Finding Identity in sexual union vs union with Christ

Sexual sin- pornography, fornication, same sex encounters, and debilitating shame because of sexual sin- is perhaps the primary sin issue I encounter discipling men on campus. Overcoming this sin is further complicated by a culture so obsessed with sex, that many students define themselves by their sexuality. This includes their sexual preference and their sexual experience.

 

When a person seeks identity in sexual relationship, every goal and pursuit will be to find fulfillment in another person. Thus, when a person experiences a break up or rejection, they may go through a period of depression and are unable to function.

Some feel they are not truly a man until they’ve had sex.

If they are denied the opportunity to express their sexuality, they feel repressed and resentful. Some may feel they are denied their ability to be fully human because they cannot act on their urges.

 

Others have been marred by sexual encounters. Because of something they did or something done to them, they are overwhelmed by shame. They feel powerless to overcome temptation.

 

Throughout history we see people defined by their relationships. Even Scripture introduces characters as someone’s child or one’s wife or husband.

We still define ourselves often by relationships, as can be seen on a facebook profile.

This lends to reason why many want same-sex marriages legalized – it gives a sense of identity.

Further, because sex is associated with love, one may feel we can not experience love apart from sexual encounter.

 

We were created, with specific design, by God, so He defines us.

Unfortunately, in Adam we have all sinned and as a result every part of us is distorted by the fall – Our bodies and emotions were affected, and thus our sexuality.

 

Sexual encounter is a special union of body.These relationships do shape and form a part of our identity.  

We needed our identity to be restored. As we place our faith in Christ, we are no longer in Adam, we are united in Christ. This Union with Christ now defines us. Understanding this doctrine is foundational to overcoming sexual sin.

 

Wayne Grudem1 states four aspects to our union with Christ as

  1. We are in Christ.
  2. Christ is in us.
  3. We are like Christ.
  4. We are with Christ.

 

Dealing with sexual sin, we apply:

  1. We are with Christ –  Relationship does define us, but it is not sexual relationship, it is the most meaningful and most loving relationship we can experience- relationship with God.
  2. We are in Christ. No longer do we need to be marred in shame because of past sexual sin. For Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us. We are not seen by what we did or what was done to us, but what Christ did.
  3. Furthermore Christ is in us, empowering us to overcome sexual sin. We are not slaves to our desires, nor to our past.
  4. We are to be like Christ – thus we look to Him and follow His example.

 

I Thessalonians 4 states God’s will for our lives is our sanctification(be like Christ). Immediately afterwards Paul urges them to flee sexual immorality. God restores everything broken by sin, including our sexuality.

The false conclusion is to say one must exchange an immoral relationship for a moral relationship. Rather, we should seek identity in our union with Christ, becoming like Him. The single person does not need to find identity in marriage. The person with homosexual inclinations does not need to become heterosexual. God’s desire is to make us holy.

 

Jesus was fully human, He was not part human, part God. He lived on earth with a fully human body and human emotions. He experienced sadness, loneliness, rejection. The Bible explicitly tells us that He experienced hunger, tiredness, feelings of rejection, emotional and physical pain, and temptation. Hebrews tells us He encountered every temptation, yet without sin. Thus, He lived the way God intended our lives to be more than any other person in human history. Though He never married and never engaged in sexual activity, He was able to experience love, joy and the fullness of life or be human.

 

He can relate to us – every feeling and every temptation we face, including the area of sex.

We can come to Him with our pain and problems and He can empathize.

He gives hope we can be fully human and pursue holiness.

Jesus was never married, never had sex. Yet, He lived with purpose and joy and experienced intimacy in relationships.

We can look to Jesus example in the midst of temptation and follow in His footsteps and find encouragement in Him.

Our sexuality is not what defines us. Expressing sexual urges doesn’t satisfy. Sexual relationships will not gives us meaning.  Union with Christ is what we long for and what we need.

