Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Being pregnant outside of marriage is not a sin" -- A response

Hey DP,

This was very interesting to me. I found some truths in it, but question some of it. Let me know what you think.


Hey Friend,

This article was interesting. It reminds me of something an ex-girlfriend of mine said once about her pregnancy by her boyfriend: “I am happy! Every child is a gift from God!” Here are my thoughts in blue:

We tend to use words like “unwanted” for a pregnancy that is unplanned. But every baby is wanted by God. He/she is knitted together in a womb, and Jesus has died for that child. We should not use “unwanted” and “unplanned” interchangeably.

This paragraph is confused. When a parent says the child is “unwanted” it has nothing to do with whether or not the child is wanted by another human or by God. When a person says a child is “unwanted,” it is typically short-hand for “unwanted by the parent(s),” not “unwanted by every being who exists.” The point is, a child can very much be unwanted by a parent while simultaneously wanted by other humans and by God. A parent can most certainly use "unwanted" and "unplanned" interchangeably.

When we see this circumstance in someone’s life, we can only imagine how their life will drastically change going forward. Any plans they had before now take a back seat, and the child now takes priority. As single people, we can really get caught up in ourselves, and many times our priority is us. We see anything that keeps us from us as a burden. So when we see this happening to someone else, we tend to take pity on them and treat them as such.

Perhaps it’s because a person without children is only focused on “ourselves.” Perhaps that person is focused on the homeless, or orphans, or maintaining a job to pay for expenses. And in any case, yes: a person can feel disappointed when their priorities are changed, regardless of why they are changed. Feelings are not unhealthy, no matter the cause of the feelings.

God’s Design: His Masterpiece
In Genesis, God created Man in his own image, and in this God says that man is his “masterpiece.”   So God, the creator of the Universe, who formed stars, planets, galaxies—all the marvelous things we see—formed man. And in the middle of all this creation, He stops to take a second look at man, and He says … “this … is … my masterpiece.” God then says that man should not be alone, so he creates a suitable helper and then commands them to “be fruitful and multiply.”

I kinda’ get the point, but the author is wrong at several points: (1) God never created “Man” in His own image, God created male and female in His image (Gen 1:26-27); (2) God never says that “man is his ‘masterpiece’; (3) God didn’t stop “in the middle of all this creation” to say that man is His “masterpiece”—the creation of humankind was the final act of creation before resting.

So that is God’s design for a family: A man and a woman come together as one flesh, and through that He says this is His design for man and woman to have children.

No, God didn’t say that was His design. This is the author’s interpretation of the narrative.

But if we aren’t careful we will communicate that the unplanned child is unwanted and therefore bad. Although having sex before marriage is sin, the pregnancy before marriage isn’t sin.

And then… woah!! Out of nowhere the author’s drum is pulled out and hit yet again. What does the creation of humankind and the command to Adam and Eve have anything to do with “communicating that the unplanned child is unwanted and therefore bad”? Nothing at all. Not to mention, even though it is not made explicit in the text, almost certainly what is implied in the text is that Adam and Eve are the basis of Jewish marriage. In the ancient world, once a man and woman got married, the man went to the woman’s house (which was her father’s) to have sex and eventually moved her back to his home. It was immoral throughout Judaism to have sex outside of marriage. Always. This means that any child born outside of marriage was treated with contempt and the mother was treated as “damaged goods.” Such women would hardly, if ever, have found a man to marry the rest of her life.

God wants our hearts; He wants us to come out of where we are and come running right back into relationship with him. And whatever we’ve done, He’s going to use it for good. That’s the good news of “… all things work together for good …” (Romans 8:28).

Now we’re way off subject. I don’t know where this pervasive Christianese anecdote comes from (= “God wants our hearts”) but it sure doesn’t mean what people think it means. In my experience, and I think here too, it means, “God wants us to feel loving feelings toward Him or intend well.” God wants our hearts, minds, thoughts, bodies, and behavior. He wants it all. And “wanting our heart” is often used as an excuse to do whatever you want to do as long as “you give God your heart.” That is biblical nonsense. You can’t “give God your heart” if you haven’t given Him your complete devotion and habits too. This means keeping your pants zipped up.

