Bacon and Eggs and Sex

Last month I wrote a series of blog posts titled “Let’s talk about Sex”.  They were inspired by a desire that I’ve had for quite some time to write a book that explores the questions and issues that revolve around Christian dating and sexuality.  Well I’ve begun the long painful process of writing a book and I’d like to share my initial ideas with you all to see what you think.  This is obviously not ready to be published but I think its pretty good.  I’d love to hear some feedback.

To keep reading, click on the picture below:

Let’s Talk about Sex 2

Let me begin with a warning. I don’t have the answer to the question I’m about to ask.  It’s a question that kept me awake at night as a young, single man; and a question that haunts the students in my ministry as a youth pastor.  It’s one who’s answer ought to be found clearly laid out in scripture.  Sadly, however, the keys to unlocking the mystery of my question seem to lurk in the grey areas or our Bible.  But before I give you the question… some lead in is necessary.
Navigating adolescence is a dangerous journey and it’s not made easier with the introduction of sexual attraction.  I vaguely remember the first time I thought to comb my hair and wear clean clothes not because my mom told me to but because of a girl in my youth group.  It was weird.  She was a girl, she had cooties, why did I want to look nice so she’d notice me.  As time flew by I, much like any other hormone drenched adolescent, struggled to figure out what God’s plan was for my sex drive and my sexuality.  I’ve been married now for 3 years and have a daughter who just learned to walk and I’m still trying to figure out God’s plan for sex.
In this post I’d like to start by looking at what scripture has to say about sex.  I feel like I’d end up with a book if I tried to go through each passage, so I’m just going to try to summarize what I’ve found.
There are numerous places in the New Testament that forbid and condemn sexual immorality.  (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7) Several of these texts also condemn sensuality.  Unfortunately scripture really doesn’t give us a great definition, at least in these texts, for what sexual immorality encompasses. It’s possible that sexual immorality could include everything from intercourse outside of marriage, to a quick kiss, holding hands, or even something as harmless as a hug.  It’s possible though that sexual immorality has limits within this scale, but where do we draw the line.  Hopefully we can all agree that child prostitution is sexually immoral.  We could probably also agree that pornography would qualify as sexually immoral.  But what about those less clear issues.  Do we draw the line of acceptable behavior at holding hands, hugging, kissing, making out, hand jobs, blow jobs, or actual intercourse.  In my experience different people have drawn the line in different places but where does God draw the line? What is His understanding of Sexual Immorality?
The key question that must be answered in order to find God’s plan for our sexuality is, “what is the best definition for sexual immorality”.  Like I said in the beginning… I don’t have a good answer but let me put forth a couple possible answers for your consideration.
  • Could sexual immorality be limited to casual sex? It seems to me that two people who love each other and plan to be with each other for a long time might be able to enter into a sexual relationship in good conscience but it’s conceivable that when the bible talks of immorality it is speaking of the type of sexual relationships that involve repeated one night stands with different partners.
  • Could sexual immorality be limited to adultery.  In several of these passages it would make sense that marriage is sacred and cheating on your spouse is wrong.  However there are passage where a reader would have to assume that sexual immorality means pre-marital sex in order to get that from the passage.
  • Could sexual immorality not have limits?  Could these verses be speaking of everything from a side hug or casual glance to polygamy and sexual addiction.  The more important practical question in this regard is “how are we supposed to survive our current society if this is the case.”  The only way I can see a person possibly avoiding sexual immorality (as it’s defined here) is moving to the mountains and living as a hermit.
  • In many Christian circles intercourse is really the only thing that is completely off limits.  Other things are looked down on but if you have intercourse we can officially announce that “the end of the world” is here.  But is intercourse the best definition for sexual immorality. 
 I’m going to stop before the post get’s way to long, but before I do, I’d like to briefly touch on 1 Cor 7:2.  The thing that interests me most here is that Paul tells those who are tempted by sexual immorality to get married.  Paul is speaking of celibacy and explaining that not all have that gift.  He then says if you don’t have the gift of celibacy ,or, put another way, if you do have a sex drive…  get married!  The problem for me with this passage is that marriage doesn’t seem to be a cure for any type of sexual temptation that I’m aware of.  There are married men who continue to view pornography, masturbate, lust after women they aren’t married to, cheat and do a host of other things that are traditionally deemed “sexually immoral”.  While Paul seems to talk about marriage here as the answer to an out of control sex drive, marriage in real life is rarely the answer to an out of control sex drive.
I feel like I could keep going but I’d like to hear what you think so far.  This will probably not be the last post on this topic.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Okay parents this one is for you.

