Monday, April 2, 2018

Embracing the gift of singleness

I tell people I am “romantically asleep” when they ask me the “do you have a girlfriend?” question. Yes, it’s kind of a weird punch line, so I usually explain by saying something like,  "Now don't get me wrong, being single is tough. I know I don't have the gift of singleness, and I am working super hard to establish myself to be able to be married ASAP. But until I reach that point, I have thought it best just to stay single." If the person I asked genuinely cares about me, or if they’re not slowly backing away from me with eyes glazed and jaw gaping, I also add that being "romantically asleep" is hard, painful even, like the pain Adam felt in his sleep when God pulled a rib out of his side.

Yes, this answer is too long. Sometimes a “no” works too. ;)

Thankfully, a sermon by pastor Matt Chandler on "singleness" hit me right between the eyes last week.. It helped cut through my elaborate story and gave me fresh perspective on this season of singleness I find myself in. Pastor Matt talked about how all singles have been given the gift of singleness—that it's not just reserved for those "Eunuchs born that way" in Mathew 19:12. Whereas I viewed singleness as a gift given to those who don't feel their need deeply for a help meet, Pastor Matt challenged us to view our current singleness as a blessing, even if we desire to be married.

Like 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 says, we singles aren't bound by the extra "worldly" worry of caring for our spouse. We can be more devoted to serving the Lord, and this season of our life can be used powerfully for Him! Singleness is a benefit according to Paul, and this revelation is the only way to make sense of 1 Corinthians 7. We should accept this truth and be thankful for it! How repulsive to see a child open a gift from their parents--and then immediately whine that it's "not what they wanted". How much more despicable would it be for us to do the same thing to our Heavenly Father!

I don't want to be that whiny child. I refuse to treat being single as a burden any longer; I refuse to put on that long face of "poor, weary saint" like the Pharisees did when they were fasting. This season of singleness that God has called me to is not a burden, but a gift! I desire to enjoy it to the fullest, for His glory.

Matt Chandler shared this quote in his sermon, and it really sums up where my heart is now: "I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to deserve a [spouse] or too spiritually mature to need one. I am single because God is good and this is his best for me." Page Benton Brown.

Yes, that is true! I really do believe it, and I am enjoying “his best for me”, just like I will enjoy pursuing someone, Lord willing, when the time is right. I do love this season of hard work and challenging college goals. I love the "free time" I have to pursue Godly knowledge through good sermons, books, and the different avenues of ministry I am pursuing as a man "anxious only for the Lord.” I won't waste this time being anxious for the help meet God is still fashioning for me. One day, Lord willing, later this year when I have another busy mowing season (possibly my last!) under my belt and am closer to graduating, I will wake up and start looking for a help meet suitable for me, but for now I am peacefully asleep.  And no, I don't think it hurt Adam when God took a rib from him anymore. I can honestly say that and believe it. I am experiencing this comfort in Christ! God is so good, and He knows just the gifts to give his children in their seasons of need.

Do you need this same encouragement to view this season of singleness as a blessing? I will share the link to Matt Chandler's message below. I would also encourage a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 7 after watching the message. It's my prayer that it will encourage you like it did me, single brother or sister. It's heartbreaking to think that any Christian would bemoan a gift from God! Take heart! God knows exactly what we need, and He provides in His good timing. Enjoy the abundant life he gives now, no matter what season of life you're in!

Here's the message:  Matt Chandler: Singles

God bless you all! 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Keeping the Captive

