down with a cold. I asked her if she had attempted to get rid of it. She said yes but it won’t go. So I prayed for her and it would not go. So I said, “Lord, what is going on here.” This developed into bronchitis. God reminded me of the passage “you should not create any graven images”. I thought, “Really, Lord. You are holding her accountable for an art assignment?” So I told her what it was and why it was there. At first she gave me that “here dad goes again” look, but she believed me. Anyway, afterwards we prayed together repenting and asking for forgiveness.

The next day the cough started to subside and a day later the mucus was completely gone; it had cleared up on its own. My daughter got to see first-hand the relationship between sin, demons, and sickness.

Teaching them About Spiritual Warfare

One morning I came into my daughter’s room and I noticed that just over her bed was a shadowy figure. Since I knew what it was I rebuked it, but I did wonder why it was there.

However, it would come back from time to time and I also started to notice that my daughter was referring to herself as “weird” and her view of herself began to deteriorate.

I needed to teach her the battlefield in her mind. To do so I used the last supper: In John 13 we see Satan’s mode of operation. First, he gave Judas an idea, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.” Then Judas’ acceptance of that idea gave Satan access to his life, “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.” Jesus then speaks to Satan and tells him to do what you do quickly. Judas now yields to the will of Satan, “Having received the piece of bread, he (Satan through Judas) went out immediately.”

This shows my children the importance of guarding their thought life. Sometimes the negative voices are demons trying to gain access to their lives and bend them to its will.

Lastly, I teach them that Satan is a liar and that lies bind us but truth frees us. Lies are chains in the spirit and truth are keys in the spirit. Knowing this I speak truth against those lies that the enemy tries to sell my children. If you children suffer from low self-esteem that is affecting their behaviour, it is because there is a lie from hell that is giving the spirit access to your child. Find the lie and speak truth to it. It will break the spirit’s hold.

What They Really Need to Know

  1. Sin opens the gate an allows evil to come in. That means that even though we know that God forgave and forgives us for sin, that does not mean that Satan respects those boundaries. He will see an open gate as an invitation to come in and bite you.
  2. The blood of Christ is the legal right you have to freedom. Though sin may let Satan into our lives, repentance and the blood of Christ closes the gate and prohibits Satan from holding it again you.
  3. Choose your battle and choose your weapons. Sometimes they will come up against things that they don’t have the faith for and getting in your bed is a good option!
  4. Sin does not diminish your authority, only your faith can do that. A crooked police officer is still a police officer with authority. Similarly, sin does not give Satan authority over them – it is God who corrects them not Satan. This is important so they don’t live in fear of being trapped by a spirit claiming to have rights over them due to some area of their life that God is still working on.
  5. Reinforce the role of the Holy Spirit as a helper. God has provided them with a team to help them win – they have the Spirit, angels and that all of heaven behind them.
  6. Teach them the process. Satan gives them an idea; a lie. They believe the lie. The acceptance of that lie makes them bendable to Satan’s will.
  7. Teach them the truth about what God says through His word about them. Understanding “the truth” about who they are, what they are created for, and their spiritual position. gives them resistance power.

Hopefully, this will article will lead to an improvement in your quality of life, quality of sleep, and the betterment of your relationship with God and your family.

Forbidden Friendships – can men and women be friends? (godly sexuality)

male and female

After reading the exceptional book Forbidden Friendships it is my absolute pleasure to have the author, Joshua D Jones, guest post on the topic of whether Christian men and women can ever be friends:

Having close friendships with members of the opposite gender is healthy, biblical and important for spiritual growth. Sadly, in the name of integrity, some churches construct walls that keep us from meaningful brother-sister friendships. These divisions are neither biblical nor in line with church history at its best. And contrary to their promise of safety, adhering to them actually puts us at greater risk of sexual immorality, not less.

Many churches employ the terms “brother” and “sister”—but they are often empty of any real meaning. Some now teach that men and women should never be close friends, believing that mixed friendships will lead into sexual sin or “emotional” affairs. Others may admit that men and women can share friendship—but then they let it die the death of a thousand qualifications. One well-known church website boasts of how none of the church staff ever “has lunch with someone of the opposite sex” or “rides alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex.” Boundaries abound. Sadly, though these rules have become commonplace over the last 20 years, adhering to them does not appear to have made us any purer.

God designed us male and female. We need each other. Marriage and family are not the only places this need should be expressed. If that were the case, single people would be helplessly cut off from the love and fellowship mixed friendship brings. And let’s be honest: we often don’t know what to do with the singles in our midst. In other centuries, Christian celibacy was viewed as a gift and a symbol of the coming kingdom of God. Jesus was single. Paul was both single and thankful for it. Now we pray for single people in hopes they find the magical one and only – giving them advice that is more Hollywood than Holy Word.

