It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than call for an ambulance.
Week after week, many of us walk into a church, sit by people we have known for years and yet would never dream of sharing our innermost struggles with. While a large part of this is our pride, another factor is a Church that seems unwilling to talk about certain uncomfortable issues, choosing rather to ignore them, try to cover them up or simply reject people who bring them up.
There are many issues the Church as a whole needs to address, such as creationism, activism, environmental stewardship and many others. But there are many more issues that individuals in the Church are dealing with—issues that the Church Body should be talking about. In Galatians 6:2, Paul urged the Church to "Bear each other's burdens," so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with.
Many of these issues need to be dealt with professionally first. But that should not be the end of it. Research shows just listening to someone and showing them you genuinely care for their situation can be a huge part of that person's healing process.
This is far from a comprehensive list—these are a few of the issues many people in churches around the world are dealing with, whether they admit it or not. And as people increasingly leave the Church, often over issues such as these, it is becoming more urgent that the Church talk about how to care for every one of its members.
Addiction - At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.
And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.
Sexuality - Sex and sexuality tends to be a loaded topic in the Church. Certain corners of the Church have been very vocal in their broad condemnation of premarital sex, but that's where the conversation (for lack of a better word) tends to stop. We rarely engage the topic of sex on a personal, individual level. There's a generally accepted idea floating around that, once two people are married, they enter into a carefree, blissful lifetime of sexual fulfillment that needs never be discussed in any meaningful way. There are strong believers struggling with their sexual identity, brokenness and frustration in churches across the world, and among their Christian friends and families, they don't dare say a word about it.
I know of a few people in my life who love Christ and want to abstain from sin, but they are struggling with sexual sin or sinful desires. There are married couples for whom waiting to have sex turned out to be the easy part, as both parties brought into their marriage a series of expectations that turned out to be flawed. There are very few people they can share this with, but that also means they carry this burden alone. If many churches stopped treating sexual issues as a personal choice, where it could be turned on or off like a light-switch, then maybe we could start to create more safe places where people can share their burdens with each other and find out they're not alone.
Sincere Doubt - In many churches today, there are Christians, even pastors, who are struggling with doubt. They have absorbed all the recommended apologetics. They havecried out in prayer. They are struggling to believe that God is good or that He’s there at all, yet they continue with the motions. They put on the smile while setting up the coffee table. They mouth along to the words in the worship songs, but it all feels hollow to them. I know this because I’ve been one of these people.
One of the most vital ways the Church can handle doubt is to stop acting like everything about faith is obvious. The Church can recognize that we all have doubts from time to time, but we cling to a hope that's beyond rational explanation. Churches can also stop trying to hide the hard parts of the Bible under the rug or downplay the significance these ethically questionable parts play in a person's doubt.
Mental Illness - Those in our midst who deal with mental illness, either personally or second-hand, are typically silent about the struggles they experience. In our society, there still exist a lot of stereotypes about mental illness, and because people either don't want to deal with it or they've been hurt, they will choose to avoid opening up about it. The problem is, if these issues go untalked about, then they often will go unresolved.
In some churches, people who do reveal their illness will go without professional help in lieu of prayer. When prayer doesn't work, the person dealing with mental illness feels like a failure or like they don’t have enough faith. The Church needs to create an encouraging environment where people can be directed to right help and then receive spiritual healing alongside their physical healing.
Loneliness - There are droves of lonely people in the church, and that includes senior pastors and priests. The isolation comes from a lack of identification and identification comes through open communication. When we can be vulnerable and honest with one another, we understand each other in a profound way.
A lonely person may walk in to a church alone and leave alone each Sunday. Although they appreciate the free coffee and donuts the fellowship hall offers, what they really want is fellowship. Taking time to get to know the people around you and then reaching out to them outside of the church will allow for a greater, more stable community.
Of course, every church is different and while one church may be stronger in one area, it may be weaker in others. These are just a few issues that we as the Church Body need to be willing to address. And as we talk about them, we must remember to address them with humility, understanding and grace, keeping in mind our role as fellow hospital patients, not museum curators.This post was taken from Relevant Magazine. For the original post, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-uncomfortable-issues-church-needs-start-talking-about
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
I know a guy who cheats on his wife. He cheats on her every day. He cheats on her multiple times a day. He’s a husband and a father and a serial adulterer.
I shouldn’t know this fact about him, but it came up in conversation a few days ago. We were talking about the divorce rate; both of us gave our theories as to why the statistics are so high. I mentioned in my diagnosis a few studies that show pornography to be a root cause in over 50 percent of divorces annually.
He laughed. “People don’t get divorced over porn.” He went on to explain that porn isn’t a “big deal” to most people. It’s not “like it’s cheating or something.” He told me that he looks at it multiple times daily. His wife, he insisted, might be a little peeved if she knew the extent of it, but only because women overreact about “that kind of thing.”
What kind of thing? Their husbands spending all day obsessively plunging through the darkest regions of the internet for graphic sexual images of rape, abuse, perversion, exploitation and other forms of filthy depravity previously unknown to mankind?
