Naming Dying

deathWe are deathly afraid of dying.

Many years ago when we moved off of our farms and were no longer conscripted to go to war, we stopped seeing things die. With the advent of penicillin and surgeries and chemotherapy and x-rays we became good at not dying…for a little while. As our babies stopped dying as often and our older people lived longer and longer, we stopped thinking of dying.

That is not to say that we stopped dying. All of us die. We just decided not to think about dying.

This was easier for a little while. With sickness and dying segregated away in hospitals and nursing homes, we could ignore them. This worked well enough for a while, but with the advent of the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, dying has been brough back into our faces. When a young man walks into a school and shoots children, we see it. When hundreds of West Africans die of ebola, we see it.

Many of us try to ignore it with much success. You can ignore death for decades of your life. But one day, one very uncomfortable day, death will find you. You will look into the eyes of a doctor who will tell you that you are going to die. Even when you run from it, death will find you.

Even though this reality if frightening, it is not one God has left us alone with. The Bible has a great deal to say about death.

Death is Bad

This may seem obvious, but I have heard Christians argue that death is good. This concept is foreign to scripture.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:16-17

Death is a curse, a consequence of rebelling against God. When we weep over the death of a child or the loss of a parent, we are right to do so. We were created not to die, but we do. This is tragic.

Additionally, throughout scripture, death is considered a punishment for sin and foolishness. The greatest crimes in all societies are punished with death. We deeply connect guilt with death because God made us that way.

Humans Live Beyond Death

The author of Hebrews says it this way.

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, Hebrews 9:27

Even when we die, our souls live on to be judged by the God who said we would die.

God Died to Take our Judgment

It is not just that we die because of our sins, God chose to die because of our sins too. When he said, “You will certainly die” it applied to him as well.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:6-9

Far from being a cruel God who judges with no mercy, our God has chosen to suffer for us and to suffer with us.

So What?

As Christians, we need to not put our heads in the sand, pretending that our death is not coming. Quite the opposite, we need to be acutely aware of our deaths.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thes 4:13-14

We are called be live as those who have hope. When we secretly deny death we are clinging to this life as if it were the only life we had. The myth we believe is that we can keep this life for even a little while. Sooner or later, maybe even tonight, we may die.

But think of the freedom of not fearing death. Imagine for a moment how free to go out into a dark world and do good. If there really is an eternal and wonderful future with Jesus before us, how free we are today to give ourselves to a dying and dark world.

Christian, think often of your death. Don’t run from it. It will probably be painful and frightening, but imagine suffering through it to walk out the other side and look into the eyes of Jesus. The pain you feel in death is the last pain you will ever feel. Let’s not live as those who have no hope. Let’s embrace the hope we have and harness it to take risks in the world we live in today.

Might as well, we’re going to die anyway.

-Chip

 

Sacrificing Game of Thrones

movie theaterAbout a year ago my wife and I thought we would try out the show Game of Thrones. The first episode of the first season was interesting enough. The plot was engaging and I could see it building into an interesting story, but the main thing I noticed was multiple nude scenes.

We watched another episode and promptly concluded that Game of Thrones was not OK for me to watch with my history of struggling with porn. The sacrifice wasn’t great on my part. I was certainly disappointed, but Jesus is worth it.

Several months ago, Cap Stewart published an article on his blog called Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture that turned my stomach. Young actresses have been manipulated into nude scenes through means that would be considered rape if it weren’t broadcast on movie screens across the country.

He followed that up with another article asking, What About Actors the Willingly Undress for the Camera? Surely there are actors and actresses who do this without being manipulated. He compellingly argues that we are participating in an abusive relationship by sending our money to the studios and directors who pressure young men and women strip in front of a camera crew (and an ogling world).

These were very powerful arguments to me. Nudity is not simply about the harm I do to myself by viewing it, but also by the support I lend an abusive relationship by watching it. I am encouraging men and women to be abused by sending my money.

With these new convictions, I didn’t have to test my conscience with the new Godzilla film (that would have been tough). Then X-Men: Days of Future Past came out and on reviewing the film, I found that Hugh Jackman has a scene where he was nude on set.

Now the test had come, would I support a film where a man was asked to be nude on set. I do not struggle with same-sex attraction, so my own temptation is not a problem. It is of concern that Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique who is a questionably nude character. Do I watch this film that very possibly pressured Hugh Jackman into nudity?

