An Authentic Conversation with My Family-In-Law About “The Blessing” from Dr. John Trent

An Authentic Conversation with My Family-In-Law About “The Blessing” from Dr. John Trent

A couple weekends ago I witnessed a wonderful conversation with my honey-cakes (wife) and my amazing family-in-law. I can’t tell you how much I have learned about Jesus from them over the years. I may dive into this in a future post… in this post I want to focus on the conversation.

A great book called The Blessing deeply impacted my parents-in-law. Originally published in 1986, the book has recently been re-released after selling over a million copies in the past 25 years. The author, Dr. John Trent, is a fantastically sweet guy, teacher, and lover of Christ. With the re-release, they launched a campaign called The Blessing Challenge with the goal of impacting a new generation of parents and families.

The Blessing Challenge campaign also includes an accompanying campaign called Music That Blesses Others that seeks to continually inspire people with songs of blessing and worship. Shon Stewart is the host of Music that Blesses Other. Shon’s story is compelling… he was born 2.5 months prematurely and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Despite his considerable challenges, he is an inspirational speaker and singer. Watch a video of his story and listen to him sing a song inspired by his life, written by his mother. 

Again… I digress :-). I will further profile The Blessing Challenge and Music that Blesses Others in a future post because the mission is important.

As a response to the book and to further facilitate contemplation and conversation, my mother-in-law wrote a study / discussion guide to accompany it. My mother-in-law then requested that everyone go through the book and study guide, and honor / gift her with a family conversation about it for her birthday in lieu of a present. Her goal was to listen to and learn from her children and facilitate a conversation among the siblings… so everyone could grow in their knowledge and grace of Christ. Isn’t that incredible?

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Celebrating the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration

Celebrating the Spiritual Discipline of Celebration

The discussion of the spiritual discipline of “celebration” is quite confrontational and deep. We celebrate what we intrinsically value. If we look at our discipline(s) in life and/or lack thereof… it might actually point to an unsettling reality that we do not value with our actions what we profess to value with our words. 

As you look at your daily life, what do your actions show you celebrate and deeply value? How often do you celebrate your comforts, preferences, or freedoms instead of celebrating Christ for what He accomplished on the cross? Do you celebrate yourself? Are you worthy of being celebrated?  Are the things, people, or ambitions you celebrate worthy of your adoration?

Our small group is currently exploring the various spiritual disciplines. Tonight we discussed the disciplines of celebration and gratitude. I thought I would quickly post notes on celebration from the books we are going through. The books are Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster and Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us by Adele Calhoun. The content in this post is referenced and adapted from those books.

There are a variety of ways to practice celebration. Unfortunately, most of us confine celebration to church gatherings, corporate worship, singing in the car, and occasional parties. The longest book in the Bible, Psalms, is a collection of celebratory art in the form of poetry. Sometimes the Psalms are filled with God-glorifying and focused joy and celebration… other times they are filled with depravity, lament, complaining, whining, and frustration. We need to stretch and challenge our understanding, experience, and practice of celebration! Celebration erupts out of our adoration of Jesus.

Joy is the end result of the spiritual disciplines being a reality in our lives and devotion to Christ. God brings about the transformation of our lives through the Holy Spirit and the disciplines… and we only know true joy as the Holy Spirit transforms and cleans us from the inside out. Holy Spirit transformation causes us to radiate in and from the Spirit, show abundant love, sanctifies us, grows our understanding and giving of grace, and molds us into Christlikeness.

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Real Marriage Conference – Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A

Real Marriage Conference – Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A

HAHA… I hope the double entendre of title isn’t too much!

This is the last post in the Real Marriage Conference series and covers the final session… “Can We __________? (fill in the blank with your sex question)”. Christian married couples often wonder, “Can my spouse and I [do some specific sexual activity]?” This question is NOT uncommon. This discussion in popular culture is also NOT uncommon… it is just uncommon in church and/or in public forums related to church.

Part One of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #1: Friend (Not Plural!) With Benefits.

Part Two of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A.

Part Three of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A.

After extensive Bible study and prayer, the Driscolls created a compelling framework for answering this question. Their goal was NOT to create a list of YES or NO answers to everything that can happen in the marriage bedroom. The reality is that scripture does not do that. Therefore, the framework is meant to assist couples as they discuss, pray, and consider their interests and curiosities. Pastor Mark and Grace are also clear to note they are explaining what a married couple MAY do, NOT what they MUST do.

