Porn: The Vile Invisible Elephant in The Church

[For the sake of time, sanity and honestly laziness, I have some previously used material I’d like to share from time to time: let’s call them “regurgitations.” I have a few saved posts I wrote that were previously shared on the late great blog “Enabled by God” (shout out to Kyle if you’re reading). These were mainly devotional in type, and I believe they may be beneficial to someone somewhere in the E-World. Enjoy.] 

There is a giant elephant in our church sanctuaries. He sits in the back. Vile and unassuming. The deacons, choir, congregation, and even the pastor knows he’s there, yet they all try to ignore him. Meanwhile, he discreetly wreaks havoc on the soul of the church.

This lurking elephant’s name is porn.

It’s estimated a solid majority of young men (18-30) in the church view sexually pornographic images at least once a month.  Even a disturbing amount of young women are becoming more fascinated by it. Depending on what statistics you’re looking at, it is not improbable this sin is ravaging the very soul of your pastor.

Now before we go too far let me give a disclaimer: I know the statistics of the “true church” (born-again-blood-bought-bride-of-Christ) do not emulate those of the world. I know most statistics on “the church” include anyone who warms a pew and casually confesses Christ. That is a valid argument. But even after the goats are separated from the sheep, I personally believe the statistics of porn abuse in the “true church” would still be surprisingly high. If I can be intensely personal and honest: My most fatal bouts with pornography occurred after I came to Christ. And even though I have experienced some victory regarding the specific sin of porn (by the grace of God), the general battle of lust still rages ever onward within.

Yes, that's why He wants them to repent

Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry (with a “B”). The revenue one can make in defiling God’s temple, abusing the gift of sexuality, and objectifying women is staggeringly sickening. What once seemed to be a seedy underworld, is now being thrust upon us in the open arena of modern culture. Given the chemical reactions and “high” the brain experiences while a person views sexual images, porn is as addictive as any drug on the streets. While the American church is spending much of it’s resources lambasting the sin of homosexuality and opining over lost constitutional rights, we’ve let a dark ugly elephant take up residence deep within us.

Jesus, in his ever-penetrating way, sheds His light directly into our darkness. Let’s see what He said on the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:28-30
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

The self-righteous Pharisee’s jaw would have dropped at Christ’s interpretation of the law. They thought they had a corner on the religious market, but Christ blew their whitewashed attempts at spirituality out of the water. An outward appearance of religiosity could be sustained for a time, but not absolute perfect purity of heart. Christ was attempting to drive his listeners to repentance by displaying all men as guilty before God’s impossible standard of righteousness. Their (and our) only hope was casting themselves upon the mercy of God in Christ. That would be Christ’s word to those who believe they are relatively good compared to the home wrecker, harlot, or man whore; yeah, but are you perfect? If not, repent.

There are also some haunting words here for the red blooded American male who already professes Christ. Life is war. It’s a furious struggle with self. The sinning eye must be violently removed. The transgressing hand must be brutally dealt with. Eyes and hands are both good gifts from God. But even good gifts must be abandoned if they interfere with our service to the King and his Kingdom. Relationships, cars, careers, reputations, retirement homes, and political agendas are good things; but God may be calling you to unleash a Samurai sword of sacrificial love and obedience on these good things for His sake.

You may look like Lieutenant Dan in the end, but it’s infinitely better to be a warrior who sacrificed, than to be a spectator who compromised.

These are also haunting words for the American female who professes Christ. For our female readership (all two of you!), this means there are some legitimate questions you should be raising to yourself before you ever even begin a day. Maybe questions like:

-Am I going to act and present myself in such a way as to encourage my Christian brother’s battle against adultery?

-Is what I am wearing going to take a Christian brother’s eyes off of Jesus and on me?

-Is my body going to be the diversion that helps cause another Christian man to become a casualty in his war against sensuality and lust?

-Should I be more careful what photos I post on Facebook, Myspace, etc.?

