ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life. The reason for this is not entirely clear.
Social support is no doubt part of the story. At the evangelical churches I’ve studied as an anthropologist, people really did seem to look out for one another. They showed up with dinner when friends were sick and sat to talk with them when they were unhappy. The help was sometimes surprisingly concrete. Perhaps a third of the church members belonged to small groups that met weekly to talk about the Bible and their lives. One evening, a young woman in a group I joined began to cry. Her dentist had told her that she needed a $1,500 procedure, and she didn’t have the money. To my amazement, our small group — most of them students — simply covered the cost, by anonymous donation. A study conducted in North Carolina found that frequent churchgoers had larger social networks, with more contact with, more affection for, and more kinds of social support from those people than their unchurched counterparts. And we know that social support is directly tied to better health.
Healthy behavior is no doubt another part. Certainly many churchgoers struggle with behaviors they would like to change, but on average, regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others.
That tallies with my own observations. At a church I studied in Southern California, the standard conversion story seemed to tell of finding God and never taking methamphetamine again. (One woman told me that while cooking her dose, she set off an explosion in her father’s apartment and blew out his sliding glass doors. She said to me, “I knew that God was trying to tell me I was going the wrong way.”) In my next church, I remember sitting in a house group listening to a woman talk about an addiction she could not break. I assumed that she was talking about her own struggle with methamphetamine. It turned out that she thought she read too many novels.
Yet I think there may be another factor. Any faith demands that you experience the world as more than just what is material and observable. This does not mean that God is imaginary, but that because God is immaterial, those of faith must use their imaginations to represent God. To know God in an evangelical church, you must experience what can only be imagined as real, and you must also experience it as good.
I want to suggest that this is a skill and that it can be learned. We can call it absorption: the capacity to be caught up in your imagination, in a way you enjoy. What I saw in church as an anthropological observer was that people were encouraged to listen to God in their minds, but only to pay attention to mental experiences that were in accord with what they took to be God’s character, which they took to be good. I saw that people were able to learn to experience God in this way, and that those who were able to experience a loving God vividly were healthier — at least, as judged by a standardized psychiatric scale. Increasingly, other studies bear out this observation that the capacity to imagine a loving God vividly leads to better health.
For example, in one study, when God was experienced as remote or not loving, the more someone prayed, the more psychiatric distress she seemed to have; when God was experienced as close and intimate, the more someone prayed, the less ill he was. In another study, at a private Christian college in Southern California, the positive quality of an attachment to God significantly decreased stress and did so more effectively than the quality of the person’s relationships with other people.
Eventually, this may teach us how to harness the “placebo” effect — a terrible word, because it suggests an absence of intervention rather than the presence of a healing mechanism that depends neither on pharmaceuticals nor on surgery. We do not understand the placebo effect, but we know it is real. That is, we have increasingly better evidence that what anthropologists would call “symbolic healing” has real physical effects on the body. At the heart of some of these mysterious effects may be the capacity to trust that what can only be imagined may be real, and be good.
But not everyone benefits from symbolic healing. Earlier this month, the youngest son of the famed pastor Rick Warren took his own life. We know few details, but the loss reminds us that to feel despair when you want to feel God’s love can worsen the sense of alienation. We urgently need more research on the relationship between mental illness and religion, not only so that we understand that relationship more intimately — the ways in which they are linked and different — but to lower the shame for those who are religious and nonetheless need to reach out for other care.
This post was written by T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford and the author of “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God." For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/luhrmann-why-going-to-church-is-good-for-you.html?_r=1&
Several years ago, I got into a debate with a close friend and the conversation went quickly south. What began as a discussion about our theological and political differences ended up in a shouting match in which each person's character was called into question.
I went into the argument with a "win-at-all-costs" mentality. Winning a disagreement was the only way I knew how to disagree, but what I lost wasn't worth the victory. I said plenty of things I didn't mean. As the saying goes, "I won the battle, but lost the war." And lost a great friend in the process. We haven’t spoken since.
I may have won the debate, but it wasn’t worth the cost.
We’re never going to agree with everyone we come in contact with, but we must learn how to disagree in a way that honors Christ and His body.
