Sex, Intimacy, and Theology


It’s greatly ironic that our sex-obsessed culture likes to proclaim sex as an inalienable right while at the same time denying sex its meaning and power. When Christians talk about sex, it’s not that we want to control people or restore the patriarchy. Rather, it’s that we need to remind ourselves that sex is a God-given gift endowed by the Creator with purpose and meaning. Our Christian sexual ethic must be grounded in an understanding of biblical theology.

1. Sex reminds us that we were meant to be known.

When Adam lay with Eve and she gave birth to a son, the Bible says that he yada her. In Hebrew, yada means “to know.” Sex is meant to be an expression of knowing. As Dannah Gresh writers, “Yada is a word of intimacy that transcends the physical. It describes the whole knowing of a person. It portrays an uncovering and an embrace of the nakedness of another. There are no secrets and nothing is held back” (What Are You Waiting For?, 24).

God designed sex to be a meeting of souls, not a meeting of parts. We’ve lost some of that today. Men talk about how their roommates remember their sexual partners better than they do. Only half of the portrayals of sexual intimacy on television depict sex between partners in an existing relationship. Ten percent of those portrayals depict sex between people who have just met. God intended us for more.

God intended us to know and to be known. That same yada word that describes God’s good gift of sex also describes God’s intimate and wonderful knowledge of his people. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (Psalm 139:1). “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17). We are designed by God to know him and to be known by him. Our intimate, emotional, and personal relationship with our spouses is meant to be a portrait of God’s intimate, personal, and emotional knowledge of us.

2. Sex is meant for a covenant context.

When God made Eve and brought her to Adam, Adam recognized her as the God-designed companion of his heart:

This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)

Jesus and Paul both refer to Genesis 2:24 when they talk about the one-flesh union of marriage. In marriage, husband and wife covenant together to form a new unit. They are no longer two separate individuals; they are one. They mutually give themselves to one another to become a new family. Sex is the covenant renewal ceremony for marriage. As Francie Winslow has written:

Our bodies speak. As Christopher West, a well-known Catholic teacher on The Theology of the Body, so beautifully articulates, regular sex is like a regular renewing of wedding vows. When a married couple has sex, they are communicating with the language of their bodies the promise to fully give themselves to one another in all seasons of life. To regularly engage in sex is to regularly recommit yourselves to one another.

Covenant creates an environment where true intimacy can flourish. Sex is not just about individual pleasure; it is an act of giving yourself fully to one who has covenanted to love you completely and without condition. What do we say in our wedding vows? “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, I give you my life.” Marriage is a joining of lives. We share our names, homes, lives, families, schedules, and bank accounts. We are no longer two separate individuals; we are one. Sex is both a reminder of and a celebration of the oneness of husband and wife in marriage.

3. Marriage, and sex within marriage, are a symbol of the church’s relationship with Christ.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32)

Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Our exclusive, intimate communion between husband and wife is a portrait of the communion between our souls and Christ. The joy, intimacy, and ecstasy we find in our marriage relationship is meant to point us to the spiritual reality we were intended for from the beginning–to be one with God, fully knowing and fully known, given to God in love for ever.

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Honor God with Your Body

honor God

In his new book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, Russell Moore tells the story of a conversation he had with a lesbian activist. Although she was an atheist, she was interested in the sociological aspects of evangelical Christianity and engaged Moore in a conversation about Christian beliefs–particularly sexual ethics. As the conversation went on, she laughed and told Moore that he was the first person she had ever talked to who believed sexual expression should only take place within marriage or who believed marriage could only exist between a man and woman. “Do you see how strange what you’re saying sounds to those of us out here in normal America?” she asked.

“Yes, I do,” Moore said. “It sounds strange to me too. But what you should know is, we believe even stranger things than that. We believe a previously dead man is going to show up in the sky, on a horse.”