Ladies, before you slap a legalist stamp on my forehead let me explain to you an unfortunate secret: Your non-Christian male coworkers, classmates, church members, internet lurkers, passive bystanders and neighborhood perverts in general are already looking at you lustfully. Your Christian brothers are the only ones in the world who are really trying their God given best not to. I speak for most of them when I say: Help a brother out!

It would be remiss to characterize the battle of lust as mainly dealing with simple behavior modifications. We have a much higher calling on our lives than merely not looking at porn. We must replace that passion with an immeasurably greater one. Namely, by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:1-2) By seeking his mighty right hand, where there are ceaseless pleasures (Psalm 16:11). By thirsting for His sweet and holy presence, where we can truly taste and see that He is the only lasting good (Psalm 34:8).

May our pursuit of the deceptive shallow delights of this world be blown away in the light of His radiating redemption. And may His face alone be where true beauty, fascination, and satisfaction are found. Forevermore.

Bryan Daniels

Tim Challies has recently posted a “Prayer for Those Struggling with Porn.”  by Pastor Scotty Smith. It would benefit you to check it out.

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Random Funny Stuff from Doghouse Diaries

The following two gems come courtesy of the sharp witted guys at “Dog House Diaries.” Thanks guys. Now I can add your site to the growing list that is killing any semblance of productivity in my life.
Hope you enjoy.
I don't know why they can't line up the buttons right on these things

 

And I believe there is some credence to this Interviewing philosophy…

A Small Public Apology (Kind Of) To Joel Osteen

A slight commendation may be due for Joel Osteen. Seriously.

After being consistently pummeled by conservative evangelicals everywhere, Joel has recently assembled a few basic baby steps towards pastor cred.

Maybe a small, I did not say total, but small apology is due from us. In conservative Christendom, we (and when I say “we” I mean “I”) are quick to jump on anyone without the same exact precise theological and social convictions as us. Some of it is warranted: Joel does frequently proclaim the (un)gospel of self-esteem. He does usually replace sin and repentance with quaint stories and pop psychology. In the past, even on primetime television, he has been ambiguous about essential theological convictions (the Larry King interview comes to mind).

How can you not love that perfectly bleached smile?

But, with no fear of reprimand from heresy hunters, I attest here that Joel Osteen for once got it right…in an interview…on primetime television no less.

Here’s a brief transcript of Joel’s statement on a recent segment of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. When asked bluntly by Morgan about whether homosexuality was a sin this is what America’s pastor said:

“Yes, I’ve always believed, Piers, the Scripture shows that homosexuality it’s a sin,” he said. He added: “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible, too. I think sometimes the church — and I don’t mean this critically — but we focus on one issue or two issues, and there’s plenty of other ones. So, I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life. I mean, sin means to miss the mark.”

The reason for this brief kudos is not necessarily that Joel is talking somewhat frankly about the specific sinfulness of homosexuality, but rather that Osteen has added the word “sin” into his public vocab repertoire at all. Sin is not a word Osteen has been known to use liberally, or ever. 

As Albert Mohler points out in his article “The Osteen Moment”, just four years ago Joel was much more vague and timid in his response to the same exact “homosexual” question. Let’s hope this counts for theological progress in Osteen’s path towards biblical Orthodoxy. 

Now I know his response wasn’t exactly an epic Martin Luther-esque type stance before the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me…”

A passing mention of Romans 3:23 may have done some good here. And he waffled a bit when Morgan asked specifically about Elton John’s homosexuality. I admit, Joel didn’t exactly look comfortable doing it, and there wasn’t a clear presentation of the gospel by him (again, baby steps), but Osteen took a stand where we (I) would have expected him to drop to the fetal position with empty positive platitudes.

Instead of lambasting him, let’s point to the positive (in classic Osteen fashion): Joel Osteen just spoke the unforgivable in Hollywood values and committed blasphemy against the god of political correctness. Given his platform and following, he likely knew his position would accumulate a hailstorm of hatred from “tolerant” liberal ideologues everywhere. Joel Osteen said what the Bible says: Homosexuality is a “sin.” No more atrocious than the litany of heterosexual sins, but nonetheless a sin that Jesus Christ calls us out of (1 Cor 6 :9-11).

