Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

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My Wife: My Best Friend

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He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

This is going to be a great week. I am going to go on a holiday with my best friend, my wife. Jill and I have been married now for 27 years. In all these years, I can only remember having 2 one-week holidays alone together with her. Many months ago, we gave in to a good telemarketer and bought one of those fancy resort hotel packages. That, plus using some air miles, will allow us to take this one-week holiday of fun.

This does not mean that Jill and I have not had many great adventures together. And I suppose the word ‘holiday’ can be defined in different ways by different people. In our years together, Jill and I have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Australia, East Africa, the main 48 continental states of the US, and every province of Canada except Newfoundland.

In almost all of these cases though, our travel experiences to and through these many countries have been necessary moves due to my schooling or our jobs or the missionary work that we have done either with Teen Missions or Pioneer Bible Translators. So we have definitely seen a lot of the world, but it has mostly been rushing to get from point A to point B.

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Although we have faced many challenges and difficulties over all these years, and the constant traveling seems to move us back to square one again financially, I have few regrets about all that we have done. The stories about how Jill and I met and then years later became married will have to wait until a future article, but there are a few interesting things that I would like to highlight here now.

As any normal guy, I had some experiences of dating other girls when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Some relationships I took quite seriously, and some were just for fun. But like the proverb quoted above, I felt that finding a good woman to be my wife and partner in ministry was something to be very careful and sure about. Being born in 1960, my famous saying regarding marriage was, “24 in ’84 and not before.”

And I almost made it. Jill and I did get married in 1984. But due to a number of factors, we got married on my grandmother’s birthday of May 11th, instead of waiting until November when my birthday was. Actually, I seem to recall that we talked mostly about being married in the summer. What I do remember clearly is that when I proposed to Jill, I told her that I would probably never be rich monetarily, but besides my love for her I could give her two things: my name and lots of adventure.

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And considering what little I could promise to Jill, it does say a lot about her by the very fact that she did say yes when I asked her to marry me. We had actually known each other for three years by that time. Jill had even lived at my parents’ home on and off over those three years, and because of the many late night conversations that we had, especially about missionary work, we had grown to become good friends before we dated and then became married.

And it has been like that for all these years. We have always been each other’s best friend, traveling together, talking together, and just doing things together. It seems like we have always been there for each other, and that is why being apart from each other these few months while I am in Dallas helping PBT is not as easy as we are making it look. It reminds me of a cute story about an elderly man whose wife had just passed away.

The elderly man was taking a road test to validate his driver’s license for another year. At the end of the test, the instructor reluctantly failed the man and said to him, “You did very well on most of the road test, but every time you had to turn left at an intersection you failed to look to the right to see if there was any traffic coming.” The elderly man replied to the instructor, “That’s because for over 60 years my wife would say to me, ‘All clear on the right dear.’ ”

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That is kind of how it is for Jill and me. We have now both been married for longer then we were ever single. It is just so comfortable and natural for us to want to talk to each other every day. And so I am very thankful for our modern technology like e-mail and Skype which allows us to be in touch with each other so much.

But there is a deeper level at which we connect. We pray for each other. And this is not just the basic mealtime prayer of “Dear God: please bless Jill and Eric and Glen and our friends and our church, and thank you for the food. Amen.” For me, and I’m sure for Jill too, we value our relationship with God and our relationship with each other much more than this superficial religious prayer.

No, when I pray, I really put some thought into what Jill is doing that day and that week (and I also do this for our boys).  I believe that God is a very loving and personal God, and so I talk to Him about all the things that are most important to me.  Like my family.  Like my wife.  I believe that God really does want the very best for those whom I love.  And so do I.  And why wouldn’t I.  Jill is not only my wife, she is also my very best friend.

Finding A Good Wife

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Who Am I? Part 8

This is now the eighth part in a 26 part series that I have wanted to share with all my readers.  That might sound like a lot of articles, but then I am trying to write out the highlights and key moments of my 50 year life span.  And this article is going to be a special one, as it marks a truly pivotal moment of my life, the decision of who I would marry.  The only other moment that was more important than this was when I was ready to turn my life over to God.  You can read that in the article, “For My Tears, Jesus Died.”