Our Christian sexual ethic sounds strange to the outside world. We might as well own that. To the culture around us, our sexual boundaries sound quaint, archaic, and downright weird. That’s why we need to know not just what the Bible teaches about sex, but what the principles are that support those boundaries. One of the foundational principles that undergirds our sexual ethic is the truth that we are called to honor God with our bodies.

Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 6.

I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

In 1 Corinthians Paul was writing to a church that had issues. They were dividing into factions, battling over spiritual gifts, and hauling each other into court. They were boasting about the fact that a man was sleeping with his father’s wife, and they were apparently using slogans to justify men in the church visiting prostitutes.

Paul pushed back against their bumper-sticker theology with four main points:

  • We are meant for more than sexual immorality. We sometimes talk as if the important thing about faith is that our souls are destined for heaven. That’s true. But God didn’t just redeem our souls–he redeemed all of us. We are whole people: body, mind, and soul. Our physical and spiritual health are inexorably linked. We know that anger, grief, and depression can cause physical symptoms, and we also know that physical problems can lead to spiritual struggles. We cannot sin with our bodies and pretend it doesn’t affect our spirits. Our bodies are not destined for corruption but resurrection.
  • Members of Christ should not become partners with sin. I think that’s what Paul is getting at when he says that sexual sin is a sin against our own bodies. When we accepted Christ, we became members of the body of Christ. Sexual sin removes us from that unity with Christ and makes us physical partners with sin–something that should never be. We are meant to be one with God in our spirits, not separated from God by sin.
  • We were bought with a price. Christ’s blood bought us body and soul. Following Jesus as Lord means that he has to be Lord. It’s not just lip service. We don’t get to pick and choose: “Okay God, you can have my kitchen, den, and Sunday morning. I’m keeping my T.V., bedroom, and Saturday night.” Following Jesus as Lord means submitting to his leadership in every area of our lives–including our sexuality.
  • Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We’ve all got stories about obnoxious cell phone users. Yet even as oblivious as we can all sometimes be about our phones, most people recognize that there are places where phones need to be set aside. A Pew Research study found that 96% of Americans agree that cell phones should not be used in church or worship services. Most mature Christians recognize that church is the people, not the buildings. Yet we still understand our sanctuaries are special places and are meant to be treated with honor because that is where people go to meet with God. If we treat our church buildings with honor and set boundaries around who can use them and for what purpose, how much more should we honor our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of Christ indwells those who follow Jesus as Lord. As temples of the Spirit, our bodies are intended for worship. We are meant to honor God with our bodies.

Our God who designed and redeemed our bodies meant us for more than sexual immorality. We are created by God, bought by Christ’s blood, indwelled by the Spirit, and destined for resurrection. Let’s not cheapen that by becoming partners with sin.

Q: What do you think it means to honor God with your body? 

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Invitation to a Conversation


It’s been a crazy year, y’all.

Fifty Shades.



Ashley Madison.

We’ve known that our culture’s attitudes toward marriage, sex, and intimacy have shifted, but this year has shown us how far we’ve come–and how devastating the fallout from our anything goes sexual culture can be. Though people like to talk about how “it’s just sex,” we know better. Broken bones and broken hearts both hurt. If Christians talk too much about sex, it’s not because we’re obsessed. It’s because the world around us is, and we would spare people heartache if we can.

I’d like to invite you to a conversation. Not a “what’s okay in the bedroom” kind of conversation, and hopefully not a condemning or accusatory one. I want us to look at intimacy and sexuality from a theological point of view. What is God’s plan for and purpose for sex? How do we honor God with our sexuality? What hope is there when we struggle in these areas? What are the values and presuppositions that drive our views of sexuality? I want to move beyond purity pledges and 30 day sex challenges to talk about the big picture question of what God intended for this good and precious gift.

It’s a conversation we need to have. It’s not enough just to tell our kids to wait. We need to tell them why. Our culture is overwhelmed with the world’s version of sex. Two out of three television shows include sexual content, and one out of ten depict or strongly imply sexual intercourse. Of those depictions of intercourse, only half involved couples who were in an established relationship with one another. Ten percent involved couples who had just met. And that’s just television.

