Sharing Your Sexual History

Perhaps you are in a romantic relationship and things are getting serious. You are excited about your relationship, but you or your partner have a sexual past. How should you think about this topic as a couple?
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Here are some questions that are discussed in this podcast:
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  • What if I am not a virgin? What if my boyfriend or girlfriend is not a virgin? Should I tell them?
  • When is a good time to talk about sexual history?
  • Is your relationship ready for this conversation?
  • How should you approach this conversation?
  • How does the gospel of Jesus Christ impact this discussion?
  • What practical advice should I know before discussing this?

 

This is the fourth unspokenblog podcast. Other episodes include Intro to the Bible, Dating, and Courtship and Early Marriage: Are You Ready?

My “Journal Books”: A Reading List

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Some books on my shelf function like journals.  I can remember who recommended it, where I read certain sections of it, and how it changed specific aspects of my life.  The best books I have read are books that read me.  They inform my thoughts, change my feelings, and adjust my actions.  God has used many authors and many books in my life, but these are the ones that have had the “journal-effect” from middle-school onward.  

Middle School

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis.  I believe I was in 8th grade when I read this book for the first time, and reread every year I was in high school.  This was the book God used to help me begin to “own” my faith, and grow in my confidence that the Christian faith isn’t just good, but also true – which is what makes it the most beautiful news any person can hear.  This book also is what inspired me to begin writing.  Lewis’ clarity, beauty, and depth are remarkable and inspired me to want to give my life to sharing this faith that Lewis communicated so beautifully.  

High School

Don’t Waste Your Life – John Piper.  This book had an explosive impact on my life my freshman year of high school.  Piper gave me an all-encompassing vision of the Christian life and an all-satisfying vision of Jesus Christ that changed me forever.  Like many, his chapter “Boasting Only In the Cross” wrecked me in the best way – I can still quote sentences from it.

Jesus Among Other Gods – Ravi Zacharias.  I was first introduced to Ravi Zacharias through his preaching ministry, and was deeply struck by his ability to communicate the truth of Christ with conviction and compassion.  He knew when to be sharp, and knew when to be gentle.  This book contained that same flavor that first attracted me to him, and informed the way I did evangelism in my relationships.

The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis.  This is a strange book, which is what made it so memorable and compelling for me.  It opened my eyes to the reality that spiritual warfare is not primarily a reality of hobgoblins and goosebumps, but rather a war for our thoughts, desires, and loyalties that happen when we gossip with friends, indulge in anger, and immerse ourselves in worldliness.  This book will make you vigilant over your soul and sensitive to the serpents schemes.  

College

Future Grace – John Piper.  When I was in college, I almost walked away from the Christian faith as a result of severe depression and doubt.  God used this book to anchor me to his Word, refine me, and give me a deeper trust in his promises.  This book changed and shaped the way I view the process of sanctification in the Christian life, and daily influences the way I fight sin and strive for holiness.  

Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey.  If I am asked what is the best book on apologetics, I say this book instantly.  Pearcey argues for the Christian worldview as a comprehensive one that gives reasonable and compelling answers to all the objections the world brings its way.  She demonstrates a confidence in God’s Word that I want to mark my ministry and life.  

The Things of Earth – Joe Rigney.  Ever since I read Don’t Waste Your Life, I struggled to find the balance of living a radical life for Christ and resisting worldliness, while still enjoying things like ice cream, laughing with friends, and going on vacation.  Joe Rigney calls them “the things of earth”  This book expanded my view of what it means to live faithfully toward God while also enjoying his gifts.  If you read Don’t Waste Your Life, read this book right after it.  

Do More Better – Tim Challies.  I love thinking about and practicing the best productivity methods.  I read Matt Perman’s “What’s Best Next?” and loved it, but found it difficult to recommend to busy Mom’s, men with full-time jobs, and even college students.  Challies’ “Do More Better” explains basic productivity methods from a God-centered lens – and he does it in under 100 pages!  I’d recommend this to any student beginning college or to a man at the beginning of marriage.  

This Summer

The Reason for God – Tim Keller.  I have been hearing about this book for years, and finally picked up an old copy and am reading a few pages before bed every night.  I’m about halfway through and have found this book compelling, creative, and winsome.  Keller is clear and profound and, in my opinion, very convincing.  I would give this book to any skeptic I know to begin conversations about spiritual things.  Keller speaks the language of our culture.

A Pastor’s Sketches – Icabod Spencer.  I’m finding that this book has not been widely read by many pastor’s today, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  Icabod Spencer was a pastor in Brooklyn in the 1800s and has recorded two volumes of his conversations with people inquiring about the Christian faith.  Spencer’s sensitivity to people, commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture, and pastoral concern for others is imitable.  

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874-1965.  I’m almost finished listening to the second volume of William Manchester’s magisterial portrait of Churchill.  All the leaders I respect have been influenced in some way by Churchill.  Obviously, Churchill is a very flawed man, but his influence in WWII and his vision, foresight, and courage in the face of evil is remarkable and inspiring.


