Sex

1Mar

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 2

This is the 2nd post in a series on how to date as a Christian. Click here to read the first post containing the 1st four principles.

 

5. Their identity is in Christ, too. So act like it.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This one was a game changer for me. When you begin to see members of the opposite sex as equal bearers of the image of God, equal temples in which the Spirit of God dwells and equally ones for whom Christ died, it changes everything.

You no longer see girls as a collection of body parts or guys as the key to acceptance and worth.

This changes how/if you flirt and it changes what you do on dates. This is ultimately the heart of the Gospel: before anyone is your boyfriend or girlfriend, they are first and foremost a child of God and God cares deeply about how his kids treat one another.

 6. Sexual sin damages in a unique way.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. – 1 Cor. 6:18

Paul is writing to a culture in 1st century Corinth not unlike 21st century America. It is a very distracted city with lots of different worldviews and religious thoughts all mixing together. Notice the way Paul starts the second sentence in v. 18, every other sin.”

Paul is explaining that sexual sin has a different set of consequences than other categories of sin. This is not to say that it separates us more or less from God; all sin is equal in that regard. Instead, Paul is explaining how sexual sin damages and creates baggage that we must deal with long after that sin has been forgiven by God.

It is not hard to see this play out both inside and outside the Church. How many times have you seen a 2nd marriage not stick so a 3rd and 4th are attempted with similar results? Porn addiction has been linked again and again to lower sex drives and less intimate sex lives. Those sins have already been forgiven and fully paid for by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection, but that does not mean we get to avoid the consequences of bad decisions.

 

7. Jesus redeems ALL our mistakes.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11

At first glance, this principle might seem to contradict #6 but this encounter in John 8 will help explain. John 8 begins with a group of religious hypocrites who were tired of hearing about the less than respectable reputation of a promiscuous woman in town. One day they decided they had heard enough of this 1st century reality show and decided to do something drastic.

They Bible says they caught her in the act of adultery which means they laid in wait for her, like a bunch of self-righteous peeping toms, as if there could ever be such a thing.

They literally ripped her out of bed and threw her, naked and ashamed, at the feet of Jesus and demanded Jesus to tell them what to do, since the law said they should stone her to death.

Jesus then uttered some of my favorite words in the New Testament, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Jesus dropped the mic and the religious haters dropped their stones and walked away.

Even if you haven’t had sex before marriage, everyone knows the burden of sexual sin. The reality of redemption is that you’re not doomed to have a bad sex life inside marriage if you’ve had sex outside marriage.

Jesus said two things to the woman and every single one of us always needs to hear at least one of them:

  1. “Go and sin no more.” – Jesus has reminded this woman who she truly is, who he created her to be. Far too often, Christians can label all the ethical teachings of Scripture we don’t like as “legalistic” but here Jesus gives her a clear, loving command to simply go and live out that identity. But we can’t live out that identity and never let it affect the decisions we make, people or ways we date, and ultimately where our hope lies.
  2. “Neither do I condemn you.” – These words are necessary because principle #6 is true. Sexual sin produces a unique shame that can spiritually cripple you and allow you to start to believe lies about your acceptance in Christ. Since God, who knows everything about you, more than you even know yourself, refuses to condemn you we can go out in celebration and live like it! Live like you belong to a God who created you, loves you, and knows all your secrets and still refuses to condemn you.

 

Can you think of any other Biblical principle(s) for dating?

29Feb

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 1

Dating is hard.

For the Christian, dating is like every other area of life in that we should be deeply concerned with how following Jesus informs the way we think and act and love.

If you did a Bible search for the word “dating” you know what you come up with? NOTHING.

There are some that feel the Bible prescribes a courtship form of dating because that was the cultural norm in that time. Using that same logic you can make the argument that we should all be polygamous because that was the cultural norm in that time as well.

Instead of direct, explicit instructions, the Bible teaches us several  principles that we can apply to dating and ultimately, the pursuit of marriage.

 

7 Biblical Principles of Dating

 

1. Walk with Jesus.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

Far too often the first step a Christian takes in thinking about how to date God’s way is to sit down and make a list of all the qualities their future spouse needs to have. Then, they only date people who fit the list.

While the forethought is admirable, our first step in trying to date in a way that honors God is to BE someone worth dating. Our faith in Jesus should be active and meaningful as Paul described in Colossians. We should be rooted and built up in Jesus. Lists are just fine but we should make a list for who we need to be first.

