“How far is too far?”

One of the most common questions I receive from youth and young adults is: “How far is too far?” Check out my response below.

One of the hardest Biblical commands for many people to accept is the command to save sex for marriage. To many, this “rule” seems like God is out to ruin their fun and restrict their freedom. However, behind every command God gives, are two motivations: to protect us and provide for us. Why? Because God is love. Love is the His core motivator for why He gives us commands. Therefore, His command to save all sexual activity for marriage comes from His heart of love!

The culture, however, will continue to bombard us with the lie that true freedom is found by living without boundaries and following our feelings. God calls us to faith rather than following our feelings because He knows our hearts are deceitful and will lead us down a road of destruction.

When you became a believer, your body became a temple where the Holy Spirit resides. This is a HUGE honor as well as a HUGE responsibility. Christ paid a high price (His life!) to rescue us and now calls us to pay a price of our own by pursuing holiness and pure living.

So how far is too far before it becomes sin? Not every sexual action is listed in the Bible with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ beside it. Some are grey areas. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 the Apostle Paul provides a great principle we can use to discern what to do when we face those grey areas: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Paul is saying that some things we have freedom to do are not good for us and can actually be a stumbling block for someone we love. Even if an action isn’t listed in the Bible as sin, it can still be selfish, unloving and harmful. Hebrews 10:24 reiterates this by saying, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” If you are unsure whether a particular action could be sinful, love (for God and the other person) demands that you refuse to go there.

When God says to FLEE sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 He is not joking around. The purpose of foreplay (sexual activity proceeding intercourse) is to prepare for sex. Since you’re not married and therefore not ready for sex, pressing the boundaries with foreplay will only bring about greater temptation and frustration, not greater love. He calls you to do a 180-degree turn from sin and not look back! Webster’s Dictionary defines the word flee as “to run away from danger or evil; to hurry toward a place of security.” God is calling you to run away from potential sin and toward Him – your only hope for security!

Instead of asking, “how far is too far?” how about asking, “How much can I save in order to honor God with my body?”

Scripture for further encouragement: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Jeremiah 17:9

 

 

The Problem with Keeping Quiet

There are many reasons parents aren’t talking about sexuality with their kids. Do any of these ring true for you?

  • “It’s an embarrassing Maybe if I don’t bring it up, it won’t come up.”
  • “We have such a busy schedule that I couldn’t possibly tackle a tough topic like that right now.”
  • “Sex is private and personal. I don’t talk about it because it is a sacred matter.”
  • “I made so many mistakes when I was young that I’ve been disqualified – my voice doesn’t matter when it comes to this topic.”
  • “I’ve had ‘the talk’ with my child, isn’t that enough?”
  • “My parents didn’t talk with me about sex and I turned out just fine. I’m taking the same approach with my kids.”

Here’s the problem with keeping silent on sexuality: By keeping silent, the worldly perspective becomes all the more enticing. We must understand that the world we grew up in is nothing like the world our children are growing up in today. The sexual temptation, experimentation and deception they face (or will face!) are unlike any other time in history.

Plus, if we keep silent, this teaches our children that God must be silent on the topic as well. This couldn’t be further from the truth! The Old and New Testament books are chalked full of bold teachings on sexuality. Howard Hendricks once said, “We should not be ashamed to discuss what God was not ashamed to create.”                                                                   

The culture isn’t embarrassed, too busy and surely doesn’t feel disqualified to train our children to view sexuality from a worldly perspective. In fact, it is their mission to talk as early and as often as they possibly can. Yes, the culture’s voice is loud but your voice is stronger. Take a stand and boldly proclaim God’s truth – it never returns void!

Reflect and Respond:

  • How have you approached the topic of sexuality with your children to this point? Spend some time thinking back on these encounters and ask the Lord to point out ways you can grow and stretch yourself in having courageous conversations with your kids.
  • Silence on sexuality is not a “parent problem” but has been a problem of the Church for centuries. The tide is beginning to turn but we still have a long way to go. Read the article “Sex and the Silence of the Church” to learn more and then ask God to help the Church find her voice.

Talk early and often about sex.

It’s not a matter of IF your children will learn about sex in their early years but whether they will learn it F-I-R-S-T from you or the culture.

Besides the fact that God commands parents to be their children’s primary teacher (Deuteronomy 6), there are several practical reasons to encourage you to start talking early with your children. Here are a few:

  • first exposure to anything is the most potent and powerful.
  • it’s easier to prevent wrong thinking than to correct it.
  • establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable authority is critical to building trust and respect with your children.
  • you are laying the groundwork for more in depth and sensitive conversations down the line.
  • you are also building a highway of communication you will travel more frequently when they get older.

