Sex, Singles, and the Spirit-filled Life

Sex, Singles, and the Spirit-filled Life

For a single Christian, what to do about sexual intimacy can be tough and confusing. You harbor physical urges that God gave to you, but to have sex outside of marriage is a sin. The church’s response has generally been pithy and poor – “Just say no”. Meanwhile, the enemy has seized the void by providing a counterfeit of the sexual love God intended. Through R-rated movies, raunchy music and advertising, we are inundated with it. What in the world is a single person supposed to do?

As a follow up to a previous column on sex within a marital context, Minister Pamela Bell of Serenity Pastoral Counseling & Consulting, offers advice for singles.

Minister Pamela Bell, founder of Serenity Pastoral Counseling and Consulting

Minister Bell recently hosted a Valentines Day engagement ceremony for her single clients in the Baltimore area. They celebrated their love affair with the Lord. The ceremony offered the participants an opportunity to renew their vows to God and to increase passion in their relationship with him throughout the year. “Being physically alone does not necessarily equal loneliness”, Bell said. The church needs to reclaim the truth that we are never alone when we are in relationship with God. Being single is actually an opportunity to turn your full attention to your relationship with God. Being married, in fact, can bring complications and opportunities to worship your mate instead of the Lord.

Bell, who has been married 26 years to the same man, says “God allows us to have mates to be able to show our love for him onto a living breathing human being. That mate presents a physical way for us to express our love for God. Whether you’re single or married, what we all have in common is an inseparable relationship with God.”

Humans are spirit first. We are made in the image of a triune God, who is spirit. Our physical bodies are vessels for us to journey on earth until it’s time to return to God. Certainly, we want to express ourselves physically with another human being, but the object of that expression is still God, Bell said. If you understand this, your single status is not a negative, it just means less distractions to God. “It might sound like a cop out to a single person, but a mate is not your source to fulfillment. God is our source,” Bell said.

Ok, that sounds good, but let’s keep this real. What do we tell the single person who is struggling with their sexuality? Bell said she counsels her clients based on what they reveal they are struggling with and yes, many people are struggling with issues such as pornography and fornication. “God gave us the ability to imagine and create,” Bell continued. “What we entertain in our minds is important because we are creators. Fantasizing about sexual acts that are against God’s will, creates sin in our lives and sin, whether it is physical or mental, causes us to turn away from God.”

Bell teaches her clients that they can master their bodies through physical exercise, eating healthy and getting proper rest. She also suggests, professional massage, meditation and relaxation techniques to release pent up tension in the body and of course there is prayer. “I often suggest that my clients start a private prayer journal in which they’re writing letters to God about their intimate thoughts and feelings,” Bell said. “David demonstrated the power of prayer journaling. He wrote about his struggles, desires and his victories in what has become the Psalms. He gives us a good example about being in a relationship with the Lord and God referred to David as a man after God’s own heart. We tend to keep our sexual frustrations separate from our relationship with the Lord but He made us and is not uncomfortable talking about sex. By keeping a journal, people can learn from their own experiences and in the future they can go back to that prayer journal and remind themselves that ‘this too shall pass.’”

The Real Housewives of the Old Testament

The Real Housewives of the Old Testament

HOTLANTA MESS: "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" is one of the Bravo networks top reality shows. The cast (from left) Kim Zolciak, NeNe Leakes, Phaedra Parks, Sheree Whitfield, Cynthia Bailey, Kandi Burruss. (Photo: Bravo)

Sex, scandal, soap operas, and reality TV … 

Those were my thoughts while reading through the book of Samuel over the past few weeks. Samuel is a book filled with murder, rape, and incest. In it, we observe power plays, betrayal, and unceasing war.

The injustices against women are evident. Throughout the book, women are tossed around like property to be used and abused in whatever manner the men of power see fit. Consider King Saul’s daughter, Michal, for example. Saul gave her away to David, which was a good selection for her since the Bible reveals that she was in love with David. Saul, on the other hand, simply used her as a pawn in his endless pursuit to capture and kill David. (She was actually the second daughter Saul tried to pass off to David. Read 1 Samuel 18.)

