Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sex and GRACE

This week we’re wrapping up our Series on LOVE by talking about Grace, and how the Gospel, the good news of God’s love made known through Jesus, is the key to life, to freedom, and to change. His grace and forgiveness are transformative.

I’m excited to unpack this more at Overlake, but for now I’d love to share some insight from Tim Keller, from a paper he wrote called Gospel: The Key to Change.

Tim Keller writes:

Paul says to Christians, ‘your life is hid with Christ in God’ (Col 3:3), and in numerous places he says that we are now ‘in Him.’ This means, on the one hand, that the Father accepts us in Christ and treats us as if we had done all that Jesus has done (cf. Col 3:2a). But this is also means Christ’s life comes into us by the Spirit and shapes us into a new kind of person. The gospel is not just a truth about us that we affirm with our minds, it is also a reality we must experience in our hearts and souls.

He goes on to say:

Paul does the same thing in Ephesians 5:25ff, where he urges husbands to be faithful to their wives. What is the point? What makes you a sexually faithful spouse, a generous-not avaricious-person, a good parent and/or child is not just redoubled effort to follow the example of Christ. Rather, it is deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding makes in your heart—the seat of your mind, will, and emotions. Faith in the gospel re-structures our motivations, our self-understanding and identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting. The gospel changes your heart…. The gospel is the dynamic for all heart-change, life-change, and social-change. Change won’t happen through 'trying harder' but only through encountering with the radical grace of God.

On the topic of repentance, Keller writes:

It is important to consider how the gospel affects and transforms the act of repentance. In ‘religion’ the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers. This means that ‘religious repentance’ is a) selfish, b) self-righteous, c) and bitter all the way to the bottom. But in the gospel the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart….

In the gospel our hope is in Christ’s righteousness, not our own – so it is not so traumatic to admit our weaknesses and lapses…. the more accepted and loved in the gospel we feel, the more and more often we will be repenting. And though of course there is always some bitterness in any repentance, in the gospel there is ultimately sweetness. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin. The sin under all other sins is a lack of joy in Christ.

Monday, September 28, 2009

SEX: What I couldn't say at Church

Last Sunday we talked about SEX at church. (Hit to watch the message). There’s always more to cover. After the first service, an elderly couple was exiting, and talking. The wife asked the husband, “What do you want to do today, hon? Do you want to get breakfast, or do you want to watch the Seahawks game?” And he looked at his bride with a twinkle in his eye…”You KNOW what I want to do!” And they laughed together.

Heard one story (from the principle parties) of a man many years ago who asked his crush out on a First date. For some reason they decided to go to church. They were listening to the message when he opens up to Song of Solomon, begins to read, and nod, and says “Amen, Amen.” She’s curious. She cranes her head over to see what he is reading, and he shows her the verse that says your breasts are like clusters of fruit (SOS 7:7,8)…there is a moment of silence as their eyes lock, and she starts laughing at his quirky sense of humor. They celebrated 40 years of marriage last year. Friends, don’t try this today. Today this doesn’t lead to the altar of marriage, as quickly as it leads to a lawsuit.

Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon is a book in the bible that is so explicit, young Jewish boys were not allowed to read it until they were determined to be of a certain responsible age. It not only wows with it’s poetic imagery and it’s erotic setting, but it captures a love that is rapturous, as God desires monogamy in marriage to be. Finally, it is a metaphor of the kind of intimacy in prayer that is desired by the Lord for His people, and a precursor to the union of Jesus the bridegroom with His Bride, the church.

Several of the questions that I’ve received through the years have to do with the sexual activity that the Bible refers to. So I read through the Bible’s most metaphorical and explicit book on sexuality, and I have no doubt that after reading it, you’ll discard ANY notion that sex within marriage is designed to be dull or boring. Here’s how another pastor puts it:

The Song of Songs gives great liberty to sexual freedom and the full use of all five senses.
1. kissing (SOS 1:2)
2. oral/fellatio – her initiative (SOS 2:3)
3. manual stimulation – her invitation (SOS 2:6)
4. petting – his initiative (SOS 4:5)
5. oral/cunnilingus – his initiative (SOS 4:12-5:1)
6. striptease – (SOS 6:13b-7:9)
7. new places, positions, etc. including outdoors – her initiative (SOS 7:11-13)

As long as both participants in the marriage bed are feeling comfortable and honored, then there is great freedom and enjoyment planned by the Lord there.

