Tag Archives: church

‘Tis So Sweet: To Trust Him More

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

-Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus,  Louisa M. R. Stead

I haven’t talked about it a lot here on my blog, but one of the most amazing parts of my move last year has been my church. I switched campuses a few months ago (same church, different campus location), and for the first time in a long time, I really feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. Not only do I feel myself growing more spiritually than I have in the last 10 years, but it’s really one of those things where I feel like I fit. Not because everyone is like me, but because we are all so unique and crazy and wonderfully made–it’s truly a blessing to be in a church that is charismatic and I don’t have to “hide” my gifts or attend elsewhere to get my fill. Every single week at church, I am filled in more ways than I can count.

One of the biggest blessings has been the prayer ministry at my church. I have known that I am an intercessor for many years, but I was never in a church environment where that call was supported and grown. Yes, at past churches I have prayed with other people and prayed for other people, but here, the call to intercession is celebrated and many women are a part of my life who stoke the fires of prayer in me.

In fact, I knew this was going to be the right campus for me when the first Sunday I attended, a beautiful sister came up to me during the church greeting time, pulled me into a warm embrace, and said very boldly to me, “You are an intercessor. You are called to it. You need to be doing it more.” I was surprised–not at what she said, but at her boldness. And though I initially fought it, I knew from that one interaction that this was the church campus for me.

So I was incredibly excited when that sister and others organized a prayer night for the women of our campus in August. I did not attend expecting anything of myself, only that I would experience the Lord’s presence. I received that and so much more.

As the ladies prayed over me, one of our praying sisters and a friend of mine spoke several prophetic truths over my life…truths that have done more to increase my faith and trust in the Lord than anything before. I hate to say it, but I haven’t been someone who has had a lot of trust in the Lord. I have claimed to have it, but I have found it so difficult to trust in Him despite His repeated attempts to show me that He is completely trustworthy. After this prayer night, though, God’s grace has proven faithful once again as He has grown me so much in the area of trusting Him.

This new blog series is going to highlight many of the things that my beautiful sister prophesied over me and their subsequent impact on my life and trust in the Lord. I’m so excited to share with you these amazing, life-changing truths. And I am excited as I continue to grow in my trust and dependency on my Lord. It truly is so sweet.

 

 

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Spiritually Healthy Habits: Worship

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“I really didn’t enjoy worship today.” I used to say this all the time about the church services I attended, especially when I was younger. I believed that the only time I was to worship the Lord was on Sunday mornings, and the rest of the time was Michelle time. Even though I was a leader in my church, I lived my life as if I worshipped my friends, my job and money, and even my health more than I worshipped God. As I grew in my faith, I realized that worshipping God was more than just “enjoying” the service on Sunday mornings, more than just attending church for a few hours each week, and more than just singing songs to the Lord. Worship is meant to be more because it is not meant to be about me. Worship was meant to be about the Lord!

Worship is an important habit to develop if we want to be spiritually healthy. But it’s essential that we remember these three things about worship:

  • Where we spend the most time shows what or who we worship. This doesn’t meant that if you don’t live at the church, you don’t worship God or that those who work in the church worship God more. It simply means your priorities in life will point to what you truly worship. Is your priority working 100-hour weeks to give your family the best of everything, while neglecting them and your health? Then maybe you worship money. Do you spend a lot of time at the gym because you want to look good for everyone? Then perhaps you worship yourself. Spend all day on social media? You may worship others’ opinions. The Bible warns us constantly against idolatry (Luke 4:8), and it’s easier than ever to become entangled in it. So take an inventory of where you spend your time—what or who do you worship?
  • Worship is more than just singing. Sometimes, we think of worship as music and nothing more—especially if you are in any way musically inclined. But worship is far more than just music! Worship can be prayer, listening to a sermon, praising God in nature, serving others less fortunate than ourselves, and/or giving thanks. Everything we do can be seen as an act of worship if we live as if we are serving God instead of man (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23). Worship is defined as showing reverence and adoration towards God, and we can do that simply by loving others. “I’ll bring you more than a song/ for a song in itself is not what you have required/ You search much deeper within/ through the way things appear/ You’re looking into my heart!” (Matt Redman, The Heart of Worship) So ask yourself: besides music, how do you worship God?
  • Worship should happen both corporately and privately. “Worship isn’t just for Sunday mornings!” I have seen that on church signs and heard it from the pulpit. But it’s true—worship consists of more than just attending a one-hour service on Sunday mornings. True worship of God extends beyond the church walls and into our private lives. We worship with others because we do not want to give up meeting together; we worship privately because we are to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15). Psalm 71:8 says, “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” The Psalmist isn’t just sitting around all day praising God; he is declaring the Lord’s splendor to others and by himself as he goes about his day. In the same way, we should challenge ourselves by asking: how can I worship God privately as well as publicly?