The second sentence is quite disturbing. The author is saying, “it doesn’t matter what you do because God will use it for good.” This is a very disturbing consquentialist ethic that asserts that if the consequence/end is good, the means doesn’t matter. Surely this is nonsense to any Christian. Why not just murder? Rape? Pillage? Gossip? Lie? Kill babies? If in the end, it doesn’t matter because God will use it for “the good,” why not go ahead? Paul’s point in Romans 8 (i.e., the actual, historical point) certainly doesn’t allow us to go ahead and do whatever because everything works out for good. Does the author think that Paul, the Jew, would have said Rom. 8:28 about the Holocaust had he lived that long to see it? My Lord…

God wants his best for you.
So yes, if you are having sex before marriage, you are going against what the Lord has designed sex to be for. But all of that is redeemable. God uses very strong messages to get our attention, and the correct approach to this is to understand that God wants His best for you and that He wants you to come away from that lifestyle because He has something much better in store for you.

Three points: (1) Yes, God can “redeem” us and our sins. (2) I don’t know what “very strong message” the author means here, so I don’t know what to say about it. (3) God wants the “best for you” only and always within His Kingdom. Whenever people leave this saying un-nuanced like this author has, it always implies that God is some genie-wish-granter or cosmic Santa Claus who just has some picky ways of doing things. "But,…in the end…He just wants the best for us" (which usually implies that we’re happy—notice the final line of “much better in store for you.”) If this is implied, this is nonsense. What is “much better in store for you” could be living a life of celibacy, or selling all your possessions and giving them to the poor, or leaving all of your friends and family because they only tempt you to sin, or committing to twelve years of advanced degrees so that you can teach medicine…etc. In other words, the way God makes things “redeemable” is by having us do it His way. And a byproduct of that, of course, is that it’s “better for us.” But who cares if it’s better for us? He’s the King.

This is a time of rejoicing!
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
We need to remember that a pregnancy is a time of rejoicing, not mourning. If a single female tells you that she is pregnant, congratulate her and tell her you’re happy for her. Right now she needs the encouragement and support of anyone she comes in contact with. Spark dialogue and ask how things have been going and how you can help.
If you are in this situation, I encourage you to become a part a support group at your local church or look for organizations such as Embrace Grace.

Again, Psalm 127:3 was written by and for Jews who were married when they had kids. As far as I know the literature, there is no verse that says this sentiment for Jewish women who were unmarried.

Again, the author's back to telling people how they can feel. Pregnancy might cause terrible grief. So what? Let women and men feel what they want to feel. Support them in their feelings and don’t tell them how to feel.

Maybe that single mom does need encouragement. Perhaps she does need a support group (and Lord knows I’m a huge proponent of support groups!). In addition, perhaps she needs some truth about what God wants in sexuality. Perhaps the best way to prohibit more children out of wedlock is to tell her about the way God designed sex to be used in His Kingdom.

It seems to me that this author has several things confused to wrap up:

First, the act of having sex outside of marriage is absolutely, clearly a sin. Jesus said there are two options for sexuality: within heterosexual marriage or none at all (read Matthew 19). And if a person is pregnant and unmarried, it means that two people have sinned. This better cause deep sorrow and grief. It better lead to confession and repentance.

Second, now that the consequence of that sin is growing in the mother, the child should never, ever, ever be punished for the sins of the parents. Murdering a child (= abortion) because the parents sinned (either through willful sinning or because the father was a rapist) is absolutely immoral. Plans should be made to take care of the child through any means necessary (that are legal and Christian).

What about the child? Is the child just a “sin baby?” No. Of course not. The child—from the millisecond s/he became a zygote—is a human. All humans have value given by God. The child born out of marriage should be treated with the exact same care and love as every other child who is born within marriage.

Can a woman be sad about the pregnancy? Of course! The parents can grieve the sinful error of sex outside of marriage. The parents can grieve that all of their previous plans have now changed to some degree. Sure. That would make anyone sad. I could be just as sad if someone gave me a really nice house and car as a gift that I must immediately take care of, support, and provide for the next eighteen years. It’s an awesome gift! But now my whole life just got changed. (I know it’s an imperfect analogy: giving me a house/car is not a child, and the gift giving is not sinful. The point of the analogy is that I’m given something really great that requires my immediate attention and changes my plans. This would cause me some degree of sorrow because of the changed plans and requirements placed upon me.)

