Live Contrary to the World

Live Contrary to the World

Live Contrary to the World

Pic by Balazs Toth

 

Today we live in a culture saturated with self-serving, self-indulging, and self-gratifying people. It doesn’t take much to see how true this really is. We could point to the level of violent crime in the US, which indicates on some level a selfish desire to inflict pain on others in order to gain some demented level of gratification. Don’t believe that statement? Consider this comment from one Memphis teenager regarding a teen mob attack at a Kroger grocery store, “It’s fun…That’s just what kids do.”

Violence, though, is just one of many behaviors that reflect the reality of a selfish culture. What about a city that votes unanimously about criminalizing homelessness? Yes, it’s true. The city council in Columbia, SC voted to criminalize homelessness. Why? The motive isn’t completely clear as one council member said it was a temporary measure toward “a more sound resolution.” But like most decisions similar to these, it usually revolves around money. Apparently some businesses are voicing concerns on how the homeless crisis is affecting the city. (Read: Affecting sales and the bottom line.) Instead of addressing the issues in a more humanitarian way, it’s apparent that incarcerating, or moving the homeless to “a remote emergency shelter” on the outskirts of the city limits and where they’re out of sight, is a more acceptable alternative.

Another example of a selfish society can be found in Daytona Beach, CA and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The law enforcement in these cities are told to enforce ordinances that make it illegal to feed the homeless. According to the laws of these cities, it’s up to the government to use taxpayer money to meet these needs in the community. The penalty to feed the homeless on your own? Large fines and even jail time. These laws seemingly run contrary in showing compassion to those less fortunate.

(Read more…)

 

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.

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.