 

2. Only date people who walk with Jesus.

The second principle is where you can use your list! In looking for someone to date, you’re really looking for the type of person you will marry. That person needs to have the same active faith you’re living out.

They need to be more than cultural Christians who attend church. They need to be able to explain the Gospel out loud. They need to be able to talk about what Jesus means to them and describe what Jesus has done for them. They should be able to point out ways they are more like Jesus this year compared to last year and be able to share what God is currently teaching them.

 

3. Keep physical boundaries.

Flee from sexual immorality. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

You know what this verse says in Greek? Flee from sexual immorality. Literally run away from it. Since sex is a good gift from God but a gift meant to be enjoyed only in the covenant marriage relationship, sex outside of marriage falls under the category of sexual immorality.

So does pornography, homosexuality, lust, objectification, and crossing physical lines even if you don’t “go all the way.”

If the Bible calls us to run away from something, why are so many of us trying to get as close as possible to the line without stepping over? We are fundamentally misunderstanding God’s heart for us to live a pure life walking with him and honoring others.

Setting and keeping firm physical boundaries helps you flee from sexual sin instead of flirting with it.

If you’re an unmarried Christian I would suggest you consider boundaries that keep you from:

  • sex outside of marriage.
  • living with someone before marriage. (co-habitation)
  • being alone in a private place (apartment, dorm, parked car, etc.)
  • being alone in a room with your computer/phone late at night.
  • sending pictures, Snapchats, etc. that you would not want others to see/know about.
  • laying down (even in an Eno!) with someone you’re not married to.
  • Isolating yourself from godly friends who can hold you accountable.

 

4. No marriage. No commitment.

One of the reasons the Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about dating is there is absolutely zero commitment in dating. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “I love you” or how long you’ve been together or how many promise toe rings you’ve exchanged.

The covenant relationship of marriage is the only place to find real commitment. Dating can be a wonderful experience but don’t deceive yourself into crossing physical boundaries you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable crossing under the guise of a commitment that simply does not exist.

 

Check back tomorrow for the last 3 principles.

2Dec

The One Regret You Never Have to Feel

It was 3 A.M. and he would not stop beating on my door.

I stumbled toward the door, simultaneously stubbing all my toes on the trappings of a college dorm room along the way, and flung it open.

His face was as red as his hair. He had  just sprinted all the way down the hall.

Our rooms could not be farther away and still be on the same wing  yet our friendship was closer than most.

We were in a group together, a small group of college boys trying to become the men we felt God calling us to be. That calling meant a lot of things to all of us but one thing was the same: our desire for purity.

We had all struggled with it as various levels. Some struggled with moving too fast with girlfriends. Others struggled with how fast you could see any type of girl you wanted on the Internet. All of us felt the longing to be better than we currently were and through several years of mostly failure we had collectively realized we needed one another.

We met once a week to encourage and pray for one another. As we ended our meeting each week in the cramped common room upstairs we reminded each other of one of the pillars of our group: If any one of us felt a temptation coming that we did not feel strong enough to resist on our own, we could always…always go to another person in the group and that person would stop whatever they were doing to be with the one fighting off temptation.

Over the years we met there were dates cut short, workouts missed, papers not completed. Whatever it took; it didn’t matter. We were there for one another. Anytime, day or nightt.

The whole concept was centered around four simple words:

“Flee from sexual immorality.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18

I love when the Bible’s simple. You don’t need to know Greek to know exactly what this verse means.

On this particular night, one of the guys was struggling with the temptation of pornography. His roommate had unexpectedly gone home for the weekend and he knew that temptation is magnified in isolation.

So at his greatest moment of need, he didn’t just try to resist for awhile and ask for forgiveness later. He literally (and I hate when people say that word but don’t actually mean it) literally ran down the hall and started beating down my door at 3 A.M.

I didn’t greet him with anger or a lecture. That wasn’t how the group worked. We supported one another with the gifts of time and presence, two things that are even more valuable to me now.

Nothing super spiritual happened except everything.

We didn’t have a Bible study on purity right then and there. That’s what we did to prepare to flee. I let my friend in and we made popcorn and watched the Sandlot until morning when we crashed.

My friend woke up after lunch the next day with…no regrets.

