The Idols

                It may not seem like it but we’re all guilty of idolatry at some point in our lives. Interestingly, God knew our propensity toward idolatry because the first two of the Ten Commandments deal with worshiping false gods. Simply stated, idolatry is when we place our admiration, affection, and love onto something in place of God Himself. It’s a rather disgusting thought that we would place some false god in higher prominence over the One True God.

                You may be thinking that you’ve never worshiped a false god. Perhaps not intentionally. But truly think about the things that you value in life. Do you place a higher importance or value in them than you do God? Maybe it’s your spouse, a relationship, your job, pet, or something else. If somehow you find yourself unable to let go of something that takes your focus off God, or you love something so much that you can’t imagine doing without it, then it might be an idol.

                For me, I have been guilty of placing pornography as an idol in my life. For years I have been unable to let go of this “habit,” as I’ll call it. The problem, despite it starting innocently as an adolescent, is that I should have walked away from it years ago. The fact that I had been giving it attention that should have been given to God is completely unacceptable.

                The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God. We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In my mind, I find it offensive that I would give pornography any kind of prominence or attention over God. The reality is that since I kept going back to it, I was guilty of idolatry.

                What is the remedy to idolatry? Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we see how the people of Israel would find themselves worshiping idols or false gods. They would destroy the Asherah poles, the altars to Baal, and some other carved images that the people used in their idolatry as their sin became known to them. It was usually under difficult circumstances such as war and captivity. But the Israelites would repent, destroy the idols, and put away anything that hindered a faithful walk with God.

                Today, we need to do the same thing. What is your idol? What thing do you need to destroy or put away to get right with God? If anything is hindering you, find out what that thing is and deal with it. Repent from your sin and cry out to God. If your hangup is sexual immorality as mine has been, then it would be wise to heed the words of Colossians 3:5-7:

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. God’s terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. ”

Suicide

                Robin Williams.  Brilliant artist.  Masterful comedian.  Compassionate humanitarian.  A man who lost hope.

 

                For reasons we may not fully comprehend, Robin Williams was a man who was troubled to the point of ending his own life.  It is not a subject I take lightly so I want to be careful not to sensationalize what has gripped the attention of the world.  I also don’t want to minimize how deeply this has impacted survivors of this unfortunate tragedy.

 

                Despite all the soul searching, I honestly cannot say I understand suicide.  Nor do I pretend to.  I’m not saying I don’t know what events that often lead to the thoughts of suicide.  Most people can give typical reasons for why a person loses hope and eventually surrenders their life.  The reasons can range from depression, alcohol and drug abuse, loneliness, bad relationships, failed marriages, loss of a job, and so on.  For Mr. Williams, the apparent reason may have been due to Parkinson’s disease.  It’s the missing piece of the puzzle that is the “one thing” that pushes a person over the edge.

 

                It’s in times like this that people search for answers.  Anything to explain how something like this can happen.  For a man like Robin Williams whose life was so exposed to the world it seems unfathomable that there were no red flags that could have prevented this.  It’s true that Williams had issues with alcohol and drug abuse.  And then there was Parkinson’s.  However he dealt with these demons, he never let on to those who really knew him how close he was to the edge.  At least not that we’re aware of.

 

                This is also a time when Christians often try to offer words of encouragement.  Pastors, leaders, and Christian counselors typically point people to Scripture and offer theological advice.  Words, though, seem so inadequate.  Sometimes they can come across as cold and distant.  I am certain that is not the intention of any Christian.  It’s only that Christians understand a truth that is relevant to these discussions and that is Jesus is the Answer.

 

                As a Christian, I understand that suicide is not the answer.  Let me say this again because it’s worth repeating.  Suicide is not the answer.  I don’t say this to belittle anyone who has had thoughts toward this end.  I say it because I myself have had periods of depression and thoughts of suicide.  I struggle with these thoughts because of various reasons, but primarily because I feel inadequate.  I’ve always felt this way I suppose, but I suppress the thoughts the majority of the time.

 

                For example, I can remember the times I struggled growing up.  I was an awkward child.  I had a very difficult time making friends.  With the friends I did have I typically found myself getting into trouble.  My classmates teased and harassed me relentlessly.  Teachers weren’t very much help back then either.  I suspect many of them looked the other way.  I wasn’t particularly bright as a child.  I sometimes spoke clumsily and would trip over my own words.  I wasn’t graceful physically either.  I can’t tell you how many times I fell, broke a tooth, broke my glasses, ripped my jeans, or cut and bruised myself.  Looking back, it’s amazing I survived my childhood.