You may be thinking at this point, “I hear you and I agree. What is appropriate to share about sex when my kids are young?” Great question! From the reading I’ve done, I would suggest between 0-7 years of age, you focus on the following:

  • establish that they are loved beyond measure by their parents and unconditionally loved by God
  • articulate the purpose and role of body functions
  • teach technical terms for body parts (making sure to give God credit for each part)
  • model and teach the importance of privacy and modesty
  • clarify the differences between boys and girls
  • distinguish between good touch and bad touch (and what to do if they experience bad touch)
  • communicate the basic facts of intercourse, conception and fetal development within the context of marriage

Talking often means you are consistently on the lookout for opportunities to weave this critical topic into your conversations. As Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Talking often will help your children understand that sexuality is a topic to be celebrated and a topic they can freely discuss with you. If they can learn this at an early age, you will be well on your way to helping them develop a God-honoring sexual worldview where shame and embarrassment are not welcome.

Reflect and Respond:

  • How have you done at talking early and often with your kids about sexuality? Where have you excelled and where do you need to improve?
  • Sit down with your spouse and share your thoughts from the question above with each other. Then brainstorm an action plan for improving on your weak areas.
  • Consider purchasing the God’s Design for Sex series by Stann and Brenna Jones to help you talk early and often.

Cultivating Godly Adult Influence

At the young age of twelve, I attended a True Love Waits Conference and pledged to remain sexually pure until my wedding night.  23 years later, on August 16th, 2015, I handed that pledge to my husband on our wedding night!

While waiting those 23 years to meet Greg, I dated many “frogs” and wondered if God would ever bring a godly man into my life to marry. Again and again my parents (and other key people in my life) encouraged me to choose hope and continue living my life to the fullest. It wasn’t easy as I found myself attending countless weddings and baby showers! But my support network challenged me to use my singleness to do great things for God…and by God’s amazing grace, that’s exactly what I did. I shared my journey of singleness (and sexual integrity) with as many young people as I possibly could. My goal? To give them hope that they’re not in this battle alone and to inspire them to wait for God’s best.

What helped me wait to be sexually active until my wedding night? Was it a stellar sense of self worth?  Maybe self-control made out of steel?  No, neither of those.  Sure, some might blame it on the fact that I am a firstborn – you know…the responsible, rule following type.  But it goes much deeper than that. What led me to make different choices than my peers was primarily one thing, godly adult influence – people that were Jesus with skin on to me.

The first place I met Jesus was in the home – through my parents.  My parents have been married now 44 years and have done an amazing job modeling a healthy marriage to my brothers and me.  Not only did they model covenant love to each other, they also loved us unconditionally.  They listened to us, believed in us, and encouraged us. Most importantly, they consistently pointed us to Jesus and discipled us into a saving relationship with Christ. Their presence made all the difference in the world!

In addition to my parents’ influence, God brought quality mentors into my life that spoke the same truth into my heart.  Their words of wisdom and guidance strengthened my conviction to wait to be sexually active until marriage and in turn, stand out from the crowd.

Godly adult influences were an anchor for my soul when the storms of life tried to blow me over. How well anchored are your children?

Reflect and Respond:

  • If you’re married, what does your marriage demonstrate to your children? Is it time to get away and focus on each other? Consider Family Life Today’s Weekend to Remember. Check out familylife.com/WTR to learn more.
  • How many godly adult influences do your children have? Consider each of your children individually and work together as a couple to brainstorm the godly (and not so godly!) influences in their lives. Then after spending time in prayer, make a list of action steps you can take to build more godly adult influences in their lives while minimizing the negative ones.
  • Read and discuss Proverbs 11:14 and Proverbs 15:22 as a family. Discuss the importance of having advisors/mentors throughout life. Make a point to mention that it doesn’t matter the age or stage of life we’re in, we all need one! Consider brainstorming as a family the qualities of an ideal advisor/mentor and who may already be playing that role in their lives.

 

Teaching Our Children the Value of Waiting

I remember playing the role of Mary in the Bible story of Mary and Joseph. I was 14 years old at the time and the man playing the part of Joseph was 25. I wasn’t the boy crazy type of teenager, but when it came to “Joseph,” I fell head over heels. I even told my mom that I was going to marry him. Yikes – yes, I really did believe that! No, I didn’t marry “Joseph” but as I reflect back on that time, it’s evident that God planted the desire to marry deep in my heart at a very young age. Then he had me wait 21 years for that desire to be fulfilled!