He didn’t care that he woke up half the hall, at least not enough to fall into sin. He didn’t care that his hallway dash was caught on the security cameras and the RA’s probably watched it back later laughing. He didn’t care about giving into a temptation only he would have ever know about.

He cared about becoming a man of God. He cared about purity. He cared about our future wives that we were already praying for but hadn’t met yet.

Nobody in the group was or is perfect and of course we all have regrets but none of us have ever regretted resisting temptation.

In a world that is bombarding us with the message that we should never say no to a new experience or a thrilling rush, our group helped each other do just that. The ethic of the kingdom of God, humble self-denial, flies in the face of the rampant “you deserve it” “treat yourself” culture that’s especially being marketed to millennials.

You might miss out on a thing or two but speaking from my experience, those things aren’t worth the baggage or pain they cause, if not immediately then soon there after.

What helps you resist temptation?

19Oct

41 Questions/Doubts Teenagers Have about God & Faith

Research indicates that about 5 out of every 10 high schoolers will walk away from the church and their faith after graduation. There are a variety of reasons a student might leave their faith behind:

  • Other things simply become more important (driver’s license, dating relationship, etc.)
  • Acquire a new group of friends that don’t desire to be a part of the church.
  • Some simply experiment with straying from every opinion their parents hold in the quest for their own independence.
  • Some never felt like they belonged to the church to begin with.

The Fuller Youth Institute, in their exhaustive, nationwide studies discovered the number one reason young people leave church and faith behind: the Church’s failure to engage difficult questions.

From the research, “Specifically, these young people cited the church’s failure to wrestle with issues like the reliability of the biblical text, sexuality, evolution versus creation, and the exclusivity of Jesus. But notice these students did not say they left the faith because of the stance of their church took on the issues above. They left because the church failed to address them at all. When tough questions were addressed, the answers were found to be vague and superficial.

Last week I gave 41 students a pen and a blank note card. I told them that as a church and as caring Christian adults we wanted to listen, validate, and attempt to answer any and all questions they had about faith, God, etc.

Our group comes from pretty diverse church backgrounds (wide-ranging denominational upbringings). We have a few students who are the only Christians in their family. We also have several atheists in our group as well as some who aren’t sure what they believe or why what one believes even matters.

These are their questions: (the last two were especially tough to read)

  1. Why are there poor, hungry, and thirsty people if God is real?
  2. Why do we not get what we need when we need it?
  3. Why do we have to struggle with things over and over again? Sometimes it feels like we have no help from God.
  4. How do we know someone didn’t just write down whatever they felt like in the Bible?
  5. Why does God let such bad things happen to good people?
  6. How can God be good if people who follow him get so down that they commit suicide?
  7. If God really wants us to follow him, why doesn’t he just make us? Why do we want other things more than him and why do some people never want to follow God?
  8. Why isn’t there more proof? It would be so much easier to believe if we had physical proof like the people in the Bible did.
  9. What do I have to do to go to heaven?
  10. How do I love people who are bad influences for me? I love my friends but I don’t love what they do and I worry about how that affects me.
  11. Why does God seem to punish people who don’t deserve it?
  12. I feel like I only believe in God because I’m scared of hell. Is that wrong?
  13. When you get saved, is there a chance you can still go to hell? P.S. I don’t want to go to hell.
  14. Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?
  15. Why doesn’t God help when you’re going through a rough patch and you pray and pray and nothing happens, nothing gets easier?
  16. Can you have faith in more than one thing, more than one god?
  17. How come Christians are able to forgive so easily?
  18. How do I know my faith is true and real? How can someone restore their faith?
  19. I have heard that God is with me but why does it sometimes feel like I’m all alone?
  20. Does God stay in your life even if you do a really bad sin?
  21. How do I get away from pornography?
  22. Why can’t God simply speak when we need him the most? How are we supposed to know what we wants us to do?
  23. Is sex outside marriage really wrong? If so, why?
  24. Can you go to heaven if you are not baptized?
  25. What happens when you die? Like right after you die, when your brain stops, what do you see or think or remember?
  26. Is it possible to grow your faith, to get stronger in your relationship with God?
  27. How can I get better at spreading the word in my school?
  28. Do people always have doubts about God? I believe in him but I sometimes feel guilty about doubting.
  29. Why did God not just make everything perfect?
  30. How did different races exist if everyone came from God?
  31. Can people believe in God and be gay at the same time?
  32. Why do some people who claim to believe in God not ever go to church?
  33. Does faith in God require me to be a good person?
  34. Why is lust bad?
  35. Why don’t we ever have to be physically punished for our sin? The pain Jesus went through on the cross seems so unfair.
  36. What do I do when it feels like Jesus shouldn’t forgive me? I know he does but it sometimes feels like I don’t deserve it.
  37. Why did God make us?
  38. Do you need to ask Jesus for forgiveness more than once?
  39. If God wanted us to choose his way, why did he make it so difficult?
  40. Why would someone pay attention to the Christians when there’s so many different groups of them and they hardly seem to agree on anything?
  41. Why do some people hide behind religious cliches instead of trying to wrestle with real questions?

