Talking to your children about sex: Part 2

“The Sex Talk” has morphed into many talks and at an earlier age in our home. Talking about sex seems to come much earlier for my children than it came in my experience growing up. I was in junior high before I understood what homosexuality is, and I had barely discovered the differences between sexes. Now, I talk to my children often about sexuality and what they hear from friends, what they might overhear on television or see on billboards, etc.

Stan and Brenna Jones have written a must-have series on God’s Design for Sex that is divided into Book 1 for ages three to five, Book 2 for five to eight, Book 3 for eight to eleven, and Book 4 for eleven to fourteen. Each book ramps up the story of our sexuality and God’s design with increasing detail and explanation. Jill and I have used the four-part book series as a resource for our kids to talk to them about sexuality, and we keep it on the shelf where they know where to find it. We started this when our children were ages 6, 9, 12, and they are now seven years older (14, 17, 19). The book has helped us talk about sex as God’s idea and ways to live with a healthy sexual outlook and practices.

When they were 6, 9, and 12 we read the first two books to all our children and made Books 3 and 4 available to our twelve-year-old to read on her own. Then as the others were the age range of the third and fourth books, we gave them access to these books as well.

When you talk or read on the subject of sex, you can expect giggles, smiles, rolling eyes, and hidden faces behind throw pillows, but they really do wonder and want to know about sexuality at certain ages. The books and regular discussions help children walk through changes in their bodies and minds. Talking about sexuality through the eyes of faith and God’s design opens children up to a whole different world view from our culture’s view of sexuality. And this is important to talk about openly rather than prudishly or defaulting to reacting whenever we find out they’ve heard something at school or from a friend. We’re like a good local TV station: “You heard it here first!”

Soga cultural views of sexuality
In my novel, High Places I wrote about the rites of passage that allow a young boy in Uganda to become a man. Part of this process is to build and move into his own hut. This allows more privacy for the parents and builds a sense of ownership and responsibility in the young adolescent. Girls often are given in marriage at young ages, after they develop physically, but much of that is changing in those who are realizing that girls deserve education as much as boys do, so some girls are given different rooms of the house or another hut to live in as well.

Often, an aunt or uncle takes a child aside and reveals to them the mysteries of sexuality and marriage. There are taboos of speaking about sexuality with certain direct relations. In fact, a daughter-in-law is not even allowed in the same house with her husband’s father. This is to protect from indiscretions and shameful relationships.

Early parameters for Israel’s sexuality
From Israel’s earliest days as a people, God has set boundaries around their sexual lives, calling this and everything else they do in body as a holy act that must remain worthy of their walk as “my people who are called out” (Hebrew term for title of Leviticus). The holiness codes of Leviticus repeatedly show that the sexual act that creates another life is a sacred act.

In Leviticus 18, immediately following an introduction to separation from Egypt and Canaan and their ways, comes a litany of prohibitions about sexual perversions, starting with the general and becoming more and more specific and grotesque, including beastiality and giving children in prostitution and even sacrifice. At the end of some of the prohibitions is the statement, “I am the Lord.” This says that sexuality is under the authority of God who cares about what we do under the covers. It says something about the nature of God. He cares about and gives parameters for sexual life (18:7-18).

Sharing faith in God for our families means giving important parameters and guidelines for sexuality, communicating what Godly intimacy is, what God desires, practice of self-control, and learning about beautiful sexuality in marriage. There’s no way this can be achieved in “the talk” but in a purposeful and gracious conversation over many years with our children as they grow and mature.

A Prayer About the Arrogant

Psalm 73 marks the end of David‘s prayers and beginning of the worship leader, Asaph‘s in Book 3 of the Psalms.

The psalm moves from God’s goodness to Israel, to the psalmist losing his grip on reality, to a diatribe prayer about the arrogant culture in which he lives, to God’s faithfulness, ending with this beautiful line, “But as for me, it is good to be near God . . .”

What stood out initially to me in this psalm was the section about the arrogant that sounds a lot like me. It sounds like many in the first world.

My wife and I have a code that we don’t post on Facebook when people talk about certain things, but we say it to one another, and perhaps we ought to actually post it at times (we’ll get unfriended if we do, but may be for the best!). The thing we often say when someone is gripping publicly about some superficial thing like service at a restaurant, is “FWP.”

“FWP” — What’s that?

First World Problem. So, you had to wait for 30 minutes ON YOUR BUTT, while someone brings you food, and you are complaining about it? The salsa wasn’t as good as always, your coke was flat, the waitress wasn’t perky enough. These are first world problems. Half of the world goes hungry. You ought to be guilt tripped about that. Maybe we need to just start unfriending or hiding people who use social media to complain. As Steven Furtick says, paraphrased, “As Christians, we have a responsibility to be happy.” I’m sure Furtick said it somehow more colorfully than that.

So, if you get the urge to post something to complain that you think might be a first world problem, go read Psalm 73:3-12.

Is the hand of God upon you? Study, Observe, Teach

Of Ezra Scripture says “the hand of God was upon him.”

Ezra did three basic things with the law of the Lord.

