Monday, November 28, 2011

"Baby I'm Alright, With Just A Kiss Goodnight"

In the recent September/October 2011 issue of RELEVANT magazine, there was a very disturbing article entitled “The Secret Sexual Revolution” which unpacked a disconcerting fact that 95% of young unwed dating people in America between the ages of 18-29 are currently sexually active. However, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to us as Christians, since we are well aware of our cultures glorification of sexuality outside of marriage. However, a whopping 42% of those sexually active were those who claimed to be Christians! When the numbers are broken down even further RELEVANT”s research indicates that only 20% of all unmarried people claiming to be Believers are still virgins! That is scary and depressing news!

That is why when as song like “Just A Kiss” by Lady Antebellum arrives on the scene it is such a welcome breath of fresh air! Here we have a mainstream hit making pop/country band writing a song that conveys an abstinence message! Journey with me as we unpack it a little more in the following paragraphs.

The song begins finding our young protagonist singing about the struggle of temptation the is inevitable in any dating relationship, though I will point out that some decisions can be made to avoid some of these struggles in a moment, but first, here are the first two stanzas:

“Lyin' here with you so close to me
It's hard to fight these feelings when it feels so hard to breathe
Caught up in this moment
Caught up in your smile

I've never opened up to anyone
So hard to hold back when I'm holding you in my arms
We don't need to rush this
Let's just take it slow.”

First off, it probably is not a good idea to be snuggling up with your boyfriend or girlfriend in a vertical position. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:3 that “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people” (NIV). Therefore, I can fairly easily conclude that putting oneself in a position of temptation is wrong in the eyes of God.

However, that being said, I like how this young women in a story recognizes she is being tempted, and admits she is struggling with her ability to ‘fight these feelings’ and ‘hold back’ yet she ultimately states ‘we don’t need to rush this, let’s just take it slow.” You see friends, Paul also realizes that sexual temptation is going to come upon us in this life, and while it is certainly best to take all precautions to prevent any hint of it in our lives, we are human and going to be tempted at times. That is why he wrote us instructions of what to do when we are tempted: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 18 (ESV)) The young women in our song is telling her boyfriend to stop and ‘take it slow”

This point is driven home in the chorus:

“Just a kiss on your lips in the moonlight
Just a touch of the fire burning so bright
No I don't want to mess this thing up
I don't want to push too far
Just a shot in the dark that you just might
Be the one I've been waiting for my whole life
So baby I'm alright, with just a kiss goodnight”

What a great message to be bouncing around our countries radio airwaves. While she may not come right out and say ‘we aren’t going to have sex’, the subtle message of ‘baby I’m alright, with a just a kiss goodnight” certainly indicates a girl saying her boyfriend needs to leave after kissing her and nothing more. The bridges clarifies matters in my view:

“No I don't want to say goodnight
I know it's time to leave, but you'll be in my dreams

I like that! Honest, but still standing by her convictions! That is one of the biggest things sexual intercourse can do to people when it is outside of marriage, it leaves nothing left to “dream” about! The Christmas present has been opened way to early and there is no mystery left between the guy and girl anymore. It spoils everything!

I know one of the biggest things that I look forward to when God one day leads me into a special dating relationship will be the excitement and joy that comes from dreaming about the girl I am dating and leaving plenty of mystery to be discovered along the way, most of which will only be discovered if we get married. I have guidelines and precautions that I will be sure to follow when the time for dating comes that will help keep me pure, including but not limited to, being sure I am never alone with the girl anywhere where temptation could get the best of me. That is how I will model Ephesians 5:3 and 1 Corinthians 6:18 to the best of my human ability, while letting God into every area in that relationship. Thus, I will then be able to tell my girlfriend each time we part ways that I am ‘alright with just a kiss goodnight.”

To close this blog I want to be sure to end on a hopeful note. While 42% of Christians are in a current sexually active relationship, that is still less than half, which means the majority of Christians are still holding on to abstinence! However, I want to speak to those who may have already indulged in the act of sex either before they were a Believer, or in a moment of weakness after becoming a Christian. Let me tell you this: there is most definitely forgiveness in Christ. In 1 John 1:9 we are told that, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (emphasis mine).” That means pre-marital sex is included! While some will quip that a person can’t ever be a virgin again, and that is indeed true from a physical standpoint. However, emotionally and mentally I truly believe a person can have a mindset adjustment into living a life of purity from the moment they are cleansed by the Lord on, until the day they marry!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"How Can You Not Get Romantic About Baseball?"

