The Call to Controversy

Need something stimulating to think about?

You could hardly go wrong with Brian McLaren’s new book, “A New Kind of Christianity.”

This book is certainly continuing to stir up not only healthy dialogue about important topics of faith, but also controversy in the Christian arena. It seems that there is very little middle-ground of opinion in regards to this book. People tend to either love it or hate it. And like it or not, in Christian circles this book looks to be THE “most talked-about” read of the year.

So, why endorse something that is the source of such controversy? Well, for several reasons:

1) WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF THE DISCUSSION.

Lots of people will be talking about this book and the questions that it raises. And make no mistake, they are important questions, no matter what you think are the correct answers. These are the questions of 21st century Christianity; questions of both those inside and outside the mainstream church today. Whether you realize it or not, you will be a part of this discussion. In fact, your voice will help shape this discussion.

And let me suggest that you actually read what is being stated by this intriguing side of the discussion. I have and will continue to read many disparaging comments and blogs about Brian McLaren’s view from people who disagree with his answers, which by the way is just part of the healthy dialogue. But, what is not healthy is that many of the people on the opposite side of the debate have not actually read McLaren’s books.

“That Brian McLaren has really gone off the deep end. I think he’s dangerous.”
“Have you read his book?”
“No, but I’ve heard he said such and such.”

Brian McLaren

Maybe we ought to be a bit more informed as we enter this discussion. Whether it is McLaren or MacArthur, maybe we should actually LISTEN to what they have to say and the context in which they say it before we criticize them. In fact, while you may disagree with either person in many areas, you may find some common ground as well. Or perhaps even more importantly, you may disagree with the conclusions, but may find a respectful appreciation for the spirit of the person and their questions.

In a recent interview, McLaren makes a case for this in responding to the way people easily dismiss his questions as “liberal” without considering his possibly more complex stance:

“I wouldn’t want to overlook the many ways in which my proposals differ from traditional liberal theology. My attitudes and commitments regarding Jesus, the Holy Spirit, scripture, spiritual experience, institutionalism, personal commitment and conversion, evangelism and discipleship, and many other subjects make many of my liberal friends think of me as conservative. Sometimes I wonder if evangelicals simply use the word “liberal” as a way to say, “Let’s stop listening to this person. He’s too different from us, and so is not worth our time and attention.” I hope that’s not the case, but sometimes, this is what I feel like when evangelicals use “the L word.”

For me, liberal is not automatically a bad word. If liberal means free from tyranny, I’m for it. If liberal means generous, I’m for it. If liberal means believing that our best days are ahead of us, I’m for it. If liberal means welcoming honest questions and giving honest scholarship a fair hearing, I’m for it. If, on the other hand, liberal means without restraint, or careless about tradition, or dismissive of scripture, or institutional and lukewarm regarding commitment to Christ, and so on, then I wouldn’t want to be associated with that. And we could say parallel things about the word conservative.”

Huh, maybe he’s not as crazy as people say. But, that’s not important. You don’t have to agree with McLaren, but maybe we should give him a fair-hearing (or rather reading). It may be that he is not as “off-the-deep-end” as we think. Or even if he is, that he is at least still committed to the best of his mental and reasoning ability to Jesus, if only incorrect.

2) WE NEED TO BE THINKERS

What I like best about this book is that it forces us to wrestle with concepts we take for granted and THINK. Controversy can only exist where people are seriously grasping and thinking and reasoning. And in that way, a healthy dose of controversy is probably very good for the modern church.

I work with high school students on a regular basis, and by far my greatest goal in my time with them is not to give them all the answers. Do I want them to have good answers? Of course. But more importantly, I want them to learn HOW to question, HOW to find good answers. I want to help them learn HOW to THINK. Many more questions will come up in their lives long after I am gone, and I’d rather they learned how to critically think about those questions sure-to-come in the future rather than just have some spoon-fed responses from me about the ones they are asking right now.

Ironically, many high schoolers I know are better at wrestling with questions and learning to think than a lot of adults. And maybe that is a bigger problem in our churches today than we’d care to admit. We just don’t think for ourselves. We’ve accepted long-held answers (many of which might be correct, by the way) to many old questions (some of which people aren’t asking anymore) without ever thinking it through ourselves. We are lazy. Lazy theologically. Lazy mentally.

This has direct consequences for our witness to the world. Because while we are busy being content with answers to questions we’ve never genuinely asked ourselves, the rest of the world is actively and honestly seeking answers. The church is irrelevant because by and large we can’t speak authentically to these questions. We appear to be a second-hand, consignment store of truth because we are primarily selling the “hand-me-down responses” of generations before us rather than doing the hard work of wrestling with the deeper questions and making sense of them in this time and context for ourselves.

Consider just these few questions: How is the Bible unique and why should it apply to my life? What makes the Bible authoritative in my life? How do I know it is the “Word of God?” What does it mean that it was “inspired?” What in the Bible is culturally-conditioned for people at the time of it’s writing and what is a universal-truth that applies to me? How do I know the difference? Can I know the difference? Is there a difference?

While just the tip of the proverbial ice-berg, these questions alone go a long way in helping answer modern dilemmas such as human sexuality, the character of God, the purpose of Jesus, social justice, and other ethical considerations.