 

                It was because I was so awkward that I found myself lonely and depressed.  It didn’t help that I got into trouble so much that my family didn’t know what to do with me.  One relative wanted to send me to Boy’s Town.  For those that don’t know what that is, it’s a place for at-risk children.  I thought of it as juvenile detention.  My family’s response was to move us out of town into a rental house several miles out in the country in an apparent move to separate me from the bad elements.  It might have accomplished that to a degree but it might have aggravated the loneliness.

 

                I tend to believe my adult life has been affected in some part by those events in my life.  I longed for a relationship with the opposite sex but I had no clear understanding of what that looked like.  It was through pornography that I thought would help me to understand sex, which in turn I believed would help me toward the desired result:  to end the loneliness.  Pornography, though, only made matters worse.  Four marriages later and I’m still struggling with the idea of loneliness.

 

                It was from divorce that I seriously thought about suicide.  That was only one aspect of it though.  Divorce brought about rejection, loneliness, inadequacy, and a myriad of other problems.  I stopped eating, had trouble sleeping, lost 40 pounds within 2 weeks, and started smoking.  I guess I began a cycle of destructive behavior.

 

                At some point, God used one of my former wives to get my attention.  She told me that she had recently been saved.  I understood what that meant because my mom was a Christian and I went to church with her where the gospel message was preached.  At one point I thought I had become a Christian because I said the “sinner’s prayer.”  But unfortunately, I continued to live a life of sin.  There was no transformation that took place.  It wasn’t until my ex-wife told me that she gave her life to Jesus that I began to think about what I really needed.  I inquired of a church nearby and began attending.  It wasn’t immediate but eventually I cried out to God and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  I’m not sure when it happened but over a period of time, perhaps months, I began seeing a change in my life and my attitude.  I really did want Jesus as my Lord and I was asking Him to change my life.  And He was.

 

                Since becoming a Christian I still have had thoughts about ending my life.  Sometimes I think along the lines of this not being my home.  I’d much rather move on to heaven.  But I have also realized that this is not a choice that God would be okay with.  If I have asked Jesus to be my Lord, and I have, then I have to also realize He’s in control of my life and circumstances.  The Bible says as much in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  God created me and gave me life.  He also gets to decide when my time comes.

 

                In writing this post, I’m not trying to give the impression that I know more than Christian Scholars and Theologians.  In fact, I think there are several posts and articles written by others on this subject that are more noteworthy.  This blog found at Bible Gateway gives a scripturally based response to depression.  It’s worth noting that God doesn’t condemn anyone for his/her feelings, even depression.  Can certain attitudes and behaviors, like anxiety, be wrong in God’s eyes?  Sure.  We may be self-absorbed or focused only on selfish wants and desires.  But true feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression seems different.  Certainly this is a multifaceted subject.  There’s no one right answer because we’re all unique and we all have problems that are specific to our situations.  One thing that I do see as a source of hope is God.  He is the constant that we can rely on and He can be the anchor for our lives and our souls.  One of the greatest needs in the life of someone who is contemplating his/her end is relationship.  Human relationships may help in a temporal way.  However, when God offers Himself to us we have access to a relationship that is much deeper, significant, and eternal.

 

                In the same way, at Patheos there’s an article that backs up this idea of a relationship with God being the answer to man’s greatest need.  Or as the author puts it, the Ultimate Christian Gift.  The author emphasizes on what a relationship with God brings, and that’s unconditional love. 

 

                I agree with these writers that a relationship with God is a key element in combating these deep emotional issues.  I say this in regards to those who are able to rationally think about the choices they are making.  For the most part, that’s me.  Though I can be an emotional wreck and believe that suicide would be a quick way out, I am also still able to rationally think about the choices before me.  And I do.  I think about God and what He would think about the choice I am about to make.  Since God is my Creator, would He be okay with me circumventing His authority over my life by taking it myself?

