Devotions

How our Culture has Ruined Sex

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How our culture

has ruined sex.

In today’s lesson,

Jesus teaches how to

get the blessing back.

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I used to have an image that I would use for teens when talking about sexuality.

Without explanation, I’d give them a piece of tape and a list of things to see if the packing tape stuck to.

So the youth would go around sticking and unsticking. Sticking and unsticking. Sticking and unsticking. And every time there’d be a little less stick.

Every time, the tape would leave behind a little residue on what it had been previously stuck to … and … the tape would pick up a little corrosive residue (dust, dirt, paper fibers, etc.) of what it had been stuck on.

Premarital sex can be like this. Sex is designed to help us stick permanently to another person. But sex outside of marriage always leaves a little adhesive behind and simultaneously picks up a little corrosion too. The danger is that when the right person comes along, we may have cheapened this gift so dramatically that we’re likely not to stick well … if at all. (Is that what happened to the woman at the well, as described in today’s passage? Jesus said to her, Jesus said to her, “You are right … You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” Apparently, she was like tape who’d completely lost its stick.)

Wait … I started with this is how I “used to” illustrate this image. I still believe it’s absolutely true, but now I’m more careful. Because our culture is cheapening sex so very dramatically, we have an epidemic of people who’ve been encouraged to – and thus have a personal history of – jumping in and out of beds. Therefore, nowadays, I need to focus on a second part of the tape illustration. Jesus reveals it in our verse for today: It’s how to get our stick back!

Step one, Jesus didn’t condemn the woman’s checkered past. He did, of course, acknowledge the truth of her history. Like in medicine, there’s no real healing without first acknowledging the real problem. So, first he acknowledged the problem – serial relationships … which are devolving further and further. But … he didn’t condemn her.

Rather, Jesus offered healing through an even more intimate relationship. Our culture has lied to us. Yes, sex is wonderful. It is powerful. It is an instinctual want. It is designed to draw husband and wife profoundly closer and closer. But it is not a need. (Indeed, I know of scores of marriages in which is sex is not currently a regular part – usually because of health reasons, inabilities, physical pain.) Defining sex as a “need” causes unmarrieds to waste their sacred tape and marrieds to grow unnecessarily dissatisfied.

What we’re seeking is intimacy. Deep intimacy. And the woman at the well found that in Jesus! She ultimately wanted someone to know her and accept her. Jesus did both – knowing and accepting. He knew her flaws. And he loved and accepted her anyway! (One of my favorite phrases was the pre-title of Max Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus. It was branded: “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way! He wants us to be … Just Like Jesus.”) That’s what the woman experienced at the well. He loved her just the way she was … but didn’t leave her that way. He gave her living water. He restored her life.

That’s how I need to change my old story. In human ways, if we substitute sex for intimacy, we’re never really going to stick. But if we seek first the kingdom of God – and find intimacy there – then we won’t be as desperate and dependent on finding intimacy in and with and through another fallible human.

And here’s the irony … when we’re not dependent on another human to fill us up, that generally frees relationships up. It generally allows to take people and relationships for what they are … and enjoy them for what they do offer (not what they don’t). Indeed, this generally frees us to discover more real intimacy (because we’re not putting pressure on them or ourselves).

So, could I say that maybe the secret to good sex is spelling “sex” (and intimacy) like we spell “joy” – Jesus. Others. You.?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who grieves

brokeness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Quiz: What is Living Water?

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Water is necessary for life.

So what is Living Water?

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Years ago, Spirit of Joy took a mission trip to Germany. One of the challenges for Americans was drinking. First, ice was rarely served with drinks. (For many on the team, that was an issue!) Second, you generally didn’t drink tap water there. Third, if you ordered water, like at a restaurant, it was generally carbonated. Therefore, if you wanted regular water at a restaurant, you had to order stille vasser (“still water,” uncarbonated).

Well, during our trip we happened into a worship service at a Cathedral. And we didn’t understand a word … until one member of the team leaned over and said to me, “They’re saying the 23rd Psalm.” I whispered, “How do you know?” He said, “They just prayed, ‘He leadeth be beside stille vasser!’”

A whole different point is being made from Psalm 23 when Jesus starts talking to the woman at the well about living water.

A Samaritan woman came [to Jacob’s well] to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” … The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” …  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:7-10)

What is living water?