 

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Footnotes

  1. Grudem, Wayne Systematic Theology Ch 43 pages 840-841

My best books of 2016 list

Best books of 2016

I read a lot of books in 2016. That happens when you take time off campus, insure yourself and have a sabbatical…some of the books were short, some about average length. Some were books i finished that i started before. In all, i read  33 books, a couple short of my goal of 35. Many were on my kindle, but i really do prefer reading an actual book.

I read a decent amount of books by female authors. Almost all were Christian books. Some were about writing, some about adoption, some marriage related. And some kids books i included because they were long or important.

Some books i read were very disappointing like visual theology by Tim Challies and The biggest story by Kevin DeYoung.
There were a few books that had some good stuff in it, but were kinda blah. If you want to see my full books i read, check out my good reads. I don’t put too much in for reviews however, so feel free to ask me if you have questions.

One book i didn’t finish but wish i had because it was pretty influential that parts i did read was the Next Evangelicalism by Soong Chan Rah. It made me wonder how many books have i read by non-white males?

Here are my top ten

  1. Thinking, Loving, Doing     7.7/10

Nothing super memorable, but i did enjoy reading it

  1. None like Him by Jen Wilkin     8/10

Made nearly all the best of 2016 lists, so i read my wife’s book. It is short and easy to read. I probably could have spent more time on the questions. She says she wrote it for women, but it reads much different than other books written for women.  Pretty good

  1. Miracles by Eric Mextaxes     8/10

I don’t want to like stuff by Mextaxes after his endorsement for Trump, but this was still a very good book. He tells a number of stories of miracles which are encouraging.
Mostly however i enjoyed some of the challenging statements he makes regarding miracles. There were a number of amazing quotes in it that grew my faith

  1. Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller     8/10

It’s a Tim Keller book so you know it was good. Wasn’t everything i expected it to be, but it was still Keller, so still good

  1. Quiet by Susan Cain     8.3/10

A great book for an an introvert. Sometimes it got tedious and long, but it was very helpful for me in understanding myself and thinking about how to leverage my personality

  1. Rest of God by Mark Buchannan     8.7/10

The frist few chapters were amazing! I read it during my sabbatical so it was approrpriate. Certainly recommeneded to all to read

  1. With by Skye Jethani     9/10

I loved this book. His premise is there are 4 postures we tend to take: life over God, life under God, life from God and life for God. But the life we should choose and want and that God wants is: life with God. Challenging, encouraging, thought-provoking. Drags towards the end but i still like it

  1. God’s promise of happiness by Randy Alcorn     9.5/10

He wrote a much longer one on happiness, in fact this may just be a chapter or a section of the book – but this part was amazing! Very enjoyable, i practically highlighted the whole thing!

  1. A loving life by Paul Miller     9.9/10

Paul Miller is becoming one of my favorite authors. Once again combining personal stories, authentic raw real life application and deep insight from the Bible, this book is amazing. He takes you through the book of Ruth, exploring it and explaining it in ways i had never heard before. It is a fairly short book, short chapters, easy read, quick read, and so deep, good, enjoyable and applicable. It will help you enjoy & know God more and think about how to love others better

  1. How and when to talk to your kids about sex     10/10

One of the best books i ever read. Yes, it is primarily about how to talk about sex, but really gives a primer on parenting in general. This is such an important book for parents to read. It scares me a bit, but more was encouraging and inspiring. Talking about sex feels uncomfortable for most parents, and thus kids don’t want to talk to their parents about it. But they need to. This book instructs parents on how to make a safe environment for your kids to talk with you. It gives some good advice, gives Biblical perspectives and really brings reality to light. A must read for any parent of kids of any age.

 

my top tv shows, movies & music of 2016

You know i don’t know if anyone will ever read this, so perhaps it is just for me to look back on, or perhaps my kids some day… or maybe you are looking for some tips or at least verification of what you think is best too.

I will write a best books of 2016 as well, but for now this will focus on best tv show, movies and music of 2017.