Everything else in my life up to this moment was a period of learning and growing and getting ready for this major life-changing decision.  Sort of like Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, I was going to change from being a child to becoming a man.  For a very long time, it was clear to me and to others that I would be wanting to find the right woman who would marry me.

In fact, I think you might say that I was chasing women from a very young age.  I can still remember the day in Grade Two that I was sent home early from school with a note from the principal to my parents.  I thought it was great that I got to go home early.  But I must say that my parents were not too thrilled to get this note from the principal which read:

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Weatherhead,

I regret that I have had to pull your son out of school today and have sent him home with this letter.  I would like it very much if you could sit down with your son and talk to him about his behavior while at school.  Please tell your son that it is not appropriate for him to run after girls during recess, to tackle them down and try to kiss them.  Your help in this matter would be most appreciated.

Sincerely,

The Principal

Now thinking back to that moment in Grade Two, I remember going home with the note.  But I don’t remember if I got scolded and disciplined by my parents or not.  Gee, maybe my Dad even congratulated me for taking the initiative in developing male/female relationships.  (LOL)  Just kidding.  All I can say is that I took a healthy interest in girls at a very young age.

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Skipping ahead over many years, and many more interesting/funny/embarrassing stories which will have to wait for future articles, let me bring you up to the time that I was starting to date Jill.  You may remember the prophetic and funny statement my grandmother said to us, “My little Norman usually walks about three feet off the ground, and Jill, you walk about three feet under ground.  But as long as you two keep on holding on to each other, you will be fine.”

Actually, when Grandma said this, neither of us thought about being too serious at that time.  But God seemed to smile on our relationship and a short dating period (50 days) led to a short engagement period (5 months), and on May 11, 1984, we pledged our love to each other.  And as you can see from the picture below, we were on top of the world that day.

Now let me back up just a bit to give our story a little more context.  Even though our dating period was short, as I mentioned, we had in fact known each other for more than three years.  Jill had been a room-and-board person at my parents house for parts of 1979 – 1983.  She had become part of our family long before she married into our family.

So were we friends forever who finally got married?  Actually, no.  After I got home from my year serving with Teen Missions (read about that year here), I found that “some strange woman” had taken over my bedroom and I was relegated to the dusty basement room.  😦  Needless to say, I was not too impressed, nor happy about the arrangement.  And so I first got to know Jill as a rival in the family, someone to compete against, not someone to want to date or even marry.

But again, God did some interesting heart adjustments for both of us.  I thought I knew what I was looking for in a wife, but now that I look back, I know that I was being influenced by my culture.  It really is difficult these days not to be influenced by the bombardment we get through the media, modern advertising and such dominant cultural centers such as Hollywood.

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But thankfully, Jill stepped in twice to give me a subtle suggestion that the girl I thought I was interested in was really not a good match for me.  But being a guy, of course I missed the subtle cues.  (There are lots more to the stories, and I’m sure you’d love to hear them one day.)  But then Jill asked me one day if maybe there might ever be a chance that the two of us might want to date.

Well, then it really hit me.  Even though Jill and I had lived in my parent’s house together and squabbled like a brother and sister might at times, there was a common bond that kept us interested in each other.  Both of us had wanted to serve the Lord on the mission field one day.  And so we talked the same language: missions and missionary lives.

So finally, after 3 1/2 years of missed opportunities, Jill and I saw that in fact we would be a good match together.  And so I was able to realize what the writer had to say in Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”  And guess what?  I can still say after 27 years, that it was the right decision.