John 4:23 says, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” Being spiritually healthy involves worshiping the Lord as true worshipers—those who will worship Him with their time, with more than music, and in private and public.

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Serving Others

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I serve the homeless every month with my church. I love doing this for many reasons, but I wasn’t always keen on serving others. I used to believe that serving others meant I could just serve my family, friends, and church community and call it a day. Or that it meant that I could just donate money or needed items and never have any kind of hands-on experience. Then I went on my first mission trip. I took a team of youth to Kentucky to fix up a shelter for women and children. “This will be easy,” I thought. We are just fixing up a house…anyone can do that. But I soon realized that our tasks consisted of more than just painting, gardening, and cleaning. We were to work alongside women and children who had lost everything—they were homeless and hurting, sometimes physically. At the week’s end, one woman showed her appreciation by giving me the boots right off her feet.

Serving others goes is a tricky subject in Christianity, because it entails so many different things we could do! However, here are three things that serving others should do for us if we want to truly reap its benefits:

  • Serving others should stretch us. Serving our family, our friends, and even people we don’t like is definitely a call that God puts on our lives. We should seek to serve everyone. Serving others should make us uncomfortable. It should put us in positions that we haven’t normally been in, because then we rely on Christ instead of our own strength! I could easily claim that I go home and serve my family by helping my disabled uncle. But that is comfortable to me, even though it’s a pain. What makes me uncomfortable is going to the homeless shelter, traveling to a foreign country to teach God’s Word to persecuted believers, and serving in prison ministries. But those are the exact things we are called to do. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-45 that when we stretch ourselves to serve others, we are actually serving Him and growing in Christ-likeness.
  • Serving others should humble us. There are few things more humbling than to accept the gift of the shoes off of a homeless person’s feet. I had thought that I was going to serve others and show them God’s love; but in fact, I was the one who was served and shown the true love of God. It reminded me of the story of the widow’s offering that Jesus noted in Mark 12:41-44. I had gone to Kentucky believing I was giving out of my wealth, believing that my offering of time and talents was pleasing to God—and they were. But this woman at the shelter, much like the Biblical widow, joyously gave to me out of her poverty, insisting that I take one of the few possessions she had. I have never felt so small in light of God’s love. But that is what serving others should do for us.
  • Serving others should change us. The stretching, the humbling, the discomfort—those are the things that truly change us by decreasing the amount of “us” in us and increasing the amount of Christ in us. So while serving others shouldn’t ever be about us, in many ways is IS about us. It’s about changing our perspective, challenging our ideals, and choosing to trust God. If God’s goal is to remove us (not improve us), then serving others is one of the best ways to achieve that. Jesus put Himself in the servant’s position and encouraged us to do the same to increase the power of the Lord in our lives (Mark 9; John 13; Matthew 23). When we are decreasing self, we give God more room to work and move through us. And nothing could change us more than increasing the power of the Lord in our lives!

If you want to see lasting change happen in your life, practice the spiritually healthy habit of serving others. Get yourself out of your comfort zone and into a place where you truly have to depend on the Lord’s strength and power! You won’t regret it!