What our media reveals is that our culture has accepted two contradicting beliefs about sex. We now see sex as an inalienable human right. Two consenting adults can have sex with whomever however and whenever they please, and anyone who suggests putting boundaries around acceptable forms of sexual expression is a prude or bigot or worse. And yet, we also adamantly hold that sex is just like going for a jog. It’s just sex. Just about the endorphins–it doesn’t mean anything. Though it’s hard to see how sex can be both sacred and meaningless at the same time, those are the dominant messages coming from our culture.

Scripture has a different story. The Bible speaks of a God who asks us to glorify him with our bodies and to live before him with holiness, dignity, and purpose. Sex is a great, powerful, beautiful gift, and  an expression of love between husband and wife. Used rightly, sex bonds us together. Used wrongly, it tears us apart. The world screams its message about sex. As the community of faith, we need to be able to articulate a different story. We need to be able to tell this story clearly and tell it well not just to keep our children from harm, but so we can also offer hope and healing for those who have been left wounded and betrayed from the sexual turmoil of our culture.

So this is what I want us to talk about the next couple weeks. Let’s take a step back and look at what God’s good and loving intentions are for us in this area of our lives. Let’s be thoughtful. Let’s be loving. And let’s remember that God always writes the best stories.

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Giveaway: The Unmaking from Nichole Nordeman

I love watching potters work. Their process doesn’t always make sense to my untrained eye. I’ll watch as the potter shapes the clay on the wheel, building it up only to flatten it back out and reshape the clay. The potter spins and molds and shapes the clay into something beautiful and useful, but often what I think looks finished is only a step in the process. Unmaking is part of the process of making.

I feel like the clay sometimes. I think I know where things are going, then God puts his hands back on the wheel and changes the shape. Moving on means finding new rhythms, letting go of old patterns, and tearing down my shoddy workmanship to make way for his foundation. Sometimes our unmaking has to proceed our making.

That’s the theme behind Nichole Nordeman’s latest release, The Unmaking. Here’s what Nichole said about this new album:

“Before things in our lives can be resurrected and given new life, certain things must die.  Before beauty blooms in spring, roots must do the hard work under the hard frozen soil of winter.  Before you renovate and re-build, you tear down the parts of the structure that are weak or damaged or dangerous.  Before we make, we must unmake.”

I really like this album. The title track is great, but the other songs are solid too. “Not to Us” is based on Psalm 115:1, one of my favorite verses. And Mommas–just get your tissues ready before you listen to “Slow Down.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This album needs to be on your playlist. So, to help you out with that, I’ve got a giveaway for you. One lucky reader gets a free copy of The Unmaking.
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Seasons, Changes, and Trust

seeds unsplash

Sometimes God speaks quietly. And sometimes he uses a bullhorn. This was the first line of my devotional today:

“Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.”–Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Ironically, I mixed up my dates and read the wrong entry for today. But it was the one I needed. Today was the day I knew was coming when I edited “homeschool mom” out of my bio a few weeks ago. I dropped my oldest two kiddos off at school today.

I know that for lots of moms the first day of school is a great big party. And I get it–really. Going to the grocery store by yourself? Priceless. But even when you know a decision is right, there’s often a sense of loss when a door closes behind you. And today, yeah–it’s been all the feelings.

What if I didn’t teach them something? What if I’ve completely screwed them up forever and now they’re in school and everyone’s going to find out?!!!!

Ooohh. The house is quiet. Except for the jabbering four year old, but relatively quiet. This is nice.

I miss my babies! Is it 3:30 yet?

So munchkin is back in Mothers’ Day Out next week, and I could actually go the mall by myself. Maybe I should get a massage. Or a manicure. Or just book a whole week at the spa . . .

Pray for my husband, y’all.

Incidentally, these were the kids’ reviews:

“I made two new friends!”

“I loved it!”

“I got to sit next to my BFF!”

“I have a fun teacher, Mom.”

“We went to the library!”

“We went to P.E.!”

“We ate pizza!”