Some will agree with the conclusions of the author and others will not. But no matter what you think of McLaren’s answers, what is undisputable is that these questions need to be asked. Or rather, these questions are already being asked by many people (friends, family, co-workers) around us. McLaren is not by far the first person to ask these questions, but he is suggesting that rather than dismissing the people who ask them maybe we ought to spend some time struggling with them as well and as a community “led by the Spirit” recalibrating the answers to this time and in our current context.

As McLaren says:

“That’s why, in the end, I hope people will actually read the book with an open heart and mind. I’m not expecting that anyone will agree with everything — that’s not my point. But I am hoping that people will be stimulated to think, and maybe even to dream of better possibilities … so the Christianity of the future can continue to learn and grow and not simply repeat the past or be stuck in the present.”

Is it dangerous to read a book that challenges things that you believe and causes you to ask some rather unsettling questions about your core beliefs? Possibly. But far more dangerous for the church today is not reading these books and not asking these inquiries.

So go ahead and risk it. It’s okay to hang up the “under-construction: please come back later” sign on your theology for the weekend. Pick up the book and let it mess you up a little bit. Be okay to let the questions move you to a place of uncertainty for a while. Inhale the ambiguity and breathe deep the tension of inquisition.

It may be that once the smoke and fog has cleared you find yourself with some “real” answers. Or at the very least, a greater understanding & compassion for and a stronger, more respected voice into the life of seekers around you.

It could be the church will be healthier for the controversy.

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Love Connection – Passage 3/29/09

So, we wrapped up our series, “Love Connection” this last Sunday night.  And in one way, I’m kinda sad to see it go.  Even though it has taken a bit of work, it has been fun entering an on-going dialogue here through student’s text questions.
I have been very impressed by the intelligent and honest questions that have been texted in each night.  And more than a little humbled to be given opportunity to respond to some of your deepest questions about such an important issue.

love-connection-jpg1We have FIVE final questions from this last Sunday, and I will be responding to THREE of them in today’s post followed by the last TWO tomorrow.

But, even as we bring this conversation to a close, I pray that we would not leave this discussion to drift off into the wind.  My prayer is that this new generation would take to heart a more revolutionary way to do relationships.  I pray that the relationships and friendships and marriages of these high school students would be more whole and complete and fulfilling than those same relationships of their parents.

And so, may we care more about others than ourselves.  May we look only to God for ultimate fulfillment and never another human being.  May we live with compassion, honesty, integrity and purity in our relationships with each other.   And in that, may we find true love and healing.

Here are the questions from this weekend’s PASSAGE message.


Question #1:
At the beginning of your message all I got out of it was that it is okay to rebel against almost everything.  Is that what you were trying to say?

Wow . . . clearly I need to get my point across better.  LOL.  I was NOT trying to say that you should rebel against EVERYTHING.  What I was saying was that Christians tend to cave-in and go with the major cultural assumptions of the day as much as anyone.

So, when it comes to relationships, we (more often than not) believe the common cultural myths about “soul-mates” or that love is a feeling you fall into, or that sex is just a meaningless physical act like playing chess.  And on and on . . .

We don’t approach relationships and romantic love any different than the rest of the people in this culture because we don’t THINK anything different about it than they do.   We believe the same myths of love that everyone else does!

flower childMy point at the beginning of the message is that it we should pick up the “rebellious spirit” of the 1960’s “flower children” and as people who follow Christ be willing to be counter-cultural.  Instead of mindlessly buying into what our cultural tells us love is about, we should approach relationships with the radical “choice” and “sacrifice” oriented love of Jesus.

Interesting thing about this rebellion, though, is it isn’t about force but love.  We rebel against the world’s definition of love by loving people better; by putting them first.  We become the most rebellious by becoming the most loving.

Anyway, I encourage you to think through your past, present and future romantic relationships.  Do you find connection only skin deep?  Do you put the needs and dreams of your date above yourself?  Do you participate in healthy aspects of affection and abstain from damaging aspects in order to protect the other person?  Are you looking for happiness and fulfillment in another person or in God?”

How you answer these questions will reveal whether you are stuck in “The Matrix” of our culture’s assumptions of love, or whether you are choosing to participate in the revolution and restoration of relationships that Jesus came to empower.  I pray that you would choose the revolution.


Question #2:
Are you telling us to be gay?

Hahahaha….. (ROFL)

Honestly, I have no idea what this question is referencing.  I’m almost positive that I never said the word, “gay” or “homosexual” or anything referring to that orientation and/or behavior.

However, you texted it in and so I’m staying faithful to post your questions.  I wish I knew the context of what you are asking, and if you’d like to comment and clarify I would be happy to answer more appropriately.

But, just to answer the question as is, let me respond by saying . . . “No.”


Question #3:
If a lot of your friends are beginning to lose their virginity and you are almost the only left still a virgin, is it bad if you are feeling like you should do it too just so you can be on the same emotional level and know how they are feeling?

This is a really good question and probably more of an important one than most people are willing to admit.  I think that if we are being honest that a lot of our relationship decisions get made based on the coercive pull of “the norm” around us rather than what we believe is best for the relationship.

So, what do we do?  Well, let me at least respond with several thoughts.

First, it is not bad that you feel like you want to do it too in order to fit in.  When it comes right down to it, I doubt if hardly any of us like being the person “left out” or “not included.”  It is the feeling of loneliness; of missing out.  And it isn’t a fun feeling to have.