Disagreement is an increasing norm in our lives, but we're marginally equipped. It's much easier to post disparaging remarks on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news articles. Digital disagreement allows us to hide behind a screen.
Just take a sampling of the Christian blogosphere, where heated debates on who gets into heaven, the biblical role of women and gay marriage, just to name a few, are commonplace. Spend time scrolling through comments where any of these discussions take place and you'll immediately lose your faith in humanity.
All of this painfully illuminates the question: Why can't Christians disagree well? Why are we so comfortable tarnishing the name of Jesus—whom we all call “Lord”—just so we can win the argument?
Christians spend much of their time focused on how to engage the un-Christian world around them—and rightfully so. Yet in doing so, we sometimes lose our ability to navigate conversations and relationships with our own brothers and sisters.
John didn't hold anything back when he said: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). We usually apply this to our relationship with unbelievers, but loving “one another” in and amongst our own is an incredible witness as well—for better or for worse. So how can we turn this around? What do we need to do in order to disagree with our brothers and sisters in love.
First, we need to understand that the underlying theme that allows for disagreement to happen in a healthy way is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be simply defined as seeking to understand before being understood. It's human nature to fight for your supposed “right” to an opinion and your supposed “right” to be heard. But the reigning mark of our faith is not holding on to our personal rights, but offering our Christ-reflective unconditional love. It's easier to hoard the opportunity to push someone else down than to sacrifice your right to be heard. But to uphold the name of love, this is often the harder, better way.
Emotional intelligence is sacrificing your rights in order to care for others. This is deeply rooted in the Christian faith: "In humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). By focusing only on yourself—your opinion, your agenda, your perspective—you shrink the world. Your problems become the lens you see everything through. You isolate yourself from a world looking for attention, love and human kindness. You cannot care for others when the world revolves around you. And you cannot build the Church body if all you are concerned about is yourself.
Yet in focusing on understanding the other, in an intentional act of love, your world expands. By seeking to understand before being understood, "our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection—or compassionate action," says psychologist Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.
Just like in any family, conflict among Christians will never go away. But when we learn how to seek understanding before being understood, we can begin to have healthy disagreements.
We can learn to focus on areas of agreement over areas of disagreement. And perhaps then, we can restore our reputation of love.This post was written by Tyler Braun of Relevant Magazine. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/why-dont-christians-play-nice
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
When living in Europe, I was on a business trip kilometers away from Karyn, my wife. Several of us went to a restaurant to have a meal. Over time, the group dwindled down to me, a female colleague and two other men. One of the men was dropping hints on the female saying that he wanted to see if her hotel room was bigger than his, to see her dog that she had back in her room, and other "seemingly" innocuous things.
I excused myself for a moment and as I stepped out of the bathroom to head back to the table, the woman was standing there at the door. She told me, "I don't know if you've noticed but "George" is hitting on me. I am really uncomfortable with him doing that. Could you make sure that I am not alone with him?"
She and I had become fairly good friends, we both had similar supervisory positions in the same company and I was kind of mentoring her since she was new to the position. I said to her, "what would you like me to do?" She responded, "when we back to the hotel (we were all staying at the same hotel), could you walk me to my room? That will discourage George and he will get the message I don't want him in my room."
I had no reason to believe that she had designs for me, but being a male with a big ego, I was taken aback for a moment. I had to make a decision. Which is more important at this moment? To respect and honor my female friend's request and risk people thinking I went to her room or choose to not be alone with her and avoid even the appearance of evil?
Do I choose to walk her to her hotel room and risk rumor or do I not so as to avoid any gossip? Do I choose to honor her or protect my reputation? It should be noted that she apparently did not have designs for me, she was wanting me to help send a message to a man who was engaging in sexual innuendo.
So, why the tire? Let me use this tire to illustrate the decision-making model.* Imagine at the center is my desire to please God in all that I do. That is the axle of this model. Now, imagine this tire divided into three parts. Each part representing the three goals of Ironstrikes. All of these goals are admirable and God-honoring. However, I was now faced with my personal integrity or honoring a woman , a choice between two good, yet seemingly conflicting goals.