Yeah. That kind of thing. No reason why any wife should be too upset about that, apparently.
Listen guys, I know this is an uncomfortable conversation. But it’s time we man up and get real about pornography. First things first: if you’re married and you look at porn, you are cheating. Period. From a Christian perspective, this can’t be debated. Christ laid it out very clearly: if you lust after another woman, you have committed adultery. When we look at porn we are choosing to succumb to that lust; we are indulging it, fertilizing it, giving it respite in our minds. We are diving into it headfirst and soaking in it like a sponge. We are lessening ourselves, betraying our wives and participating in the violent exploitation of women (and girls). Or minds and our bodies belong to the Lord and to our wives; pornography, therefore, intrudes on their domain. If we look at porn, we are adulterers. We are adulterers in all the worst ways.
We don’t even need to refer to Scripture to figure out the simple equation that porn equals adultery.
Why wouldn’t it?
Because you aren’t physically in contact with another woman?
So what? That’s merely a matter of semantics and circumstance. The absence of physical touch doesn’t automatically free you of the scarlet letter — if it did, ‘sexting’ with other women would be fair game, I suppose. How would you feel if you looked through your wife’s phone and found racy, sexually graphic text messages she’d sent to a man at her office? Would you be alright with it as long as she could prove she never had any physical contact with him? Or is that totally different because she knows the guy, whereas porn is anonymous and impersonal? See, we find ourselves constructing many arbitrary lines of distiniction when we are deteremined to rationalize behavior we instinctively know to be immoral and wrong.
But, OK, what if she didn’t know the guy? What if she was engaging in “fantasies” with men she never met? Imagine that, in your cyber travels, you stumbled upon a porn site featuring pictures and videos of a particularly alluring young female: your wife. How would that sit with you? Your wife selling digital sex all over the internet — how would you like that? It might cause a bit of a marital dispute, wouldn’t you say?
If you wouldn’t want your wife being a porn provider, you ought to understand why she wouldn’t want you to be a porn consumer. If you wouldn’t want her to invite and encourage other men to violate her in their minds, you ought to understand why she wouldn’t want you to accept the invitation to violate other women in your mind.
I don’t mean to concentrate only on married men. Porn is poison for everyone, married or not. And I’m not here to castigate you if you’ve stumbled. We live in a society that preys upon a man’s weaknesses, shoving sex into his face at hyper speed every day, all day, all of the time. This isn’t an excuse; just an attempt to put things into context. I won’t yell at a guy who fights a porn addiction anymore than I’d yell at a guy who fights a crack addiction. But at least the crack addict likely won’t encounter very many people (besides his dealer) who will tell him that it’s actually healthy to smoke crack. If he ventures outside of the abandoned shack where he scores his dope, he probably won’t find any respectable people who will say, “hey, crack isn’t a big deal — it’s totally natural to smoke crack, man!” In that way, the crack smoker has a leg up on the porn addict. The porn addict, by contrast, has to fight both the compulsion itself and the myriad of creeps who will try to convince him that it’s all just a bit of innocent fun.
That’s a lie, of course. It’s not innocent. It’s not fun.
I could cite for you the mounds of psychiatric research proving the detrimental effects of pornography on the brain. But you can do that research yourself.
I could tell you about sex slavery, human trafficking, drug abuse, and child molestation, and I could explain how the porn industry wouldn’t exist without these necessary ingredients. But these are conclusions you can draw on your own, if ever you take even a moment to think about it.
I could remind you that these women you find on your porn sites might not be women at all — they could be children — and there’s no way for you to know for sure. I could then point out that any avid porn customer has most likely at some point been a child porn customer, whether he knew it or not. But this is, indeed, an obvious and inescapable reality.
I could tell you that many children view graphic porn for the first time before the age of 12. I could tell you that we haven’t even begun to reap the atrocious fruits that will come from an entire generation raised on the heinous perversions of internet pornography. But it’s probably too late for these warnings.
So what is left? Perhaps nothing, really. Pornography is evil, empty, deadening, dirty — this is something we all know. That’s why, unless you are either psychotic or utterly despicable, you wouldn’t want your daughter to get into the porn business. That’s why most people hide their porn habits. That’s why it still isn’t considered acceptable to browse “adult” websites at your desk at work or at a table in Starbucks (although people still do, in both scenarios). That’s why you only find porn shops and strip clubs in the slummy, rundown parts of town. No matter how hedonistic and “open minded” we become, we still recognize porn as something that ought to be stowed away in the dank, dark corners of our lives. This is Natural Law, and we can’t escape it. We have an innate understanding of right and wrong, whether we want it or not.
Married men: I think we should be spending our free time with our families, or reading interesting books so that we can sharpen our minds, or building things, or exercising, or doing anything else that will make us better men. Porn will not make you a better man. It will make you smaller. It will make you a liar. It will kill that instinct inside you that calls you to protect and honor women. It will turn you into something you never wanted to be. It will turn you into a sneaky, shameful pervert. It will turn you into an adulterer.