And, it isn’t wrong to feel that way.  It isn’t bad to feel like you want to be “included” in a community.  You were created by God to be included in a group of people.  You were, as we have said, made for authentic relationship.  And the feelings of being left out are real, they do hurt, and it is ok to feel that way.

However, even though you are entitled to those feelings, I don’t think it benefits you to go along with whatever it takes to make them go away.

chastity underwearSecondly, even though you feel like it, you aren’t the “only one” left out there that is still a virgin.  In fact, over the last few years, lots of studies have shown that the statistics of high school students waiting until later to have sex is going up.  One recent study showed that 40% of all high school students will graduate without even having had an intimate date!

So, you are not as much of a minority as you might think.  However, I know it feels like you are.  The reason is that very few people go around parading the fact that they are virgins (its usually more embarrassing due to cultural pressures), and so you don’t hear about the people that are waiting.  What you hear are the more vocal group that isn’t waiting and then you assume that everyone MUST be a part of this group.

In fact, though I don’t know your friends, I wouldn’t even be surprised to learn that some of them are maybe embellishing the truth a bit about their sex lives.  I know, crazy huh?  High school students lying about getting laid more than they really are!!  How could that be true?  ☺

But lastly, I think we find ourselves back at the question of “The Matrix”.  Do you go along blindly with what everyone else has been culturally conditioned to believe just so that you can fit in, even at the expense of your own personal happiness and the happiness of the person you end up having sex with?

That seems like a very steep price to pay for having another topic of conversation with your friends.

Perhaps, rather than “jumping off a cliff because your friends do it so you can have something to talk about on the way down,” you could find ways to love your friends better and in more sacrificial ways.  Maybe the way Jesus wants to redeem broken relationships in your friends’ lives is through you.  Maybe their greatest shot at having real romance and love is through your example in how you deal with the romances in your life with integrity and your loving compassion of them.

You see, I know you can’t relate to their sexual experience yet.  But they can’t relate now to yours (speaking of a lack of experience) either.  At any time, you can become like them.  But they can never become like you again.

the matrix (morpheus)And so, maybe your perspective helps them see relationships differently.  Maybe you can be like Morpheus in “The Matrix” and help them see what they couldn’t about love because all they knew was what they were culturally programmed to see.

And regardless of what your friends choose to do, you have a lifetime of love with someone you will be much closer to for much longer to protect.  Feeling out-of-place is difficult.  I totally sympathize with you.  But trust me.  In this case, it is totally worth it.

That pain won’t last forever.  You’ll get married and know what they are talking about eventually.  Or they’ll accept you as you are.  Or you’ll get new friends.  But either way, think long-term.  Short term happiness is a bad trade for long-term trouble.

Love Connection – 3/22/09 – Part 2

Ok, this may be the most “scandalous” blog that I have written to date.  Wait, a minute… probably not.  The “Gay-Bath House” series was a bit scandalous too, huh? (Gay-Bath House article).

love-connection-jpgOh well, apparently my lot in life is to get involved in the dirty, messy and controversial subjects.   So, let’s jump right into the final question for this week, which almost gave me a coronary attack as I read it knowing I’d have to answer it!  Thanks everybody…  Let’s just get back to asking questions that are “safe,” huh?  LOL.


Question #3:
What are your views on masturbation?  Is it okay?

Wow, so we’re gonna go THERE now?  Ok.  I guess I should have known that we would eventually get here.   This question doesn’t necessarily have to do with relationships, however it is an issue that could impact relationships on many different levels.   So let’s go ahead and discuss it.

This is a very difficult question to answer.  On the one hand, many people believe it is wrong.  But, on the flip side, many Christians believe it is not.  Either way I answer I do two things:  1) I make half of everybody angry.  2) I assume that I actually know the answer.  (LOL)

So, let me give you my best effort at an answer.  It may not be perfect, but for better or worse, it is what I believe by faith right now.

First, the Bible has nothing to say directly about this issue.  The word “masturbation” is not in the Bible at all.  It is a subject, like dating, that isn’t discussed.  And without making too much of an “argument from silence” it does at least gives us a little bit of flexibility here.

However, there is one Bible text that has been used to condemn the behavior and it is worth mentioning here because its often use in this manner is not only unwarranted but flat-out coercive and wrong.

onanGenesis 38:8-10:  “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.  But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.  What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.”

Wow!  How’s that for a little provocative Bible reading?  Just tell your parents: “Hey, you wanted me to read the Bible.”

Now, when I was a teenager (like 100 years ago), this verse was quoted to me as God’s ultimate word against masturbation.  The line went like this, “See, Onan wasted his seed  (sperm) and God’s punishment for him was DEATH!!”

Nothing like a little fear that God will strike you dead to keep you from masturbating!

However, this story has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MASTURBATION.  It is a story about a strange, but merciful Jewish law that took care of widows and passed on family inheritance.

In the Jewish culture, if the husband of a woman died, his brother was required to marry her and save her from widowhood.  And if she did not have a son to pass the deceased husband’s land and assets to, then the brother was required to father a son with her.   This son would not be considered the brother’s son, but the deceased husband’s son and thus he would inherit the land.   It was God’s way of providing for families in crisis and ensuring rightful land inheritance.

