Monthly Archives: April 2012

TO THE LIFEBOATS: WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST

There is something I was not prepared for as a family pastor and something that I would not have known how to respond to as a parent. As a pastor, I was not prepared for women being enslaved to pornography and I would not have been prepared to deal with a daughter if I had found out she was repeatedly visiting pornography sites. Unfortunately, women and pornography is a real issue that I have had to deal with as a pastor and fortunately I did not experience the latter as a father.

Women and pornography is not a new event but as children are increasing in the viewing of pornography, so has exposure of women to it. It used to be that many women who were seeking some level of fantasy emotional gratification would attempt to live vicariously through romance novels. Though some have not abandoned the romance novels, more and more women are now accessing pornography websites. Some statistics regarding this are:

  1. About 9 ½ million women access adult websites each month which represents about 1 out every 3 visits (men represent 2/3).
  2. About 1 out of every 6 women struggles with pornography.
  3. Twice as many women as men visit chat rooms.
  4. About 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work (20% of men admit to it).

The statistic that is particularly disturbing is that women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behavior in real life such as having casual sex or committing adultery. (This statistic of “acting out” probably does not include men masturbating as acting out)

In doing research in this area, I want to bring to your attention what appears to be an issue of the heart that opens women to be vulnerable to the temptation of pornography. It appears that much of it is tied to emotional loneliness where the “fire” of marriage is dimming for a variety of reasons. Women tend to be “seduced” first by “emotional pornography” before “physical pornography.” Many of the fantasy men are great performers of conversation and emotional understanding who attentively touch the heart of the woman. This can create a level of marital discontentment that is hard to heal and would give an explanation to why more women are drawn to chat rooms and sexual relationships than men are.

The reason for posting the last few articles on pornography is to raise an alarm. It is not to call technology or the pornography industry the enemy but our greatest enemy is our own hearts. To be informed and alarmed may be a start but it will not change you. What will change you is to redirect your affections and desires to Jesus Christ who is the only One who really satisfies. The next few postings will lead in this direction.

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PARENTS BEWARE OF THE UNINVITED GUEST TO YOUR HOUSE

“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”  Proverbs 9:13-18

Allow me to continue on the theme of pornography and address the issue as it pertains to parenting and children. (I will address women and pornography later this week.)

It has been over 50 years ago for me but I vividly remember my first exposure to a picture of a naked woman. It was in our fourth grade classroom in New York and one of the boys discovering bare-chested tribal women in National Geographic. We always noted where that particular issue was stored in the classroom and referred to it often. I can still recall the image when I put my mind to it. Particularly as a child, pornographic images have an impact upon your mind which can lead to the heart.

We often think of pornography in regards to men, but recent statistics indicate that access through technology has opened the door wide to children. Here are some statistics* regarding children and the internet:

  1. The average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old.
  2. 80% of 15-17 year olds (men and women) have had multiple hard-core exposures.
  3. 90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed pornography online.
  4. Concerning those between 7-17; 29% indicated they have freely given out their home address online and 14% their email address.
  5. According to the statistic resources, there are 26 children’s character names that are linked to thousands of pornographic sites. (i.e.; Pokeman, Action Man)

Now to you parents. Regarding the statistic that 90% of all 8-16 year olds have viewed pornography online; guess where and when most of these kid indicated they did it? It was at home while doing homework! You see this is not an “out of our home” scenario but most is done right under your nose. So what can be done by you as a parent?

First of all you need to protect your children. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Keep all internet devices in a central, open place in the home. Set up a homework station for when they need to use the computer. If you have several children and computers, then set up a multiple station.
  2. Keep iPads, iPhones or any other internet access devices in a central place. If you have multiple phones – place all the phones in a central location and give them distinctive tones so you know who is receiving a call. Do not permit the children to have the phone in their room except for phone calls.
  3. If you think your child needs a phone, do not give them one with internet capability.
  4. Place accountability programs on devices with internet capabilities. See my previous article about one such program.

Secondly, the problem with pornography on the internet is not technology. It is the human heart and that is what must be addressed with your child. With technology now such a part of our lives, you as a parent must teach your child how to use the internet for good purposes and to be suspicious of our sinful hearts and temptations to desires. See again the notes from my previous article from Bob Bevington’s talk and I will continue posting some articles on helping you and your child be victorious in this area.

(*You can check out my statistics resource and many more here.)

WHAT REAL MEN DO AND DON’T DO ABOUT PORNOGRAPHY

My thanks to Pastor Dustin Rogers of Heritage Bible Church in Lincoln for the invitation to join the men of his church to hear Dr. Bob Bevington speak. Bob is the author of the book Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace (Shepherd Press, 2011), and co-author with Jerry Bridges of two books, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness (Crossway, 2007) and The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009).

Bob’s topic for the men was Pornography: Five Applications for Freedom. Here is a summary of his challenge and encouragement to us.