Real men don’t look at pornography.This post was written by Matt Walsh. To find his original post with comments, go here: http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/25/married-men-your-porn-habit-is-an-adultery-habit/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
The first generation Christians were brought out of evil. The power of Jesus radically changed these individuals. Look at the list of sins from which the first generation Christians were delivered: 1) sexual immorality, 2) idolatry, 3) adultery, 4) homosexuality, 5) greed, 6) drunkenness and 7) swindling. I Cor 6:9-10
Did you catch that? The church treasurer who cooks the books is among the list of individuals who do things that the church vehemently speaks out against. Yet…
“…that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I Cor 6:11
Did you also catch “that is what some of you were”? These individuals were brought out of their lifestyle and were justified. Justified is a term that means “just as if I’d not sinned.”
So what did the early church do about individuals who committed the sexually immoral behavior of molesting children?
On this blog you will find a post written by a man who did just that and now can’t find a church that will accept him. I know another Christian man who 20+ years past his crime, paid for his crime, and has set up boundaries to not be around children, who is searching for a church that will accept him into their fellowship.
What is the church’s response to these individuals? We will accept the greedy person (“God I want you to bless me with a Cadillac”) and in fact will have opulent church potlucks where people that don’t need the rich foods pile it on. We forgive the church board member who cheats on his wife.
But what do we as a church do about individuals who committed the sexually immoral behavior of molesting children?
This is not an easy answer… There are three complicating but very important points to make before answering that question:
1. As a church we have a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Children are very vulnerable.
2. Statistically, people who commit sexual crimes are rarely truly rehabilitated.
3. People who commit sexual crimes are very good at making you think that they are rehabilitated when they really aren’t.
Knowing these three facts, as a church what should be our response to someone who is a sexual offender? Especially to those who have repented, become a sincere Christian; have turned away from their sinfulness and desire to have fellowship with other Christians? Tomorrow we will make some recommendations.
BE A MAN.
Dreams are odd. In dreams we can fly, shape shift, transmogrify, meet people that we admire and also be turned on sexually. There is also a psychological technique called "lucid dreaming" where one learns the techniques to manipulate dreams.
Men, when they are teens, experience "wet dreams" that are usually intensely sexual. So, men have a history from early in their lives of connecting dreams to sexual arousal. Many of the men that I counsel tell me that their dreams often trigger their sexual acting out.
How does one handle sexual dreams? Often they are not under our conscious control. So, are we responsible for our dreams? Are we responsible for our acting out sexually when aroused by a dream? How does one stay pure, even while sleeping?
You are VERY responsible if you practice lucid dreaming. If you purposely manipulate your dreams, then you will be accountable for such.
However, there are things that one can do to try and keep one's dreams from turning too sexual:
1. Pay attention to what you think about while you are falling asleep.
2. Memorize scripture that you can repeat in your mind while falling asleep. Philippians 4:8 is a scripture that is made for just such an occasion. Proverbs 4:23 and Malachi 2:15 are excellent as well.
3. Pray while you are falling asleep. This is a great time to talk to God.
4. In your prayer, ask God to protect your mind while you sleep. God can do that, if you learn to count on His faithfulness.
5. Pay attention to what you watch on TV, in the theatre and on the internet, especially right before you go to sleep. You may have to take the TV out of your bedroom. Dreams often are an amalgamation of our daily experiences.
6. If you work with a professional counselor, you can dissect your dreams to help understand them a little bit. Even though a dream may be sexual, the core of the dream may also be something that you need to confront in yourself.
If you wake up sexually aroused from a dream, what can you do to prevent acting out?
1. Urinate. Many times an erection is simply the result of a full bladder.
2. Read something non-sexual. Opening God's Word and talking to God about what you are physically feeling is way of strengthening your relationship with HIm and beating temptation.
3. Call a member of your accountability group.
4. Take a cold shower.
5. Stay away from TV and the Internet while you are aroused.
6. Do not recreate the dream in your mind. Distract yourself by thinking in a pure manner.
So, even though your dreams are often not under your conscious control, you can control what you watch and think throughout the day. God is faithful. If you ask Him for His assistance in this area, He will help. Also, arousal does not mean that you have to do something sexual. You can choose to act out or you can choose not to act out.
BE A MAN.
Every year, federal and state governments pour millions of dollars into combatting sex trafficking through local and federal law enforcement agencies. But the emerging link between the child welfare system and child sex trafficking in the United States underscores the need for a new tactic, one that addresses the social origins of child sex trafficking.
At the end of July, the FBI’s Innocence Lost initiative, the wing of the agency tasked with addressing domestic child sex trafficking, conducted its annual three-day Operation Cross Country. During these 72 hours, federal agents across the country “recover” juvenile victims from sexual exploitation and arrest their exploiters. This year, the agency boasts that it saved 105 children and arrested 152 pimps. According to U.S. law, anyone under 18 and involved in the sex trade is considered sexually trafficked.