Nevertheless, Michal married David and proved herself faithful to him. David was forced to flee from the hands of a jealous Saul. Saul takes David’s absence as an opportunity to marry Michal off to someone else (1 Sam 25:44). By this time, David had married two other women. Are the reality show themes setting in yet?

After Saul’s death on the battlefield, David demands that his wife, Michal, be returned to him. Therefore, his wife is taken and returned to David, as her second husband goes weeping behind her. Finally, her second husband is forced to return home to grieve his lost (2 Sam. 3:13-16). Don’t believe me? It’s in the book, and this is just one of many scandals recorded. The poor guy was probably Young and Restless; David was suffering through the Days of Our Lives, and Michal was probably no longer Bold and Beautiful.

Which made me think … King Solomon, David’s son, was right when he wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Look how far we have fallen.

Then I wondered, “What is the difference between the life stories recorded in Samuel and those shown in our current reality series, say The Kardashians franchise shows, The Real Housewives of … wherever (though most of them aren’t even wives), or The Basketball Wives shows?”

Seriously, people watch these shows for their entertainment value, and Christians read the Bible for a much deeper purpose. But is that all there is to say? We could tie a nice theological bow on this, but that would not promote dialogue, would it?

This question is an important one concerning culture and the church, and maybe how we can reconcile the two. It may also lead to questions as to why it’s important to read the Old Testament. Why did God choose to include this historical book in the sacred text that is the Bible? What does he want us to learn? There are history lessons of course, worthy of the notable phrase “Those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it.” But what are the other purposes to consider? Finally, we must ask the “So what?” question.

Is our reading of the Bible too restrictive? Do we consign the Old Testament to the static role of exotic history book without considering its instructive aspects for today? Are there insights in the text to be found about responding to the hot messes in our own families and communities? What do these messes reveal about God? What do they teach us about ourselves?

Here’s to seeing God’s Word in a new light, and taking it at least as seriously as we do NeNe’s latest outburst or Kim K.’s 72-day nuptials.

Has God Lost His Power?

Has God Lost His Power?

I remember the feelings of pride and confidence I felt as a child when I heard Bible stories that told of God’s triumphant powers reigning supreme over all the other gods and rulers and kings. Even though I did not consider myself as a “Child of Israel,” I did connect with “God’s chosen people” and felt that I had access to this same power. I felt that with God on my side I would overcome any obstacle and triumph in any situation. I felt invincible. I felt unstoppable. But this wasn’t just youthful arrogance. I had biblical support.

Moses’ fight with Pharaoh’s magicians was not a fight between slaves and tyrant, it was a fight between gods. Who would win? The Living God or the dead god? When Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den, it was not a fight between man and animal, it was a fight between gods. Who would win? The Living God or the dead god? When the three Hebrew boys were thrown in the fiery furnace, it was not a fight against man and fire, it was a fight against gods. Who would win? The Living God or the dead god? When David fought Goliath, it was not a fight between men, it was a fight between gods. Who would win? The Living God or the dead god? Each time, as we know, the Living God prevailed and the consistent winningness of God increased the reputation of the Living God (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).

Each day, we all fight similar battles with our own fiery furnaces and personal giants — against political edicts and social and cultural pressures that conflict with our understandings and convictions. But the results of these battles are different from the results during the biblical era.

Too many Christians today carry their Bibles to church and profess their faith in the power of Jesus, but then go back to decrepit communities and overcrowded houses, where they are suffocating in bills, poor health, and an overall dissatisfaction with their lives. Inwardly they struggle with having a better life on earth and being a poor person who suffers long because they are Christians. Any suggestion of one’s life being a physical manifestation of the quality of one’s faith is immediately dismissed as “prosperity gospel” and even anti-Christian. Their (misguided) logic goes like this: heaven is their reward; and though evil appears to be winning today, in the very end good will make a comeback.

As honorable and sincere as this may sound, what would have happened if David had that mentality when he fought Goliath? What if Moses thought like that when he was freeing the Children of Israel out of bondage? Not only would there be no Christianity today, there wouldn’t even be Judaism! And because we have chosen this as our stance today, we are in danger of being the reason why the Christian faith has lost its strength and relevance for the contemporary world.

