Dear Christian Porn User

Dear Christian Porn User,

I know what you’ve been up to. I’ve seen the browser history, the credit card bills. I’ve found that stash of magazines you thought you hid in the basement. I’ve heard your stories when you thought I wasn’t listening. You may think you’re being clever, but you’re not.

You’ve probably said you think there’s nothing wrong with it – that no one is harmed by it. But your attempts to hide it and your defensiveness when caught betray that your heart knows differently. We do not hide that which is right and just and pure.

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I know you go to church every week and have called yourself a Christian all your life, but don’t fool yourself with your title. Do not let who you think you have to be blind you to who you really are. And listen up, because I’ve got some things to say to you!

Jesus loves you.  

Yes, I know. I know you’re a hypocrite. God knows, too. And He’s crazy about you – right now! He loves you. It’s not conditional. He doesn’t ask that you change your ways before you accept His love. In fact, accepting His love is the only way to change your heart.

The gospel is for you.

You’ve often heard about how we need to tell the unchurched about Jesus. But, the good news is, the gospel is for you, too. While you were an enemy of God, Christ died for you. He took on the wages of sin for you. On the cross, He  freely chose to die, forsaken by His Father and without hope for Himself, to give you the right to a new life.

You are valuable.

The cross tells of your value. The God of the universe – the one who can create stars or tell mountains to rise up or to fall down – He offered His Son to bear the price of your sin and mine. Do not reject or scorn the value He places on having a relationship with you.

Now, leave it!

Walk away from it. You know the fleeting moments of pleasure are a high price to pay for the dysfunction it’s brought to your home and the chaos in your heart and soul. So leave it. You’re tired of the scramble for more and feeling like it controls you. So leave it. But you actually can’t, can you? You’ve tried and it pulls you back every time. Perfect! Yes, perfect! You are in the perfect spot to drop your pride, stop the charade and proclaim your utter helplessness.

Call out to Jesus.

I know you are in the church, but call out to Him from the broken place you find yourself. His mercies are new every morning. Now is the time for salvation. Allow His love to soothe and heal those hurts of your past that have been so influential in where you find yourself today.

Pray these words:

Lord God, I acknowledge that I am unable to control my desires. You know the brokenness of my life. I need you, Lord. I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Thank you for displaying Your love and might on the cross through the death and resurrection of Jesus. You overcame the power of sin on my behalf! Sin no longer has to reign over me. Jesus, I want my old life to die with You and Your risen life to live in me. Holy Spirit, remind me of this love and new life throughout my day. Thank You for loving me even while I am a sinner. You are a compassionate God, full of mercy. In Jesus name, Amen.

I urge you to find two or three Christ-followers who will not condemn you, but will walk with you in humility and uplift the cross of Christ to you daily. In His strength is your freedom. In His love is your healing. You cannot do this alone.

Now, to you other Christians still reading because you wanted to see what cursings might be called upon the sinning pornography users, I hope you realize that a good many things could be the topic of this blog. Exchange pornography for pride, workaholism, gossip, greed or self-exaltation. It’s not as easy to count the victims of those acts, but they are destroying others and ourselves just the same. They are a violation of the law of love – out of harmony with God.  My message to you is the same.

People” don’t need Jesus.

WE need Jesus.

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Where is Jesus?

I was invited to an ongoing outreach training seminar a while back. It sounded like a denominational program, held in a denominational building, with the goal of converting others to our denominational beliefs. Even though an old friend was heading it up, I had less than no interest. Despite holding the denominational beliefs as true, I often severely disagree with the sub-culture, and attending a planning committee to multiply that sub-culture in our community was not top of my list for use of my free time.

Why are we so driven to convert others to Jesus if He’s so impotent that He can’t accomplish anything in our own lives?  Why do we even need Jesus if our primary focus is on working harder, being good, and making right choices? Oh, I’m sure none of us would actually say we don’t need Jesus, but we live it all the time. How often in response to a guilty conscience do we turn toward ourselves instead of Jesus? More often our thoughts probably go something like “I should really stop being so fill-in-the-blank. I should try harder at that next time.”  Where is the power of God in that? How has Jesus impacted your life there? He gave you a standard you feel obligated to live up to, but other religions or philosophies can do that. What’s so special about Jesus if all He’s done is given you a behavior goal to work toward?   Where is Jesus in self-improvement and good living?