These are my favorites… things i saw or listened to. They are things i enjoyed and perhaps influenced me in some ways. They are things i would recommend (well for the most part i suppose).

I usually feel like i don’t have time for anything, but i still managed to watch a lot and even listen to some music. Most music was whatever was on the radio, and so the radio station airplay plays a big part in my list… Mostly praise music, which was intentional… that list will be longer so it will be at the end…

Movies this year were Terrible! I didn’t get to watch a couple big movies (like Rouge One or Dr. Strange), they’ll make the list next year i’m sure, then again, if i miss a window who knows when i’ll see anything. Like always most movies i saw were on the plane.

Wound up watching a lot of tv – though almost all i watched was on Netflix or on youtube.

Top Ten Tv shows of 2016

  1. James Corden

I wanted to include Last Week Tonight by James Oliver, but he wasn’t quite as memorable. Jimmy fallon & Jimmy Kimmel still have their moments, but this year belonged to Corden – not that i ever watched any of these late night shows, as Kimmel pointed out in one bit, we just watch it the next day on youtube… and Corden killed it with his carpool Karaokes and having actors act out all their movies…

 

  1. Fraiser 

Image result for frasier

Frasier comes highly recommended by David Lowry (among others), so we began watching it.

It is astonishing to me that some actually watch this show without ever seeing or hearing about Cheers! What? What? The only reason to watch this show is b/c it was a Cheers spin-off and clearly the best shows were the ones where old cheers characters appear… This makes the list as a pure volume play. Soo watched nearly 7 seasons… i watched a bunch here and there. There was some good ones, but i never quite into it (then again if Soo didn’t watch without me maybe i would have got into it more).

  1. SNL

Again i never stayed up and watched it, but there were quite a few good clips. Larry David as Bernie Sanders was awesome, i could watch it over and over again. More, they don’t appear as people just using SNL to get a jump into movies, but actually doing good bits

  1.  Parenthood

Image result for parenthood
We finally finished watching Parenthood and after a rocky 5th season, they totally redeemed themselves, concreting it as one of my favorite all-time tv shows. Compared to other shows, we it seemed like we barely watched, but it was still really good.

  1. friends

Always fun to go back and watch friends.

  1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Quirky and funny, along with some good story line. It is a perfect Netflix show because once you get into it, you want to just keep on watching.

  1. Voltron

This was one of my favorites when i was aImage result for voltron netflix kid. I am so glad my kids like to watch it too. Better than some of the others, it is
not too creepy. They change some things from the original, but i still like it. The story line is pretty good, and the end made me curious for where they are going with the story. It had a number of funny things in it, and a lot of surprising stuff too.

Image result for voltron netflix

  1. black~ish

Image result for blackish
The only show on tv we watch. The show is great. I relate a lot to Dre so i laugh a lot. But it also continue to attack big issues, real life issues. The show makes you laugh but also gives you something to think about and talk about. And teaches you something too.

  1. Master of None

I really wanted this to be #1. We need more Indians on tv. And while i hated ToImage result for master of nonem Haverford, i quite liked Dev. Again this character is me: Indecisive, Ignorant of some things, Indian. There is some raunchy stuff- the first scene is a sex scene. But it tells a very accurate story of milenials, of culture today and addresses issues as well as continues to be funny.

Image result for stranger things

  1. Stranger Things

This was the show. It was only 8 epsiodes. Maybe not a season i’ll ever rewatch. But it was amazing. Every episode hooked you. The acting was spot on. It had a lot of nostolgia, and a lot of creativity. It kept you in suspense. And even tugged at other emotions like joy, romance and some funny moments too. Best show of 2016

 

As a side note, there was a thing going around of 3 tv characters that reflect you- mine were: Dre from blackish, Dev from Master of None, and JD from Scrubs (if i could include more, it would be Jerry from Seinfeld, Elliot from scrubs, Joey from friends) (if it could include movie characters: Todd Anderson from Dead poets society, and just about anyone Mark Ruffalo plays)

 

Best movies of 2016

I thought movies were pretty bad, but there were some really good ones. They are almost all kid movies. I’ll give you my best first.