In response to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, various high-profile scandals – and the recent changes in marriage laws – many Christians have gotten defensive about marriage. It is right for us to defend the Biblical doctrines of marriage. But in doing so we have exalted the relationship to a godlike status – promising it can fulfil every social and emotional need. In the process, friendship – an institution that was once sacred to Christians – has taken a far back seat to marriage, out of fear that a friend might compete with a spouse. Friendships with the same gender are often neglected, and mixed friendships are seen as taboo.

My wife cannot fulfil the role of all of the sister/ mother relationships that my soul needs. Neither can I replace all of the brother/ father relationships that God may have for my wife in the church. We are not called to be a gathering of tightly defined families for God. We are called to be THE Family of God. It’s true that we must avoid putting ourselves in situations that bring about strong temptation – with either gender. And, yes, cross sex friendships can have pitfalls that we must be wise to avoid. We are naïve if we pretend that our fallen nature always makes this easy. But the possibility of something good being abused or misused is not a valid excuse for avoiding the good thing altogether.

Our new integrity rules are counter-productive because we have genuine needs for healthy male-female relationships. If we don’t get those needs met in healthy ways, we make ourselves vulnerable to seeking them out in unhealthy ways. The man who receives holy female affirmation from sisters in Christ is less likely to search for unholy female affirmation on a computer screen or and improper relationships. The woman who has godly fathers and brothers in the church caring for and encouraging her is less likely to be looking for ungodly masculine love through erotica and illicit interactions. By separating ourselves from healthy interaction with the opposite sex, we are not farther from sin but more open to it.

Contrary to what Freud taught, we can live happily without sex. But we can’t live happily without intimacy. Paul instructs Timothy, “Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters” (1 Tim 5:2). The church is to be a place where father, mother, sister, brother, aunt and uncle relationships can flourish – across biological, generational, and gender lines.

Joshua D. Jones tweets, reads, prays, and smokes pipe tobacco in his yellow arm chair in Therfield, England. He enjoys his family and meeting up with his best friends for coffee, food, and conversations about everything and nothing. He gets to pastor Therfield Chapel – a delightful church full of fun and ferocious saints. He frolics in fields of nouns, verbs, and alliterating adjectives over at his blog, sanitys-cove.com.

In addition to his book, Forbidden Friendships, he has just released Elijah Men Eat Meat – a book of short but strong readings for young men based on the life of Elijah.

Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

Hugh Hefner

Last night Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91.

Many in the media are mourning his loss as he was someone who “advocated free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom” and many men are joking that it’s the only death in history where no one will say “he’s in a better place now”.  This is despite the appalling way he treated some of the women in his ‘care’ that girls like, Izabella St James and Holly Madison, are only now starting to reveal.

What are we, as Christians, to make of this man?

Too often we are quick to condemn and despise him for the way he has led so many astray. So much so, that the magazine was losing about $3m annually as its content pales in comparison to what is now available online.

The truth is slightly less black and white. It’s like the parents cursing the next generation for “going off the rails” whilst ignoring that they raised them.

Both Hugh Hefner and his contemporary Alfred Kinsey were raised in Strict Methodist Homes. Kinsey went on to publish “Sexual behaviour in the human male” in 1948 which contained biased research and promoted his view that delayed sexual experience was psychologically harmful and Hefner started Playboy in 1953 and donated millions of dollars to change sex laws and fought a series of cases that lead eventually to Rowe vs Wade and legalised abortion.

In Hefner’s “Christian” upbringing, sex was taboo—the body inherently tainted and “sinful.” Hefner, says that “There was absolutely no hugging or kissing in my family” and so he started Playboy magazine as “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.”

You can see the hurt of this expressed in this quote from him in Playboy, Jan 1974:

“The Puritans thought they could simply repress man’s sexual nature, and they reaped a whirlwind as a result. Their code of sexual morality — which became America’s — was nothing more than a set of rules laid down by people who believed that all pleasure was suspect.”

In fact his parents were simply continuing the long tradition that has plagued the history of sexuality in the Church which says sex is holy but it is not good.

What is the consequence of this repression of the goodness of sexuality. Well, as Christopher West puts it so eloquently in his excellent book Fill These Hearts:

“A person can starve himself for only so long before the choice becomes clear: either I find something to eat, or I’m going to die…That’s why the culture’s “fast-food gospel” – the promise of immediate gratification through indulgence of desire – inevitably wins large numbers of converts from the “starvation diet gospel”. I don’t know about you, but if the only two choices are starvation or greasy chicken nuggets, I’m going for the nuggets”

The children rebelled and said sex is good and not holy.

Neither one is correct but we flip-flop between repression and rebellion.

Why is this? CS Lewis puts his finger on the cause:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.”

We as Christians need to get the balance right – it’s so tempting to repeat the same mistakes of our parents and their parents before them, especially as this world becomes more depraved.

Our God given sexuality, like fire, is powerful.  But just like a fire if we don’t light it then the house gets cold and people crave warmth from anything and if we light it outside of the fireplace then we’ll burn our house down.

We must teach our children that our God given sexuality is both good and holy and give them a vision that is so much brighter and purer than anything the world has to offer.