This tire, separated into three parts, the three goals, is constantly on the move. For the tire to sit still and lay flat on one goal results in an out of balance tire. It will become flat if it doesn't rotate. At times, one goal is hitting the ground, at other times, another goal is in play. So, in following this illustration, no goal has precedence over the other. In making this decision, I had to keep those three goals in mind with full consideration of the axle, pleasing God, as the central basis. Pleasing God is what these goals revolve around.
I told my female friend that I would be glad to walk her back to her hotel room. As we went back to the table to conclude the conversation, I was praying about my decision and asking God for His wisdom. "Lord, did I make the right decision? Is honoring my friend's request more important at this moment than protecting my reputation?" The answer came pretty clearly.
Now, lest you think I'm crazy, no, I didn't hear God's audible voice. I felt a calm, a real peace at this decision and then in my head, God spoke thru my thoughts, in my own voice I heard, "You do what is right and I will protect your reputation."
We dismissed ourselves and I walked her back to her room. It was about a 15-minute walk. We got to the hallway that led to her room and she thanked me and went to her room. I then went to my room and called Karyn letting her know what happened so if she heard any rumors, she would know the truth.
So what do you think? Did I make the right decision? You may be thinking, "Dale sure made a big deal out of nothing." Maybe I did, maybe not. However, I learned how little things can become big things. I'm hoping that my example encourages you to be sensitive to God's leading in your life.
* I am indebted to my parents who devised this decision-making model. I have altered it here to fit this illustration.
BE A MAN.
I’m a member of Alaska’s largest church. It’s a lot like every other megachurch. We meet in a cavernous, windowless room with stage lighting and two huge projection screens. We’re led by a rock band and a casually dressed pastor. The service lasts exactly 75 minutes. Our church draws a large crowd that attends sporadically. There’s a relatively small, highly committed core of members that keeps the machine going.
I like my church. But it’s in Anchorage, 26 miles from my house. So my wife and I occasionally worship at a small traditional church in our little town of Chugiak. (Let’s call it St. Mark’s)
We’ve been enjoying our Sundays at St. Mark’s. The richness and rigor of the liturgy is refreshing after years of seeker-sensitive services. It’s an eight-course meal, carefully measured out for us by church fathers – confession, forgiveness, praise, instruction, communion, giving, fellowship and benediction. It’s like a spiritual multivitamin in an easy-to-swallow, hour-long pill.
St. Mark’s has a lot going for it. The people are friendly, but not overly so. There is a healthy number of kids and young adults. The facility is well kept. The sermons are insightful. We love the depth of the hymns – and the people sing robustly (as opposed to most megachurches where very few people sing). It takes my wife back to the 100-member churches of her youth.
But last Sunday was different. Once a month, this little church does a contemporary service. Gina and I were surprised – unpleasantly so.
We arrived to find the pastor without his clerical robe. A projection screen had been lowered in front of the organ pipes. We sang praise choruses instead of hymns, led by a solo guitarist who had trouble keeping the beat. The congregation did not seem to know the songs, so they sang tentatively. On a positive note, the sermon was good as usual, and the pastor skillfully used PowerPoint slides to reinforce his message.
But on balance, the overall quality of the service was not up to par. Had this been our first Sunday at St. Mark’s it’s unlikely we would have returned.
So what went wrong? This little church was trying to be something it’s not.
St. Mark’s is a traditional church. And it’s very good at being a traditional church. But it’s a lousy contemporary church.
It’s an article of faith these days that contemporary worship is the way to go if you want your church to grow. Thousands of churches will be planted this year – and every one will offer contemporary worship. Hymns are out – love songs to Jesus are in.
Traditional churches have seen young believers flocking to megachurches, so naturally they want to get in on the growth. But this is foolish. Traditional churches lack the musical depth, computer controlled lighting and sound equipment that are needed to generate the “praise-gasm” that young believers associate with God. Rock music seems out of place in a brightly lit chapel a communion table and stained glass.
People come to church to encounter God. A good worship service is transcendent; it helps people detach from this present world to connect with the divine. But when traditional churches try to be contemporary it usually comes across as forced, stilted or artificial. This dissonance jerks people back into the mundane world. Worshippers focus on the distraction instead of the Lord.
So here’s my advice to every church: be who you are. Do what you do well – and do it over and over. If you want to innovate, do so within the bounds of your culture.