Waiting is a common theme in the Bible and one every human being is familiar with. If we stop and think about it, waiting is a regular part of our lives. Whether it be small things like waiting at a stoplight, in the drive thru at your favorite fast food restaurant or at the doctor’s office, we all wait for something. Or it might be big things we wait for…like a student waiting to hear back from their top college pick, a man waiting to hear back on his blood work results or a married couple waiting to receive word that they can meet their adopted child. We can’t avoid it and we can’t escape it.

Waiting is a reality and a normal part of life. The question we must not ask ourselves then is, “How do I get out of this situation?” but rather, “How can I make the most of this situation?” Paul David Tripp put it this way: “…God never wastes our waiting, frivolously prolonging what we get at the end of the wait. Rather, waiting is fundamentally about who we become as we wait. Waiting should always build character.”

Waiting until I was 35 to meet and marry my “holy hunk” challenged me more than anything. It required me to depend on God as my Provider and Sustainer, it tested my identity and where I found my worth, it confronted my propensity to compare myself to others and ultimately it led me to surrender my will to God’s will. Waiting for my husband was the instrument God chose to use in my life to build godly character and to establish His truth deep in my heart.

You might be thinking, “What does waiting have to do with teaching my kids about Biblical sexuality?” Everything! The culture teaches them to let their feelings be their guide; Biblical sexuality teaches them to walk by faith. The culture teaches them to be the master of their own lives; Biblical sexuality teaches them to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The culture teaches that they are to set their own standard of right and wrong; Biblical sexuality teaches that there is one standard and it’s found in the Word of God.

If you want your children to embrace Biblical sexuality, a good place to start is by allowing them to face experiences where they have to choose between faith and feelings, surrender and control, Truth and their own standard of right and wrong. Shepherding them as they face these kinds of experiences will help develop their character and teach them the value of waiting on God. If this is what you want for your children, what are you waiting for?!

Reflect and Respond:

  • How well do you wait? How well are you modeling the concept of waiting to your children?
  • Read Paul David Tripp’s article on waiting called “The Waiting Room.” (https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/the-waiting-room)
  • Discuss with your spouse how the two of you can work together to give your children more opportunities to wait well.

 

Three Misleading Emotions

Three misleading emotions commonly keep parents from having courageous conversations with their children. Can you relate to one (or all!) of these?

DISQUALIFIED “I didn’t wait, so how could I talk with my children about saving sex for marriage?” No one is more qualified than you! You know from personal experience why sex is best saved for marriage and the natural consequences that come from going outside God’s bounds. You have an opportunity to cast a God-glorifying vision for your child’s life while also helping them navigate around the detours and pitfalls that come from pre-marital sex.

The Bible is full of stories about people who sinned and yet went on to represent God and uphold His holy standards (i.e. King David, the apostle Paul, etc). To disqualify yourself from speaking Truth to your children because of your past sin is to give victory to Satan. He will do anything he can to get you to focus on your mistakes, your mess, and your inadequacies rather than watch you lay your sins before the Cross and receive forgiveness that’s yours in Christ Jesus. It sounds trite but it’s true – if you step out in faith, God will take your “mess” and turn it into a message.

DISTRACTED – “With everything else we have going on at home, we don’t know when we’d fit this in. Honestly, we wouldn’t know what to say if we did find the time!” Don’t let busyness rob you of valuable conversations with your kids. Whether it’s at the dinner table or before they head to bed, capitalize on every opportunity you can find. Let go of the pressure and expectation that you should have all the answers. If you don’t have an answer to one of their questions, be honest and tell them you will get back to them. Then make sure you do! If you don’t know where to begin, check out my website www.sexbydesign.com to learn more about my film series Sex by Design: Unpacking the Purpose and Practice of Purity. It was designed to give you a road map for having ongoing conversations with your kids about sexuality. It could very well put to rest the misleading emotion(s) you’ve been feeling and give you the courage to press in. It doesn’t take a PhD to positively influence your children – it just takes the committed and loving presence of parents fully invested in their children’s life!

DISCOURAGED “When I bring up the topic, my child gives me one word answers and changes the subject.” This is a normal response especially if you’ve just recently broached the topic. Ask God to soften your child’s heart and provide you with opportunities to try again. Consider starting with a different topic (just as valuable but maybe less awkward) like modesty or dating and see where God takes it. Consider going out for coffee, ice cream or dinner for uninterrupted time together.