We may for a time convince ourselves and others that trying hard to be good is resulting in success. But that is not reality. We cannot fix our sin problem by trying hard. It’s a convoluted, dysfunctional journey when we try to play the role of God in our lives. At some point we will each get sufficient  evidence to realize that we are broken and in need of Jesus. But if our beliefs have taught us that people who are really saved are not broken, and if we hold our salvation and beliefs tightly, then we will not be able to admit our own brokenness. We become narcissistic and victim-driven in our thinking and look for explanations for our hardships outside of ourselves. Our own beliefs that could have kept us humbly at the feet of Jesus instead cause us to cling more strongly to our self-righteousness. Being broken is risking too much. Where is Jesus in the charade?

Church, your talk is often focused on how much the unchurched need Jesus and the truth. You don’t talk nearly as often about the need for Jesus’ power in the lives of church members. Sure, you’ll say you need His help and guidance so you can do a better job at converting them, but generally that’s as far as it goes. Perhaps those on the outside of the church need Jesus, while those on the inside are only needed by Jesus to do His work. Your words may say otherwise, but over time the cultural atmosphere says the saved don’t need Jesus like the unsaved need Jesus. So what’s wrong with me when I fail? Why do I need Jesus so much? Am I actually one of them and not one of us? Maybe I don’t belong. Where is Jesus in this self-righteous club?

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I didn’t start attending a house church community so I could be on the cutting-edge of evangelism.  My focus wasn’t on reaching a new group of people to save or serving as a missionary in my city. I went to be surrounded by others who admit they stumble as I do, so I know I’m not alone. I went to be with those who want to be reminded of how good Jesus is when they forget, and who will do the same for me when I forget. I went to find Jesus, because I need Him. Oh, I’ve stumbled there, too. I’ve gotten wrapped up at times in the process and thought the key was in the “how” and not the “Who”. “It” has been so much more deeply ingrained in me than “He” has. But He has touched my heart in a way that “it” never could.  There is no deep abiding power in a list of beliefs. The power lies in knowing in Whom we believe.

Jesus is there.

His power lies in the impact of His grace that removes my need to prove myself to Him. In my weakness, I am enough because He is enough. His power shines in His omnipotence that lets me rest and not fight to control. He is able to control all things. His power is in His goodness and glory that fulfills my cravings, allowing God to become bigger and other people smaller. He frees me of my idols. His power will naturally bring my behavior into alignment with His will, not because He forces me, nor because I’m working hard at it, but because His love draws it out of me. His yoke is easy.

Jesus is there. 

I have found His covering righteousness shining in the writings of Ty Gibson and heard His grace and justice in the preaching of David Asscherick. I have surprisingly been drawn to His goodness in the words of Ellen White. And I found Him this week at that outreach training seminar, held in a denominational building with a distinctly denominational group, where we decided the most important outreach focus for next year is for each one of us to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus and to rely on Him daily. The power is in the relationship and it is through our abiding in His power that others will come to know Him.

Jesus is there. 

 

The Gospel Lens ~ An Evolution of Theories

Over the years I’ve had some defining moments that have prompted me to put my beliefs into words. The first was about this time six years ago. My late husband was on hospice. He and I, and our kids, signed a family pledge. It went like this: “Because Jesus is coming again to take His friends to Heaven, we will, therefore, dedicate our lives to Him.”  I had a considerably longer version written out, but the challenge of writing it in calligraphy on a 12 X 16″ sheet of paper inspired me to distill it down to as few words as possible. So when push came to shove, the essence of my beliefs landed on, “Jesus has something I want, so I’m willing to give Him something back in order to get it.” I will always treasure that piece of paper with all of our signatures on it, but I find my gospel view… well… interesting.

About two years ago I had occasion to give a synopsis of my life view again. This time it read: “Because of all Jesus has done for me, I am a bond servant to Him.”  The essence of this statement sounds more like “Jesus has done something for me… and I will work at paying Him back.”  Again… interesting.

But I’ve come to some stark realities in the more recent past. These realizations are based on words that I’ve known for as long as I can remember being.

  • Jesus/ God doesn’t need my work. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He can command the rocks to cry out. All things are at His disposal. (Ps 50:7-10, Luke 19:40)
  • He doesn’t want my work. He’s not interested in any performance.  “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” (Ps 51:16,17 MSG)
  • I can’t give Him any good works of my own.  Every good and perfect gift is from Him. (James 1:17)  Anything I do on my own is as filthy as menstrual rags. (Is 64:6) That’s disgusting.