Let’s hope continued baby steps lead him in the right direction: towards a bold proclamation of the biblical gospel where Jesus is the only cure for the wrath of a holy God and the sins of wicked man.

We’re (I’m) rooting for you, Joel.

Bryan Daniels

John the Baptist Eats Bear Grylls Babies For Breakfast

I appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer. He has a cutting way of encouraging young men to…man up. Yet Washer is considered by many in cultural Christianity to be a bit rough around the edges, too extreme, and too passionate in his plea for sinners (like me) to repent and cast themselves on the mercy of Christ.

I submit that those charges sound eerily familiar to a biblical character of the New Testament:

John the Baptist.

John the Baptist called seemingly sincere people seeking to be baptized by him a “brood of vipers.” He exclaimed vehemently the uncompromising message of broken repentance before the Messiah to any one with a functioning ear (Luke 3:7). He caused a curious stir among communities in Israel and garnered radical disciples to his ministry. He resided in desert caves, ate locusts and wild honey for breakfast, and dressed himself in camel-hair. I’m pretty sure he’d make Bear Grylls look like a cake eating mamma’s boy. John the Baptist was the original Chuck Norris, the only difference being that he was actually good at acting (according to Jewish historian, Josephus; )).

Now think of the ministers you know.

I am not suggesting preachers should take their dietary and fashion tips from a first century Nazarite Jew, but think about the ones you know or have seen on television. What strikes you most about them? Clean cut, with an inordinate amount of hair gel? Politically correct? Bleached teeth? Funny jokes? Nice suits and polished shoes? Great story tellers? Agreeable disposition? Typically, the sermon consists of three crisp points with a couple of relevant illustrations thrown in for good measure (maybe a lighthearted anecdote or two). None of these characteristics are bad in and of themselves, but unashamedly displaying them from the pulpit doth not a preacher make.

John was a real man.

A man’s man. A wild man. A real wild man’s man. A…you get the picture. His tone was blood earnest. His conviction unwavering. For the sake of the Bridegroom he chose to tear into his audience instead of tickling them (Luke 3:3). His weighty material directly flowed out of his love for Christ. Without displaying the sinful state of his audience they could never see their need for repentance, and without repentance they would never see their need for grace. He spoke the truth in love. But he spoke the truth. John loved his audience enough to tear their world apart in order for the Bridegroom to come and gently pick up the pieces. It was his prophetic calling.

Docile manners are not a virtue Scripture esteems greatly (neither am I saying niceness is a vice in Scripture).

The perfect man, Jesus, loved deeply, but he never was deemed “nice” by his closest followers. He was a table turning blasphemer to the most religious folk of His day.

The prophets of old loved their Jewish brethren, but none of their hearers would suggest “nice” as being one of their primary attributes. Broken hearted, men of sorrow, who spoke of shocking judgment coming to the unrepentant nation. Not nice. Not safe. Not sanitary.

The mighty blazing seraphim do not fly around the throne of God in exalted worship singing “NICE! NICE! NICE! Is the Lord of Hosts!” (read Isaiah 6:3, just read that whole chapter for a mindblow!)

Political correctness is the not an utmost concern of the Bridegroom’s friends. A tranquil American church currently majoring in manners watches as the world is dying under the weight of its own sin. It’s not nice to allow the winds of culture to dictate the force of our gospel message, especially when eternal life is at stake.

Sometimes a good sermon is like a roundhouse kick to the soul…just ask my boy John.

Bryan Daniels

Get off Facebook! BE A MAN!

Paul Washer is one of my favorite voices in the recent Reformed movement. He’s passionate, radical, sometimes abrasive and frequently offends his audience…probably just as a forerunner to the Bridegroom should do (just look at that rough and tumble wild man John the Baptist!) A healthy 1/3 of the sermons on my IPod are from Paul Washer with Piper, Chandler and Driscoll compiling the rest.

I know it seems hypocritical and a bit ironic to post a video rant about Facebook on a blog, especially when it is likely this will be shared via Facebook. There is more here than just an epic rant I assure you. Biblical manhood is Washer’s main focus, and I believe FB and the social media craze in general has an unhealthy grip on both young men and women. A majority of women age 18-35 check their facebook account’s in the morning before they even pee. That’s some news, folks. I share a generation that values a self-indulgent stalker tool over the basic essential bodily functions and needs.