What’s Missing From Sex: Commitment (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 17:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak

This is the last blog for my church’s series, “What’s Missing from Sex?” and I have to admit, I’m struggling to write it. Mostly, it’s because my life has changed dramatically over the past few weeks. My uncle—the man who inadvertently introduced me to pornography—had a massive stroke and is unable to care for himself. My family and I have accepted the responsibility of coordinating his care and moving him to live with my family back east. My father—the man who rejected me continuously as a child and adult—has been given 60 days to live and is dying a sad and terrible death. Additionally, I am trying to figure out my feelings about a male friend of mine, which is both confusing and confirming all at the same time. I’m emotionally spent. And to say that I am thinking about commitment recently is an understatement: the word is being redefined in my life on an hourly basis.

I could talk about commitment and the various awesome quotes my pastor threw out about Christians, sex, and commitment, but instead, here are the two things I’m learning about commitment as I’ve struggled through the past few weeks:

Commitment plays a big part in our self-worth. What was it about me that made my father not want to be a part of my life? I don’t know if I ever asked myself this question or considered it as I was growing up. But even so, I lived as if the answer to the question was simply that I wasn’t enough. I conducted my life as a woman who had little self-worth, who asked for zero commitment from anyone before engaging them sexually, who allowed herself to be treated as an object. I was saying to others that I was independent and confident, but my actions showed that I didn’t feel worthy of a commitment from anyone—and that I expected that as well. Thankfully, I know now that this is a lie! I am worthy of that commitment—and so are you. Everyone is. I see it play out through the situation with my uncle: I see the happiness on his face upon being reassured that we are committed to caring for him. He not only feels loved but secure in having others who care for him. Though his situation isn’t ideal, his self-worth can be. It’s that kind of security and self-worth that God wanted us to know when He committed to sending Jesus to save us. He wanted to set us free and ground our identity in Him (1 John 3:1-2).

Commitment is risky. This is my current struggle. I know how difficult it is for me to open up to others. With my male friend, I have felt like he is gently pursuing me, likely somewhat cautious of rejection himself and of my penchant for being a pushy prophet girl who puts up walls and holds him at bay. I struggle with being vulnerable, knowing that rejection has played such a serious role in my past. I’ve been trying to purposely embrace the risk of commitment—to friendship and beyond, if that’s what God wants—in order to truly experience life and love as God intended. I take risks everywhere else—but in relationships, I tend to be a cautious study. We all do. But what a risk God took for us in sending Jesus! The risk is that we would all-out reject him—and in one way or another, we all have rejected Him. But He still did it. Knowing that we would reject Him, He still gave us that choice. The question is, am I willing to take that risk with others? With God? Are you?

The reward of risking honor, intimacy, understanding, and commitment in marriage is a healthy, loving sex life where God defines your worth (and He has said you are worthy!). As I wrap up this series, I want to point out something my pastor said: if God is not the God of your sexuality, then He’s not the God of anything in your life. So I urge you to let God be the God of your sexuality and your sex life—and watch the rewards and blessings pour out on you!

What’s Missing From Sex: Understanding (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 18:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

I had been sitting in the car with him for about 10 minutes. I was in the driver’s seat, and God had put me there for a reason: He knew I couldn’t get in a good right hook or jab from the position I was in. And literally, that’s all I could think about at the moment—punching this jerk that was telling me about this new woman he was dating, which was funny, because he hadn’t yet broken up with me—AND he was still married! In a quiet moment between yelling, I realized something I had been too blind to see: this man never understood me or my intentions. He did not understand my love for Jesus, he did not understand how I wanted to be treated, and he did not understand my heart (all things that were my fault). Additionally, I also realized that I did not understand him or what he had really wanted from me—I had only understood what I wanted to know. We lacked understanding at its most basic level.