Spencer Harmon is the Senior Pastor at Vine Street Baptist Church and the co-author of Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement (P&R, 2017).

The Cloud of Summer Reading

There are a thousand wonderful ways to spend summer. Parks, pools, parties, picnics, and people we love. The days just seem better in June and July.

This truth felt even more palpable when I was younger and in school. The only cloud that could possibly loom over my head was my summer reading. I was convinced my teachers cackled wildly when assigning me books over the break.

I’ve since learned that the cloud of summer reading is actually a rainbow that leads to a pot of gold. I’m now able to look back at books I’ve read and see how they charted my course. The summer winds of reading have often set my sails in the right direction and taken me places I would never have gone.

The summers I have spent well are the summers I’ve read. Reading doesn’t suck the fun out of things. It enhances everything. You can dive into a book in between dips at the pool. You can bring your kindle on a trip with the people you love. You can have the best of both worlds without skimping on either one.

In honor of summer, Spencer and I are going to blog about some of the books that have impacted us at different stages of life. This list isn’t comprehensive of what I would recommend and is more biographical of what has shaped me in life. Perhaps you will find one or two on this list that you want to explore these next couple of months. Here is my list:

Middle School: 

A Call to Die is a 40 day crash course on how to read the Bible. I’m not even sure if it is in print anymore, but it changed my life. My youth pastor recommended this book to me and I’m confident it is still bearing fruit in my life.

This was the first theological book I remember reading. I still remember staying up in bed reading and underlining sentences from the chapter on baptism. This book gave me a starting place to begin thinking about key doctrines of the Christian faith.

The book has been billed as “The Best-Selling International Adventure of All Time” and it captivated me. I loved the conviction and boldness of the young preacher. He was willing to share the gospel with gangs and risk everything. Even as a middle schooler I thought the speaking in tongues and the second blessing of the Spirit was wrong (and still do), but the story of courage shaped me.

High School: 

I needed this book. It was refreshment to my bones and a balm for my soul. I was drowning in temptation. I wanted something different that what I was seeing all around me. This book gave me conviction and clarity about how to live in “the world” in a way that honored Christ. I can’t recommend it enough.

I read this book in High School with a group of students and sections of it have stuck with me to this day. It isn’t a gripping novel to be consumed in a night, but it is a steady diet of meat and potatoes that strengthens essential skills.

When I read this book, it was actually 5 Who Changed the World and it was published by Southeastern Seminary. I’m thrilled it was picked up by B&H and expanded. The stories in here are truly compelling and life changing.

College: 

This is my favorite book outside of the Bible. It changed how I think about God and how I think about life. My only complaint is that this new edition removed the incredibly helpful appendix “Are There Two Wills in God?” Thankfully, you can now buy that appendix separately in a new book.

A wiser mentor gave me this book and it set me free. The short little book isn’t perfect, but it is liberating. If you struggle with knowing God’s will for your life, this book is for you.

This was required reading for my first class in college. I wish I had read it sooner or at least someone had taught me the content beforehand. It put my hermeneutical feet in concrete.

Current Summer Reading: 

I’m half way through and love it. The chapters are short and easy to summarize. We truly need God’s help to understand the Bible.

This book has helped me think deeply about the flawlessness of the Bible. If you have ever wondered about the accuracy of certain passages in Scripture, you will find this book thought provoking and helpful. The chapters are no more than four pages. I’ve been nibbling on it for a while now.

I’ve always been interested in politics and this scratches that itch. I’m reading this book on my kindle and it has actually been a problem because I can’t put it down at night. I’m enjoying evaluating the different White House Chiefs of Staff and whether or not they are good leaders. The author seems to have a liberal political perspective and there is some language in the book as he recounts history.


Sean Perron is the Chief of Staff at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and is the co-author of On Dating and On Engagement

Suffering and Singing: A Conversation with Joni

I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband Ken. Joni is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Joni and Friends International Disability Center. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni Eareckson, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. She shares her story on the podcast, discusses how to love people affected by disabilities, and provides insight about how she deals biblically with chronic pain and suffering.

Joni is one of the godliest people I have ever met. She is genuine, sincere, and full of love. I don’t think it is possible to feel awkward around her. If you are nearby, she welcomes you like Jesus Christ would welcome you. I want to be like Joni and exude with the Holy Spirit’s love. I’m confident that meeting her for this podcast is one of the highest honors of my life.

I hope you enjoy this 45 minute interview that is personal, encouraging, and challenging. Personally, my favorite part of the podcast is when she sings a few stanzas in response to one of the questions.

 

New Podcast: How to Turn Down a Date

The task of turning down a date can be tricky. I (Spencer) continue the casual, candid, and sometimes funny conversation with Sean on the topic of declining a date.