  1. Zootopia    10/10
    Halle loves it, Josiah enjoyed it. And they missed most of the jokes. Some funny stuff in it, Fun to watch throughout. Yet, it is very deep. Good story line, without having any death in it. Some parts may get scary for kids i suppose, but not too bad. There is a mystery which is fun. And a lot to make you think about how we view and treat others
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY73vFGhSVk
     
  2. The Help    10/10
    This is an old movie, but we watched it this year and we were amazed. The acting was amazing, everyone did such a good job.Image result for meet the patels 
  3. Peanuts    9/10
    i liked the story, obviously fun.
  4. Meet the Patels    8.9/10
    A documentary, meant to be humurous. I loved it. I thought it gave some insight too. But mostly i enjoyed it because it felt real to me. 
  5. the big short    8.7/10
    Interesting and entertaining. Good Acting. Good story. May make you angry.
  6. Finding Dory    8/10
    Better than finding nemo in my opinion, as it wasn’t as sad. Funnier than i expected. 
  7. Captain America: Civil War     7.4/10
    Not sure why everyone loved this movie. It was ok. It certainly was entertaining. Paul Rudd always awesome, but he is barely in it. Spiderman was probably the star, but he’s barely in it too. The plot was kinda weak, like most of the Avenger movies – like really?
  8. Kung Fu Panda 3     7.2/10
    Not that great honestly, but entertaining. Lots of names in it
  9. 13th     7.2/10
    Documentary on the 13th amendment. Worth a watch. I am convinced people will believe what they want to believe. I think it is something for us to really consider. 
  10. 50/50
    I like Joseph gordon Levitt. Fairly sad tone, well done.

Favorite songs of 2016

  1. Trust in You by Lauren Daigle
  2. Your love is greater (Your love awakens me) by Phil Wickham
  3. Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin 
  4. Great Are You Lord by All sons & daughters
  5. King of the World by Natalie Grant
  6. Lion & Lamb by Big Daddy Weave
  7. Try everything by Shakira
  8. All the poor & powerless by All sons & daughters 
  9. Holy Spirit byFrancesca Battastelli
  10. Ever Be by Aaron Shust 
  11. Move (soldier keep walking) by Toby Mac
  12. No Longer a slave to fear
  13. You’re beautiful by Phil wickham
  14. 10,000 reasons by Matt redman
  15. For me to live is Christ by the sidewalk prophets 
  16. Give me faith
  17. Can’t stop the feeling by Justin Timberlake
  18. Your Love is wild by Leeland
  19. First by Lauren Daigle
  20. God is on the move
  21. Love Ran Red by Chris Tomlin
  22. Thy Will by Hillary Scott
  23. Sinking Deep by HillsongY&F
  24. Great I Am 
  25. One call away (superman) by Charlie Puth
  26. Breathe by Johnny Diaz
  27. 7 years old by Lukas Graham
  28. One True God by SCC
  29. What you want by Tenth Ave N
  30. Unsteady by Ambassadors
  31. Break every chain by Jesus cultue
  32. Christ is Enough for me by Hillsong
  33. Armor Song
  34. Jesus by Chris Tomlin
  35. Let me love you by DJ Snake & justin Bieber
  36. The God I know by Love & the outcome
  37. Live it well by switchfoot 
  38. Forever by Kari Jobe
  39. Dear younger me by mercy me
  40. Live like you’re loved by Hawk Nelson
  41. River by Jordan Feliz
  42. Love yourself by Justin Bieber
  43. Fierce by Jesus Culture

The one with a trip to India

This summer we were blessed with  tremendous opportunity to go to India.
For me it was a trip to my homeland, though it is not really a place i feel is home, it is my heritage.

