Why I Won’t Be Giving My Daughter A Purity Ring

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with purity rings. I have no idea who started the trend and if it is even as popular now as it seemed to be when I was in High School and college. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from giving their child a purity ring. I’m quite positive purity rings have been effective in being the reminder they are meant to be to young people to order their bodies and sex lives to a higher standard. I just wonder if it might be a very well-intended thing that misses the true mark. This post is meant to be less criticism and more food for thought.

The true mark of the Christian pursuit of sexual purity (cause after all biblical purity encompasses much more than our sex lives) is worship of the God of heaven and earth, architect, creator, and definer of human bodies, and a living understanding of the gospel. A living understanding of the gospel entails a full comprehension that the gospel is a message that begins with all of creation, including human bodies and sex, declared as good and ends with creation being consummated by and to God.  In particular we have scenes described and doctrine expounded that human bodies of the redeemed being resurrected and made new.

My apprehension with purity rings concerns subtle shifts in thinking that I think they could create, that while not entirely bad miss the point of Christians ordering their lives under God’s grace and love.

 

  1. Locus of Relationship: The pursuit of sexual purity is to be encouraged and ordered in response to our standing and relationship before God. I can’t help but wonder if purity rings subconsciously shift the ordering of sexual purity as a response to the standing and relationship before parents. The difference is that one is ordering their life under a holy, life-giving God, and the other is ordering their life under a guardian who is just as subject to God as they are. Put simply the desire to please and not disappoint parents becomes the primary motivation to be chaste as opposed to pleasing God.
  2. It’s Not Just Sex: There have been whole books and lectures dedicated to purity and holiness that only scratch the surface of what it really looks like to live a pure and holy life to God because they only talk about sex. They really should be called “sexual purity rings” because that is the only aspect of purity that they are encouraging. Purity in the Bible, the kind God has freed us to live and Jesus gave the perfect example of encompassed every aspect of how we interacted with our neighbors and this world, not just the sexual aspect.
  3. It’s Not Pass Fail: I’ve met people who once they had crossed a certain line decided they would no longer wear the purity ring. Not that they wouldn’t aspire to continue to pursue sexual purity after their “transgression”. The first problem with this is in most cases sexual purity had already gone out long before “the line” was crossed. Secondly, the purity ring in their mind had gone from being a reminder to a badge of honor, and thus when they transgressed they could no longer claim this status and stripped themselves of their standing. When something like that happens it demonstrates that they are struggling to remember and live out the redemption component of the gospel story and instead focus on the fall.

 

Closing Thought: Why is it I can’t think of a single dude I ever knew who had a purity ring bestowed upon them? Why has the only purity rings I’ve seen exclusively been adorned by girls? Honestly, shouldn’t there have been just as many guys wearing them as girls? Anyway, as I said in the beginning I’m not trying to discourage anyone from giving their child a purity ring. Whether you do or not I think those three things should be things you should be intentional to address with your child when encouraging them to live a life of purity.

The Mystery Of His Will Made Known

God’s will has been made known to us in and through Christ. He has redeemed all of creation to himself and his will is to “in the fullness of time, gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1.10). So why has God’s will seemed to remain such a mystery to us? A problem to solve. A code to decipher. As we have often done the message of the gospel has been hijacked and meshed together with the messages and slogans of our culture and led to confusion and misdirection on what exactly it is that God is up to. Our society is all about self and individualism thus the prevailing gospel message of God’s plan of salvation and redemption of all of creation has been replaced with a message of self-help, self-improvement, personal faith and relationship with God. Our gospel message has narrowed from a view of what God is doing in the entire cosmos to what God can do for you as an individual. It is the Jesus for me Jesus. Thus when we try to discern God’s will even the way we go about it is shaped by this subtle misunderstanding.

