The Hiding Game

Christ described the porn addict’s mindset eloquently.  He said, “…the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed (John 3:19-20).  In Celebrate Recovery we know we’re sick as our secrets.  That’s not just a catchy slogan.  When it comes to porn addiction, being exposed is what an indulger fears most so they become experts at hiding their habit.  Especially if they’re a Christian.  There are several reasons.  For one thing, obsession with porn is shameful to admit.  They’re afraid if they confess it to their pastor he’ll judge them and might even question if they can be trusted around teens or adolescents.  Plus word might leak and spread through the congregation.  Another is the stigma associated with sexual lust that doesn’t apply to other vices like codependency, workaholism, impatience, etc.  Plus keeping their addiction covert is relatively easy.  They can be a respected deacon and at the same time be glued to their PC monitor, cruising porn sites for hours nightly and nobody would suspect a thing.  The alcoholic or druggie will show outward signs of wear and tear but not the porn addict.  Even the blackest heart can remain undetected cloaked beneath a dress shirt and a fancy tie.

 

All of us have an “inner” and an “outer” life.  Another way of putting it would be “the person we are” and “the person we want folks to think we are.”  There’s nothing inherently wrong about that dynamic because, naturally, there are thoughts/motives we wisely choose to keep to ourselves.  However, if we think for a moment God doesn’t know the real us we’re fools.  Jesus preached, Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known.  So then whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops (Luke 12:2-3).  Back when I was in the clutches of porn addiction I simply acted as if God couldn’t see what I was doing.  I reasoned that surely He had more pressing concerns to oversee in the cosmos than monitoring the damage I was inflicting on my soul.  But what I refused to acknowledge was just how much He loves me and how much He wants me to depend on Him for fulfillment.  God does not view things the way men do.  People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  Fact is, there are over 2,000 direct references to the inner life in God’s Word so its importance can’t be overstated.  Authentic spiritual freedom depends greatly on one’s unfiltered transparency.  It’s sad when a Christian becomes a hypocrite.  If we say we have fellowship with him [God] and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.  But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7).

 

Now, the non-believing porn addict may never get caught.  But the Christian who’s certain his private sin will never be found out is mistaken.  God treasures him too much to let him destroy himself.  I thought I’d cleverly covered my tracks but all it took was a few mouse clicks for my wife to discover what I’d been hiding from her from the day we met.  Since she wasn’t even looking for my browsing history I have no doubt God deemed it high time I got exposed for the phony I was.  It’s a night I’ll never forget, I assure you.  Looking back I realize my sin was an insidious, self-inflicted disease that blocked my ability to comprehend its very existence.  My swollen smugness and misguided sense of entitlement had blinded me to my despicable iniquity.  I couldn’t see it for what it obviously was – a deadly virus infecting my heart.  Therefore I minimalized it.  J.C. Ryle wrote, “Men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin’s not quite as sinful as God says it is, and that they’re not so bad as they really are.”

 

What disgusts me most about my addiction is how immature I behaved trying to keep such a big part of me hidden from sight.  That’s what kids do, not well-adjusted adults.  That made it even harder to confess.  But when I got backed into a corner I had no other option than to give Celebrate Recovery a go.  What James 5:16 informs the porn addict is vital to overcoming their ugly habit: So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  That sounded too good to be true, too easy, but I was desperate.  My marriage hung in the balance.  Steve Gallagher wrote, “Real deliverance from sexual sin can never be possible until the heart is opened up and exposed.”  So what gave me the courage to do that?  It was finding myself surrounded by a group of guys that struggled with the same affliction.  That was a new and extremely liberating experience because I knew I couldn’t hoodwink a single one of them.  They weren’t just going to listen to me spill my guts, they were going to hold me accountable.  Several of them stepped forward to say they’d be available to chat any time I was tempted to relapse.  I didn’t know Christian men like that even existed!  Realizing I wasn’t going to have to walk the rocky, pot-holed road of recovery alone made all the difference in the world.  Most important, though, was the hope I gained from being assured that He who created the entire universe would never give up on me.

a

 

 

Advertisements

The Slippery Slope

Addiction always starts as a seed.  The first sip of alcohol.  The first toke of pot.  The first pill swallowed.  Porn addiction’s no different.  I can actually trace my former obsession back to a pre-pubescent shinny up a pole.  Something “down there” stirred and it felt wonderful.  Positive I’d stumbled upon something none of my peers knew about, I covertly began to chase that orgasmic sensation relentlessly and it eventually led me into the shady world of porn.  Having been raised in the church I suspected it was sinful but porn’s lure was so powerful I hardly put up a fight.  I gave in and it took over in no time.  Thing is, if I’d only paid attention to the Scriptures I’d been taught from the time I was able to grasp Spirit-led wisdom I would’ve recognized the slippery slope I was on for the trap it was and avoided a lot of turmoil down the road.  I would’ve realized Proverbs 6:28 (Can a man walk on hot coals without scorching his feet?) had my name written all over it.  However, I know I wasn’t alone in purposely ignoring what the Bible has to say about sexual sin.  Lots of Christians are porn addicts.  Nowadays I can’t read God’s Word without being repeatedly reminded of my stubborn stupidity.

