Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I've never actually walked through a minefield... and it's not like that particular experience is on my list of "Things To Do Before I Die". (Maybe it fits better on the "Things I Could Do If I Want Die And/or Have My The Parts Of My Body Scattered About The Landscape" list.) But there are occasions in ministry that definitely have that minefield-ish quality:
  • confronting a gossiping church member
  • managing the whole "worship style" transistion
  • teaching about giving/tithing
  • preaching about sex
And, of course, it's the last of these that I did a couple of days ago - and will do again this next Sunday. Teaching about the physical relationships between a husband & wife is scary - will I be too graphic & permanently scar the psyche of one (or more!) of my senior adults? Will I wimp out and not really teach the Bible, instead gracefully avoiding the real issues & using generic language that has zero impact in people's lives?

I make it sound worse than it was... nobody got up & stormed out of the church (which is nice). No one had a heart attack. (I've actually been in a worship service where someone did have a heart attack.) In fact, I've received some encouragment & support about my teaching.

Maybe you wondered what I taught... here's a (very) short synposis:
  • Sex is good. Very good. I mean, when James 1:17 talks about every good & perfect gift coming down from God, sex definitely ends up on the list. (I didn't go into this during the message Sunday morning - but God didn't have to make sex feel good. If it's purely for procreative purposes, He could have built a hormonal "heat" response into our systems. But He didn't... whoopee!)
  • Sex is God's idea. He's the one who created man & woman and let 'em run around in the garden naked. (Erwin McManus calls Adam's failure to find something better to do with a naked Eve than hang around the forbidden tree a "failure of imagination.") If we had any question about whether God likes sex or not, it's pretty much solved by a reading of the Song of Songs (you may have grown up calling this the Song of Solomon).
  • God's rules keeping sex inside marriage are to protect us from mountains of badness (guilt, shame, broken relationships, unwanted pregnancies, STD's, the crap we put our kids through when we divorce, etc.) and to provide for the sex in the best possible context. (The "protect & provide" thing is not original to me - I first heard Josh McDowell say it and it's stuck with me.)
  • No matter where you are with this issue - no matter what you've done with whom and how many times - Jesus offers you a fresh start. (Check out His responses to the women with 5 ex-husbands & a live-in lover in John 4... and to the woman caught in adultery in John 8.) Grace really is amazing.
For those who are interested, here's some quotes from my message prep materials...
  • If there's anything lonelier than being in bed alone, it's waking up next to someone who doesn't love you, and who just had sex with you. Erwin McManus
  • Drink water from your own well--share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don't share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:15-19 (New Living Translation)
  • The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality--the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:3 (The Message)
  • When it comes to sex, one cannot leave out marriage. The no of sex outside marriage seems arbitrary and cruel apart from the Creator's yes to sex inside marriage. Indeed, one can say that in Christianity's vocabulary the only real sex is the sex that happens in a marriage; the faux sex that goes on outside marriage is not really sex at all. The physical coming together of two people who are not married is only a distorted imitation of sex, as Walt Disney's Wilderness Resort Lodge is only a simulation of real wilderness. The danger is that when we spend too much time in the simulations, we lose the capacity to distinguish between the ersatz and the real. from Real Sex by Lauren Winner
This Sunday, I'll be talking about lust & pornography - which is never a "laugh-a-minute" feel-good topic, but is much less so because it's been an area of personal struggle for me. More on that later...

BTW, if you're interested in a cassette tape of the message, you can e-mail my secretary at nancy@newlifeeaston.com and ask her about it. (Man, I hate self-promotion. But I figured I'd offer - since I get nothing/nada/zipola kickback from these things.)


la llorona said...

I have to say McManus hit it right on the money in the quote you listed. My question is this, how do truly forgive yourself for having had sex outside the context of marriage? I know that God has forgiven me but I can't forgive myself and sometimes I feel like my fiance doesn't truly understand that part of my life, prior to meeting him. I hope to receive an answer from you, I dont' have the courage to ask my own minister.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of posting an MP3?

Nord said...

Cassette tapes??? Mark that is so twentieth century. How bout some .mp3s or at least cds. Progress, Mark, Progress. What's next - playing board games with wooden pieces? ;-)

Good stuff, btw. I assume you will put in a plug for the guys at xxxchurch.com in your upcoming sermon?

keithmonaghan said...

Sumbit it as a podcast to iTunes. I know another minister who's had great success with it. Good way for those of us who are far away to hear your preachin'. It's easy to do:

How do I submit my podcast for possible inclusion on the iTunes Music Store?

Clicking the Submit Podcast link on the main page of the Podcast genre page in the Music Store allows you to enter the link for the RSS feed of the podcast you’d like to publish to the Music Store. You will be asked to provide the link (including the http:// tag that precedes it), check over the podcast information as it will appear in the Music Store, and provide additional information not included within the feed. Submitted podcasts do not immediately appear in the Music Store and may be reviewed before being posted.

More here...

There's also Odeo, which is absolutely free and very easy to use.

Come on Mark, leave 1977 and join us in the new century ;-]

One of Freedom said...

Not a fun topic, but a necessary one. There is not enough good teaching on sexuality out there. I get so frustrated with some of the material I've read that completely misses the point. This is one of those inheritances from the puritans that hasn't done society much good (but sounded like a good idea at the time). I would love to read a synopsis of your next topic, heck I might even order the tape. Last study I was part of on lust and masterbation was really bad, at several points the book fed the shame that the enemy loves to heap on those caught in addiction.

A few years back my wife and I were part of a Living Waters workshop (Comenski nothing to do with the ironically named Ray Comfort) on sexual wholeness. It was amazing. We were really there to lead worship but jumped right in because you know even pastors struggle with their sexual identity. They are worth checking out when you are preparing you message.

Good on you preaching on these things. I trust God will really bring a fresh freedom to your congregation - to enjoy the life God has given through his Son.

Anonymous said...

"The physical coming together of two people who are not married is only a distorted imitation of sex"

There it is: what's the difference? within the state of marriage, the difference - what makes it real vs. a distorted imitation - is the total giving of self to spouse. I now realize that it may have been more appropriate for me to leave my comment on Mark's masturbation post as a comment to this post. But, as Mark evidences by his posts, sexuality as it includes marital relations, self-gratification, love, and lust, are all inextricably interwoven (and I would argue, so is contraception.)