Sex in the Name of Love

I have been abstinent for more than four years. When I recommitted myself to the Lord and to living a holy lifestyle, someone told me that I wasn’t really living a difficult life of abstinence because I was single. He went on to say that couples who are practicing abstinence together are the real MVPs the only legitimate members of the celibacy team. In retrospect, I imagine he was insinuating that I was abstinent by default and not by choice. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that a young woman in her 20s would choose a sexless life. Who could blame him? The movies we watch, the songs that we jam to, and the television programs we DVR encourage and entice us to indulge in sex. The more we indulge, the more our carnal desires are titillated and seduced into exploring that which God designed to be sacred.

Sex is a natural, biological act that almost everyone will experience at some point in life. It is the ultimate experience of ecstasy that we will find on this side of Heaven, and once we have tasted that ecstasy it seems almost impossible to go without. When I met my fiancé, I was nervous for this very reason. I knew that sex before marriage was not an option and I didn’t care how fine he was, I would not compromise. Ironically, the fact that he believed in Jesus was not enough to convince me that we held the same convictions about sex. (Yes, there are singles in the church who struggle with sex) On our first date, you could imagine my surprise when he asked me about the purity ring that my father had delicately placed on my right ring finger on my sixteenth birthday. I never anticipated that we would discuss these things so soon, but I’m glad we did. It was then that he told me that he, too, was saving himself for his wife. When he told me of his recommitment to purity, I knew that he was serious potential.

In a world where sex in relationships is the encouraged norm, my fiancé and I have chosen to remain abstinent until we get married next spring. Abstinence is probably one of the most challenging tests we have faced, but there are a few reasons why we know this is the best decision for us.

  • God loves sex.

You read right. God didn’t just create sex for reproduction; He created it for pleasurable connection, romance, and intimacy. Yes, God loves sex! In fact, God intended for sex to be so wonderful, so life-altering, so magical, and so sensational…that only marriage is strong enough to handles its effects (Click to Tweet!). He knew that a connection this powerful outside of the intended confines of marriage could be destructive. Voddie Baucham said it best: [paraphrase] Sex is like a fire. Inside of a fireplace, it’s contained and it’s heat comforts, soothes, warms, consoles. Outside of the fireplace, fire is vicious, wild, dangerous, and catastrophic. The number one reason why we aren’t having sex is because we want to honor God. I believe that one of the reasons why God commands us to wait is because in a marriage, he is the glue that holds it together. Consummation without covenant is displeasing to God and leaves Him out of the equation. He longs for us to protect and preserve the marriage bed because anything else is simply settling for second best.

  • Premarital sex is selfish

It is impossible for lust to be satisfied, yet it constantly begs for more and more. Operating as the opposite of lust, love gives wholly and fully of itself. Tim Keller says that [married] sex is a radical self-donation. Covenantal intimacy seeks to protect and pleasure your spouse. Lustful passion wants to be pleased and pacified without much significant thought of the other person. We get the phrase “true love waits” when we take into account that real love isn’t hasty or irrational. It waits until it’s time to blossom and mature into all that God ordained it to be. No matter how much I love my fiancé, if we dabble into sexual sin it has tainted what God originated to be a selfless donation of love into unbridled selfishness. I am not protecting the heart and soul of my mate when I lie with him without promising to love him until death separates us. I am putting my feelings, my desires, my lusts before him and everything else. Love sees no need to hurry ahead of God; it waits for His perfect timing. Even Jesus waited to give His life—the ultimate self-donation of love—until the Father granted Him permission and announced that it was time. Sex before marriage says, “I’m not thinking of you. I’m not caring for you. I’m exposing you because I’m thinking of myself and what I want.” (Click to Tweet!)

  • Premarital sex breeds distrust and insecurity

Growing up, my mother always said that it is impossible to cultivate a trusting foundation when premarital sex is present. She pointed out that when you see couples who struggle with trusting one another you are seeing the fruit and repercussions of premarital sex.   In a marriage, sex has the power to reinforce the unshakeable covenant that was established; however sex beyond the confines of marriage exposes and deconstructs the trust that may have once stood unwavering. How can this be? Well, it’s simple really. If I give my body to a man who has not committed to me in marriage, then I have given a piece of myself that he did not earn. In the heart of every woman lies a yearning to be deeply desired yet fiercely protected by her man. A woman cannot help but swoon over a man who finds her sexually attractive, yet cares enough about her heart to practice discipline over his own body. When a man denies sexual indulgences because of his fear of the Lord and his love for his woman, she can trust that his accountability to the Lord governs him more than his sexual urges.

