Married to a Seducer

HEARING gODVerizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

PROPHETS

At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”

PROSTITUTES

The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her. What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a sePROSTITUTEminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.)

The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘trans- actions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her. In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.

PIMPS

God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.

PICK IT UP

It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button. You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear. The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?

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DO YOU HAVE A PURITY STANDARD

RIGHT AND WRONGIs there any better question to ask in our culture than the one asked by the psalmist in Psalm 119: 9-10. He asks, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Man, if you’ve got kids you’re a young person, that’s a great question to ask. How in the world, with all the temptations in this world, can we stay on the path of purity?

CULTURE SAYS!

Well, here’s what culture would tell you. Here’s what culture would say about everything: “Hey, just follow your heart. You’ve got a good heart. Follow your heart.” Listen: That’s the dumbest advice you could give anybody. Don’t follow your heart; your heart is deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says this: “The heart is deceitful above all things.” It will deceive and lie to you just to get its way.

I’ve seen so many married couples who followed their heart right out of marriage into adultery. Why? “Because my heart said, “He’s hot.” My heart said, “She smells good.” Don’t follow your heart. How can a young person keep their way pure? Here’s how the psalmist says, God, “by living according to your word.” Here’s what I’m going to do. “I will seek you with all my heart. Do not let me stray from your commands.”

THE FAMILY

Let’s applied that verse and translated it toward the family just for application. Here’s a different translation of this verse for the family. “How can our family stay on the path of purity?” Here’s the answer: Not by following our hearts, but by living according to your word. “We will seek you with all of our hearts. God, do not let us stray from your commands.”

UNMARRIED

Now, for those of you that aren’t married and don’t have a family right now, you might be thinking, “Yeah, sock it to them because it doesn’t matter to me because I purity 2don’t have a family yet so I can do whatever I want and then later on, I’ll get things right. I mean, right now I can sleep with who I want, I can drink what I want, I can smoke what I want, I can watch what I want. I can say what I want, I can do what I what.” “I can hang out with because, I’ll get it right later on when it matters, I mean, later on when I have a family.”

Listen to me: What you do today matters. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. That’s so important I need to say it again. You don’t build a life of righteousness on a foundation of sin. If you want a harvest of righteousness in your family later, you plant seeds of righteousness in the ground today. “How can a young person stay pure? By living according to your word.”

What is going to be your standard of purity?

(Adapted from “Bless This Home” by Craig Groeschel)

Let’s Cohabitate!

The “Wise” Solomon

cohabitation 2Solomon is revered as the wisest man who ever lived. But was he really? When we look closer at Solomon’s choices we see a man who rejects God’s direction, especially when it came to love, sex and marriage. I mean, Solomon took polygamy to a whole new level. Right? I mean, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And God defined marriage differently than that.

Here’s what God says in Genesis 2, the very beginning of time, the first marriage and God defines marriage and he says, For this reason a man (singular )will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (not wives, wife), and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This word “united” is a strong word. It means to be bonded or glued together. And it really doesn’t allow for there to be more than one. It is this idea of one and one being united as one. And that’s how God designed it. That’s how God created it. That’s how he defines marriage.

“I Want to be Happy”

And Solomon decides, I want to do things differently. I want to be happy. My heart tells me this is what I should do and so that is what I’m going to do. And so in his pursuit of happiness he ignores what God has said.

And Solomon pays a significant price because he doesn’t do things God’s way. God says, “Here are my directions,” and Solomon says, “Yeah, well, I think this will work.” And you can just hear Solomon. He knows what God has said but he just loves her, he just loves her. “God I know what you have said but I just love wife number 274. I love her. I love her.” And he puts his hope in his own understanding, in his own feelings even though that violates what God has said.

I want you to think for a moment, what is kind of a cultural equivalent to this? In other words can you think of an area in our culture, in our society that goes against what God has said when it comes to marriage that we have kind of decided that we know better? We have kind of decided that how we feel about it makes the most sense. We have ignored what God has said. Can you think of an area like this?

