Men who struggle with sexual temptation are especially vulnerable at church. One would think that church would be the one place a man could be safe and free from temptation. Not so. As the weather is warming, people are wearing more comfortable clothing. Some of that clothing is fairly revealing, even in the church.I was a camp counselor and we were having a great worship time with our preteen campers. However, up front, two backup singers (they were camp counselors as well) were helping the worship leader by moving in time with the music (some people would call it choreography, others would call it dancing). With their movement, certain body parts were also moving and it was very noticeable. Being a normal man, I was distracted from my worship by such movement. Afterwards, I overheard a couple of the preteens boys in a discussion about how these two women looked. It was obvious that I wasn't the only male that was stimulated...
Men whom I have counseled have told me similar stories. They become stimulated, and some even become triggered by such activity in the church. Their mind wanders away from worship and often this stimulation leads to physically acting out once they leave church. Not only do some become triggered by viewing worship leaders but sometimes they also become stimulated by the way that some women dress in the church. If they attend a church that "hugs," these men may also be triggered by such activity.
These men need the strength that comes with corporate worship but it often backfires for them.
How does a man who is addicted to sexual activity keep himself from becoming triggered when he goes to church? This is an extremely difficult thing for such men to work thru. There are no easy answers and it takes real work to follow thru with some of these ideas:
1 - Don't sit up front or where you can see the worship leaders
2 - Or sit close to the front behind a large person who will block your view (that way you won't see the women in the congregation nor the women up front)
3 - Close your eyes when you are singing
4 - Concentrate on the Creator rather than the creation
5 - Come late to the service so that you miss the worship time
6 - Consider going to a church that does not have such stimulating activity
7 - Sit with a male friend who knows of your struggles who will help you stay focused and not let you look around and who will pray for you while in church
8 - Talk to your pastor about your struggles and ask for assistance/ideas
9 - Join an accountability group and be honest about your thoughts during church and also pray about your mutual struggles.
These ideas are very hard to do and take much prayer, much mental discipline and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The answer is not to just make sure that women dress correctly. In case you didn't know, in churches that have organs, many have a screen so that you cannot see the organist's feet. This is done because it used to be too sensual for men to see the organist's naked foot. So, policing what women in the church wear is not the answer.
If you are a pastor, worship leader, or someone in a position of authority in your church, I would encourage you to spend some time thinking and praying about your church and what kinds of messages your church may send to people who struggle with sexual sin. Ask God to give you wisdom so that your church is healthy and not a hindrance.
BE A MAN.
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&
Today, I woke up and started my normal routine. I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, and started to prepare to take a shower. In the midst of brushing my teeth, I hear a knock on the door and I hear a tiny giggle. I know it is my son behind the door, but I also hear the water running in the other bathroom so I know that my wife has started preparing his bath. Somewhat curious, I decided to open the door. There, giggling and standing in front of me, was my stark nude 2 year old son yelling “I’m a naked kid Daddy!” There is nothing cuter than a toddler rump.
Of course I laughed at this situation. I then thought about it on a different level. My son has no shame and does not recognize the concept of private versus public. He has nothing to hide and he does not feel vulnerable in front of us. He is filled with innocence and purity that is powerful despite the fact that he is too young to comprehend.
When God created humanity, this posture was the intention. Adam and Even had the awesome opportunity to live with God, speak with Him, and live in relationship with no barriers. Sin ruined this relationship, and shame, guilt, and depravity entered the scene.
When we talk about the concept of prayer, God wants us to communicate with Him in the way that humanity did at the beginning. He has not changed. He is the same loving Father. We have changed.
What would happen if we abandoned what we thought of ourselves (our unworthiness, shame, guilt, our past) and simply allowed ourselves to be vulnerable before our mighty yet loving God?
It all comes down to trust. Do we believe that God desires to communicate with us? Communication is a vital part of any relationship. This is why we were created.This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can find the original post with comments here: http://other-words.net/2013/05/07/exposing-prayer/
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.
I recently interviewed more than twenty pastors who had been in ministry for at least 25 years. All of these men were over 55 years old. A few of them were retired, but most of them were still active in fulltime vocational ministry.
The interview was simple. I asked one open-ended question: “What regrets do you have about the years you have served as a pastor?” Each of the men could provide as many responses as they desired. They could make the answers succinct, or they could elaborate upon them.
Three pastors had as few as two responses; one pastor had nine. Most of the pastors noted three or four regrets. As a researcher, I typically see patterns develop in this type of subjective research. When it concluded, I was able to see seven definitive patterns, and I was able to see the frequency they occurred.