KEEPING THE CAPTIVE

To my dad, and to all the Godly mentors the Lord has brought into my life! Thank you for your grace and patience in all you have taught me over the years! May I always speak the truth. . . but in love.

~~~~~`

Too busy to rest, then too restless to sleep. What an odd sensation these Earthlings lose themselves in. They pride themselves in their freedom while they wholeheartedly collect chains. Another pleasurable sin, another vice, another death. We see the natural progression of the natural man, and sometimes we think our job is easy. 

Take my captive, for instance. Your typical, foolish Earthling. He doesn’t help our cause much, but that’s okay. He is slowly dragging himself into the dirt, crushing himself under a load of sins and chains he’s been collecting since birth. I’m watching him right now. I’m obsessed with keeping him. It’s my job. I have provided him with the essentials, of course—a pathetic fa├žade of “life is good” and a couple of weapons to fight back the logic of the enemy with. In one hand he carries the wisdom of man, their primary choice to deflect the evident truth that there is a God. It’s a blunt spiritual sword, really, because who can deny His existence? In the other hand he carries a shield of healthy skepticism of spiritual things. He doesn’t even think I or my kind exist!  I smile at this little captive soldier I’ve built. His armor is so pathetic . . . no more than a mask to hide the deep pain of a meaningless life. And yet off he trudges into another day, ready to fight for his freedom to remain my captive.

You can see why I think my job is easy sometimes, and I am only a low-ranking force compared to most of my comrades! Pardon me for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Lucius, and I am an enlightened angel serving the Morning Star. I reject the plan my Creator had for me, and I live to serve my new lord in his quest to establish his kingdom over all the created world. I live, like he does, to steal, kill, and destroy. I repeat that pattern over and over with each new assignment—each new captive— I am given. I steal away their hope and chance at an abundant life. I crush their earthly life. And they are destroyed forever in an eternal punishment so horrible it was originally reserved for us. Yes, you simple humans call us demons, but don’t forget what we once were. We’re more real, more glorious and profound, than you ever will be in your natural state, Earthlings. Which is why we want to keep you that way.

Does my captive even know we are destroying him? He must know, because despite my hardest efforts to the contrary, he has been exposed to the light several times. He knows of the abundant life our enemy offers . . . a life of true freedom and broken chains. A life of power over the grave and victory over our temptations because of the work of the Son of Man. It’s terrible. Sometimes I can’t believe he doesn’t wake up and see it. Is sin that pleasurable that he would choose it over life?

I jerk myself from my contemplations and turn my attention back to the task for the day. Keep him captive; don’t let them change him. A flash of doubt sparks through my mind. My orders are clear, and though they seem utterly antithetical to my mission, I trust with utter confidence in my superiors. I am taking my captive to see a Christian today. We’ve been orchestrating this appointment all morning, and it is almost show time.

My captive is hard at work at his day job. He works at Starbucks—long shifts too. As many hours as he can get. Right now, he is wiping tables. He’s got his back turned to the Christian, who is walking toward him with coffee and computer bag in tow, but that will change in a second. Sure enough, almost right on cue, the Christian opens his mouth to speak. Here we go!

“Good morning! Thanks for wiping that table.”

“Yeah, not a problem,” my captive replies.

“I can’t stand tables that still have crud on them,” the Christian says. He unslings his computer bag and plops it on the edge of the table, where my captive has already cleaned. They are now on opposite ends of the table from each other. My captive has his head down, rubbing away at the sticky ring someone’s caramel frap has made. The Christian is staring at him awkwardly, waiting for him to finish, trying to think of something else to say. He shifts from one foot to the other, then takes a sip of his coffee. He gulps it down too quickly, I think. It looks like he burns his throat.

“You having a good morning?”the Christian all but chokes out.

“I’m hanging in there.” My captive straightens up and snaps his rag clean. I am afraid he is going to turn and leave, but thankfully, for the sake of not looking completely indifferent, he reciprocates the question. “How about you?”

“Oh I’m good!” the Christian replies. “God is good!”

There it is. Finally! These Christians, they are often so slow getting around to mentioning the God they claim to serve. This is the whole point of the meeting though! A test. A conflict. And if all things work out as planned, a captive even deeper in bondage. I lean forward, watching every moment unfold. I’m ready to insert myself if need be.

Right on cue, my captive bristles. Up goes his shield. It’s invisible to earthly eyes; I wonder if the Christian even notices it. But regardless, my captive’s words make it clear where he stands. “Well, I’m glad God’s working out for you anyway,” he says.

“You don’t believe in God?” the Christian asks. Ah, you see, he wants this opportunity too. The spiritual conflict is inevitable now. I feel myself thrill to the fight. The coffee house setting fades and all but disappears in my mind’s eye. I am immersed in this glorious, eternally-impacting struggle.

My captive shrugs. ”I don’t know. I believe in things I can see and observe.” With these words, he unsheathes the spiritual weapon I have equipped him with, the wisdom of man. I’m disappointed to see that he doesn’t thrust deep with it. Not yet, at least. Maybe he will once he feels more threatened.  