Which questions surprised you?

What questions would you add to the list?

29Jun

I Went to Church Anyway

We live in a broken world groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22).

Even though this is always true, it is evident some weeks more than others.

Over the last week or so our country has been engaged in nationwide debate, from inside the walls of the Supreme Court to the virtual walls of Facebook users.

The two arenas of discussion, race and sexuality, are obvious tinder for a digital firestorm because of their universal nature. It makes sense that everyone has an opinion even if some of their opinions do not make much sense.

While I was more pleased with the conversations I had in person last week surrounding these issues, I firmly believe in the purpose and value of engaging in these topics on the mediums we have available. Those mediums have changed and will continue to do so over time but right now, the Internet in general and social media in particular have connected the world in unprecedented ways.

Christians who leverage that opportunity and those mediums to discuss current issues through the lens of a Christian worldview can be missionaries like the apostle Paul, who reasoned with people in the marketplace for days upon entrance into a new city.

While there is definitely wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be silent (See: Just Stop Talking), Christians should not fear engaging others with their various social media platforms as long as they are focused on getting it right more than being right. It’s true, Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout but sometimes you need to speak up.

“Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” – Proverbs 31:8

But what about when Christians cause problems by engaging others in conversations about current issues on social media?

The easy answer is something like, “The diversity of the Christians faith points to a diversity of opinions on various current issues.”

I guess…

But if we’re honest, doesn’t it feel more personal than that?

I wrote about my personal opinions regarding the Confederate Flag last week. The article took off, relatively speaking, as things that are written at the right time around hot button issues do.

I spent most of the next day responding to people’s questions and opinions (both supportive and critical). I didn’t necessarily care much what people felt about my opinions but I did care that people at least listen to the real opinions I gathered from black, Christian friends who are equally proud to be Southerners yet generally had very different experiences than the people I seemed to hear most loudly.

What was most frustrating was not people unwilling to listen to me but people unwilling to listen to them.

Some of these people were not just Christians but Christians in my city, and not just Christians in my city, but Christians at my church.

Most of the conversations went very well, and I was reminded how great the opportunity I have to pastor where I do really is. But some conversations did not go so well…my church might have shrunk last week, and I am okay with that because I honestly believe in what I wrote.

However, like it often does, Saturday night rolled around and my brain switched over to Sunday prep mode. I started running through the morning in my head. Logistics, set list, sermon, volunteers. etc.

One of my favorite parts of Sunday prep is praying for specific people to show up. It gives me chills to see people far from the Church and ever farther from God walk through the doors of our church on a regular basis.

Yet this last week I found myself struggling to want to pray, struggling to want to see some people I sincerely love but who also disagree(d) with me. Honestly, I think I’m right and I think they’re wrong but they feel the same way.

So Sunday morning comes, and I head to church. It would have been an easy weekend for me to miss. I was not scheduled to preach. I could have had a “stomach bug.”

But I went to church anyway. It had nothing to do with my job and everything to do with Jesus.

As I started to pray, even though I didn’t feel like it, a funny thing happened; I started to feel like it. I remembered that, for all the things that can divide us, Jesus is what unites us.

So I went to church. I shook hands and gave hugs and had a tremendous day. I was sincerely glad to see everyone, especially the people who disagreed with me most loudly because I know the list of essentials we must believe to be known and loved by the same God is small:

Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again.

When I said those words from stage during our welcome time, I meant them with every fiber of my being. That’s what makes us sons and daughters of God. That’s what unites us.

We don’t need to agree on everything. As much as we all wish everyone thought just like us, we actually don’t need to agree on most things but we must agree on the Jesus things.