Below are the top seven regrets noted in order of frequency. I received a total of 17 different responses, but only these seven occurred with any degree of repetition. After each regret, I provide a representative direct quote from one of the interviewees.
So what do you think of these top seven regrets? What would you add?This post was written by Thom S Rainer. For the original post, go to: http://thomrainer.com/2012/12/19/the-top-seven-regrets-of-pastors/#.UV1mlb8YsipBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
- Lack of practical training for local church ministry. “I was not prepared for 80 percent of my day-to-day ministry after I graduated from seminary. I wish I had taken time to find some resources or places where I could get practical training. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks, and it was very painful at times.”
- Overly concerned about critics. “I had this naïve view that a bunch of Christians in a church would always show love toward each other. Boy was I wrong! There are some mean church members out there. My regret is that I spent way too much time and emotional energy dealing with the critics. I think of the hundreds of hours I lost focusing on critics, and it grieves me to this day.”
- Failure to exercise faith. “At some point in my ministry, I started playing defense and let the status quo become my way of doing church. I was fearful of taking steps of faith, and my leadership and churches suffered as a result. Not only was I too cautious in the churches I served, I was too cautious in my own ministry. I really felt God calling me to plant a church at one point, but I was just too fearful to take that step.”
- Not enough time with family. “I can’t say that people didn’t warn me. One wise pastor told me I had a mistress. When he saw my anger rising, he told me that my mistress was busyness in my church, and that my family was suffering from neglect. It hurts me to say this, but one of my adult sons is still in rebellion, and I know it is a direct result of my neglect of him when he was young.”
- Failure to understand basic business and finance issues. “The first time I saw my church’s budget, I thought I was looking at a foreign language. Greek is a lot easier than finance. They sure don’t teach you basic church finance and business at seminary, and I didn’t take the initiative to educate myself. I really felt stupid in so many of the discussions about the budget or other church business issues.”
- Failure to share ministry. “Let me shoot straight. I had two complexes. The first was the Superman complex. I felt like if ministry was going to be done well, I had to do it. I couldn’t ask or equip someone else to do it. My second complex was the conflict avoider complex. I was so afraid that I would get criticized if I didn’t visit Aunt Susie personally when she had an outpatient procedure that I ran myself ragged. In my second church I suffered burnout and ended up resigning.”
- Failure to make friends. “I know it’s cliché, but being a pastor can be lonely. I think many pastors get in trouble because we can get so lonely. I wish I had done a better job of seeking out true friends. I know if I had made the effort, there would have been a number of pastors in town that I could have befriended. Sometimes I got so busy doing ‘stuff’ that I didn’t have time to do the things that really matter.”
A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed with my son and we were making shadow puppets on the ceiling. It was fun to spend time with him just being silly. My artistic expression in this realm is very limited. I can make a rabbit, a dog, an angry dog, and a slightly different looking dog….oh…and an alligator. Since my son is two, his shadow puppets looked more like hands that were slightly contorted in different ways.
When I was playing this game, it occurred to me that the answer to an age old question could be staring me in the face. What does it mean to be made in God’s image, or likeness? The Bible says it clearly….but humans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. So, what then, is the answer?
While making shadow puppets I realized that the word “likeness” could mean, in this context, something closer to shadows. I can see the shapes, sizes, and movements of an entity that is only seen in this form if the light is behind it. So, our lives could only, at their best, be a shadow of the true nature of God…we can’t see details but we can see form. Our lives and this earth are not what is truly real.
Shadow is not only a noun, but it is also a verb. To shadow means to follow someone around. Perhaps if you were to shadow someone, you may do the same occupational tasks as them in order to learn the functions of a certain job.
God is telling us something here. Even though we cannot see everything that is going on (the details and what the light is projecting), we are still called to follow. We, mere shadows, are called to shadow.
Take a step today to follow where the light is coming from.This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can find the original post here: http://other-words.net/2013/04/05/playing-with-shadows/
My wife and I have been on a spiritual journey within the last few months. It has involved an amount of faith and expectancy that we did not know we were capable of displaying. This journey has been one pertaining to our finances.
If you know me well, you know that I love to talk about finances and how the real blessing comes from putting our full trust in God. For the most part, I feel like we were able to do this pretty well, but like any other ordinary hypocrite, it seems that God did not have full control of our bank account…he only had the authority to periodically audit when necessary. As a result of this, we have been struggling to get by, but failing to see that minor changes needed to be made. They were not big changes, but ones that have kept us falling short on a regular basis.