For quite some time now I’ve been frustrated with the stereotypical Christian teachings on sex, dating, abstinence and the like. This will be my first of hopefully several blogs on the topic. The messages that we are sending students, and more importantly the way that we are sending that message just flat isn’t working. A recent article in Relevant magazine by Tyler Charles reports that “80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76% of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.”

The scare campaigns and purity contracts aren’t working, period. In fact the statistics for evangelical Christians who have had premarital sex seem to be rising. So what should we do? Tyler Charles believes that the abstinence message needs a makeover. I’m not 100% sure that a makeover will cure the ills that seem to riddle the churches view of sex and sexuality but it’s a step in the right direction. What Mr. Charles fails to do in his otherwise very enlightened article is to provide a makeover message. He points out the flaws in our current endeavor to keep kids from getting pregnant but doesn’t offer a solution.

Unfortunately, that’s where I find myself. I see some of the same problems that Charles sees and like Charles I don’t have a perfect system or orthodox methodology that we can all use to teach our kids what healthy Christian sexuality looks like. I do however want to highlight some problems with our current methods in order to hopefully lead the way in developing the facelift that our message on sexuality so desperately needs.

The one thing that I can say needs to take place in order for things to change is that we need to talk about sex in our churches more often. For so long it’s been a don’t ask, don’t tell topic that has been quieted in the church. It’s simply not comfortable in a church environment to answer questions about r mutual masturbation or oral sex. It’s not even socially comfortable to type those words in a Christian blog. The only way to change that, is to fight through the awkwardness and just talk about it. Teens desperatly need positive messages about sex and about the changes that they are going through as post pubescent walking hormones in Junior Higher form. The hush-hush attitude needs to stop.

Secondly, the stupid, false, and demeaning analogies need to be mercilessly slaughtered. Remember that students need honest, mature, real answers. They don’t need bad analogies or inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood. And to be honest. Most of the analogies that I have heard, run absolutely contrary to the message of the gospel. Please take the time to watch this short video so that you can see what I’m talking about.

Though I don’t agree with Matt Chandler on everything, he’s spot on here. The message that many Christians receive about sex is actually counter productive. It’s anti-gospel. We need to remember and remind our students that the gospel comes with grace, even for our sexual histories. At the same time we need to balance our message, not with a list of do’s and don’t but with thought provoking questions that help guide students to their own conclusions about sex, sexuality, dating, and physical/emotional boundaries within dating. It’s my opinion that we need to stop giving answers to students and start asking questions. They are smarter than we give them credit for and they will figure it out. But lets come along side them and guide them through the correct questions to ask, and help them explore the implications of their answers.

Here are some ideas of what I would call good questions.

“Okay, so lets say that you decide to have sex with your boy/girl friend. How do you think that will affect your relationship in the short term? How bout long term?”

“What do you think are the pro’s and con’s of setting up emotional, and physical boundaries in a relationship?”

“What are the pro’s and con’s of different physical displays of affection in a relationship. For example pros and cons of holding hands, kissing, becoming exclusive, spending time alone, making out, oral sex, intercourse, etc…”

“What factors come in to play when you are trying to make decisions about who to date, kiss, sleep with etc…”

I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. One thing that, in my opinion you probably shouldn’t do with your kids, is have a sex talk. Now I know this is probably a controversial topic and I may change my mind later but this is where I stand now.  I don’t want to tell you how to parent but I would like for you to think through what you do.  I know that the decision to have or not have the sex talk will depend on you and your kids but for most teenagers that I’ve talked to “the talk” that they had with their parents, if they had one, was awkward, uncomfortable and did not lead to any future talks.

