A Message to Your Pastor (and Mine)

Last Thursday, I asked, Will Your Pastor Preacher on Sex? Only a handful of people commented that their pastor had indeed spoken publicly on the topic of sexuality in their church. Which is sad.

Especially since the Bible has so much to say about it.

Pastor's hands holding Bible & blog post title

But before we get frustrated with preachers for not speaking up and speaking out about sexual intimacy, I want you to know that I have compassion for pastors. I’ve been in close relationships with them and seen the pressure they receive. Many hear from church members to preach on this and not on that, to say more of this and less of that, to say it this way and not that, etc. And yes, I’ve been there when a preacher mentioned sex from the pulpit and got an earful from parents of young children who thought it was inappropriate.

It’s easy to say that pastors should ignore all those voices and simply preach the Word, but:

  1. They are human. And have you ever been under heavy fire like that? It can be very discouraging.
  2. Their jobs and family livelihood are tied to these choices. Surely, you consider how what you say at your job could affect your employment. Just consider that they may face the same concerns.
  3. Most pastors try to both preach the Word and be responsive to their congregation. If their churchgoers don’t seem to want a sermon on sex, they may conclude that they can deliver the message in a different way or simply use their precious time to preach on something the congregation does seem to want and need.
  4. Some pastors don’t feel like they’re in a good place to preach on sex because their own marriages are not in a good place regarding sexual intimacy.

I believe what pastors largely need is not our frustration and criticism, but our reassurance and support. Maybe we can counteract the voices that object to mentions of sex in the pulpit with a message of encouragement. Maybe our words can embolden our pastors to speak on the tough stuff and reach out to those in need of godly wisdom regarding sexual intimacy.

Could you take your pastor aside and give him that message of encouragement? Could you write your pastor a note or letter explaining why you believe this topic is important, and why you trust your pastor to deliver a good sermon? Could you speak to the elders and let them know you desire and support efforts to speak up on sexuality as a church?

Look, I’m just little ole me in my church — one of many sitting on a chair in the sanctuary on Sundays. I’m not on church staff or a pastor’s wife or in any formal leadership position. But I believe the voices of the congregation matter in encouraging those in leadership to be bold and faithful to the Word. A swell of voices from the sanctuary could be just the gentle push your pastor needs to speak what God has put on his heart to speak.

Here’s my message to your pastor (and mine):

While engaging in my online ministry, I have heard so many stories of hardship and heartache regarding sexual intimacy in marriage. For many spouses, there is confusion, pain, and temptation surrounding the sexual act. But I have also heard stories of redemption and revival, once couples begin to experience sexuality in their marriage the way God intended. I know, as a pastor, you’ve heard such stories from individuals and couples as well.

You have many topics competing for attention as people try to navigate this topsy-turvy world, but I want to encourage you to preach from the pulpit and/or teach in a Bible class on the subject of godly sexuality. With so many wrong messages out there, the Church must be even more bold about teaching the truth of God’s design for sex. Not only have some in our congregation been impacted by adultery, pornography, and sexual assault, but many marriages are suffering from sexual deprivation and lack of intimacy or conflict and bitterness surrounding the marriage bed.

You have my full support to speak up regarding these matters according to the Word of God. I will speak to the elders on your behalf and actively defend you among those in our congregation who may struggle with this private act being appropriately discussed in public. If we need to provide additional care or programs for children during sermon time so that you can be free to say what needs to be said, I will help in any way I can. If I disagree with something you say, I will speak to you respectfully and privately, and I will encourage others to do the same. I will be an advocate for you and the importance of dealing with this topic head-on in our church.

I appreciate your willingness to speak where the Bible speaks. Please know also that I will pray for you and your own marriage. May God bless you and your ministry!

Now what would you like to say to your pastor? How could you encourage him to speak up and speak out on the timely issue of sexual intimacy in marriage?

Will Your Pastor Preach on Sex?

Photo of with blog post titleIn my many years of church attendance, I have rarely heard a lesson or sermon on the subject of sex. Even though the Bible has quite a bit to say about it, churches tend to shy away from the topic. And I sort of understand why.

