Feb 282017
 

Back in the good old days, people that contacted me experiencing marital issues were usually having financial issues or communication breakdowns.

Now the vast majority are dealing with the devastating impact of pornography on their marriages.

 

It is, as they say, an epidemic.

It is beyond my gifting and education to address the issue in an substantial way…the problem is so large and solutions so complex that it is overwhelming.

It is not just a problem in the secular culture…it has permeated the church world, (including pastors) as well.

Pornography has become ubiquitous, it is everywhere in all different forms of media and avoiding it would almost require cutting oneself off from the outside world.

It sneaks onto Facebook and Twitter, it fills our junk mail folders, and beckons to us on cable TV.

I go through my 14 year old godsons phone everyday…and everyday I delete some unsolicited filth from it.

After many requests for me to write on this subject and much thought about how to respond to them, I think the best course is to simply start the conversation and let the community here speak to how this issue impacts their lives.

My friend has had to walk through this fire and she graciously wrote the following for us;

“I had known for a long time that something was wrong. There was often a distance between my husband and myself. Sexual intimacy had long ago left our relationship and I had a deep and enduring sadness that I could not explain. He always told me that I had an “issue”, yet I begged him to seek a Christian counselor and work on his own intimacy issues. But he would not.

I thought we had a strong relationship with trust and openness and honesty and there was a lot that was good about our marriage. But there was rot in the middle of it I could not explain. Using blame shifting, he always pointed back to me having some kind of a problem.

I found out he was doing porn because a counselor I went to told me that if he had confessed to doing it earlier in life, he was probably still doing it now. So, I asked. And he said that, yes, he had been doing porn on and off for 10 years or more. When I asked if there was more I should  know, he said no, but God kept revealing things to me about what he had been up to. So, when I asked again, he would say, yes, that is true, but there is nothing more. After about 5 rounds of that,  I realized my husband was a liar.

And when the reality of what porn had done to our relationship, I was so hurt and so angry at him that I threw him out rather than continue the downward spiral I was on. He confessed to manipulating me, using me, controlling me (all things he had accused me of for years), lying to me, deceiving me, and throwing me under the bus when needed. I was devastated beyond belief and thrown into such fear as I had never experienced before in my life.

Porn rewires the brain. Men who do porn habitually are wired to do porn, but no longer wired to have sex with a woman. That’s why the woman feels like she is a prostitute or feels this disconnect when having sex. There is no emotional tie. Sadly, the objectification of women can reach down to the children, which it did with both my daughters.  As a result of our unhealthy relationship, they learned some bad patterns they have had to overcome.

We split up, but to pray and go before God. I no longer loved him or cared for him at all. He was dead to me in so many ways. I had been his pawn, I had played along, and I came to blame him for everything that went wrong. Everything! And when we were apart, we did talk on the phone at night and pray and commit our lives to God. Slowly, healing came. One day I realized I no longer had a broken heart. Another time I realized I could trust him and when I sought God about this, He revealed that my husband was doing everything God told him to do.

He went to a 12 step group. He went into private counseling with a Christian counselor. He began to learn who he was. He was always, before this, a persona. The guy everyone loved. People used to tell me how much he loved me and I had come to learn that it was his persona, the person he wanted people to believe he was, who loved me. Not him. He was a shell, a person who didn’t know who he was. Porn was a stress releaser but a prison for him. He had to learn who he really was and what he really wanted so he could start meeting his needs in healthy ways rather than just hiding in porn.

We are three years out.  Much has healed. God has been good, but we have been faithful to pray for healing, to be willing to do anything God asked of us, to repent of and change our bad relationship behaviors. For me, it was the pointing of the finger. God hates the pointing of the finger and I had to repent and change that behavior.

There are plenty of books to read on porn use. I read 23 in two months. Some were helpful. Each had some little piece of the puzzle in it for me. But the answer to this problem in a marriage is two hearts, both committed to God, both able to forgive, both able to do what God asks and do it quickly, and a commitment to stand in righteousness, no matter what.