However, what happens to those who are “rescued” is unclear. Whether the children are placed in juvenile justice proceedings or the Department of Social Services, the story of the rescue mission as the FBI tells it ends when the handcuffs go on—often both on the exploited young person as well as his or her exploiter. (A video montage of Operation Cross Country VII accompanies the FBI’s press release.)
Julianne Sohn, spokesperson for the San Francisco division of the FBI, explained to AlterNet that the agency couldn’t account for what happens to the youth after they are “recovered” because local law enforcement agencies have varying policies on how to handle teens.
“If you’re 17 years old and sex-trafficked in New York you are literally a victim and a criminal at the same time,” Chrystal DeBoise told AlterNet. DeBoise is the co-director of the New York-based Sex Workers Project, an organization advocates for both sex workers and trafficking victims.
The Sex Workers Project has helped to decriminalize individuals who have been sex trafficked and charged with prostitution by successfully lobbying for the Vacating Convictions Law, passed in 2010 in New York, which allows a trafficked individual to have her record cleared.
But DeBoise notes there is still a long way to go: “Over 50 percent of our clients are trafficked and they tell us that the arrests were some of the most traumatizing parts of their trafficking experience.”
“It’s shocking to believe that you could be trafficked and for the rest of your life you have a prostitution record,” DeBoise said. “It is shocking.”
These FBI sweeps also result in the netting of adult sex workers. The data for Operation Cross Country in the Bay Area reveals that while its ostensible focus is to rescue child victims, the program results in a markedly higher arrest rate for adult sex workers: for the 12 children rescued, 65 sex workers were arrested in the Bay Area alone. During Operation Cross Country in 2008, the FBI recovered 47 juveniles while arresting 518 prostitutes.
Prioritizing criminal justice proceedings to combat child sex-trafficking has resulted in a paucity of services devoted to helping children most vulnerable to sexual exploitation: those in foster care. Depending on the city, 50 to 80 percent of child victims are or have been involved in this part of the child welfare system. The correlation has led many advocates to argue that funding needs to be redirected away from law enforcement and toward social services that are designed to work with traumatized children.
“People are beginning to realize that juvenile justice is not appropriate to serve sexually exploited children. People are frustrated that those kids are going to the criminal justice system rather than the foster care system, which is designed to help kids,” Kate Walker, from the National Center for Youth Law, told AlterNet. Earlier this year, Walker authored a publication for the California Child Welfare Council examining the needs of victimized children and how the welfare system should address them.
Southern California Congresswoman Karen Bass has proposed legislation to the House of Representatives that she hopes will address the cyclical relationship between foster care and child sexual exploitation. In April she reintroduced Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act (SCWRHT) that had died in committee last year. (After being elected to Congress in 2010, Bass co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and has since been a strong advocate for extending services to foster youth.)
SCWRHT would establish training programs so child welfare agencies could better detect children at risk of becoming victims and respond to those who have already been traumatized and victimized. The legislation would also extend services to trafficking victims up to the age of 21.
Bass has distinguished herself by focusing on the social roots of sex trafficking, rather than investing in law enforcement and tougher penalties. Explaining why she voted against last November’s Proposition 35, which increases fines and penalties for convicted human traffickers, she said: “I worry that just like with Three Strikes, when there is a horrific crime we come up with an extreme response and the net gets cast too wide.”
“It’s not my focus to increase penalty, because I am also worried about the pimps.” According to one case study, approximately 25 percent of pimps come out of the child welfare system.
In 1990—fourteen years before she would make the transition to electoral politics—Bass founded and directed Community Coalition, a grassroots organization based in South Los Angeles dedicated to strengthening black and latino communities ravaged by economic injustice, the War on Drugs, and poor quality schools.
After being elected to Congress in 2010, Bass co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and has since been a strong advocate for extending services to foster youth.
Like Bass, Kate Walker believes that with reform, the child welfare system has the potential to serve as a support network to child victims. “I think the child welfare system has a ways to go in terms of setting itself up to adequately serve these children, like prevention curriculum that includes teaching about exploitation, healthy relationships and ways to protect yourself.”
But while advocates may agree that improving the child welfare system is essential to addressing child sex trafficking, there is persistent ambivalence among policy advocates on whether locking up sexually exploited children is necessary in order to save them.
“There is a big divide in the field: should we be locking kids up or should we meet them where they’re at and provide them what they need,” says DeBoise.
Bass’ bill would create “specialized, long-term residential facilities or safe havens serving children who are human trafficking victims.”
One such safe house in Florida was forced to shut down within weeks of opening after one girl left the grounds and was raped. This recent tragic incident has led some legislators and social workers in Florida to conclude that it may be necessary to keep the premises of safe houses locked so that inhabitants cannot leave freely.
However, as DeBoise points out, “We don’t consider locking up any other victim the way we do with this population. It wouldn’t occur to us that we should lock up a victim of, say, domestic violence, if she continued to go back to her abuser.”
“When looking at the population of runaway kids involved in prostitution, there’s a tendency to treat them as criminals and force them into care.”
