Sexuality

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Hormones, Surgery, Regret: I was a Transgender Woman for 8 Years--Time I Can't Get Back: Surprising story to read in USA Today by Walt Heyer: "I lived as “Laura” for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn’t fix the underlying ailments. Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety."

2.      13 Ways We Justify, Rationalize, or Ignore Negative Feedback: One of the best articles I've read this year. Peter Bregman of Harvard Business Review says, " It doesn’t feel good to be told you missed the mark. And, since feedback often uncovers our blind spots, it’s especially jarring because, in many cases, we thought we were doing a good job. So we don’t immediately or intuitively agree with the validity of it (we tend not to believe things we can’t see ourselves)."

3.      The Danger of Drama: When we stir up drama, Heidi St. John says, we are sinning: " If you need to address something that should be handled in private, then do it privately. If you’ve been hurt, don’t put it on the internet. Season your speech with grace."

4.      Don't Put Your Hope in Date Night: Interesting perspective by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, "In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?"

5.      Beware of Broken Wolves: I resonate with Joe Carter's advice here about protecting oneself from a certain type of leader: "But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.” These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15)."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     The Way We Prepare For Marriages is All WrongAaron Earls considers cultural trends that undermine marriage and the data that undoes those trends: "In recent decades, however, new advice began to take root. It argued you will be most ready for marriage if you delay marriage into the 30s or later, “sow wild oats” before you’re ready to settle down, find someone with whom you share “sexual chemistry,” and live together with potential spouses to determine if the relationship is ready for the marital commitment. At the Institute for Family Studies, professor and researcher Jason Carroll analyzed data that confronts each of these points of accepted cultural wisdom."

2.     6 Ways Watching Pornography Affects Your Mental Health: Among those issues, Brad Hambrick points out is, "Mindfulness – the ability to willfully focus one’s attention during adverse circumstances – is a significant contributor to mental health. Pornography is nearly the complete opposite of mindfulness. Pornography uses sound, site, and tactile sensation to pull an individual from their actual world into an artificial, fantasy world. Combining multiple senses with an enticing narrative makes it increasingly difficult for less stimulating activities (which is most of life) to hold an individual’s attention."

3.     The Sabbath as a Radical ActThis is as good an article as I've read in some time. William Black argues that, "There was a reason the fourth commandment came where it did, bridging the commandments on how humans should relate to God with the commandments on how humans should relate to one another. As the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann points out in his book Sabbath as Resistance (2014), a pharaonic economy driven by anxiety begets violence, dishonesty, jealousy, theft, the commodification of sex and familial alienation. None of these had a place in the Torahic economy, which was driven not by anxiety but by wholeness, enoughness."

4.     Watching Rain: Need a stress reliever? Click on this simple and relaxing website and play around a little.

5.     The Science Behind Why Walking on Legos Hurts More Than Walking on Fire or Glass: Parents everywhere will feel validated reading this article from Smithsonian. 

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Good News, Ladies! You’re Sons!

Want to know something weird? Women are never referred to as “daughters of God” in the Bible. Kind of odd, especially given how often that phrase is used in evangelical circles. “Daughter of God” nets over 1,000 books on Amazon. In the Bible, however, the seemingly clumsy phrase “sons of God” is used for men and women alike.

What gives? Is this a linguistic fluke? No, unlike the Greek word for brothers, adelphoi, which often means “brothers and sisters,” the Greek word for sons, huioi, rarely means “sons and daughters” with the full phrase “huious kai thugateras” used instead.[i]  So, while we might be tempted to add “daughters” when we see “sons of God” in the Bible, it’s unlikely that is what the authors intended.[ii]

Is the lack of inclusion of daughters a patriarchal blind spot in the Bible that we ought to rectify? On the contrary: the use of only “sons of God” is a radical move by the authors of scripture that raises the status of women.

Thanksgiving Recommendations

Thanksgiving Recommendations

1.      How Much Money Do You Save by Cooking at Home? Priceonomics analyzes the cost of buying groceries and cooking at home compared to restaurants and meal kits. The old fashioned way wins by a landslide.