In this text, then, God is not addressing masturbation at all.  He is punishing Onan for purposefully being disobedient and not taking care of his brother’s family.

So, if the bible doesn’t directly address this question, than what are we to make of it?  Is it okay?  Is it a sin?

Well . . . to say that it is a sin goes beyond what we have God directly saying to us in the Bible.  Because of this, theoretically, I believe that the act itself is not sin.

looking with lustHowever, while this makes sense theoretically, there is a very practical reality to consider.  Maybe most compelling are the inevitable thoughts that go along with this act.   And while no Bible text deals with masturbation, per se, Jesus does have some pretty radical things to say about our thought-life.

“You have heard it said that you should not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  — Matthew 5:27-28

What Jesus is saying here is that our “thoughts” are as important as our “actions.”   The intention behind what we do or don’t do is as crucial as our actual actions.

Now, even if theoretically, masturbation isn’t a sin, think of all the thoughts that usually invade your mind during those moments.  I would say that it is extremely rare that one engages in that action without some sort of impure thoughts about another person, whether you know them or don’t know them (in the case of most pornography).  And these thoughts are IMPORTANT, because they affect our relationships with other people and how we see other people.  Particularly for guys, this type of visualization reinforces “objectification” of women–seeing women as “objects” to possess rather than people to be honored and loved.

Couple that with the fact that masturbation is about selfish gratification (as opposed to sexual intercourse which when performed “in love” as intended is done as much for the other person as for you) and you at the very least have a less than beneficial activity.

So when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure I can make that judgment call for you.  I don’t know what goes on in your head.  Only you do.  And I don’t know what God’s Spirit convicts you about.

But it might help as you think through this issue for yourself to be reminded that sin is not primarily a legal infraction.  Sin is not like a speeding ticket.  God isn’t necessarily keeping track of all your tickets and waiting for you to “pay-up.”

Instead, I believe sin is more like an infection.  It is something that messes up your relationships with God and other people, like an infection messes up the way your body is supposed to work.

With this in mind, I don’t think God is going to kill you for it and you won’t be sent to hell for masturbating too much.   However, it may warrant a bit of caution.  Just because something may not be sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you or for your relationships with other people.   And if this issue causes problems between you and God or you and other people, you would be wise to listen to that prompting of the Spirit and choose differently.

Ok.  Hope that helps.

By the way, for those counting at home, I said the word, “masturbation” nine times.  Oops, make that ten.

Love Connection – Passage 3/22/09

love-connection-jpgWell, here we are in our last couple weeks of this series, “Love Connection” and I think it has been kind of fun.  Hopefully you have too.   I know we still have much to learn about our relationships with each other, and yet I think we’ve learned a bit along the way.  Hopefully this conversation will remain as a record of our time here.

Here are the questions from this weekend’s PASSAGE message.


Question #1:
Do you think dating in high school is necessary?

I’m actually kind of surprised that this question hasn’t come up previously.   It seems like there are a lot of opinions out there on this one.   Some people think dating is the best way to find a mate, and others think that dating is a cultural assumption that should be challenged.  One writer even wrote a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” where he encouraged people to swear off dating all together.

And beyond the opinions, there are many different guidelines that parents set out for their students; each family has its own rules.  *DISCLAIMER:  you should do whatever your parents say!!!!

high school datingSo what does the bible teach us about dating?  Very little.  In fact, the Bible doesn’t really prescribe any particular way that people should date, court or be “arranged” for marriage.

That alone is interesting isn’t it?  You’d think that as much as we talk about it that it would have some pretty big “air-time” in the BIG BOOK.   But, sometimes a lack of discussion of a topic in the Bible might indicate something important.  Perhaps there isn’t a mention of a particular method of “love-finding” because there isn’t a “RIGHT” and “WRONG” way to do it, from God’s perspective.

I mean, if God has created us to be able to choose WHO we will love (rather than pre-determining who we will love) then maybe he has given us the choice as to HOW we choose this person as well.

So should you date in high school?  Maybe.  Should your parents arrange a marriage for you?  Maybe.  Should you go on only group-dates and build friendships that will lead to a love commitment?  Maybe.

Do you see what I’m saying?  Maybe the question is not whether or not we should date people exclusively, but what kind of “daters” or “non-daters” we will be…

Three weeks ago, after the last message I answered a question that got into this subject.  It might be worth a read or a re-read if you want some more on “the kind of daters” we should be.

You’ll find the discussion in “Question #1” at this link:

https://nickloyd.com/2009/02/26/love-connection-passage-22209-part-two/

Hope that’s helpful…

Question #2:
What is your opinion on long-distance relationships?

They are difficult.

Hahahaha…  Well, they are, aren’t they?

long_distance_love_cThis is a good question because many people start dating-from-afar.   Sometimes the physical distance between people is over many states or countries.  But, in another way, physical distance can be almost as far if you live in the same county but go to different schools and rarely see each other.

Look, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a long-distance relationship.   They are different.  And they are difficult.  But all relationships are difficult.  Whether you are talking about long-distance or close-encounter relationships (hahaha, sounds like some weird alien love, LOL), there are both positives and negatives.

Let’s look at the positives.  In some ways long-distance relationships may have potential for greater health.   One benefit of distance is that it often forces people to learn about each other on a deeper level than just physical.  Obviously if you live far apart physical contact will be limited.  Because of this, phone conversations and text messages and facebook chats become the primary method of affection.  But this affection-from-a-distance is healthy in that you are LEARNING deep interests, motives, beliefs and personality traits of the other person.

