Sex Before Marriage

This piece comes by numerous confidential requests. Numerous. You are not alone.

We live in a sexually permissive age.  Your parents grew up in a sexually permissive age.  The gospel was preached throughout the known world in a sexually permissive age.  For all people, of all time, temptations are pretty much the same.  The difficultly in our current, media-driven world, is for Christians to know what is, and is not, acceptable behavior between unmarried people. Let’s start by stating some obvious, if uncomfortable, truths.

It Ain’t About Pregnancy

I have lost count of how many times young people will insist they are virgins because they did not engage in sexual conduct that could result in pregnancy. You can do a lot of sexually pleasurable things without the risk of conception. Meeting the biological definition of virginity does not mean you have never engaged in sexual immorality.  Be honest with yourself and with God.  Then try being honest with your peers.  Insisting you are pure as the driven snow because pregnancy was not possible requires either extraordinary self-deception or a level of naivete that is almost impossible to believe is sincere.

Where’s the Line?

There is a simple question to ask and answer:   “Would we do this in public?”

If the answer is ‘yes’ you can be pretty sure you are staying safe. You can kiss, hug, hold hands, embrace and do many things in public that will not prove an irresistible temptation. If, however, the answer to, “Can we do this in public?”, is ‘no’, then you can be quite certain you’re playing with fire.  No need to pray about whether or not it is sin.  If you can’t do something walking around in the park while families play nearby it is best to save it until after the ring.  If you are not comfortable with your future spouse imagining you in that situation, don’t go there.

Rather than trying to figure out the acceptable parameters in the midst of passionate interaction, determine healthy boundaries before you are in a situation that requires you draw the line.  If you are feeling tempted and tired, go home. Go home alone and send your beloved back to their place, alone, or with an irritatingly present roommate.  Don’t wait until you are exhausted and your judgment is compromised before you decide to call it a night.

What to Do if You Went Too Far

You are defined by the love of God as seen in the face of Jesus Christ, not by your biggest mistakes.  If you went too far, ask forgiveness and start afresh.  Agree with your significant other that you can’t play with fire and expect to be without scars. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is not OK with that, break up.  You might feel you can’t live without them but if the other person loves you and loves the Lord they will respect limits that keep you both safe.

Remember that this is a life-long grace walk.  God’s grace brought you this far. God’s grace will keep you.  Get moving in the right direction and don’t look back.

 

 

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How to Get Started in Ministry

You went to Bible college for ministry. You are in debt up to your ears for the sake of your calling. You did internships with various churches while in school and a handful of your classmates were fortunate enough to meet a pastor who was vested in mentoring them and gave them a first job. And then, there is you.  How do you move from “ministry wannabe” to someone engaged in meaningful ministry?

The good news is that ministry opportunities abound.  If you really want to serve Jesus in ministry, you will.  How do you find places where you can make a contribution to God’s kingdom?  Be willing to look where the needs are great and the financial rewards are non-existent. If you really want to pursue Jesus recklessly, without concern for the costs, be willing to pursue Him recklessly without concern for the rewards.

Church Plants, Home Missions and Revitalization Projects

While everyone would like to be the worship leader of a Hillsong Church, about six people on the planet have that  job.  If we are all about souls, nothing is more challenging or rewarding, than teaming up with like minded people to spread the gospel through planting, growing or revitalizing local churches. These types of ministries are labor intensive and need a healthy team of Christians committed to Jesus.   If you minister to children or youth, are gifted musically or pastorally, you will actually make a difference by starting in a small work. As it grows you will have had the joy of seeing God’s faithfulness first hand.  Your ministry position will grow with the church and today’s full-time leader was once a faithful volunteer who loved Jesus enough to serve anywhere. If the ministry position fits, don’t turn it down for lack of salary. God is faithful. You trust Him. Trust Him with your financial situation. God has bigger plans and bigger rewards than what we can see.  There is no shame to starting at the beginning but there’s a lot of of joy in doing so.