What you should do, is comfortably deal with situations when they come up. Our culture is very comfortable with sex and the topic will come up, just give it time. Just take the issues as they come. Ask what your kids think about certain scenes in movies, or what they think about their friends who just started dating so-and-so. Be casual, honest, and listen to what you’re kids have to say. As you develop an atmosphere that is open to questions and isn’t judgmental, the chances of your kids coming to you with questions rather than going to Google with their questions will increase dramatically.

Sanctioning Martyrdom

We are all in process.  Two steps forward one step back.  We have good days and bad days, awful weeks and great months.  Life is a journey that often takes crazy turns, and has a ridiculously enormous amount of speed bumps (kinda like my new apartment complex. I mean seriously I feel like I get a minor concussion every time I drive through.  They are like every 30 feet.)

Looking back on my spiritual/theological journey it’s interesting to see the dramatic changes that I’ve made to my world view and theology over the years.  In high school I was the theology expert.  I had it all figured out by the time I graduated.  Then I got to Bible College and realized that I was young, naïve, and had suddenly become an intellectually tiny fish swimming around in a tank full of sharks.  By the time I graduated I had grown up quite a bit.  I had developed positions on important issues and was pretty confident in what I believed and able to defend my positions fairly well.  After being a year out of college I feel like I’m back at square one.  The smarter I get the dumber I feel.

I was always told that the study of God was an endless task because he is infinite and every question that we answer about him causes us to ask 7 or 8 new questions.  But nobody told me that I would also have to go back and re-answer several previous questions whose answers would now be dependent on the new answer and would need to change in order to maintain unity in my worldview and consistency in my theology.  So for every new answer I would receive 8 new questions and have to evaluate 6 old questions.  Then for each of the 6 old questions I would receive 8 new and 6 old which brought the total up to 84 questions plus the original 8….  Confused yet… Me too.
My theological journey has been a constant ebb and flow. There’s tension between the desire to have an open mind and be willing to explore new areas of theological thought and the desire to hold on to what I know.It’s a roller coaster up and down, spinning sideways, with several loop-the-loops right in the middle and at times, it leaves me just as nauseous as the real thing.  The constant tension and sudden drops in confidence is frustrating to say the least but I found some comfort this week as I was reading through the book of Acts. (Speaking of roller coasters, the picture to the right is me on splash mountain and I’m not faking it.  I’m uncomfortable with heights… Don’t judge me!)

At the end of Acts 7 Stephen is stoned and a man named Saul is standing nearby holding peoples coats.  Acts 8:1 says that this man, Saul, approved and supported this public execution.  Now think to yourself about what type of person would you might expect to come out and support a public execution by a mob of angry Jews.  Certainly you are not thinking that the local pastor or religious leader would be there in support?  The interesting thing to me was that Saul was a religious man.  And he wasn’t just a religious man, he was a religious leader.  The thing that blows me away is that he seriously believed that he was doing the right thing.  Standing up for what was right, serving God.  Acts 23:6 tells us that Paul was a PK (Pharisee’s Kid) and Acts 22:3 tells us that Paul was educated by Gamaliel who was a well known Pharisee.  It also tells us that Paul was very zealous for God and yet, in acts 7 we find Paul publicly condoning the first recorded martyrdom of Christianity.
This part of the story scares me to death because I have that sinking feeling in the back of my mind that I too might be holding onto a certain doctrine or theological issue that I’m completely wrong on.  And if I am wrong it’s not just me that’s wrong.  I’m a pastor who’s helping other people on their spiritual journey.  I’m giving guidance to young, moldable minds.  What if I’m wrong about something, like Paul was?  Hopefully I never get to the point where I start condoning the public mob mentality that leads to martyrdom of God’s people but  Paul did…
So I’m sure you’re starting to think to yourself… “Self, I thought he said he found some encouragement in the book of Acts”.  Well I did, and it is in the story that I’m sure most of you have heard in Acts 9.
Act 9:1  Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!  But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.”  (Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.)
So Saul got up from the ground, but although his eyes were open, he could see nothing. Leading him by the hand, his companions brought him into Damascus.  For three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything.
Long story short, this guy named Ananias receives a vision from God to go see Saul, He does, scales fall out of Saul’s eyes and he can see again.  Then he immediately gets baptized and starts preaching about Jesus but Saul wasn’t exactly accepted by people at first and he wasn’t perfect right off the bat.  He ends up pissing a bunch of people off and has to get kidnapped and taken out of the city by other disciples.
The thing about this story that is so encouraging to me is that Saul is also Paul.  You know the guy that wrote most of the books in the New Testament.  The apostle to the Gentiles.  Early on in his life he got blinded by poor theology and made mistakes and yet… God still used him.  And Saul AKA Paul, ended up becoming one of the most influential missionaries and  Christians of all time.
God used a guy who was wrong.  And it wasn’t just that he explained the trinity incorrectly or had a misguided view on some obscure theology like millennial view.  He was sanctioning the murder of God’s people.  In a sick and twisted way this story gives me hope that God can use me as a teacher and that he will work in the lives of those students that I mess up in my own special way.