Radio stations understand this princple. You won’t find the local pop music station playing the occasional Beethoven concerto. Nor will the country music station spin Lil’ Wayne’s latest rap record. Our local “Mix” radio station plays a variety of songs – but they’re all within the same genre – familiar pop/rock hits of the past 30 years.
If your church is big enough to offer two services, it might make sense to designate one a “traditional service” and the other a “contemporary one.” But if you offer just one service, stick with what you do best.
What has this got to do with men? Guys appreciate a quality worship service — but they are not very forgiving of anything hokey or half-baked. If guys want contemporary worship, they’ll go to a megachurch. Meanwhile, I firmly believe there’s still a market for traditional worship — even among the young — if it’s done in Spirit and in Truth.This post was written by David Murrow. For the original post, go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/04/why-traditional-churches-should-stick-with-traditional-worship/
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.
Last month I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.
First, a very quick history of congregational singing.
Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).
Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.
A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.
About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.
At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.
But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.
Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”
That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?
And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.
What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.
But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men?Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.
There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music.The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.
This post was written by David Murrow. You can find the original post here: http://churchformen.com/how-were-off-the-mark/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/
BE A MAN.
I’ve known more than one pastor who was a sexual predator. And, if it makes the reader feel any better, every one of them is out of the ministry now.
My observation however is that no serial adulterer occupying the pastor’s office entered the ministry with such sordid intentions. He fell into sin and one thing led to another. (Sound familiar? It’s how life works.)
So, what follows is for young ministers in particular who have not been snared in the lust-trap and wish to make sure they don’t. (For your information, I invited my wife Margaret to add her observations.)
Here are 7 lines pastors do not want to cross.
1) Do not use cologne. Women are sensitive to fragrances, my wife says, which is why they wear them in the first place. When a man wears them, he sends out a subtle signal, the type no wise minister needs to be emitting.
2) Do not hug women. One pastor said he hugs no one between the ages of 6 and 66.
To the minister who argues that “Well, I am a toucher and people need to be hugged,” I reply: a) Granted, but let women hug women and men hug men, if necessary and appropriate. b) In most cases, your “touching” indicates some physical or emotional need in yourself, and is not what healthy ministers do.
Even if your intentions are pure, you make yourself vulnerable to charges of inappropriate touching. And–do not miss this–in the minds of many, to be charged is to be convicted. Best to guard against these dangers.
3) Do not be in your office with a woman alone.
A pastor of a large church told some of us why he does not counsel in his office. “All she has to do is run out of the office screaming and your ministry is over.” When someone catches him following a worship service with “Pastor, could I come by and talk with you about a problem?” he answers, “Let’s sit in a pew right over here and talk now!” Their visit is in public, but far enough removed from people so that no one hears their conversation.
4) Do not be in the church alone with a woman.
This is more difficult for small churches that have no one on staff but the pastor. In my first post-seminary church, the secretary worked half-days. Often she and I were in the building alone all morning. In those cases, you do the best you can at keeping your distance, making sure the doors are unlocked and drop-ins are welcome, and when possible, have others in the office too.
A pastor I used to serve with would sometimes ask me to remain after hours because he was counseling a woman, and wanted to make sure someone else was in the building.
5) Do not make pastoral visits alone. If you knock on a door and find that a woman is home alone, do not go inside but visit briefly at the door. Many pastors take a deacon or their wife with them on such calls.
6) Do not compliment a young woman on her appearance. My wife says with women middle-aged and older, you can say, “You’re looking nice today.” But do not compliment a woman on her dress, her figure, tell her that her diet’s really working, and such. You are stepping over an invisible line.
7) Do not fantasize about women. Most sins of a sexual nature had their beginnings long before as the individual imagined certain situations with some individual. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, he was ready since he had been over that ground a hundred times before.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The “do nots” clearly have no end. But here are 7 “do’s” which a minister will want to observe to keep the enemy at bay….
1) When complimented inappropriately, laugh it off and change the subject.
“Oooh, pastor, you look so good today.” “Mmmm, preacher, I like the way that suit looks on you.” “Have you been working out, Brother Al? You’re looking good.”
The insecure pastor soaks this stuff up like a sponge. But you are not insecure. “You are complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10).