My fiancé is very committed to our decision to remain abstinent until marriage. Honestly, that choice is one of the things that has proven his commitment to me. I have no doubts that he is faithful to me because I know who governs him. He is not his own man; he answers to the Lord. My mother and I have had countless conversations about relationships and one of her nuggets of wisdom that I will keep with me is this: Jesus is the only one who keeps a man faithful to the woman in his life. There is no amount of will power that is strong enough to keep a man from physically or emotionally stepping out on his woman. Only the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause a man to withstand temptations (because they will come) and remain faithful to the Lord and to his wife. However, if that man is not submitted to the Lord, then who holds him accountable to his actions and conversations with other women? Something bigger than himself must have a hold of the man, and if he cannot control his urges with you… what controls them when you’re away? These were the types of thoughts that marred my mind when I foolishly engaged in sex before marriage in a previous relationship.

Sex before marriage destroyed my self-esteem. I knew I was sinning against God but I was more compelled by my obsession for affection that I handed over my most precious gift as if I’d forgotten that all sales were final. During that season, my heart begged for more. I had affection but I lacked security. Someplace deep down I was forced to face the reality that I was worth more than empty sex in a relationship that promised no future. I knew that my heart was worth my weight in gold, and more than I wanted to be touched, I needed so desperately to be known. Once sex became a factor, it was much easier for me to believe the lies and excuses that constantly barraged me. Lust caused me to turn a blind eye to the dysfunctional aspects of my relationship and I somehow convinced myself that sex would make me forget about our deficiencies. It only heightened them. I never trusted him because when my heart wanted to be known and understood most were the moments when sex was initiated almost as if to stifle my cry for love. Each encounter became more taxing on my soul.

And then I met the love of my life. He was a man who hung onto my every word when I spoke. He was the man who thanked me just for taking time out of my day to spend it with him. He was the man who chose to hug me after our first date rather than kissing me. He was the man who spent hours with his mentor learning how to best protect me. He was the man who took the time to learn the things that made me cry, laugh, and think. He’s the man who I still catch staring at me as if I’m the only person in the room. He’s the man who, on my birthday in front of my friends and family, got down on one knee and asked me if I would allow him the opportunity to love me for the rest of our lives. He is the one for whom I have been preserving myself, and he has decided to join his life with mine without me ever having to give anything of myself. What sexual sin threatened to steal forever, hope in Christ has restored! He never tried to take anything from me. All he set out to do from the beginning was to give and build and grow. I am better because of him, and on our wedding day he will be worthy of all of me.

One of the most amazing things about God is that we can all come to him and lay our weariness at His feet—yes, even our sexual frustrations. Living a sexless life is not easy, but God always rewards our obedience. If you are struggling with sex, I will pose the question a dear friend of mine asked me: “Ask yourself what is connecting you to the person you are dating. Are you truly compatible from each other outside of the bedroom?” This is important to think about, especially if you are considering marriage.

Remember, there is now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It’s never too late to make a new decision about sex in your singleness. All it takes is a “Yes” and Jesus will grace you for the days to come. Don’t focus on what you think you’re missing, but all that God is storing up for your good and for His glory.

The Prayer I Almost Regretted

It was at a point of brokenness, heartbreak, and frustration with myself and painful situations that I prayed the scariest prayer to ever leave my lips.

Lord, if he isn’t the man I will marry, then don’t bring him into my life.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. I wasn’t mindful that I serve a jealous God who loves me more than my mind can comprehend. I wasn’t thinking about God as my Father who would do absolutely anything to protect my heart from intruders and invaders. I believe He was eager to answer this prayer because in about two years not a single man has tried to win my heart.

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Photo Credit: Glenda Ortero (glendali), royalty-free

I didn’t know that the answer to the prayer would mean:

– lonely weekends void of dates (Scandal re-runs and Words with Friends, anyone?)

– battling insecurities and self-doubting thoughts of inadequacy (Am I good enough?)

– nearly no male companionship (Hey, boys, remember me?)

– struggling with jealousy (I want to be happy for her, but when will I get my chance?)

I don’t think I realized what I was asking for when I made such a serious request. As time had gone by (and still no one on my doorstep with flowers), I had progressively retracted my trust in God and foolishly whined and complained to Him. How silly am I! Who would point their finger at God and complain about the very thing they prayed for?

How dare you answer my prayer, God? You knew I didn’t mean it.

The amazing faithfulness of God blows my mind because He answered a prayer that hurt my pride and heightened my weaknesses, but He’s doing it for my good. Had I not had these moments of solitude, I would never be in the place of learning and valuing dependence on Him. I am remembering and embracing the fact that I need to be single.  It’s in my total singleness that God is perfecting me, shaping me, refining me, and making me whole. Is it for a husband? No. It’s for Him! And if a lifelong partner happens for me in the future, then he will get the benefit of all God is working in me right this moment.