2.  When You Don’t Feel Like Giving Thanks: An Thanksgiving reflection from Sabrina MacDonald, full of grace and wisdom, “Even when you don’t feel like giving thanks, God is honored by what the Bible calls a “sacrifice of praise.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB) says, “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” A sacrifice is an offering that hurts to give. Thanksgiving in good times is simply a response to the goodness of God, not a sacrifice. But to honor God in times of suffering, that is an offering far more valuable.”

3. A Time of Reckoning for the Sexual Revolution: Mary Eberstadt suggests that the #MeToo Movement has made the emptiness of the sexual revolution undeniable: "What the MeToo moment proves above all is that the time for magical thinking about the sexual revolution is over. Until now, many people simply accepted the realities of the post-Pill world as non-negotiable facts. It’s time to challenge that worldview as one that lacks moral and intellectual maturity."

4.      What the 40 Year Old Famous Christian Leader Would Tell His 20 Year Old Self: I so appreciate David Platt's wisdom, "My encouragement to my twentysomething self, or other twentysomethings — or anybody, for that matter — is to surrender to the Lord, abide in him, and rest. Trust him as he leads and guides and directs. And Lord willing, our lives will be spent for his purposes."

5.       3 Ways Porn Injures Us: Among those ways, Jesse Mason tells us is how porn punishes, "The person who does awaken from the degradation of porn will inevitably be crippled from running away. The brain will insist that in order to cope with distress or “low” feelings, it must have more porn to “boost” the good hormones. If someone can move beyond that and somehow wrestle those demons (via accountability or a recovery program), the biggest hindrance still awaits at the door: shame." 

6. The Grind of School DebtThis long-form first-person article by MH Miller may not seem like it's worth the investment of time, but Miller does a great job of helping you to feel the weight of the impact of educational debt to an average middle class American. In the midst of his struggles, Miller asks, "I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last decade shifting the blame for my debt. Whose fault was it? My devoted parents, for encouraging me to attend a school they couldn’t afford? The banks, which should have never lent money to people who clearly couldn’t pay it back to begin with, continuously exploiting the hope of families like mine, and quick to exploit us further once that hope disappeared? Or was it my fault for not having the foresight to realize it was a mistake to spend roughly $200,000 on a school..."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Most Women Who Had Abortions Were Pressured Into It: Every line of this brief article is important. The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Reports, "73.8% of women who had an abortion felt pressure to do so.  And that 58.3% got an abortion to make someone else happy, not themselves.  And that 30% were afraid that they would lose their partner if they didn’t."

2.      What do Americans Think About Abortion? The current state of what America believes about abortion is complicated, "The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, taken right before Kennedy announced his retirement, found most Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade changed. Two-thirds say the Supreme Court should not overturn the decision. Three in 10 (29 percent) say the court should overturn the decision. But a recent Gallup poll shows many Americans want to see at least some restrictions on abortions. Half say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances. One in 5 (18 percent) says abortion should be illegal in all circumstances."

3.      America's Churches are Becoming More Diverse: We still have a long way to go, but Aaron Earls reports, "A Baylor University study found the percentage of multiracial congregations in the United States nearly doubled. From 1998 to 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, multiracial churches grew from 6 percent to 12 percent of all U.S. congregations. Multiracial congregations are places of worship in which less than 80 percent of the congregants are of the same race or ethnicity."

4.      How Not to Fight PornographyDavid Briones challenges us with this hard truth and then offers some helpful suggestions, "Many who “struggle” really just want to be assured of God’s love for them as they enjoy a love-hate relationship with pornography. Like so many spouses in abusive relationships, they hate pornography, but can’t imagine life without it. They hate what it does to them, but love what it provides: a short-lived moment of escape, a false sense of worth, an unsatisfying feeling of love. But after giving in, guilt sets in. They realize they’ve been dehumanized. Longing for pleasure, they run back to their lover again and again and again. Love never felt so wrong. If that describes you, then you first need to realize that your “struggle” is no struggle at all."

5.      National Geography's Photographer of the Year: Stunning, just stunning.

The Drama of Marriage

The Drama of Marriage

In pre-marital counseling, you can almost see couples wince when I bring up Paul’s admonition to wives in Ephesians 5. Paul’s instructions to married couples begin with those fated words, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” That phrase has bothered many modern Christians. Those are words that denominations have divided over. And they are words that have been misunderstood by most.