One year, our church camp included the story of David and Bathsheba. Being the children’s curriculum leader, I had to write the lessons for elementary age children about that adulterous affair. We ended up talking more about David wanting another girlfriend, rather than getting into the particulars of sex with a group of kids whose parents may or may not have yet informed them about what happens in bedrooms between men and women. Likewise, a lot of parents are very uncomfortable having the preacher mention sex from the pulpit, because their children are sitting beside them on the pew.

But more than that, I think we’re just uncomfortable with the topic of sex. Maybe because we were wrongly taught that it’s so private or so distasteful, it shouldn’t be brought up in polite company. Maybe because we’re experiencing sexual problems in our own marriage and don’t want to be reminded or convicted. Maybe because we struggle with what God says about sex itself.

But I wish more preachers would say what needs to be said. We should let our pastors know that we are willing to hear what the Bible has to say about everything, including our sexuality. And today, I salute one preacher who did stand up in the pulpit and talk about it. Kevin A. Thompson preached on 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to his congregation, and here’s his sermon on sex.

(For a sampling, I suggest starting at 6:34 and watching until 10:17. And no, I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen on my blog.)

You can also watch the video here.

Has your pastor ever preached on sex? What messages do you wish your church would present on the topic of godly sexuality?

When the Sex Drive Is More Intense

Blog post title with "Sex" in flame fontI wrote last Thursday on What’s the Aim of His Sex Drive? and made the case that the majority of husbands aren’t just after the sex. Rather, sex is a way to be intimate with their wives. Their goal is less the sex (although, sure, that’s a big part of it) and more the connection with this woman they love.

Not surprisingly, I got a bit of push-back. Which got me thinking about when the sex drive is more intense.

A male friend once stated that the longer it’s been since sex happened, the more the drive itself is focused on the sex. And I think that’s likely true.

It’s like anything else that you crave. If you know it’s in abundant supply, you can savor the thing itself — whether it’s good food, great music, or sexual intimacy. But when you feel this deep need that goes unmet for a long time, it becomes far more like a hunger or even, for some, can become almost an obsession. Thus, the higher-drive spouse who seems to be all about the sex, and the lower-drive spouse who feels like an object.

Yeah, I get it.

And neither one of those roles is a good place to be. In this case, it’s hard for the higher-drive spouse to keep that focus where it should be. Their physical need seems so intense, it’s like pangs of hunger and a growling stomach. Sure, you want to be able to take your time, let things unfold, and savor that lady (or man) of your dreams, but at some level you just need a cheeseburger from the drive-thru, so to speak. And no, no, no, I am not comparing any spouse to a cheeseburger. Heaven forbid! It’s simply an analogy to make a point.

Meanwhile, for the lower-drive spouse . . . well, who wants to be a cheeseburger? That’s just insulting. Especially for women who’ve already coped with being ogled pre-marriage by at least a few idiots, we hardly want that kind of groping-eyes-and-hands thing happening with the guy who’s supposed to treat us like we’re a princess. Or princess-like, at least.

So what’s the answer here? What about when that sex drive is so intense that it leans toward being more about the sex itself and not quite as much about the deep love for this person you’re with?

Since you can only change yourself, you have to ask which spouse you are in this scenario. Are the higher-drive spouse? Or the lower-drive spouse? Because each of you can make some changes to effect a better outcome.

Higher-drive spouse. In all honesty, you’re where I currently reside. If I go a long time without, I definitely feel the absence. And my desire for sex becomes even more need-like.

Here’s the advice: Take a chill pill, as they say. Back it up and remember what your real goal is. Remind yourself that a purely physical relationship is pleasurable, but not satisfying. And you’re not willing to settle for less than God intended. (No, really, you’re not!) You can make some real strides toward better intimacy by focusing on your mate. Consider their needs.

What in that moment would make him/her feel loved? How could you bring pleasure or happiness to them? What would reassure them of the love underneath your longing?

Dwell on those thoughts and cultivate those feelings that foster a unique attachment to your spouse. Our minds can be powerful actors on our bodies. Pray for God’s view of your spouse. Show patience and self-control when needed (Galatians 5:22-23). Remember to give your spouse honor (“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” — Romans 12:10).

Of course you can ask for and pursue sex, but seek intimacy in all areas of your marriage.