Is it hot in here? I’ll say: the last time I taught this material my Father in Law was in the front row! I had to tell him, “Randy, after 13 years of marriage and 2 kids, you need to know…I’ve been sleeping with your daughter!” It just felt good to get that off my chest.

Remember, there are three types of sex for married couples:
1. Practice. Talking, communicating, discovering what sorts of things that both of you enjoy together.
2. Maintenance. This is due to high levels of exhaustion, and it’s sort of the minimum requirement necessary. Many couples live here, and it’s one of the reasons why the spark isn’t sparking like it used to.
3. Feasting. This is when you prioritize date nights, weekends away, and even vacations together without the kiddos. Again, for a Biblical example of feasting, read through Song of Solomon together, by yourselves, listening to your favorite romantic tunes with the fire roaring and the kids at grandma’s house for the night.

I know the world messes with sex all sorts of ways. But God really did give it as an incredible gift…Cherish your spouse, and honor your marriage bed…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Seven Day Sex Challenge

As I understand it, Pastor Ed Young Jr. challenged his congregation (the married folks in the Fellowship Church in Texas) to take up a challenge to have relations with spouse everyday for a week. He talked about it on the Colbert Report, and it's pretty hilarious. His point was that God has a plan for husbands and wives to be close, and that frequent physical connection would bring spouses closer together, not drive them farther apart.

It’s a fun idea.

At least it has the potential to be a fun idea.

And if you’re married, and it sounds completely NOT like a fun idea, then there are probably some really important things that you and your spouse need to commit to working through. Because God does want you close to Him and to one another. God does want you honest and available to your spouse. God does want you tender and affectionate. I know it’s a fallen world and things can be hard in certain seasons. But if that’s the case in your life, please don’t just accept that as normal. Instead, pursue help and wholeness. Seek Jesus, and godly counsel. Spend some time in 1 Corinthians 7.

I’m posting the video of Pastor Ed on Stephan Colbert, and I’d love to bring the challenge to the married couples who are reading this. The challenge is simply this: do whatever you can to grow closer to your spouse. Take steps this week to grow more giving towards your wife. Seek to pursue your husband in new and fresh ways. And ask Jesus to help you walk this road.

Peace. Enjoyment. Closeness. Who knew these are just a few of the good things God has in store for you in marriage?

p.s. For some reason I can't embed the video...but it is worth cutting and pasting it...if for no other reason than to watch Pastor Ed's face get progressively more red throughout the interview...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Marriage Disclaimers

(from one Pastor regarding one message on Marriage in which a single sermon isn’t going to be able to address most of the nuances and difficulties of two people living together in love for a lifetime in a fallen world without going insane). This weekend at Overlake, MARRIAGE is the topic in our LOVE: THAT 4 Letter Word Series. Here are the disclaimers in advance:

D1: There is no way 30 minutes, regardless of how skillfully crafted (oh, and this one IS skillfully crafted, friends) can address every situation or season a marriage faces.
D2: This message will be infinitely helpful as a Biblical target to strive towards.
D3: This message is not designed to exclude single people. If you are single, and someday hope to be married, I believe this is a phenomenal message to be challenged by. If you are single and have decided that your singleness is God’s Gift to you, and do not plan on ever marrying, then you will be WONDERFULLY encouraged by this weekend’s message. You won’t have to deal with any of this mess.
D4: If you are married currently, this message will be infinitely challenging. Hopefully and helpfully challenging.
D5: If you are married currently, and your personal emotional stance regarding your marriage is somewhere between “hurting” and “ridiculously broken” then I sincerely want to pray for you, and provide any resources that OCC has to come alongside you in your journey. We believe that God has health and wholeness for you. Please contact Pastor Larry for a full rundown of the counseling resources and support groups that are offered currently. He’s at
D6: If you’re currently engaged to be married, this message will cause you to break off your engagement. Just kidding. That was a joke. Seriously. You can breathe again. I believe this sets an INCREDIBLY helpful mental posture as you head into marriage. DO get into one of OCC’s pre-marital counseling classes (you can hit Pastor Larry for that as well).
D7: If you are divorced, there will be no shame or judgment levied against you. But I do predict that you will agree that if both parties in your previous marriage strove towards the Biblical Perspective we are talking about, then the whole shooting match would have turned out differently. And OCC has resources to come alongside you as well.
D8: If you are currently head-over-heels in love with your spouse, then you’ll leave OCC going “why the disclaimers? Mike was just ON. I love it when he PREACHES it. Now get over here and French-Kiss me wildly. It's business time.”