I probably already have YOU!

Though there is much to lament about our societal fixation with the trivial (Trolololo Man, I regret to indict you), I know the Holy Spirit has the power to break through the self-inflicted distractions of our lives. I hope Washer’s message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Godly men will not be found until grown boys repent of their wayward consumption of entertainment and social media.

And I’ll admit, I should be the first one in that line.

Bryan Daniels

White Guys Who Listen to Christian Rap and The Girl Named World

It must be hard to be a Christian rapper. I would submit it’s even harder than being a white rapper…or a black hockey player…or an Asian basketball player.

It’s even a bit difficult to admit that I am a closet Christian rap fan, as I am still discovering and weighing the implications of coming out and what it will mean to my family. Of course I don’t claim all Christian rap as thoughtful and creative, just as most alternative rock fans don’t claim Creed as legends of the trade.

But after reading Tim Challies recent blog about “The Strange Phenomenon of White Middle Aged Pastors Who Listen to Rap Music,” some accolades are due from me. Though I was a middle class white guy in high school with no street cred or entourage, Christian rap was a surprising beacon of light for me in those formative spiritual years. With contemporary rap groveling and bowing to a fallen culture, I found there were still a remnant of urban Elijah’s who had not bowed their knees to Baal. The lyrics of Christian rap were Bible saturating, Christ exalting, winsome and refreshing. I would submit to you, the reader, the depth of these men’s rap lyrics makes the current CCM’s “gospel” message look like a puddle of emotional Deism.

So my late great Chevy S-1o was my sanctuary during the high school drama cycle, as I bobbed my big white head (with hair back then) to the beats of “The Ambassador” and “The Cross Movement.” While Eminem and Lil Wayne were the dominating flavors for my HS counterparts, I was listening to the exact antithesis of whatever drug, women and thug experience they were peddling.

Here’s one sample of “The Ambassador’s” lyrical tirades called “Girl Named World” that helped spurn me towards re-evaluating what the world had to offer:

I used to date a girl named, “World.”
Sis was real glamorous arrayed up in diamonds and pearls
She was the baddest, the phattest, she was established
And with her universal status – she had me livin’ lavish
She knew about my sinful habits. She used to feed them
She offered me the fruits of lust (and yep) I used to eat them
She took my freedom. Warnings came, I wouldn’t heed them
And when I mentioned God she said, “Chill you don’t need Him.”
I second-guessed this but then she pulled out those dresses, tight
fittin’ ones made by Mercedes and Lexus
Her neck just exploded with the fragrance of passion
The aroma of fame, fortune, and fashion
Snatching’ my heart she romanced me, my plans be
Lover for life make her, make her my wife, I can’t see…
breaking’ up like I can’t see me in a S girl
This is dedicated to my ex-girl

This passage is dripping with biblical principle, namely this one: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

The Ambassador concludes:

So don’t miss the crucial nature of the crucifixion
With diction I’ll stress this one
If Jesus Christ wasn’t nailed to a cross
If there was no blood lost we’d have to pay our own cost
Who can pay for their own sins
Next to God grown men become little girls with no ends
Daily my mind gets revamped
And on the Lord there’s more concentration than a camp
God stamps His divine approval
On the One who puts God the Son in the forefront on the usual
Fools will bow down to a dead president
And turn around and say there’s no God despite the evidence
I recommend we prepare for the reckoning
and dis the world cause you know she aint your friend

Repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:16-17). Sounds biblically orthodox and culturally relevant to me.

My love for Christian rap waned with my graduation from high school, and I haven’t bought any Christian rap for well over 10 years…until recently, a theologically reformed rapper named LeCrae broke that streak. LeCrae’s “Rehab” album brings me back to my “Cross Movement” days, where rap was both quality to the ears and convicting to the soul.