Smoke from his Nostrils

In life we are often distracted from our faith by circumstances.  We have faith like Peter to walk out on the water but when we are distracted by the waves of divorce, broken hearts, fear, doubt, worry, stress, depression, anxiety, and low self esteem we doubt, our faith wanes, and we begin to sink.  When I look at the Bible for answers to the question of the existence of these distractions I often find myself in James 1:2-4
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I know that trials produce in me endurance.  And I know that everything in life happens according to God’s plan and that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)  But the question that struck me this week was that if we are talking about “ALL” things, then we are talking about good and bad things.  So… Good things work for good and bad things work for good as well.  If that’s the case, and good is always the effect of either cause, and if it’s true that we have a God who loves us, then why do the bad things happen so often?  Good is the outcome no matter what.  God receives glory no matter what.  So why does divorce affect our society the way it does?  Why are there high school girls who cut themselves?  Why are there Junior High guys trapped in the prison of pornography?  Why are there parents who don’t love their children?  Why is Phoenix one of the top sex trafficking cities in the nation? Why do so many people suffer from depression?  If God can get glory from anything then why does he use the bad things so often?
This question made me mad at God.
It all came full circle today.  In Psalm 18 David very poetically paints us this picture.
The cords of death envelop him.  The torrents of destruction assaulted him.  The snares of his own demise confronted him.  Put simply “Life sucked”.  The end was eminent and David’s enemies had surrounded him.  With nothing left but faith David cries out to God and the beast is unleashed.  The earth is rocked and it trembles in fear. The foundations of the mountains begin to palpitate and crumble as the Lord descends like an eruption to deal with David’s enemies.
Psalm 18:8 “Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth, glowing coals flamed forth from him.  He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water.  Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.  And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.  Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.  He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.  He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
He delighted in me.
He delighted in me.
Wow.  The God of the universe shakes apart his creation and lays the earth bare because he delights in his children.
I don’t know if you’ve ever learned something that you already knew but I did today.  The power and majesty that is revealed in God’s wrath is utterly and completely beyond magnificent.  We often think of God’s wrath as contrary to, or separate from his love.  Here that is not at all the case.  God’s wrath is intimately linked with, and in fact, inseparable from His love.  The bad things in life give God the opportunity to showcase his majestic wrath.  God’s wrath is a very good thing and as much as it hurts I thank him for the pain in life that gives him license to descend from on high with smoke in his nostrils.
God is Good!

I Probably Disagree

So I haven’t blogged in a while.  Like 3 months.  Not because I haven’t had things to say and not completely because I’ve been too busy.  I mean I have been busy but I could have taken the time I just haven’t.  Here’s why.