Casting further doubt on the incarceration model, Walker notes that one method of rehabilitating victims of sexual exploitation in California has been to send them out of state, far away from their exploiters. “Some of these places are on top of a mountain so the kids can’t run. But then they are just exploited upon their return to their communities.”
“I want to look at providing more services in the communities from which they come, because those are the communities that need them. When kids run away [from foster care] they are doing so because we are not providing something that someone else is; we’re not adequately meeting their needs,” explains Walker.
Speaking as a psychotherapist, DeBoise argues it is essential that services enable the youths to opt into therapy and shelter of their own volition: “We need shelters that are open and that have a high level of sophistication in the staff. We need to acknowledge that people can leave and they can also come back. When we work with those principles, we are successful. It’s not a problem to keep our clients, they don’t run away.”
DeBoise urges people to look at the phenomenon of domestic sex trafficking as part of a larger picture: “I think the way to end trafficking is to take seriously poverty and its consequences, racism and its consequences, sexism and its consequences. Trafficking is at the intersection of all these things.”
This post was written by C. Silver. For the original post, go to: http://www.salon.com/2013/08/15/far_too_many_kids_move_from_foster_care_into_the_sex_trade_partner/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
I’ll tell you what shame has done for you, follower of Christ: it has hindered you from living the kind of life God wants for you. That’s what shame has done for you. Likely, shame has been instrumental for some of the stinkin’ thinkin’ you’ve been holding to for years — thinking that affected your feelings and emotions — thinking that led to wrong behavior. If you’re riddled with shameful thoughts, you may try to make yourself feel better in unhealthy ways (compulsory behavior, such as excessive drinking, over-eating, anonymous or promiscuous sex, gambling, shopping, use of drugs or medications). Shame ain’t never done nobody any good — ever. That’s just good theology, right there.
But let’s distinguish shame from guilt. If you do or say or think something wrong, then your conscience may inform you that it is wrong, and you may feel bad for the wrong done. That is guilt, not shame. Guilt is admitting to doing something wrong (you did wrong). Shame makes you think that you are something wrong (as though there is something wrong with you as a human being). The latter is dangerous because feelings of self-loathing and self-worthlessness contribute to further distorted thinking, which leads to further emotional damage, which may, in turn, lead to further bad behavior. Shame forms a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break the longer one is engaged within its grip.
Also, there is nothing necessarily wrong with feeling ashamed for doing or saying or thinking something heinous. This is mere acknowledgment of the wrongdoing. When you’re guilty of wrongdoing, and you acknowledge your guilt, you may feel a measure of shame — embarrassment, disgrace, humiliation — for it. But do not confuse doing something wrong with being something wrong. In Christ you have overcome. It may not seem like it yet, it may not feel like it yet, but it’s true (Rom. 8:37). The Bible admits that you have, by faith in Christ, overcome the world (1 John 5:4)!
You need to keep a close eye on your emotions: befriend them, says Henri Nouwen, and don’t become their victim. If you let them master you, you will miss out on the kind of life God desires for you in Christ. There shall be no other master over you but Christ (cf. Luke 16:13; 1 Cor. 6:12). Also, notes Nouwen, don’t “whip yourself for your lack of spiritual progress. If you do, you will easily be pulled even further away from your center … It is obviously good not to act on your sudden emotions. But you don’t have to repress them, either. You can acknowledge them and let them pass by. In a certain sense, you have to befriend them so that you do not become their victim."1Perhaps your negative emotions are triggered by negative thoughts that will try to master you by bringing undue shame. “You’re not good enough." “No one really likes you anyway." “The Lord doesn’t have time for you." “You never do anything right." Don’t befriend these kinds of thoughts! Here’s how you confront these kinds of negative thoughts and not allow them to control you emotionally. When you have a negative thought, such as “You’re not good enough," ask, “Good enough for who?" In Christ, the playing field for being “good enough" has been destroyed by Jesus’ perfection. When you have a negative thought, such as “No one really likes you anyway," ask, “Really? Not even one person in the whole universe?"
This particular negative thought is known as two types of cognitive distortions: 1) over-generalizing; and 2) omniscience (all-knowing). God loves you, so there’s at least one person in the known universe who loves you. So you cannot over-generalize and suggest that absolutely no one loves you. Plus, you cannot actually know that no one really loves you, since you cannot know the true thoughts and feelings of others. There are people who may really, really like or love you that you’re not too familiar with (people in the community, church, clubs or organizations, on-line, etc.). All our negative thoughts need to be confronted because all too often they do not necessarily represent the truth. Take the last negative thought offered: “You never do anything right." Really? Never, ever, do anything whatsoever right? If that were true, you couldn’t really exist in this world. The truth is that you probably do most things right, and maybe only a few things wrong; which is the complete opposite of what the negative thought was promoting.