Now my sanctuary is a red Pacifica, and I’m still bobbing my big white bald head….but I’m doing it with my beautiful wife riding shotgun and two little white boys in the backseat. We’re all bobbing our heads to the beat, thankful that God is bringing all things under subjection to the Lordship of Jesus, even a culture that seems irreversibly broken.

Bryan Daniels

Try to rap along with LeCrae here to one of his best songs; if you succeed give yourself a hug:

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by LeCrae

Why You Should (Maybe) Stay Single

Marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord.

In the Genesis account God creates Adam, the man, first and gives him the freedom to name and have dominion over the animals. When Adam is finished with this great task God turns back to him, the lone man, and creates the perfect woman to complement him, Eve. The account says the two lived “naked and unashamed.”

I don’t know exactly what type of marital bliss the two experienced with one another before the fall but the word “unashamed” assumes a few things: What they experienced as a couple was a guiltless, free, honest, open relationship void of any social constraint or embarrassed self-consciousness. Most importantly this was their posture with God before the inception of sin, total guiltlessness and free from the shame of sin. The Bible is not specific with how long the couple enjoyed this state, and in Genesis 3 we learn of a deceiver that comes in to their life to malign God’s word and destroy their covenant with one another. By their disobedience and taking Satan’s word over God’s the honeymoon comes to an abrupt end and sin’s children of shame, pain, and toil were birthed.

One point of interest is commonly overlooked here. The order of events in the Bible are not inconsequential. Look again at this: Satan did not begin his assault on Adam or Eve until they were a couple under the marriage covenant of God.

Now, I know singleness has its own unique set of challenges and insecurities. But a cursory look at the tabloids, facebook, shows, movies and music reveals a telling indictment on our culture. It’s one of our golden calves, an idol called ” the relationship.” It seems the only thing we fear more than death is loneliness. Everyone, unequivocally, wants to meet “the one.”

As the Genesis 3 account alludes, we run into a problem here. Marriage does not make life emotionally easier for the companionship seeker, in reality it makes life substantially harder. Satan’s greatest delight is in making the institution of marriage a deplorable scandal. If he does that he can also placard the covenant God has with his church in a similar manner (Ephesians 5).

Marriage is under attack, less in the political sense (to the chagrin of radio shock jocks), but rather in the more dangerous spiritual sense. It has always been under vicious attack from the very beginning.

The single person may have been “graced” by God with this singleness for a season. Again, marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord. But marriage is hard. Just as with Adam and Eve, Satan wants to destroy its participants. Men and women who are addicted to porn, facebook, call of duty, shopping and self in general need not apply.

It’s not a question of perfection, but rather projection: where are we going with our life and is Christ leading us there?

Men, if we can barely pay our own bills, have no savings, have an XBox addiction, live with our parents, know more about Steve Jobs than Jesus, and treat women like a hill to be conquered, DO NOT TRY TO GET MARRIED. I’m not saying God cannot purge you of those maladies while you’re married (because He has had to with me), I am saying it will be done with a lot more turmoil and heartache in the context of marriage. Those strongholds in our life don’t just magically dissipate with the signing of a marriage license. They die hard. 

With the prospect of marriage, you are saying you are ready to support financially, spiritually, and emotionally both a wife and children.

If we don’t have our life in some respectable order what makes us think we can add another needy soul (wife) or souls (children) to that mix without disastrous results? Multiply your current weaknesses by at least three when a child is added (as he should be in marriage) into the fray. Marriage with children is not for the faint of heart, it’s really another way to die to the flesh so your partner may flourish and Jesus be glorified.

Marriage is not for those with fanciful illusions of champagne and roses, it’s for those who wish to serve their “other” sacrificially the way Christ served the church. With forgiveness always outstretched even when the heart is wounded.

Twenty five year old Peter Pans with beards aren’t ready for it. Thank God for his grace and your singleness if that may be you.

Again don’t get me wrong:   

I am absolutely in love with my wife, Jessica, and our son, Josiah. Marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord. But before we start thinking seriously about it, let’s first put on our big boy pants (not those emo skinny jeans) and pry the Android out of our hands. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

Bryan Daniels