God has always made his will known to mankind. We are not left in the dark. We are insiders when it comes to what God is up to. The problem is we so often want the details of how it all works. And we want specific instructions on what we are to do the choices to make, the right decision to be made. The mystery has never been an issue of what. It has always been an issue of how. When God made Adam and Eve he made them in his likeness. They were content to figure out what that looked like until they were deceived into thinking that there was another way of how, by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be like God. Likewise we get distracted from the “what “ of God’s will, wisdom and understanding, and become obsessed with “how” we can get him to reveal it to us. When we do this we fail to realize that Jesus himself is the mystery revealed. When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us God’s will was no longer a mystery. His will for us is to abide in and know him. When the mystery of God’s will becomes a personal thing that involves predestined fixed plot points of our story that require moral adherence or practice of disciplines to be revealed then we fail to recognize that Jesus is the way the truth and life as opposed to specific life events, ‘divine’ appointments, choices, or life decisions.

Do You Believe God Gives in Excess Or Is A Scrooge?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1.7-8)

 

To say that the riches of God’s grace are lavished on us is to say that God is bestowing them on us profusely and in excess. The redemption bestowed on us in Christ due to his willful sacrifice on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins is more than enough. Personally I’ve always thought of Christ’s sacrifice cancelling out our sins as though to say they are in equal measure this balancing one another out. But here Paul is saying that Christ’s perfect life, the sacrifice of it, the resurrection of it, and presence of it in the ascension is in excess of our sin and corruption. The scales of justice of been tipped beyond our favor.

The irony of God providing redemption and forgiveness of sins in excess is that the original sin took root in mankind’s suspicion that God was not an excessive provider. Even today many people struggle to believe that God has given to them lavishly. Some believe their rebelliousness against God is too great to be completely overwhelmed and swallowed up by the riches of God’s grace. Some see what they perceive to be God’s lavishness in the life of others in the form of ease, comfort, and material riches, and suspect that God has not in fact given lavishly to them. Either way there is a struggle and sometimes a refusal to believe that God has been lavish.

In one sentence Paul has reminded followers of Christ to see that God, as he always has, gives in excess.  Jesus’ giving of his life for the sin’s of mankind and the redemption available in his resurrection is enough to cover the entire cosmos. Cosmos is the word we use when we want to talk about every particle and molecule that God has created, from the ends of the earth to the farthest and unexplored reaches of the universe. All of God’s creation was subject to sin and death and all of it has been redeemed through Jesus’ work on the cross.

Undoubtedly, this is something that we need to be in the habit of marinating on so that it sinks deep into us. As my mother would always say and now I’m accustomed to saying, “Life is not fair”. There is always going to be people to whom we can look at the fruit of their tree and be filled with the same longing as Adam and Eve when they gazed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired.” When we consider the depth of our sin and depravity we may say with Cain, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” If we take an honest assessment of our life next to Christ’s we will undoubtedly recognize the chasm of unfairness. Whatever the case may be we need to be reminded of God’s lavish, abundant and excessive giving of riches that can’t be quantified in anything outside of his glorious presence, which is after all the climax of all he has given and provided.

Are You Obsessed With Finding God’s Will For Your Life? (5 Tips To Understanding God’s Will)

mqdefaultMany years ago, well over a decade, I met a girl. I really liked this girl. We hit it right off immediately. The first time we met we ended up talking for three hours. The second day we talked for another three hours. The third night she was game to do something she had never done before. Watch a Star Wars movie. Only thing better than a woman who is willing to watch Star Wars for the first time is a woman who wants to watch Star Wars again like my wife, the always beautiful, Mrs. Lundy, but this story doesn’t involve her. Suffice it to say I really liked this girl a lot and wanted to date her.

Being the good Christian man that I was with latent insecurities and fear of rejection, I prayed about it first. I wanted to make sure that I was living in God’s will and not stepping outside of it. I took relationships very seriously and wanted to make sure it was the right thing with the right person and that most of all, that God willed it. I wanted a sign. I wanted some assurance. I didn’t want to be rejected. I wanted to please God, and I wanted to be her man. I laid myself bare before the Lord opening up my heart but ready and willing to submit to his will. My petition was simple; do I pursue her or do I just be her friend (At this point my non-Christian friends are probably wondering, “is this how Christians really think and make decisions?” Not all but enough that I feel inclined to write this).