Christ took your shame, believer (cf. Heb. 12:2), and He has no plans of giving it back to you. So, stop trying to take it back. Stop equating doing something wrong with being something wrong. Stop listening to those voices — preachers in particular — who attempt to manipulate you into subjection by keeping you under the heavy thumb of shame. Christ has set you free from all that tries to bind you (Gal. 5:1). “In everything, keep trusting that God is with you, that God has given you companions on the journey. Keep returning to the road to freedom."2 And stick close to those whom God has given you on this road to freedom who continually build you up (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11).
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 42.
2 Ibid., 39. This post was written by William Birch. For the original post with comments, go to: http://willandgraced.tumblr.com/post/55592721019/
Whatever one thinks about sex, the one thing we can agree on is that more people are having more sex than ever—even in the Church. Which means the best attempts within the Church to steer people away from sex is not working.
When I was in high school, sex was often addressed in a shameful, embarrassing way. Young women were told if they had sex, their worth was somehow lowered and they would become, at best, second-hand goods. It was as though their self-worth was connected only to their sexuality.
Young men did not fare any better. We were often made to feel guilt for our sexual urges and lust. Never mind that our hormones were going bonkers—we felt like perverts for the thoughts that were streaming through our minds. Many young men were guilt-ridden because of this and had difficulty being honest because of their attending shame.
On top of this, we heard Christian leaders blame culture and the media for popularizing sex. They blamed the media for its constant barrage of sexual messaging and accused our culture for eroding our moral foundation.
What critics like these fail to see is that the reason sexual messaging is so effective is because, as humans, we have sexual desire hard-wired into us.
The media is simply tapping into something that is already there, and the Church needs to tap into the same thing. We must speak to the God-given sexual desire that exists within us. This has rarely been done, as we often confuse our God-given desire for sex with our misguided, self-centered feelings of lust.
I’m not entirely sure that what people want, at the deepest level, is sex. I think what our sex-crazed culture really wants is what sex promises: the feeling of being desired.
When we feel desired by another person, we tap into the deepest longing of all people who have ever lived: the longing to be loved for exactly who we are. Sex offers this opportunity to us.
But we seem to have confused sex and love—you can have one without the other. In our world today, there is a surplus of sex and a deficit of love.
Perhaps this is why so many people are having more sex than ever. People are increasingly hungry for another moment in which they feel desired, accepted and loved by another person. Sex offers a tangible way for anyone to find this longing fulfilled, even if only for a few moments.
Some scoff at this idea, thinking that sex is simply fun and that it feels good. Yes, physically speaking, sex is wonderful, but sex is far more than a physical act.
If sex is only about a physical reality, then we are nothing more than copulating animals. I, for one, believe men and women are so much more than that. Our sexuality is deeply connecting—emotionally and spiritually—in a way that most want (or need) to ignore.
Many wrongly believe that desire itself is evil. As a result, they attempt to curb and deny it. This frequently proves to be too much, and many give up, while others spend years wracked with guilt while they privately battle lust and sexual impulses.
We can never forget that sexual desire is God-given.
The Bible is filled with positive talk of it. It does not only speak of desiring God, His words, or His presence—the Bible gets sexual.
There is a book of poetry in Scripture that is steamier than any Danielle Steele novel and has better one-liners than a Cameron Crowe movie. The book, Song of Songs, details a conversation between a man and a woman.
In the second chapter, the woman says to the man, “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste” This is unbelievably provocative language. In speaking of her lover, she uses the Hebrew word chamad. Here it’s translated “delight,” elsewhere it is translated “desire.” This woman speaks openly and without shame about her sexual desire for her lover.
Desires are hard-wired inside of us, and we are meant to live as people who attend to them. To want something is not bad, even if what you want is to give yourself away in a sexual relationship. The warning is that, like all good things, when desire gets twisted, we get ourselves into trouble.
This does not mean we should run from desire, rather we must teach a proper understanding of it. When we deny it, stuff it or pretend it’s not there, we are not living truthfully. When this happens, we open ourselves to feelings of fear, guilt, anger because we ignore our desires.
These desires are not ultimately about sex. While our sexual desire can, at times, seem overwhelming; our desire to be loved, accepted and desired is even stronger. Any discussion about sex that does not begin with our deepest, truest desire for love begins in the wrong place.
Those within the Church should never encourage people to stuff or suppress desire—we need to encourage them to acknowledge it and embrace it. We must act as guides walking with them and speaking honestly about our desires. In this, we have an opportunity to point not only to love, but to the source of all love—a merciful, compassionate, loving God.
And when we do this, we just might find what we have really wanted all along—when, at last, we discover a God who desires us.This post was written by Michael Hidalgo of Relevant Magazine. For the original post, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/truth-about-sexual-desire
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Yesterday, we discussed how an affair progresses thru predictable stages. However, the consequences of such behavior are profound.
Dr. Dobson states, "the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence but it still has to be mowed." Once the excitement of the early stages of the affair wear off, the new couple is forced to live real life again, life in the common place. The man and woman suddenly have to face work thru personality adjustments. They discover spiritual, emotional and physical imperfections in each other they have never noticed before. Someone has to fix the cars, cook the meals, clean the house, run errands, mow the lawn, struggle with the finances.