Cultural Equivalent

I think of Cohabitation as an example of this. Couples living together before they are married. That has been on the increase since 1970. There is a 700% increase in couples that live together outside of marriage. Now when I sit down, and I have a number of times, and talk to couples who are living together and are not married and I just talk to them a little bit about here’s what God’s word says and here’s why he says this and here’s why these directions are best for you. And when I talk to these couples, one of the things I love about them is that so often they have a heart for commitment. They are taking marriage seriously and in their minds they don’t want to risk it. They don’t want to be part of a divorced generation like their parents. And they just want to be sure. And I appreciate that spirit.

And then you just start looking at the evidence. And the evidence just reinforces again that God knows what is best in this area of our lives. There is a Scripture verse in Proverbs that goes like this, it says, There is a way that seems right to a man (there is a way that feels right to us. It seems to make most sense. It seems to make the most rational approach. There’s a way that seems right), but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

And I think we can really paraphrase that verse and contextualize it for our application here and I think it would be fair to put it this way, “There’s a way that seems right to couples but in the end it leads to divorce.” Because that’s what we’re seeing.

The Research

This isn’t Christian or biblical research. This is secular research. University of Wisconsin reports that those who live together before gettingcohabitation 5 married and then get married have a 75% divorce rate. They also found out that 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples who are living together right now, only 15 out of every 100 will eventually get married and 10 years from now 85% of them won’t be married. And they just conclude that really this isn’t a good way to prepare for marriage. This is secular research and God is like, “Yeah, because I gave you these directions way back when.”

And the Bible tells us in numerous places about guarding the sacredness of marriage. Hebrews 13:4, Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. (Message) God’s oneness, this one man, one woman becoming one is really a beautiful gift that God gives us as a husband and as a wife but it has to be protected. It’s got to be guarded, that if we treat it lightly we lose out on what God wants for us. And so in his directions God said, “Look you’ve got to protect this. You’ve got to guard this. It valuable and sacred.”

And I’m sure Solomon thought, well maybe the next one, maybe the next one, maybe the next one. But the irony is that the more he added the less likely he was to discover the joy of that intimate relationship that he so desperately longed for. So you get to the end of his story and do you know what Solomon says at the end of his story, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things God’s way.”

Thoughts?

(Adapted from “The King who had it all” by Kyle Idleman)

Your “Third Week Of March”

bathshebiaWhen Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address http://www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have david repentswished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).

You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.

Childhood Conditions That Made Me What I Am Today

 

thornton family chester 001Childhood is such a crucial part of life. Experts say that most of what you become in life is shaped during your first five years. That, of course, is debatable; however, what happens in your early years definitely determines much of what you are throughout life. Once the mold is set it becomes increasingly difficult to change it. Therefore, it is vitally important to do it right in the early years.

My concern is that many parents today are not getting it right. Many parents are following a parenting model, philosophy or book that, I fear, will lead to highly unpleasant results in future years.

So allow me to share with you some of the conditions and factors that were part of my childhood years that have shaped who I am throughout life. I know, those childhood years were so long ago that some of you can’t even think back that far. However, I believe these are conditions that children need in every generation in order to have healthy as well as balanced development.

I will be the first to admit that my parents were not perfect in permitting or executing these elements of my upbringing. They were, however, more than adequate when it came to making them a permanent part of my character and lifestyle. 

1.     Freedom to explore: I was given the freedom to have adventure in my life. This adventure was not always in the form of planned, structured, activities. Many times it was just the ability to creatively enjoy my environment. We lived in a different world, but spending time outside playing, building things, including tree huts, and developing my creativity were every day practices. I fear the electronic world is stealing this practice and value from our kids to their detriment.

2.     Responsibility: I learned early in life that responsibility was an expected part of life. Those responsibilities included doing my part around the house and outside of the house. Even though there were five kids in my family we all had expected responsibilities. And when I was old enough, I got a job. I know that is a difficult concept for some parents to even consider expecting, however, if you really love your child, you will teach them responsibility early in life. As a result, I have never, never, never had a problem being a responsible, productive adult.