“I have seen and observed God!” the Christian replies. “He is evident in all His creation!” With these words, out comes the Christian’s weapon. It shines brighter than gold, like sunlight on a pure, white snowfield. It is sharp and deadly, able to cut right through the pathetic armor we equip our captives with.

I shudder and draw back, suddenly terrified. What am I thinking! Such a weapon can easily destroy any fortress I might build. It is absolute torment to me! In a moment, I am ready to take flight and flee for my life. Let me go black to darkness, away from the light and the battles. Who cares what happens to my captive, if only I am safe from that terrible weapon! But my eyes lock with one of my superiors across the room. He is a seasoned warrior for our master; he has destroyed countless numbers of captives. He tells me in that glance to hold on.

“I only know,” my captive is saying, “that many, many smart people believe in evolution. What’s more, science has proven it!” It’s a weak thrust with a blunt weapon. Such a jab won’t dent the shield of faith most Christians have, and sure enough, it glances harmlessly off this Christian’s shield.

The Christian raises his brilliant weapon high. It is his turn to strike. I all but grovel in my place behind my captive, knowing I will feel the terrible bite of the Christian’s spiritual weapon. Surely it will rip me to shreds, or if not me, then my doctrines of deceit.  The weapon drops, and I all but screech and flee . . .

 But the blow doesn’t strike me! It cuts deeply into my captive, rending right through his pathetic armor. I hate to see the armor rent, but I am so glad I didn’t receive the blow that I can’t be truly upset.

“The fool says in his heart, there is no God! Fools deny the self-evident truth of God and suppress the truth with their own foolishness. You are a fool if you follow them!”  

Again and again the Christian raises his weapon and strikes. He shares truth after truth, battering down my captive’s feeble attempts to raise his shield of skepticism.  At first I flinch with every stroke, sure one of them will be directed at me, sure that my plans for keeping my captive will be harmed. But with each stroke, I grow more confident, and then even exuberant as I watch. My captive reels from each blow. His spirit is being crushed. He is being emptied and insulted, bludgeoned out of humanity itself. The Christian’s work is far more devastating than any of my efforts in my captive’s life the last year. What amazing destruction! The Christian’s weapons are indeed powerful.

I realize the brilliance of my master’s scheme. Why take my captive to a Christian? For precisely the reason before me! Their weapons can cut deeper than any of ours, even our most potent ones like rage, jealousy, and slander. We know this from experience. Countless numbers of our spiritual strongholds have fallen to the power of their weapons and the Lord they serve.

But what if—imagine this! What if these Christian soldiers mistake our captives for their enemies?

The battle is over. My captive disengages, too weary to continue. The Christian watches my captive as he heads back to the employee section of Starbucks and he even calls out “God bless you!” as if he has just won a great victory. But it is I who have won! Yes, my captive lost his shield and weapon—they are battered to pieces!—but he still carries his chains. He stumbles underneath them, his inward person too damaged to hold up under them much longer.

My captive finds his way out the back door, to where the employees who smoke take their breaks. His friend Joe is there, sprawled out on a green, rust-speckled bench. I wave hello to my comrade assigned to Joe, and he gives me a knowing look and a thumbs up. Joe takes a drag from his cigarette and does one of those “cool man” chin bobs at my captive. “What’s up, dude?”

“I hate Christians.”

Joe laughs. “You too, huh? What happened? Some zealot aim his blaze of glory at you?”

“Yeah, big time Bible-thumper.” My captive sighs, kicks at the cigarette buds that litter the floor, and sits down on the bench next to Joe. “What’s their problem, man? Do they take pleasure in ripping us apart?”

“Naw, they want you to believe what they do, bro.”

“By pounding me into the dirt? I’d rather go to hell than believe what they do.”

“Haha, that’s the spirit. Believe in what makes you happy, that’s what I live by. If that sends me to hell or not, I don’t know. But at least it makes life here bearable.” Joe taps the ashes out of his cigarette and leans back like he has just shared a bit of profound wisdom.

“Keeps our Sundays free, that’s for sure,” my captive replies wryly. For the first time this morning, he smiles. This is perfect! Bit by bit, Joe has nursed my captive’s wounds. He’s helped him recover! At the end of it all, he’s handed my captive back his shield of skepticism and helped arm him again with our spiritual weapons, and my captive is stronger for it. He just might make a good soldier for our cause someday.

The two humans share a laugh, and my captive rises and clasps his friend on the shoulder. “Thanks, Joe, I appreciate you being there for me. I got to get back to the tables.”

“No problem, man, anytime.” Joe flicks his cigarette on the floor and stomps it. “I’ll follow you in. Gotta keep making the big bucks, right?”

“Haha, that’s right. One day at a time.” My captive holds the door open, and the two of them file in.

I pause at the door, collecting myself. Proud, very proud. My superior meets me there. It may sound weird to you humans that we have emotions too, but he is all but smiling as he says, “Good work, Lucius.”

“Thanks. I did well?”

“Yes, it went as well as planned.”

“So what’s next?”

“Same thing as always—keeping the captive. Don’t lose him.”

“After today? I don’t think I ever will.”

My superior nods. “Just keep him away from Christians who actually know how to use their weapons.”

I grin maliciously. “Sounds like a plan!”