Thus, I wanted Soo to know the place and hopefully get a better understanding of me and my family. I wanted the kids to gain a better understanding of themselves, be surrounded by people who look like them and get to know some of their family – since our family here in the states is relatively small.
Plus, India was a place Soo wanted to go to- and i wanted to take her, even if it wouldn’t be a vacation.

More so, i hoped we would bless the family we would see there and bless my parents. (Though often my thought is just about myself, I wanted to be intentional to think of blessing others)

The kids may not be able to enjoy all of it now, however i wanted to go with my parents so they could help take us around.

In the end we were incredibly blessed. We ate a lot of curry and met lots of people – that is we ate a lot of good food and met a lot of good people.

The trip wasn’t easy. It took us a long time to get there and involved a few scares along the way. We left on Weds morning at 8am and arrived in India at 3pm on Thursday afternoon. The flight home was even longer. We had one 4 hour flight, followed by a 16 hour flight – 16 hours! Our kids have spent more time on a plane this year than some people will their entire lives!
Complicating things was that they served peanuts on the plane and Josiah began to react to the smell… a lot of the food in country included cashews so we had to be careful. And we traveled a lot.

All things considered the kids did very well. They were up in the middle of the night keeping me awake a few times, but they liked the food most of the time and met lots of people.
They didn’t really appreciate the Taj Mahal, but they loved the monkeys and all the animals all over the place… however Halle was upset she didn’t get to touch a monkey or ride an elephant, thought she got close to each…

Mostly however, they enjoyed being with their uncle and spending time with their (2nd) cousins (who live in the states as well).
These were 2 of my biggest desires for the trip, so i am very thankful.
We come from a large family- my dad is the 10th of 11 kids. Yet, there is not much family here. My kids have no 1st cousins. And a lot of family live far away. So, very grateful to be with family.

We did ok too. Suprisingly, it is actually hotter in Indiana than in India!
Soo & the kids got sick the last 3 days, so we missed out a little bit- but the kids may have enjoyed that more- as they got a break and got to watch nick jr…

We had some difficulties, but God was faithful.
He answered a bunch of prayers… it wasn’t too hot, the rain never ruined plans, the food never made us sick, we didn’t get bit by too many bugs, there weren’t any big incidents, we got a nice day when we went to the Taj Mahal…

And we were blessed to
1. see the Taj Mahal
2. take a ride on a house boat on the backwaters
3. eat a lot of delicious food
4. see a beautiful country (this means we have been in the largest 3 countries in the world in the last 13 months).
5. see elephants, monkeys, lizzards in the wild
6. see a lot of family
+ my dad paid for everything, and so many family members came out of their way to see us and and serve us.
– and the difficulties, anxieties etc- served to push us more toward God and become more like Christ…

Sometimes life seems hard, but God is good.

 

Here are some photos:

 

The one when Prayer doesn’t work

Have you ever wondered if prayer actually works?

You pray and pray and see no fruit, no results. You’re still sick, you still don’t have a job, your child still isn’t married, you’re still single, still infertile, your friend still died…

You pray and pray and pray. You keep a prayer journal. You try striking deals. You fast. You beg, you cry, you are earnest.

Nothing.

Does it matter? I mean this world is full of trouble everywhere. And it seems to be getting worse.

Perhaps God is angry with us. Maybe He is too busy with other things to worry about my meager needs. Or maybe I am not doing enough, not praying hard enough, long enough.

Or maybe, maybe prayer just doesn’t work.

 

That may be right. Maybe prayer doesn’t work. I prayed for my sister to get better, and she still died from cancer. I pray for support to come in, and we still need a lot more. We pray for Josiah’s allergies, and he still can’t eat anything. We’ve been praying about health issues and it seems like God can’t do anything about it- the only solution is more drugs. We pray for laborers, and we get a few people, but not many. We pray for people to come to Christ, but only a few believe. Does prayer work?