 

                The question, then, is what about those that do take their own life?  Have they made the ultimate error and committed the unforgiveable sin?  This is a complex issue and I’m probably not qualified to answer this.  But in my limited understanding about God and Scripture, there’s a time when we become accountable for our choices and lives.  For example, a baby is born into this world with a sin nature.  If a baby dies without being able to accept Jesus as his/her Lord and Savior, does that mean the baby doesn’t go to heaven?  There is a debate on this but I tend to follow John MacArthur’s logic on this issue.  You’ll have to read it yourself to understand.

 

Now take this same argument and apply it to mental and emotional disabilities.  My point being is that it’s possible that those who are not able to consciously make proper choices may not be held to the same level of accountability as someone with a sound mind and body.  Let’s say a Christian develops Alzheimer’s.  Obviously, this is a debilitating disease that leaves little doubt as to the ability of rational reason or thought.  If this Christian somehow commits suicide, is he/she then in sin and unable to reconcile with God?  Or should we not say this was a Christian at all if someone takes their own life because of Alzheimer’s?

 

Again, I point to the fact that this is a complex issue.  We’re not always talking about people making rational decisions.  Often, there are those that are going through deeply emotional and psychological issues.  It would be naïve to think that these issues pertained only to nonbelievers.  For certain, pain and sorrow and even illness are a part of life for the Christian as well.

 

                People are sometimes diagnosed as clinically depressed.  It’s a more severe form of depression.  People are also diagnosed as having a wide range of mental and emotional disorders.  With that being said, I’m not as certain to say that when a person is sick that he/she has the full mental capacity and clarity of choice.  It’s possible this person could commit suicide.  Believers and non-believers suffer alike, go through pain, and sometimes are not aware of the choices they are making.  Can we say that one person was more fully aware of choice than another if there’s suicide?  Maybe not.  Does that somehow point to an obscure fact that this couldn’t have been a Christian?  I don’t think so.  In my estimation, only God is able to determine that.

 

                What is clear to me is that suicide is a problem the church and the community must deal with together.  Anyone who is fully aware of his/her choice, it needs to be crystal clear that suicide is not the answer.  For a person struggling with this on a conscious level needs to realize that there is a God who loves him/her.  For the Christian, the relationship with God and knowing His Holy Spirit resides in us ought to give us hope and strength.  Relationship is such a strong, emotional anchor that grounds us to reality.  How much more impactful is a relationship with the Creator of the universe? 

 

For the unbeliever, hope may be fleeting.  Where can one go?  You may be able to muster the strength to make it through the drudgery of life.  However, a greater bet is to place your security in the One who holds the balance of your life, body and soul, in His hands.  What a great tragedy it is for anyone to go through life without knowing how much God loves and the extent to what He will go through for us.  And for someone to end their life without that hope and the knowledge of that truth is what is truly tragic.

A July 4 Like No Other

Flag Tree LoneIt was one of the oddest, if not the oddest, July 4th I’d ever experienced. For starters, I wasn’t even in the good ole’ US of A, but instead in a clearing on the edge of a group of mountains in central Asia. And though I was with American citizens, the group was far broader than Americans; it included a variety of races and nationalities.  Someone had brought a small flag, and it was hanging—not flying—precariously yet intentionally from a tree limb. And fireworks? Yeah, the family I was with bought a simple and single quick-light “explosive” from a shop in town, then together we set it off in the backyard later that evening. Few, if any, of the neighbors knew why. Sounded like the dogs knew as they responded with incessant barking.

Yet, as we sang “My Country Tis of Thee” in the makeshift picnic area, as well…

View original post 290 more words

Sanctification

We often struggle in our desire to live for Christ. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through this subject in my mind. In all my conversations, I’ve realized there’s two aspects of overcoming temptation: surrendering to Christ (which is a complete surrender) and the Holy Spirit changing me.

And then I came across this blog post today and thought this would be a great post to share. It’s by John MacArthur called The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification. It’s a great read and I definitely recommend it.

The Apparent Paradox of Sancitifcaton

The Consequences

As children we all did certain things that we shouldn’t have.  We back talked our parents.  We were greedy and wanted toys all to ourselves.  We hated eating spinach so we would hide it and lie and say we ate it.  As children we didn’t always understand we couldn’t have our own way.  And there were usually consequences.

I think the same is true as adults.  We grow in age and stature but a part of our behavior suggests that we still hold on to childish ways.  We buck authority.  Our sin nature rebels against laws and authority.  You may think I’m talking about man’s laws.  In a way, that’s true.  But it’s more than that.  I’m really referring to God’s authority and laws.