Hugh Hefner, I’m sorry that we preached a gospel that wasn’t a gospel at all but only man-made rules that seem wise but are powerless to bring any change to what we feared (Col 2:20-23).  I’m sorry we then condemned you when you rebelled against one lie and embraced another.  I’m sorry we preached one thing in public but did another in private and never owned up to our faults but kept it all hidden.  Forgive us.

I also recommend Christopher West’s compassionate post on this topic.

Dealing with bad language (godly parenting)

what to do when my child uses bad words
*CONTENT WARNING*
This post will use the bad language that one of my children said.
The purpose is that you can experience the horror but still see how to respond in a godly way.

“I have to teach you a great new card game the boys taught me at my camp!” my eldest boy said excitedly at the dinner table, “It’s called cocksucker.”

Time stood still.

“I’m sorry?” I managed to splutter whilst chocking on a piece of potato.

“cocksucker” he said again.

Maybe my wife and I had misheard, “cobsucker?” I asked hopefully.

“No, COCKsucker,” he said again.

OK….he clearly means the very word we wished he had never mentioned to all of us.

Now the main problem with being a Christian parent is that we can all too easily react to the world’s darkness rather than acting from a Kingdom perspective. The light is so much more powerful than darkness – and so we don’t need to be afraid of what our children pick up. But we do need to turn on the light and help them see things in the light of truth.

I wanted to shout “how dare you use that filthy language in my house!”

Now whilst this would have vented my anger and satisfied my righteous indignation it wouldn’t have helped my son (or the rest of the children gathered round the table) what that word meant and why it was unsuitable. Nor would it have helped him make good choices in the future.

Instead he would have learnt to not share his excitement, to keep quiet about words he hears at school or (in this case) “Christian camp” and then go and seek answers elsewhere.

I want my children to come to me and ask me about what they pick up in the world so that I give (what I hope is) godly wisdom and advice.  This means that I first have to become unshockable like Jesus.

Jesus often knew what people were up to (eg the woman at the well Jn 4:17-18 and Jesus anointed by the sinful woman Lk 7:39) and he hung out with tax collectors and sinners (Mt 9:10) and would have heard coarse language from these common people.  Yet we don’t see any mention of him reacting or being shocked by sin.  Why?  Because sin is no threat to him – he is a threat to sin.  He knew since the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) that sin was a defeated enemy.

So I needed to have a calm and candid conversation with our son that went something like this: “cock is a slang word for a man’s penis.  It’s used to describe how it’s not something precious made by God but something that is used to go anywhere and do anything just like a cockerel struts around and does what he wants.  So you can see what cocksucker will mean.  However, the phrase cocksucker us used to say that they will do want they want and you must suck it up – you must be their slave.”

My son went rather pale at this point when he realised how they had treated him.

“So I think they weren’t being very kind to you.”

My son received this information and was then able to make a wise choice about the word and to his credit he calls the game President instead.

Now in our case it was clear that he had no idea what the word meant.  Sometimes a word might be said to see what reaction it gets or as deliberate defiance.  The first time it occurs we need to have a conversation like the one above and then subsequent times it occurs we can take appropriate disciplinary action.

Good word bad word project

Walker Moore in his excellent parenting book “You want to pierce what?” (which was developed further in his “Rite of Passage Parenting”) talks about the “good word bad word” project he did with his sons.  He got a big bit of paper and divided it into two columns – one for good words and the other for bad words.  Each evening they would discuss words they had met at school that they were unsure about their meaning.  He asked them not to repeat a word they’d heard at school until that point in the day he had told them the meaning and they could decide which column they would go in. If it was a bad word then they chose two good words to replace it and put them in the good word column.

In three years we had every swear word in the English language on the chart.  Eventually we had no more words to add to the bad word column. It’s amazing the communication barriers that go down when you are writing down filthy words with your children.  We also, however, wrote words that carried confusing meanings.  We were able to talk about subjects like homosexuality and abortion before our children reached nine years of age!  Opening up this kind of communication gave my children the knowledge that their parents would not over-react or be shocked at anything they wanted to discuss…without this project, my boys would have endured years of seeing Dad seethe with anger over words they heard at school, and the only lesson they they would have learned would have been, Don’t say the bad words in front of Dad.  Instead they learned that there are things that are good and things that are bad, and they must developed the skills to know the difference.

These skills were then applied in other areas of their lives.

Summary:

  • Firstly, let’s not be naive and think our children won’t encounter these words in their lives – we cannot shelter them from the world – indeed we are supposed to be in the world (but not of it) not separated from the world in a bubble. How can we be salt and light if we keep our salt and light separate.
  • Secondly, let’s not react to bad words – Jesus is more than able to save sinners and cleanse us from every wrong doing.
  • Thirdly, let’s train them – disciple them – and give them the tools they need to make great choices.

If you enjoyed this post then you may also enjoy another post I wrote called “Parenting with faith or with fear”.