I hear that healing and trust are hard to get back. They are, but it can be done. Trust is earned. A man who has erred so egregiously has to earn it back. That takes time.”

How has pornography affected your life?

 

Feb 282017
 

It’s not salvation, it’s politics…

It’s time for the SI swimsuit issue to stop…

Christianity Today on the Calvary Chapel split…

How to teach your kids about grace…

How smart phones and social media are changing Christianity…

Half of Hispanic Christians worried about deportation…

John Piper vs. dogs…

Extreme church abuse…

Benedict,not Benedictine…

Tim Keller steps down…

In religious freedom debate, two American values clash…

Where is the evangelical response to the rise in anti-Semitism?

Lent is not about getting better…

Distracted by digital? Learning to focus during Lent…

Recreating the sounds of an ancient Greek church…

Money, identity, and the face of forgiveness…

New Christian Zionism…

Finding a concord with science…

Of pastors and judges…innocent until proven guilty…

Porn is a public health crisis…

What is God really like?

The doubt that breathes beside you…

Why Americans are leaving religion…and unlikely to come back…

Why Lent is good for your brain and soul…

What Twitter users are giving up for Lent…

Is the Gospel preached or lived?

What is Ash Wednesday?

Big thanks as always to Eric L…support his work at top right…

 

Feb 272017
 

Phil and I celebrate podcast #100 talking about “The Shack” movie… and we each have three things to say to the church…

Download the mp3

 

Feb 272017
 

1. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:16–18 ESV)

 

James says that if you want an example of how much power that is available through prayer, look at Elijah.

There’s another reason why “I believe, help my unbelief” is my “life verse”…

2. Winter makes me a heretic…it convinces me that hell is actually cold…

3. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.(Hebrews 13:2 ESV) I suppose it would be rude to wonder if we’ve turned away some undocumented angels…

4. If you’re reasonable enough it’s relatively easy to get both sides of the national divide to hate you…

5. Back in the day “WWJD”(what would Jesus do?”) was a popular meme. I laughed at people wearing their silly bracelets…now I’m trying to find one to wear…

6. Those in apologetics always like to point out that cults worship a “different Jesus”. On the other hand, there is as much difference between Jesus who preached the Beatitudes and the American political Jesus as you can get…

7. While the politicians have you worried about a flood of migrants on the border that ended five years ago,they aren’t saying a word about automation…which will end up taking more jobs from people than all the migrants put together. They just hope you stay distracted…

8. Justice without mercy is a good definition for damnation…

9. I didn’t watch the Oscars last night. I wasn’t protesting, there just wasn’t a Batman movie nominated…

10. Our national anger is as dangerous a threat from the inside as nuclear weapons are from the outside. I think the Bible addresses this…

Feb 252017
 

Lord, give me I pray:

A remembering heart for the things that have happened

An attentive heart to what I have heard

A forgiving heart for what has hurt

A grateful heart for what has blessed

A brave heart for what may be required

An open heart to all that may come

A trusting heart to go forth with You

A loving heart for You and all Your creation

A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things.

A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will.

LEIGHTON FORD, American evangelist/spiritual mentor (1926–present day)

Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-09-27). Prayers for Today (Kindle Locations 569-574). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Feb 252017
 

Matthew 17:14-27

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,

  • They came down the mount to the reality of life.
  • A grumbling crowd and the disciples fighting with the religious leaders.
  • * Note the posture of the man. Respect!

15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

  • Other translations – seizures – lunacy

16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

  • Was this just the remaining 9 disciples who did not go up the mountain?
  • They did not have that ‘mountain top’ experience and failed?

17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

  • Who is Jesus addressing?
  • The crowd? This man? The disciples? All of them?
  • Are these ‘little faith’ disciples?

18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.

  • Jesus rebukes his people, then turns and rebukes the demon who left ‘instantly’
  • Sounds much like the gospel of Mark who wrote in terms of things happening ‘immediately’.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

  • Now they come privately
  • What did we do wrong?

20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

  • Jesus can move mountains – nothing is impossible for God.
  • He seems to be giving that power / authority to those who do have faith.