Everything else is secondary.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

22Apr

I Was Raped: Sarah’s Unbreakable Courage

Guest Post: This is the powerful story of my childhood friend, Sarah. Sarah is a social worker in Washington D.C. and a graduate of Baylor University in my hometown of Waco, TX. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring this week the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. I don’t normally ask you to do this but would you please share this story? Email it, Facebook it, Tweet it, print it out and mail it, etc. Sarah has displayed an immense amount of courage in sharing her story with my readers. Please honor that courage by passing it along to the millions of other victims of sexual abuse.


 

Several months ago I joined many sexual violence survivors and took part in a project called “Project Unbreakable.” Project Unbreakable invites survivors of sexual violence to put quotes from their attacker on posters and take a picture holding the quotes. This allows survivors to reclaim the abusive words once used against them.

sarahunbreakable1

 

sarahunbreakable2

Like most survivors of sexual violence, rebuilding my life has been wrought with periods of highs and lows. Months pass that seem despairingly difficult and others come that bring joy and triumph.

I have found that my greatest joy and healing has come when I share my story with others and examine my desire for more meaningful, genuine relationships.

I first identified as a survivor of sexual violence in February 2013. I was sexually assaulted after a date in late January 2013. At the time of the attack I had been living in DC for just 2 weeks. It was my first time to ever move outside of my hometown and I had little social support in the DC area. I sought counseling a month after the attack because I realized the experience wasn’t something I could wish away or forget.

The greatest thing that sticks out in my mind from that time was the urgent need to speak about my attack. Everyone responds differently to trauma and at this time I desperately needed people to process my feelings with out loud. I remember two poignant experiences in the months after the attack. The first took place when a coworker sent out an email about his son having tests done for cancer and asking people to pray for the outcome. I was struck by his request and how it related to my own present grief. Here was a colleague going through uncertain and challenging days and he was able to seek the support of those he worked with. I thought to myself, “I’ve been assaulted; I need support, why can’t I send out an email in the same fashion explaining my circumstance and asking for prayer?”

At that moment I recognized the choking silence bestowed upon survivors of sexual violence.

Another experience came weeks later when I was in my online virtual classroom with other students who were interning at field placements outside of Waco, Texas. Everyone was briefly sharing about their week. One classmate shared that she had just been in a minor car accident. Another classmate exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, you are so brave!” The words stung my heart. “So brave.” I immediately turned off the camera and began crying. I had never felt so alone in my life. I thought to myself, “I’M brave! Why can’t I openly share about my experience with my classmates?”

I was filled with anger and resentment for the unspoken norms about disclosure and the silence surrounding sexual violence.

I began to look more into sexual violence statistics and was horrified by what I found. According to RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, only 2 out of every 100 rapists will every spend even a day in prison. Only 3 out of 100 rapes are referred to prosecutors, 7 lead to an arrest and only 32 out of 100 are ever reported. An average of 68% of assaults in the last 5 years are never reported-this according to the Justice Department’s “National Crime and Victimization Survey” from 2008-2012. These numbers are staggering but as I considered my own experience it was not completely surprised.

When I moved back to Waco in April 2013 I continued counseling at The Advocacy Center. I worked with an amazing counselor there and began to heal my mind and heart. I realized a lot of things about my personal relationships that were damaging my sense of self-worth and dominating my identity. It was during this process that I recognized I had been raped and assaulted by 2 men 5 years earlier. I had never acknowledged the attack because I felt I played a large role in what happened since I left a bar with 2 men I met that night.

As I began to recognize my rights as a person I realized I had done nothing to influence my attack that night.

Since that time I have slowly processed the event and brought myself into awareness with the emotions tied to that attack. It has not been an easy process. Last fall I joined a group for sexual assault adult survivors and it has been very helpful for my healing. I realized there are other women with almost identical experiences and emotions. It reinforced the fact that sexual violence is a horribly stigmatizing event that our culture doesn’t understand. It makes us uncomfortable to talk about or hear someone describe therefore we are unable to create a healthy and safe place for survivors to heal.

If a victim does not feel comfortable speaking out, they are not only unable to begin the healing process, but they are also inadvertently protecting their attacker.

If our social norms prohibit speaking about sexual violence we are hurting survivors and helping abusers.