Can I be happy about the child? Yes. I can be happy about the child but not happy about the way the child was conceived. (Another analogy: I can be happy that I received an inheritance, but not happy that my parents had to die so that I could receive the inheritance.)

Do I have to grieve this fact forever? Of course not. Grieve it, confess it, and move on. It’s time to be a Christian parent. 

That's my view anyway.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"What does God think about marijuana?" A conversation with a friend

I've been thinking a lot lately with the culture and trend changes in society about God's opinion of marijuana usage. It seems it's popularity is on the rise due to celebrity promotion and individual state legalization…. My curious question is, again, how does God feel about this?              

There are certain factors of morality versus illegality that I have considered. For example, women didn't always have the right to vote, it was illegal but it was not immoral. That law has since changed. Can we say the same for marijuana?         

Does consuming marijuana equate the likes of caffeine which is Americas most abused substance? Since our bodies are temples, if you have a yoga instructor, vegetarian who smokes everyday is that person taking better care of themselves than someone who works a desk job and eats McDonalds everyday?

Hey Friend!

This reminds me of something I wrote a while back concerning drinking. You might find it helpful:

First, the following is what I think about non-medicinal uses of marijuana. (I once knew a woman with brain cancer who said only marijuana could give her release from the migraines that almost made her unconscious.)

Second, while I’ve hardly been around marijuana myself, I know several people who have smoked it (several of whom who were/are addicted). So, I’ve talked about this issue on other occasions. It’s a very needed topic in the church today! So, I appreciate your question. Also, I appreciate your desire to have the “same opinion as God’s.”

Well, unfortunately, I don’t know the mind of God on this issue as far as I can tell. Yet, I do have my opinion based on my reading of the New Testament.

I appreciate your analogies of the yoga instructor and smoking, etc. In other words, it seems you’re implying we Christians should be consistent with our ethical decisions. If that’s what you’re implying, I utterly concur. (By the way, it seems to  me that Paul’s reference to our bodies being “the Temple of the Holy Spirit” is referencing sexual purity in 1 Cor 6, not about what we eat and drink.)

I also appreciate your distinction between illegal and immoral. You’ll see below that I don’t mention legality because I concur with you. I think that is irrelevant in this discussion.

The blog I referenced above will give more details, but here is a snapshot of my views:
·    Smoking/injecting any drug, drinking alcohol, eating sugar/fat, it seems to me, is not inherently sinful/immoral (there is no Scripture that says otherwise; and considering alcohol, we know that Jesus drank a much-diluted wine). It is no more immoral than eating dirt or smoking tree bark. It’s simply consuming something that occurs naturally on this planet.

·     What IS spoken of much in the Bible is the need to practice “self-control” (esp. 1 Co. 7:5, 9; 1 Co. 9:25; Gal. 5:23; 1 Tim. 2:9, 15; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2 Tim. 3:3; 2 Pet. 1:6f). How else are we to love God with our whole selves and our neighbors if we’re drunk or high? (And it seems to me this moral commandment doesn’t include losing some self-control when I take medications for a particular ailment--like getting really sleepy or “loopy.” These are side effects of medicinal treatment and (typically) for a short period of time.)

·     It was important to Jesus and Paul that we never practice any behavior that causes another person to sin (e.g., Mark 9:42 and Rom 14:21). Of course, the same is true with my own temptation to sin. It’s assumed throughout the Bible that we should flee temptation to sin.

·     Finally, when it doubt about an ethical stance, I ask the question, “Would I do this with Jesus? Would Jesus do this if He were with me in the flesh? Would He have done this with the first disciples?”

So, when I put these things together, here is my view: If smoking marijuana (a) doesn’t lead to any lack of self-control at any point, (b) if it doesn’t influence any other person to lose self-control/sin, (c) if it doesn’t influence me to sin in some other way, (d) if I can imagine Jesus smoking marijuana with His disciples during His earthly ministry, then it is permissible.

In my view, and I don’t know this exhaustively since I’ve not smoked it before, but I can’t imagine keep full control of myself while being high (which violates the moral imperative to retain “self-control”); nor can I imagine Jesus and the disciples lighting up during His ministry.