I’m not claiming that I audibly heard God speak to me while I sought his will in my prayer regarding whether or not to pursue this girl. I am claiming while practicing the discipline of quieting myself over the years coupled with discerning and learning the heart of God according to the scriptures, a very clear thought or word became profound in my mind that I believe was God speaking to me. “What do you want to do? It’s up to you. Do you trust me? I’m less concerned with what you do and more concerned with how you do it. I’m less concerned with what you do and more concerned with who you are and whether or not you trust me regardless of what you choose to do.”

I had my answer and it wasn’t quite the answer I was expecting but it was an answer nonetheless. I chose to pursue her and her response was favorable but after a month of “talking” she decided that she just wanted to be friends. I learned a lot from that experience. It’s likely not a stretch to guess that many Christians trying to honor and submit their life to God have also spent much time seeking God’s will about all manner of decisions and choices that lay before them. What college to attend, what classes to take, what job to pursue, whether or not to marry the person you’ve been dating for four years. We are often faced with pretty big life decisions to make and Christians should want to submit to and live within God’s will for their life.

The problem is that we obsess over it and miss what God is trying to do in our lives and what the bible actually says about God’s will for our lives. If we’re not careful we live lives that are paralyzed by fear of stepping outside God’s will and having to deal with the consequences of not staying within the boundaries of the path he has laid before us. In America with a culture driven by performance busyness, goal setting, accomplishments and the next thing, we mistakenly adapt and adjust God’s values to American values. When we do this God’s will for our lives is no longer about being with God himself, and the path to God being to abide in Jesus who made the way for us to God. Instead God’s will becomes personal achievement and success, personal development, personal happiness and avoiding pain, difficulty and suffering, and the path to it is prayer spiritual disciplines and good moral behavior—aka sin avoidance. If we see God and his will this way then the instant our lives come off the tracks and we experience major setbacks, disappointments, pain and suffering although we’ve adhered morally then our faith will unravel just as quickly as we do.

With all that in mind here are five things that I’ve learned about God’s will that I believe are supported by scripture (even though I haven’t gone to the effort of citing a bunch of scripture for you, feel free to do so yourself and see if God’s word agrees).

  1. You Are Not A Patriarch: In other words God’s will for your life is probably not as specific as you think or would like it to be. Christians often take verses or narratives involving the patriarchs and prophets that tells of God’s plan for their life, and claim them for their own life. Abraham Isaac and Jacob, King David, and a number of the prophets God chose for very specific purposes because they were all leading and pointing to the one in who God’s plan for all of our lives ultimately rest—the Messiah, the Great Shepherd, the Suffering Servant, Christ Jesus our Lord. We live in the time between the ascension and the Christ’s return. In multiple places throughout the New Testament, in particular Revelation, we’ve been told exactly what God’s will and plan for our lives is—continued obedience, faithfulness, long suffering, and yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us making us more like Jesus through whom we are justified.
  2. Becoming v. Doing: I’ve become convinced that God’s will for our lives has less to do with what we doing and more to do with who we are becoming. Certainly we are to do right but as far as scripture is concerned what we are to do is not a mystery and has not been withheld from us. God’s will is not about being at the right destinations. God’s will is about being who he destined us to be in Christ. Regardless of what job you take, person you marry, school you put your kids in, college you choose God’s plan for you is to be like Christ whenever, wherever, whatever, and with whomever you find yourself.
  3. Wisdom: I’ve come to realize that scripture spends way more time talking about and teaching wisdom than it talks about or teaching us to ask God for specifics, yes or no answers to choices. The reason why many Christians may find themselves in turmoil or trouble is not because they’ve made choices and decisions that have taken them off the track of God’s will for their lives. We find ourselves in trouble and turmoil because either circumstances outside of our control, the effects of individual and corporate sin, or because we lack wisdom. There’s not a whole lot we can do about the first two but we can ask for and seek wisdom. In fact asking for and seeking wisdom is one of the specifics that God has made known he desires for our lives. God wants us to learn wisdom so that we can navigate all the grey areas of life.
  4. Trust: Wisdom is good but it doesn’t guarantee we will avoid trouble and hardship. In fact we are told numerous places in scripture that we should actually expect to encounter trouble and that trouble and evil will increase as the time draws near for Christ to return and God to put the world to rights. When bad and terrible things happen people will often try to incorporate it into God’s plan as to suggest that he is using that specific situation to build something us in you. The reality is that this world is broken enough that more times than not stuff just happens. Not to say that God won’t bring or allow something very specific into your life to accomplish his work in you, but who are we to know? When we come out the other side of trials and tests is it because we knew we were being tested or because we trusted God? When we fully trust God we become less concerned with whether or not something is a test and more concerned with trusting God no matter what comes our way.
  5. Who Brings The Glory: When I was obsessed with discovering God’s will and plan for my life it came from a good place. I wanted my life to glorify God. I believed that if I didn’t make the right choices and my path was somehow altered then God would either have to intervene or my life wouldn’t bring God as much glory as it would have otherwise done if I had made another choice. There were two mistakes with that thinking. First mistake, I don’t bring God the glory, God glorifies himself through me. Secondly, it places higher value on position and accomplishments as though God’s glory is dependent on what we achieve and our lofty endeavors instead of depending on God himself. God can glorify himself just as much through a janitor as he can through a professional athlete.