 

Paul in particular wasn’t afraid to tell the raw truth about sex addiction and he condensed it for our convenience throughout Romans 1.  For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21).  As confessed earlier, I knew what I was doing was immoral but I did it anyway because of my rebellious nature that urged me to “do my thing.”  Speaking of insolent behavior, try this verse on for size: Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings…” (Romans 1:22-23).  My addiction started out as a fascination for the nude female anatomy via Playboy and other related magazines but over the years it slowly but surely evolved into being an insatiable craving for hardcore porn and in the process my heart steadily grew darker.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25).  For me it was a lot easier to believe the lie than to live with the guilt that came with my unfettered eagerness to sin.  I literally was worshiping the female body God created instead of God Himself.  Now, even though my soul belonged to my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally, He so respected the free will He bestowed on me that He let me slide down that slimy slope toward my undoing.  Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity…” (Romans 1:24).  Basically, God gave me enough rope to hang myself.  Adam Clarke wrote, “If voluntary, deliberate looks and desires make adulterers, how many persons are there whose whole life is one continued crime!”

 

For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions (Romans 1:26).  What reason is that?  Fact is when it comes to sinners like me nothing will make us turn to God for help but the pain that comes from smacking headfirst into the rock bottom of addiction.  Romans 1:28 confirms it: “…God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.”  In other words, God grants us our wish to do whatever the hell we want to.  Sadly, the result is a porn addict becomes “…hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).  Steve Gallagher wrote, “If a person remains in sin long enough, he can reach a point where he’s no longer influenced by the Holy Spirit.  He’s become so hardened he will not listen – he doesn’t want to hear.”  The filthy stack of sinful acts just piles up from there.  They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice… Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:29, 32).  That really hits home.  By patronizing porn web sites I was, in essence, giving the smut merchants and their sordid business my approval.  Even worse, if I found out a friend was also into porn I’d actually encourage their addiction by exchanging X-rated tapes with them!  I guess misery really does love company.  What a wretched man I was before Jesus rescued me!

 

Any believer who indulges in porn is living in denial.  God’s Word doesn’t beat around the bush.  Jesus said, I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin (John 8:34).  Solomon warned, The wicked will be captured by his own iniquities, and he will be held by the cords of his own sin (Proverbs 5:22).  And the Psalmist wrote, They sat in utter darkness, bound in painful iron chains, because they had rebelled against God’s commands, and rejected the instructions of the sovereign king (Psalms 107:10-11).  As one who spent decades shackled in the dank dungeon of porn addiction, every one of the aforementioned verses were aimed squarely at me and I didn’t have the excuse of nonbelief.  I knew what the Scriptures had to say about unrestricted, runaway lust but I chose to let my libido lead me wherever it wanted and it almost cost me everything I hold dear this side of heaven.  But because of Celebrate Recovery and its overseer, Jesus Christ, the chains of my addiction got severed and what I’ll readily call supernatural healing began to take place.  That’s when my new life, one filled with contentment and gratitude, and the one Jesus promises to all who’ll follow Him, started in earnest.  With Christ nobody’s beyond redemption.  Nobody.  Turn to Him.

a

The Deceit of Self-gratification

The #1 answer a porn addict will offer for their habit is, since no physical contact with another person is involved, there’s nothing immoral about what they’re doing.  For an unbeliever that rationale clears their conscience.  Christians, however, don’t have a leg to stand on due to what Jesus announced in His Sermon on the Mount.  He declared it to be a matter of where one’s all-important heart is at: You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).  One would think His statement defines the rule but I can tell you from my own experience addicts will simply ignore that clarification rather than obey it.  It’s because they feel helpless to resist the power of their lust-filled imagination that rules their heart.  The reason Jesus repeatedly focused on our heart’s condition is because it’s primarily the center of our emotions, feelings, affections, motives and attitudes.  Just as our literal heart delivers life-giving blood to all parts of our body, so too our spiritual heart functions as the source of all we create in our life and is the breeding ground for every thought we entertain.  And there’s our problem right there.  As Christ pointed out, For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery envy, slander, pride and folly.  All these evils come from within and defile a person (Mark 7:21-23).