I decided that I could not, in good conscience, support this film.

Cue the parade, fireworks, and celebratory speeches. Everyone should now sing my praises as I have made this massive sacrifice for the Kingdom. God sure owes me now. I have sacrificed a whole movie to him. Yes, I took an entire motion picture and told God that he could decide whether I watched it or not. He is lucky to have a follower so dedicated.

I think this highlights one of the silliest parts of this debate about what films we should not watch for reasons of conscience. We as a people seem to think we are doing something extraordinary to give up an hour and a half of entertainment. If we can’t give up a movie for conscience sake, how will we ever take our cross and follow Jesus?!?

Part of the reason this is so difficult is our culture (and particularly our youth culture) places a premium on being relevant and  in touch with culture. We live in a day where failure to see a movie is perceived as being out of touch: irrelevant. No one wants to be irrelevant.

This argument is compelling only if we have idolized being relevant. Do you know what is relevant in all cultures at all times? Being delighted and delightful. How is this accomplished? Loving a delightful God. Certainly many who have not seen that God is sweet to be with will not understand why you would ever choose to give up a movie or money or comfort or you life. This will be mysterious to them. Why would you ever do that?

This is a very valuable question for them to ask.

The world does not need more cultured copies of itself wearing cross necklaces. No, the world needs a savior who loves it and died for it. Christian, we need to value holiness far more than relevance.

So my challenge to you is to say that you should not support any movie with any nudity. You are most likely supporting an abusive relationship. Yes, you will be odd and the conversation where you tell your friends that you can’t see that movie will be strained. It will have never occurred to them that this movie is harmful.

Not until you showed them.

We have a short life to live. If relevance and holiness are at odds, by all means leave relevance behind. Maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased to use your irrelevance to bring another sinner to Jesus.

As it turns out, a saved sinner is quite relevant in Heaven.

-Chip

Gay Marriage Opponents are So Dangerous They Must be Silenced

In our Republic, there have always been extremely divisive cultural debates. When the US was founded, the Federalist and the Antifederalists battled in the arena of public opinion for generations and many of the issues they brought up are still being debated today. During the 1830s, a pressing issue was the regulation of banks due to their wild speculation. Slavery was a hard-fought issue that took a civil war to resolve. During reconstruction, the debate about what is appropriate restrictions on the South which was both a defeated enemy and a purported member of the Union. In the 1910s, the decision about whether to join the war in Europe was hotly debated and eventually Woodrow Wilson told some bold-faced lies and then had the united States Join World War 1.

Into the 1920s prohibition took center stage and with the growth of organized crime, we had to wrestle with the notion of the Federal Government prosecuting crimes that the local governments would not. The 1930s was a long debate over whose fault the Great Depression was (the consensus was that Herbert Hoover was at least partly to blame). The 1950s and 60s were dominated by a new discussion on civil rights for African Americans and later other minority groups as well. The 1970s brought the very divisive debate about abortion with the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U. S. Supreme Court.

Of course, many of these divisive issues remain divisive to this day. A temptation on both sides of these debates was to find ways to silence your opponents. The Sedition Act of 1918 was a law specifically designed to silence opponents of World War 1. The lynchings that occurred through the early 20th Century were specifically designed to silence and pacify African Americans. Many times it is much easier to silence you opponent than it is to compete with them in market of ideas.

It is tempting to think that we have moved beyond such immature ways of dealing with others ideas. The Freedom of Speech has become firmly established in our society and laws like The Sedition Act of 1918 would never be upheld by the Supreme Court today. Additionally, many times when free speech is limited, there is a reporter or blogger who takes up the cause and, as a rule, we respond by encouraging free speech.

It recently came to light that Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 (a Constitutional Amendment in California which would effectively ban Gay Marriage). He was expressing his opinion in a difficult national debate with intelligent and thoughtful people on both sides. He supported his position with a modest donation and life went on.

Mr. Eich was recently appointed to the CEO of Mozilla only getting the position on March 24th. In response to that, a dating website named OkCupid sent this message to it’s users.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid.

This is a hot-button issue so it made some press.

So Mozilla fired Mr. Eich.