I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the weight that follows a person arround who has put themselves in the public eye.  Now I understand that I’m not really in the public eye.  I mean I’ve got what…? 32 followers at last count.  I’m not exactly the new viral internet fad but people might read this.  And the thing about a blog is that it’s in writing so I can’t exactly fudge my way out of it if I say something incredibly stupid.  If somebody calls me on something that I “said” I could (1) deny it, (2) claim that they took what I said out of context and re-explain it, or (3) just walk away and hope they drop it. 😉  You can’t really do any of those when what you say is in writing.  I mean I guess you could but it’s in writing.  What if I change my mind a year from now.  Oops too late it’s already been more or less published for people to read on the internet.  And to be honest one of the big reasons that I haven’t written recently is becuase I’ve been thinking a lot about issues that are very emotional and heated debates and I’ve been coming down on the side that I feel is the minority among many of my peers and I don’t want to get emotional and write something that I’ll regret later after offending a majority of my close friends.
I’m rambling but it’s because I’ve had a lot of ideas that I’ve wanted to get out but have decided to keep in.  Part of that is because I’m still working through a lot of them and I’m not ready to firmly state my position or defend it.  The interesting thing is that many of these ideas are probably politically incorrect even in my own personal social settings.  I’m in a stage in life where I’m developing a lot of my thoughts about the world and really ironing out some interesting portions of my worldview and I’ve been coming to some conclusions that might set me apart from some of the people that I come in contact with most.  Without going in to too much detail and either offending someone or opening up a can of worms that would best be left shut… I feel like I’m developing views of parenting, politics, marriage, women in ministry, parent child relationships, and evangelism that are very different and quite often contrary to the typical view held by most evangelical conservatives. Oh and I really really liked “The Shack” and would recomend it to anybody, christian or non-christian.
I guess I’ll be a little more specific.  I would consider myself an evangelical Christian and it’s kindof unwritten that people who are evangelical christians typically believe certain things.  For instance, and I really don’t want to start arguments on these topics, Most evangelicals that I know are complementarian, republican, and believe that spanking your children is not only okay but necessary.  I on the other hand am egalitarian, independant, and will probably never spank my daughter.  These are just some of the issues that I’m developing opinions on that are contrary to what many or most of my peers, coworkers, and fellow christians seem to hold.
The point of this blog though is not to start debates over whether it’s right to spank your children or have women as pastors in churches so if people comment with regard to those issues I’ll be disapointed.  The point of the article is this question:  Is it okay for me to end up with different opinions than my mentors, parents, friends, or even my wife?  How different is okay?  We strive in our culture to be open minded and understanding of others beliefs but how far is too far?  Now don’t missunderstand me… I still believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I still believe in the trinity, in the sacrificial atonement, etc. etc… but there are several non doctrinal beliefs where I’ve found myself on the otherside of the fence.  What do you think?

"I want to suffer"

As I was preparing my lesson for youth group this week I was really moved by the section of Mark that I was preparing. In Mark 2:17 Jesus tells us that those who are healthy do not need a doctor but those who are sick do. He then explains that he came, not to call the righteous, but the sinners.

This statement from Christ hit me in two different ways. First, I personally identify with the outcasts of society, if only a little. Being a Christian my whole life, there have been times when I become painfully aware that I am not part of the rest of society. I never went to a high school party; I’ve never smoked, chewed, or randomly fooled around with someone I barely knew and because of that I don’t fit in. There have been times where I’ve been proud of my innocence and times that I’ve been ashamed. There have been times where I’ve been made fun of for being a prude or a Bible thumper and I’ve honestly lost people that I thought were friends because of what I believed about God. It brings me comfort to know that Jesus came for those that don’t fit in, that his heart was for the “least of these”.

The second way that this passage hit me is seeing Jesus passion as a physician for the sick. As I read through William Barclay’s commentary on the book of Mark, the thought of Jesus as a physician really moved me. Jesus came to the poor and broken. He lived his life on the edge for the outcasts of society and he intentionally pissed off the Pharisees (Mark 2:6-12) so that they would kill him so that he could give his life for the outsider.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who was going through Bible College around the same time that I was and I remember a conversation where he looked me in the eye and said, “Andrew, I want to suffer”. I’ll never forget it because it struck me right between the eyes. My concept of the American dream was challenged and found wanting. He explained that he wanted to live his life in a country where he had to pray in order to survive every day. He wanted to reach those that the evangelical world had written off and actually hated. He wanted to spend nights on the streets in dangerous parts of town getting robed by men armed with scissor blades in order to reach “the least of these” with the gospel.