 

Thus until a porn addict allows the Holy Spirit to complete its total transformation of their heart they’ll continue to be enslaved by their own unrestrained fantasy factory that loves to max out at the slightest sexual provocation.  Merlin Carothers wrote, “There’s something intriguing and mystifying about our ability to imagine things known and unknown.  To God, that ability is sacred.  He doesn’t want it misused.  And that’s exactly why evil forces have an intense desire to see that ability misused.  Our minds are the battleground; our imaginations are the trophy to be won.”  The deceit sexual sin fosters is that Jesus didn’t really mean for us to take His words seriously.  That’s a big, fat lie.  He said, If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away!  It’s better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29).  In the very next verse He said the same thing about one’s hand so the connection to viewing porn and then gratifying oneself is unmistakable (Call it eye-to-hand coordination, if you will), even if the Christian porn addict prefers to think it’s not about that.  In my case I didn’t want to admit I was behaving like one of the folks described in 2 Peter 2:14-15; Their eyes full of adultery, never stop sinning… They have trained their hearts for covetousness, these cursed children… Forsaking the straight road they have gone astray…”  Christ intentionally targeted habitual sinners (like me) who were carrying on a hypocritical lifestyle, warning us it’s possible for a person to remain very distant from God in their heart while projecting a false front of being “religious.”

 

One of the ugliest-sounding words in the English language is masturbation so I’ll only use it once in this essay out of decorum.  But we all know “M” is the ultimate outcome of viewing porn.  The addict doesn’t like to admit it’s unclean but the fact is the Bible identifies any sex act outside of marriage between a man and a woman as sinful.  Secular society and even many of the more liberal sects of Christianity vehemently disagrees with that assessment but an honest believer can’t simply wish it away for the sake of convenience.  To “M” is to sin.  Period.  I readily concede total abstinence from doing “it” may be the hardest feat a human can attempt, males in particular.  Especially in today’s sex-obsessed culture that insists “If it feels good, DO IT!”  They deem the pursuit of happiness (and pleasure) an inalienable right.  Now, if one leaves the Word of God out of the equation that makes perfect sense.  But followers of Christ don’t get to pick and choose which Scriptures they’ll try their best to obey.  For the porn addict the admonition not to “M” is akin to scaling Mount Everest every day but that’s why Celebrate Recovery’s Principle #7 is especially vital: “Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.”  That last phrase is the key.  I don’t have the power to combat my compulsive nature but my Lord does and only by keeping my eyes fixed on Him can I gain the power to resist my animalistic urges.  Without Jesus I don’t stand a chance.

 

God doesn’t find any human addiction amusing or incurable.  That’s why He always opens up an alternative route that’ll lead us away from iniquity.  We just have to take it.  Paul wrote, No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others.  And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Does it take discipline to leave yourself alone?  You betcha.  But doggedly chasing the brief relief “M” brings can lead a person to venture places they never intended to wind up in and spending time ogling obscene images that‘ll poison their heart.  When all is said and done porn addiction is one of the most selfish afflictions an individual can indulge in.  Christ taught that self-centeredness is the absolute antithesis of righteous living so fight it we must – no matter how hard it is to abstain.

3

A Porn Addict’s Mindset

Many people, mostly men, come to Celebrate Recovery because it’s only in that ministry they’ve discovered they can safely open up to other men who fully “get” their obsession with porn or lack of sexual integrity in general.  It’s important to them due to the fact folks who don’t suffer from that affliction consider it simply a product of anemic will power – a minor problem at best.  Compared to drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness issues they deem it a trivial, disgusting habit only the pitifully immature indulge in.  “Just stop” they say.  But it’s akin to most cancers in that there’s rarely a visible symptom displaying the disease’s ongoing havoc taking place inside the person.  The porn addict usually functions efficiently like there’s nothing amiss.  They can excel in their career whether they’re a surgeon, a pastor, a nuclear physicist or a senator.  Their addiction doesn’t affect their ability to drive, support a family or to even be a deacon in their church.  In other words, they seem normal in every way and maintaining that “regular guy” image becomes as vital to their well-being as food and water.  I know because I was once addicted to porn and only the power of Christ was able to break its hold on me.  Because I gave it to Him by laying it at the foot of the cross I’m no longer enslaved by it.  In fact, I’ll warn anyone who’ll listen about how it can ruin their life and then tell them there’s hope.  As Pastor Carl Lentz wrote, “When I do talk about my failures, it’ll only be to use them as encouragement to remind others what’s possible for them.  Because I’m still standing.  What used to be wounds in my life are now weapons.”  I want God to use me.  That’s why I’m not afraid to tell my story.