I am having a very hard time understanding how you can fire someone for what they think in the name of tolerance and diversity. Let’s turn the tables and imagine the firestorm that would occur is someone was fired for supporting gay marriage. I think they might be prosecuted for a hate-crime. This would be labeled as bigoted, homophobic, and intolerant.

Are the arguments for gay marriage so weak that its advocates need to punish and silence? For a tolerant and diverse bunch, are gay marriage advocates so brittle and fragile they cannot tolerate someone donating a modest sum of money to groups that oppose them? Maybe we should just fire everyone who disagrees with them. Would that be progress in this difficult debate?

I think much of the gay community will agree that we should not fire people who disagree with them. I don’t believe that most of them would have asked for Mr. Eich to be fired. But this was the result and it surely will cause leading business figures who are against gay marriage to think twice before they say so publicly. We all remember when Dan Cathy dared to say he opposed gay marriage. Chic-fil-A, which has been unashamed of being run with a Christian philosophy, was the center of a media firestorm.

Whatever the intentions, what will happen now is that prominent leaders will be more reluctant to discuss gay marriage. The advocates for gay marriage have become what they hated. They have fought for decades for equal employment opportunities for gay people yet have now allowed a situation where they advocate firing people they don’t like. they have gone from being the oppressed to being the oppressors.

To be honest, this makes them look weak. Apparently gay people are such a fragile bunch that even the hint that someone might not like them is justification for destroying that persons livelihood.

To be clear, I don’t think gay people are that mean or that weak as a whole. Which is why I am asking that gay people work hard to not allow this sort of thing to happen again. I am working hard to advocate for kind treatment of gay people by Christians. I am working and persuading my own community to love gay people despite disagreeing with them.

I hope gay people will do the same for us.

-Chip

Thank God for Noah (in Theaters now)

Noah2014PosterWhen The Prince of Egypt came out in 1998, I was excited to see it and a little nervous. I had heard that it was good and had some questionable additions to the story of the Exodus. When I did go and see it, I found it to be an engaging, well-told story, that was faithful to the story and, very importantly, has one of the best movie soundtracks ever.

But why had a heard all those negative things about the movie. it was a good movie and faithful to the story. Why take shots at it? It seemed that Christians were a nearly unpleasable group when their stories were told in movies. Then The Passion of the Christ came out and I saw a similar pattern. Many Christians were upset when our story is told, but not perfectly. I saw it again when The Nativity Story came out.

It seemed that no matter how much honest effort was made to be faithful to our stories and to make it a good film, we always found reasons to be outraged.

Fast forward to today, Darren Aronofsky chose to tell another one of our stories, the story of Noah. Christians, including myself, pulled out our prickles and prepared ourselves to be outraged. When we learned that Aronofsky was an atheist, we went ahead and panned the film without knowing anything about it. We were ready to be outraged and incensed by whatever popped up on the movie screen.

And outraged we were.

But yesterday, I imagined what it would be like to be Darren Aronofsky. He is trying to tell a story from our scriptures in the best way he knows how. He was able to get an enormous budget for the movie and many high quality actors and actresses. Additionally, he seems to have told a compelling story. If this were not our story that we are so prickly about, we probably would like the movie. It seems to me that it is not kind to the many people who worked hard to tell our story to prejudge it harshly.

This is not to say that loving the story of Noah is a problem. Certainly we should be vigilant in out churches and homes about keeping the story accurate. God was, in fact, punishing a desperately evil world for its sin. We should be very mindful of the fact that sin is that serious and that God is that powerful.

But I suspect much of our motivation for being angry at this movie is not a fierce love of the story of Noah, but out of a sense of being oppressed. We have this pervasive feeling that there is this evil liberal culture out there that is intentionally and harshly twisting our stories. We wince every time Christianity is discussed because we will be called intolerant and mocked. We feel our slipping cultural and political influence and it makes us afraid.

While I understand this feeling, it is silly. If we really serve the God of Noah who can cover the world in a flood and rescue a single family, I think he can handle a change in the religious demographics. We should not feel like an oppressed people who are being marginalized by our society. We are being embraced by a God who really loves us and is really in control. We should not be afraid, we should be free.

And what we should be free to do is love. We should love Darren Aronofsky and treat him like we would want to be treated. If I made a film about Mohammed, I would want the Muslim community to at least give the film a chance before condemning it.