First, what is water? (And I’m talking bigger than chemically – H2O – of course.) Simply put, water is life. At some edge of the extremes, I’ve heard people say, “You can live seven weeks without food, seven days without water, and seven minutes without air.” Whether that statement is precisely accurate or not, water is clearly necessary for life.

Jesus is making an analogy here. He’s saying, spiritual (or living) water is equally necessary for spiritual life. Indeed, if water is life, then living water is spiritual life. Indeed, living water is eternal life. It bubbles up within us, says today’s verse, to eternal life. What is bubbling up? Our faith! Our hope! Our joy! Indeed, our hearts might be beating, but we’re not truly living without faith, hope, love, peace, and joy. Right?!

We tend to think of eternal life beginning the moment we die. No! It begins the moment we first believe. Through faith, we’re transferred immediately into the Kingdom of God. We will eventually die physically, but we will never die spiritually. And through faith, we can start living more fully now!

What is living water? Life!

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who responds like

the woman at the well,

“Sir, give me this water”

 

 

 

 

Ask … that your Joy may be Complete

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Let’s simplify John 4:10 –

“If you [really] knew …

who [the Savior truly] is …

you would have asked …”

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I just shortened that verse intentionally.

First, I left out the key thing that Jesus encouraged the woman at the well to ask for – Living Water. A whole book could be written on this living, flowing, liquid, bubbling gift of God in all its facets. But as you’re probably guessing, that’s not the point I want to make today.

I want to focus – second and instead – on the generosity of God and his constant encouragement for us to ask. Before we even get to the offering of living water, Jesus is already saying, “If you truly knew the kindness, love, eternal desire, and life-giving passion of God, you’d be asking. Demanding! Begging! Indeed, nothing could hold you back.”

That’s a repeated theme of Jesus’ in the Gospels. These are all quotes from the Son of God, imploring us to come to God in prayer, asking …

  • John 16:24 – Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
  • Matthew 7:7-8 (with the additional emphasis from the Greek, added in brackets) – Jesus said, “Ask [and keep on asking], and it will be given you; seek [and keep on seeking], and you will find; knock [and keep on knocking], and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who [persistently] asks receives, and everyone who [diligently] seeks finds, and for everyone who knocks [insistently], the door will be opened.
  • Matthew 7:9-11 – Jesus said, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
  • Matthew 21:2 – Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

James, the Apostle, adds …

  • James 4:2 – You do not have because you do not ask God.
  • James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Now, God is not a genie in bottle. Asking does not mean that you get your selfish wishes. You surely know, that sometimes God says, “Yes” … and sometimes he says, “No” … and sometimes he says, “Wait.” But did you know that God sometimes says, “I hear the deeper longing in your heart. Do you trust me to give you something even better?!”

One of my favorite songs is Garth Brooks’ Unanswered Prayers.

Just the other night a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

[But …]

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Do you trust God to say, “I hear the deeper longing in your heart. Do you trust me to give you something even better?! For example, “I hear you cry, child. It’s not to marry that one particular high school gal, but ultimately to marry a woman of kindness and character who will be a lifelong fit. Do you trust me, says the Lord, to bless your life all your days.”

Or … in a deeper example … “When you’re praying for a loved one not to die, do you trust me to make them live eternally?”

Or … when you’re praying for an escape from a hard situation (for you or a loved one) … “Are you pausing to trust that I, the Lord, hear your prayer. This is hard. But can you trust that allow some things for your growth. Indeed, as your Apostle Paul once said, ‘we [often] boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5).”

In today’s verse, Jesus said, “If you [really] knew … who [the Savior truly] is … you would have asked …” And again he said, a few chapters later, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

complete joy

The Changing, Changeless Word of God

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I love reading the Bible …

because every time I do

it changes!!!

(What do I mean by that?)

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You say, “I thought the Word of God was timeless, unchanging. So what do you mean by saying that every time you read the Bible it changes?!!”

First, have you ever experienced this? Each time we approach the Scriptures, we approach from a different vantage point. Since the last time we read this passage, our Christian maturity has hopefully grown … our knowledge of Scripture has hopefully lifted our vision … and our circumstances are constantly changing too.

For example, when everything is good in my life, I’m often celebrating God’s goodness and hungry for any general truth to help me know him better. But when I discouraged, grieving, or broken, my desperate heart is usually restless until I find assurances that bring me new hope. And when I’m acting selfishly, my foolish, greedy, arrogant, guilty, unforgiving heart is often pierced by a verse that exposes my sin. In each of those examples, I can read a familiar passage and it will speak to me in a whole new way.