 

I had the most wholesome upbringing a boy could have.  I was raised in church.  Yet religion didn’t prevent porn from infecting my psyche at an early age.  When I was a teen a neighborhood pal showed me his dad’s hidden Playboy and the forbidden fruit it contained hooked me on the spot.  “Wow!  So that’s what girls look like naked!” my blossoming libido silently chortled.  I guess that’s where it started.  I had to see more.  When I got my driver’s license one of my first solo trips was to a convenience store where they sold skin magazines.  I became adept at secreting them in LP sleeves so mom wouldn’t find them.  When I turned 18 and got my own place I should’ve outgrown my fascination like so many of my peers did.  But I didn’t.  It’s humbling to admit but my strong attraction to and affection for porn became a component of my existence for well over four decades.  I didn’t see it as a problem yet I didn’t dare tell anyone.  I kept it under wraps.  My first wife knew but she didn’t care.  After our divorce I just buried my addiction under more layers of dirt.  I didn’t realize my hangup stood between me and a closer walk with the God I so wanted to know better.  I was neck-deep in denial.

 

I’ll spare the reader the smarmy details of my obsession.  All one need know is at age 55 I was still doing what I did at age 15.  That’s embarrassing in and of itself.  But what I want to emphasize is what porn was doing to my personality, my overall perspective.  It gradually diminished my confidence and self-worth, making me feel empty inside.  Of course, trying to fill that God-shaped hole with more porn seemed sensible to my warped mind.  A byproduct of that effort was erecting walls around my heart and distancing myself from others.  My family had long since labeled me an introverted “loner” so they just went about their business.  My current wife did notice but she was taking care of her ill mom 24/7 at the time so she kept her suspicions quiet.  I also became a professional blame-shifter.  I kept folks at arm’s length by claiming “Nobody understands me” and “Creative guys need their space.”  To reveal my nasty habit would’ve required stepping out of denial about my addiction and that wasn’t gonna happen.  Deep down I knew what I was doing was wrong but I was trapped in what Hebrews 3:13 calls The deceitfulness of sin.”

 

I also became increasingly critical and judgmental of those around me.  My inner guilt manifested itself by lashing out at others, even at our adolescent grandson we were taking care of during the day.  By ensuring my loved ones kept their distance I was protecting myself from them possibly asking probing questions.  At the same time I got to where I was extremely sensitive to criticism of any kind.  I was an emotional porcupine.  Another aspect of my mindset was ongoing paranoia I’d get caught.  Whenever someone sat at our PC for any length of time I’d worry I’d forgotten to sufficiently “cover my tracks.”  On top of all that there was the heavy burden of shame I shouldered daily.  I felt like the world’s biggest hypocrite whenever I claimed to be a follower of Christ.  In essence, I was miserable but still refused to think for a moment that my online porn addiction had anything to do with it.  That’s the definition of denial, folks, and I was mired in it.

 

However, I’m happy to report Christ proved to be more powerful than my horrible habit.  Yet it took the threat of losing my marriage to coerce me into admitting I had a huge problem.  Long story short, I listened to my conscience and got my tail back into a church pew pronto.  The preacher suggested I give Celebrate Recovery a try.  I did and I’ve never stopped going.  Not because the ministry healed me but because the one who created it, Jesus, did.  More to come.

d

 

 

The Obscene Stats

In this day and age when statistics are often extremely misleading or highly subject to being manipulated to support a particular viewpoint I find it difficult putting much trust in them.  And, as far as polls go, the last presidential election showed clearly that people queried don’t always tell the truth.  But when it comes to data gathered about porn viewership we’d best consider the findings realistic.  In fact, I figure the numbers and percentages cited are inherently on the conservative side because if there’s any lying going on it’s because for some telling the truth about the matter is embarrassing.  Yet it shouldn’t take stats to convince Christians we have a huge porn problem in this fallen world and it’s doing incalculable damage to society as a whole.  Only those of us over the age of 60 can remember a time when civilization wasn’t so fixated on sex.  Married sitcom couples didn’t sleep in the same bed.  Peep shows were sequestered to the seedier parts of town.  Having a Playboy magazine was shameful.  Few even knew what the word “promiscuous” meant.  Things have changed.

 

Today 80% of primetime TV shows have something to do with sex and it’s not hidden in sly innuendos, either.  Rather, there’s little left to the imagination.  On the cable networks nudity and filthy language are common fare and graphic X-rated films are available 24/7 at the push of a button.  Even perusing the magazine rack at your local drug store is an affront to our moral values.  Sex education in our school systems has gotten so watered down and politically correct its core message nowadays is “Please use condoms.”   No wonder virginity’s a rare thing to possess beyond one’s adolescent years.  And then there’s the internet.  While its intent was to improve communication and promote understanding it’s become a money machine for pornographers.  While doing research I knew better than to include “porn” in any search I did because of what that word invites into my device.  Porn’s no respecter of persons.  It’ll gladly infect anyone no matter their age, gender or race.  It’s insidious in its unrelenting aggressiveness.