There is also a layer of distrust in the new relationship. "If he cheated before, he can do it again..." The trail of pain eats away at the new relationship. Kids have been hurt. A wife and a husband have been abandoned. The complex and difficult relational network is hard to manage.
Like wide-eyed children we enter into extra-marital affair. Our eyes are wide open but for some reason we are blind to many of the realities that will become devastatingly apparent later when the glitter fades. It is OK to be childlike in some of the areas of our lives. But we have to live in the real world. Yes, we desperately want for the new relationship to work, to give us pleasure, the romance, the affirmation we felt was lacking in our former marriage. But we have bought the lie, the hype, the brightly lit illusion, the propaganda that says we can gave everything we want simply by changing partners mid-stream. It is very American to seek the quick fix; we are looking for the easy road to the real thing.
It is truly a tragedy. Men and women change partners again and again chasing the illusion. Many die lonely, empty people, lacking the love that they chased all their lives.
Tomorrow, we will look at how to fight the temptation to stray...
The information from this post is taken from TEMPTATIONS MEN FACE
BE A MAN.
There are twelve common steps that usually occur in sequence as a relationship moves toward an adulterous affair. These steps often occur over a long period of time, but a man and a woman can move thru these stages of an affair in a single evening. Becoming aware of the steps helps us to recognize what might be happening to us so we can stop the process before we are in over our heads.
Our two main enemies are rationalization and denial. We rationalize when we give acceptable reasons for unacceptable thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Denial is our often intense refusal to recognize the truth about our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Sin can harden our hearts and darken our understanding, turning us away from God. "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
For example, a woman rationalizes that God understood and accepted her numerous affairs because, after all, it was He who created within her this "need for other men." A man lives in denial about his affair, "it's OK, because each time we have sex we end by praying together."
I will briefly list the 12 steps here and in the subsequent post. For a more complete understanding, you will need to read the book, TEMPTATIONS MEN FACE, from which this information is taken.
1. Readiness - The first step is emotional readiness. Something is occurring in a man's life that has him leaning away from the marriage. This is a vulnerable time. He needs to learn to recognize this and turn his energy toward regaining the full health of his marital relationship.
2. Alertness - The second stage in the affair process is a growing awareness of a particular person in our web of relationships. He begins simply by thinking occasionally about the other person. The innocent thoughts turn to fantasy. As she becomes more present in his conscious thoughts, she may begin to appear in dreams and the dreams are often filled with sexual fantasy. Masturbating while fantasizing about her is common.
3. Innocent meeting - Truly innocent, chance meetings, often legitimate business contacts can potentially build the relationship. This is the stage where some flirtations can develop, prolonged eye contact, harmless sounding sexual innuendo, enticing body language, etc.
4. Intentional meeting - Meetings occur frequently which appear to be by chance when in reality one person has acted in such a way as to increase the likelihood of the meeting. He will hang out for extended periods of time hoping for the chance to "surprisingly" meet her. The excitement of sexual attraction overpowers his rational side. At this point, he has entered a real danger zone.
5. Public lingering - The man & the woman now spend time together while in group settings. They will tend to shut others out by turning away from the group and avoiding eye contact with others. Observers know something is happening. However, they would still deny any suggestion that this was more than normal adult relating. The public setting help them to rationalize: "It's fine to focus on her. Nothing can happen. We are with others."
6. Private lingering - Soon the man & the woman find that they are still together long after the others have left. Conversation shifts from ideas to feelings. Caring is shared. Conversation drifts into private and personal areas. They still feel fine about the relationship because the meetings begin in public.
7. Purposeful isolating - Now the man & the woman begin to plan times alone for "legitimate" purposes. They may request the other to work on special projects at work that require them being alone or work late together. He may ask her to help him sort out his marital problems. They still deny any suggestions that their relationship is not completely appropriate. At home, his wife notices a decrease in verbal & nonverbal communication. He seems suddenly detached, cool, almost formal in his relating. There may be uncompleted phone calls.
8. Pleasurable isolating - Now the man & the woman are planning times alone with each other for the sheer enjoyment of being together. The relationship takes on a youthful euphoria. There is a shared experience of excitement and adventure with more intimacy occurring. There is more touching. His spouse notices that there are long blocks of time that are unaccounted for. There is a noticeable decrease in pleasurable times in the marriage. The relationship is still rationalized: "It's OK to have good friends of the opposite sex, there is nothing wrong with being close friends. After all, she understands me better than my wife."
9. Affectionate embracing - There is embracing without letting go. There is increased touching and playful caressing. Childish games like tickling and wrestling are often played at this stage to increase physical contact. The rationalization is that there is nothing wrong with physically expressing support for one another. At the same time, affectionate embracing and physical contact decreases with his wife.
10. Passionate embracing - Affectionate touching and embracing lead to passionate interchanges. The couple will still rationalize and say that it is fine to get aroused because it is innocent and unplanned, "Besides, my wife no longer makes me feel this way."
11. Capitulation - The couple gives in to sexual intercourse. Denial is eliminated at this stage. There is no way to deny the reality of what they have done.