No verse 21 – explain

*** NKJV = However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,

  • Jesus gathers them together again to deliver another sermon.
  • Son of Man is that Daniel 7 talk
  • The divine son of man – this is the divine, the messiah who will rule and has a kingdom that will last forever.
  • If you were a Jew in Jesus’ day and you know this Daniel prophecy – you are making this association – they are thinking great things
  • ) overthrowing the Romans
  • ) They think of Jesus as some great community organizer – messiah, where he will transform not only society but the whole world and make it into a Utopia.

23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

  • What??? They will do what?
  • Note that this time they were distressed, but they did not speak out as Peter had in Ch 16
  • They were distressed because that is not supposed to be the end of one who has a kingdom that will last forever.

The Temple Tax

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”

  • Temple Tax collection = all Israel males 20 yrs older had an obligation to pay the tax.
  • This is not a Roman tax.
  • The Jewish leaders say “if you are going to be Israel, you must pay this tax” – but…
  • Jesus says “if you are going to be Israel, you must believe in me.”

25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”

26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

  • This again is Jesus set aside for himself a new Israel.
  • The sons of the king are free
  • Jesus, not the Jewish leaders, is king and Christians are the sons.
  • The New Israel.
  • You are sons, you are the New Israel – you are free from the old system, free from them because I am here.
  • I am the temple, I am the sacrifice, I am the high priest …. For salvation!

27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

  • This reality is the Mt Transfiguration thing – but not on the mount but down by the sea.
  • Not to give offense – because Good Friday has not yet happened.

 

Feb 242017
 

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

(James 3:5–10 ESV)

I was on one of my infrequent passes through the land of cursing those made in the likeness of God, also known as Facebook.

One of my Facebook “friends” (who doesn’t like me at all) was joining in the popular chorus railing on undocumented migrants.

“Wetbacks” was the term he used.

Evidently, one of the ways some are making America great again is through the renewed use of ethnic slurs.

I could’ve been shocked, but nothing shocks me any more when it comes to how we use our tongues, or how our tongues express themselves through our communications.

Other friends  (some who like me, and some who don’t) spend large chunks of their days posting curses against those who disagree with them politically.

Christians are upholding the faith once delivered by creating labels for people they don’t want to share space with that don’t contain profanity, but in reality are as profane as hell.

They are “godless” or “enemies of God” therefore anything goes, unless you cuss.

We’re too holy to cuss, but not to curse.

The world, the flesh, and the devil have conspired again to make Christianity and Christians less than they are.

They have sold us the lie that “those people” were not created in the image of God, that they are the work of Satan and they deserve whatever scorn we heap on them.

We demand the upholding of our sexual and social ethics by violating biblical ethics taught in passages we’d rather avoid.

Passages like this…

Brothers (and sisters), these things ought not to be so.

You can’t spread evil and poison mixed with the Gospel…the poison will kill both the Gospel and the hearer…and you.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

(Proverbs 18:21 ESV)

Our “enemies” are people created in the image of God, people Christ died for.

Our job isn’t to make America great again, but to represent the kingdom of God and our King and His greatness.

We need to repent.

I’ll go first…

You should see some of the stuff I’ve deleted.

Make your own application…

Feb 232017
 

Parable of the Sower

“ ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’

As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’

 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-15)

In his Things I Think column dated 1/30/17, Michael wrote: “I don’t recognize the Jesus of some as the one I worship, nor do they recognize mine.” Does God’s Word present us with different Christs? Or do some Christians remake Christ in their own image? Instead of finding their identity in Him, do they fashion a false Christ who shares their identity?

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ ” (Luke 8:10)

Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were so certain about what they expected from their Messiah that when they met Him face to face they did not recognize Him. Seeing, they did not see. Hearing, they did not understand.

  • His own kinsfolk in Nazareth rejected Jesus because they only saw Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22).
  • The scribes and the Pharisees rejected Jesus because they did not acknowledge His authority on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5:21), He dined with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30), and He healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11).