Lower-drive spouse. Yes, I know you don’t need sex as frequently as your mate desires, and it can be a bit of a bother to engage so often. But — still using that inadequate, but useful food analogy — it’s easier to relax when you know where your next meal is coming from. That is, your spouse may relax a bit about the sex thing if you regularly communicate and cooperate with sexual intimacy.

Look for possible ways and times to engage, rather than putting your energy into avoidance. If you can’t have sex when he/she asks, suggest a better time (and then follow through). If can create some consistency, that could help you both avoid that situation in which he’s pleading and you’re resisting and everyone ends up in a bad mood.

Also be willing to express what you need to make it a more meaningful experience. If you want it to feel less rushed and climax-driven, go ahead and ask for the massage or the time in the bubble bath or a slow dance before you begin. You may find that your beloved is willing to add some romance and flair to the moment when they know what you want — that they actually enjoy the full experience more than an off-to-the-races, get-er-done approach.

What ideas do you have for helping both sides experience deeper sexual intimacy? What helps your sexual encounters move from merely physical to a more meaningful connection between husband and wife?

What’s the Aim of His Sex Drive?

I can still conjure up memories of when I was a single woman and a man would look me up and down in a flash and then give some presumably-sexy line. Frankly, I hated that.

Most women I know have those memories and that same visceral ick reaction. We felt like slabs of meat at the butcher’s window, there to be look at, salivated over, and eaten up. We might as well have been staring into the mouth of the Big Bad Wolf.

Soooo . . . then we get married. And while being looked at with desire and hearing a hey-baby-you-wanna line from our husband should be a wonderful thing, maybe at times we hearken back to the Wolf and experience an uneasy feeling that maybe we aren’t being appreciated quite as much as we’d like.Dart hitting sketched target

I believe the ultimate issue is what is the aim of his sex drive? Let’s face it, ladies, a lot of those guys pre-marriage wanted sex. Just sex. And we were a means to an end. Sure, we might have been preferable to another and valued in some respect for what we uniquely offered. But we felt that underlying message that it was really about the sex, that we were the method through which he got what he wanted.

But most husbands I hear from (though, admittedly, not all) see it in the opposite way. Whereas the jerk who sleeps around is looking for women to satisfy his aim of experiencing sex, a committed husband is looking for sex to satisfy his aim of experiencing his wife.

That husband’s aim isn’t just the sex. In fact, as I’ve said many times before, if it was merely about the sexual climax, he could get that elsewhere or on his own. Instead, I hear from husbands who yearn deeply for sex in their marriage because in that moment they feel closest to their wives. The sex is the method, the aim is intimacy with your spouse.

So do we believe it?

Because I also hear from wives who equate their husband’s flirtations, touches, advances, and sexual expressions with what they experienced from Jerk Guy at the bar when they were twenty years younger. But is that fair? Have we allowed that bad experience to mistakenly color our interpretation of what’s happening with hubby?

I don’t know about you, but never in a million years would I have married Creepy Guy Scanning My Body Like I’m Meat, but I did marry my husband. He was one of the good guys. He fell in love with me, not just my body or what I could offer him. So why put him in the category with Creepy Guy now?

Maybe we wives need to ask what’s the aim of our husband’s sex drive? Is it only about the sex? Or do we believe it’s more — that he really, truly wants to be united with his wife?

And if it’s the latter, let that loving man check out your you’ve-still-got-it beauty. Go ahead and let him be enthralled (Psalm 45:11). Engage playfully and sexually. Trust that his aim is not the sex, it’s you. He desires you. And sex is one of his ways of experiencing that.

Do you struggle with bad memories that affect your interpretation of your husband’s advances now? How is your husband’s sex drive truly aimed at you and not just the sex?

5 Reasons to Stop Using Porn…Now

woman covering eyesNow and then, I see pornography statistics in one source or another — the percentage of people using porn, the amount of money spent, the number of hours consumed, and more. Although I’ve long recognized porn as a huge problem, the stats never fail to surprise me in some way.

Maybe it’s how young people are when exposed. Maybe it’s how much free porn is now available online. Maybe it’s the percentage of people who believe porn is a morally acceptable practice.