Look at story of Elijah.

23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention (I Kings 18:23-29).

They pray, they plead, they cut themselves. And nothing happens.

Still like this today. In Tibet they spin wheels- big wheels, and small wheels in efforts to pray, to earn favor. They bow and prostrate themselves in effort to beg & plead.

Some places people dance, and scream and make huge gestures towards the sky.

And in corners of rooms, in churches across America- people offer penance.

Some think by their many words they will be heard- if they make it glamerous, say the right phrase- prayers will be answered.

Prayer doesn’t work.

IT is not our efforts, not our words that change things.
In fact is not even our sincerity and good intentions. It is God who changes things. It is God who works.
Prayer is a tool. God is the one who works.

I use a phone to talk to someone. But it is not the phone I connect with, it is the person on the other side. The walkie talkie allows me to communicate to my commander to someone who can help me. But it is not the walkie talkie that saved me- it is the person on the other side who delivers.
We are thankful for phones & walkie talkies, but careful not to love it.

The important thing is who we pray to. Not what we pray about or how we pray.
Prayer doesn’t work. God does. Perhaps it seems like semantics, but I think it can have tremendous impact on our heart, our faith, and on the world.

If we are praying to a false god, or praying to a god we make up, or to/for ourselves- nothing will happen. It is not about our intentions or sincerity. It is not our effort in prayer. It is about God.

God is not a genie who must act according to our whims. He is free. He is sovereign.
So prayer is not a magic formula or incantation. It’s not like we have to pray first or our meeting/planning is not blessed. Perhaps we can & should pray- but we still need to rely on God, not ourselves, not our prayers. Let us rely not on prayer, but on God.
Since it is God who works, then we can not and do not need to rely on our efforts in prayer, but simply plead with God. I don’t need to fear if I am too sinful, or not praying right. I don’t need to work harder in prayer.

When we pray then – we beg; we plead. God is the one who works. We communicate with Him as with a person. And we wait on Him.

Yet, since it is God who works- we can have confidence.

God knows what He is doing.
God is wise.
God is powerful
God has a plan.
God is faithful.

We pray trusting God. Trusting He will do what is best. Trusting He can do something about a problem. God will work all things for good, for His purposes, for His glory.

 

And so when we ask something and it doesn’t happen- what do we do?

  1. We thank God for His wisdom and goodness
  2. We seek to know God, seek His glory.
  3. We ask for understanding and direction.
  4. We keep praying, until we can’t anymore

 

Elijah prayed- and God answered

James tells us He prayed and it did not rain, he prayed again and it did.

Who was Elijah?
Bible describes him as Elijah the tishbite.
Not Elijah the prophet, the great man, the holy man, the spiritual giant.
Elijah was a man like us.
And the effective prayer of a rightesous man availeth much.
God works thru prayer.
He has designed us to pray

  • To show His faithfulness, power, glory
  • To build dependence on Him
  • To build our relationship with Him

And because of Jesus, we can come into His presence.

See,  in some ways it makes sense all the things the Baal worshippers did, that the Tibetans do now. I mean, how can we come into the presence of an Almighty God? How can we ask God to intervene?

Jesus paid the price with His blood, so we can enter His presence. Jesus intercedes on our behalf. And the Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray now.

What should our response be?

To pray

… even when we doubt or unsure
… even if we don’t know how
… even if we have prayed a long time already

We pray to a God

… who is all-powerful
… who exists outside of time
… who is sovereign over everything
… who hears our prayers
… who delights in us
… who is faithful
… who is good and loves us

Let’s Pray for

… for forgiveness
… for healing and help
… for laborers
… for God’s glory
… for God’s will|
… for the miraculous

  • Not just what we have seen
  • Not just for what we can do ourselves
  • Not just what we think possible
  • Not just what we can imagine

Pray for God to move & God to act.

This world needs help. I need help. You need help. God can help, so let’s pray, and ask him to work!