The 4 Gs

So, if that’s what the gospel isn’t, then what is it? I like this brief summary based on “The Gospel Primer” by Caesar Kalinowski (2013 Missio Publishing):

God is Great ~ so I don’t have to be in control. I can rest of my worries.

God is Glorious ~ so I don’t have to fear others. God is important, or “weighty”. In fact, He is the “weightiest” person in my life.  I can let go of seeking the approval of others.

God is Good ~ so I don’t have to look elsewhere for my satisfaction. People and things eventually fail to deeply satisfy my soul. Jesus is the better fulfillment of my every need.

God is Gracious ~ so I don’t have to prove myself to myself, to others, to God. While I was yet a sinner, God sent His son Jesus to die in my place. I don’t need to earn His love. He proclaims me worthy.

God is the hero.

He graciously gives. I gratefully receive.

Because of the gospel, I am free.

My burden is light.

That’s Good News!

I Hope I Cause You to Stumble

“Can I get my ears pierced?”  Perhaps for most readers, having their nearly-16 year-old daughter ask that question would stimulate a thought process no more complex than if she’d asked what was for supper.  However, coming from my Christian subculture, the topic of jewelry and ear-piercing has traditionally carried a weight similar to discussions regarding same-sex marriage or abortion.

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As my daughter made her request that day a year ago, I remembered my own similar request as a young lady. In response, I was given a booklet about why Christians who really want to follow God won’t wear jewelry. The booklet was primarily based on a couple of New Testament verses that I read and considered – but I didn’t see the connection. In my opinion the texts had been taken out of context and selectively applied. When I questioned the application of the texts, I was told that sometimes we just do things we may not understand in order to fit in with a social group. If we want to be part of the group, we do what they say. I accepted and complied. Now with 30 more years under my belt, I can accept that guidance as reasonable in regards to membership in a club or other social group, but I bristle at the suggestion that it is a good reason to follow religious traditions. You see the social group is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to fit in with us.”  The standards of the club make a statement about the character of its members. However, by its very nature, the church is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to be acceptable to God.”  The standards of a church make a statement about the character of God. That carries a whole different psychological and spiritual weight.  So while I have no problem with a social group saying I must do the happy-dance at the door or wear my hat to the left side in order to be a member, I don’t agree with a church making arbitrary requirements of its members.

The other “devout Christians don’t do that” arguments against jewelry are generally geared toward the topics of good stewardship and avoidance of vanity. While I agree those are important principles to consider when making decisions, I would have to say they apply to a whole bunch of things in life – the least of which is a $5 or even $50 set of earrings.  Yes, I could spend $5,000 more on a set of earrings, which would be extravagant for me and a poor stewardship choice. But a person could spend $5,000 more on a house or car or vacation or hobby. I don’t think we’re ready to ban those purchases or be the “extravagant” monitors.

My daughter got no booklet nor sermonette the day she asked about ear piercing. Her ears are now pierced, as are mine. She asked me for a list of rules about the when, where and what of proper earring use. We discussed the principles of stewardship, thoughtfulness toward those who don’t believe as we do, and modesty, but I didn’t give her a checklist. I trust her to make wise decisions in this area of her life, as she does in others.

Some of you might imagine that this has been a year filled with a sense of freedom for me, having broken the spiritual chains that bound me. But honestly, some aspects of it have been a struggle. The disparity between my personal tastes vs what I was taught a good Christian must look like, left me feeling uncomfortable. Ironically I have continued wearing my earrings, not out of some mid-life rebellion-based “I’ll show them” attitude, but out of the principle of the matter. I’ve found it requires me to trust more in the character of God when I accept there is no checklist of “things to do to please God” that will win me His favor. I have continued searching for fulfillment in a relationship with my Creator rather than in a list of requirements or in pleasing others. I have found my earrings inconsequential to that search.

If your church background is similar to mine, my earrings may upset you. If they do, I hope they cause you to stumble out of any works-oriented traditions that have provided a false sense of value and instead stumble into a genuine relationship, grounded in faith, with the God who made you, loves you, and longs for you.