 

Get this: 17 years ago porn’s annual revenues were over $10 billion in the U.S. and $56 billion across the globe.  It’s no stretch to assume those figures have doubled or tripled since.  At that time there were 4.2 million porn websites in existence.  In 2004 MSNBC conducted a poll of 15,000 folks wherein 75% of men and 41% of women admitted to watching or downloading a porn flick from the web.  Only 7% thought some sex acts should be banned.  Worse yet, 10% said they’re pretty sure they’re addicted to porn.  That may sound like a low percentage until you realize it works out to approximately 3.2 million Americans!  In a recent lecture Ravi Zacharias said a poll done at one of the major universities revealed the #1 worry the male students had wasn’t the economy, the sparse job market or global warming but the fear they were becoming addicted to porn.  I don’t know about you but that not only staggers my mind but scares the dickens out of me.  We’re in deep trouble.

 

As a leader in Celebrate Recovery for almost nine years I’ve been blessed to hear hundreds of true-life testimonies from people who struggle with various hurts, habits and hang-ups.  One thing I feel confident in stating is that 80 to 90 percent of the testifiers admitted to being sexually abused as youngsters.  I’m not exaggerating one bit.  It adds credence to the following stats: 77% of those convicted of molesting boys and 87% of those who molested girls confess to regular use of hardcore porn.  74% of girls who had sex before turning 14 claimed it was involuntary.  An estimated third of underage girls will be molested before reaching adulthood!  And Focus on the Family reports the average age of initial contact with porn for males has dropped from 11 to 5 years old!  Good grief!  Is it any wonder so many men believe women like to be hurt, humiliated and forced to do things they find disgusting?  How can we not hold our ever-expanding acceptance of porn over the last five decades responsible for so many respected politicians, pastors, movie stars, CEOs, etc. being called out for acting like cavemen around women?  Yet I haven’t heard porn mentioned one time by the media as being a major factor in warping their moral compasses and reinforcing their bloated sense of entitlement.  It’s infuriating because it’s so obvious a cause.

 

Surrounded by this environment of pervasive sensuality, a Christian man finds himself in a constant battle against temptation.  On one end of the spectrum there are those who do everything possible to avoid being confronted with suggestive images.  They carefully monitor the shows they watch, the websites they peruse and the company they keep.  (I was once fired from a managerial job because I wouldn’t join the head honchos on their weekly stripper club outing.)  Sadly, though, way too many church-going men deem porn “harmless” because they can reliably keep it under wraps (It’s a sin easy to hide).  They don’t want to consider Jesus had them in mind when He said, You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires (John 8:44).  Alas, they’re fooling themselves.  Most will vow they can “stop any time” but if that’s the case why haven’t they stopped already?  What they don’t realize is porn is just as addictive as opiates, alcohol and nicotine and even more destructive.  They conveniently disregard 1 Peter 1:14-16 that commands us, Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, because I am holy.’”  Keep in mind, the Bible wouldn’t demand holiness of us if it was unattainable but it does take considerable effort on our part.  We can’t raise the world’s moral standards if we don’t raise our own first.

c

Our Porn Problem

It seems like every day another man is being accused of stepping over the line of decency that marks what’s okay and not okay in their encounters with women.  Knowing men as I do my first reaction is to grant the female victim the benefit of the doubt.  I loudly applaud and fully support the long overdue outrage against male sexual harassment that’s growing because it’s about time it gets dragged into the spotlight of public scrutiny.  To say it’s widespread is a gross understatement and only by holding the leering culprits who prey upon the vulnerable accountable for their actions will it stop.  Only when a man understands their career will be kaput if the truth about their despicable behavior goes viral will there be enough incentive for the majority of them to change their ways.  In my life I’ve worked many jobs and I’ve either witnessed or become aware of sexual impropriety going on in almost all of them.  As a professional musician in the 70s I watched otherwise decent men take blatant advantage of their admired status as a stage performer to use and then callously discard gullible young women right and left.  I admit I was guilty of doing the same until my “you-know-better-because-you-were-raised-in-a-God-fearing-home” conscience convicted me early on that my selfishness was inflicting emotional pain on others and I ceased.  Yet, in order to remain gainfully employed, I looked the other way when I saw it happening around me.  I figured it came with the territory.  I’m certainly not proud of that but a lot of it was due to extreme backsliding away from my Christian faith.  I had no moral compass to speak of.

