A Family Lunch at God’s House

feastArriving at Father’s house is always a bit of a challenge. Many times it is difficult to get the kids ready and get out the door and there is always that nagging feeling that I should have a better attitude before going. Either way, we finally arrive and the kids go to play and my wife drifts off to talk with some friends.

As I wander around and look around at God’s family, my family, I am struck by their…well…their strangeness. Uncle Joe is sitting in the corner quietly watching the mulling mass of family. He clearly doesn’t like crowds, but Father was here so he was will to tolerate them to visit Father again.

Aunt Linda is a gossip and I never really liked her even before I knew that. She reminds me of the witch in Tangled. All of her words are filled with half-truths and double meanings. I carefully navigate the crowd to avoid drawing her attention.

Little Billy found a way to spill koolaid on Father’s couch AGAIN! Seriously, where are his parents? That couch now has more red and blue spots on it than its original color. Father is a really rich guy, why hasn’t he replaced that eye-sore of a couch? Looks like Billy’s mom just saw what he did. She is so mortified that it happened again. Now I feel sorry for her. It looks like I am not the only one who gave a dirty look.

Cousin Norman is cantankerous as ever. That man does not know when to shut up. He very much has a speak first and think later philosophy. I see a number of faces giving him a wide berth. No one wants to be caught in his cross-hairs. Personally, I’ve made some peace with it. He is a jerk, but I can tolerate that most of the time.

Ah, finally someone I want to talk to. Cousin Jeremy (he’s actually my second cousin) is by the fish tank. He is a bit of a dweeb and while gregarious, he gets overwhelmed in crowds (I wonder if he and Uncle Joe would get along). Jeremy and I shake hands and discuss the latest tech gadget or website or something.

Both of us have a history of porn addiction of which we are both on the better side of recovering. It kind of bonds us though we both feel a little uneasy knowing how poorly the family would respond if they knew our history. We may be a family, but we can sure be a judgemental group sometimes. Most of the family would simply not understand.

Hearing the bell in the kitchen (which is the signal that it is time to eat) we call file in and sit at the very long table. The rough-cut wood always felt good to lay my hands on and none of us minded the long wood benches on both sides of the table (except Grandpa Randal, but he was never quite happy with anything).

At the head of the table was Father. A tall and strong man who had a well-trimmed white beard and a flannel shirt, we all respected him. He is hard-working, determined, direct, and hard yet carried a very sweet demeanor all the same. He was the sort that if you woke him up in the middle of the night, he used all of the hardness for you. He never complained about helping. He actually only really got on your case when you didn’t ask for his help.

Far on the other end of the table was our oldest brother Joshua. He was so much like Father but yet seemed to present the sweetness of Father’s disposition first and is less intimidating. He had done some amazing work for the family and had worked with Father to rescue us all a family from great danger! He still was scarred from his work, but he never complained. We all felt a deep debt to him.

But he was the sort who never called in debts. One quality they both possessed was endless generosity. No one seems to know where they made all of their wealth from. The food and help and joy seemed truly boundless. Even though the people sitting at this table were sometimes very difficult to get along with, we all agreed that as long as Father and Joshua were going to serve lunch, then we were going to keep coming. It seemed the Air between them was so crackling with happiness, calm, and peace that we just wanted to breathe it all day long.

Being the very messed up family that we are, it was not unheard of for a fist-fight to break out at the table and for Father to walk over and pick the combatants up and bring them out of the room for one of his legendary “talks”. Most such fights happened only once.

Father spread out his great big hands out and blessed the food. That is not to say he prayed. He just made the food a little more wonderful because he could!

In an instant He and Joshua were in action. Flashing in and out of the he kitchen door with plates of steaming food. It was more of a dance with fluid motions complementing the other’s actions. The serving of the food itself was a delight to behold.

And the steak. Yes, that’s right, steak. Steaming with a simply intoxicating smell. You barely needed your knife it was so tender. Each delightful mouthful seemed a tad better than the last. Combined with a wonderful grape juice and a lovely baked potato, Father had outdone himself.

Some of us fancied ourselves to be good with a grill, but Father put us all to shame. It remains wonderful to me how much he loves to serve us good things. Really good things. It is such a deep part of Him that I can’t imagine Him not being so giving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Him not taking care of us one way or the other.

As our bellies become full and a hearts happy, I noticed how much easier it was to care for my family. Sure they are a mess, but Father loves them very much. He is just as irritated by their stupidity as I am, but the well of His love for them is immensely deeper than mine.

We are a family because of him. If he hadn’t adopted all of us, we would never have gotten to sit at that table together and enjoy His wonderful food, wonderful demeanor, wonderful Self! As we move along as a family and slowly become more like Father, I think I could grow to even like most of them. One day, even love them.

