Who would have thought that the Independent would have reported research that shows that:
Couples who avoid sex before marriage end up having happier, more stable relationships and a better time in bed, according to psychologists. An American study backs the straitlaced view that sex should wait until one’s wedding night.
Compared with those having sex early, couples who waited until they were married rated the stability of their relationships 22 per cent higher. They also claimed 20 per cent increased levels of relationship satisfaction, 12 per cent better communication and 15 per cent improved “sexual quality”. The findings appear in the Journal of Family Psychology.
One of the co-authors Dean Busby commented in businessweek ‘the take-home message is that sex is a powerful experience. It really bonds us to one another and so it may be important before we go down that road to take the time to see if you can talk to this other person — see if you have similar personalities and similar directions in life — to see whether or not this is a relationship that can last.’
The warnings of God in the Song of Solomon seems to find its confirmation in this research
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
The context for sexual love is in the bonds of a permanent relationship – that of marriage;
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
My only resolution this year? To make time to ask myself these 10 questions at the beginning of each month in 2011.
Five questions to help me look back over the previous month
What has surprised me? What have I rediscovered?
Is it something of the character of God or the person and work of Christ or the promises of the gospel that I need to ensure I hold on to and even share?
2) Change: Is there anything I need to repent of?
An ungodly attitude? Pride, greed, self-sufficiency, prayerlessness, discontent, doubt,..
A wrong behaviour? A loose tongue, lustful thoughts, lazy hands
Something in my life that is functioning as an idol – work, a relationship, a hobby?
How am I going to apply the gospel in prayerful belief that God can change me? Who might God
3) Thanksgiving: What have I to be thankful to God for?
How has God blessed me, provided for me, protected me, directed me in this last month?
4) Others to me: Who has God used in my life for good and have I thanked them as well as thanked God for them?
The thoughtfulness of a friend? The support of a spouse? The consideration of a work colleague? The preaching of my pastor?…
5) Me to others: How have I influenced the lives of others- for good or bad? What must I learn? Who do i need to say sorry to?…
Five questions to help me prepare for the month ahead
6) Church family: How can I better serve Christ’s body, the church, in this coming month?
Do I need to be encouraging a brother, ministry area leader, pastor in some way? Do I need to discover or develop my gifts? Do I need to be more deliberate in my attendance and participation at church?
7) Planning: What priorities do I need to reorder?
Do I need to make more time for God, for family, for my non-Christian friends?
Do I need to spend less time pursuing….
8) Missional: How can I be more intentional in spreading the good news of the gospel?
Am I praying for non-believers by name? Am I seeking opportunity to talk of Christ and am I praying for them? Am I using the glory of the gospel to motivate my desires rather than the guilt of a self-justifying heart?
9) Investing: Which three people in particular do I need to invest in this month? Who might I need to encourage to look out for another?
10) Perspective: How can I keep the hope of heaven more real this month than last?
As the new year approaches I wonder whether you’re inspired to make plans for 2011? Newspapers and the web are full of ideas as to how to improve your lot over the next 12 months but usually it’s little more than losing a few pounds in weight or getting your finances in order.
But how can you make the very most of 2011? What about some serious planning?
Planning is not about learning to manage your time better it’s about learning to prioritise your plans so that you make better use of your time. For Christians planning means not being efficient with our time, it is about being effective with our time, making sure that what we do with our time really matters.
And the question we need to ask is what determines our priorities in our planning?
Tim Chester’s excellent book The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness shows how easy it is to fail to plan according to God’s priorities. When we don’t intentionally plan according to God’s priorities we’ll probably end up planning according to the world’s priorities.
Our world says ‘Success is primarily measured in the lifestyle you have’. Therefore success is measured in money. It’s about the car you drive, the house you own, or perhaps its about the status your job gives you.
So we plan to realise the lifestyle.
1. We have in our minds the goal lifestyle that we want and then
2. We look for the education that will lead to the job that will buy us that lifestyle we’re seeking.
3. To find the job and we move to wherever that job will take us. We sacrifice friends,family, church in a bid to get the job to give us the life we want. And then when a better job comes along we’re ready to do it all over again. My parents moved 11 times in 5 years!
4. Having found the home we are going to live in that goes with the job because we’re Christians we look for a church in the area that we can belong to.
5. Now in a church if the job allows us any time and energy we look to see if there is any way we might serve the church.
That is the way the world works and if we don’t plan that is the plan that we’re encouraged to follow. In other words we fall into a very worldly plan when we don’t plan otherwise and then we think it becomes a Christian plan because we have asked God to bless it.
What we’re really doing is making a plan that ignores God’s plan but asking him to bless it anyway.
And that is not the way Christians ought to plan.
You see the plans that set your priorities should be God’s plan. His plan for the world takes into account far more than that. Continue reading »
Last night at 9.30pm (GMT) our second son, Felix Luther, was born. He is perfect in every way and the most undeserved gift of God to us for however long God gifts him.
The birth of a child is a cause to celebrate, a reason to marvel and produces in the life of any believer a reason to worship. The words of Psalm 139 immediately come to mind:
13 For you created his inmost being;
you knit him together in his mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because he is fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 His frame was not hidden from you
when he was made in the secret place,
when he was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw his unformed body;
all the days ordained for him were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
It is too much that God should be so kind.
A second birth
And yet as I look at this new life and thank God I also pray that God would work a second miracle and bring about a second new birth no less miraculous and no less a divine gift than the first.
A Puritan prayer taken from ‘The Valley of Vision‘
O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction
of my kindred. Continue reading »
When was the last time someone was interviewed at church about the work they do who was not in some form of full-time ‘Christian’ work? I have to confess as a Pastor I can’t remember the last time we heard from someone up at the front of church.