 

Summary: Maybe you’ve seen those Fidelity Investments commercials where someone has just met with an advisor and upon departing is directed to stay on track. On the ground there appears a green line with arrow icon streaming down it directing their path down the plan to a secure future. In a western culture with so many things, so many options, so many choices I believe many of us are like the people in those commercials—we want some guidance. God has given us all the guidance he intends to give in his word and the presence of his Holy Spirit residing in us. Learning to just trust God and know that I have the freedom to choose while remaining faithful and obedient to what he’s made known has kept me from being paralyzed by all the options that I am fortunate to even be able to consider.

Revelation That Calmed My Fears About Adopting: A Father’s Day Reflection

_DSC8298I never imagined that infertility would be something I would have to navigate. It’s safe to say that no one imagines walking through the painfully indiscriminate and out of our control ways the curse of sin can touch our lives. Whether it be infertility, cancer and other illnesses there is just some things that invade our lives with indescribable grief and massive amounts of pain.

As a man of faith in God and Christ I prayed about it for a time, but eventually became resigned to the fact that if I was ever going to be a father then it would be by a different route. So many become parents, in some cases so “easy”, that we all take it for granted how amazing conception is, and how difficult it can be. As much as it sucked to not be experiencing the blessing firsthand that God gave to mankind to “be fruitful and multiply”, that I may never have a child that is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, or as my wife and I used to say, “have a child with my big nose and her high forehead”, I decided I wasn’t going to be mad at God for the ripple effect into my life of Adam and Eve rejecting God in Eden.

Any adoption agency that is worth their salt will make you go through the gauntlet in order to be put on their wait list for a child. Amongst the many prerequisites we had to go through with our adoption agency we had to read four books on adoption. Three of the four books we read were terrible. Honestly they really were depressing. The main thrust of those three books was that in adoption everybody is wounded. The child is wounded, the birth parents are wounded, the adoptive parents are wounded. Everyone involved is wounded and grieving. So there’s a good chance that adopting a child is going to bring its fair share of difficulty and misery into your life (to which I thought, “Isn’t that the case with having kids in general regardless of them entering a family biologically or via adoption?”). The fourth book however was profoundly different.

First of all let me say that Russell Moore’s Adopted For Life is a book that any Christian should read. Even if you are done having children cause you’ve already conceived and raised ten of them you should read that book. I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with him via Twitter to let him know how profound his book was for myself and my wife by simply including in the tweet a picture of the two of us holding Isla that first day we met her. I’ve never been prouder to make someone’s day, as his reply said, because that book made me aware of something that I had never noticed or been taught prior in all my years of being a Christian.