So, the bitterness, jealousy and insecurities are vanishing into thin air by the grace of God. My grievances have been turned into thanksgiving. I am thankful that God was eager to answer my heart’s prayer (this process is torture to my flesh, but my heart is ever grateful) because He knows what it cannot handle. I am thankful that even when my heart ached from loneliness, I was protected from heart aches from unhealthy relationships. I am thankful that when no one is calling my phone or asking me out, I have a God who longs to spend every waking moment with me. He is diligent and steadfast in His love. All the love I need to be whole flows from Him.

It was the scariest request I have ever prayed, but  now I am bursting with joy and hope. I am loved. I am never forgotten. I am protected. I am kept.  I have a God who goes to war for my heart with more strength and intentionality than a girl could hope for in ten thousand warriors. And He is holding my life and my future in His hands.

Leave a comment & join the discussion! What is the scariest thing you have asked God? Was the answer what you expected?

Songs in the Night

Have you ever been in the middle of something — perhaps talking to a group of friends, shopping in the mall, or even driving down the street — and someone extremely attractive stopped you in your tracks? Immediately whatever you were saying or doing before pales in significance, that is if you can remember what it was in the first place. Suddenly all that matters is this walking visage of radiance.

As I sit here haphazardly pecking away on my laptop, Lord, I Thirst for You begins to softly play… and before I know it I am mesmerized by God. I have long forgotten the thing that had been consuming my mind. The lyrics have now taken me prisoner and I am in a trance.

Lord, I thirst for You

It amazes me that we can live for weeks without food, but in most cases we could not survive longer than one week without water. A lack of food will not cripple us immediately, but without water we will deteriorate rapidly. Hunger can be ignored after the hunger pangs dissipate, but the fate of a man lacking hydration is usually sudden and devastating. Thirst insinuates a level of urgent desperation to be filled. This is the level of desperation with which we are to desire the Lord. Are you thirsty?

And I long to be in Your presence

I can recall moments of intimate worship that Jesus and I used to share when I was younger. I used to stay up late and sing to Him. I’m not a singer, but I was so in love that it didn’t matter to me. My voice may have been out of tune, but my spirit sang in perfect harmony with His. Somehow as the years have gone by, I became busy. Too busy to worship. Too sleepy to pray early. Too self-absorbed to spend time with Him. Too prideful to give Him all of me. Too preoccupied to miss His presence. Are you longing?

My soul will wait on You

Waiting can be the most torturous task to ask of someone. Even the most patient person among us will admit that there is something in their life that is unbearable to wait for. Waiting to become a teenager, to go to high school, to get a driver’s license, to graduate college, to start that dream career, to fall in love, to get married, to have a baby, to get out of debt, to pay the house off, to become grandparents…. The waiting never ends. Waiting takes having faith in the unseen. Waiting takes having complete trust in God’s sovereignty. Waiting is not idle time; it is eager expectation for the things we’ve hoped for. My soul, like the Trinity, is comprised of three parts: my mind, my will, and my emotions. My mind (thoughts) must trust God. My will (desires) must trust God. My emotions (feelings) must trust God. Are you waiting?

Father, draw me nearer

My heart is turning violently in my chest. With all my heart, I want Him to close the gap between us. I cannot stand the distance any longer. Are you drawn to Him?

Draw me nearer to the beauty of Your holiness

I am thirsty.

I am longing.

I am waiting.

I am drawing near.

Here I am.

The Scent of Singleness

You may not have a title or high position in your church, but you are a minister. Ministry is any act of service that edifies people and brings glory to God. Jesus said to His disciples that if they followed Him, He would make them fishers of men. He would make them ministers — carriers of the gospel and testimony of Jesus Christ. Many people may be familiar with the notion that marriage is a ministry. Husbands and wives are called to serve God together as they selflessly edify, encourage and uplift one another. A healthy marriage should draw people to God; it should encourage people to follow your God and your example. What you might not know is your ministry begins much sooner than your wedding day.

Singleness is a Ministry

Before we graduate to the ministry of marriage, we have to qualify ourselves through faithfulness in the ministry of singleness. In marriage your ministry is focused on your spouse and his or her needs, whereas in singleness your ministry is focused on God and what He has need of you to perform in the Kingdom. Your singleness is a time of uninterrupted, completely devoted service to God. Your allegiance to this ministry is to serve God to the fullest capacity you can muster.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. — Paul via Acts 20:24

Your singleness is a race, a course that the Lord has set out for you to run. It is a ministry that God has purposed for us to embrace, but it is up to us whether we will accept it or not. Our single status is a given, but we can choose if we will honor God in our singleness. Paul said that he received his ministry from the Lord. God offers us the opportunity and privilege to honor Him and serve others during our singleness, but we have the option to either accept or deny this ministry. If you do not accept God’s design for singles, you may begin to focus on the circumstantial frustrations and disappointments in your singleness rather than the ministry of singleness. You may allow your emotions to dictate and control your willingness to serve God during your singleness. You could let the pressures of friends and family telling you to jump into a relationship influence your spirit until you’re no longer content with God. You could let your loneliness cause your prayer life to spiral downward. Any of these things would inevitably circumvent all that God wants to develop in and through you during this season. God wants you to live purposefully single. What did Paul say to hardships and pressures weighing against him?