These groups saw, but did not see the Kingdom-In-Person in their midst. They heard, but did not understand the grace of God. Therefore, Jesus warned His disciples: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18)

“Are you the one who [has] come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19)

This is a question for our day too. Who is Jesus Christ? What will He do for us? Will He affirm our life choices? Will He condemn our enemies? Will He bless us with success? Does He share our political ideology? Will He show us a sign?

Our situation today is different than it was for Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries. Jesus preached a pure Word and presented them with a binary choice – acknowledge Him or deny Him – as the Messiah. However, after 2,000 years His Word has been massively “trampled underfoot.” The result is that the world is now filled with false teachers preaching a variety of false Messiahs. To find the true Word of Christ preached is the exception today, not the rule. Some false teachers are more honest than others. Some of them admit they do not consider the Bible to be the Word of God for people today. But others who claim a high view of the Bible nevertheless distort the Word of Christ through false interpretations.

Worshiping a false Messiah may seem life affirming and comforting. But just like Jesus’ contemporaries, what will you see, hear or understand should a true preacher of Christ scatter good seed before you? Where will the seed land? If you are committed to a false Messiah, then good seed may land on the path and the devil will come and snatch it away. On the other hand, maybe you are just infatuated with a false Messiah; then perhaps good seed will land in rocky soil or where the thorns grow. But neither of those places produces the fruit of eternal life.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)

In our day and age when Christianity is presented as a salad bar, we should recognize that much of the greens and vegetables at the salad bar are poison for the soul. Many of the false Christs being preached in churches today to enthusiastic crowds are making the hearts of people dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

But not all of Jesus’ contemporaries were hardened against Him. The four gospels identify many people (in addition to His disciples) who believed in Him. They were the ones who did not reject him on account of His humble birth, itinerant lifestyle, or compassion for sinners, Samaritans and Gentiles. They had ears to hear, and they listened.

Therefore, we must take Jesus seriously when He says “Take care then how you hear….” For His Word is always perfect and effective, but He (i.e., the Christ of the Bible) must be heard if we are to believe in Him. Moreover, Christians with ears to hear should not endure the preaching of a Christ which runs contrary to (or different from) the One portrayed in His Word, because such false teaching damages our hearing and our understanding. Instead we should go to where He and His Gospel are preached according to His Word. This saying is trustworthy: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Lord Jesus Christ, make our hearts good fertile soil for your Word. Establish enduring roots in us. Protect us from the devil, false teachers and our own itching ears. Create in us an honest and good heart. Bear fruit in us that leads to eternal life and which reaches out in love for our neighbors. Amen.

 

Feb 222017
 

Last week, Michael provided us with an update on the latest news of Saeed Abedini. 

He posted the story of Saeed being sentenced (although ever so lightly) for violating the restraining order taken out by his estranged wife, Naghmeh.

In Michael’s article, he posted a picture of Saeed with Franklin Graham and was questioned as to why he did so.  When I read the question, some thoughts came to my mind and I commented accordingly.  Throughout the whole Saeed Abedini imprisonment ordeal, Graham was Abedini’s most well-known supporter and was very public in his advocacy and also in working with Naghmeh.  When Saeed was finally released from Iran, Graham very publicly was the first to welcome him back to the U.S. and hosted him at his conference center.  This welcoming occurred after the allegations of Saeed’s ongoing abuse against his wife and the revelation of his previous conviction of domestic violence.  In fact, Graham even publicly defended Saeed soon after the allegations came to public awareness.  We have many records of him supporting Saeed.  To this point in time to my knowledge, he has yet to utter one word publicly in the negative against Saeed in regards to the abuse allegations, his criminal convictions, his filing for divorce, and his continued drive to establish himself in a position of spiritual leadership and influence.  Thus by omission, Graham sends the message of continued support for Saeed.