 

In my 30s I worked in retail management and I was privy to many stories of other store managers that demanded “favors” from their female employees who dared to ask for raises or promotions.  I worked in the cable TV industry for 13 years after that but because the top position was held by a strong, no-nonsense woman things of that nature weren’t tolerated on any level.  However, when I landed a job with a financial investment company in 2000 I immediately realized the portfolio managers there (mostly men) thought quite highly of themselves.  Thus they felt entitled to try to get away with whatever shenanigans they could.  This was in the midst of the “sensitivity training” era when staff members were required to take certain courses because of the increasing number of sexually-oriented lawsuits affecting a lot of businesses’ bottom line.  Yet it didn’t make much of an impression on these dudes.  In time a major scandal erupted in the office involving two high-ranking managers and a female assistant.  She settled out of court for a hefty sum and the two sleazebags were summarily fired.  So, yes, I’ve seen it all my life.  That’s why when women finally started coming forward with graphic tales of the unwanted sexual advances and threats they’ve had to deal with and the hard decisions it forced them into making I was very pleased.

 

However.  What I do find disappointing is the lack of protest against the worst offender of women’s rights and dignity in existence – the multi-billion dollar porn machine that’s getting off scot free.  The fact is porn is a huge problem in modern society.  Not only in the USA but, thanks to the worldwide web, across the entire globe.  Yet it remains the smelly elephant in the room no one wants to talk about openly while it goes on destroying lives indiscriminately.  Honestly, it did a thorough job of messing up mine for decades and my covert “browsing habit” almost cost me my marriage so I know what I’m talking about.  I found healing from its destruction once I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ and started working the steps and principles offered free of charge in His life-changing ministry, Celebrate Recovery.  As a leader in that program I’ve met hundreds of men who’ve suffered greatly from being seduced by the lure of porn’s empty promises of gratification.  In many cases it was viewing porn that made them feel emboldened to approach women inappropriately.  You see, porn has skewed almost every male’s fundamental ideas about sex and it needs to be castigated, vilified and eliminated for the ugliness and suffering it has wrought.

 

I understand my attempting to encourage a “War on Porn” isn’t going to be supported by everybody.  That’s because it’s become an accepted facet of 21st century life and too many folks consider it a harmless diversion.  Especially men who’ll gladly give you a litany of reasons why they deem ogling “dirty pictures” not only beneficial but necessary for maintaining their physical, emotional and mental health.  They’ll argue if it was toxic why would the government allow it to be available 24/7 to every age group on every laptop and smartphone without any restrictions whatsoever?  Isn’t porn a 1st amendment right no bureaucracy has the right to deny them?  Hasn’t civilization evolved to the point where archaic taboos telling us what’s obscene and what’s not are passé?  Porn’s literally been around as long as people have been drawing images on cave walls so isn’t it simply a genetically-encoded trait intended to make sure the human species doesn’t become extinct?  These are just some of the lame explanations for why porn should be tolerated and not labeled a critical issue.  I’ve not only heard it all but I used those same arguments to justify my own indulgences so, again, I know of what I speak.

 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring and exposing the myths and lies those who create, distribute and indulge in porn spout in order to continue spreading their filth far and wide.  While those who don’t believe in God or any religion that tags certain acts “sinful” aren’t going to give a flip about what the Bible has to say about anything, much less porn, my emphasis will be on helping Christians who find themselves helplessly caught in the smut trap.  The Scriptures have a lot to teach about having a healthy viewpoint about sex and believers had best pay heed.  Ponder the ramifications of this particular verse: In those days Israel had no king.  Each man did what he considered to be right(Judges 21:25).  Stay tuned.

a

Our Turn to Shine

Christians must bear in mind Jesus handed the entire job of spreading the Good News around over to us right before He relocated to the heavenly realm.  So it’s been “our turn” for a long time.  His work on terra firma was over and ours just beginning.  Every generation of followers since Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the heart and mind of every born-again believer, has known its primary task is to introduce everyone to Christ.  Our Savior instructed, “…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Therefore each of us plays a pivotal role in God’s master plan of salvation.  Every Christian is important.  Dallas Willard wrote, “This aching world is waiting for the people explicitly identified with Christ to be, through and through, the people He intends them to be.  Whether it realizes it or not.  There is no other hope on earth.”