So yeah. They’re good. I know there’s going to be good days and bad days and just slog-through-it-because-you-have-to days, but they had a good first day. That’s what I’d prayed for. And the kid that I’d prayed would make one friend today made two. Our God who does abundantly beyond more than we could ask or think–that’s just kind of what he does.

The last few weeks as we’ve been gathering supplies and making plans, God’s been keeping up a quiet whisper in my ear. What was your word for the year again? Trust. Did you mean it? 

And yeah–yeah, I did. But we all know trusting God with other people is a lot harder than trusting him with ourselves. Trusting that yes, he’ll speak to them and they’ll hear. Trusting that on the beat-up, broken-hearted days he’ll bind up their souls as he’s bound up yours. Trusting that when he promised his presence would go with you, he also meant it for them. Trusting that you’re not raising them to be safe; you’re raising them to be strong. And knowing that his strength is enough for both the gathering in and the letting go.

Today has felt like one of those youth group trust exercises. The kind where you lean back and fall, knowing in your head they’re going to catch you but still the tiniest bit afraid that you’re going to be the one that goes splat. But God’s mercies are new ever morning, and his faithfulness never fails. He’s got me. He’s got them. And he’s not going to let us down.


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Confessions of a Control Freak, Part 3

control freak

I think I was in elementary school when I decided that I would write the paper for any group project I had to do. If I wrote it, I could control it. I wasn’t going to turn in sloppy work with my name on it. The system worked well until I got into graduate school and found myself in a staring contest with a guy who had adopted the same strategy. We finally worked out a compromise. He wrote; I edited.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see things done well. We should be confident in our gifts and talents and proud of a job well done. Yet like fear, pride can also lead to a spirit of control. That’s where we need to be careful.

Pride leads to control when:

  • It numbs us to our need for God. Pride doesn’t leave room for God in our thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Pride convinces us that we can depend on our own talents and resources. The problem is that human strength is insufficient to accomplish a spiritual task. When Jesus said that we can accomplish nothing apart from him, he meant it. Our greatest strength comes from dependence, not self-sufficiency. Pride isolates us from the life-giving flow of the Spirit.
  • It blinds us to our own weaknesses. “Pride goes before a fall” is an overly quoted verse for a reason: It’s true. When pride convinces us we’ve got this down, we stop watching for mistakes and pitfalls. Thinking you can’t make a mistake is the best way to ensure one.
  • It silences other people’s voices. If you think you know it all, there’s no reason to listen to anyone else’s input. That’s a dangerous place to be. Often it’s not that things should be done my way or her way; it’s that we need to do things our way. We need to dream big, but we also need to watch the budget. Get the project done on time, but get it done well. We need holiness and grace; hymns and choruses; freedom and structure. Pride ignores other people’s perspectives. Humility honors them.

When we forget our need for God, stop seeing our own weaknesses, and ignore other people’s wisdom, we start living out of pride-driven control. Suggestions become demands, we refuse to consider other people’s perspectives, and start tossing people off the bus. If we insist on doing it all our own way, eventually people start letting us. Pride may go before a fall, but it also walks alone.

So how do we tame our prideful tendencies?

  • Cultivate dependence on Christ. We need to live like we’re the branch, not the vine. The discipline of daily devotion and prayer is essential, but it can’t stop there. What if instead of assuming we know what God wants in a given situation, we stopped to ask? If we began every planning meeting with prayer–not just routine, but inviting people to seek God together and listen for his voice? If we came to Scripture expecting and actively seeking to meet with God as we study his word? Honoring Jesus as Lord checks pride and places us under his control.
  • Assess ourselves honestly. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3). We need to be honest about our own weaknesses. That doesn’t mean seeing ourselves as wretched worms, but soberly recognizing that we still have room to grow. Maybe you’ve got great ideas, but tend to be fuzzy with details. Or you get so involved in information gathering that you never get around to making a decision. Recognizing our own areas of weakness can help us lean on other people’s strength.
  • Live with an attitude of honor. The only competition in the body of Christ should be to outdo one another in showing honor. Pride silences others; honor elevates them. We honor others by seeking their perspective and listening to their points of view. Honor encourages other people to use their gifts.  It reminds us that there is beauty in diversity and strength in unity. Honor delights in seeing God’s glory displayed in those around us. Pride elevates self; honor elevates others.