Why exactly am I surprised? Because the damage is so clear for anyone willing to look at statistics, studies, and marriages impacted by porn. If you’re using pornography, it’s time to stop. Here are just five reasons why:

1. It messes with your brain. There is absolutely no doubt that watching pornography alters your brain function. Brain research and measurable outcomes are clear. Viewing porn retrains your brain to see sexual imagery as the main way to achieve sexual pleasure, to desire greater and greater variety and even cruelty as part of the experience, and to objectify potential partners.

Strong effects are seen with as little five hours per week. Unfortunately, some view five hours in an afternoon. If you really want to know how pornography is messing with your brain, check out Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William M. Struthers, Your Brain on Porn (free ebook from Covenant Eyes), and/or this TED Talk: The Great Porn Experiment by Gary Wilson.

2. It makes real sex less satisfying. I cringe every time some secular “expert” suggests a couple watch pornography to kick-start their sexual intimacy. Because the real data show a very different result. Those who engage in pornography tend to miss out on the more meaningful and fulfilling experience of sexual pleasure with their mate.

Pornography focuses on imagery and the physical aspect of sex, and it contains many myths about sex. Users, therefore, become less satisfied with the real thing — expecting sex to look like what they see on screen (or read). Their disappointment can lead to seeking greater and greater highs, all the while missing that true sexual fulfillment isn’t all about increasing your physical pleasure quota. Rather, sex involves a real person (your spouse); includes mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects; and satisfies when it represents a commitment and relational intimacy.

3. It encourages abuse. If you’re viewing porn, you need to think very carefully about how your consumer habits influence those who put out the product. A lot of abuse occurs in the porn industry, and our societal support has a detrimental effect on those involved. Think of it this way: If a lot people attend cock fights, more roosters will fight and die (one reason it’s illegal here). Likewise, the more people who watch porn, the more porn actors will be injured, contract sexual diseases, and take drugs to numb their senses. (See Why Do Women Pose for Porn?)

Plus, the prevalence of minors being used for porn imagery has greatly increased. Make no mistake: The increasing demand for porn will be met in part by kids under age 18. Sex traffickers are more than willing to use their victims for pornography. I believe the vast majority of people would cringe at the idea of involving children in the making of porn, but it happens whether the larger population is aware or not, because of high demand and ease of anonymity.

4. It dishonors your spouse. I was once in a wives’ prayer group in which one woman claimed her husband’s pornography habit didn’t bother her because “that’s what men do.” But you could tell that it did bother her, that her husband constantly looking at other women sexually conveyed a message — a message that she wasn’t enough. Just sitting here thinking about her, my heart aches.

When you gaze longingly, lustfully, sexually at others, you dishonor your spouse. You send a message that they aren’t enough to arouse and satisfy your sexual desire. I’m not talking about a stray thought of a gorgeous person passing you by on the street, but the dwelling of your mind on someone else and using that to titillate your sex drive. Porn is definitely in the category of allowing someone besides your spouse to arouse you sexually. And what does that communicate to him or her?

Frankly, most of us have enough built-in insecurities that having to compete for attention with a porn star is a big ol’ slap-in-the-face. Spouses should be reassuring of their focus and love and commitment to one another, and one another alone. There’s a reason why the song “I Only Have Eyes for You” hit the top Billboard charts three different times. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your marriage partner had this attitude?

You are here and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

5. It is a sin. If we go looking for a commandment that simply says, “Thou Shalt Not View Pornography,” you’d be right to say there is no such thing. But short of an outright statement like that, the Bible can’t get much clearer that pornography is not God’s intention for sexuality. So let’s take an honest, no-excuses approach to whether porn is sinful.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” Job 31:1-4

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

That’s just a sampling. Moreover, many scriptures talk about guarding our hearts and our minds, so we remained focused on the things of God. Yes, the “things of God” include sex — with your spouse as He designed. But involving a third party, even in the form of an image, detours from His path. Pornography is simply wrong.

Let me add that many people approach this subject with a “what can I get away with?” attitude — wanting to know how far they can go before crossing some imaginary line. The better question is: How can I honor God with my sexuality? Then seek that higher goal.

That’s five reasons why pornography needs to get off your computer or other device and out of your life. There is a better way. Do what’s necessary to seek that better way.

What negative impact has porn had in your marriage and your life? What other reasons can you name to stop using porn?