Also, a little distance test is good for any relationship.  People in relationships formed in close physical proximity have a tendency to quickly become dependent on each other.  You know the feeling:  “I can’t live without seeing him today!”   And yet, we have already learned that we were never meant to find our fulfillment in other human being; only in God.   Being apart physically may help keep that distinction more obvious.

datingcartoon15However, while there are some benefits (in theory) there are also some drawbacks.  People living away from each other don’t have the opportunity to experience the other person in “real life.”   There is only so much you can learn from phone calls and late-night text messages.  Who a person is on the phone and who they are in everyday life with their family and friends may be very different.

Also, the time and focal commitment involved in “long-distance” relationships often comes at the expense of a person’s other relationships that are more local.  When a person’s mind is off with his girlfriend in “Arizona” it is then difficult to invest in relationships (friends, family, etc.) or responsibilities right here in Everett.  To some degree this is true of all relationships, but more so with long-distance ones, I think.

Anyway, I think there are probably more positives and negatives that could be said here, but hopefully you get my point.  Long-distance relationships may be either good or bad, but that probably has more to do with the convictions of the two people involved than the land (or sea) that is between them.

Thanks for the great question!

Love Connection – Passage 2/22/09 – Part Two

Ok, I apologize for getting these last two questions out a little late this week.  It has been a crazy week.  But, without any more excuses, here are they are!


Question #3
Why does it seem that just when you get a boyfriend, you immediately start liking someone else?

Well, I have to say that this question made me chuckle a little bit as I read it the first few times.   Not that it is a bad question; it’s just that I think I’ve experienced the feeling you are describing.   Ahhh, love can be maddening, right?   You get involved with someone on an exclusive level, and then almost immediately you begin to notice someone else that interests you.

flirt_fullOk.  Let’s see what we can make of this.  It is a legitimate question; especially for someone at your phase of life.  So, let me just say a few things.

Part of the reason this happens is because you are at a place in your life where you are starting to explore potential mates.  Which is a fun place to be!

Because of all of the options available to you, there will be curiosity and interest in a lot of different directions.  And in that way, the feeling may not be so bad.  You do want to learn about people and personalities and which of those you like being around and could live with for the long-haul.   Meeting and exploring interest in more than one person is probably healthy.

Now, I’m not one that thinks “exclusive dating” at your age is totally wrong.   I know some people think that young people should never date exclusively.  Personally, I’m not sure saying that is necessary.  However, I think these people do have a strong point in at least this area:  You should be very careful about exclusively dating one person while young.  And the reason is because of the feeling you are expressing in your question.

You aren’t ready to get married and be committed to one person, most likely.  You are just looking at options.  Choosing then to commit yourself to one person could be potentially harmful to them and you.  You aren’t promising to be with this person forever.  And they aren’t promising that to you.  Even if you say those very words, there isn’t really anything like a marriage certificate to back it up.

Young people tend to get hurt in relationships because they treat them like they are going to last forever, when in fact, both parties are still looking at all the options.

Maybe a good idea is to avoid the kind of difficulty that is suggested in your question and choose not to “exclusively date” every guy that you develop feelings for and interest in.   I know the normal pattern is:  “See guy.  Fall for guy.  Guy and girl start dating.  Guy and girl break-up.  Look for new guy.  See guy.  Fall for guy, etc.   The cycle continues until it finally sticks.

But, a lot of young people get hurt unnecessarily in the process—like for instance, the young man that you may be dating now that I know you have no desire to hurt.  You don’t want to hurt him.  But, you are still young and exploring options.
So, maybe you could find other ways to get to know guys better (through group events, deeper friendships, etc.) without creating that type of one-on-one exclusive relationship.

2004_chevrolet_astroAs an example:  when I go to buy a new vehicle, I like to drive around to many different dealership lots and see what is out there.  And before I get too serious about any of them specifically I want to go on a “test-drive”.  Now, when I tell the salesman that I’d like to drive it and see how it handles, I don’t also promise to be faithful to that car and only that car.  I don’t promise to love it and care only for it.  I just tell him I wanna try it out.  If it drives well, than maybe we can pursue it further.

2009_corolla_s3_02Now, I know people aren’t like cars.  But, that actually strengthens my point.  The boring biege Chevy Astro van isn’t going to be disappointed that in the end I choose the bright blue Toyota over it.   (Btw, I would never drive an astro-van).  But, people do get hurt.  And we need to be careful about the commitments we make to people, especially at a young age when we aren’t ready to deliver on those large commitments anyway.

Does this mean that you can’t ever “date” one guy?  No, of course not.  But, I would encourage you to be careful in making that your standard pattern at this age.  There will be time for commitment.  A huge, life-long, for better or for worse commitment.

But for now, maybe just admit that you aren’t quite ready for that and choose to have different kinds of relationships with guys.  Pursue friendships and explore romance in a group-date format and make dating “exclusively” an exception rather than the standard pattern.


Question #4
Is it possible for someone to grow-up with a brother/sister, but not really love them?

hillbilly-toothpasteThis question, like one we had a few weeks ago, isn’t about romantic love (well, at least I hope it isn’t!  Maybe in Arkansas it is! ☺   But, as Austin said on Sunday night, one type of love found in the Bible is between family members.  So, I would like to respond to this one anyway.