If a person were able to maintain self-control, not be influenced to sin, not influence others to sin, and after prayer/reflection/study is convinced that Jesus would smoke it too, then it would seem permissible. I personally don't smoke it because I'm genuinely concerned about all of those issues. I've never seen or heard of anyone not violating all of these criteria (though that person might exist in the world). And, in the absence of a clear biblical mandate, I’d rather “play it safe.” Moreover, I’d rather spend my money on other things.

That’s my view!

Happy Advent,


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why people don't go to church (audio)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why People Don't Go to Church

In my experience, there is often a profound confusion among church leaders about why people don’t, or do, go to church. Here are some necessary points of clarity.

First, God designed humans with primal, basic needs. This was the main thesis of much of Abraham Maslow’s work several decades ago. You need to embrace this fact. Really. This is the most important fact of this essay. Understand this: people—you and me—Christians and non-Christians—are constantly making choices in life because it meets at least one need.

Why don’t people come to your church? Because you don’t meet their needs.

Why do people stay in your church? Because you are meeting their needs.

I absolutely guarantee it.

How do I know it? Because that’s how humans are wired by God. I didn’t design humans; I didn’t make this up.

What is so shocking is how overwhelmingly oblivious church leaders can be concerning this fact of human behavior. We humans make choices every single day to get our needs met.

Ask yourself: Have you accepted reality that people make decisions to get their needs met?

Second, there are needs people know they have and needs they don’t know they have. And it is crucial to understand both. For example, my son doesn’t know he has a need to study hard now in fifth grade so that he will do well in high school and university (even though I’ve told him that several times). My son doesn’t know that’s a need, of course, because he can’t grasp the future as a child.

He has this need; he’s just not aware of this need.

He is aware that he has other needs, like eating, sleeping, drinking, etc.

The same is true of those who go to church. We can tell non-Christians all day long until our nose bleeds that they “have a need to know Jesus and be forgiven and join our incredible community of believers…” The only problem is, they don’t care. In general, they are not aware of that need. They really don’t care about those supposed needs.

Maybe you’re still in denial about this. But you need to accept it…and fast. Previous generations held a general sense of morality and doing the “right thing.” In general, the younger generations in our country (at least) do not believe in universal morality. They do not fear judgment from God. They don’t believe in God. They’re not living in guilt or shame. They deliberately hang out with other people who behave like they do, feel complete social acceptance, and continue to behave how they want. They are not guilt-ridden. They are not seeking grace. They are not looking for “religion.” (I just heard a few days ago—again!—how this person “hated religion.”)

And just like my son and his homework, we can tell people they have needs all day long. It doesn’t mean they are really aware, and really feel, those needs. Why does my son do his homework? Because I can discipline him if he doesn’t. He respects my authority. He’s afraid of being grounded. I guarantee you it’s not because he feels a deep need to prepare for his adulthood. And we have no authority over the non-Christian like that. You can threaten them hell…but that only works for a small minority of people. (Not to mention how absurd that “marketing campaign” would be!) When we threaten people with a “you’ll be sorry if you don’t!” message to get them to our churches, you’ll just scare them off and aver their attitude toward the Church they already have.

Ask yourself: Are you aware that the people who come to your church have needs they are aware of and needs they are not aware of? What are you doing to address those needs in each category? Are you desperately trying to convince them of their needs? How’s that working?

Third, you could (a) list several needs that are common to every human, and (b) list certain needs that particular generations have. Let’s think about both points:

(a) What are some common human needs? This is where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is so helpful (even if you might nuance each category differently).

Maslow never used a pyramid. Yet, the pyramid picture is helpful because it reminds us of how fewer and fewer people achieve the “higher order” needs.

(b) And while there are numerous needs common to all people, there are also specific needs to different generations. And, I know…I know…of course, generalities and stereotypes exist whenever we talk about what an entire generation of people think or feel. So, I’m aware that not every single person fits these categories. Yet, these categories are still helpful. (Here is a helpful overview:

Here’s some quick examples for church work:

Those born before the 70s and 80s (called “The Silent” generation and then the “Baby Boomer” generation) have the needs
·        To build institutions that last (which means they love buildings and pews and chairs and rooms)
·        To leave a “legacy” (which means they love placards and bricks with their names on it; and to tell younger generations about what they’ve built)
·        To follow social etiquette established by their parents and authority figures (which means they can feel very guilty if they break the “rules” within the church, like “not running” or “not wearing your Sunday-best clothes” or “not being completely quiet and still during the sermon”)
·        To feel safe by establishing stability, traditions, and patterns
·        To be identified by their involvement in a peer group (especially peer groups that are respected—the more “institutionalized” the better)
·        To be certain in what they believe and a sense of having it “figured out”

