The story is told of a philosophy lecturer who began the first lecture of the year with a new set of students by asking them a question. Holding up a brand new £20 note he asked who would like to receive it. Unsurprisingly every single one of the 200 students in the lecture theatre raised their hand in the air expectantly. He then took the banknote and carefully, and neatly folded it twice. Again he asked the question who would like to receive it. Again every hand went up. Next he unfolded the bank note and took it and scrunched it up into a ball. For the third time he held the £20 up to his audience and asked who would like to receive it. For the third time everyone indicated that they would like to be given the banknote. Finally the lecturer took the crumpled banknote and threw it on the floor. He then proceeded to stamp on the note. Again he held aloft the banknote covered with dust and grime and asked the students who wanted it. Still everyone in the room was eager to be given the £20 note.
Every eye was focused on the lecturer wondering what his next move would be. He then simply asked why they still wanted the bank note despite the mistreatment he had given it. One student spoke for them all by saying that it was still worth £20 even after all the things that had happened to it.
He then quietly said that this is just like people. We all have intrinsic value regardless of our history. It doesn’t matter what we have been through, the experiences good or bad don’t define our worth. Every human being is precious no matter how painful our lives have been.
Of course the reality is that many people have been through harrowing and damaging experiences that leave us feeling bruised and vulnerable. If we have been treated as worthless by others, or discarded by society we can start to believe that we have no dignity or self-respect. When we feel like this it is helpful to look and see what the bible teaches us about who we are. Thousands of years ago the King David wrote:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Ps 139:13–14)
Perhaps the Psalmist was inspired by the birth of a new born baby when he penned these words. In these two verse he recognises the creative work of God in every human being and concludes that each individual that God has made is amazing.
Perhaps at times you feel crumpled and scuffed like the bank note at the hand of the lecturer. If so allow God’s assessment if you to bring healing and dignity – You are amazing!
This blog post featured in the September 2016 edition of Hook Focus
Many people, especially Christians, get hung up over sex. Sadly we are bombarded with all kinds of ideas about our sexuality and how to express it. This can lead to confusion and disappointment. Misinformation in this area is not a new problem. As we shall see when we resume our studies in 1 Corinthians this week some strange ideas were floating around in the first-century church. Most notably the idea that abstinence from sexual intercourse was the best and most spiritual course of action. Fortunately, Paul makes it clear that this is far from the case and he gives some really helpful advice for married couples concerning sexual intimacy.
As part of my preparation for preaching through what Paul has to say on a number of issues related to sex and marriage I have read a couple of books that you may find helpful. These go into the subject with greater depth and thoroughness than I will be able to in a few brief sermons.
My first recommendation is What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Sex by Ryan Howes, Richard Rupp and Stephen Simpson (ISBN 978-0-8010-6774-7). As the title suggests the book is targeted at men, however there is a chapter specifically for women. The authors candidly show how the Bible is not coy about sex, and in places is actually quite explicit in its celebration of the act of love between a husband and wife. Although I wouldn’t agree with every statement made the overall message is helpful in teaching that sex is part of God’s design for healthy marriages. It includes sound advice for sparking up our sexual relationships in a godly way.
Buy What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Sex from Amazon UK
Buy What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Sex from Amazon US
My second recommendation is The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage by Gary Chapman (ISBN 978-1-4143-0023-8) You may recognise the author who wrote the 5 Love Languages. In this book Chapman uses the analogy of spring, summer, autumn and winter to describe phases that marriages go through. Just as during our lifetime we experience many seasonal cycles so in a marriage we may go through these phases many times. He offers hope for those whose marriages have become cold and frozen as in winter, that it is possible to move back into the heady days of spring and summer again. As well as describing what marriages in each season look like he provides helpful strategies for enhancing the seasons and advice on developing an appropriate action plan. Obviously it is a book that is best worked through together as a couple but he is realistic enough to address that sometimes only one person in the marriage desires to make a change and gives advice for them alone.
Buy The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage from Amazon UK
Buy The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage from Amazon US
If you are married I would encourage you to read either or both of these books and pray that doing so will enrich your marriage.
This blog post featured in the September 2016 edition of Lifelines