God’s laws are our standard.  Not everyone acknowledges this or even acknowledges God Himself.  But God is perfect and holy.  His laws are perfect.  As God’s creation, we were made in His image.  Many of our laws that we follow in government, including ethics and moral standards, come from the principles laid out in Scripture, God’s laws.

Because of sin we act and behave in ways that are much like little children with no understanding.  We are selfish and want our own way.  We hurt others without regard.  If God didn’t reach out to us and reveal Himself and his holy nature, we would be spiraling headlong into moral chaos and depravity.

Like a parent, God sets the rules.  He shows us what will benefit us and what can hurt us.  If we live according to His ways, we find that we are blessed.  But like children when they disobey their parents, we too have consequences when we sin against God’s rules.

One of the rules that God set up for us is in regards to the gift of sex.  If we listen to God and see that He has established the parameters for how we should view and regard sex, there are amazing blessings for those who honor God with this gift.

However, when we disobey God and step outside of those parameters, we also should expect consequences.  Sometimes what can happen when God disciplines us is mild and only a reminder to get our attention.  Often, though, when we sin against God it can be very painful and leave us a complete mess.

The question then is what is God’s standard for sex?  The Bible tells us that it’s a gift that should be enjoyed between one man and one woman.  This principle is laid out for us in Genesis and Jesus even reinforces it in the Gospels.

The problem that all of us have, though, is that our sin nature leads us down the wrong path.  It’s not always obvious.  Many times it’s only our thought life.  We think inappropriately about another person who is not our spouse and we sin in our hearts.  In essence, we actually commit adultery in that respect.

Other times, it’s a more brazen act of defiance against God’s standards.  We think we know better than God and believe living with a man or woman outside of marriage is acceptable.  Today, there’s a lot of controversy about homosexual lifestyles and marriage.  These too are also outside God’s design.  There are other types of sexual sins, obviously, but they all have to do with going outside God’s original purpose and plan.

Pornography is another one of those areas where we have gone outside God’s standard.  We might think it’s a harmless act and that it doesn’t affect anyone other than the person who views the images.  However, we know better these days that it affects many people directly and indirectly.

The consequences of pornography can run deep.  It often hurts, and sometimes destroys, marriages.  It creates an atmosphere of mistrust.  For the husband or wife that has been offended it takes an awful long time to heal and learn to trust again.

But there are certainly consequences that go outside the marriage and family unit.  What about the women who are being manipulated and used?  Pornography is an industry that promotes an unhealthy view and attitude toward women.  It also creates a violent and troubling environment where women are forced into situations through sex slavery and exploitation.  Many are raped, abused, and tossed aside like mere objects.

These are only a sample of the consequences for when we step outside God’s original purpose for sex and marriage.  Appropriately, if we obey God we enjoy His gifts in a healthy, nurturing environment.  And when we don’t, there’s usually pain and suffering.

The good news is that if we get off track, God doesn’t leave us there.  He offers us a way to get right with Him.  Just like with an earthly parent, discipline has to do with teaching us right from wrong and helping us to learn from our mistakes.  That’s what God wants from us.  To learn to trust Him and obey Him.  Follow His lead.  Surrender to His ways.  When we do, God will bless you and me.

The Symptoms

Pornography is a snare to a man’s soul.  It’s addictive.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I realize in a previous post that I wrote on the idea that pornography is an extremely bad habit.  I still believe that.  By using the term addiction, I only mean to show how this habit has a psychological effect.  It is not meant to give anyone a pass by blaming it on addiction.  That’s why I hesitate at all to attribute addition to the problem.  To interject the word addiction, it is only meant to describe pornography in a descriptive way.  Since addictive can mean “causing a strong and harmful need to regularly have or do something,” it seems to fit the narrative.

However, it is the symptoms of pornography that I really want to touch on.  To suggest pornography is only a symptom is to suggest there is a greater problem beneath the surface.  To be sure, pornography is a huge blight on our society.  But what is it that is at the root?  Like an onion, for each layer there are other problems.  What I believe to be at the core, though, is idolatry.  Think about it.  God should be our desire.  The Bible says we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Instead, we give our focus and energy to other “gods” that demand our attention.

Idolatry is a difficult concept to grasp.  We all think that it has to be a bronze statue where someone is kneeling down and chanting prayers.  That’s true but there are other ways idolatry shows up.  The definition of idolatry is “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”  If something, like pornography, has become an addiction (remember the definition of strong or harmful need), then it has become an idol.