Recently we were studying Ephesians 5 in our connection group. We had a rich conversation about the passage that hinged on the two most important truths in the passage. Each of those truths is grossly neglected in contemporary conversations around Ephesians 5 and each deserves to be re-examined.

First: Paul argues in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a God-ordained drama that points to something bigger than us. Again and again in the passage, Paul tells us that our marriages are a play that God has designed to point to his relationship with the church. Would you re-read the passage with me and look for all the times Paul likens the wife to the church and the husband to Jesus in this drama?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why Winning the Lottery is So DangerousJ. Warner Wallace reflects, "Most of us recognize the relationship between satisfaction and duration. The longer something lasts (and the longer we enjoy it), the more satisfying we typically find it to be. In seeking the next big lottery jackpot, most players hope to win enough money to last the rest of their lives. Why? Because they are seeking satisfaction that will last a lifetime. But if the Christian worldview is true, each of us are eternal beings, created in the image of God, and destined to live forever – well beyond the temporal lives in which we could spend our lottery winnings... That’s why winning the lottery can be so dangerous. It takes our eyes off the goal. Not the physicalemotional or behavior goal, but the spiritual goal: to seek and find the true source of eternal satisfaction."

2.      The Math Language of RevelationBarry York talks about how we ought to make sense of all the numbers in Revelation, "When it comes to the book of Revelation, you quickly find the presence of many numbers. These numbers add (no pun intended) to the mystery of the book. Yet, similar to the example above, remembering the Bible has a "math language" of its own can help in understanding the passages containing the use of numbers. Here are five of Revelation's math language rules to follow."

3.      The Crisis of PornTony Perkins sounds the alarm, "What our kids are stumbling on isn’t your grandfather’s pornography... These are raw, violent, and nauseating videos that they don’t have to sneak into a store for. Every child has a world full of porn at their fingertips... Porn is everywhere, and the research is grim... Americans on both sides of the aisle are realizing: this is an actual catastrophe...These sites, the same ones teaching kids a distorted and twisted version of sex, get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined." 

4.      4 Myths About Responding to Spousal Abuse: Three pastors team up to debunk some hurtful pastoral responses to abusive situations. They put their finger on the pastor's tension: "Pastors who wish to support, protect, and counsel survivors of abuse are often left wondering how best to minister to them. They know abuse is a multi-faceted evil. They want to provide the best counsel possible. But several misconceptions around the issue can cloud the thoughts and guide the actions of well-intentioned church leaders."

5.      11 Common Phrases You Didn't Know Were From the BibleThis is fun. Some phrases you might be surprised by: "by the skin of your teeth," "a drop in the bucket," "a leopard can't change his spots," and "bit the dust."

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Which Generation is the Loneliest? Surprisingly, Gen Z wins this distinction, but not for the reasons we might assume: "The study found no correlation between social media use and feelings of loneliness. Very heavy users of social media scored about the same on the loneliness scale as those who never use it."

2.      What is a Woman? Sandra Glahn answers this question deftly, She concludes, "In a world in which #MeToo and #ChurchToo remind us that brokenness has infiltrated every part of society including the church, the Bible’s truths are absolutely relevant. When God brought ishah (woman) to ish (man), he called their partnership “very good.” Let us show by our words and actions that we believe his words to be true."

3.      It's No Tragedy to Miss the Model: Til Challies reminds us that if marriage is a model, missing the model and gaining the real thing is okay: "Marriage is the miniature or the model while Christ and his church are full-scale, the real thing. This leads to an important application that pertains especially to those who are not married. When we understand the meaning of marriage, we realize that even if you never marry or are no longer married, you are not missing out on something that is essential to the human experience. If marriage had no meaning beyond itself, perhaps you would be missing out on something essential. But because marriage points to something else, you simply are not."

4.      Violence Against Women Begins in the Womb: This chilling report by Elaine Storkey is a must-read: "For the last two decades, reports have consistently illustrated the extent of the problem. After investigators uncovered 400 pieces of bone believed to be of female fetuses, reporters gave graphic details: “Last September,” wrote Raekha Prasad and Randeep Ramesh in The Guardian, 'remains of dozens of babies were exhumed from a pit outside an abortion clinic in Punjab. To dispose of the evidence, acid was used to melt the flesh and then the bones were hammered to smithereens.'"