Additionally, Darren Aronofsky has given us a wonderful gift. He is, in fact, telling our story. Sure he added some environmentalism and tossed out most of the idea of sin, but he still has a guy name Noah and a flood that wipes out almost all of humanity. He has presented our story to a huge audience. We should not condemn this, we should embrace it. Let’s let him tell our story  and get it 80% right, and let’s take responsibility for teaching our world the missing 20%.

Thank you, Darren Aronofksy. We appreciate you bringing Noah and his family to the forefront and allowing us the opportunity to talk about something that is precious to us. I’m sorry for my fellow believers that have been unkind to you. We love you and appreciate the lovely piece of art you have made.

-Chip

The “Requiem for a Dream” Problem

Requiem_for_a_dreamAs anyone in the pornography recovery community can attest, there is a real challenge in determining what is safe to watch at the movies. There are bits of culture that are more difficult to avoid like commercials and billboards, but what we pay for at the theater is very much in our control.

The classic case of this is what I call the Requiem for a Dream Problem. The movie, Requiem for a Dream, is the story of how heroin addiction destroys the lives of four friends. Everything about the movie appeals to me. I have struggled with pornography addiction myself (not heroin, by God’s grace) and I love the raw nature of the movie. By all accounts, it is a classic film and worth seeing.

Unfortunately, it also has graphic sexuality and nudity which is only aggravated by the fact that I find Jennifer Connelly to be one of the loveliest actresses out there. So this movie is my equivalent of  an alcoholic walking into a bar. I should not watch it.

Hence, the Requiem for a Dream Problem. At what point does the artistic merit of the film fail to outweigh the sexual temptation it will cause me. I suppose it could be called the Black Swan Problem or the American Beauty Problem, both of which are thought-provoking movies with serious sexual content. I wish I could watch them, but I can’t.

As with most problems, one should first look at the Bible. I looked for the movie watching guide in there and wasn’t able to find one. But there are important principles that apply. I should be cognizant of my own weaknesses for lust and considerate of the harm the film may do to others. Requiem for a Dream might make put a friend with a history of heroin addiction in a terrible position for entirely different reasons.

We should remember that movies are just stories and storytelling is an important art in all cultures. There is real artistic value that serves my soul in many films. We should be looking for the good in them. The Passion of the Christ may have an attractive woman in it, but the merit for honoring God is so profound that I should resist temptation and enjoy the wealth of God-honoring praise this movie brings to my heart.

There are also many foolish ways to approach this problem. For anyone who struggles with lust (read men), the idea of flipping through channels or going to a movie with no research is foolish. No plan is a plan and in this case, it is a very bad one. Our art culture is far to saturated with sexual imagery for us to march on with no plan. If you’re going to a movie, check it out online to see if it meets your conscience’s standard.

This begs the question, What is my conscience’s standard? How do I determine when a film (or any piece of art) crosses the line from being flawed but acceptable and when it becomes too harmful to warrant watching at all? This is a very personal line, but I want to discuss some ways to think about the issue.

Redeeming Value vs. Tempting Content

To be sure, images and movements are not evil in and of themselves. Sins only happen in my heart. A nude image of a women is not inherently evil (in fact, she was created “very good”). What if that image were of my wife? It would be good and even holy for me to drink deeply in delighting in her. The Bible in unblushing in its recommendations to enjoy one’s spouse (Pro 5:18-19).

Additionally, there is merit to the idea of redeeming value in a film. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films ever made and yet it opens with a sex scene. It holds out such virtues as perseverance, hope, kindness, and justice. I love the line that Andy Dufresne gives, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

I don’t know if Andy is right, but it is a great quote in a wonderful movie. Is the film worth the temptation I face in the opening scene? I think so. I often skip the opening entirely as it is not that pertinent to the rest of the film.

But I must be careful. More often than not, I am tempted to find a movie I want to see, then I go scrounging around for artistic merit so I have an excuse to watch it. I am not an unbiased observer. Many men are looking for excuses to see these films and it is not in a search for holiness, but in a search for cute girls not wearing much.

We are like a kid at the grand canyon. We don’t ask what is a safe distance to view the canyon from, we ask how close we can get to the edge without falling.

What is tempting to me?