~~~~~~


The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hungry for a great Christian movie? Go see "I Can Only Imagine"


For so long, Christian films have been playing catch up with Hollywood. They've been like the chubby little sibling running after an older sibling—stumbling and bumbling, clearly unable to keep pace, but yelling "Wait up!" the whole time. It's been hard to watch . . . even annoying at times as some films (*cough* Pureflix *cough*) give credit to the "Cheesy Christian film" stereotype.

But no more!

The important thing was time. Time for aspiring Christian filmmakers to mature and take each little stepping stone. Time for budgets to expand and real actors to take notice. Time to hone stories to artfully engage and captivate by "telling instead of showing." It took time to trim out the cheese.

Amazingly, I can now say that much like how the age gap between two siblings becomes unrecognizable over time, Christian movies are right there with Hollywood in terms of quality. This is abundantly true of I Can Only Imagine, the real-life story of Christian music artist Bart Millard. The film artfully weaves Bart's personal life with his professional start in the music industry. It shows how Bart's young life of abuse by his father shaped his insecurities and made chasing a dream so hard, yet so vitally important, in his life. It shows how crushing it was when those in Nashville told him "you don't have it", and how Bart all but gave up on his dream of singing for the Lord.

But then, at this turning point of disappointment and broken dreams, I Can Only Imagine chronicles a real-life miracle. It shows the transformation of a monster to a man of God, and the impact that can have on a broken son's life. It shows the healing God can bring not only to broken dreams, but to broken relationships!

I cannot praise this film enough. I went into I Can Only Imagine with modest expectations. After all, how ho hum of a concept, putting the life story of a contemporary Christian music artist to film. However, in reality it blew me away! It quickly became one of, if not my favorite, films. It will make your heart swell and your tears flow at the amazing work of God. "When you take something broken and make something out of it, what is that called? There's a word for it," Bart's dad muses.

"Redemption," Bart replies, and that is exactly the testimony displayed through this film in powerful, powerful ways.

You will be drawn by the "realness" of the characters, and in fact, the story hits every benchmark of good storytelling to a "T". It is very engaging, the quickest hour and a half I have spent in a long time. The filmmaking is also fantastic and very high quality.

Eventually, younger siblings have a tendency to overtake their elders in skill and performance, and I can see that day coming thanks to the work of the directors of this film,  the Erwin brothers. Noticeable actors like Dennis Quaid (I Can Only Imagine) and Jon Voight (Woodlawn) have signed onto the films the Erwins are producing, and I pray even more of Hollywood can't help but take note. I can see a day where not only is a role in a Christian film sought after, but envied--and more than that, that the Christian faith is envied thanks to great films like I Can Only Imagine.