Those of you who know me well know that I don’t worry about much. I’ve trained myself to be concerned but not worry about things, and it times it can unnerve others around me. Honestly though, I had my concerns about how quickly I would become attached in the very depths of my heart to the child I would hopefully be made the father of. A child who was not mine. The other three books spent a lot of time preparing you for struggling with the fact that your adopted child in all likelihood will not have a lot in common with you (Like I said earlier, it’s not as though it never happens with biological children). They labored that point excessively. I wasn’t concerned as much about whether or not I’d be a good father. However, there was some concern as to whether or not I’d have that overwhelming depth of love that all parents have for their child from the moment their born since I would be receiving a child that wasn’t flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. A child who I not only hadn’t procreated but I also wasn’t there for their birth.

Emma and I were headed up to Michigan for our friends Lauren and Andy’s wedding. Emma had been reading the books before me, and early on she told me I needed to read Adopted For Life first. At one point headed somewhere in the car she turned down the radio and read to me a portion of the book that had her absolutely floored. We don’t have the book anymore because we passed it on to someone else, so I can’t place an excerpt here, but I don’t need to because it was five simple words. Jesus was adopted by Joseph.

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In all my years of being a Christian it had never dawned on me or been taught that Jesus was adopted by Joseph. It’s as though it’s so obvious that we completely miss it. Or if we’re being honest we don’t realize it because we don’t see much mention of Joseph being on the scene in Jesus’ life past the age of twelve, the church has cloaked Joseph in a cloud of mystery and suspicion. However, how was Jesus often referred to in the gospel accounts by the people of his time? He was often referred to as the “son of a carpenter”, which is deeply profound if you know anything about first century Jewish society and culture. I knew enough about it to start filling in the blanks. Good Jewish fathers taught their son their trade. Good Jewish fathers taught their sons (and their daughters) the torah or God’s word. And what were the two things Jesus was well known for? Being the son of a carpenter, and even at the age of twelve, having a mastery of the sacred text (Luke 2.46-47). Surely having the fullness of the deity of God indwelling his flesh probably had something to do with it, but there is no reason to doubt that Joseph took the charge of Deuteronomy 4.9-10 & 6.20-25 to heart, because to him Jesus was his son (In other words, in a mysterious and dare I say weird way that boggles my mind Joseph is the one that simultaneously introduced Jesus to his heavenly father, and by doing so introduced Jesus to himself. Let that roll around in your brain for a second).

Although Joseph obediently stayed after previously considering to divorce Mary quietly due to his non-involvement in her pregnancy, I’m sure he was likely troubled by the thought of raising a child who people knew wasn’t his own just like I did. I can’t help but believe that God did the same thing in Joseph’s heart as he did in mine. From the first time I saw Isla and heard her cry she was undoubtedly mine. Instantly my heart was fixed and bonded to that girl to the very depth of my being, no less than any parent who went through 10 months of pregnancy. There was no need to worry or be concerned anymore. From that moment on I am her father.

I stepped out for a moment as I was writing this to tell Emma what I was doing (and get her blessing to share these things). She summed up my reflection best, and I’m not ashamed to say it makes my eyes well up with tears even as I type it. I’m a Joseph. The grief and dare I say wounding of unexplained infertility, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy if I had one, set me on a path that eventually led to me being bestowed with the legacy of Joseph. Maybe that’s why there’s few things I treasure in my heart more than the first time while praying with Isla before putting her down to sleep for the night she said before I could, with that sweet voice and articulation of a toddler of not quite two just beginning to string sentences together, “Dear God, thank you for…” I get to be Joseph to Isla who is by no means Jesus, but we certainly won’t hold that against her. Because after all one day I’ll get to tell her that she was adopted just like Jesus was. Though she isn’t flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, I have something far greater to give her than my big nose.