 

Five months ago I began writing about the life and teachings of Jesus.  (Writing’s my way of digesting what I read in the Bible.)  I’ve borrowed heavily from the late, great Scottish preacher/theologian James S. Stewart, tossing in his poignant observations often.  21 essays later I’m even more intrigued and amazed by Christ than ever before.  I’ll alter a popular advertising slogan and say my Lord is truly “the most interesting man in the universe.”  His is the authentic “Never-ending Story.”  He defeated death.  He’ll continue to live forevermore.  Not one of the four evangelists who penned the Gospel accounts felt it appropriate or truthful to add “The End” to their book.  At the start of Acts, Luke’s second tome, he expressed that his former contribution to the Gospels was “…about all that Jesus began to do and teach…” (Acts 1:1), implying (a) more work is necessary to save this fallen world and (b) we’re the ones commissioned to do it.  Christ did the heavy lifting for us.  The price of sin has been paid in full.  The revelation of God’s redeeming love is available for all mankind to accept.  Jesus completed in every aspect His mission on this planet.  His notoriety is without peer.  However, Christians must never allow our Savior to be pigeon-holed into being regarded as only a significantly influential “historical figure.”  No way.  Christ was the most unique person who ever lived because He is, in every respect humans are capable of comprehending, God.  Nothing else explains how He transformed so many lives over the centuries.

 

Stewart said, “The fact of the matter is that the first volume of the life of Christ, the evangelic record, has been followed by a hundred others; and one is actually being written at the present hour wherever down the crowded streets of life the Master moves, seeking and finding the lost, binding up the brokenhearted, and driving out devils in the name of the Lord God Almighty.  The story had not ended when Calvary and Easter were past.  It had only just begun.”  Nobody understood this better than the apostles.  They didn’t see Jesus die, they saw Him ascend.  Whereupon they dedicated themselves to accomplishing their assigned goal – starting and nurturing a movement that, in less than 300 years, would invade and conquer even the mighty Roman Empire that had approved/facilitated the crucifixion of the Messiah.  Ponder for a moment what they accomplished against impossible odds.  Brandishing but one weapon – love – they took on not only civilization’s firmly-entrenched secularist and materialistic mindset but the unseen “principalities and powers” Paul spoke of.  They withstood the ever-intensifying scorn, ridicule and hatred continually heaped on them as society at large realized it had best take Christianity seriously.  Nevertheless, because the followers of Jesus had the undiluted power that created the universe energizing them, the Gospel message prevailed.  Yet they never called it their movement.  It was Christ’s.  He was alive in the hearts of those who bucked the trends; present in the lives of those who believed in what He was doing in the world.

 

The power the disciples possessed wasn’t imaginary or the fortunate result of fostering a positive attitude.  Not on your life.  This was a supernatural power, up till then an extremely rare commodity only a handful of humans had wielded, bequeathed to them by Christ.  This power had many facets.  It was physical.  They had extraordinary stamina and determination that enabled them to carry on despite hardships, injuries and harsh persecutions.  This power was intellectually stimulating.  Most of the early missionaries were near-illiterate yet the life-saving message of salvation they broadcast was grasped by even the most educated individuals of their time.  This power was morally uplifting.  It had the ability to save the struggling ne’er-do-wells who thought they were beyond rescue from their hurts, habits and hang-ups and introduce them to the sparkling cleanliness of Christ’s blood they could wash their souls in.  This power was spiritual.  It changed the whole person in ways that earthly things never have and never will.  The disciples actually performed bona fide miracles, healing the infirm and restoring life.  They knew without a doubt where this power came from.  It came solely from their Savior.  As Paul humbly proclaimed, I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).  A new era had commenced with the soldiers of the Lord leading the steady advance of truth across the globe.

 

We are the adopted children of God who’ve been chosen to carry the banner of Christ into the 21st century.  It’s not a suggestion but a direct order from the King of kings himself.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:18-19).  There’s no question about what’s expected of us.  We’re not to wonder where or when we’re to start ministering.  If we’ve faithfully asked for God’s will to be done in our lives then we’ve been positioned precisely in the right spot and the right moment to make a difference in a lost person’s life.  One of the things we emphasize in Celebrate Recovery is that we don’t have to clean up our act before we can be of use to God.  Remember, the privilege of being qualified as ambassadors for Jesus wasn’t something we earned.  None of us merited our redemption.  While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  Thus what we owe our Savior is nothing short of 100% dedication to doing what He told us to do.  Stewart wrote, “Christianity doesn’t mean complimenting Christ as genius or artist or teacher; it means bowing to Christ as commander.”  One of the many things I love about my church family is that we sent out and support missionaries in Honduras, Lebanon, India, Estonia and Northern Africa.  Some think we’d be better off spending that money closer to home because this country has turned away from Christ to its severe detriment.  But that’s not what Jesus instructed us to do.  Our job is not to question but to obey our Master explicitly.