5.      Tour of the Moon in 4K: Thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, I doubt you've ever seen the moon like this. Wow! 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith: David French on the rise of "The demise of religion among American youth is greatly exaggerated. It turns out that America isn’t raising a new generation of unbelievers. Instead, rising in the heart of deep-blue America are the zealots of a new religious faith. They’re the intersectionals, they’re fully woke, and the heretics don’t stand a chance."

2.      Why Mister Rogers Still Matters: If you're a New Lifer, you know Mister Rogers has a special place in my heart. Russell Moore agrees, "That’s the part of Fred Rogers’s work that is probably the easiest to misunderstand. One can listen to the songs he sang… “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive…” or “I like you just the way you are…” and assume that Rogers was a live-action version of a sappy self-esteem curriculum. Rogers, though, would talk to children about the darkest topics possible, addressing children’s fears directly, whether those fears were about being sucked down the drain in a bathtub or parents’ divorcing or the death of grandparents."

3.      The Fundamentalism of Post-Evangelicalism: Rob Bell just released a new movie, 'The Heretic' which Owen Strachan explains that, "Bell actually operates and speaks as a “fundamentalist.” He does not exhibit an open mind toward conservative religious types; he censures them. He does not truly believe that everyone has an equal place in the Christian tradition; he believes that serious evangelicals are bad people. He does not show generosity in the film toward his disputants; over and over again, he drags them through the mud. He does not truly hold an open, flexible, free-thinking faith; he draws his own doctrinal lines precisely, and makes no bones about excluding conservatives... It’s the strangest thing: the heretic is actually the fundamentalist."

4.      Retractable Fish Decal Now Available: It's funny because it's true: " 'Want to cut someone off, but worried you’ll be a bad witness? Now you can slap the red button on your dashboard and a small panel will rotate on your bumper, hiding the fish from view,' a company spokesperson said. 'Flip people off on the freeway, gun down the shoulder during a traffic jam, all without worrying about marring the good name of Christ.'"

5.      Why You Can't Divide By Zero: I didn't expect this to be interesting. It drew me right in. Fascinating conundrum for a simple issue.

This Father's Day Week Recs

This Father's Day Week Recs

1.      What Works, and Doesn't Work in Raising Up Your Children in the Faith: Trevin Wax reflects on new Lifeway Research, "The biggest factor was Bible reading. Children who regularly read the Bible while they were growing up were more likely to have a vibrant spiritual life once they became adults... Two more factors follow close behind: prayer and service in church."

2.      How Do You Talk to Your Child About Transgender Issues? Andrew Walker offers this practical and balanced guide. He concludes, "Don't run away from important questions about sexual and gender identity just because your pre-pubescent child, or pubescent teen, is asking hard and awkward questions... In the home, as much as in the church, we each bend toward harsh "truth" or untruthful "love"—and we need to be aware of this in our parenting...Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely."

3.      Racism in America: What We Agree and Disagree On: Kevin DeYoung lays out eleven areas of agreement and disagreement. One of those areas is systemic injustice. He says, "We agree that sin is not just a matter of individual responsibility. It is possible for systems and structures to be unjust even when the people inhabiting those systems and structures may not have personal animus in their hearts. We do not agree on whether disparities themselves indicate systemic and structural injustice (see above). Likewise, we do not agree on the best remedies for institutional racism where it exists."

4.      How Podcasting Hurts Preaching: Mercer Schuchardt's take here is bold and certainly could be called Luddite (and he's not even addressing newer technologies like live-streaming). I still think that it is worth us utilizing technologies as much as possible for the cause of the gospel, but his cautions ring very true. What do you think? He says, "Sermon podcasting reveals a utilitarian misunderstanding of how our messages create a sense of meaning. The sermon is not an interchangeable part that can be removed from the context of worship while still maintaining its power, its authority, and its efficacy. It retains at most one of these, diluting or eliminating the other two... For churchgoers to perceive value, churches have to maintain the scarcity of the once-a-week, in-real-life sermon experience. When pastors push their sermons far and wide via podcast, they unintentionally devalue the message they have worked hard to create and communicate. They remove the sermon from the time, context, and body of the liturgy where it belongs."

5.      12 Year Old Boy Solves 3 Rubik's Cubes While Juggling Them: This is delightfully absurd. In other news of the fantastic: I've been known to grind coffee while I make scrambled eggs.