As a rule, people do not gravitate toward that which appears not to work. And this, I believe, is how the younger generations of Christians interpret Christianity today: anemic, irrelevant, powerless.

Is this a surprise? Either the Living God is losing His power, or Christians are doing something wrong.  I say Christians are doing something wrong. Our faith must be more than hope in eternal life with God. It must be a bulletin board for all to see consistency in our lives to show the power that God holds for helping us live holy, purposeful, and relevant lives TODAY.

Young people are not interested in being a part of something that is not working. Young people are uninterested in carrying on traditions for tradition’s sake. We want evidence. We don’t want to be defeated. We want power. We want to feel excited about God and God’s people again.

Let’s have a conversation. Do you think God is losing His power in today’s church? What can we do to make our faith more real to the younger generation?

‘Go Play Golf, and Sin No More’

'Go Play Golf, and Sin No More' for urban faithBefore they called it an “addiction,” plenty of biblical figures fell victim to the same snare that took down Tiger. But where was their rehab?

Now that Tiger Woods is returning to golf next week to play in the Masters, does this mean he’s cured of sex addiction?

By now you know Woods was caught cheating on his wife, Elin, with multiple women, so he checked into sex rehab. Other high-profile people have done the same. Just today, it was announced that Sandra Bullock’s allegedly unfaithful husband, Jesse James, is taking his turn.

So I guess the biblical King David, who had multiple wives but just had to have one more who was already married, should’ve cried “sex addiction made me do it” too.

Face it. People cheat. Men do it. Women do it. Celebrities, politicians, executives, homemakers, and ministers do it. Crying sex addiction is not about seeking help, but saving face. It’s a weak excuse that does a disservice to people who truly have hypersexual disorders because of childhood abuse or other sexual trauma. It can also deceive the rest of us into thinking we’re immune from adultery.

There’s a debate among psychiatrists as to whether sex addiction actually exists. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t list it in its mental disorders manual, but may add it to the 2013 edition. Experts say hypersexual activity is so difficult to manage that it interrupts everyday life functions. Like an alcoholic, gambler, or crack addict craving the next fix, it’s difficult for someone who craves sex to focus on anything else. I doubt Woods could’ve dominated golf while battling a major addiction.

During his televised confession and apology, Woods reaffirmed his commitment to his Buddhist faith. He wisely identified the problem dead on.

“The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior,” he said. “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.”

Right. Not sex addiction. Sin.

The thing we are all susceptible to.

Sexual sin has been around since the beginning of time. It’s documented throughout the Bible. Mainly it’s us guys who have had trouble keeping our tunics and zippers up, but women cheat too. Take, for example, the desperate housewife that hit on Joseph (Gen. 39:13-16). Joseph, at twentysomething-years-old, displayed the character and discipline that few men of any faith would have. He jumped up and fled. I wouldn’t dare deceive myself by guaranteeing that I would’ve chosen the same.

Anyone who has been married for a while knows the journey has rocky turns and hills. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And without God at the center, the covenant can become a labor without love. So as a married man in the middle of a 17-plus year marathon, I feel for Woods and his wife, Elin. Things go wrong. Sin makes justification appealing. Mistakes are made. Feelings are hurt and ripped. But a couple, even a celebrity couple, ought to be able to work things out before God without cameras rolling and flashing.

That’s the advantage King David had. After impregnating Bathsheba and having her husband killed to cover it up, he eventually confessed his sin to God. He suffered the consequences — the lost of their newborn son. He mourned and moved on. No sex addiction excuse to save face. God’s grace was sufficient rehab.

When a person falls, hypocrites gather stones. Then later it’s often unveiled that they were hiding their own rocks. For example, former Sen. John Edwards condemned President Clinton during his impeachment tied to Monica Lewinsky, though Edwards voted to acquit.

Now he has a love child and is in divorce court after his affair during his own presidential run. The next time you hear someone who is adamant toward a particular sin, realize they’re probably a closet sinner.

Jesus counsels on the matter in John 8 where accusers brought an adulteress before him.

“He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” Jesus told the accusers, before offering forgiveness to the woman. “Go and sin no more,” he said to her.

“Go play golf and sin no more,” is the cure for Woods.

Tiger Woods photo by Keith Allison from Wikipedia.