I think love for family shares at least one reference point with romantic love.  It is still a choice.  You must choose to love your family (in an agape, selfless understanding of love) as much as you must choose to love your future spouse.  The nature of love is that it is always based on choice.  If there is no choice, than it isn’t love;  it is only a reflex.

Are there moments when you “feel” loving towards family?  Sure.  Are there times when your “feelings” towards your family are anything but loving?  Yep.  But, true love as defined by the Bible isn’t about “feelings” but about actions rooted in choice.  You can choose to put your brother/sister above yourself (LOVE) whether or not you currently even like them.

I don’t know who sent this question and so I don’t know what the exact problem is that your question is addressing.  But, if you are struggling with “loving” a sibling, maybe one that has not been kind to you or loving to you, please remember this:  Love is not based on another person’s performance or behavior.  Love is YOUR CHOICE.

John put it this way:  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  – 1 John 4:10 (TNIV)

Love was GOD’S CHOICE.  Before we chose to love God; maybe even when we had chosen not to; God CHOSE to love us.  It wasn’t based on whether we showed love back.  It was based on God’s choice to ACT with love.

Love is sacrificial.  Love isn’t always returned.  But, those of us who follow Jesus have decided that love is the only option to bring healing to our world.  We believe that the love of Jesus is the only hope for humanity.  And we choose to live our lives in the pattern of God and bring love to every person on the planet; even family members who don’t at times deserve it.

So, may your life be marked with LOVE.  And may your family experience greater love because of your decision to love them before they love you.  And may you in this greatest of ways show yourself to be a true child of your Father, God.

Love Connection – Passage 2/22/09 – Part One

love-connection-jpgI love ranch-flavored sunflower seeds.

Seriously.  I love those things.  I could eat them all day long.  Get me a diet coke and a bag or two of seeds and I’m content for the afternoon.

But I also love cookie crisp cereal, eggo waffles, ESPN, my daughter, University of Oregon sports and, of course, my iPhone.   I love my wife, music, God, video games, good friends, and coffee.

Love.  I say that I love many things.  But, what does “love” mean?  Obviously I don’t love my wife like I love my iPhone, right?   Well, those might be close.  Bad example.  But, it can’t be healthy.

I think you get what I’m saying.  Love for food, for family, for possessions, and for God all employ the same word but mean different things.   And if love can be used for so many things, than what does it really mean?

It’s almost as if since love has come to mean so many things that it doesn’t really mean anything.  Could that be part of our problem with relationships?  Maybe we aren’t really sure what love means anymore.

And so we love our wives like we love our video games.  We love our God like we love our sports.  And maybe that doesn’t hurt our love of video games and sports, but what if it is too shallow to create good relationships with people and God.   What if loving people like we love food is fine for the food but not caloric enough for people?

Well, we are on week three of this series, “Love Connection,” and this last week Austin talked about what love really means.   And here are the questions that came from that discussion.  Again, I’ll respond to two of them today and two more tomorrow.

Please join us.  Read the questions.  Follow the response.   And feel free to join in the dialogue.


Question #1
“What is the difference between loving someone and “being in love”?

This is a great question, because I think it gets to the heart of what we talked about on Sunday night.

3g-iphone-1The problem with both of these terms is they need defined.  When someone says, “love” what do you think of?  Love of what?  Sunflower seeds?  iPhone?   And if love is hard to define, than what about the phrase, “being in love.”  That one seems to have taken on a whole lot of fuzziness.  No one is quite sure what it means.  In fact, most people might tell you that it can’t really be defined at all.  It isn’t something you can describe; you can only feel it.

So, let’s start there because that might be a good clue.   Chances are if you can’t define it and can only “feel” it, then it isn’t real love.  At least not how I think God defines it.  Now because we can love tv-shows and birthday cake in our culture, you can call it whatever you want.  But, I don’t think the feeling of “being in love” is necessarily God-like love.

What I think most people mean when they say “being in love” are the overwhelming feelings of attraction that take over our minds.   You know, those initial feelings we experience when we meet someone we are attracted to.

And those are, in fact, hard to define.  But, we all know the things we feel in those moments of “being in love.”  All you want to do is spend every moment together.  You blow-off sleep to text late into the night.  A song plays on your iPod and you think of your future together.  You write notes and letters full of words of undying love.  All of a sudden you are a poet!  You lie awake day-dreaming of your wedding day.  Etc…

Now, none of these things is bad.  In fact, they are a huge part in bringing people together in relationships.  However, these feelings, as great as they are, aren’t love.

Love is something else entirely.  Now, we’ve covered this many times at this point, but love is not simply a feeling that overwhelms you, but a choice that is proven with actions.

Austin mentioned this last Sunday night, and I think he was right on.  He said we find a definition of sorts for love in the Bible.  1 John 4:10:  “Now this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

il_430xn17617026In essence, John says, “You wanna know what love is?  Well, this is love.  This is it right here.  You know love because God, who is love, loved you.  He defined love for you.  But his definition can’t be found in a dictionary.  Love isn’t made of words and feelings, but of actions.  Love is a verb.  And he demonstrated this action of love by not claiming his own rights and choosing to come and give up his own life for you, though you didn’t deserve it.  In fact, before you even chose to love him.”