Men are in a battle and the stakes are high.
1 Peter 2:11 states that we are to abstain from passions of the flesh which wage war against our soul. There are many strategies out there given to fight this battle but nearly all of them put us in the middle of the struggle without proper preparation. We need something much bigger and stronger than therapeutic strategies. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us it is divine power which is needed to destroy strongholds.

The path to true freedom requires a sequence of five applications:
1. Apply the true names and call pornography what it is.
First of all Jesus calls it adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). It is looking with lustful intent upon an image of a woman. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus says that from within us and from the heart come such things as evil thoughts, sexual immorality, adultery, sensuality which defile a person.

Besides being adultery of the heart, pornography is idol worship which demands a sacrifice (betrayal of your marriage and diminishing your parenting) and breaks fellowship with God (try to think of glorifying God while engaged in a sexual fantasy!)

Lastly pornography must be called sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 tells us that it is the will of God that we be sanctified and that we abstain from sexual immorality.

2. Apply the true gospel: The good news that changes everything.
False gospels abound and will not free us from the grip of sin like pornography. The real gospel is a costly gospel for we know the true gospel by the price that was paid (Philippians 2: 6-8).

The true gospel includes “the great exchange” where our sin is transferred to Christ through forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us by justification (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The true gospel preaches union with Christ where genuine faith connects us with Christ and by faith we put our reliance and dependency in Christ as the object of our faith.

The way we can apply the gospel is to have gratitude for the grace that was purchased (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15). We are to also exercise the “expulsive power of a new affection” where we battle the desires of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit and the desire that is strongest will win. When we see the treasures of the gospel and deepen our relationship with God, we can fan the flames of our desire for God (Galatians 5:17)

3. Apply God’s power to enable and deliver.
There are two kinds of power; both are outside of ourselves and both are accessed by faith.

The first one is synergistic power which is when we combine our effort with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:29 and Philippians 2:12-13).

The second kind of power is monergistic power which is when the Spirit works completely alone in us and completely independent. The Holy Spirit does it all and we are totally passive recipients (Ezekiel 36:24-29).

4. Apply God-given battle strategies.
It is here that many ministry strategies fail. Dr. Bevington gave us 30 different strategies based upon Scripture and memorization of things to do as strategies in the battle. The difference here compared with what I have seen from other ministries is that this step is undertaken only after you have done steps 1, 2 and 3. Most others want to skip them and jump right into the battle without the proper preparation. The 30 strategies are statements of truth about the battle of the flesh and commitments that need to be made. They represent the synergistic power mentioned above. If you would like these strategies, you can contact Bob via his blog RedLikeBlood.com.

5. Apply all of the above daily and diligently
Bob spoke of his mentor Jerry Bridges who may not have invented the saying but certainly popularized it, “preach the gospel to yourself everyday.” The battle of sin is one we fight every day and as long as we are sinners, we need the gospel.

Bob also recommends the technology accountability ministry of Covenant Eyes which if you go to his website, you can get the first month free by clicking on the banner.

I deeply appreciated Bob’s gospel-centered view on the battle of temptation for his counsel applies to many areas and not just pornography. Two great resources to help in understanding a gospel-centered view of dealing with temptation are to read his book; Bookends of the Christian Life and Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011).

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “GOSPEL-CENTERED?”

In articles to come, a term I am likely to use often is “gospel-centered” which will be descriptive of life, parenting, marriage, and ministry. It will be helpful to define this up front and why I would use this rather than terms like “biblical” or “Christian.”

To start, the term gospel needs to be clear. In a sentence, Paul states it best in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” It is the good news that God, by his grace, has provided redemption to a fallen world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For a more detailed description, see the tab “The Gospel” at the top of this website.

To be gospel-centered then is take the gospel message and the object of the gospel, Jesus Christ, and center on it our hope, our joy, and passions. It is to make the gospel of first importance over the way I parent, be a husband, and the way I deal with the joys and the trials of life.

Making the message of the gospel central protects me from depending upon any religious performance as a means of thinking I am meriting favor with God and it protects me from being seduced by idols. It helps me as a parent to guide my children by nurturing and disciplining them from the perspective that they are sinners needing guidance and grace just as I do. I can love my wife like Christ loves the church because daily I experience such love as one pledged to Christ. I can live a gospel-centered life because my identity is found in the perfect obedience of Christ, my standing before God is based on Christ’s death for my sins, and my living is shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is not just a message for unbelievers to be saved but is the basis of the storyline of Scripture and brings meaning to every aspect of our lives here and is the focus of the life to come. In other words, to be gospel-centered is to recognize that the gospel is the basis of meaning to everything.

Don’t Pass The Garden Before You See The Cross

Each year during the time Resurrection Sunday approaches; I focus my devotional readings on books that speak of the suffering of Christ, his death and resurrection. The past few weeks I have been reading “The Cross He Bore” by Frederick Leahy and was particularly struck by the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Writing this on Thursday before Resurrection Sunday, where the traditional church remembers the garden events, I want to share a few of the thoughts that have gripped me.