It's taken awhile for this chubby little toddler of the Christian film industry to hit stride production-wise with Hollywood, just like it took David time to find smooth stones to take Goliath down with. But now those "smooth stones" are in hand, and David is winding up. Proof in point, I Can Only Imagine beat Disney's A Wrinkle in Time at the box office this weekend. It's a marvel that can only be seen in person, at the theater, and that is where I encourage you to go. Witness I Can Only Imagine for yourself,  and be blessed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In the Way




We've all been told we're "in the way" before. Whether standing in the hall, perusing a shopping isle, or stuck in traffic, we've all experienced a polite "excuse me", a less friendly exclamation of annoyance, or a blaring horn that's let us know definitively: "You are in the way."

That phrase has really struck me recently, but for a different reason thanks to John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." I've realized I am in the Way. In the truest sense of the term, I am always in the Way, because of my relationship with Jesus.

The awesome thing is, you are too if you've accepted Jesus as Lord. You've rejected the broad way of the world that leads to destruction and embarked down the narrow way that is life in Jesus. You've followed our Lord's advice to, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mathew 7:13-14)

How does walking on this new, narrow path work itself out practically in real life? It is interesting in that it's not as if our new path as Christians is in a whole new world (we are not transported to Narnia like the Pevensies, unfortunately), but here in the nitty gritty of the same world where we once explored the wide path. We are in the world; we are just no longer of it. And to make matters more confusing, in this world there are crossroads where the wide and narrow ways intersect.

Yep, let that sink in.

These crossroads are explained in Jeremiah 6:16:

This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient path, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'

It's natural for all of us to ask where each potential path leads when we come to a crossroad, both physically and spiritually.. I praise God that if you're a Christian, you've asked where the good way is, you've walked in that ancient path, and you've found rest for your soul. Moreover, it's our job as Christians to answer those questions being asked at the crossroad. We should be the ones saying, "Here, over here!! This is the path that leads to life!" Unfortunately, clearly there are many who will reply adamantly, "We will not walk in it!"

As Christians, what should our relationship be with these "We Will Not's"? Here is where the explanation becomes a tongue twister. You see, if we are in the Way, than we will be in the way of those people who have rejected the good way. As Proverbs 24:11-12 says:

Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

It is our calling as Christians to stand in the gap at the crossroad, to link arms and try and stop those stumbling toward the road sign marked "Broad Way", because we know a more accurate sign would read "Destination: Destruction." That's why Christ is a stumbling block to those who won't believe (1 Peter 2:6-8), and that's why it is our responsibility to preach this stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). It's not that we are somehow clinically sadistic, but that we want to save the lost around us from a path that dead ends--and by dead end, I mean a literal dead end. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12) 

A practical example of this "Standing in the gap" is our public stand at a physical crossroads in front of Planned Parenthood, where we pray to end abortion. We are a terrible stumbling block and "in the way" of a lot of people who don't want even a reminder of the ancient path or the good way, but if we save but one life spiritually or physically, it will be well worth the cries of anger and rage from the "We Will Not's." Even if we don't ever save a life, it is still our calling to try!  And may we all be faithful to that calling.

Lastly, we are also called to bring back those who wander from the narrow path: 

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Even those who start down the narrow path can wander back to the world, and that's why it is so important that we make disciples, and not just converts. To be a Christian is to be in the Way, and to be in the Way is to be in the way of those who would wander straight into hell. So, that leaves me with one question. 

Will you be in the Way with me? 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I am Pro-Choice: Why Choice isn't just a Woman's Right

I am pro-choice.

I have come to realize that I need to admit this to my family, church, and community. I do believe it is a woman's right to decide whether to have a child or not, and nobody can take this right from her. Not a Christian, not even a conservative atheist. Especially not government. There will be no government-imposed, forced sterilization on my watch, and neither will I ever accept a justification worthy enough to mandate that a woman must have a child.