Those born during and after the 1980s (called Generation X, then Y, then Z) have the needs
·        To question the usefulness and integrity of institutions (which means they have no loyalty in maintaining or paying for the very institutions their parents and grandparents built—seen any empty church buildings lately?)
·        To be involved in “causes” that help (like orphans, endangered animals, widows, AIDS victims, homeless, etc.) regardless if those causes are related to a church at all because it gives them a purpose and meaning in life (and because it’s “cool” to support causes)
·        To be accepted just as they are (which means they really, really disdain any hint of judgment or condemnation)
·        To be adaptable to the culture at large (This is crucial! They are more influenced by social media and Hollywood than churches or institutions; being “uncool” or not modern is very embarrassing)
·        To experience things (i.e., more feeling than simply thinking about, which is why they are more open to charismatic traditions; for more see
·        To express their individuality, even if they do have some need to be in a peer group (which also means they are supremely confident that they can “find God” or meaning/purpose apart from the Church; they believe they can do “spirituality” all on their own)
·        To doubt what they believe/not have it all figured out
(For statistical proof of what I’m saying, see; also read the book, Generation iY)

(**If you didn’t already, now you see why the generations squabble over the style of worship? Each side approaches the issue with different needs to be met and judges anyone else who doesn’t see it their way. You could say the same about paying the bills on the building, the color of the carpet, whether or not your preacher wears a tie, and on and on the generational battles rage. The real sad part of the battles is this: every generation dies off. Is your church headed for complete closure in 10, 20, or 50 years because of your refusal to adapt at all to the different generational needs?)

Ask yourself: Could you list common human needs? Have you ever gone over them with your staff? Volunteers? Are you aware that the different generations in your church, while they have commonalities in their needs, also have radically different needs that are effecting the direction of your church? Are you aware that the needs of your people significantly affect the kind of people they accept into the church? Does your church’s vision represent those needs? Does every single sermon explicitly address those needs at some point?

Fourth, people might come to your church to meet certain needs; but they might stay in your church to meet other needs. This distinction matters much (at minimum in the way you market your church!)

Much could be said about this, but here’s a quick example. Using point #3 above…

Younger generations chiefly come to a church because they were invited by someone who was “cool” or “normal,” or they were seeking out meaning/purpose/God (all related to them), or they wanted to join a cause associated with the church. (This means they do not usually come because of a sense of social obligation, because they want to leave a legacy, because they have such a positive view of the church or Christians, etc..)

They will be intrigued by their visit if they feel (1) safe/not judged (i.,e., accepted as they are; not expected to change their clothes or whatever to be accepted; they will call this “friendly” if you ask them); (2) entertained by their experience (i.e., their senses are tantalized by modern visual images and logos, modern-sounding music, etc.); and (3) hear a message from a preacher that sounds inviting, speaks of meaning and purpose, and addresses their real-world issues they face every day (like divorce, relationships, money, job struggles, etc.). They need to understand how God, the Bible, the Church interacts with their daily routines and with real issues in the world. (For statistical proof of what I’m saying, see

If all of those things happen, and finally, they make some honest-to-God, authentic relationships with people, they’ll stay. Once they get involved in the church, they will discover their sin and need for forgiveness. All the while, their generational needs never go away. They have just come to realize all the other needs they have that are only met within Christianity (like the need to receive forgiveness, the need to worship God, the need to receive moral accountability, etc.).

So, in general, why do people join a church? Because it meets certain needs they feel they have.

So, in general, why do people not join church? Because they do not believe the church will meet their needs. (It doesn’t matter if they can articulate their needs! They have them whether or not they can articulate them.) To say it once more: to outside people, churches are just irrelevant. They get their needs met in other ways.


If you’re stuck in a church that continues to squabble about whether or not they call it “Sunday School” or whether or not the music is a “rock concert,” then your situation is dim indeed. It might mean that your church, and perhaps its leaders, are unaware of the role needs play in the church's life. Worse still, it might mean that your church has become irrelevant.

What is your church doing to address the needs of your people?

What are your needs? How are you getting them met at church?

Here is this blog in audio form:

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