Another important consideration is what specifically tempts me. Obviously, nudity is very tempting and I almost never watch films with nude women. I had to give up the shows House of Cards and Game of Thrones for this reason. I really like both, but it was simply not worth the temptation and sin it was causing.

I can’t watch any movie where girls kiss other girls. For whatever reason, this is a weak spot for me. A film need not have nudity or even sex scenes to be problematic. So when you are determining what is acceptable for you, know your own heart and steer clear of your own weaknesses.

What is loving for the actor or actress?

If 1 Corinthians  6:18 is right and whenever an actor or actress sins sexually, they sin against their own body. It would be unloving in that case to support their efforts to hurt themselves. The fact that it is consensual is irrelevant. I recently had a compelling discussion with a friend who said that he will not watch a movie where an actress had to undress in front of the camera crew even if no nudity is shown on screen. He argues that it is unloving to her to support her exploitation by men.

A more compelling argument is to ask, What if she were my daughter? I love my daughter very much and it would break my heart if she were to be ogled by a whole camera crew (who, by the way, would immediately go an jack off in the bathroom). It would break my heart.

To be honest, I don’t know how far to carry this standard, but I found it very compelling. If you want a more clear discussion about it, check out Cap Stewart’s excellent article Sex, Lies, and Star Trek.

Is it Lawful? Is it Helpful? Is it Enslaving?

In the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll makes the case that many of the wisdom decisions we make need to not simply ask, “Is this a clear sin?” There needs to be a higher standard. He suggests 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a guide. In Paul’s argument, he asks whether something is not only sinful, but helpful. Pastor Mark then applies this more broadly to ask the following three questions.

Is it lawful? This excludes everything the Bible forbids and that the state forbids.

Is it helpful? This asks if the film benefits me. Is there a good reason to consume the film beyond the fact I have an evening free.

Is it enslaving? Will the image of that girl follow me around the rest of my life? Will I have to use extra self-control later because I won’t use it now? Will I sin because I watched this film?

Will your freedom cause others to stumble?

Let’s say you set a clear standard and have satisfied your own conscience. You are fully convinced in your own mind what is safe for you and are comfortable with a film. Wait, there is a final consideration.

Romans 14 is a whole chapter about how Christians should give deference to the weaker brother. We should always ask if this will cause another to stumble. This is strange for me to say because I may be the weak brother. I am asking you not to put me in a tempting situation. Almost every time I see someone cite Romans 14, they assume they are the stronger believer. Not so this time. I am the weaker brother.

We need to be very cautious and respectful when recommending and watching films that we are not setting up a brother to sin. Practically, this means no one should ever watch any of the Transformer films (they are so sexualized and they are just awful movies anyway).

So What do I do?

If you have asked all the above and your conscience is still uneasy about a film, you probably shouldn’t watch it. The solution to the Requiem for a Dream Problem is that I will never watch the movie. I want to. I really do. But it is not safe for me.

-Chip

The Movie Poster above is under copyright and is used under a Fair Use.

When Is Public Indecency Acceptable? (Reblog)

girl_covering_eyesThis article by the wonderful blogger Cap Stewart is one of my favorites. It is reblogged with his permission. 

During a recent plane ride across the country, I looked up from my seat and encountered two people pretending to have sex—right out in the open. They didn’t act in the least bit ashamed or embarrassed. They weren’t completely naked, but discarded pieces of clothing were clearly visible.

A quick glance around the cabin revealed that some of the other passengers had seen the incident as well, but none of them were reacting to it. Some continued their business, while others seemed content to watch passively. No flight attendants intervened; no one protested. It was a surreal experience—one which provided me with an opportunity to apply God’s grace in fighting the temptation to lust in my own heart.

What happened after that? Well, the bedroom episode ended and the movie went on to another scene. Yes, it was “only” a movie. But does that relieve you at all? If so, something is dreadfully wrong.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between what is inappropriate in “real life” and what is inappropriate in front of a camera. We have laws against public indecency. But the same indecency, if put on film—where thousands or millions more might see, and which can be paused or replayed at any time—is suddenly socially acceptable.

You’re probably aware of the debauchery-infused performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards last week. It seems that most people, Christian and otherwise, agree on the impropriety of this VMA dance number. But my guess is that if that same dance routine was a scene in a movie, no one would have responded with such outrage. In fact, many Christians would likely have gone to see the movie—as long as it had some “redeemable” content, that is.