A few months ago, my wife and I set out on a journey to learn more about finances and to start the process of being better managers of God’s money. Since then, He has been prompting us to make hard decisions that would have not otherwise been the first choice on our list. We stopped putting our hope in credit cards, and started believing that God’s ideas were better than ours.
At first, God’s suggestions came as a small whisper (stop eating out as often, be more disciplined, you don’t need it just because you can afford it, etc), but I realized, the more I followed God’s whisper…the louder it became and the more I began to think like Him.
As we followed basic principles, prayed over our budget, developed discipline, and made a strategy for our life, my wife and I began to see overwhelming blessings in this realm. The bills began to be paid on time, anonymous checks showed up, unexpected refunds appeared, and we began to experience a peace that we have never encountered. I really feel as if God had been waiting until we learned how to manage His resources before major blessings would occur. I don’t care how good the theology is on that last statement…for me it has proven to be correct.
Well, my wife and I are still in the same income bracket…but what I have found is this… I would rather live in poverty with Christ than to be a millionaire without Him.
Somewhere wrapped in God’s small whisper…abundance is waiting to surprise you.
Respond to it.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2013/03/26/responding-to-whisper/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
In the movie series, “Lord of the Rings”, there is a character named Gollum. This character is one who has dedicated most of his life to the guarding of a small golden ring. This ring has special powers that allow the person wearing it to become invisible. This is not, however, a clever party trick. The reason the ring was made was to allow the wearer of the ring to gain power and defeat enemies. Wearing this ring not only gave the individual great abilities…it also poisoned their mind. Gollum had grown so attached to this ring that he felt that he could not live without it. It had become something that he served and called…in his words “my precious” (you said it using his voice in your mind, didn’t you?)
Gollum had become so attached to this little piece of precious metal (no pun intended). We can look at him and shake our heads in disgust, but if we were honest we would admit that there are things in our lives that we hold on to just as tightly. For this movie character, and for us, idols are abundant.
In ancient times, idols represented gods that people served so they would not be destroyed and so they would be able to live comfortable lives. They were stone or wood statues that often took up residence in the corner of houses. They symbolically “protected” the home. These idols were often very top heavy so they needed to be nailed to the ground to prevent falling. Also, if an enemy was invading your region, or if your home caught fire, someone in your home would be designated to save the idol from destruction.
These idols were often made without eyes so that they could not see the activity that happened within the home and so the residents could do whatever they want without accountability.
What are the things that you unknowingly refer to as “my precious”? Is it your money? Your possessions? Your right to be angry? Your job title? Your family?
When we worship anything else but God, we will soon find that life is empty. Sure, it can be fun for a long time and we can even temporarily feel powerful, but if we are worshipping things or situations that we have the ability to maintain…then the object of our worship is limited by our limitations. God desires to give us abundance….a limitless supply of himself.
Seek God today…He loves you.This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2013/03/07/my-precious/
I remember a conversation I had with a good friend about 5 years ago concerning the status of his employment. We had decided to meet at a fast food restaurant and simply take time to catch up on each other’s lives. At the time, he was on staff at a rather large church, and our country was at the beginning of the economic downturn. This fact affected the finances of the church.
As we were talking he revealed to me that it looks like he will be losing his job. At this point, it was a position that he had for several years. I was surprised how peaceful he seemed about the prospect of being unemployed. His wife had a job, but didn’t make enough to take on the all the bills. They were going to have to cut back on several line items in order to make it. “We will survive”, he said “God has always been good to us”.
Still, the elephant remained in the room. Why would God allow such a passionate man of God to lose a job that is supporting his family?
Then…this amazingly faithful man of God said something that has affected my life since I heard it. As I was pushing the issue about the obvious concern that this circumstance would induce, he said “you know…God doesn’t owe me a job.” This caught me off guard, because at first I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. “God doesn’t owe me anything….I think that whatever God gives me, for whatever season He gives it to me, it is a tool to use for Him…and only Him. Yes, my family is going to struggle financially, but we are not called to have more than we need but to serve Him.”
Honestly…how can anyone REALLY have this type of attitude? Well, in my experience, when we say yes to God, we are putting the responsibility of provision back into His lap.
God owes us nothing, but He chooses to bless us each at different levels. It is our choice to give everything we have back to Him. We may get no visible reward, but praise God that He uses us.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2013/02/26/a-story-from-the-downturn/
BE A MAN.