My friend’s passion for the “sick” mirrored Jesus passion identically. Christ’s goal was to suffer. He came to the earth in order to die and reconcile the world to the father. He looked down at a fallen world and said “I want to suffer for them”. As a pastor, living in America, where my faith isn’t challenged on a day to day basis it’s easy to become complacent and comfortable. It’s also easy to get relaxed inside my own little group of friends and my youth group. But Christ calls us to reach out to the lost and the broken, the outcast of society. As Christians we need to remember not to get comfortable like the Pharisees in Mark 2 and ostracize the rest of the world from us. We need to remember that Christ came to seek and save the lost and he commissioned us to do the same. It’s time to step outside our comfort zones and reach out to a dying world.

Fatherhood is…

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and it’s not because nothing worthwhile has happened either. I’m a proud new father of a baby girl and in the months leading up to the big day there was a ton of things flooding my mind regarding fatherhood. As soon as she was born it was like my brain fell out of the back of my head. I know all the long time parents reading this just cocked their heads to the side and their now doing the knowing nod and smile. All the Junior High students reading just had an epiphany and are thinking, “that same thing must have happened to my dad”. I know I don’t have a whole lot of fatherhood experience but here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Fatherhood is like a mental black hole. I’ve sat down numerous times to try and blog about the experience and… nothing. It’s not that my heart isn’t full of love for my baby girl, ‘cause it is. It’s not that I don’t feel or think anything worthy of blogging about her, because I do… I just can’t find the words. I’m speechless. She’s 3 weeks old today and I’m finally catching my breath and my thoughts are finally starting to form at least partial sentences in my brain. I still feel almost like life just restarted and everything that I knew I have to learn all over again.

Fatherhood is a new level of… everything. It hasn’t been as overwhelming as I suspected or in the ways that I expected but then again, I’m a fairly laid back guy and don’t stress out very often. I have had a couple moments with just me and Zoe where I’ve gotten lost in the moment and shed some tears but I definitely expected more waterworks. I couldn’t even get through the vows at my wedding without balling and expected much of the same in the delivery room but it never happened. Fatherhood is a new emotion. I’m not sure what to call it. It’s also a whole new level of tired, (there’s the knowing nod and smile from veteran parents thinking “you have no idea”) and a vastly different intellectual journey than any I have ever been on.

Fatherhood is weird. The only word coming to my mind is weird. I mean it’s awesome, and emotionally incredible, and I’m blown away at how this little 8 pound, helpless, baby can just melt my heart. But it’s still weird. I wish I could verbalize it for you better but I can’t. I now empathize more with that “you’ll understand when you’re a parent” phrase that I have always hated. It’s something that I think you probably have to experience in order to understand.

Fatherhood is… well an experience that has definitely changed my life.

What if the Bible wasn’t?

Youth pastors, as a general rule, are a pretty interesting collection of people. We’ve been known to grow goatees and wear cargo shorts on a regular basis but we’ve also come to be known for certain other things. If you ask students of a ministry what their youth pastor tends to teach you might hear a variety of things. Don’t do drugs! Don’t have sex! Respect your parents! All typical battle cries of a youth pastor. But youth pastors also tend to harp on spiritual disciplines. Read your Bible, Go to church, lather, rinse, repeat. We even get to the point sometimes of putting out a guilt trip to those who didn’t read their Bible this week in the hopes that they might “feel the spirit tug on their heart” and read their Bible next week. But this summer, my view of the Bible has changed.

Now before the fundamentalist inside you starts writing me hate mail let me explain. I’ve always known that scripture was important and I’ve always understood that the reading of my Bible was essential for my growth as a Christian, but over this summer my view of the latter has slightly evolved. My view of the inerrancy, validity, and necessity of scripture has not and will not change. I still see scripture as the infallible, authoritative and inerrant word of God. But recently I’ve begun to ask questions with regard to my involvement in the scriptures. As I think of some of these issues I’m reminded of the movie, “Book of Eli”. If you haven’t seen the movie, Eli has the last copy of scripture and is trying to transport it through a post-apocalyptic world to a place where it might be copied and sustained. This concept of a post apocalyptic world in danger of forever loosing something that we as Christians, and as a society, have held dear for so long is rather frightening at first glance. What would happen if the Bible was somehow gone tomorrow? What would I do? What would you do?