3.     Accountability: With responsibility came accountability. So if there were expectations, there were also consequences when expectations were unmet. And if responsibilities were carried out as expected sometimes, but not all that often, there was praise and reward. But whether or not the recognition came we still met our responsibilities. My fear and concern for the current generation is that accountability has been replaced with an elaborate system of bribery. Instead of kids being taught responsibility and held accountable for their actions they are bribed and rewarded into action. Oh what a dangerous road we travel when it comes to what the future holds. Oh how difficult it is going to be when they get out into the real world and find out that everybody else doesn’t treat them the same way.

4.     Parental model: My parents didn’t get it all right. My parents had issues in their relationship and in their parenting. They did, however, give us kids, all five of us, a model to follow. They provided a unity of purpose and direction for our family. And when they did not agree on that direction, they dealt with it behind closed doors. They brought to our family not only the provision of physical needs but also a healthy balance of emotional and spiritual direction.

5.     Church involvement: We lived 12 miles away from our church in a day of no super-highways. There were five of us kids and no van or SUV to transport us in. But we never missed church. It was never an item of discussion. We did not discuss, on Saturday night, whether or not we were going to church on Sunday morning. It was an understood part of our existence. As a result, all five children, as well as their families are involved in church, spiritual direction and seeking the Lord, to this day. And I would add, not only did we attend church, we were involved in church worshiping AND serving.

6.     Germs: That’s right, I said germs. Germs were part of our existence. I grew up on a chicken farm. We had 36,000 chickens to deal with all the time. There are always germs when it comes to chickens. Though we were clean we were not fanatical in our cleanliness. In fact, I can even remember one occasion when I ate a dirt burger served to me by one of my older brothers. Can I tell you that today I never get sick? I never go to the doctor for sickness. Sure, God has blessed me with good genes. God has blessed me with good health; however, I believe that much of the strength of my immunity system is due to the fact that I was allowed to build an immunity system in my childhood. I am all for cleanliness, but I think parents today are so obsessed with raising their kids in a completely sterile environment and as a result are inviting, rather than preventing, untold sickness in the future. Call it my weird germ philosophy, but I think the future will tell.

So, please feel free to take issue with some or much of what I have just written. That is your prerogative. I do, however, encourage you to look and think long and hard about what you are building into the childhood of your children. It is far more than their current existence that you must be concerned about. It is what these practices will lead to in years to come. What do you want your child to be like in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond? Well, you, to a large extent, are determining that right now.

Marriage–Contract or Covenant?

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marriage  I want to make a very true statement and unpack it for you and that is this, “We need to recognize that marriage is a covenant not a contract”.  People today all over the world will treat it as a contract.  It is a piece of paper, it is a legal agreement, and it is so much more than that. 

You can see a great picture of this in the Old Testament in the Book of Malachi when the people are whining, “God, why won’t you answer our prayers”?  We are praying, where are you?  And God is basically going to say, “Men, you have been unfaithful to your wives and therefore I am not answering your prayers”.  You can read it all if you want to get the context.  Malachi 2:14 says, “Why aren’t you answering our prayers”?  Well, here’s why; because you have broken faith with her, your wife, though she is your partner and the wife of your marriage covenant,” not marriage contract, but marriage covenant. 

What is the difference?  A contract is based on mutual distrust.  It is I am in as far as you are in.  If you do me wrong I can get out.  When it comes to rental properties there always is a contract with the one renting. That is, if you don’t pay you don’t stay.  It is protecting the owner from the tenant because he doesn’t trust them to do the right thing.  But the contract also has a flip side, if the owner doesn’t deliver then the tenant could get out and that is the way a lot of people treat marriage.  Well, it is just a contract. If you do what I want we will stay in, if you don’t I won’t.  Someone breaks the contract, it is over. 