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My Platonic Love For God: A Confession

“There’s nothing you can do that will cause God to love you more, and there’s nothing you can do that will cause God to love you less.” I love that statement. It resonates with me as someone who still struggles to truly allow God to transform into a new creation more and more in the likeness of Christ. It’s a reminder that God’s love for humanity, corporately and individually, is greater than we can comprehend, unconditional and as unchanging as he is. However, I’ve come to a realization that my fixation on the truth of that statement has led to a blind spot in my faith that needs to be reconciled. I share this because I would wager I am not the only one.

The reality of God’s unchanging and beyond comprehending love is not simply a truth to rest in with a sigh of relief and not live a life shaped by guilt and fear of God’s wrath. It is a statement that leads to a therefore statement. It’s a statement that leads to a “so what?” God’s unconditional and unfathomable love therefore should lead to an unchanging and deep love for God. My love for God needs to grow to the point of likewise being without condition, and so deep that it oozes out every part of my life because it can’t be contained. I’m not talking necessarily about the passionate love that I often try to stoke and produce through a worship experience. I’m talking about the kind of uncontained love that knows and does naturally the things that the object of love desires. I’m talking about the kind of love that declares it to the world and more importantly whispers it to the one they love when alone together.

Personally that is the kind of love that I find myself lacking. Too often I’m busy obsessing over God’s love for myself, or growing complacent in my assurance of his love for me. As great as God’s love for me is it doesn’t make me the center of the universe. Which all adds up to my love for him becoming increasingly passive over time until it eventually becomes platonic. It’s not a good place to be. As much as I love the aforementioned phrase I need to allow it to do what it is meant to do in my heart and life. God’s great and glorious love is a revelation that he is center of the universe and to be loved back.

Scripture for Reflection

  • Deuteronomy 6.1-9
  • Psalm 33 & 34
  • John 15.9-10
  • Colossians 3.12-17
  • 1st John 3.5-6, 23-24 & 4.17-18
  • Revelation 2.5-6

A Good Friday Reflection: Where You Fail, Jesus Succeeds

Everywhere Israel failed Jesus succeeded.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus went out into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the devil, right after he was baptized and publicly confirmed as being the Son of God. There is an intentionality in Jesus’ actions that demonstrates he was going to re-enact the journey of some of Israel’s greatest failures in the wilderness, except he would succeed where they failed.

Israel had been declared God’s firstborn son during their rescue from Egypt (Exodus 4.22). Throughout their journey from Egypt to the doorstep of the Promised land they were tested and failed to trust God. Finally Israel sent spies into the Promised Land to spy it out which took 40 days. Ten of the twelve spies gave a bad report, which led to the rebellion and refusal to enter the promised land. Their failure resulted in 40 years in the wilderness until each person of that generation had died never entering the promised land.

Jesus on the other hand succeeded. Where Israel complained of hunger and even complained about the miraculous provision of manna Jesus declined Satan’s taunt to turn stone into bread to quench his hunger. Where Israel tested the Lord despite his presence amongst them in a pillar of smoke and fire in the tabernacle Jesus declined Satan’s taunt to test God by throwing himself from the pinnacle of the temple. Where Israel bowed down and worshipped the golden calf Jesus declined to worship Satan for all the kingdoms of the world. Where Israel failed Jesus succeeded.

Good Friday is a solemn day for the believer. Not only do we commemorate Jesus’ selfless sacrificial atoning death we also remember our failures, shortcomings, and sins that hung him there. And there in lies the beauty of the cross and salvation. Where I have failed Jesus succeeded. Where you have failed Jesus succeeded.

During his ministry Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” So many of my failures come down to the fact that I don’t deny myself. So many of my failures come down to the fact that I don’t take up my cross and follow Jesus. However, I would like to remind you of what I am reminded of this Good Friday… Where I have failed and where you have failed, Jesus Succeeded.

Wherever you have failed, are failing, and will fail Jesus has succeeded. Just like Jesus knew the disciples would fail to follow him on Good Friday Jesus knows you will fail many a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, etc. Just like the disciples we must allow for the miracle and inheritance we have in Easter to be the catalyst to move us beyond our failures, our shortcomings, and our sins, to deny ourselves and follow Christ because he succeeded exactly where we fail.