One is that the perfect obedience of Christ led him to the agony of the events at Gethsemane and then to Golgotha. This obedience called for self-restraint in the midst of great suffering as he would say, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:53, 54) Christ’s obedience would be such that he would not evade one thing that was necessary for him to accomplish our redemption; no matter the cost.

I have in the past tended to think that it was not until Jesus was on the cross that the Father separated himself from the Son. It seems though that the silence in Gethsemane to Jesus’ repeated prayers was an indication that the Father’s hands were already on the cup of wrath. Christ being stricken at that point and his anguish are evident in his prayers. And though the Father was depriving Christ of his presence, he was not unconcerned as with an outstretched hand, he did send an angel to him.

But, as Leahy states in his book, “The angel’s mission was not to bring relief to Christ, but to strengthen him for further and even greater anguish-anguish quite beyond human endurance. It was then our Lord ‘being in an agony-prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Luke 22:44). The angel’s presence served to aggravate his suffering. It was in order that the suffering might not only be maintained, but also that it might be intensified that the angel was sent. The battle must go on. It was too soon to say ‘Finished.’ The Lamb of God must have the strength of a lion in this struggle.

Death and the curse were in our cup.
O Christ, ‘twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘This empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up,
Now blessing’s draught for me.”

It makes me tremble when I consider the wrath of God, which was inflicted upon Jesus and my sin, which incurred such judgment. I am a debtor to God’s grace and mercy to me – a sinner saved by such a great Savior.

(“The Cross He Bore, Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer,” by Frederick  S Leahy, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1996)

Dads Need to Show Up Properly Equipped

In Pastor Tom’s sermon this last Sunday (“Show Me His Glory,” 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), he stated, “dads need to show up!” The context was in teaching our children the principle that there is an organic union between Christ and the believer and you cannot divorce what you do in the flesh with what is done in the Spirit.

So where are the fathers? They are physically around but when it comes to the subject of teaching our children about virtue, manhood or womanhood, relationships and sex, we fathers often bring a knife to a gunfight.

We fathers are tempted to set aside our responsibility to equip our children for the rigors of manhood and womanhood through laziness, looking for a way out, and then we lie to ourselves thinking our children already know these things. We tell ourselves “they are good kids and will make good choices most of the time. Besides they are at ______ School and they are teaching them aspects of this that are good things. Maybe I will just leave a book on the table and they will read it.”

The truth is your children do not know as they ought to know. They may understand a few things but incomplete or inaccurate information is often times more harmful than no information at all.

There is much to be said about this but there are two outstanding resources for dads to consider in inspiring and equipping them for such training of their children. Both these books will help in formulating a biblical plan of bringing your children into maturity as both are rich with Scripture and gospel-centered.

The first resource is titled “What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him” by Bryon Forrest Yawn. This book challenges you as a father to step up as a dad to guide and model maturity to your children. I found this book inspiring to me as a father even with my children long married and lots of grandchildren.

The second resource is a book long overdue and on the topic that I get asked often if there are resources for…it is titled “Time for the Talk” by Steve Zollos. The talk is about “the talk,” but the talk is so much more than a biological talk. This book gives elements of the biological information but focuses on virtue, character and biblical values that must be embraced.

Pick up both books in the near future and you men who read this, seek a few other fathers to join you in a conversation about the chapters in these books over coffee. Call me and I would love to join in on the conversation.

SADDLING UP

By the encouragement of three people, I have decided to begin a new blog. The purpose will be to bring short articles that help equip others in how the gospel applies to not only our position before God, but guides us in all manner of life. It was about eight years ago when this really took hold of my own life and ministry and I have been growing in my understanding in “the riches of the glory of this ministry, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Just this morning (Monday) I was reading Colossians 3 and thinking through the “put on(s)” and “let(s)” and came across this statement by D.A. Carson in regards to verse 16, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly …” He states, “The Word of Christ is not exactly the Scriptures. It is the Gospel-but the primary access we have to that Gospel is the Scriptures. That is what is to dwell in us richly. It is to fill our memories, occupy our horizons, constitute our priorities. We are so to reflect on it, as we turn it over in our minds and learn how it applies in every area of our lives that, far from occupying a little religious corner of our experience, it will dwell in us richly.”

So this blog will be reflections, instruction, and admonitions to express the second part of Colossians 3:16 as to what to do with the Word of Christ dwelling in you – “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

My plan is to post at least two articles each week. One article will focus on how the gospel impacts our family life. This post will be repeated for Faith Bible Church members on The City website. The other post(s) will be ways the gospel is teaching and admonishing me and hopefully posts to encourage your walk in Christ.

Saddle up and drive the gospel home.

by George Lockyer