What about other areas in life?  For some, it may be difficult to believe that there are certain habits that could be considered idolatry.  However, it’s only a matter of recognizing some thing that you think or do that is not healthy or beneficial.  How many in our nation suffer with weight gain?  Is it gluttony, the habit of eating or drinking too much, that they desire more than God?  Or how about gossiping?  Do people love unconstrained conversation meant to hurt others more than God?  Why is it when you learn some juicy tidbit about someone you know that you find it difficult to keep it to yourself?  These are some of the less extremes of bad habits.  But in context, can’t you see how each of these can be considered idolatry?

Again, I go back to the idea that idolatry is the core issue.  None of us likes the idea of putting something or someone before God.  Well, most of us anyway.  But to identify the problem is to recognize the symptoms.  And I believe viewing or being involved in pornography is one symptom.  Although, the symptoms may show up in varying degrees.  We need to recognize these.

Pornography is similar in its effects as other habits.  But what may be different is that its symptoms are devastating internally and externally.  Speaking only as a man, I recognize that it creates inner turmoil.  It creates a hormone and chemical process in the brain that stimulates the body.  The brain responds to visual images quite rapidly.  In a moment of what may seem like only a brief second, the brain has the capacity of responding to an image and releasing chemicals that are just as powerful as cocaine.  So, whether intentional or not, when a man sees even “soft porn” it has an effect on him.

Many may not realize how difficult the culture can make it for a man that wants to be pure in spirit.  Women today often dress so provocatively it actually doesn’t leave much to the imagination.  This can be a form of “soft porn” that triggers the chemical release in the brain.  Of course, there are billboards, window dressing in malls, television shows, etc. that provide the same handicaps.  This is not to say that a man doesn’t have any control.  It only makes it that much more difficult.  This is the internal battle that takes place in a man’s soul.  The effects can be damaging spiritually, as well as emotionally and relationally.

Of course, pornography doesn’t take place on an island.  How this medium affects the culture and the world is devastating and destructive.  These are the external symptoms.  In creating the pictures, images, videos, etc., many young ladies and girls have been manipulated and exploited.  It’s becoming more widely known that girls are often kidnapped, raped, abused, and forced into this form of media only to add to the wealth of the oppressors in this multi-billion dollar industry.  It’s hard to imagine a society that prides itself on respect and dignity would allow this to continue.  The contradiction and the hypocrisy from the government, the courts, colleges, and various private and public institutions are very telling.  In allowing pornography to become this heinous monster that feeds upon its most vulnerable citizens, it speaks loudly to the corrupt and sinful nature of every person.  In other words, idolatry.

No one can say that there is nothing that can be done.  Politicians can change laws, courts can rule on the side of life and dignity, the public can demand accountability and hold its elected officials to higher moral standards, men can turn from aiding and abetting an industry that destroys lives in more ways than one, and women can learn purity and modesty that is honoring to God.  These are only a handful of ideas and suggestions.  But nothing truly is going to change until people recognize their own sinful nature, repent from idolatry, and turn to God.  It’s only through the power of the cross and the message of hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that true and lasting change can ever take place.  Until then, the symptoms of a culture going under is only going to increase and intensify.

The Culture

How things have changed over the years.  Where there used to be modesty, there isn’t anymore.  We live in a sex-crazed world.

The United States isn’t exactly representative of the entire world but I can only speak of what I observe in my own country.  I am aware that there are countries where sex is more freely flaunted about and there are countries where sex is more suppressed.  The US is unique, however, in that it is the only country that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and ideology.  It is with this in mind as I observe a trend that is troubling within our culture.

Certainly times have changed.  Sexual immorality has not.  Despite the fact that the early patriarchs of the United States were overwhelmingly Christian, there was a diversity of people that didn’t hold Christian views.  While laws were constructed in a way to regulate sexual tendencies, and while there were obvious traditions passed on from generation to generation that promoted abstinence and traditional marriage, there were still those who brought liberal views of sex from all corners of the world.

Fast forward to the 20th century.  Women began taking more risks with their sexuality.  Many men, naturally, obliged with their new sense of sexual freedom.  However, there was still a sense of moralism through film and television as witnessed through programs such as I Love Lucy where the husband and wife slept in separate beds.  Over time, a short period of time at that, indiscretion would take over the air-waves.

