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Cashed out

"Cashed out" Continued...

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

THIRD, along the lines of helping young Christians see what's good, Mike Singenstreu of Victoria, Texas, wrote that our churches should "promote integration of ages so they hear these messages from other adults." This also goes with what Regnerus has found sociologically: "Weddings may be beautiful, but marriages become beautiful. Personal storytelling and testimonies can work wonders here, since so much about life is learned behavior."

Worldmag.com is beginning a series of profiles of couples married for at least 35 years. It's important for 20-somethings to see the positive side of earlier marriages to which Proverbs 5:18 alludes: "Let your foundation be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth." As Regnerus writes, "Young adults want to know that it's possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it."

FOURTH, Tim Keller in New York City preached in May about how we should foster covenant rather than consumer relationships. He pointed out that living together outside of marriage is not a trusting and giving relationship, but a consumer one in which those thinking about possible marriage market themselves to others. For this reason, it's not surprising that those who cohabit and eventually marry are more likely to divorce than those who did not cohabit: The former often become accustomed to thinking like consumers.

Keller noted that rapturous passages about sex in the Bible show it's supposed to be about giving and not just receiving-but sex outside of marriage is typically selfish, because one or both partners requires sex in order to keep the relationship going. Keller called sexual preoccupation a form of idolatry: Instead of thinking that we cannot be whole people and happy without sex, we should realize that the only Person we really can't live without is God.

FIFTH, Eric Olson of Omaha, Neb., noted that the selling of extramarital sex is not new: "Just a couple of weeks ago, when preaching in ... Judges 2:6-3:6 on the proclivity of the children of Israel to forsake Yahweh for the Baals and Ashteroths and 'play the harlot,' we studied the history of the fertility cults and what orgies they promoted, committing fornication with a temple prostitute every time they brought a sacrifice. We suggested that the sexual appetite was a big part of the draw to the pagan fertility cults." It's a big part today as well.

OTHER pastors also noted the concern that some contraceptives, by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, produce early abortions. All recognized that the problem of extramarital sex is not going away. We've heard for a decade about the 10-40 window for evangelism, but the biggest open window domestically is the 10-30 window regarding sex, with puberty coming earlier and marriage later. We live in a highly sexualized culture where it's hard to surf the web, watch television, or drive past billboards without seeing appeals to adultery.

Some pastors mentioned that True Love Waits and other abstinence programs have succeeded in pushing back the age when sexual relations commence, but they apparently have had little effect on individuals in their 20s. Pastors recognized the temptations to adultery that plague many young adults, but saw passages like that of James 1:2-4 vital for just such a time: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

My takeaway: When we face difficult problems, we can choose to follow the world's prescription, or God's. If the NAE speaks with worldly wisdom in the name of evangelicals, it undermines pastors, parents, and young adults striving to do what's right. The Holy Spirit is real and can change people: Giving in to the contraceptive lobby is like saying the Holy Spirit is powerless to help us obey God.

The signs of an NAE summer change are welcome. When the NAE board of directors meets this fall, evangelicals will be watching. For example, the general assembly of one NAE member, the Presbyterian Church in America, has resolved to monitor NAE doings and then decide whether to stay in or leave.

The PCA is not the only group on alert. The Institute on Religion and Democracy has criticized what it calls the NAE's "leftward drift" over the past six years. It has critiqued NAE leaders who have advocated job-killing regulations to try to fight global warming, worked to shield entitlement programs from reductions in projected spending growth, or hinted at support for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

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