A covenant though is different.  A covenant is based on mutual commitment.  It is an unending, totally bindingmarriage3 commitment and it can be maintained by one person.  You may break this but I am not going to break my covenant vows before God.  In other words, I’m all in, every bit of me, totally in, completely, 100%.  There is no back door.  I am giving my covenant vows not before the State I live in but before the God of Heaven, that for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health I commit to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  It is a totally binding, all in, no back door, covenant vow to God.  Divorce is not even an option.  It is not a word in our vocabulary when it comes to our marriage. 

I like what the late Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham world-wide evangelist, one time a reporters were interviewing her and they said Ruth, have you ever thought about divorcing your husband Billy?  She said, “Never one day in my life have I thought about divorcing him.  I thought about murdering him on many occasions but never ever divorce.”  You see, divorce is not an option, not ever.  It is not something we are going to do, why?  Covenant!

 

marriage4Now, let me just say this with all the compassion I can.  For those of you who have been divorced, my purpose is not to heap condemnation on you because I know the pain that you felt and I know many of you didn’t want that.  I know some of you made mistakes and if you could go back you would do it different.  I am not trying to stir up pain or make anybody feel guilty, what I want to do is, I want to talk from this point forward and that is this; if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you get married, you stand before God and you make a promise to God and you enter into a covenant and the two become one.  It is not about me, you are not meeting my needs.  But, what about me?  No, no, no, it is about we serving He; as one together we serve as covenant partners in Christ. 

What your kids are being taught about sex

First off, who is your kids sex ed teacher ? In most cases it is the evil one, Satan i.e., the Devil. Though others may communicate his message, he is the writer of the curriculum. John 8:44 tells us the heart and motivation of the evil one.  “When the devil lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and he is the father of lies.”  Understand clearly that he is lying to your kids about sex.  Contrast Satan with Jesus, in John 8:32, Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth the truth will set you free.” 

Very specifically, here are five lies Satan is teaching your kids about sex. 

  1. Sex is no big deal and if you aren’t having it you might just consider friends with benefits as an alternative.
  2. Oral sex is okay because it really isn’t sex. Bill Clinton said it wasn’t and he certainly knows better than your parents.
  3. It is cool to be bi-curious, to try both sides out, guys and girls. It’s okay and doesn’t mean you are gay.
  4. Porn is awesome and is really a victimless indulgence.
  5. Dress hot, show skin. Wear tighter clothes and cover less.  

If you are feeling a little upset at this point over this kind of discussion I need to say very respectfully, you need to pull your head out of the sand, because your kids in the second and third grade, are hearing stuff much, much more graphic than this, and we need to recognize what our spiritual enemy is trying to tell our children about sex. 

With that in mind, let’s look for a moment at what Satan doesn’t want your kids to know about sex. We are going to look at the words of the apostle Paul as he was writing to a church in Corinth. A little bit of context on the people in Corinth during Paul’s day will help our understanding.  Corinth was a port city, and people would come from all over into Corinth because, very literally, they could get any kind of sex they wanted, and this city was more messed up than anything you could ever imagine.  People would go to the temple to have sex with the temple prostitutes for all sorts of weird reasons.  For example, it was very common for farmers to go into the temple to have sexual relations with the temple prostitutes in hopes that the gods would then make their lands more fertile.  So you can imagine farmer Joe saying, “Honey, gotta go fertilize the crops again,” and this is just kind of what they were doing.  And there were all sorts of weird practices in line with this. 

Now, Paul spoke into that situation, and I want you to notice a very specific truth he makes,  your body belongs to God.  Or to make it rhyme, your bod belongs to God. Here’s how he says it. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What people will say is, “Hey, what’s the big deal?  It’s my body.  I can do whatever I want.  It’s my body.  Who are you to tell me what to do with my body?”  Actually, it’s not your body.  Did you make it?  Create it?  No.  God did that.  If your body gets sick, do you heal it?  No.  God is the One who brings healing.    If your body is fallen, it is because of sin?  Do you redeem your body? No, Jesus does that.  When you die, your body goes to the ground?  When your body is raised, will you raise it?  No.  Do you give yourself a new body in Heaven?  No.  It’s not your body.  It’s God’s. 