In the book, Pastor Mark and Grace talked about the framework for answering sexuality related questions. They also go through a collection of specific questions related to: masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, menstrual sex, role-playing, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cyber sex, sexual medication, and marital sexual assault. At the Real Marriage Conference, Pastor Mark only talked through the framework, NOT the specific activity questions. Buy the book if you would like to read the answers to the specific questions.

This is the chapter of the book that caused a LOT of controversy for Mark and Grace Driscoll. More liberal folks complain they didn’t “go far enough”, while fundamentalists charge they “went to far”. It is important that Christian married couples have appropriate information and context for Biblical decision making related to sexuality. Christians make a lot of conclusions and accusations on this topic, often without sound Biblical reasoning.

They have also been negatively charged by some for not more thoroughly discussing the “heart motivation” aspects of this sex conversation (more related to the specific activities mentioned in the book). Most of the book and conference is about how the Holy Spirit transforms the heart, and that our intentions and heart condition matter in everything we do. Therefore, I will trust that principle extrapolates into this discussion.

The unfortunate reality is that in popular media and many sharky (and snarky) Christian circles, this chapter also somewhat eclipses / out-shines the rest of the book. For example, check out the full interview Mark and Grace did about this book as guests on Dr. Drew’s TV show:  http://pastormark.tv/2012/01/12/dr-drew. This is the fault of the media who mostly desire villify pastors (or Christianity) and sensationalize these discussions.

Again… Overall, the book is about celebrating God’s intentional design and purpose of marriage. Most of the book is about friendship and servanthood! Technically, this chapter is also about that, but just within the context of sexual intimacy between a married man and woman.

Now… onto the conference notes!

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Real Marriage Conference – Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A

Real Marriage Conference – Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A

Selfish is innate to the human condition! Due to the nature of sin, we are ALL sinful. That usually manifests itself as different types of selfishness. Pride is the default of the human heart. Selfish and “alive” are synonyms. That includes YOU and ME!

Under selfishness is pride. We think that whatever we want, desire, or are doing is more important than others’. We think, but don’t say… “Don’t inconvenience me with you… you and I should both agree on how important I am”. Selfish people get married and have miserable lovers… that’s just the way it works.

On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is Jesus… how would you rate your selfishness?

Our world and lives encourages selfishness.

Martin Luther said “Sin is the self bending in on the self”.

Part One of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #1: Friend (Not Plural!) With Benefits.

Part Two of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A.

Part Four of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A.

Selfishness & Pride

Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”

Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”

Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

  • “In pride… we don’t love or serve our spouses… we USE them for our desires and purposes.”
  • “Self esteem”, “self activation”, “positive self image”… all are pride.
  • In American culture, pride has become an extolled virtue, not a vice.
  • God’s Plan A is humility. His Plan B is humiliation.
  • We should pray to be clothed in humility. This enabled us to put on the cloak and disposition of Christ.
  • In Western  culture, pride is something that should be aspired to instead of repented of.
  • You can never be proud of your humility…. that defeats the reality of humility! However, you can be someone humbly pursuing humility.

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Real Marriage Conference – Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A

Real Marriage Conference – Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A

This second session of the Real Marriage Conference with Pastor Mark & Grace Driscoll focused on the topic of sex.

It must be interesting for Pastor Mark and Grace to talk openly so often in front of thousands of people on this topic! All of the sessions were incredibly insightful, and this session was definitely not an exception.

Part One of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #1: Friend (Not Plural!) With Benefits.

Part Three of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A.

Part Four of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A.

The Beautiful Purity & Design of Sex BEFORE Sin

Genesis 2:18-25 contains the story of sex before sin.

Genesis 2:18-25:” 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adamthere was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The core message here, is that sex without shame, anxiety, pain, baggage… it was pure.

Below are a few other observations from this text:

  1. God made us male and female with equal dignity and differing roles.
  2. Love is more like a song than a math equation.
  3. Marriage is for one man and one woman by God’s design.
  4. God created our bodies and sexual pleasure “very good”.
  5. All sex outside marriage is a sin.
  6. Sex is to be without shame.
  7. Your standard of beauty is your spouse.

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