Do not acknowledge the compliment. It will only encourage her. Laugh briefly, then ask about her family or something–anything!–to change the subject.
2) Anticipate situations that may arise during the day and plan appropriately. That is, if you know a woman is coming for counseling, make sure your secretary or another minister is just outside the door. Pray always the Lord will guard you and give you wisdom about these things.
3) When you are close to some woman other than your wife, and you begin to sense all the signs of attraction–your temperature rising, your blood pressure elevating–walk away quickly. Make up an excuse, even if it’s only that “I just remembered something; I’ll be right back.” Then, get to your office or pretend to make a phone call and talk to the Lord. Ask for His divine protection. Just because your chemistry with that person is strong does not make it right. As a mature follower of Jesus Christ, you are beyond running your life by your feelings. (You are, aren’t you?)
4) Center your love, your energies, your everything on the Lord and your wife. (The Lord does not mind being lumped together with her. He planned it that way. See Ephesians 5:25ff.)
The biggest safeguard against sexual transgressions in the lives of ministers is a good relationship with one’s spouse. After numerous cautions against sexual sin, the writer of Proverbs counseled his son, “Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well” (Proverbs 5:15). In the margin of my Bible, I’ve written: “Focus on your wife, son!” Read on past verse 15 and he gets more explicit that that, with vs. 19 being one you probably won’t read in church, but it definitely communicates!
5) Have an accountability partner or a mentor. Or both.
If you are truly wise, you will have someone–usually an older, mature minister–to whom you can say anything. Such a veteran pastor has seen it all, has the scars to prove it, and has come up a winner. (The one thing you do not want in such a mentor is someone who has never suffered! Spurgeon said, “God gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”)
Once you find such a friend, you must meet with him frequently enough to be comfortable in speaking what’s on your mind. He must be a man of prayer who will pray with you and for you later. There is no way to over-emphasize this.
6) A healthy fear of the Lord is a good thing.
One pastor’s wife said of her husband, “I don’t have to worry about Frank straying. He’s too afraid of God.” He laughed and said, “You’ve got that right!”
Someone asked Andrew Murray the greatest thought that had ever occupied his mind. He answered, “My accountability to God.” Indeed. It’s enough to strike terror into our hearts and to drive us to repentance and submission. “Knowing the fear of the Lord,” Paul said, “we persuade men” (II Corinthians 5:11).
That said, we also rejoice that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Nevertheless, even the saved will give account for what they have done in this life. God help us to be found faithful.
7) Encourage younger ministers to be faithful.
If you’ve been in the Lord’s work as long as a decade, you are a veteran compared to those just leaving seminary. You have a lot to offer them. Reach out to the new ministers coming to churches in your area. Take them to lunch. Then, after the first session, both of you bring your wives. The ministry can be a lonely profession. No church member understands the stresses you and your family have to endure. That’s why no one ministers to pastors better than other ministers.
The goal is to be faithful. Do this and you will find a strength and courage beyond your own. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (I John 3:21). Yes, and confidence before men, too.
Toward the end of His ministry, our Lord told the disciples, “The prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me” (John 14:30). I like that. Readers may recall I told recently of meeting an old couple in a rural Alabama cafe. The man was in his 90s and the woman wasn’t all that far behind. They had been married four years, I think, and were clearly still in love. With a twinkle in his eye, the old gentleman said, “I have iron in my blood and she has a magnetic personality.”
When the devil waves his magnet over us, let there be nothing inside us that responds to his enticements. May we say, “He has nothing in me.”
And nothing “on” me.
This post was written by Pastor Joe McKeever. For the original post, go to: http://joemckeever.com/wp/7-sexual-lines-pastor-cross/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
We were visiting Amsterdam, exploring shops and the canals. At one shop on the canal there were the most beautiful flowers you have ever seen. It was a wonderful day. Everything was perfect. We were walking hand-in-hand enjoying Amsterdam. Kinda like two kids at a zoo. Excitement. Fun. Happiness.
The next thing I know, Karyn says, "don't look right." So, I put my right hand up to block my view. Then she said, "don't look left." So, I put up my left hand to block my view. So, now, I am walking down this street on this beautiful day looking like a horse with blinders. I said, "what's going on?" Karyn said, "we've stumbled into the Red Light District." I dropped my hands and looked around and yep, she was right. There were some windows with scantily clad women beckoning us to come in. We promptly turned around and left that street.