12. Acceptance - Here they finally admit to themselves that they are in the throes of an affair. If they continue, it is definitely a conscious choice. The emotional investment in the affair is at its peak and the emotional investment in the marriage is at its lowest. The man may find creative ways for his wife to discover the affair. The tension of living a double life is usually too much for someone to bear for very long.
Is this the end of the story? Do the man and woman live happily ever after? Nope. The story of an affair is not a comedy. It is a huge tragedy with unbelievable fallout and consequences.
Tomorrow, we will discuss some of these consequences.
Much of this information is taken from the book, TEMPTATIONS MEN FACE
BE A MAN.
One of the most common misconceptions in marriages today is that fighting is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. But is it? Is a healthy marriage really one completely absent of conflict?
As a psychologist (Les) and a marriage and family therapist (Leslie), married since 1984, we don't claim to have a perfect relationship. We fight—just like every other couple on the planet. But we've learned a secret: There's a difference between a bad fight and a good fight.
And when a couple learns to fight a good fight, the conflict actually brings them closer.
All couples generally fight over the same five things: money, sex, work, parenting and housework. Most argue about these five issues over and over again because these are all stressors that speak to our sense of love and fairness.
But you can learn to fight about them in a healthy way. Here are some tools to help you cool down "The Big Five."
MoneyAllow us to say it straight: Money fights between couples are rarely about money. So if you want to minimize a currency conflict, trace it back to the fear that’s fueling it.
Instead of fighting over the amount of money that was spent on who-knows-what, shift the focus toward what really matters: (1) your fear of not having influence in important issues impacting your life, (2) your fear of not having security in your future, (3) your fear of having no respect shown for your values, or (4) your fear of not realizing your dreams.
SexTo keep sexual grievances down and the marital bedsprings bouncing, we recommend focusing on solving “coordination failure.” It’s a common problem in marriages. The number-one reason people report not having sex in their marriage is “Too tired,” followed closely by “Not in the mood.” Most of the time, that’s code, knowingly or not, for having mismatched sex drives.
So start talking about it. As we write this, we can almost feel you cringing. For most couples, talking about sex is about as comfortable as sleeping in a car. Yet it’s a conversation that’s critically important to aligning your libidos and minimizing your conflicts. When the time is right, when both of you are relaxed and not distracted, ask each other to explain when you feel most eager to head to bed. Your answers may surprise you.
We’ve got two words for you: date night. We know. You’ve heard this a thousand times: do a weekly date night or your marriage will suffer. Sounds more like a threat than friendly advice, doesn’t it? But it’s a surefire way to keep career conflict to a minimum.
In spite of this frequent advice, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. Here’s how often married people, aged 25 to 50 with two or more children, have a date night:
Yikes! We can do better than that, and there’s good reason to do it. The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia recently released a report titled “The Date Night Opportunity.” This study found that husbands and wives who set aside a deliberate time to connect and have fun at least once a week were approximately three and a half times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages.
- Once a week: 4 percent
- Once a month: 21 percent
- Once every two to three months: 21 percent
- Once every four to six months: 18 percent
- Once every seven months or less often: 36 percent
ChildrenThe solution for nearly any parenting conflict is found in getting on the same page and presenting a unified front. Otherwise, your kids play you against each other and add fuel to the parenting fire. Conflict decreases as teamwork increases. It may not be easy to agree with your spouse on the rules and standards you are willing to enforce with your kids. That’s why the first order of business is to iron out differences behind closed doors.
Don’t try to solve your parenting squabbles in the moment—while the kids enjoy the show. The time for presenting your ideas and negotiating trade-offs is when the two of you are alone. Once you reach agreement, stick together. When parents present a united front, there’s no room for recriminating I-told-you-so’s.
ChoresLet’s face it—most housework fights come about because one spouse is keeping score. That’s a bad idea. The scales of marriage are always in flux, and you’re only setting yourselves up for turmoil if you’ve installed a figurative scoreboard in your relationship. Using the division of labor approach does away with all that.
Trina, for example, is better and faster than Dan at both doing the dishes and tidying up around the house. In fact, she does it in half the time it takes him. Given this fact, does it make sense for Dan to do either of these tasks? Not really. What does make sense is for Dan to refresh the water bowl for their pet and prepare their child’s room for bedtime. He’s also quicker at organizing and tracking their finances. He does it in half the time it would take Trina. He’s also pretty good at ironing his own shirts.
You get the idea. It’s simple. Quit trying to divide the household chores down the middle. Marriage is lived best when you’re not trying to balance the scales.
Conflict is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a bad one. When you are your spouse hit up against it next—and you will—go ahead and fight it out, but fight it with the goal to grow closer, to understand him or her better and to love each other well even in the midst of disagreement.This post was written by Drs Les & Leslie Parrot. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/5-biggest-areas-conflict-couplesFor their newest book which entails these concepts, go to THE GOOD FIGHT: HOW CONFLICT CAN BRING YOU CLOSER
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.