In this way, the Word of God is living and active. It doesn’t change … but it meets a billion people at a time exactly where they are … and need to be.

How?

Because it’s truth.

And truth – like surgery – both cuts and heals!

Indeed, God’s Word can do power, unique, and personalized surgery on a billion people a day! And in its most simplistic form, that’s what “dividing soul from spirit and joints from marrow” means. It means that God through the scalpel-sharp sword of his Word wants to do healing surgery on your heart.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is

continually in need of

heart transplant surgery

 

 

 

How to Love God’s Word

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“Let the Word of Christ

dwell in you richly.”

How?!!!

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The command is this: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

The question is: “How?”

The answer: Let me give you a few quick tips …

Read it! “Dwell[ing] in you” means “living in you.” And God’s Word can’t live in you, unless you’re in it. Regularly. Frequently. Even daily. (Thus, if you’re reading this, I commend you! Something in you wants to connect with the Word of God.

Study it! Be curious about it. Seek to go deeper. A Study Bible might help with this. It will offer insights to help you understand and grow. A Bible Study Group will help more. Others will have insight and they’ll keep you accountable.

Internalize it! Don’t just read a passage, ask, “How does this apply to me?” Ask, “What is it prompting me to do?” For example, if Scripture says, “forgive,” ponder who you need for forgive … then go do it. If a truth jumps out at you, memorize it … or share it with a friend … or journal about it. Each helps drive that truth deeper.

Love it! You can’t just snap your fingers and fall in love. You’ll have to begin with courtship – reading, studying, and internalizing. But a point along this journey is this: “Pray for a hunger for the Word of God.” That applies to step one, step two, and step three. Because you won’t ever get to step four without nurturing a hunger all along the way.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who loves more

the more he reads,

focuses, studies,

shares and lives it

 

What Connects Heart and Lips and Feet?

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How is God near to you?

Is that firmly in your heart?

Are you proclaiming it

with your lips?

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Today, we’re in the Paul’s letter to the Romans. Romans begins in part with these words (and I’ll interpret them a little to help you see the point) …

For what can be known about God is plain to [all people], because God has shown it to [all people]. Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. [In other words, everyone ought to be able to look up, and saying, “Wow,” ought to turn and worship God.] So [all people] are without excuse; for though they [intuitively] knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking … (Romans 1:19-21)

As that is true, then today’s verse is more clear: “God’s teaching is near to you.” The general truth of the power of God is clear to all. The general truth – the “Wow!” – should naturally be “in your mouth and on your heart.”

That’s the general truth. And the general truth readies our heart for the specific truth. And what is the specific truth. The next verse says it: “that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead” (v 9).

“But,” continues Paul in verse 14, “how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?”

So notice a three-fold pattern …

  1. “8 [God and His] teaching is near to you.” His general teaching is clear to all, but we need step three to make his specific teaching about Jesus clear too.
  2. And if “8 God’s teaching … is in your mouth and in your heart,” then you need to joyfully confess it, because, “because[b]if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  3. And if you’re saved, then “15 ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” because “14 how are others to call on one in whom they have not believed?”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

his heart and lips

and feet aligned

with the Gospel

How to Fulfill the Desires of our Heart

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In this broken world,

do you want

“right” and “rejoicing”?

“Pure” and “enlightening”?

“True” and “enduring”?

Where will you find it?

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If you’re tired of this broken world, there is an alternative!

Today’s Psalm offers …

purity …

righteousness …

truth …

enlightenment …

joy that rejoices …

and a focus and purpose

that endures forever.

Do you want that?!!

Well, do you know where that comes from?

One, it comes from God. It comes from his Word. As we talked about in yesterday’s devotion, it comes from believing that if God is powerful enough to create, He’s a) powerful enough to communicate and b) has communicated and continually communicates through his Word.

Two, this sense of purity and joy comes specifically through God’s “precepts.” Through God’s piqqud. Through His statues, charges, and commands. Through the things our Lord has properly appointed.

My wife has a simple way of saying it: God’s way is the best way!

In Christ’s Love,

a guy, who because he

wants a less messy world,

is a Psalm 119:40 guy:

[Lord,] I long for your precepts!

Renew my life with your goodness.