Because it is God’s body, He said to us in verse 13. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, which raises the question, people want to know what is sexual immorality.  Is it looking at pornography.  Is that immorality?  That’s not that big of a deal, people say.  Is premarital sex immorality?  It shouldn’t be, others say.  Is adultery immorality?  Is it a little fooling around, is that immorality? 

Well, the Greek word that is translated as sexual immorality is the word porneia.  You recognize that word?  Porn?  Por-ni’-ah, and it means illicit sex, including adultery, incest, premarital sex, or any extramarital sexual arousal.  When we understand that, it broadens our mindset of what is sexual immorality.  Any extramarital sexual arousal.  Would pornography be considered extramarital sexual arousal?  Absolutely. Pornography would be sexual immorality.  Would fooling around, though, you know, we are technically a virgin.  We’re just doing everything, but … Would that be sexual immorality?  Well, according to this, it absolutely would be.  So, in case I need to spell it out for you very, very clearly, yes, intercourse outside of marriage would be sexual immorality, so no intercourse, no outer course, you know, rubbing your body together.  No, that’s sexual arousal.  No intercourse; no outer course; no upper course; no lower course.  Okay?  No coursing. That’s what sexual immorality is

And sexual immorality gets very, very messy.  Maybe that’s why the apostle Paul told us to flee sexual immorality.  He said, “Flee from it.  Run from it.  Get out of Dodge.  Run Forrest, run.  Flee from sexual immorality.”  Why? Because, “All other sins that a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually sin against their own body.”  (6:18) There is a difference.  Yes, all sin separates us from God, but all sins don’t have the same consequences.  Sexual sin is messy, isn’t it?  Many of you know that.  You know that the pain and the horror of STD’s, and the fear and intensity of unwanted pregnancy, and the guilt, and the shame, and the confusion, and, “I thought we were in love, but now we’re not.  Now, I hate you, and I am confused, and I don’t know what to do,” and there’s this baggage that I’m bringing along because sexual sin is messy.  It’s different than other sins.

For example, in 42 years of ministry, I’ve done hundreds of weddings and countless premarital counseling sessions. Here’s what I never, ever heard.  I never, ever heard some guy look at me and go, “Man, you know, I love her, but I don’t think I can marry her because she’s got a severe parking problem.  She gets parking tickets like three, four, maybe five times a year, and I cannot marry someone with a parking problem.”  Never heard that.  Never heard a girl say, “You know, I love him and he’s perfect in every way, but I hate to tell you this, he’s a jaywalker.  I mean, he’ll just walk right up to that thing and it says, “Don’t walk,” and he just doesn’t care, and he walks.”  Those are sins, but they don’t seem to destroy relationships the way other ones do. 

Now, what I have heard is a girl in premarital counseling or marital counseling say this about her fiancé, or a wife say this about her husband, “I don’t know if I can continue, because he just looks at porn all the time, and it devastates me.”  And then, I watch as she just cries and says, “It makes me feel insecure and vulnerable, and like I’m not good enough, and it doesn’t make me want to be intimate with him, and it makes me feel dirty, and I don’t know if I can trust him.”  Now, I do hear that.  Or the guy say, “Hey, I want to marry this girl, but man, you know what?  She’s been with so many guys like in the past that it scares the fire out of me.  I’m wondering if she’s going to be comparing me, and am I going to, you know, am I going to measure up.  And here, for all these years, she obviously wasn’t faithful to God’s standard before we were married, so I don’t know if she’ll be faithful to His standard after we are married.”  Sexual sin, it’s messy. 

On the other hand, I’ve never heard a person say, “Steve, man, I am just so mad at myself that my spouse and I didn’t mess around before we were married, I regret it.  I hate that we did it God’s way.  If only we had just gotten it on while we were dating.”  Never heard that.  Never, ever heard that, but what I have heard was this.  I’ve heard, “Oh, my gosh.  If only I had known then what I know now, and I could have done it different, I wouldn’t be in the middle of all this crap now,” because sexual sin is messy.  Your bod belongs to God and sexual sin is messy, really really messy. Run from it. Run from it with all you’ve got. Run Forrest run.