 

That being said, Christians should be spurred to action by the urgency of the desperate situation the planet’s inhabitants are in.  The wisest thing Jesus did was to refrain from telling us when He’s coming back.  That way every believer must assume the world could end today and billions of folks would be left behind.  If we knew the exact date we’d surely procrastinate because it’s human nature to do so!  But all we know is time’s ‘a wastin’.  Jesus said, First the gospel must be preached to all the nations (Mark 13:10).  It has.  With modern-day communication devices as abundant as they are it’s a safe bet it won’t be much longer till He returns.  Civilization has lost its moral compass so we are the ones who must point it in the right direction.  It’s our turn to shine.  As Christ preached, You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).  The world needs Jesus more than ever so we must openly proclaim Jesus as the only practical solution to all its collective and personal problems.

 

The truth is we should be chomping at the bit to share the glory of the Gospel message with whoever will lend an ear.  The disciples?  They couldn’t help themselves.  What they had to offer the world was the greatest treasure they’d ever found.  We should exude the same enthusiasm.  All other religions insist, indirectly or otherwise, that the only hope sinful men and women have of escaping the wrath of God (or of being ignored by Him altogether) is to painstakingly pile up enough good works to outweigh their bad ones so they might gain a smidgen of favor with Him.  Conversely, Christianity says “God loves you just as you are, not as you should be.”  Other religions either portray God as a wholly unknowable entity or as a mean-spirited tyrant who has no need whatsoever for any of us.  The Christian viewpoint is that God is a good, good Father who loves us unconditionally.  No other religion presents the world with a savior.  In Christianity the head of the Church is the anointed Savior of all who’ll simply believe in Him.  How dare we withhold the most fantastic, liberating news of all time?

 

The fact that emboldened the disciples enough to risk life and limb to spread the Word far and wide is the same one that should goad us into doing the same – Jesus is Lord.  The first post-ascension sermon, delivered publicly by Simon Peter, concluded with this statement: Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).  We need not wait around for another revelation, sign or miraculous event.  The Lord of the earth has set us free from the burden of our own sinful nature.  Our Creator has settled our debt forever.  There’s nothing left to be done for us.  It’s our turn to shine the light of our Lord outward like a beacon piercing the darkest night, beckoning the confused, distraught and befuddled to row back to the peaceful shores of home; informing them the merciful God we serve will meet them halfway.  Christians acknowledge Jesus is Lord but perhaps we take it for granted everybody recognizes that.  Yet to the disciples that divine distinction meant everything.  The gentle friend/mentor they’d spent years learning from and being changed by was the very person God had promised to Satan would one day “…crush your head…” (Genesis 3:15).  While the Jewish leaders continued to anticipate the Messiah’s arrival Christians proceeded knowing He’d not only come and gone already, but that He’d altered the course of the whole cosmos.  Nothing remained the same.

 

While He had every right to assume by default the title of “Lord of all Creation” it’s notable Jesus didn’t do that.  He paid the steepest price imaginable for it.  It was bought with starvation pains in the wilderness when He rejected the devil’s temptations.  It was bought with tears shed over the sins of mankind.  It was bought with the blood-infused sweat that poured from His brow in Gethsemane.  It was bought with the inhuman torture He suffered for our sake on the cross.  It was bought with His uninterrupted love for us that refuses to relent for even a nanosecond.  Jesus deserves His Lordship because He stooped to the unmatched level of experiencing life as we ourselves have to live it.  How can we not pledge allegiance to a King who’s literally walked in our shoes?  The least we can do for Him is to be His ambassadors.  As Paul wrote, You have been bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20).

 

If things transpired on my timetable Jesus would’ve already raptured His Church and I (along with my brothers and sisters in Christ) would’ve been “…caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  But it’s not my schedule we’re on.  It’s God’s.  I have to trust that what He told us long ago is true: Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans (Isaiah 55:8-9).  The designation of being “Lord of All” belongs to Christ alone.  He earned it fair and square with His human blood, sweat and tears.  As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).  Christ wears His crown already but the spectacular coronation ceremony has yet to occur and that’s when He’ll judge the world.  Stewart wrote, “Already one figure is standing where the roads of all the ages meet; and to those who have once seen Him and experienced in their own lives His power, this above all else is certain, that a day is drawing near when every gate in the universe will be lifting up its head to let the King come in.”

 

So here’s the $64,000 question I and everyone else who identifies themselves as being a follower of Christ must answer: “Am I doing my God-ordained part in securing the salvation of lost souls wandering through this fallen world that Jesus died to save or will I be content to sneak into heaven ‘…only as one escaping through the flames’ (1 Corinthians 3:15)?  It really is up to me.  And you.  There are so many people out there who don’t know the joy we know.  It’s up to us, through our words and actions, to tell them about the drastic difference Jesus has made in our life.  Willard wrote, “Only when those who really do know that Jesus Christ is the light of the world take up their stand with Him, and fulfill their calling from Him to be children of light where they are, will there be any realistic hope of stemming the tide of evil and showing the way out of that tide for those who really want out.”  It’s our turn to shine.

a