FINAL DISCLAIMER: There is very little substitute for pure grace offered to one another without any expectation in return. It is simultaneously the most difficult AND the most Christ-like thing that you could ever offer in any relationship. As you pursue health, wholeness, communication, love, desires, needs, and plans, never forget that you stand knee-deep in grace. God’s Grace is for you. God’s grace is for your spouse. Receive His grace, and then offer it to others…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Juiced up Pastor

The sun is streaming down into my office, and I’m a bit in awe of God this morning, and I can’t stop thinking about OCC’s membership class last night. I'm a bit juiced up...

God is so good. Another full, and over-full class, another amazing collection of humanity…a cross section of intergenerational, multi-ethnic, amazingly talented, incredible humans…a picture of heaven. One couple had been at OCC for 5 years. Many had been attending for more than a year. But the majority are new to our church within the last 12 months. New life, fresh perspective.

We crash-coursed through Unity, Purpose, Truth, and Covenant. Then we prayed, and after that the conversations began. Pastor Gary and I spent an hour or more just hanging out and connecting with individuals and families who floored me. This couple is from Brazil, she’s a famous folk singer there, and they want to start a Portuguese-speaking life group in their home. This couple started a web resource called Soulbyte, and they want to make products specifically to support the congregation of Overlake. This woman is so passionate about Seattle that she can’t wait until we open a venue down near Pioneer’s Square so we can welcome the demographic that can’t make it to our campus into the same kind of dynamic environment where they can meet Jesus.

There were the amazing stories of how people found our church. Some by accident. Some were looking for another church, and happened to get the directions wrong. Some were planning on going to another church with an earlier service and didn’t get ready in time, so they had to find a church with a later service start time (ours are 9:20, 11am, and 6pm on Sundays). One couple was interested in trying every church EXCEPT Overlake, until a friend earnestly suggested that she give it a try. They did, their family loved it, and now they’ve found a home. One family drives up from Tacoma! What the what?!

These things I share knowing that God is up to something. It is something good. Something exciting. Something impactful. Something that glorifies HIM. He’s on the move at the OCC…

To those of you who were at our membership class last night, I simply want to say again what an HONOR it is to be on this journey with you. To those of you who aren’t yet connected to a life-giving, freedom-living, passionate-for-Jesus kind of church, I humbly want to invite you to check out OCC. And to those of you who are IN, who are ready to charge the gates of Hell with a war-cry and a watergun, I want to say, “Let’s DO this thing!”

Love God.
Love People.
Serve the World.

And remember that its all for Jesus.

p.s. is a great place to go to get questions answered…our current series on LOVE: THAT 4 Letter Word…our archives contain all sorts of Hot Topics as well if you’re curious…love to invite you to poke around a bit…Blessings today...and JUICE!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Praying for Miley

Today, in honor of her Concert at the Tacoma Dome, I confess that I listened to Miley Cyrus on my wife’s ipod. Through my daughter, Miley, or Hannah Montana, has invaded our home, via Disney TV, cd’s played in our car, and merchandise like cups, nightlights, and toothbrushes. Miley is a big deal around here. So I thought I’d write Miley a quick note. You are welcome to read it, too.