  1. Study
  2. Observe
  3. Teach

Ezra devoted himself to studying Holy Scripture. He was “well-versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.”

Ezra also observed the law. We ought not teach until we observe.

Finally, Ezra taught. One who studies cannot help but share. One who shares must reflect upon, speak out of, and show forth from observance, what he or she is teaching.

The hand of God was upon Ezra. When the hand of God is upon us, we can’t help but study, observe, and teach what God is showing us. Is God’s hand upon you?

What’s going on in Egypt?

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пирамиды Гизы на изображении. Español: Las Pirámides de Guiza (Egipto). Français : Les Pyramides de Gizeh (Egypte). Català: Les Piràmides de Giza, a Egipte. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s going on in Egypt today? Egypt is the most ancient society known to our world that still survives as a nation state with the same name and location. It pre-dates even Israel. The Old and New Testaments mention Egypt nearly 700 times. That’s a lot. Imagine being Egyptian and hearing things like this in the prophecy of Isaiah, and these are just from one chapter, Isaiah 19.

  1. The Lord will make Himself known to the Egyptians.
  2. The will acknowledge the Lord, worshiping, sacrificing, making vows and keeping them.
  3. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague and heal them.
  4. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them.
  5. Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
  6. Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will be a blessing on the earth.
  7. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

These texts have forever changed the way I view the politics of our American government favoring Israel and Christians who think God has some favored nation status on Israel. God favored humanity, and He told Israel through Moses that it was not because of their righteousness that God picked them (Deuteronomy 9:6).

To read phrases like, “Egypt my people” and “Assyria my handiwork” reframes our politics, our notions of how God favors. He can favor, but he doesn’t have to exclude. I think the politics of the Middle East espoused by many Evangelical Christians over the years have been exclusionary for no good reason, in a way that unfairly views Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims. God seeks Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists to be His people, and He is drawing all people to himself, and He wants all people “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

 

DEUTERONOMISTIC POETRY

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deu...

English: Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chances are, even if you are a Christian who has read the Bible, you haven’t read this beautiful text from Deuteronomy 4:32-40. This is one I memorize from time to time (meaning, all the poetry doesn’t always stick in my brain so I have to re-memorize it). One reason you may not have read it is because it comes right after Israel wipes out the population of conquered lands. We don’t always know what to do with those texts, but it’s important to me that we don’t gloss over those particular contexts when we quote “beautiful” poetry from the Bible. We have to take the difficult texts with the cross-stitchable ones.

Deuteronomy is the catechesis of Israel’s young who are being trained to possess a new land and be a people for God. Moses repeats their story going back to Abraham, particularly the Exodus, gives the 10 Commandments and many other stipulations of being God’s holy people.

The following comes from the New International Version, which titles this section, “The Lord is God.”

“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

Then God said, “That’s enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

I found this a profound, fascinating story about Moses pleading with God to allow him to cross over and see “the good land beyond the Jordan [River]–that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

This is from NIV (3:21-29):

At that time I pleaded with the Lord: “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afa...

English: Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar, as in Numbers 27:12, by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.”

What a moment it is when God says, “That is enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” God relented to let Moses see what he would be missing, but He did not change His mind over this particular matter with Moses.

Supplicants and Benefactors

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible

A page from Leviticus, in the Samaritan bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you live your life as a supplicant, benefactor, or neither one?

This brings to mind the phrase, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Quick question. Is that a quote from the Bible. Ten seconds to answer. Sure, you can look it up on your phone or computer . . . but you won’t find it in a concordance, unless it’s a concordance of Shakespeare phrases. It’s Hamlet.

The Bible does say much about the relationship between the haves and have nots, the rich and the poor, benefactors and supplicants. A good place to start thinking biblically about these relationships is in Leviticus. That’s one of the first books that lays out these relationships for the community of Israel.

Day of War

Day of War. Cliff Graham. Zondervan, $14.99 softcover (368p) ISBN 9780310331834

Army veteran and chaplain draws from deep research and experience in war to write one of the most fascinating yet under-documented stories in the Bible. Based on the exploits of the renegade band of “Mighty Men” of King David, this war novel has additional dimensions that make it unique for Christian fiction.

Descriptive of life in ancient near east and provides the history buff a biblically-based story that is not preachy but is actually quite gruesome: the exploits of a rag-tag band of men from different countries serving a soon-to-be-king.

Readers patient enough to plow through lengthy and repeated descriptions of setting and weather can find dozens of characters that help to paint a rare picture of life three millennia ago. Most of the story is from the perspective of Beniah, one of David’s Mighty Men, who fend off King Saul and helped David take his rightful throne. About Saul, who is losing his throne: “There was a breeze, a footstep, and the fire flickered again. And Saul knew he was alone . . . They found their king lying on his face, weeping.”

Otherwise provocative transitions are awkward. “Then it all changed earlier that evening.” Gets into the minds of people from nations surrounding Israel. An Egyptian muses, “Why would a man choose to follow only one god when there were so many other areas of life where he required their services?”

For what it lacks in a compelling tension and discernible quest of individual characters, it more than makes up for in developing characters longing for their homeland and seeking power in the textured ancient world setting. –Reviewed by Greg Taylor