It’s hard to hear Father criticized because of His adoptive family. We don’t represent Him very well. He knew that He would be criticized for adopting us and He did it anyway. Yet another way He is a great Father.

So, we left. Full from a meal at our Father’s table, we left to face another week of life in a challenging world with a messed up family. Father handed each of us an invitation to be back next Sunday for lunch. I waved to Jeremy on my way out.

I guess I’ll see him next week at our Father’s house.

-Chip

The great family photo above is courtesy of Andrew Lance and is used with permission.

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When You See a Tornado

4099585916_053b450ffa_bWith Easter just ahead of us, I have been asking myself why I don’t think much about storm shelters. A very natural question you must agree. These valuable, lifesaving devices spend whole years of my existence without serious thought. Part of the reason is that storm shelters are mostly underground and don’t draw the eye very much. They usually aren’t specifically made for aesthetic appeal.

It is the nature of purely function items to draw our attention much less often than flashier ones. Compare your favorite TV show (with no practical value) to the plumbing in your house (with immense practical value). Which one draws more of your attention? Which are you more thankful for?

The answer to that question will likely depend mostly on whether you have been without indoor plumbing before.

So this raises the difficult question of why I am not particularly thankful for storm shelters. Surely I should give a fleeting thought of gratitude for the men and women who thought of ways to protect me from dangerous storms. Why am I so prone to forget that they even exist?

Part of the problem is certainly that I am not often reminded of the need for them. If a tornado came tearing through my neighborhood once a week I would hold them in high regard. Not only that, I would invest heavily in one to make it secure and comfortable for my family when a twister comes barreling through. I would feel strongly about others having one as well and would consider anyone who doesn’t have one a fool.

Sitting in that shelter with the wind blowing in the ground above me, I would thank God that he had this kind of protection for us. I would hug my kids close and be so grateful this protection existed for all of us. I would send out Facebook messages talking of the wonders of my storm shelter. One of my greatest possessions would be my storm shelter.

But the fact is tornadoes do not weekly pummel my home. I don’t even own a storm shelter.

I think this is the fallacy I believe when I see Jesus on a cross and I don’t feel anything. I see the shelter but not the storm. I see the rescue but not the danger. If there really is a Hell and a Heaven, then Jesus’ rescue of my soul becomes sweeter than anything else. I go from apathetic about Jesus to a wonder-filled love of him.

The reason I am sometimes apathetic is that I don’t really believe there is a storm coming. If Heaven and Hell aren’t real, then Jesus’ cross is useless. Does it feel useless to you?

You obviously don’t think the storm is coming.

-Chip

Getting What I Deserve

you-deserve-it-abc-tv-showNext time you watch the Super Bowl, count the number of times that the commercials use the word ‘deserve’. No doubt, you will deserve a car, a soft drink, a burger, and a beer according to the advertisers. As easy as it would be to blame the advertisers for this, we must remember that they only say this because we believe it.

We feel that we are owed a car, a soft drink, a burger, and a beer. Why do we deserve it?

I am very cautious with the word deserve. It speaks of the just rewards we get for our actions. We assume that because we are good people that we are entitled to good rewards. God owes us. He should give us what we deserve.

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-31

While I have not murdered anyone it is possible that from time to time that I have been insolent, boastful, disobedient to parents, and covetous. Paul seems to think that far from deserving a beer, I deserve to die. And not just to die.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:6-11

The last line there, “For God shows no partiality” is a way of saying God is fair. He is giving us what we deserve. Notice as well what happens “who are self-seeking”, they will get what they deserve: wrath and fury.

What we deserve is Hell! We deserve for the eternal and holy God to punish us.

I don’t want what I deserve.

Many of the sins we commit come from this sense of entitlement. How much complaining, coveting, and doubting God’s goodness do we do because we don’t really believe that we deserve Hell? Imagine the gratitude we would feel if we fully believe we deserved Hell and then found a God who gave us Jesus, pizza, snowflakes, galaxies, friends, air conditioning, and Frank Sinatra music. We would be overflowing with gratitude for a God who did not curse us in our sin but instead pulled out his full creativity to think of ways to bless us.

The fact is that Jesus got what I deserve (which was not a Lexus). He took what i deserved and he gave me what he deserved (which is better than a Lexus). The God of the Universe looked at me and said, “I let my son suffer for him.” Why would he do this? I’m not really sure.

But I don’t want what I deserve.

-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 18, No Other Gods

altar“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
(Exo 20:3-5 ESV)

When reading the Ten Commandments, it is easy to overlook the first two. Not once in my life have I looked at a rock or block of wood and considered worshiping it. Even ones shaped like animals. No overwhelming urge to bow to them.