(click here to read the rest of the article at CapStewart.com)

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 22, A Tough God

wwjd-whipOne of the myths that we believe today is that God is a bit of a wimp. Since every picture we see of Jesus he has long flowing hair and has a gentle, peaceful expression in his eye, clearly he couldn’t handle himself in a fight. In fact, all he does all day is look thoughtfully into people’s eyes and tell them how much God loves them, right?

Well, not if you read Matthew 23. Jesus walks into church while the pastors are there and publicly says this:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:13-15

Let’s briefly review, he said they were hypocrites, they don’t let people into Heaven, and that they themselves were going to hell. One begins to understand why they were trying to kill him. He says much more in the chapter, but this is a good summary.

Far from being a wimp marching through Palestine telling everyone to be nice to each other, Jesus has a sharp edge to him. Certainly he advocated loving your enemy and turning the other cheek, but not like a wuss would. He did not love peace out of fear but out of courage. He trusted his Father so deeply and loved his enemies so much, he would publicly humiliate them to show them their hearts.

He also loved the crowd too much to let their hypocrisy reign unchecked. There were confused people in this crowd who were following these teachers. They needed to be warned.

One of the most influential works on my view of Jesus is The Visual Bible – The Gospel According to Matthew. Their interpretation of Jesus’ confrontation is here. Bruce Marchiano, who plays Jesus, did the whole scene in one take and when he was done, he walked away and told the director, “He Loved them. It broke his heart because he loved them.”

Far from the macho super independent man of the James Bond films, Jesus was tough because he loved.

Be Honest with God

There is a few important lessons for us in this. First, God is tough enough to take our honest prayers. I think we somehow protect God from our frustrations and anger with him because we think he has a sensitive ego. We don’t want to hurt his feelings so we aren’t honest with him. This is flatly not how Job, Moses, Elijah, David, Jonah, and Jeremiah talked with God. They clearly respected him, but as a Father they knew they could be honest with.

One of my favorite exchanges in all of scripture is Jonah’s complaint to God when he spared Nineveh.

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:2-3

Jonah had a sinful heart and he trusted God enough to be brutally honest with God about how he felt. And notice that despite Jonah’s rank immaturity while he threw a tantrum to the God of the universe, God was patient with him. Even at Jonah’s request, God didn’t kill him.

We need to take a lesson from this. God is trustworthy not simply with our nice feeling, but our mean and selfish ones as well. It is hilarious that we try to hide our faults from an all-knowing God. We are a bit stupid sometimes.

Love Isn’t Always Nice

The second lesson we should take away is that loving people will involve aggressive conflict sometimes. Love is always kind, but it is not always nice. Many times the grace of God to me has been men and women pushing me in not very nice ways. Sometimes they were outright sinning against me. But that did not mean that God was not teaching me something in it.

We need to be much more interested in serving people than in having smooth relationships with them. I fear that I am part of a generation of wimps who are much more interested in being liked by people than loving them. As I watch men grow in their relationship with God, almost universally they become more bold. With that boldness comes conflict. With the conflict will always come the criticism that they have become arrogant.

You see, none of us like to have our sin called out. It is much easier to blame the messenger than to search our hearts. Shooting them down as arrogant or the church word, legalistic, is a lot easier. That is not to say that there aren’t arrogant and legalistic people in the church, but we should first search our hearts to see if they have a point.

Courage Comes from a Relationship with God

Jesus did not have his courage from a vacuum. He was doing “only what he sees the Father doing.” We have the courage and wisdom to know when to confront people by being like God. If we stay close to him, that shields us from arrogance because it is a but silly to stand arrogantly next to God. We also live knowing that he is behind us and if I have his approval, I can deal with your anger.

Correction is Done with Gentleness

It is not enough to simply correct each other. We must do so with gentleness.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. 2 Tim 2:24-25a

We are being like our Father when we correct gently and patiently. There are many men out there correcting out of their anger and not out of love. The man who corrects out of love is looking to win his brother, not destroy his brother. The gentle, patient, and firm correction is a trademark of just such a man.