Pride puts a ceiling on what we can accomplish. Living out of control means that anything I touch will only be as big as what I can do. If I want God-sized results, I have to be willing to hand over the reigns. Want to see God move? Let go. Stand back. Watch to see what God does–because God does amazing really well.

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Confessions of a Control Freak, Part 2

control freak

I am convinced fear is one of the greatest factors that drive our need for control. I recognize it in others because I also see it in myself.

Fear can be a healthy response to certain situations. Fear helps us make good decisions, like not playing Frisbee on the roof. It also gives us the adrenaline fueled flight-or-fight response that can help you yank your toddler out of the way of the falling bookshelf or lift a car off an accident victim. But fear that moves us away from trust can produce a variety of unhealthy responses, including control.

Fear that leads to control is a problem because:

It drives me to put myself in God’s place. Fear can cause us to adopt the false belief that it’s my job to keep bad things from happening. When I believe it’s up to me to keep the world running smoothly, it pushes me to ensure everyone around me is doing things right. So I micromanage the project, demand people in leadership do things my way, and restrict my children’s choices to the one I want them to make.When I buy the lie that I can control outcomes and events, I have to make sure every decision and every process is done my way.  Sometimes it works. If I’m angry, manipulative, or charismatic enough, I can get everyone around me dancing to my tune. But when the house of cards I’ve built comes crashing down–as it always does–I either have to face facts or find someone to blame.

It causes me to restrict other people’s power and freedom. God intended church to be a body, not a one woman show. That mean’s everyone’s voices and gifts matter, not just mine. But fear gets in the way. If I can’t trust God to do his job, how can I trust anyone else? My need for control can come out in different ways. Suggestions that feel more like demands. Punishing people for decisions I don’t like. A constant string of criticisms that wear people down. All these behaviors on my part can drive others to their own set of negative behaviors like rebelling, quitting, or shutting down. My need for control can rob others of their God-given freedom and prevent them from using their spiritual gifts. Healthy people can desire to see things done well but still honor other people’s freedom and power to make real decisions.

It keeps me from experiencing God’s freedom and blessing. I wrote a few months ago about our dog Summer, and how she was afraid to come into the house. Before she came home with us, Summer lived at a vet-run shelter and spent most of her time in the yard. They took good care of her, but she didn’t have any experience with things like carpet, noisy washing machines, or Christmas trees. She’s been with us about six months now. While she’s still fearful of new situations, she’s made lot’s of progress. Among other things, she’s discovered we have a couch. Instead of being afraid, she now prefers coming inside.

Fear-driven-control forces me to live in the safe space I can control. Like Summer, I want to live in the safety-zone of what is known, comfortable, and predictable. But in doing so I miss out on the blessings of love, intimacy, and adventure found in relationship with God. Faith involves risk, and without faith we can’t enjoy freedom.

So how do I silence the voice of fear?

  • Celebrate God’s sovereignty. There is tremendous freedom in handing control over to God. Knowing and celebrating God’s sovereignty frees me from the burden of having to control every situation and prepare for every eventuality. Instead, I can fully enjoy each moment because God knows my future. Bad things will happen. Whether God delivers me from it or strengthens me to walk through it, I know God will provide for my every need when I need it. God’s in charge. I don’t have to be.
  • Trust God’s heart. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” When we love God and know God’s love for us, there’s no room left for fear.
  • Invest in relationship with God. Summer overcame her fear as she learned to know and trust us. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. If we want to trust God more, we need to know him better. That means we need to practice the basic disciplines of faith. Reading the Bible expecting to hear God’s voice. Prayer that takes time for listening instead of just running down our wish list. Celebrating God’s character in worship. Participating in genuine community. Relationships are built with time and experience, and our relationship with God is no different.