One of the biggest things that’s missing from sex these days is understanding. Not just understanding about what sex is and Who created it, but understanding your spouse and the marriage that you’ve entered. I certainly did not understand my ex above, and he did not understand me—which meant everything physical between us amounted to nothing except heartbreak and emptiness. However, to restore sex to what God intended, we must realize these three things:

  • Understanding in sex requires communication. One of the top three things married couples fight about is sex. It’s usually about every part of sex: from the frequency to the likes or dislikes. That’s why married couples must communicate with each other both inside the bedroom and outside. How can you understand someone if you’re not communicating with them? Of course, this is quite simple in some ways, quite complex in others. It means listening to your spouse and really hearing what they say—that can seem easy. But it also means understanding when your spouse feels “in the mood” and understanding when they don’t. It is why sex outside of the marriage bed—e.g., one night stands, empty relationships with no commitment, even pornography—often leaves us scarred.
  • Understanding in sex requires compassion. Again, your marriage outside of the bedroom will affect what happens inside the bedroom. Like communication, if you aren’t showing compassion outside of the bedroom walls, you likely won’t feel those same things within them. How do you respond to your spouse? How do you talk about your spouse to your friends, your children, your coworkers? How do you show your spouse you love him/her? How you treat your spouse, whether in private or in public, has an emotional impact on your sex life. When you unite yourself with someone physically through sex, you should show grace, mercy, and love in the most intimate of circumstances.
  • Understanding in sex requires communion. I’m not talking about the bread and wine that you might get if you attend church. I’m talking about the unity that comes with marriage. The Bible says that when a man leaves his parents, he and his wife are joined together and become one (Ephesians 5:31, Genesis 2:24). This oneness is not just a physical oneness, but it is a spiritual and emotional oneness as well. It means that you stop living just for yourself, you stop thinking just for your own needs, and you begin to seek understanding about the spouse to whom you have been joined.

Sex can’t be used as a thermostat to control your marriage, as my pastor noted, and it can’t be used as a scheme to get what you want in your marriage. Instead, sex should complement your marriage and be one of many gauges to track the health of your marriage. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to begin practicing understanding—not just of sex as God intended, but understanding of your spouse and marriage through communication, compassion, and communion.

What’s Missing From Sex: Understanding (Part 1)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 18:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

I was having an e-mail conversation with an ex, and he was telling me about his sister’s recent heartbreak. His sister had dated a man who, after a year-long relationship, broke her heart by confessing that for the last eight months, he had also been seeing someone else and was now going to marry this other woman. My ex’s sister was devastated. “I keep trying to console her,” my ex said, “but she hasn’t experienced heartbreak like this before. It’s like losing her first pet.” I nearly choked on my water. Like losing her first pet? I thought to myself. No…it’s nothing like that. Pets don’t have human reasoning capabilities and make decisions to intentionally hurt you. She loved this man and believed that he loved her in return—but it turns out he didn’t. As I tried to explain this to him, I realized something very profound about this man who I had (stupidly) previously chosen to get involved with: he did not understand.

You may be thinking, “what is there to understand about sex? It’s a simple deed, done in different ways. I can figure it out.” However, we must move beyond simply the act of sex and into what sex is as God intended. And in a series titled, “What’s Missing from Sex,” we have to discuss our understanding about the one thing that is tied to sex, even if we haven’t always included it in sex: love. In order to truly get the most pleasure from sex, we must first have true understanding about sex and love together in the context that God intended for them (marriage). Here are a couple of things we need to understand about love:

We must understand what godly love is. My ex didn’t understand what godly love is, so he couldn’t comprehend why his sister was suffering such heartbreak. Jesus said that true, great love was characterized by “laying one’s life down for a friend” (John 15:13). Jesus spoke this prophetically, knowing that He was going to lay down His life for us. But He also told us to love others as He had loved us (John 13:34). So really, He was saying that true, godly love is selfless. Godly love thinks of the other person before thinking of yourself. It is so easy to think that a relationship is all about you: your needs, your desires, your wishes being fulfilled. However, Jesus tells us something completely different about love: that it is not a feeling or an emotion, but an action: a selfless action that is completely against our fleshly nature in every way (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Love is a commitment to the other person’s well-being regardless of the impact on you.