Real love is choosing to care about another person more than yourself.  Real love is self-sacrificial.  It chooses to love the other person even when the feelings of “being in love” are gone for a while.  Real love is a commitment of the will to give whatever is necessary, to sacrifice everything for another.

For, example:  real love doesn’t pressure other people to do what you want to do.  Real love asks what the other person needs not what they want.  Real love is honest and authentic and doesn’t need to pretend to be something or someone else.  Real love is willing to give up what would be fun for what would be most helpful or beneficial for the other person.   Real love is sacrifice.

Now, the feelings of “being in love” may be what help us enter into relationships.  The chemistry that we feel in these moments is good, exhilarating and a huge blessing.   But, I don’t think we were ever meant to then define them as love.   Love moves beyond these feelings to a conscious choice to give your whole life to this person regardless of how long those feelings last.

This idea of love, then, obviously moves beyond just romantic relationships.   Should you love your family, your friends and even God with this type of love?  Yeah, I think so.  But, certainly any serious romantic relationship should be built on it.

Which moves us to the next question…


Question #2
How do you know when you truly love someone?

Well, this is a great question, but I’m a little hesitant to respond with too much because we will be going into this one a lot deeper this next week.

However, at least one thing can be said:  because love is a choice, it isn’t as difficult to know when you really love someone as you might imagine.

waterslide0_000Think of it this way.   How do you know when you are really going down a water-slide at Wildwaves?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I’m going down the slide when I choose to do it and push off and head on down.   In other words, I know my decision pretty quick.  Either I’m yelling and screaming down a winding tube full of raging water or I’m not.  (I just wonder how many kids have peed in the pool at the bottom!).

Love is similar.   When you choose to start caring about someone more than yourself, than you have engaged in love.

Now, I know that is a little bit simplistic, and we’ll go into greater detail this next week.  (Look at you and your question being ahead of the curve!)  But, I think a lot of the difficulty we have with knowing whether or not we are “really in love” is based on our faulty assumption at the beginning that love is this magical “feeling” that we “fall” into rather than a “choice” that we make.

superman lunch boxI mean, we make choices all day long and don’t question it.  I don’t start eating my subway sandwich and think, “How do I know that I’m really eating lunch?”  (Some philosphers might, Rene Descartes wanted to know how to know he really existed!)  I know I’m eating lunch because I’ve decided it is noon and I’m hungry and that I’m going to eat now (which actually sounds like a good idea, cause all this food talk is making me hungry).

Do you get what I’m saying?  I know there is a bit more to it than just this.  Knowing when we have gone from just the fun feelings of “being in love” to real self-sacrificial God-like love may require the tests of time, security, knowledge, focus and a whole bunch of other stuff that we will get into this next week.

But, if love is really a choice, then at some point I can be sure that I have in fact made this choice.   Now, I could choose at some other point to go back on this choice and make a new choice.  But, that wouldn’t be very loving, would it?  ☺

Hope this partially answers your questions, and hang-in there, hopefully next week will be more helpful.

Love Connection – Passage 2/15/09 – Part Two

love-connection-jpgQuestion #3:
What if the person for you isn’t a Christian and you are and she wants you to ditch your Christianity for her?  What should you do about it?

This is another really good question that is often a huge source of heart-ache for people of faith.  What do you do if the person that you are very attracted to doesn’t believe what you believe about God, life, after-life, good and evil, etc.?   This is a very legitimate question and I think I speak for many of us when I say that I totally feel your pain.

But, let’s start with something that seems small.  Your question mentions “the person for you.”  Now, at the risk of saying the same thing over and over, I’m afraid that this may be the wrong way to phrase the question.  As I have responded in the last several questions, the idea that there is “one person” or as you put it, “the person for you” out there is, I think, very dangerous to relationships and isn’t backed up by scripture.

Now, why even mention this again?  Well, because it is important.  And notice how subtly it finds its way into another question.  It is such a subtle and almost unconscious myth that has seeped into our formula for love.   I’m sure the person who wrote this question didn’t even think about it as they texted it.  And yet, here it is again.

soulmatesIt is also worth mentioning because I think it is a huge part of the answer to this question.  Sometimes I think we set ourselves up for huge failure because we take a very complicated issue—such as a relationship with a non-believer—and make it a total nuclear holocaust.   When you buy into the myth that this is the only person out there for you, it makes this question almost unanswerable.

For instance, if this girl is “the person for you”, meaning she is your only shot at real love, then you’d be crazy to pass it up and God would be mean and vindictive for creating you love someone that would cause you to deny Him.  I’d think this question alone would be a good reason to question everything you know about God.  At least for me it would.

However, the other option is that God didn’t create you to only find love with this one person.   And if that is true (which I believe it is) than it takes a very painful situation and at least makes it understandable.

Will we, as Christians, be attracted to non-believers.  I think so.  Why not?  There is beauty and goodness in all people, I believe.  I’m sure that there is much to be attracted to in this girl.

game_planBut, the issue becomes not do you feel extravagant feeling towards her, but are you ready to make a CHOICE to blend your life with hers for the rest of your life and operate as “one body.”  You see, those feeling will eventually fade and then you will have decide if you are ready to play on a team that doesn’t have the same game-time philosophy that you do.