You ask, "how in the world didn't you know that you were entering the most famous Red Light District in the world?" Well, it was still bright out, even though we didn't realize the sun was starting to descend. If it had been dark, we would have seen the red lights warning us that we had wandered into "adult" territory.
So, what does this story tell us about temptation?
Well, I was certainly glad that I had my wife with me. She saw things up ahead that I hadn't noticed. She loves me and wants to protect our marriage. So, if you are doing something new, something you have never done before, it would be good to not be alone. Because you never know what is on that street.
The person you take with you needs to be committed to holiness and purity. S/he needs to be able to stop you when you start to go somewhere you shouldn't be going. Because you never know what is on that street.
Temptation sneaks up on you when you least suspect. We were having a great time. Exploring Amsterdam, enjoying the sunshine and building memories. Then, boom! There it is. Right in front of you. Sometimes, we are lulled into complacency or feeling really good and then we are blindsided. Temptation can come from anywhere. You know why?
Because you never know what is on that street.
BE A MAN.
Men have needed other men for centuries. Whether in the trenches or on the field, being part of a band of brothers is a sacred thing. Proverbs shows us that it is critical to have a brother to stand with us through adversity. To overcome pornography, we will need such a man.
Let the Proverbs guide you:
1. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” - Proverbs 17:17 The proverbs extol the value a faithful friend who has your back through thick and thin. They love at all times not just when you are doing well. When the stresses are running high because you blew it again, or when the time of adversity is imminent because your wife is done and ready to leave you, this brother calls you to greatness. They never give up on you or on your sincere desire to honor God with purity and integrity. Find a man like this.
2. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” - Proverbs 27:17 Your accountability partner needs to have “teeth.” You don’t need some pathetic wussy who tolerates your excuses and simply gives you a pat on the back saying, “better luck next time.” You want a man who creates sparks when he clashes with you like steel on steel. He cares deeply enough to confront and sharpen you by clear, direct advice and by telling you like it is. His perseverance is designed to bring the best out of you—God’s design for you. Find a man like this.
3. “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” - Proverbs 18:24 Remember: you are the average of the five closest friends you hang around with. Who are the quality God-fearing men in your world? Who can you count on? Those that are all talk with no follow through are the undependable type that won’t be what you need. Look for men of character—like a brother—who sticks close and isn’t a “no show.” Avoid ruin by getting connected to one who is trustworthy and consistent. Find a man like this.
4. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
- Proverbs 27:6 Sure, it might sting for a while, but don’t doubt this guy. Listen to what he says even when it hurts you. Know he has no other motive for speaking straight to you but that he signed on to walk with you in overcoming your impurity issue. Though it is about trusting in the Lord to overcome the porn, be sure to thank Him for a man who will speak the truth to you. Have confidence in his perspective. Find a man like this.
5. “The pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” – Proverbs 27:10 Look for a sincere man who takes seriously the role he will play in your life. His heartfelt approach with both his convincing and convicting manner screams that he loves you. His counsel is wise and good. Out of his compassion for you, he urges and compels you to do what is right. That is a good friend. You’ll look forward to seeing this guy because he always brings hope and leaves you feeling encouraged. Find a man like this.
6. “Instruct a wise man; he will be wiser still. Teach a righteous man; he will add to his learning.” - Proverbs 9:9 Face it. What you have been doing hasn’t given you freedom from your addiction. You will need wise and righteous input to overcome the hold porn has on you. You’ll need to learn new ways of doing things. Your way isn’t working. Righteous influence is the best. God’s way works. Be wise enough to receive instruction—to add to your learning. Be a man like this.
7. “A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than one hundred lashes a fool.” – Proverbs 17:10 You like being confronted? Yeah, right. Nobody does. The more aware you are of this battle, the more you know you need outside input to win this war. Ask God for an attitude of humility. It’s not simply a matter of discipline or the lashes might work. It’s surrender to God and the help of others. You need to listen and accept. Rebukes need to impress you. Why? Because you can see the bigger picture of the transformation needed. Be a man like this.
8. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” - Proverbs 28:13 Break the silence. Quit playing your little secret game as if nobody knows and it’s not affecting you or your marriage. Hiding your problem won’t bring you freedom. Things will turn around to the level you get honest with yourself, God, and others. With the confession and repentance comes the victory. You’ll receive mercy from God, and over time, grace from your wife. Be honest. Come clean. Be a man like this.
9. “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright of heart.” - Proverbs 14:9 Take responsibility for your problem. Don’t blame others. Deal with the guilt God gives you for your bad choices. Never say, “it’s no big deal” when God says that it is. Push for an integrity that will first honor the Lord and then will win your wife’s trust back over time. The Godly man is one who acknowledges his sin, makes the changes and then seeks reconciliation. Be a man like this.
10. “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” - Proverbs 7:24-27 Don’t kid yourself. Pay great attention, men! Your porn problem has got to end. It will destroy all that is dear to you. Make the choice to seek help until you find help. Don’t be a victim regardless of what you have been through. Choose to get off the highway to hell. Be a man like this.
This blog post was written by Dr Dave Currie. The original post can be found at: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/01/03/proverbs-about-accountability/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
It is high time you realized that your wives are under attack today! Everything they have been taught from earliest childhood is being subjected to ridicule and scorn. Hardly a day passes when the traditional values of the Judeo-Christian heritage are not blatantly mocked and undermined.
--The notion that motherhood is a worthwhile investment of a woman's time suffers unrelenting bombardment.
--And the idea that wives should yield to the leadership of their husbands, as commanded in Ephesians 5:21–33 is considered almost medieval in its stupidity.
--And the concept that a man and woman should become one flesh, finding their identity in each other rather than as separate and competing individuals, is said to be intolerably insulting to women.
--And the belief that divorce is an unacceptable alternative has been abandoned by practically everybody. (Have you heard about Sue and Bob?)
--And the description of the ideal wife and mother, as offered in Proverbs 31:10–31 is now unthinkable for the modern woman. (She's come along way, baby.)
--And the role of the female as help-meet, bread-baker, wound-patcher, love giver, home builder, and child-bearer is nothing short of disgusting.
All of these deeply ingrained values, which many of your wives are trying desperately to sustain, are continually exposed to the wrath of hell itself. The Western media—radio, television and the press—are working relentlessly to shred the last vestiges of Christian tradition. And your wives who believe in the spiritual heritage are virtually hanging by their thumbs! They are made to feel stupid and old-fashioned and unfulfilled, and in many cases, their self-esteem is suffering irreparable damage. They are fighting a sweeping social movement with very little support from anyone.
Let me say it more directly. For the man who appreciates the willingness of his wife to stand against the tide of public opinion--staying at home in her empty neighborhood in the exclusive company of jelly-faced toddlers and strong willed adolescents--it is about time you gave her some help. I'm not merely suggesting that you wash the dishes or sweep the floor. I'm referring to the provision of emotional support...of conversation...of making her feel like a lady...of building her ego...of giving her one day of recreation each week...of taking her out to dinner...of telling her that you love her. Without these armaments, she is left defenseless against the foes of the family--the foes of your family!
But to be honest, many of you husbands and fathers have been thinking about something else. Your wives have been busy attending seminars and reading family literature and studying the Bible, but they can't even get you to enter a discussion about what they've learned. You've been intoxicated with your work and the ego support it provides.
What better illustration can I give than the letter quoted on page 94. It came from a desperate woman whose husband is rarely at home, and even when he's there he has nothing to say. He prefers the company of Paul Harvey, who asks no questions and expects no answers. Furthermore, he's a first-class punkin eater." You know the story.
Peter, Peter, Punkin Eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her
Put her in a punkin shell
And there he kept her very well....
Yeah, Old Pete has got his little woman right where he wants her. She's cooped up in a house with two children under three years of age, changing diapers and wiping noses and cooking meals for him and Mr. Harvey. That's some existence for living, breathing, female with deep needs to be loved and respected. Not only does Peter not intend to met those needs, but he forbids her to take them elsewhere. He doesn't even want her to go to a Bible study class because, would you believe, he fears his kids will catch a disease. Never mind the disease that is choking the life out of his wife—the disease called loneliness. To the wives of all the world's punkin eaters, I say, "Go to the Bible study class anyway!" Submission to masculine leadership does not extend, in my opinion, to behaviors that will be unhealthy for the husband, the wife, and the marriage. Nor should a woman tolerate child abuse, child molestation, or wife beating.