What message does it communicate when we fail to take an interest in the work of those in our churches. It seems to me that at least three of four things become imbedded deeply in the collective consciousness of the church.
1. The only work God is interested in is gospel work
2. The godly thing to be doing is being in paid Christian work everything else is second best
3. There is a sacred/secular split to our lives. Some things we do are important (sacred) and others irrelevant (secular). Unfortunately the vast majority of our time is spent doing things that don’t matter to God!
The problem is that as a Bible-believing Christian I don’t believe any of those things.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free – Ephesians 6:7,8
The problem is that unless I take steps to correct the assumption that most of what I do doesn’t matter to God the way we do church communicates that in practise that’s what we do believe.
Mark Green, in an article for the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, gives some great advice on how in just a few minutes each Sunday for a month or so you can change the culture of the church to show that work matters to God.
Why not try, he suggests, interviewing a member of the congregation for just a couple of minutes focusing on questions about what Continue reading »
Last time round we began to look at the promise (Phil. 4:12-13) that a contentment independent of our circumstances is given us to in the gospel. And yet, we discovered from Paul it is a lesson that has to be learned and a contentment that needs to be discovered. As we look at the lessons surrounding contentment Thomas Watson’s ‘The Art of Divine Contentment’ will continue to be our guide.
What is contentment?
Contentation is a remedy against all our trouble, an alleviation to all our burdens, it is the cure of care. Contentation, though it be not properly a grace (it is rather a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy temperature and mixture of all the graces: it is a most precious compound, which is made up of faith, patience, meekness, humility, &c. Which are the ingredients put into it.
Have you learnt contentment?
Let’s look at nine tests for the presence in our own lives of a divine contentment. For some I’ve included a proverb that relates. How do you fair this Christmas time?
1. The content are satisfied with their lot
If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit – Proverbs 25:16
2. The content are happy being humble
It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour – Proverbs 25:27
Whereas the discontent crave attention because they need to feed an ego.
3. The discontent are never satisfied with what they have and always craving more
The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing – Prov. 21:25
4. The content are happy to give away even what they do have
5. The discontent are often those who overwork
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle – Prov. 23:4 Continue reading »
A really helpful article by Donald Whitney suggesting 10 questions you could ask to get conversations started this Christmas. Some of them, in particular, set up good gospel opportunities and others get us thinking a little more about our own priorities this Christmas:
Many of us struggle to make conversation at Christmas gatherings, whether church events, work-related parties, neighborhooddrop-ins, or annual family occasions. Sometimes our difficulty lies in having to chat with people we rarely see or have never met. At other times we simply don’t know what to say to those with whom we feel little in common. Moreover, as Christians we want to take advantage of the special opportunities provided by the Christmas season to share our faith, but are often unsure how to begin. Here’s a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.
- What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
- What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
- What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
- What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
- What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
- What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
- What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
- Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
- Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
- Why do you think Jesus came to earth?
I’ve added a couple more of my own
- Do you think Christmas is over-rated?
- What’s your favourite Christmas song? Why that one? Would you put a carol in your top 10?
Feel free to join in….
A recent newspaper article on the phenomena of school reunions was titled ‘Didn’t I do well and aren’t you fat’. The article reported a survey of 1600 people who had attended school reunions and it arrived at the following conclusion:
Whether or not we admit it overtly, going to a reunion is the occasion for a sort of personal stocktaking: the chance to ask where
you are in life, and to do so by weighing yourself up against your classmates. So it will come as little surprise to discover that many of us try to put a thumb on the scales.
Reader, we lie. And the biggest lie –as if we could fool ourselves – is the all-encompassing one. Nine people out of every ten pretend to be happier than they actually are. In the survey people admitted to lying about the money they earnt, their job titles, their sex lives. One person commented:
There is something competitive about it. You find yourself running through the checklist of successes you should have had.
I’ve never been to a school reunion but I’ve spent a fair bit of time checking profiles out school friends on facebook and friends reunited. I guess I’m just stating the obvious when I say we find it Continue reading »
A few weeks ago parents at our church met to discuss parenting and Christmas. The question we were all wanting an answer to was the obvious one – ‘What do we tell our kids about Santa?’
Essentially you can do four things with the Father Christmas tradition; ignore it, embrace it, build on it or knock it down.
Ignore Father Christmas
You might wish Santa away but the reality is that you can’t ignore him. Whether it’s Santa coming to nursery or the conversations your kids are having with their friends or remarks of well-meaning non-Christian family or even the woman at the supermarket checkout everyone will be asking your child ‘are you looking forward to seeing what Father Christmas will bring?’ We may wish the problem away but it’s not going away.
Embrace Father Christmas
Some Christians ask ‘why not simply join in the fun?’ and they embrace the story of Christmas, Rudolph and all.
But we had a few concerns:
- There is a difference between fun fairy tales and the things we ask our children to believe in
- If we seek to celebrate Christmas as a story about Jesus and at exactly the same time Christmas as a story about Santa (and the presents) Santa will always win first place in own children’s hearts!
- The attributes of Santa mirror the attributes of God e.g. He sees everything you do, he can be everywhere in the world in one night, he gives good gifts, he’s a famous ‘old man’ in the sky and yet he rewards on the basis of being good quite the opposite Continue reading »
The best is yet to come said John Wesley of heaven.
Here are 14 quotes from Packer, Paul, Edwards, Lewis and others to help think great thoughts of our future.
Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, “I don’t want this to ever end.” But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want this to go on for ever.” And it will. There is no better news than this.
JI Packer (b. 1926)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:20,21
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:2
The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Continue reading »
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