Now television and media have become so saturated with all forms of sexual displays that society has become desensitized to its effects.  But every so often there’s an event or episode on TV that pushes the envelope and tests the shock value.  Those that push sexual immorality through the various media continue to test the waters.  Maybe their interest is to get a sense of what people will accept and how far they can get past government regulation.  Actually, there’s not much that gets censored anymore.  Programs like Victoria’s Secret and several reality shows demonstrate that regulations are very lenient or non-existent.  The only things that garner attention are the ones where there’s a public outcry.  Again, with desensitizing the public this will become a non-factor as well.

The culture has become saturated with sex, the adulterated version.  It’s next to impossible to not have it flaunted in one way or another in your face on a daily basis.  The question is not about its accessibility because it’s everywhere.  Sex is on television, in the movies, in the stores, on the billboards, and even in the schools.  Sex sells.  And it’s obvious that sex is a billion dollar industry.  It may be even a trillion dollar industry.  You may think I’m talking about porn industries, prostitution, adult video stores, Hollywood, Las Vegas, etc.  But sex sells products everyday like soft drinks, automobiles, glamour magazines, and a million other such products.

All these things I’ve mentioned about how the culture being invaded by perverted sex is not even the core issue.  These are only the effects of a much greater problem.  We can analyze this to death, and we have, and we can point fingers and shake our heads or even our fists.  But the issue that we must wrestle with is the fact that we have turned our backs on God.  This isn’t to say that every man, woman, and child is involved in some kind of sexually immoral sin.  It has reached a point, however, where an overwhelming majority of people seem to be knee-deep in the muck and the mire.

God has set a standard.  He has given us his written Word.  He has basically told us what is acceptable and what is not.  And when it comes to God’s standard for sex, mankind has botched it up badly.  But instead of feeling guilt or remorse, which might lead to repentance and getting right with God again, many actually enjoy the sin.  The perverted sexual lifestyle is instead celebrated in our culture.

There are many things wrong in our society.  In my opinion, sexual immorality ranks as one of the top, if not the top, issue.  For years, society and government institutions have turned a blind eye to hot-button issues regarding heterosexual sins to the point that people barely even make notice of them anymore.  New issues are being debated such as homosexual lifestyles and same-sex marriages.  Tomorrow, we’ll be discussing more in length about forced marriages involving children, polygamy, bestiality, and inanimate objects.

So what’s the answer to this increasing problem our society faces?  Or do you, like many, think there is no problem?  Sadly, our opinions don’t matter, much like opinion polls in politics, when it comes to right and wrong.  There is a Righteous Judge who will ultimately decide our fates based on the decisions we make in this life.  You can take your chances and believe that there is no such thing as hell or God Himself.  But if you’re wrong, you’re gambling with your eternal soul.

The answer to sexual immorality and every other sin that mankind gets entangled in is Jesus Christ.  He is the Answer.  There is a Righteous Judge and there will be judgment for sin.  But God made a way for man to be saved and that is through His Son, Jesus.  The Bible says that if you declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  That’s accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins to be your propitiation.

Repenting of your sin and turning to Jesus as your Lord and Savior is something that is on a personal level.  On a much larger scale, however, society needs to hear the words written in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The Affects

Pornography is not a topic that most people want to talk about.  But the harsh truth about it is that it needs to be talked about just as much as other sin issues.  For believers, it’s easier to confess a sin when it involves over-eating, thinking bad thoughts, or even having a temper tantrum.  It might even be less difficult to confess stealing or lying.  I would even wager people would be more willing to discuss divorce or any other issue than they would personal sexual sin.

However, turn the subject to pornography and people start feeling uncomfortable.  Bring on the gamut of sexual perversions such as homosexuality, extra-marital affairs, fornication, masturbation, lust, prostitution, sex slavery, etc. and people start squirming in their chairs.  I’m purposely leaving out some of the more disgusting perverse sins because I think you get the point.

Sexual immorality is a difficult subject to broach among people who still value morals and decency.  I say that tongue in cheek because I find that there are many people who claim to value morals but find themselves in immoral situations.  And I place myself in that category.  It’s sad and we need to turn away from this hypocrisy.