Dear Miley,
I pray for you. I invite others to pray for you as well. I bet that might come across sounding hard, or meanspirited, but that’s not my heart. It is offered with compassion and grace. Here’s what I mean:

Miley, you have achieved the kind of stardom and wealth that very, very few people ever achieve. I’m talking Solomon-like wealth. Flipping through an issue of Time, I read that last year, your merchandise net alone brought in 1.3 billion dollars. Bring in the way Disney has packaged your TV personality into a product. Add in the CD sales and your 3-D concert movie. Remember that you can sell out a stadium concert faster than anyone ever has. There’s a lot of gravy flowing, and Billy Ray’s little girl is riding that train at breakneck speed. Since wealth is power, I pray that you’ll steward yours well.

As far as I know, Miley, you are like 16 years old. I can remember how chaotic and circus-like my life was at 16. There was friend drama, the weeks that circled around our Friday night football games, the invites to parties, the time I crashed my car, and of course the pinnacles and heartbreaks swirling around the quest for a girlfriend. And if life was crazy for me at 16, I can’t imagine how crazy it would be for a person who is an uber-gazillionaire. In America, celebrity is royalty, and Miley, you are the current reigning princess. That has to mess with your head. So I pray that it doesn’t.

Not only that, but I remember making some pretty dumb moves as a 16 year old. And the thought of having every bonehead move photographed and splashed on the front page of a gossip rag is just shameful. I mean that literally…it produces shame. To know that everything you do, every boy you go out with, every fight you have with your dad will be news…I imagine that produces an overwhelming amount of pressure. So I pray for you.

I ran to the punk-pop-beat of your songs today, and I was admiring them. The come across like fun Go-Go’s tunes (I cut my chops on the 80’s) filled with energy, and a bubble-gum-smack voice that cracks at just the right time, like Cosette from my Les Mis Broadway Soundtrack (I am hoping this is a compliment to you both). But here is why I truly like them…the Lyrics. Wholesome, filled with themes of love, of falling in love, and of empowerment. You sing a song to your deceased grandfather called I Miss You, and it’s touching. You have a song with a chorus that says, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not strong enough.” And when I see my daughter belting those words out with all that she’s got, I get this crazy lump in my throat. There are so many negative and hurtful messages in the songs of our culture, and I celebrate the ones that are joyful or quality. And so I pray for yours.

In fact, the biggest reason that I pray for you, Miley is my daughter, Alex. My daughter is 9 years old. She wears glasses and plays soccer. She has the most beautiful, innocent, compassionate soul that I’ve ever seen. She befriends everyone, especially the kids that don’t have a ton of other friends. Once her teacher brought in a new student, mid-year, who didn’t speak much English. Alex moved her seat to sit next to her, and stayed with her all day showing her around school, and introduced her to all her friends. The only reason I know this is because her teacher emailed the story to us, and both my wife and I teared up when we read it. I’m tearing up right now as I try to figure out how to communicate the absolute golden nature of this beautiful child of God who has Jesus in her heart and Hannah Montana on her wall. For one reason or another, Alex has placed a portion of her heart in your hands. Miley, what you say matters to Alex. How you live matters. The lyrics in your songs matter, and the choices that you make…I just want you to know, they matter.

They don’t matter to the paparazzi who want to exploit you for a buck. They don’t matter to your PR folks who can figure out how to spin your life in an interesting way and sell the story to VH1. They don’t matter to handlers and managers, because the wild exploits of celebrities are what keep them in business. But they matter to little girls who have never had a hero before, and who have decided that you’re it. Life is going to try to knock those stars out of her eyes soon enough, and so I’m hoping…I’m begging…I am praying for you. I’m praying that you would please handle her heart with care.

And as I pray for you, I’d love to remind you that at the end of the day, this voice, this honor, this wealth, this ride, and this life that you’ve been given…you’ve been given it all by God. He loves you just because you’re you, I know you know that. And the greatest thing you can do, is to offer it all back to Him as a gift.

I’m praying for you.


Alex’s Daddy

Friday, September 11, 2009

Date with JOY!!