We must understand that godly love and sex walk hand in hand. While it is possible to have sex without love, sex was never meant to be experienced without godly love. 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 (The Message) says, “There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.”  Experiencing sex without godly love is like taking exams without attending classes or reading the materials: disaster is imminent. God created marriage as a safe haven to explore our sexuality while experiencing Godly love. When you have sex without godly love, you are removing essential parts from sex and reducing it to less than God intended. They were created to be together, within the safety of marriage.

We have all made mistakes in these areas, but we are so lucky to have a God that loves us! He didn’t just lay down his life for us, His death and resurrection paid the penalty for our mistakes, giving us a clean slate if we will only accept it. You can begin to understand what true love is by getting to know God: for love is from God and God IS love (1 John 4:7-8). Know God, know love—and that is the first step to bringing understanding back into sex.

What’s Missing From Sex: Intimacy (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 16:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

He really didn’t know anything about me. Not because we hadn’t spent time together, but because I had not really shared anything with him. We had met and become friends through an Internet chat room about hockey. And while he was nice enough, he did not understand my struggles, and he did not know about my past. Mostly, even though he claimed to, he didn’t share any kind of spiritual connection with me—he was a non-practicing Catholic, and I was a Protestant youth pastor. He didn’t understand my desire for a personal relationship with Jesus, but I wanted so badly to be loved, I ignored our lack of true intimacy and believed that if I just gave in a bit sexually, the intimacy would come. He was my first boyfriend as an adult, and I just wanted to make it work.

Intimacy has been defined as “in to me I see.” When I think about that definition and about the men with whom I’ve been sexually intimate, I realize there was always something missing. Our culture has done a great job of valuing the physical act of sex, but not given much to valuing intimacy itself. We know about everyone’s sex tapes, but very little beyond that. It is almost like we are scared of being intimate with each other, afraid of being seen and known. As my pastor noted, this type of intimacy that we long to experience—being fully known and loved for who we are, faults and all—cannot be separated from sex. And here are two things my past has taught me about the intertwining of sex and intimacy:

Physical nakedness is not complete without spiritual or emotional nakedness. Have you ever noticed that when you leave a sexual relationship, you don’t necessarily leave with physical pain but instead have emotional pain? That’s because sex cannot be separated from intimacy. We cannot give or get sex in order to give or get intimacy. I have tried to do this many times: with my first boyfriend as mentioned above; with another non-Christian man when I was out of community with other believers; with a couple of hook-ups in college. In each case, I thought that I could get the intimacy I desired by giving of myself sexually. Every time, the result was brokenness, because intimacy is not just physical, and sex is more than just an act. This lie that “sex is just a physical act” pervades our culture. But let me assure you: when you connect your physical body to someone else in the act of sex, you are connecting to them emotionally and spiritually whether you realize it or not. Sexual activity with another person creates a soul tie with them, a physical, emotional, and spiritual tie that God created for a special circumstance.

Complete intimacy—spiritual, physical, and emotional—happens in only two places. The first place and best place for you to find total intimacy is with Jesus Christ. Being seen and known by the One who created you is one of the most precious gifts you can get. And not only did God create you to be in complete intimacy with Him, He also created the one place where you could find total intimacy—including sex—with another human: within a godly marriage. The intimacy between a man and a woman joined together in marriage under God was meant for this total and complete union of the body, soul, and spirit. How do I know this? God calls the church “His bride”—He uses that imagery many times in Scripture (Isaiah 54:5, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25, etc.) because He wants to be as close to us as a bride and groom are to each other. He wants that complete spiritual, physical, and emotional intimacy that is reserved for marriage to be prevalent in His relationship with each of us.

Are you looking for total intimacy? Look no further than Jesus Christ. He not only can see you the way you want to be seen, but He can teach you how to find deep connections with others while reserving total intimacy—especially sexual intimacy—for your godly marriage.