Q: How does fear drive your need for control? How can we learn to live by faith instead of fear?

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Because You are Greatly Treasured

greatly treasured

Things that got done before we went on vacation: laundry, packing, cleaning the bathrooms, wrapping up the Bible study unit I had due the end of July.

Things that didn’t get done: writing and scheduling blog posts. (Looks sheepish).

We’re going to get back to the Confessions of a Control Freak series next week, but I wanted to share with you the verse I’ve had running through my head the last two weeks:

When you began making your requests, a word went out, and I’ve come to tell it to you because you are greatly treasured. (Daniel 9:23)

When you began making your requests. . .

One of these days I’m going to write about what we can learn about prayer from Daniel. Daniel was committed to prayer even when it was costly (lion’s den, anyone?) He was disciplined in prayer. He heard from God in prayer, and in chapter 9 we see that Daniel let Scripture guide his prayers. In the first year of King Darius’ reign, Daniel began pondering the scrolls–copies of the books of the law and the prophets. Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). Daniel recognized that the 70 years appointed for the exile were now completed. It drove Daniel to prayer. Daniel confessed the sins of his people and asked God to act on behalf of his people once more.

While Daniel was still speaking, the angel Gabriel came with a message for Daniel. Daniel says it three times: “while I was still speaking . . . while I was still praying my prayer for help . . . while I was still speaking this prayer, the man Gabriel approached me” (Daniel 9:20-21).

Never fear that your prayers are unheard. God moved to respond to Daniel’s prayer as soon as Daniel began speaking. Does it always happen that swiftly? No. Later, Daniel labors in prayer for three weeks before receiving an answer because there was a spiritual battle being fought he didn’t know was going on. Sometimes we wait in prayer because God wants to to do something in us so we are ready to receive his answer. And sometimes we have to accept that no is our answer. But our prayers are always heard.

. . . a word went out . . .

Prayer is powerful. In prayer we invite our Father God to bring heaven’s power to bear in our circumstance. And God is not stingy about his blessings. Daniel prayed. God answered–and he answered powerfully. Let us never forget that the prayer of a righteous man–or woman–is powerful and effective. Prayer is not our last line of defense; it is the first and best weapon of our warfare.

. . . because you are greatly treasured.

God’s response to prayer is motivated by his love for us. You are greatly treasured by our great God. You don’t have to twist God’s arm or guilt him into giving you what you need. It delights God to respond to your prayers because you are greatly treasured. “He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32).

Let that truth sink down in your heart: you are greatly treasured. Maybe the people in your life who should have treasured you didn’t. Maybe you’re carrying around a long list of labels and accusations that have been thrown at you over the years. Maybe life’s heartaches make it feel like the world is against you and God is too. Know this: you are precious to the Most High. When you pray, God hears you because you matter to him.

Q: How does knowing that you are greatly treasured impact your prayers?

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Book Review: Jaded by Varina Denman

I’ve had this book sitting on my desk daring me to review it. Yes, I’ve been procrastinating. Not because I didn’t like it–I did–but because I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to get started. Jaded isn’t the kind of book you plow through in an evening and gush about to your friends as “the best book ever!” It’s a book that demands for the reader to take it slowly, think about the message, and savor each bite.

Basics first: Jaded is Ruthie’s story. When Ruthie was seven years old, her daddy left, the church threw her momma out, and her best friend joined the rest of the church in looking the other way. Thirteen years later, Ruthie is okay with God but doesn’t want much to do with his people. They’ve certainly never given her a reason to try. Then Dodd moves to town–a handsome young preacher who doesn’t know her history, doesn’t understand the way the town looks at her, and is determined that the gospel is big enough for everyone. But power brokers in the church oppose Dodd and Ruthie’s relationship as fiercely as her own mother does, and both of them have to make a choice. What do you do when you love God but aren’t sure the church is worth the trouble?