There are numerous reasons why a girl would not be interested in a romantic relationship. Here are some of the questions we talk about in this brief (8 minute) podcast:

  • What are some basic biblical categories to think through on this topic?
  • How should a girl say “no” to a Christian guy she doesn’t like?
  • What if someone declines a date and they ask again?
  • What if someone isn’t getting the picture that I am not interested?

 

This is the third unspokenblog podcast. Other episodes are Intro to the Bible, Dating, and Courtship and Early Marriage: Are You Ready?

A Young Pastor’s Prayer

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by Spencer Harmon

Lord,

I’m no war-torn pastor.  There are many trenches to come, trials to endure, taunts from the enemy. Every faithful shepherd I know walks with a limp from years of wrestling with Sunday’s text, Monday’s discouragements, Tuesday’s fatigue.  Despite this, your triumphant grace soaks their stories as they tell of your sustaining staff through the darkest valley.  They tell me that in every cross they carried, resurrection life bloomed.

Lord, these stories are grave and glad.  Trembling and hope gather in my soul like Joshua crossing Jordan on the brink of the Promised Land.  And so, Lord, I pray to you.

Although I need your endurance for the suffering to come.  Although I need insight to explain your word.  Although I need wisdom to give your people vision.  Although I need compassion for the needs I will see.  Although I need love for my enemies.  Although I need zeal to lead your people.  Although I need these things from you, I do not pray for those now.

My prayer is this:

Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

I have been in your fields for only 8 months now and the stories reverberate in my soul: shepherds leaving their gates open to wolves with false teaching; shepherds leading their sheep over the cliffs of their own selfish ambitions; shepherds so busy tending to the sheep of the field they forget the flock at home.

So, Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

All of these shepherds started just like me:  watchful, sensitive, vigilant.  I don’t presume to know the path that took them from here to there.  I only note it’s existence and plead with you to keep me far from it.  I do not ask that you would keep me from stumbling.  I know I still fight my flesh and that you tend to teach through my weakness.  But I pray that as Satan roars at me during your discipline, your fatherly voice would lead me to repentance.  Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

Lord, give me grace when frost forms around my marriage.  Prevent me from growing content in giving my wife the leftovers of my time, presuming our love would be unblighted.  I have already seen once thriving marriages rotting like old fruit from a famine of time and affection.  Give me grace to answer my wife’s honesty with humility, her needs with nourishment, her cares with concern.  Lord, take my ministry if I ever begin to lose my marriage, for the former is void without the latter.  Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

Lord, give me grace when my chest swells with pride.  Guard me from the perils of “success.” If full pews mean a vain heart, bloated with self-sufficiency, deflate me with my weakness and confront me with my limits.  If I begin depending on my tools and abilities to reap a harvest, drain me of my fruitfulness until I am desperate again for the rain of your Spirit.  Give me grace to receive the wounds of friends with humility when I’m blinded by arrogance.  Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

Lord, give me grace to keep the windows of my soul open through regular confession.  Provide brothers who don’t fear me, mentors who see through me, partners who listen to me.  I’m finding that hypocrisy disguises itself as “privacy”, and I fear everyone will assume I’m always fine.  Keep me from valuing my reputation more than my soul.  When I begin to live heedlessly, assuming confession needs no place in my life, show me the danger of isolation without giving me over to its full effects.  Let your Spirit prevail in my life through the normal means of grace you have given me.  Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

Lord, give me grace to not neglect a loving and warm relationship with you.  When I begin to see your Word as a commodity of my profession rather than bread to my soul, a set of facts rather than a feast – draw me back into warm fellowship with you.  Wield the sword of your Word to cut through my excuses and make me tender to your shepherding voice.  Graciously bless me with a soul stirring vision of your Son in your Word when I grow dull and numb.  Lord, give me grace when I stumble.

Father, lift these these hands when they droop in weakness, strengthen these knees when they buckle under burdens, loosen my tongue with stammers with sin, open my eyes afresh to the glory of your character.  I tremble when I consider my own strengths, abilities, and gifts.  But I find comfort in your grace, your earnestness, your mercy, and your zeal for your own name.  I take confidence in you, and shepherd your people as you shepherd me.

And as I carry this staff, still green and not well worn, I pray this prayer acknowledging your power and my great weakness: Lord, give me grace when I stumble.


Spencer Harmon is the Senior Pastor at Vine Street Baptist Church and the co-author of Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement (P&R, 2017).

Early Marriage | Are you ready?

In this new 10 minute podcast, I (Spencer) talk with Sean about why he chose to marry Jenny early.
Questions discussed in this podcast:
  • You had many years to live as a single person. Why would you get married so young?
  • How did you know you were ready to get married?
  • Does the Bible allow for young people to get married early?
  • What are some of the indicators that you are ready for marriage?
  • How much money do you need in the bank before marriage?
This is the second unspokenblog podcast. The first podcast was Intro to the Bible, Dating, and Courtship