So obviously I should be more concerned with the other commandments, right?

Wrong!

People are worshipers. All of us. We have gods and we bow to them every day, every moment. My god is whatever I bow down to: whatever I will sacrifice everything else to keep. The man who gives up his family, his money, his church, his integrity, and his religion for porn. It is obvious what that man worships.

He, of course, would not give up everything if he didn’t have to. But if all of those things are put on the altar to porn and that man will light the match and sacrifice them. He has chosen his god and no one will get between him and the true love of his life.

We know we love them more because we sacrifice things to them. If our wive’s heart is broken, that is a sacrifice we are willing to make. Will our children be crippled in life from a very distracted dad? That’s OK, we are serving our true master. Could this be a primary cause of  a future divorce? Maybe, but that is a risk we are willing to take to serve our god.

So, obviously we should just stop bowing down to porn. Stop serving that god. That is when we discover the we must worship. Our souls will find something to pay homage to. The only thing that can topple one god is another god.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
(Rom 6:16-18 ESV)

The key to defeating the god of porn (or any false god) is to bow to the true God. Stop being slaves to sin and become slaves to righteousness. The fact is, Jesus is a good God. A kind God who loves me and wants to bring joy into my life. He is the only God that loves me enough to die for me. He commands me to abandon all other gods because he knows that they will kill me. He is the a God worth serving.

So brothers, don’t bow down to a naked god who will rob you of joy. Bow down to Jesus. He is the only one who can satisfy. With Jesus as your supreme joy, every other joy (sex, food, rest, work) can be a wonderful servant, not a terrible master.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 17, My Battle Plan

chessIn my recovery group, a recent topic was what our plan is for temptation: our battle plan.

When facing temptation to lust, there are so may opportunities to fail. The consensus was that if you don’t have a plan, you are much more likely to give into temptation when it comes.

Honestly, I sorta kinda might have a semblance of a modicum of a procedure that, when looked at a certain way, could be considered a plan. Now my sorta plan has worked OK, but that makes me think that if I had a real plan, it might work better.

Today, I will make a plan.

I have decided to divide my plan up into the three components of a person: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.

The Physical

Sexuality is a physical drive. Like sleep and thirst, it serve a necessary biological function and has a prominent physical dimension. So my plan includes:

  • Get enough sleep. I am much more prone to all temptations when I don’t get enough sleep.
  • Have frequent sex with my wife. God has given a proper and good place for sex to be enjoyed. I should drink deeply from it, then I won’t be as hungry for things I shouldn’t have.
  • Avoid going to places of previous temptation. I should not park in front of a strip club (even though I have never gone into a strip club, I have been tempted). I should also avoid adult stores.
  • It is important what I look at. My eyes should linger on my wife and should look away from other women. I have come to believe that I delight in what I look at. So I need to be careful to look at what is good for my soul.

The Emotional

Pornography does not simply fulfill physical drives, it also tries to satisfy emotional drives (though in the end, it leaves you unsatisfied). It feels empowering to have a woman looking longingly at you, even if it is just a video. So it is important to address the emotional needs.

  • Spend time with my wife. It is important to enjoy the right place for real community. It helps me see how counterfeit the buzz from porn really is.
  • Spend time with God. He is my Father and he loves me. If I believe he loves me, it is much easier to trust him with he says, “Watch Out! This is dangerous.”
  • Write my blog. Helping guys who struggle with porn is very helpful in my own struggles.
  • Have Covenant Eyes on every internet access. Knowing that my accountability partners will call with any questionable site visits is often enough to help me resist temptation in the moment.

The Spiritual

In the end, no sin is a physical act. It starts in my heart and comes out in my actions. So caring for my spiritual needs is essential.

  • I need to regularly pray. Talking with God has an uncanny power to reduce temptation. I think it is because I am enjoying a better pleasure in prayer.
  • I need to regularly read the Bible. God created a book that ” is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I should pay attention.
  • It is very helpful to me to listen sermons online. there are great preachers out there and it is so good to have the technology that I can listen to them .
  • Regularly attending a recovery group. One of the best ways for me to keep focused on resisting the temptations of pornography is to help other men in their struggle. It is really good for my soul and constantly reminds me what I have left behind.

Now that plan is what I will do before I am tempted, but it really doesn’t address what I will do when I am tempted. Really, when temptation strikes, I will do all of the same things I did to prevent temptation. Leaving a tempting environment, praying, talking with my wife, listening to a sermon; all of these are effective in the moment as well.

So gentleman, I would encourage you to write out your plan. It can help you.

God Bless.

-Chip