Gentlemen, we serve a tough and wonderful God. Let’s lean heavily on him to give us the courage to not only do the nice thing, but the right thing.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy, Part 21 Set Free to Set Free

prison-cell1To be in recovery means that many men have served me. What a joy that those men invested in me and worked for my delight in God! Recently, I have realized that with that profound service they have provided comes a responsibility. I am to give the grace that God has given me to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2 Cor 1:3-6

God has provided comfort to me that I am joyfully obligated to bring to others. I find it fascinating that Paul says, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.” I don’t think this simply means righteous suffering, but also suffering for our sins. My affliction which is from my sin can be for the comfort of others.

How liberating is that! Not only is my suffering working out for my joy, but also for the joy of others. I have, in the past, wrongly felt that the only suffering that God could really use was ‘righteous’ suffering from really spiritual people. You know, the Bible Superheroes. This is obviously wrong, but I believed it.

Take, for example, the sin of David with Bathsheba. David suffered terribly for his sin. God killed his son. But then God used that to bring about the birth of Jesus. Talk about redeeming a terrible situation. It doesn’t make the sin less evil. It shows that God is simply that powerful.

What about Paul’s sinful desire to kill the church at Damascus? Talk about evil, his purpose was specifically to stamp out believers in Jesus. Surely God couldn’t redeem that. But Jesus kicks him off his donkey, yells at him, leaves him blind for several days (it took a bit of work to get the message through), and then created the most effective missionary ever. Paul’s sin was used to bring about Paul’s joy and mine.

Now obviously we should not “sin that grace may increase”, that is a special kind of corruption. But I should take comfort in the fact that God can and does use my sins to redeem me. And not just me, he uses my sins to help me be his hand to redeem others.

I am not simply set free to redeem myself. I am not a cul-du-sac of joy. No, I have been set free to help set others free! God doesn’t just let me watch him work. He lets me participate in his work. I am a little boy getting to work with my dad in the garage and “help” him work.

So gentlemen, don’t be content to simply be rescued by Jesus yourself. The deeper joy is being like Jesus and reaching out to others to show them the way. In the context of recovering from porn addiction, don’t be a wall flower. Be active in supporting your brothers who are struggling as well. God has provided special comfort and grace to you. Please don’t keep it to yourself.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 19, Bibles, Husbands, and Abuse

gun-on-bible-spritual-abuseAbuse is gross! And the absolutely slimiest and most putrid kind of abuse is abuse using the Bible. To take the good word of God and to use it as a weapon against your wife, disgusting!

So imagine my surprise when I found myself unknowingly contributing to such abuse. To be sure, I don’t know of any specific case, but someone may have read my blog and walked away with a false and dangerous belief.

I would like to correct that today.

As God does sometimes, he smacked me around. I was innocently reading the Desiring God Blog, minding my own business. I saw an article by Jonathon Parnell call When Sex Should Stop. The title piqued my interest. Then God began the beating. Jonathon lays out the case that we as a people (and I as an individual) has been misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Let’s look at those verses.

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The verses are fairly straightforward. married couples should make sure to have regular sex unless there is a need to separate to “devote yourselves to prayer.” As a guy who is a big fan of sex, what a boon. Now I have a verse for my wife!

Jonathon (and the Holy Spirit) don’t let me get away with that. He clarifies that this is not Paul saying, “My body is mine AND your body is mine!” This is saying that we each have authority over each other’s body. Far from verses I can use to manipulate my wife into more sex, these are verses that press me to serve my wife with sex. She has authority over my body. My body is there to serve her.

That hit me hard. I have pressured my wife before. It was very hurtful to her. I wasn’t treating her as a fellow heir in Christ but as a body that I had a right to. Rather than asking why she doesn’t want sex, I became irritable and entitled. Remember, the Bible does say her body is mine, right? The fact is, I didn’t marry a body. I married a person. She wants to be loved as a whole person, not as the only body the Bible says I can have.

Gentlemen, we have felt entitled to our wives for too long. I feel that because I believed wrongly about sex, that I may have lead you to use the Bible as a bludgeon for your cravings. God expects us to be like Him and to love her sacrificially like Christ loves the church. For my part in leading you away from that, I’m sorry.

Please read the article. Jonathon Parnell has challenged us to love our wives by being their servants. He’s right. We can do so much better.

-Chip