What’s Missing From Sex: Honor (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the first sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 16:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

I was years removed from my addiction to pornography, but there was still something missing. When I began to search for community outside of the church, I found it in a man who in the midst of separating from his wife but looking for some “companionship” in the meantime. What he really meant was that he wanted sexual satisfaction without any kind of true relationship. Because of the deep longing inside my heart to be in community and to be known, I answered that desire for him. I allowed him to use me, even though I knew that was exactly what he was doing—and I was doing it to him as well. We both said we had a “healthy agreement,” because we thought our needs were getting met, but deep in my heart, I knew that everything about our “agreement” was unhealthy and ungodly. We were not honoring each other.

Honor and sex don’t seem to exist together in a world where pornography, rape, and sex trafficking are so prominent. After all, when women and men are treated like commodities and objects instead of God’s children, it is difficult to see any pieces of integrity among the mess. However, even honor in sex can be redeemed by God if we follow these two steps:

We must first value ourselves. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12). It’s something have all heard, probably passed on to us in our childhood. However, many of us forgot that once we graduated from childhood. If this saying applied to my actions and attitude in the “agreement,” then what I wanted was to be treated like an object, used and thrown away when I was no longer worthy. However, I knew better. When I returned to my Christian community, I remembered the following things:

  • I was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6).
  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
  • I am one of God’s chosen, holy and beloved (Colossians 3).
  • I am saved, not because of what I’ve done, but because of His mercy (Titus 3).
  • The hairs of my head are all numbered, and I am more valuable than the sparrows (Luke 12).
  • God will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 12).
  • I’ve been raised with Christ and am seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 1).

Once I was back in Christian community, I realized how much God values me—AND you. And if God has said He values us in these ways (and more!), then we can and should believe what He says. Because when we begin to believe what God says, we can value ourselves and honor God with our bodies.

Once we value ourselves, we can begin to honor others. Honoring others in sex is important because, as my pastor noted, sex—as God created it—is “others-focused.” We live in a “me first” culture, though, and sex has not escaped this attitude. My friend was focused on HIS needs when he approached me; I, too, was thinking about my own selfish desires. However, honoring others in sex is not simply putting your spouse’s sexual needs before your own—it is honoring your spouse even outside the act of sex. It is not treating others like an object to be used for our satisfaction. It is declaring what God has said about us (above) is also true of our spouse or significant other. It is setting appropriate, God-honoring boundaries in dating relationships. It is developing a deep sense of trust in relationships. It is not objectifying those who have made sexual mistakes by calling them “dirty, used, or unclean.” It is offering forgiveness, grace, and love to our spouses and significant others when they make mistakes. It is not withholding love or sex when we are hurt. Honoring others means valuing others as much as or more than we value ourselves. And when we do this, we honor God through our sex lives.

Knowing your identity in Christ—your value and worth as shown in Scripture—is the key to honoring others in your sex life. You are more than an object; you are God’s beloved and chosen, and He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). Know your own worth so that you can begin to value and honor others as God’s children.

What is one thing you can choose to believe that God says about you today?

What’s Missing From Sex: Honor (Part 1)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the first sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 16:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

While I’m wary of even letting guys that I’m attracted to touch me today, that wasn’t always the case. While the words have always been familiar to me, but I haven’t always lived to “honor God with my body.” More importantly, what I realized is that I tried to “honor God” by being mostly obedient to His Word, bending the rules to meet my desires. I would do everything sexually but have intercourse with a man and believe my actions still brought glory to God, because I wasn’t actually having sex before marriage (the command). I was watching pornography and playing out fantasies in my mind, but I was still “pure.” It sounds foolish, right? But that’s the attitude I had until my 30s because I wasn’t exactly sure how to honor God with my body.

