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March 14, 2018

March 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

Happy Pi (3.14) night.
 
Pardon me.  I’m about to go on a rant.
 
Over the past several months, we’ve been having an ongoing cultural conversation about men and women and boundaries and harassment and sexual assault. 
 
You’ve read the headlines.  You know that names of the men who have lost their jobs and their livelihood because they were exposed. 
 
And you know the issue is widespread.  Someone turned on the light and all of a sudden, shameful acts that had been shrouded in darkness are now exposed. 
 
The #MeToo movement has forced us to come face to face with what can happen in a hyper-sexualized culture when the walls are torn down, restraints are removed and sex outside of marriage is exploited and celebrated. 
 
Make no mistake:  The men who have used power to harass or abuse or violate women sexually are men who have no excuse to offer for their actions.  Their actions are shameful, sinful and deplorable.
 
But when a culture celebrates unfettered sexual expression in novels and movies and music and all forms of popular culture, should we really be surprised if people start to mimic what they’ve been entertained by for so long?
 
Can this problem be fixed?
 
On college campuses and in corporate conference rooms, people are trying to answer that question.
 
At Google and Facebook, for example, there are now strict rules about male/female interaction in the workplace.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “Employees are only allowed to ask a co-worker out once. If they are turned down, they don’t get to ask again. Ambiguous answers such as ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I can’t that night,’ count as a ‘no,’ according to Heidi Swartz, Facebook’s global head of employment law.”
 
And on college campuses, there is a lot of conversation attempting to make sure that any sexual interaction between students is fully consensual.  Some colleges are recommending that both parties sign an agreement before any sexual behavior is engaged.  But does that mean a contract before a kiss?  Holding hands? 
 
The latest technical innovation is a new “consent app” for your smart phone, where presumably sober men and women both click yes before a date even begins.
 
Of course, what the consent app doesn’t do is protect anyone from buyer’s remorse.  When the next day brings regrets, there’s no app to address that.
 
One columnist, commenting on the quest for clear mutual consent wrote recently  “There is a mechanism already in place for ensuring that sexual encounters are consensual: It’s called the law. Take liberties with another person without her consent, and you are liable to prosecution, conviction, and jail time. Rape and sexual assault are serious crimes.”
 
He’s right.  There are laws that address non consensual sex.  But the laws protecting women from harassment and abuse of power in the workplace are a lot more vague and harder to enforce.
 
Here’s where my rant kicks into high gear. 
 
Call me crazy and out of touch, but I want to suggest that the mechanism for ensuring that sexual encounters are consensual isn’t the criminalization of sexual assault and rape.  The first mechanism for ensuring that sexual encounters are consensual is for a man and woman to declare both before God and witnesses that they intend to “have and to hold” each other from this day forward. 
 
It’s called marriage.
 
Of course a husband (or a wife) can still be guilty of sinful sexual behaviors and attitudes in marriage.  Even there, a husband can harass or abuse his wife.  Marriage is no guarantee that all sexual activity will be God honoring and God glorifying.
 
But the movie stars and senators and news reporters and businessmen who have been exposed by the #MeToo movement are not being brought to justice because they harassed their wives.  Long had rejected the biblical view of sex long before they began victimizing women.
 
We live in a culture that decades ago declared itself liberated from any biblical restraints on human sexuality.  A culture that looked at their new sexual freedom and called it good.
 
We are where we are in our day not because we lack the right consent forms or rules for dating in the workplace.  We are where we are because as a culture, we looked at the forbidden fruit of unbridled sexuality, listened to the voice that asked “has God really said” and took and ate.
 
The counter cultural response to the abuses we see in our day is to suggest that if men and women want to experience sex as it was designed to be experienced and enjoyed, step one is to make a public covenant of lifelong fidelity and monogamy. 
 
That won’t fix everything. 
 
But there are a lot of men who would still have their jobs and their reputations intact if they had followed God’s design for sex.  Covenant first.  Then sex with the woman you’ve promised to have and to hold, forsaking all others.
 


Now that my rant is over, a few additional thoughts for you this week on the relationship between prayer and revival, courtesy of Martin Lloyd Jones:
 
“There are many who are not praying for revival because they are living such a superficial life. They do not even see the need of revival. They are busy, and active, and they are rushing here and there. There is no time to think about revival.”
 
“Does it grieve you, my friends, that the name of God is being taken in vain and desecrated? Does it grieve you that we are living in a godless age – an age when men have sufficient arrogance to speak in public and in private with sarcasm of the record of God’s mighty deeds and actions? But, we are living in such an age and the main reason we should be praying about revival is that we are anxious to see God’s name vindicated and his glory manifested. We should be anxious to see something happening that will arrest the nations, all the peoples, and cause them to stop and to think again.”
 
“For God’s sake, for the glory of his name, let us intercede and pray for a visitation of God’s Spirit.”
 
Amen.


Did you take time last week to check out Downline Ministries and the Downline Institute?
 
Downline Ministries has a nine-month program that helps anyone who wants to dig deep into God’s word.  We’ve met recently with Danny Hinton who gives leadership to the Institute, and we’re very impressed with what he’s put together. 
 
The institute starts in September, but enrollment is happening now.  Check it out here or talk to Matt Gurney if you have any questions. 
 
And in the meantime, ask God if Downline might be a great next step for you to take on your spiritual journey.
 


Tomorrow night (Thursday) is Kids Small Group.  Parents of kids 12 and under, you know the drill.  Drop off the kids at 5:45.  Pick them up at 8:15.  We’ll take care of the rest! 
 
Questions?  Contact Matt Gurney at mattgurney77@gmail.com 
 


Don’t forget that our new date for the all church annual business meeting has moved to Sunday, April 15.  We’ll remind you of the potluck assignments after Easter.
 


Speaking of Easter, we’ll be having our annual Good Friday worship service on Friday, March 30 at 7:00.  We will spend an hour together singing, praying, taking the Lord’s Supper and reflecting on the death of Jesus. 
 
And you might be thinking now about friends, family members or neighbors you could invite to our Easter Service.
 


We’ll conclude our series on awakenings and revivals this Sunday.  Our focus will be on preparing the soil of our hearts for the time when seeds of revival are planted (how’s that for a springtime metaphor!).
 
See you in church.
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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