Baseball has been my favorite sport since I began watching it with my Grandfather late in the glorious Cleveland Indians 1995 season. I was eight years old then, and my love for the game has only grown as I am now in my mid-20’s. My interest has now expanded into all facets of the game including how teams decide whom to keep and whom to trade when the time comes. I also have developed a dislike for all the powerhouse teams who can spend all the money they want and bulk their teams up like a weightlifter on steroids. Thus when the movie “Moneyball” came out last month I was immediately drawn to seeing it, as it feeds both of these interests in telling the true story of Billy Beane the Oakland Athletics General Manager who in 2002 built a winning team out of a bunch of guys that other teams rejected for various reasons.

Beane as it turns out met up with a young and upcoming baseball statistician named Peter Brand who had begun analyzing players and screening them for a stat that very few teams ever look at (even to this day), a player’s on-base percentage. Employing computer-generated player analysis Brand could examine all players at all levels of baseball (minor league, rookie ball, and major league) and determine which players would get on base most often, and then recommend them to Beane so he could draft or sign them to contracts.

The film is a genuine treat for anyone who loves both baseball and a true underdog story. As Beane states at the onset of the movie, when expressing frustration over teams with big budgets sucking up all the good free agents from small market teams, “there are good teams, there are bad teams, then there’s fifty feet of crap…then there’s us!” It is soon after this statement that he meets Brand, and the two get to talking about this new idea of employing computer generated analysis.

From here we as the audience are taken on a journey of the Athletics’ 2002 season. They started very slow that year, and were in last place in the American League’s Western Division in May. Throughout those early months, Beane employed a lot of patience with Oakland’s manager Art Howe who didn’t want to play some of the players Beane has signed in the off season because he didn’t believe in Beane and Brand’s concept of using statistics. Beane shows great patience with Howe, and very rarely even raises his voice when arguing with him over the players involved, calling to mind the words of Solomon in Proverbs 15:1a ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath.” However, Beane eventually chooses to force the issue and trades away one of the young rookie players Howe wanted to play everyday (Carlos Pena) so Scott Hatteberg (the player Beane liked) would begin getting everyday at bats. Howe isn’t happy, but he chooses to reluctantly go along with the idea.

By mid-season the A’s are still struggling and Beane begins to realize that young Jeremy Giambi, one of the young players he signed because of his high on base percentage, is becoming a bad influence on the team with his party boy lifestyle. Realizing that he had made a mistake in bringing Giambi to the team, Beane elects to trade him to another team, thus again exhibiting Biblical wisdom this time from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33 by recognizing that “bad company corrupts good character.”

What then happens as the season moves into the post all star break part of the schedule is truly remarkable! Suddenly all of the players Beane signed begin to shine! With help from Beane’s encouragement the players begin to attempt to draw as many walks as they can, thus causing the opposing team’s pitcher to throw more pitches, thus getting him out of the game sooner. By mid-August another remarkable thing transpires, the Oakland Athletics began an incredible winning streak, one of a nature that hadn’t been seen in baseball since the 1930’s! Suddenly the A’s are in first place and showing no sign of going back! Thus, many of Billy Beane’s critics who thought he was crazy during the first half of the season, slowly began becoming believers in this new baseball philosophy!

Throughout the movie, there are many examples of Biblical concepts some of which I have highlighted already, plus the almost too obvious David versus Goliath story interwoven between the lines of the script. Beane carries himself in a gentle but confident manor. He isn’t afraid to ask players to man up and be leaders on the team, as he does with one of the few veteran players on his team in David Justice. He also isn’t afraid to call guys out who care only about partying and not giving it their all in trying to help the team win, as is the case with Jeremy Giambi who as I mentioned earlier he trades mid-season. The whole film also tremendously exemplifies what it looks like to stand by your beliefs when others around you question you on them, something the Apostle Paul tells all Christians to do when it comes to doing the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58)

There is so much to glean from this movie, aside from the fact that it is tremendously entertaining and a true love story to Major League Baseball and the enjoyable ride a baseball season is for a diehard fan. This is so summed up by Beane himself near the end of the movie during one especially moving scene, the details of which I will not reveal here, when he says “how can you not get romantic about baseball?” As the incredible 2011 World Series Champions the St. Louis Cardinals taught us, yes, indeed Mr. Beane, is surely is impossible not be romantic about such an amazing and unpredictable sport!