But none of these things move me!

If you want to experience the fullness of God in your singleness, you must accept the ministry of singleness and determine that none of the pressures, temptations, or emotions will move your position of holy singleness. As a single person, your ministry includes 1) giving yourself fully to devotion to God, 2) giving yourself to the service of others, 3) and cultivating faithfulness during the waiting season. I will develop these ideas in a forthcoming message, but now I want to delve into another idea.

Spread the Aroma

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life… — 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

As Christians, we have a special call — a radical purpose. Singles have a special advantage in the Kingdom of God to be about our Father’s business. If our singleness is a ministry, then our singleness is also worship. A wise man said, “Anything you do for God is worship. Whatever you worship, you imitate. Whatever you imitate, you become.” You can worship God with your singleness. Paul reveals an interesting thought: God leads us as captives in Christ’s procession.

Let’s consider a wedding. As the processional music begins, a hush falls over the place. The anticipation builds and everyone halts with hopefulness. Why? The bride is coming. But, she cannot walk down the aisle until the procession occurs. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are dazzling in their ensembles with blinding smiles to match the joy in their hearts. The groom takes his place in front of the altar, anxiously awaiting to behold his bride. The tension builds as two young men unroll the aisle runner and finally the flower girl takes her place. She slowly glides down the aisle, delicately dropping dainty flowers. Everyone in the audience silently applauds her beauty and bravery as she makes her way down to the altar. I wonder if flower girls realize that they are responsible for ushering in the bride. Everyone knows that after the flower girl makes it to the altar at the end of her procession, the bride immediately follows.

We are like that flower girl.

The maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen and ring-bearer are all apart of the procession and they have different roles. They are all needed for the wedding to be complete, but the flower girl has a special role. She is the only member of the processional who walks on the runner before the bride arrives; she has privileges that others in the procession don’t have. Similarly, the single Christian has advantages that the married Christian does not have. The marriage and singleness ministries are different, but they are both important to God. However, the flower girl is responsible for setting the atmosphere for the bride to appear.

Paul said that we are the procession for Christ’s entrance. Each Christian has a different role and has a different race set before him, but each one has the same purpose: to make way for the King to come. The flower girl is usually a young child, but her job is far from insignificant. Her job may not seem as glamorous as carrying the ring, but if the flower girl is not in place, then the atmosphere won’t be acceptable for the bride to come. Sometimes as singles, we believe the lie that we have no place in our churches or in the Kingdom of God because we are single. That is not true! Sometimes we feel ostracized or belittled because of our single status. Every member of the Body is needed to prepare the way for God to come on the scene in the earth. Even the flower girl.

As the flower girl makes way for the bride, she is dropping flowers. Paul said that God uses us to spread the aroma of Christ in the land just as that young girl spreads the aroma of floral delight down the aisle. Worship has a scent that pleases God. As we live our single lives for Him, we will carry the aroma of Jesus with us that will not only turn the heads of people, but it will attract the “bride.” The aroma will draw Jesus closer to us.

Just as your worship has a fragrance, your ministry of singleness has a scent. Although we may be living seemingly mundane lives, God is using this season of singleness to change our fragrance that will attract His glory and draw men toward Him. Holiness, purity, radical prayer, passionate worship, consecration, and complete surrender to God should be the scent of every unmarried person’s life. It is not easy to commit to this ministry of singleness. There will be times when you’d much rather blend in with those singles who settle because they are tired of waiting. Singles should never be sitting on the sidelines while we wait. The bride can’t come if the flower girl refuses to walk down the aisle. Prepare the way for the King and carry an aroma that will draw Him toward you. Remember, what you worship, you will become. If you worship God in your singleness, you will be like Him in your marriage. So, when those moments of discouragement come…when loneliness and temptation to compromise come knocking, what will you do? Consider the flower girl. What is her motivation for making it down the aisle — to finish the race — to finish her task? Is it the intimidation of all of the people watching her? Is it her friend in the pew waiting to poke fun at her if she trips and spills her flowers? Is it her eagerness to get the task over with? Is it her fascination with the pretty bridesmaids who she secretly wishes she could be? She wonders, Who would want to be a lowly flower girl? No, that is not what motivates her to make it down the aisle. She keeps her pace and leaves the aroma because she is captivated with her purpose and the unwavering, unshakeable truth that immediately behind her is the center of attention, the point of it all, the reason for the wedding. She knows that the Son of God is blazing behind her in His awesome glory, and that although she is a flower girl now, that same God will transform her into a bride for her own groom.

So, I pose the question that God asked me: “If singleness has a scent, what does yours smell like?”