OVERLAKE, in the spirit of our LOVE: that 4 Letter word, I wanted to give some auxiliary tips for maximizing your dating life…whether you are single, in a dating relationship right now, or married, and are looking to creatively date your spouse. Here are 30 low cost, relatively creative ideas that you can try to work through to keep things fresh…

DATES, Dates, and prunes:
1. Go to the Zoo (and try to discover an animal you never knew existed)
2. Backpack Snow Lake
3. Canoe at the Seattle Arboretum
4. Puddlejumping/mudball fights (10.5 months out of the year this works in Northwest)
5. Thrift Store Raiding (don’t spend more than 8 bucks!)
6. Cheap Food (Mexican or Italian are best, but tip well)
7. Picnic (better when themed, even better if you can get a mandolin serenade)
8. Rock Skipping (watch out for boats if you happen to be at Carillon Point)
9. Fish off of the pier at Newcastle Park
10. Toys R Us Video Game Blitz (you might have to share time with elementary school kids, but there are some great games for you gamer couples to sample)
11. Learn to Swing Dance
12. Fly a Kite
13. Little League/Soccer Fan it (cheer like crazy: extra points for wearing colors/painting face)
14. Roller Blade Sammamish River Trail
15. Borders Poetry Read (write your own…trust me, you’ll do fine)
16. Garage Sale it (but this is only for the early birds, or go at noon and complain that all people have is trash)
17. Sunset Watch at Bicrackie Park Hill
18. Sunset Watch in Style (rent Uhaul, bring couch, rug, candles, friends to serve the sparkling cider, open up the back right on a bluff overlooking the lake or the sound…)
19. Sail Boat out on Lake Washington
20. Walk the Flower Fields up in Mount Vernon
21. Live Music at a Coffee Shop and good conversation
22. Watch Salmon Run at the Ballard Locks
23. Walk SAM and surrounding Galleries and pretend you appraise art
24. Dress to the nines, and pretend you’re interested in buying Millionaire homes
25. Learn to Wakeboard together
26. Learn to Snowboard Together
27. Aquarium, Seattle Science Center
28. Explore Sunrise at Rainier
29. Take a ferry ride to Poulsbo and visit the Swedish downtown bakery
30. Have dinner rotating around the Space Needle
(Hint: 25 Best Places to Kiss in Seattle, by Paula Begoun)

More Helpful Dating Tips:
Movies don’t provide interaction, and remember, that is the number one goal of dating: to learn about this person’s character and the compatibility that you share, and to learn some things about yourself. You can’t learn a whole lot by sitting silently next to someone for two hours, other than what kind of movies they like. Ask them what movies they like instead. Same with Married folks: you need the time to catch up…to reconnect…to fall in love again. For my wife Jodie and I, 2 hours at the Purple CafĂ© is great to send us running toward intimacy again. (Caviots: Sporting Events can be great fun as long as both parties agree that the the sporting event will be fun. Lots of good talk time. If you're the kind of guy who gets way too wrapped up in whether your team wins or no, skip altogether. Pike's Place, of course, is great for explore, talk, laugh, etc. If you ARE going to a movie, there are new theaters out there with waiters and fancy desserts and plush reclining armchairs...very posh and they deliciously enhance the experience. But build tons of connect time before and after...)

By being boldly creative, very average and homely men have found matches totally out of their league. One dude asked my wife out, when she was in High School. He put a helium balloon on her front porch each night with a different number in it. At the end of a week she had all the numbers to his phone number and he revealed who he was and the note said call me if you would like to go to prom with me. Isn’t that a good idea? Be creative! She said no to the guy, but you can’t win them all!

Save kissing for at least a season so you know if there is some quality there (if you missed the message on Sunday about Physical Intimacy you need to hit it at right now!) but if you get a sense that the guy or girl you are with is going to try to mack you and you don’t want to kiss them, here are a couple tips on HOW TO AVOID A KISS:

1) Eat nasty garlic and say, “No thanks, I’m good HEH HEH” when your date offers an Altoid
2) Fake a cold and begin to sneeze and blow your nose a lot as the date comes to a close
3) Talk about how painful your canker sores (plural) are…
4) Strategically place lettuce in your teeth and smile a ton

Those are for free. You’re welcome.