The message could not be more simple or direct to a Christian man: the Lord has commanded you to "love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, giving His life for it." She needs you now. Will you fit her into your plans?
This post was written by Dr James Dobson. For the original post go to: http://www.drjamesdobson.org/articles/pray-for-america/message-to-husbands-of-homemakers
BE A MAN.
Pornography is instant gratification while relationships take time, effort, and investment. Of course, we do live in an "on demand" culture so what's wrong with instant? Instant requires no long-term commitments, no patience, and no sustained effort. It's just there when you want it. Instant works with iced tea, right? Why not sex? The truth is that while "instant gratification" has its appeal, it will never replace or hold up to the satisfaction of a healthy sex life in the context of a loving and committed marriage. Here are a few reasons why:
First, porn is a hamburger (not even a quarter pounder) while healthy marital sex is a fillet. Porn is quick, fast, and offers no lasting satisfaction. When you get done your "quality time" with your tissue box do you ever say, "That was amazing ... I'm totally satisfied!" The answer is probably not. I'd guess it's more like, "That did the job but I wish I would have found a better scene or held out just a little bit longer before I fired off the ol' rocket." I'm not going to tell you that every time you have sex with your wife it will be "the best ever" but if your sex life is healthy it should be satisfying. Why? Because it's more about intimacy versus a quick hit. Sex with my wife gives me a sense of appreciation from her that a computer screen can't ever offer. It is an incredible bonding experience physically, mentally and spiritually. Porn may be instant but the satisfaction it offers pales in comparison to the enjoyment I get from sex with my wife.
Second, porn offers no companionship. A healthy marital sex life not only gives spouses pleasure but it gives them a sense of companionship. When you get done with your porn what do you have? I mean besides some guilt, shame & a small mess to clean up. Porn doesn't ask you how your day was. It doesn't want or care to hear about what you think or feel. Porn will never come along side of you when facing hardship and say, "It's OK … we'll do this together." Porn quite frankly doesn't give a crap about you or your life; it's there whether you want it or not and the only thing it cares about is the money it generates. It may sound strange, but I'm very thankful that when I get older and less "viral" that I will still have an amazing companion who's also my lover. When you are 70 walking down the beach porn won't be there to hold your hand and see the sunset, your spouse will be. Porn may be easy but it doesn't offer anything lasting like loving companionship.
Third, porn is isolating while marital sex is a joint venture. Most people are social creatures by nature. We rather enjoy life’s moments with others instead of by ourselves. Would you rather go to a football game by yourself or with some friends that you can high five when your team scores (btw, why do we do that? It’s not like we had anything to do with it)? Hardly anyone says, “Hey I’m going to grab a beer after work … please don’t join me!” When we go out to eat it’s always better with someone even if it is our crazy uncle because at least we don’t have to sit at a table alone while the wait staff stares at us with puppy dog eyes because we look lonely and pathetic. Likewise, sex with your spouse is a shared experience. You are enjoying it with each other … not just by yourself. Porn however is not like this. You don’t hear guys saying, “Hey after work let’s all go back to my house, watch some porn and masturbate!” Porn is a very lonely and isolating experience. It’s just you, your computer, a bottle of lotion and some paper products. There is no shared enjoyment whatsoever; no conversation about how good the sex was and what you liked the best (unless you talk to your computer – that’s a whole different issue). Why settle for the isolation of a porn fueled masturbation session when you can experience sex with a spouse who’s mutually enjoying the experience? Again, porn may be quick and easy but it’s a solo venture.
These are just three reasons why healthy sex in the context of a committed and loving relationship trumps the instant gratification that comes with porn and masturbation. Maybe you don’t care about these things. Maybe you like it just being you in front of a computer screen with your pants around your ankles. That is your choice. However, I assure you that in the long run porn will never completely satisfy nor will it offer any long term benefits. It’s fast food sex that comes with no happy meal. You can do better!
This post was written by Carl Thomas. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.xxxchurch.com/men/quote-quentin-crisp.html
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.