Since this choice is a right, Women shouldn't be left alone to speak out on this issue. I believe it is every human being's responsibility to speak out for human rights, even if they are the opposite sex of those who deserve that right. For instance, if an employer decided not to hire me based solely on her prejudice against me as a male, I would hope both men and woman would speak out against this discrimination. Forcing a woman to stay silent--claiming she has no right to speak up for me because she doesn't share my same genitalia--is pure sexism. So is saying I don't have a right to speak out on the pro-choice issue just because I am a man.

What's more though, I've realized that it's not only women who have the right to choose whether to have a baby or not, but also men. This choice is their personal choice, and they too, like women, should speak out to defend it. For me personally, I have chosen not to have a baby right now. I am 21 and still a virgin because I know I am not ready to start a family and provide for a baby.

You see, if you've lived more than a few years, you know the answer to the question "where do babies come from?"  It's a proven fact that the pleasure of sex brings babies into this world. That is not debated. It is also not debated that the embryo is similar yet distinct from its parents at the moment of conception. Because the DNA specifies human, the embryo is human like its parents, and in that way it is similar. However, since the DNA is spliced together from both the mom and dad's chromosomes, this little person (let's say the DNA specifies "boy" for clarity's sake) is neither his mother or father--or a part of his mother's body, for that matter. He is a distinct human being at the earliest stage of development.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." I believe every human being has the right to live in freedom, so that they can make choices to better themselves and live in peace and happiness. To take these choices away from anyone is despicable. That's why slavery is wrong. That's why eugenics is wrong. And that's why killing little human beings inside the womb is wrong.

Abortion is not a personal choice, but a perverse crime since it robs human beings of their unalienable rights.  Since I am pro choice, I believe all human beings have the right to choice, and I stand against any practice that takes those choices away. We all have the right to choose whether or not to bring a baby into this world, but when our choices lead to the conception of a new human being, we no longer have a choice to bring a baby into the world or not, because the baby is already here. I will always speak out against abortion, because choices are personal to me, as they should be to every human being. I don't want my choices taken from me or any other human being.

You see, you don't have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice. Quite the opposite. Abortion doesn't rob a woman of her choice to bear a child; she's already accepted that possibility would come as a result of sex. Instead, abortion takes all the choices from the child in the womb. Yes, I am pro-choice, family and friends. And that is why I stand against abortion.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Beating the Hidden Giant of Pornography

Godly men, have you experienced this odd disconnect in our Christian circles like I have? We are willing to admit we struggle with keeping Jesus's perfect standard in Mathew 5:27-28 that to even look upon a woman with lust is to commit adultery in our hearts. It's socially acceptable (but no less wrong) to admit that we struggle when an immodestly dressed woman walks past us at the fair, in the mall, etc. However, when we move this same sin of lust to an online avenue, it becomes an issue that no one wants to admit to or address. It becomes the giant elephant in the room among men's Bible studies. We know pornography is a huge problem, but it is an awkward, taboo subject that is so often left untouched.

This is true for me personally. I don't like to talk about this any more than you probably do. It's awkward. It's putrid and repulsive. It's something I wish we didn't even have to struggle with. I know this is why the disconnect exists between how big an issue pornography is and how quiet our response is. I can understand this, but at the same time, not talking about porn because it is an awkward subject, I now realize, is a lame excuse. It's against my calling as a Christian, even, to not speak out.  As it says in Ephesians 5:4,8-14:


But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints . . . For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”


  I don't think there can be a clearer call to speak out boldly against pornography than this. Lord forgive me for being too hesitant to speak out sooner! Men, It's undeniable that pornography shouldn't even be named among us. It truly is shameful even to speak of this thing done in secret . . . we should have no fellowship with it.

Since I have said that clearly, I want to say, humbly, that this is not an area I have been perfect in. I have had struggles as early as age 13 with purity online, and I have stumbled more than a few times. My failures have made me realize that I can't keep pure on my own. It is honestly an issue I believe no man can conquer on his own. The man after God's own heart, David, stumbled terribly. Who am I to think that I am better or more capable than him?