Meanwhile, we know that Calvary Chapel Boise was the home church of the Abedinis before and during Saeed’s imprisonment.  Although it appears that the church did not officially sanction or commission Saeed for his work in Iran, there also seems to be no known record of them having been against it.  It is also believed that some within the leadership of the church knew of Saeed’s past domestic violence conviction.  Bob Caldwell, who we now know has his own big problems which have disqualified him from the pastorate, was the senior pastor of CC Boise during this whole ordeal.  Unless someone knows otherwise and can correct me, I don’t believe Bob Caldwell or anyone else in leadership at CC Boise has ever publicly addressed the abuse allegations or convictions or Saeed’s continued claim to be a pastor and attempts to position himself as a spiritual leader.  Thus, they too, avoid addressing publicly that which is a very public issue even though they have close ties to the situation.

This blog has a history of addressing church scandals.  Many of the scandals occurring within Calvary Chapel, but plenty of other ones, too.  Some known on a national level and other ones much smaller.  One of the common threads, however, on many of these scandals is that those who had power and influence directly or tangentially to the circumstance, whether formal or informal, chose to stay out of the fray.  In some cases, they may have even provided cover for the wrongdoers.  Contrarily, they could have stepped in and used their power and influence to provide warning to the masses or to help rectify the wrongs, if not even put a complete stop to them.  But nay, that is not what happened.

We know that our leaders are fallible and we should not be surprised when they don’t always do things right.  But it is still disheartening in situations like these when they cannot step up and do the right thing on very public matters in which they are involved.  Especially in our current day church and world where so many events and circumstances become public knowledge.  So many people who shouldn’t, yet gain or maintain followings, or shenanigans that shouldn’t, yet gain positive attention, could be minimized if not completely shot down if people were willing to speak up and speak out.

I am not calling for a heresy police who are out to make a ruckus about every single thing they see as wrong, even often times making a bigger deal of something than it deserves.  The ODM’s and the like certainly aren’t my cup of tea.  But when there are legitimate and significant wrongs publicly taking place within the realms of church and spiritual leadership, then the onus is on people who are connected to the circumstances to step up and say that this is not right and we do not condone it and it needs to stop.  Most especially those who are church and spiritual leaders.  So much harm is allowed to perpetuate when this doesn’t happen.

When I had seen the news of Saeed Abedini’s latest sentencing, I posted it on my Facebook page as a reminder warning about the man.  I received some pushback as if I was being silly or going over the top in warning about him.  In return I explained that I warn against the man since I previously had been a big advocate of his as the “pastor” wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.  And since we now have learned that Saeed should have no business being a pastor or spiritual leader, I feel it is my responsibility to let people know the rest of the story.  Even though my circle of influence is quite small compared to many others, if I could prevent even one person from mistakenly following after or supporting the man after I had previously helped make his plight known to them, then it was worth my while.

I tell this little personal story not to proclaim how good I am as Lord knows I’m just as big of a sinner as the next guy.  But to give picture to what in many cases could and should be done.  Now, this situation is hardly any skin off my back as there really is little personal involvement or attachment for me.  I’ve never met the Abedinis or even communicated with them in anyway.  The strings of personal and emotional attachment can be much greater in some situations and so it is understandable that there are times when it can be much harder to step up and say something.  But that still does not excuse behavior, or lack of it.  Especially from our leaders who have greater responsibility by virtue of their position.

We know there are times where our leaders step up and do the right thing.  Quite possibly more times than not.  But for as often as we see the type of scenario play out where the wrongdoers are not held accountable by the leaders who could do so, it sure seems like there is opportunity for this to happen even much more.  What if a Franklin Graham had stepped up and said that while he had supported Saeed Abedini to free him from his wrongful imprisonment, that he could not support him in his current ministry and spiritual leadership efforts?  What if more of those who were on the board of Gospel for Asia or who were big influential supporters of the organization stepped up and publicly declared that GFA should no longer be supported due to its now known significant corruption?  What if those who knew of Tullian Tchividjian’s past discretions had spoken up before he continued on in leadership and prowled on more people’s lives?

How much more harm could have been avoided?  How much harm is still occurring because people haven’t stepped up?  People who are being taken advantage of and following after charlatans and giving money to those who should have no business receiving it.  Lord, have mercy on those who suffer because of our own failure to act.          

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