Here’s where I am at on this.  My relationship with God is the most intimate, personal and deep part of who I am.  You can learn to know a lot about me, like the activities I enjoy, the music I listen to, the things I find funny, the things that make me smile.  But, at my core, the most intimate thing you can learn about me is my relationship with God.  It is the deep of the deep.

So, when choosing someone to love, I had to decide, “will I be able to share the deepest, most intimate part of who I am with this person?”

Now, when I was dating, I went out with numerous girls that didn’t have a relationship with God.  Many of them were beautiful, sweet and good people.   Some of them had a lot in common with me.  Some of them I could even envision marrying.

But, what I decided was that I wanted to be totally united with my wife.  I wanted to come home and not just share how my day went.   I wanted to come home and share that deep of the deep.  I wanted my wife to KNOW me.  The deep part of me.  And I wanted to know her that way to.

Did that mean that I gave up relationships with some people that were great?  Yea, I suppose so.  But, I will tell you this, I have never regretted that decision.  The relationship I have with my wife today is unified.  She knows me.  And I know her.  And as Paytyn (our daughter) grows up, I know that because we are unified she can know that part of us too.    There is a connection there that goes WAY beyond anything I could have experienced with a person who didn’t share that part of their life with me.  It is a connection that I believe God designed us to have with another person.

In the end, I guess some things are more important than the feelings of attraction and even love.  Could you choose to love a person that isn’t a believer?  Sure.  But, I think you would set yourself up for a relationship that will never fulfill you the way a relationship with girl who shares your deep of the deep will.

Anyways, there are at least several other reasons for avoiding these relationships, and many often-quoted scriptures to go along (Paul cautions against it in 2 Corinthians 6:14) but this thought alone has been helpful to me and I hope it will be helpful to you.

Either way, I do understand the pain involved and I pray that you will find peace.

Question #3
If you don’t feel that love from your family like you said you give Paytyn, how do you feel that love with God and make it better?

This question, I believe, is based off a comment that I made about my daughter, Paytyn, on Sunday night.   My comment was Paytyn and puppythat as a dad, I am trying my best to love my daughter so well that when she grows up she doesn’t feel the need to find love in other, more difficult places.  My prayer is that she grows up knowing that there is nothing she could ever do or say that would make Tania and I love her any less.   That she would know God loves her the same way.

And my goal is that, one-day, she would be in a great relationship, not looking for someone to fill some hole in her life, but in order to experience the sacrifice of love with someone great.

Now, I think the question is this:  What if you don’t feel your parents have succeeded in helping you to feel this way, and how can you get that feeling from God?

Great question.

Paytyn and iPhoneLet’s me start by saying that Paytyn will probably be your age one day and feel the same way.  Of course, I hope that isn’t true, but chances are she won’t feel complete.  Why?  Well, not because we as her parents didn’t try, but because as I have stated before, no human being—whether romantic interest, good friend or even parent—can fulfill your greatest longings of love and acceptance.

I will do my best to love her unconditionally.  But, not even the love of a devoted father can fill every hole.  The human life was created with a bit of God inside us.  Genesis says we were “created in God’s image” or icon.   It’s as if God placed a bit of Himself in each of us.  And because of that, we have these deep desires for something more.  We have these longings for completeness.  But they can only be completed with our connection to the Creator, not just each other.  We are all connected, for sure, but our greatest connection is designed to be Him.

Imagine a house.  Beneath the paint and the carpet, and if you pulled away the dry-wall you would see a framework; a structure.   It is made of a solid foundation and beams that bear the weight of the roof.  And this structure is made to do one thing:  keep the house standing up right.

house-framingYou are like that house.  Beneath your hair and make-up and clothes; beneath even your personality and passions is a framework.  And that framework is designed to need relationship with God.  And until you engage completely in what that framework was designed for (relationship with God), your house will always feel shaky and unsteady.

Now you can try and fill that need with romantic relationships or friendships, or work, or success, or having enough things, or sex, or drugs, or whatever.  But, your framework wasn’t built for those.  You were hard-wired for relationship with God.  You were made in “His image.”  And you aren’t complete without Him. And when you are willing to accept that completeness, the other parts of your house (life) will make sense.

And in that way, you may have more in common with Paytyn than you think.  I can’t give her completeness anymore than your parents can give it to you.

So, even if your parents haven’t been successful in helping you feel that overwhelming love, please know that it wouldn’t be enough anyway.  Would it be nice?  Sure.  Would it be a better foundation for you?  I think so.

But, the success of your future relationships doesn’t have to depend on them.  Their love, while desired and helpful, is not the greatest love you will find.

Now finding that relationship with God is a love relationship all to itself.  And it begins, as all true love does, with thought of the other person first.  Obviously, God has done this for you.  Philippians says that Jesus “did not claim his rights as God, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” for you.   In other words, God thought of you before He thought of Himself.

What is left?  For you to realize the greatness of that sacrificing love, and for you to choose to think of what God wants before what you want.  To return love.  And to allow Him to fill-in what is missing within you.

He doesn’t just want you to go to heaven, you know.  He wants to make you whole and complete right now.  He wants you to feel confident, loved, sacred and valued.  He is interested in your life right now, not just where you end up for eternity.

So, trust Him.  Give yourself to Him.  Choose that what He says means more than what anybody else says.  Make His image, your identity.