Serving Your Ministry Network

Many young people are not really sure how to find places where their skills can be used.  Fortunately, most of us belong to some kind of network and a phone call to your superintendent’s office or that of the director of church development will likely steer you in the right direction.  Should that fail you, contact a local presbyter or ask a professor from your Bible college days.  By and large, older people like to help younger people get started. Find yourself an old person and get their input. I’m old and I can vouch for my age mates. Investing in the younger generation is a joy to us. 

Pioneer a New Ministry in Your Home Church

Once you have attended Bible college, most people will need to move on from their home church to another place of ministry.  This is not a criticism of your home church but a simple reality.  Your church has a pastor, youth minister, children’s director and worship leader and you are not there to replace or compete with those already called to those positions. Neither are you there to lose heart that you will ever “get a chance” to do what God called you to do.  But there is a reality that for some people, there will be a time between leaving school and finding a ministry opportunity outside your original home church.  When you are at home, serve your local church.  Volunteer wherever they will take you.  Talk to the pastor and ask him what ministry he would like to see that is not yet in place and if possible, be prepared to suggest where you might be a blessing. Play guitar?  Start a ministry to a local nursing home.  Love youth?  Volunteer as a Bible study leader.  Have a heart for the public schools?  Offer to organize a ministry in cooperation with Youth Alive. Few churches suffer from an over supply of the willing and if you do end up at home, do not let that be an excuse to sit on your hands.

Money?

While all this sounds great in theory, many of you will be paralyzed by the fact you have school debt.  How do you find the balance between meaningful ministry and Fannie Mae?  Stay tuned for Money Matters in our next blog. 

To the Class of 2016

We often talk of commencement as the ‘start of your real life’.  “Real life” is, in some sense, an illusion. Jesus alone is ‘real life’. This short term experience is a corrupt illusion that we mistakenly call ‘life’. It is not going to last forever and is a temporary situation in which we live in decaying mortal bodies in a corrupt world under the prince of darkness. Hence, this will not be a cake walk and this is not about you. This is about the 3.6 billion people on the planet who have no idea who Jesus is.  Time is precious and ‘your time’ does not belong to you.  Also, ‘life’ is not on your side. You might be young, but that doesn’t make it easy.  Accept that reality and purpose to live for that for which you were created and you actually will find there is joy in the journey and much of it.

Yes, things spiritually are at a low ebb. We need a national revival. Young people please be aware you cannot leave the church because you are the church. You leave it, skip it, distance yourself from it, then you destroy that for which Christ Jesus died. I challenge you to show the meaning of radical discipleship. You pick up your cross.  You show you love Jesus enough to work to humble yourself and work for nothing.  He paid for you. I plead with you to be an example to those who are older and burned out.  Set the example again.

I’ve been at life for nearly six decades now and the biggest mistakes people make in their twenties are these: they either suppress God’s voice to do something they really want to do, or they suffer from ‘choice paralysis’ and wrongly suppose they have to make the perfect one right choice for their entire life in their next step. As the saying goes, “You can’t steer a moored ship”.  In six decades of life I have done most everything I have ever thought the Lord might have me do. I just didn’t do them all at once.  But if you have a half dozen choices before you and all are scriptural, choose one and trust the Lord to check you if it wrong.  The chance of birds flying overhead in a formation that says, “Go to Egypt” are not terribly high, but if you can go to Egypt and the Lord has placed it before you, go ahead.

Yes, there will be tears in the days to come. They will not always be tears of weeping for the lost. There will be tears of frustration, of not understanding what the Father is doing. There will be the tears of farewell and tears of loss.  As Michael Card said in one of his songs, ‘there were tears before there was rain’.  The Lord has given you and open door. Walk through it and know that you will not always keep your eyes above the waves, but when you do not, He will grab hold of you.  Now get moving. Redeem the time, for the days are evil.