Wrapping it up in Pretty Paper

The young man was angry. His life had not gone well. He had been cheated of so much that he truly needed as a child. And now as a young adult his life was spiraling out of control. Disappointed and dissatisfied, he began hanging out at the bar on his way home from his minimum-wage job, first occasionally, then more frequently and for longer periods of time. Soon his bar-mates were his closest friends. He was funny there. They liked him.  He found acceptance, but more than that, he found relief. He could forget about his troubles for as long as he was there. Reality was left at the door.

A friend outside of the bar began to notice the change in him – his lack of personal hygiene, his weight gain, and his lack of concern for being able to provide for himself. His friend was concerned and confronted him one day. His friend suggested that the young man get on a community sports team, find more uplifting friends, and get out of the bar rut. The young man saw the value in his friend’s words and did just that. He committed himself as much to the sports as he had to the bar.  With every smack of the ball he attached some of his anger. He became physically fit and attractive. Soon he was the best ball player in town. He was a hero on the field. He was valued for his skills. His team liked him. He found acceptance, but more than that, he found relief. He could forget about his troubles for as long as he was playing. Reality was left off the field.

“The function of an addiction is to remove intolerable reality.” (Pia Mellody)  We, in the human race, find some creative ways to package our addictions in order to make us feel better about ourselves and our addictions. One interesting addiction I’ve come across recently is being called “Orthorexia”.  Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Orthorexia nervosa[pronunciation?] (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder[1] characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.[2][3] The term orthorexia derives from the Greekορθο- (ortho, “right” or “correct”), and όρεξις (orexis, “appetite”), literally meaning ‘correct appetite’, but in practice meaning ‘correct diet’.

That’s quite a paradigm shift. The person who looks and acts the healthiest may in all actuality be very sick.

The point of this blog post is not to discourage fitness or healthy eating. They have their place. However, I find it good to remind myself that anything can become my god. Anything can become my idol. And anything that distracts me from getting to know Jesus personally on a daily basis isn’t worth keeping.  C.S. Lewis points out in the Screwtape Letters that the devil doesn’t really mind how he captures our attention away from God. If being preoccupied with church service is what distracts you or me from a relationship, that’s just fine with him. If I spend my time studying about and fretting over the clever ploys satan may use to trap me rather than spending my time learning about who God is and how He’s already freed me ~ the devil doesn’t mind. It all works the same. In fact, sometimes the “good” distractions are doubly effective.

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The pretty wrapping paper is deceiving. 

Religiosity

A poll completed nearly one year ago by Gallup shows that 77% of Americans consider themselves to be Christian.  The largest group, 52.5% of the polled population, considers themselves to be Protestant/ non-Catholic in their beliefs. Of that group, 79% stated that religion was important in their daily lives. What exactly is religion? What does that question mean?

According to the Meriam – Webster on-line dictionary, religion means the following:

re·li·gion

 noun \ri-ˈli-jən\

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods

: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

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The way I see it, there are actually three things at work in the question: religion, traditions, and spirituality.  We’ll consider the second definition first. “An organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.”  I will call that “traditions” or “religiosity” [Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine).] .  It says, ” Here are the rules for our group. If you want to fit in with us, you will look like this, act like this, speak this way, wear your hair like this, etc, etc, etc.” In my experience, it makes people more prone to compare themselves with others and to cause superficial lifestyle changes without a heart change. It may help with your emotional well-being. It may give you a place to feel good about yourself (or not – depending on your level of self-control). And it may help keep you out of trouble, which will improve your quality of living. But I find no Biblical support that outward actions will provide eternal life. Comparing Matthew 7 with Matthew 25 you will find that the saved and lost will have done many of the same things.  It is not saying that there is anything wrong with traditions or good works – in fact, there is a place for them and they are expected to be the natural out-flowing of a follower of Jesus – but they aren’t the ticket.

The first definition of religion – “the belief in a god…”, may spark a relationship that I would call spirituality.  This spirituality will also cause a change in behavior, but the relationship came first. Some say it is a behavioral change that we choose out of our love for God and what He has done for us. The more experience I have with life, people and God, the more it seems our behavioral changes themselves are only because He brings about the change in us. Our behavioral changes are gifts from the Holy Spirit. The only choice we really have is where and when we will be willing to submit our lives to Him and allow Him to change us.  The Bible tells us that our best is equivalent to filthy rags. The Bible provides no differentiation between the “best” of a sinner or the “best” of a saved person. So if something good comes of us, from us or through us, it is a gift from God.  All good and perfect gifts come from the Father above.

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesians 2: 7-10 The Message