Reflect and Respond:

  • Do any of these misleading emotions ring true to you personally? If so, share your thoughts with your spouse and ask him/her to help remind you of the Truth when the misleading emotion rears its ugly head again. Commit your misleading emotion(s) to prayer and then be on the watch for how God will transform your heart!
  • Read the article “Teaching Your Kids About Sex When You Have Sexual Sin in Your Past.” (http://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/2013/11/14/sexual-sinners-teaching-sex-ed/) What Truth stuck out to you? Consider writing it on a notecard to be posted on your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your vehicle or in your personal journal. Review it regularly so it becomes part of your belief system!
  • Commit to praying about how to move forward as you invest in your child’s Biblical understanding of sexuality. Again, check out my website (sexbydesign.com) for practical help.

Parents Matter Most

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Parenthood surveyed 1,000 teenagers and asked them what the number one factor was in shaping their decisions on sex. Was it social media? their friends? siblings? sex education? No! The majority of the teens said their parents were the greatest factor. Praise God!

Unfortunately, when the parents of these 1,000 teens were asked how their teens answered this question, fewer than 1 in 4 answered correctly. I think this reveals that many parents are being deceived and discouraged by the enemy and all things media. They are having a hay day getting parents to believe their influence doesn’t have lasting impact and that their voice can’t compete with culture’s.

The truth? Y-O-U matter most! Not the government, not the school, not even the church. You have been called by God and know/love your child better than anyone. Don’t believe the lie that your voice doesn’t make a difference – because in reality, it makes the biggest difference of all!

It will require patience (as you may not see fruit develop immediately), persistence (to not give in or give up but keep pursuing your kid even when they hold you at arm’s length) and prayerfulness (because you cannot transform your kid’s heart – only God Almighty can do that).

The best part is that God is just asking you to be faithful in talking with your children about sexuality. The results? Well, He wants you to leave that to Him! Will you accept His invitation?

Reflect and Respond:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 = lowest, 10 = highest) how would you rate yourself on the three P words I mentioned above: patience, persistence and prayerfulness? Choose your lowest rated word, and commit to working on that this week.
  • Check out the resource page on my website for quick access to articles, books and downloadables you can use in conversations with your kids.
  • Consider asking other parents to get together monthly with the purpose of encouraging and praying for one another. Where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there! (Matthew 18:20)

Abby, Would You Talk To My Kid For Me?!

My name is Abby and I’ve been speaking to young people on Biblical sexuality for over 15 years. When I came on staff with The Navigators in 2011, my target audience was kids 12-18 years old. I spoke at schools, churches, retreats, camps – you name it, I would speak there! About a year later, I started receiving requests to speak to parents….I thought to myself, “I’m not a parent. What do I have to share with them?” Then God told me: I have a powerful testimony, a talent to communicate tough stuff in a tactful yet honest way, the time to research/read everything I could get my hands on regarding Biblical sexuality and I loved creating tools parents could use at home to talk with their kids about sexuality. So I courageously stepped up and began speaking to parents. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my primary audience needed to shift from young people to their parents. Why?! As much as youth were engaged when I spoke and soaked in much of what I taught, they needed these critical messages drip-fed over the course of their entire upbringing; they needed their parents to be their primary influence! Unfortunately, even after hearing me present, parents would come up to me and ask (with hope in their eyes) if I would come home and talk to their kid for them. This was something I obviously couldn’t do but something they were called by God to do.

The question was and still remains, are parents ready to step in and train their children on Biblical sexuality? Unfortunately, when it comes to shaping their children’s view on sexuality, most (not all!) parents don’t feel equipped to fulfill their God-given role as shepherd and teacher. This reality birthed a vision in my heart – to create a “hub” parents could turn to for everything related to teaching their kids about Biblical sexuality. In 2015, my film series Sex by Design: Unpacking the Purpose and Practice of Purity was published and endorsed by four national leaders, including Josh McDowell. It is a 7-part teaching series (I’m going home with you in a sense!) that is accompanied by a parent guidebook and teen guidebook to foster consistent and ongoing conversations. You see, my mission is not to replace you but rather assist you as you assist your kids in building a Biblical worldview on sexuality. If I do my job right, my film series, blog posts and speaking events will serve as a springboard for personal reflection, rich conversation with your kids or a combination of the two. So, let’s dive in and see what God has planned!

Reflect and Respond:

  • Read and reflect on Deuteronomy 6. What is God’s instruction to parents about bringing up their children?
  • Read and reflect on Psalm 78:1-7. What do you take away from this passage?
  • Is there something in particular that holds you back from fulfilling your God- given role as parent and shepherd of your children? Ask the Lord to reveal a lie you might believe, a stronghold that may have been planted in your heart or a past experience in your life that could be the key to unleashing you to fulfill your purpose as a parent.