Could Christianity as a whole, survive without scripture? How ‘bout the church? Could Christianity survive without church? As I pondered questions like this I was led to the core of my belief system and the basis for my life. These were foundational questions, because I’ve built my whole life on scripture and I’ve structured my career as well as my whole worldview around and in church. I’ve spent the last four years of my life pursuing a Bible degree. What if it was all gone tomorrow? I’m still here, God is still here, but I have no Bible, no Church, no Christians…

It was and is still a scary thought but I find comfort in the fact that my faith is not solely grounded in a book not even in the Bible. Sure, scripture is a foundation for a defense of my faith and is valuable as a source of trust but my faith goes deeper than the words printed in the 66 books that we call inspired cannon. It also goes deeper than the church which I’m very thankful for. I’m glad that my faith isn’t based on the church or on other Christians but that’s a different blog for a different day.

My faith is grounded in a relationship with a personal God. That relationship, no matter the circumstance or the dictator, cannot be taken away. The Bible could be taken away, church and the freedom to worship in public could be gone as soon as tomorrow but no one and nothing can remove my relationship with my creator. God has been revealed to us through creation according to Romans and I’m convinced that our relationship could, and would continue without the spiritual discipline of reading my Bible.

Now this idea comes with a lot of implications and I’d like to put out those fires before they start. I’m not giving license here to ignore the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible and going to church. They are very beneficial to our growth as Christians as well as the furthering of the kingdom. I’m also not trying to downplay the importance of scripture. It is vital. What I would like to do is bring balance to our view of spiritual disciplines. There are those out there that would adamantly proclaim that it is impossible to maintain a healthy, growing relationship with God if you are not in your Bible and at church regularly. I have to respectfully disagree. Spiritual disciplines are tools in order to aid the Christian in their walk with God. They are not a walk with God in and of themselves. Let us remember the point of our ministry… It is not religion, or spirituality, or legalism. Paul tells Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Too many times, as Christians, we get frustrated with what we call unfaithfulness. We want to read our Bibles for 10 minutes per day and what happens… we oversleep or forget and then we beat ourselves up and confess our blatant sin at small group each week. To be honest, that was me, and as I look back on it I see a lot of unneeded legalism and guilt in a life of a person who was truly pursuing God with all his heart. Was God really disappointed that I overslept and failed to give him that five minutes. I really don’t think so.

Now, balance is balance and while it would be legalistic to get to the point where you are depressed every time that you fail to spend an extra 10 minutes in your Bible, it would be lazy and sinful to completely forsake the word and claim that it’s not necessary. Balance is the key in almost every area of life and I think it ought to be our goal to strive for that middle ground, especially in areas such as this.

What’s in your wallet?

I’ve always loved people watching.  There is something about people, some type of X factor that just is fascinating to me.  Though the food is rarely good I’ve always loved going to the food court at a mall just to watch people.  I love trying to guess what kind of person they are based on their apearance and manerisms.  As far back as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed just watching people.  From interesting haircuts, to clothing choices, to group dynamics and the way highschoolers act differently from college students and adults it’s all just so intriguing.  Recently I’ve found another interesting facet of people watching and it involves the way people chose to spend money.

Now… before I get into this I want to give a brief disclaimer.  I’m not saying any of these ways is outwright wrong I’m just simply making observations about the irony I see. 

It’s interesting to see from a distance what people spend their money on because I think it speaks to what they value as a person.  For example, Is it just me or is there something inherently awkward about seeing a new Corvette parked in front of a Tace Bell?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone about how they are trapped in credit card debt while in the same breath bragging about their designer clothes, iPhone, huge tv, and a brand new watch?  Ever seen somebody driving a car that looks like it just survived the atom bomb, roling on really nice crome rims and bumbin a killer sounds system? 

All of these are examples of people spending money on what they value.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a Corvette to go through a drive through or for someone to wear nice clothes but I think that the way we spend our money sends a message to the people around us about what we value.

I wonder what my bank statements say to my peers?  What might your credit card bill reveal about you, if your friends had access to it?