Society as a whole, however, has seemingly embraced sexual immorality as a normal part of life.  Not that I want to make this all about homosexuality but recent events in sports has shown praise for certain athletes who would proclaim their sexual freedom and display it in front of the whole world.  On the one hand there’s the issue of a man kissing another man.  On the other, there’s the deliberate act of wanting to display wanton sexuality thus showing no sense of morals or modesty.

Recent events are only examples of the decline of morals and values that used to guide the collective consciousness of this nation.  Years ago, perhaps centuries ago, people used to fear God.  Today, people not only do not fear God, they don’t even want to acknowledge His existence.

When I first thought of writing this post, I was going to cite statistics and provide links to various articles showing the effects of pornography and sexual immorality on our culture.  To be certain, there are plenty of examples.  But I think it would be a tiresome exercise.  I believe that despite the arguments and objections, people understand the decline in morals.  Some may actually celebrate it.

It’s the Christian community that concerns me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think the secular world is in a rapid decline in the cesspool of despair.  But it’s the church that needs to clean house and gets its own affairs in order.  If a hospital is going to tend to the sick, it needs to have workers that are healthy and understands medicine.  The same idea applies to the church.  But it’s the need for godly men and women to live authentically according to the gospel of Jesus Christ and be the vessels that God would use to bring the life saving message to a dying world.

It’s time that the church understands the issues that are plaguing the body and making it sick.  They need to quit being uncomfortable to talk about the issues that are systematically hurting the family.  We need leaders that are willing to lead the fight against the stain of immorality that’s affecting the church.

I’m not saying I have all the answers but one of the greatest examples in the Bible is in Ephesians where the Apostle Paul talks about bringing sin issues into the light.  There needs to be an honest assessment of the problem and it needs to be talked about.  It needs to be exposed.

Leaders within the church are not immune to this problem.  In fact, there are plenty of books and articles that would indicate that sexual immorality is rampant even within the leadership of the church itself.  As there are plenty of examples of men in the Bible who dealt with these issues of immorality, the church is finding itself again having to confront them today.  And the answer lies within our recognition of the problem and our desperate cry for Jesus to bring healing and restoration back to the church and our families.  Revival is needed and the kind that brings men to their knees.  Only then will the effects of pornography and sexual immorality be turned around.

The Beginning

I could say that it all began with my first encounter with a Playboy magazine when I was twelve years old.  I could say that all throughout puberty there were regular encounters with such magazines.  Unfortunately, they were available from all the male figures in my family.  But I think the issue goes back even further than that.

Several years prior to my experience with pornography, my family moved to a small town in Iowa.  We had lived on a farm with limited contact with neighbors only to move into a town where everybody knew each other’s business.  It seemed like a good move at the time, and it probably was for everyone but me.

It didn’t happen immediately but within a relatively short time I became the butt of people’s jokes.  I was perhaps an awkward child and it is possible that I brought on a lot of the trouble upon myself.  From the first year in grade school, kids teased and ridiculed me.  During those years there were very few teachers or adults that truly got involved for the child’s benefit.  Unlike the culture in schools today, there wasn’t much training taking place or awareness involved in the area of bullying.

What happened didn’t affect me overnight.  It took several years of berating but eventually I became isolated, somewhat of a recluse.  I did have a friend at that school but he endured much of the same ridicule as I did.

What transpired over time affected me.  It would eventually change my behavior, or at least be a catalyst.  I acted out in unusual and harmful ways.  I would end up lying and stealing on many occasions.  It became so bad at times that when I was accused of arson, there was no one to believe that I was innocent, despite all my objections.

With my experience as a child, I think it’s quite possible that psychologically I was not in a good place when I first viewed pornography.  It may have fed into my insecurities.  It became, perhaps, a way to escape the realities of life and use sexual fantasies to fill a void.  Without real male leadership, I was alone to deal with these emotions and strange feelings I was experiencing.

It may not be much different today.  Kids all over the world are growing up with dysfunctional family units.  Many children grow up in homes without any father present.  Even if they are physically present, they’re absent in other ways.  Too many have to muddle through childhood and adolescence and try to figure out stuff on their own.  Even worse, now liberal schools with their perverted sexual agendas are pushing their form of sexual education on these children warping their minds and exacerbating the situation.

As bad as things started out for me as a child and having to deal with and sort through all the sexual perversion, I think children today are going to have it that much worse.  With pornography readily available on smart phones, laptops, and other such gadgets, perversion is more accessible to a generation of impressionable minds more so than ever in history.