Honoring God is a phrase that can sound churchy and religious, and in the midst of struggling with our desires, we can forget what it really means. So here are three easy ways to practice honoring God with our body through sex:

  1. Believe God. God first gets honor in our lives when we choose to believe Him. We don’t just believe in Him, we believe Him: the things that He says in His Word about sex and love. We must choose to believe that, as my pastor pointed out, the first five words of the Bible are true: “In the beginning God created.” And because God created us and God created sex, as the Creator, we can believe that His ideas and commands about sex are perfect. Do you believe God when He says sex should be reserved for marriage? Do you believe God when He says that He knows and cares about your desires and will meet them? Believing God and His Word is the first step to honoring Him.
  2. Trust God. Belief is important, but the Bible says that even the demons believe in God, and they shudder (James 2:16). That means we must not only believe what God says, but we must place our trust in Him and His perfect plan for our lives. When I engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, it was because I didn’t trust God to provide for my wants. I trusted other things: my desires, what the world was saying, and what the church wasn’t saying. Putting my trust in those things led to a pornography addiction and several broken hearts. But when I decided to trust God, I began to see that His perfect way was meant to shield me from that pain and misery. Psalm 23:3 says, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.” When we believe and trust Him, God guides us in the right way and He is honored in the process.
  3. Obey God. It’s not enough just to believe and trust; we have to do what God commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). We honor God when we obey His commands to save sex for its intended place: marriage. We honor God when we do not let our eyes look at explicit sexual materials (Psalm 101:3). We honor God when we allow our thoughts to stay on what is pure, noble, and true (Philippians 4:8). Nothing brings more honor to God than our obedience, coupled with belief and trust, in the area of sex.

First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Honoring God with your body doesn’t just mean your physical body not engaging in sexual relations; it means your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your mind—every part must be guarded in godly ways to bring honor to your Creator. In our sex-saturated culture, it’s not easy, but the first step is simply to believe Him. Will you?

Are you ready to honor God in the area of sex? What are some ways you can start?

The Struggle Is Real: Community Calls

I had attended church my entire life. I had known Christian community—I had close friends in college, I had worked in the church forever…and yet I was still struggling with issues related to a pornography addiction I had years earlier. I knew that to get the healing I needed, I had to find true, authentic community. And I knew I couldn’t find that on Facebook, Twitter, or social media. Instead, I had to step away from the computer and boldly into a place where I could find the face-to-face accountability that I needed to move forward out of addiction.

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

These days, it is easy to “find” community online—to say that we are talking to others, relating to others, and being honest with others because we are connecting with others through social media. But putting all my “junk” into an online forum, staying behind a computer screen, and remaining anonymous and “unknown” were not the things that helped me find health and healing. Instead, I began attending Celebrate Recovery at a local church, where I joined a small group step study designed for intimate community and intricate healing.

Here are three reasons why it’s important for women who are struggling with pornography and sexual addiction to find real, face-to-face community with other believers:

  • Community breeds vulnerability. You’ve noticed it yourself: you’re not likely to confess yourself to a bunch of strangers (unless it’s online). You build trust and relationships by spending time with others—and you have to do that to build community. In person, you want to find someone who you know well and can trust with your deepest darkest secrets. This is one reason the Bible encourages us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Spending quality time with other believers regularly is an important step in dealing with our struggles.
  • Vulnerability leads to confession. The more time you spend with others, the more you will want to share with them. As I went through my Celebrate Recovery step study, I began to trust the women who were there. At the beginning, it was hard to “go first” in sharing our secrets and pain—there is always some hesitation in going first or sharing at all. But by the end of our ten months together, we were freely sharing all of our struggles with each other. So don’t just find community, allow yourselves to be vulnerable in your community—because this will breed an authentic atmosphere where confession flows freely.
  • Confession brings healing. Upon graduating from our step study program, we wrote notes of encouragement for each of our study members. One of my study members wrote to me, “You shared your struggles with brutal honesty—and that is why the healing is so strong.” I have kept that in mind as I’ve continued to share my struggles and pain with my Christian community. Confession always leads to healing; how much we confess will determine the amount of healing we experience. I have quoted James 5:16 many times on my blog, but here it is again, because it is such an important verse: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” The Bible is right: true healing requires confession.

Finding community and staying in community can be difficult because any community contains sinful humans. But the Bible encourages us to stay in community with others—not just because it teaches us to love others more, but because of the healing we can receive in the process. Authentic, Christian community is calling you: will you answer?

How has being in community helped you to be more authentic about your struggles?