(Our 25th Anniversary Cruise Celebration)

Breaking Down Barriers

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Breaking Down The Barriers

Read Ephesians 2:11-22

Throughout the New Testament, whether in the narrative stories of the four gospels and the book of Acts, or in the teaching letters that make up the rest of the New Testament, we read about the great love that God has for all of mankind.  He demonstrated this by sending His Son, Jesus, to live among people to teach them about the Kingdom of Heaven and then to die on a cross to make the payment for all of our sins.  This is called Grace!  And for many people, this is considered a great mystery.  And in the Bible it says that “many prophets and righteous men longed to see…and hear…” the things that the disciples of Jesus saw and heard. (Matthew 13:17)  Even the angels look on at God’s wonderful acts of grace and are amazed. (1 Peter 1:12)

But there is more to this mystery than just man being reconciled with God, although this is in and of itself an amazing truth.  What may be even more amazing for some people is that Jesus’ sacrifice has paved the way for people to be reconciled to other people.  Considering how many wars there have been over time, and continue to be between people, it is almost beyond belief that warring parties could ever put down their weapons, put away their hostility, and forgive each other, even to the point of calling each other “brother”.

This is what Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:19.  From the time of Abraham up until our present day, there has been hostility between the twelve tribes of Israel, which eventually became known as the Jewish people, and all other people groups of the world, whom they called “Gentiles”.  But Paul teaches us that those who are joined with Christ become “one people”.  Jesus tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” and made one people out of two.

This expression used here, “the dividing wall of hostility”, is thought of by many commentators to be an allusion to the wall found within the Temple at Jerusalem that separated the Jews from non-Jews, prohibiting the latter from entering in further into the Temple.  It was a constant reminder to the Gentiles that they did not have direct access to the God of the Jews, who is in fact really the God of all mankind.  But Jesus broke down that barrier and has allowed both Jew and Gentile to be able to come directly into God’s presence.  And in the process, he eliminated the hostility that had existed between them.

I can’t help but think of a fascinating experience that we had while we lived in a village in Papua New Guinea.  Having lived in PNG for a few years, I was well aware of the fact that hostilities run deep in the culture there, and fights can break out at any time.  One of the reasons why most villages are small in PNG, often less than a hundred people, is because of these constant rivalries, feuds, disputes, and hostilities that break out.

This led to a distinct problem in that country over the centuries, namely how to get wives for the men of the village.  Until recently, one of the ways the people solved this was to go out on raiding parties and storm another village, taking some of the young women for their men.  If the village about to be raided had enough warning, they would construct a solid bamboo wall to block the raiders from gaining entry into the village.  For millennia, there have literally been walls of hostility built up between the people groups of PNG.

So it was of great interest to me and my family when we heard that a man from our village was going to “claim” his wife-to-be from a neighbouring village.  We watched the men of our village as they put on their war paint and get ready to raid the other village.  We followed them down the trail to the other village.  And as expected, there was a massive bamboo and foliage barrier blocking our path.

That’s when things really got interesting.  Men on both sides of the barrier yelled and hooted and hollered as loud as they could.  Some men with bow and arrows jumped around looking for a target.  Others who had long spears or machetes banged them together and made threatening advances against the barricade.  All around me was noise and confusion, until suddenly, the barricade fell inwards and in one big rush we swarmed into the village.

All the men of this village were corralled into one side of the open square, and all the women were gathered together on the other side.  Meanwhile, our men searched the entire village until finally the wife-to-be was found and brought to the open square and presented to the hunting husband.  And do you know what happened next? ….. Suddenly, all the people from both villages clapped, and cheered, and laughed at the great entertainment they had that day.  It turned out that everyone was play-acting, while still remembering their tribal culture of days gone by.

So what changed these tribal people so that they could embrace their neighbouring villages, instead of going to war with them?  I’m sure there are many factors that are involved with this change in PNG.  But I am convinced that the entry of Christianity over the past 100 years into these primitive areas of the world has had a profound effect on the people.  Where there had been dividing walls of hostility before, now I am seeing more and more that the people of PNG are embracing each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord.  This is what Christ came to do, to reconcile mankind with God, and also to reconcile men and women with each other.

Thank you Jesus, that You are the Lord of all!