Jaded is a well-written book, but it’s not an easy read. Honestly, I find that refreshing. I love Christian fiction, but a lot of what’s on the market is brain candy. Fun, light, sweet romance mixed with a little spiritual truth all wrapped up in a  happy ending. There’s a place for that, but sometimes you want something savory to go with the sweet. Jaded is that something different. It’s powerfully written. You can taste the west Texas grit in the air and wouldn’t be surprised to discover Ruthie is your checker next time you got to the grocery store. But part of the power of the story is that Jaded demands for you to engage with it and think–not just about the book, but about the uncomfortable truths it demands we face.

The biggest struggle Ruthie has on her journey toward God is her relationship with the church. It’s an ugly thing thing when the church becomes the stumbling stone, but it happens more than we’d like to think. Ruthie’s story makes that personal. One of the things Jaded forces is to confront is that sometimes that judgmental holier-than-thou voice is what the church shows to the world. And yet, sometimes what we judge is what we become. Over the course of the novel, Ruthie has to face up to her own judgments about the church and about others and has to let go of her protective hardness to open herself up to love. Sin, judgment, and forgiveness are powerful themes woven through the book. You may find yourself agreeing with Ruthie that God’s people are a faulty, ugly, sticky mess–but we fit right in.

So who should read Jaded? If you enjoy women’s fiction and like stories with depth and complexity, Jaded is a great choice. It would also be a good book club choice. It’s an award-winning novel, there’s plenty to talk about, and a discussion guide is included. The sequel to Jaded, Justified, came out in June. It’s on my to-read list. I’d recommend putting Jaded on yours.

To learn more about the book and the author, check out Varina Denman’s blog and read her posts on Jaded and Justified.

I received a free copy of this book to review through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Confessions of a Control Freak, pt. 1

control freak

I hate cruise control.

Really. I hate it. I absolutely loathe it. I appreciate the theory–cruise down the highway at a nice steady speed without having to fear flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror. It makes perfect sense, but if I’m behind the wheel I want my foot on the gas pedal right where it’s supposed to be. When the cruise is on, I can’t shake the feeling that the car is driving itself. It makes me feel like I’m not in control–and I hate that feeling.

Confession:  I’m a bit of a control freak. I come by it naturally. On the DISC performance inventory, I’m almost equal on C and D personality traits. That would be “conscientious” and “dominance.”  It’s what one DISC specialist cheerfully called “the heart attack profile.” I’m the person with a million ideas who knows how to get them all done perfectly. If you’ve got a project that needs creative solutions with quality results, I’m your girl.

The problem is that my inner drive to see things done right can devolve into micromanaging and nitpicking other people’s work. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Being controlling? Not so much. Having high standards and desiring to see things done well are great qualities, but when we let those desires push us to controlling other people, they tend to push back.

If I’m going to be totally honest, that inner need for control doesn’t always come from a desire to see things done well. Sometimes it stems from darker places. Pride. Fear. A lack of trust in God’s sovereignty. And one huge problem is that if I’m trying to control others, I’m restricting their freedom and power to hear God’s voice and act on it for themselves. If you want people to succeed, you’ve also got to give them the freedom to fail. That can get scary.

So what do you do when your inner control freak rears its head? The thing that helps me most is remembering who’s really in charge. God is sovereign. I’m not.

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

No matter what happens in my life, God’s love for me will not be shaken. God laid the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens with a word. My efforts to control my life are like throwing my arms around a dust pile and trying to keep the wind from blowing it away. I can’t do it. Trying to take control of my world and the people around me to keep bad things from happening is only setting me up for stress and failure. Striving for excellence is great, but it’s no magic talisman against the problems of the world. Accidents happen. Equipment breaks. People forget things, have other priorities or make mistakes. Sometimes I make mistakes. (More often than I’d like to admit). All my efforts can’t stop the world from shaking. But when the ground trembles, God’s love for me still stands firm.

Silencing your inner control freak starts by increasing your confidence in God’s love. God is good. He loves us, and he is in control. We can trust him enough to let go.

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