This realization has gradually led me to some firmly held ideas about how to beat this hidden giant of porn that I want to share with you. First off, we need to link arms with fellow brothers and fight this giant together. Secondly, we need to put every hindrance possible between us and pornography. Lastly and most importantly, our desire and passion for Christ needs to outweigh our sinful passions toward lust. I know these ideas sound simple, but I believe it's faithfully living them out that can bring victory—and by victory, I mean total and complete freedom from temptation online! I am absolutely convinced this hope is ours, men; I have experienced a taste of it myself!

My whole desire in this post is to urge men to take pornography seriously, and to explore together these ideas for beating it. My hope is that by breaking the ice about this awkward topic through this post, conversations among men will be started that will lead to both increased awareness and renewed resolve to beat this giant back out of the gates of our churches, families, and hearts.

It all starts, I believe, by throwing off this whole idea of a lone ranger approach to our sexual purity. If you look at every account of a man stumbling into sexual sin in the Bible, he did so because he was alone. The young man walked by the harlot's house alone in Proverbs 7. David was alone on that rooftop when he saw Bathsheba bathing. The most despicable, extreme example of sexual sin is found in 2 Samuel 13 when Amnon sent out everyone from his presence so he could be alone with Tamar. Men, it is so clear: terrible things happen when we are alone.

A huge strategy for sexual purity, then, is to extremely limit what is called our "private lives". Be around people who know you. Don't find yourself alone, especially with time to kill, as much as possible. There will be times, of course, where it is impossible not to be alone, but this doesn't mean you can't still be accountable with how you are using that time. For instance, I spend hours studying in a quite room by myself, but I spend a lot of that time screen sharing with other online students so we stay accountable and on task.

Speaking of accountability, I've also realized the great benefit of having a real live accountability partner. This is not as daunting as it sounds, I assure you! Find a dear friend and brother in Christ you can trust with your secrets and be honest about your struggles with him. You'll be shocked to find that he struggles with the same issues too and wants to be free of them like you do! Seriously, this isn't that hard if we are willing to humble ourselves and be honest. It shouldn't be weird to admit that you are a real, live functioning adult male with God-given sexual desires living in a fallen world. The trade off of having someone to help build you up and sharpen you in your battle for purity far outweighs the awkward conversations you will have to have! And not to mention, avoiding having to have those awkward conversations is a great bonus motivator to remain sexually pure.

This leads into my second thought about putting as many barriers between ourselves and porn as possible. We should take this seriously, to the point of actively inconveniencing or even handicapping ourselves if that is what is necessary to avoid lust! Sound extreme? Don't blame me! It's our Lord Jesus who says in Mathew 5:27-30:


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell."


If our Lord takes lust this seriously, we should follow suit. It may mean something as extreme as not having internet at our homes or data on our phones if that is what it takes! In our day and age, that would definitely be like losing our right arm. Needless to say, we need to put as many barriers in place as possible till we stop stumbling online. An easy place to start is accountability software on all your devices and someone willing to partner with you in getting the software reports of your online activity. It may also mean no devices make it to your bed room. It may mean destroying every movie you have with a scene in it that makes you stumble. Do whatever it takes, men! I urge you. It was as if Jesus was figuratively comparing lust to gangrene. The decay and suffering it causes needs to be cut off to restore us to health! Even if that cutting off is painful and seriously debilitating, it is the only way to truly live.

Lastly but most importantly, our struggle for purity will only succeed if done for the soul purpose of glorifying God! Of this I am certain. When I try to stay pure only to prove my righteousness to man, I fail every time. How much better to be so committed to the Lord that to stumble in pornography would be heartbreaking solely because it would grieve the God who died for us! We can't fight fire with fire on this one. Battling pornography in our own flesh will lead only to failure. We need to live out our new nature as children of God, deeply committed to abiding and growing in our relationship to Him. I won't post it here, but I strongly recommend Galatians 5:16-25 as a key passage to understanding how we can deny sin as Christians. It begins and ends with walking by the Spirit!