It’s fair to say that my beginnings didn’t start out well.  I only pray that the generations of children growing up in our immoral culture are able to recognize and get help when they need it.  Too many are going to go through experiences they’re not fully equipped to understand.

What about you?  Do you have an unhealthy view of sex?  Has pornography led you down a dark path in your life?  Or do you know someone who is going through a problem with sexual immorality?

As Christians I hope we’re ready to deal with these issues.  The church needs to be ready to identify and minister to these increasing problems.  Unfortunately, these are problems that many in the church want to keep quiet and sweep under the rug.  Pretend it’s not there.  But just as Paul dealt with sexual perversion in his day, the church needs to be ready to deal with sexual perversion in ours.  Men and women alike are going to need help when they begin to realize their sin.  Let’s pray that the help will be there when it comes time for their healing and restoration.

The Habit

How does one get hooked on a bad habit?  It’s actually quite easy given our sinful natures.  I think all of us are prone, if we’re not careful, to fall into some form of bad habit probably for many reasons.  But the one reason I believe kind of drives it all is self-centeredness.

Think about it.  What are the two greatest commandments in the Bible?  To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.  It seems that God knows that we love ourselves.  A lot.

Obviously loving God is the highest priority.  But to put such an emphasis on loving others as much as or more than self shows something about how much we really do love ourselves.  How often do you think about what you want, need, or desire on a daily basis?  If you’re like me, it’s frequent.  In fact, I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to wear, what am I going to eat, do I need a haircut, why does my back hurt, how come this guy cut me off in traffic, etc.  The focus is on me a lot.

So considering all this, starting a bad habit is really not that difficult to understand.  Since we’re already prone to love self, sinful desires are only a step away.  And it only takes repetition of feeding a sinful desire for it to develop.  Take over-eating as an example.  You’ve had a bad day so you indulge.  You’ve had a great day so you celebrate.  You’re home watching TV and you’re bored so you munch on something.  Over a period of time you’ve developed a habit of eating for every occasion.  And that may lead yet to other bad habits, but you get the idea.

So how do I transition this from a bad habit to an addiction with pornography?  Like I said, sinful desires are only a step away.  But consider the so-called addiction to pornography.  Is it really an addiction?  Could it be just an extremely bad habit?  An article in the NY Times shows that addictions are really learned behaviors.  They can be very strong and intense and sometimes unlearning those behaviors can be quite difficult.  And in my opinion it fuels the sin nature which makes even that much more difficult.

I believe that the brain is so complex that the science community can’t even fully comprehend it.  That goes along with the way we learn, associate things, and process the information all around us.  The brain takes in all the stimuli, the environment, and the conscious and subconscious factors involved.  I also believe the more the brain is stimulated in an activity that brings what is perceived as “pleasure,” the more intense and solidified the behavior becomes.  Add to it what the brain receives when hormones and chemicals are involved (natural or unnatural) and it’s possible that the behavior becomes more subconscious and more difficult to overcome.

Again, I don’t believe in providing excuses for the poor choices I’ve made in my life.  The many choices that led to my dysfunction with pornography are my own doing.  But I also see how being exposed to pornography at a young, impressionable age in addition to the hormone-filled years of adolescence made an impression in my brain that intensified the temptations and led to many years of sexual immorality.

But as the article shows in the NY Times shows, these behaviors can be reversed.  It takes the process of undoing the learned behavior over time and teaching the brain new, better habits.  If the brain can be taught to receive “pleasure” apart from the sinful activities, such as making our relationship with Christ be our joy, then we can develop good, healthy habits that hopefully will become as intense in a good way as the bad habit was once, well, bad.

It is a choice.  If you have a bad habit, are you willing to teach your brain to think correctly?  The article called it “self-programming.”  It involves change.  Maybe it’s a change in the environment, or minimizing the temptation in some way, but in any case relearning can be done.  I believe it can because with God all things are possible.  And God is in the business of healing, restoring, and sanctifying.

So if you have a relationship with Christ, pray that He gives you the strength and endurance to make it happen.  Get the support of other believers and, more importantly, elders within the church.  If you don’t have a relationship with Christ, may I suggest you make that decision today?  I believe if we’re to leave that bad habit behind, Jesus is the only way.  And if you want to know how to have a relationship with Jesus, let me know and I’ll tell you where you can get started.