I want to sum up this post with a simple but powerful verse. It demonstrates perfectly all the thoughts I have just shared and bundles them into one simple game plan.  May we all be faithful to find other men who call upon the Lord from a pure heart to hold each other accountable to. May we all actively flee lust no matter how much it inconveniences us. And above all else, may we be faithful to walk by the spirit and produce good fruit such as righteousness, faith, love, and peace! This hidden giant of pornography will starve itself out if it can't gorge itself on our lustful thoughts or desires. I am experiencing victory from this giant as I find more and more ways to distance myself from his reach. Will you come run with me? There is a way of escape for us where this giant can't reach. It's found in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ! Come with me, man of God. Let's flee and starve this giant together!

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 
2 Timothy 2:22

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Live Life Now

All I remember was a loud bang as the semi truck hit me.

I was on the last stretch of my journey home from Idaho last Sunday, crossing the mountain pass near our home. Night had fallen by then, and the mist rising from the partially melted snow reached for me like silver fingers in my headlights. I was following a semi truck and a utility van, the former of which was kicking up abundant amounts of sand which had been laid down to protect us from ice that had long since melted. Both the van and my truck were slowly coated with a greasy sheen of dirt. I was thankful it was still warm enough to use my windshield cleaner.

The semi truck was having problems going over 40 miles an hour up the steep mountain slope, and graciously he pulled over into a slow vehicle turnout to let us pass. The van hurried past him, and my truck reluctantly kicked into overdrive and sped up to 60 to match pace with the van. Headlights turned the corner in front of me, probably from some snow junkie making his way back down from the pass. 

Then I looked over to see the semi truck already coming back into my lane. 

I honestly don't remember much of what happened the next two or three seconds. I remember frantically looking ahead and realizing the semi truck driver was coming back over because he hadn't stopped on the slow vehicle turnout like I had assumed but was still rolling and maintaining a fair amount of speed. He had eaten up all the short space of the turnout lane and had nowhere to go but back onto the highway. I was only about two-thirds of the way past him as he was veering back onto my lane. The silver side of the semi grew closer and closer fast. My rear-view mirror folded in first. I remember oddly enough that it flashed in my face as the mirror rapped against my window. Then there was the loud bang as the semi hit me. 

I remember the oncoming car swerving to try and give me room and avoid the head on collision. I also remember there was no shoulder for him to get over onto, leaving most of the car still in the lane I was getting pushed into. I remember stomping on my brake . . .

And the next second, I was back behind the semi.

It took me a few minutes of shock and disbelief before I could process what had happened. I was shaking, both hands gripped on the steering wheel. And all I could manage to say, over and over, was "oh my goodness, oh my goodness." 

Which quickly turned into "Thank you, Lord, thank you, Lord" as I realized just how close of a brush with serious injury or even death I had been preserved from. 

Moments like this, when the veils of how fragile life really is are pulled back, sure gives me a moment to pause and reevaluate what is truly important. Would I have been content to enter the afterlife just then? With no formal goodbye to my family and friends? What would I have had to show for my life when I stood before Jesus? So many of my aspirations are future goals. I will serve you when X, Y, and Z happens, God. When I finish my degree, God. When I am married, God. 

It was revealing just how little of my 21 years would have counted for eternity. 

In that moment, all worldly passions fade. I wanted to get home to my family and hug them all tightly and promise I'd be a better son and brother. I wanted to call all my friends and give them some encouragement. I wanted to share the Gospel with someone who needed it before I never had the chance to again. 

When eternity suddenly is a few feet away shining in the headlights of an oncoming car, you realize how every second here on earth is a blessing that should be used to the fullest. No more pointless pursuits. No more discontent and dreams for only the future. Material things like a brand new, gaping dent in your truck become a non issue. You realize it's time to live life now. Make it count. Leave your family and friends with no doubt that they were loved deeply by you. Be ready to stand before God and be content at the good works He was able to work through you while you still had breath on earth.  Your prayer becomes "Use me now, Lord!" 

Micheal W. Smith's song "This is Your Time" resonates personally and is a great way to sum up this post. May we all make every moment count and truly live in light of eternity!

What if tomorrow 
And what if today
Faced with the question
Oh what would you say
This is your time
This is your dance
Make every moment
Leave nothing to chance
Swim in the sea
Drink of the deep
Embrace the mystery of all you can be
This is your time