When and why did we begin to blame victims for their trauma rather than punishing and preventing violence? I soon realized that speaking about my experience would be one of the greatest ways for me to heal and triumph over my attackers.

Last summer while attending my church in Waco, I worked with a friend to establish a women’s group for persons who have experienced abuse. I announced the group one morning at church and invited women to join. I also said that as a survivor of sexual violence I knew how important it was to connect with others about our experiences. Handfuls of people thanked me after the service for my transparency and genuineness. Sharing my life with others, in all of its joys and heartaches gave me the greatest sense of purpose I have ever experienced.

Since last summer, I moved to DC and have been adjusting to a life in a relatively new environment. I am still yearning for those “real” connections that brought me overwhelming peace. I strive to remind myself that I am on a journey and some legs may be easy and others perhaps treacherous.

I think the greatest thing we can do to support survivors is to create a society that is mobilized to support and love persons who have experienced sexual violence. If a survivor is brave enough to share their experience or story with you, show them with your words and body language that you accept them and support them. Also remember that you aren’t expected to have the “right” words to say.

Sexual trauma is a senseless and devastating event that cannot be rationalized.

Researcher Brene Brown reminds us that there is rarely a response that can make a situation better. Supporting survivors doesn’t mean you’re expected to say something to make things better or to rationalize their experience. Tell them with your words and body language that you are so glad they felt they could speak to you about it and offer to support them in any way they need.

Sharing and talking about my experiences with others has been the greatest catalyst for healing. I know many other survivors who have also benefited from sharing and breaking their silence. Let’s work together to create a society that supports survivors and exposes perpetrators.

27Jan

Even GQ Knows Porn is Bad

Pornography Usage Statistics – Updated February 2014

  • Right now 30,000 people are watching porn.
  • More than 20% of all Internet searches are for porn.
  • Americans watch more porn than any other country in the world.
  • 70% of the spouses of porn addicts meet the criteria for a post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
  • 83% of college males and 57% of college females have seen group sex online.
  • 32% of college males and 18% of college females have seen bestiality online.
  • 18% of college males and 10% of college females have seen rape or sexual violence online.
  • 71% of teens have done something to hide what they do online from their parents (this includes clearing browser history, minimizing a browser when in view, deleting inappropriate videos, lying about behavior, using a phone instead of a computer, blocking parents with social media privacy settings, using private browsing, disabling parental controls, or having e-mail or social media accounts unknown to parents).

I have written about porn several times before. There are links to those articles at the end of this one. I guess I’ll stop writing about it when I stop hearing about how Satan is using it to cripple the Church.

I’ll stop writing about it when I no longer see my own failure as a high school and college student in the faces of the men I get to walk through life with now as they share their struggles with me.

The direct connection between our porn consumption and the bolstering of the sex slave industry is now irrefutable, both inside the Church and outside of it. Praise God that it is now a well-known fact that every time someone clicks on a porn video the sex slave industry is strengthened.

That “18-year-old” you think you’re watching is likely 15, legally unable to consent in many countries, including our own, to what is happening to her.

“Fighting human trafficking and then watching porn is like protesting a corrupt politician but then donating to his campaign.” #refusetoclick

Everything written thus far is all 100% true, proven facts. But they’re facts published and promoted by Christians and Christian organizations, which makes perfect sense to those inside the Church.

But what about those outside the Church? What about those that would say Christians are being too oppressive, that by crying out against porn we are actually limiting the full expression of human sexuality?

Below I’ve posted some of the most overwhelming evidence of the destructive nature of any level of porn consumption, all from sources outside the fold of Christianity.

“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” – U.S. Department of Justice

“I have also seen in my clinical experience that pornography damages the sexual performance of the viewers. Pornography viewers tend to have problems with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Having spent so much time in unnatural sexual experiences with paper, celluloid and cyberspace, they seem to find it difficult to have sex with a real human being. Pornography is raising their expectation and demand for types and amounts of sexual experiences; at the same time it is reducing their ability to experience sex. – Dr. Mary Anne Layden, PhD, Psychotherapist

“Research reveals many systemic effects of Internet pornography that are undermining an already vulnerable culture of marriage and family. Even more disturbing is the fact that the first Internet generations have not reached full-maturity, so the upper-limits of this impact have yet to be realized” – Dr. Jill Manning, Sociologist

As helpful and informative as this information is, it is not what caught my eye this week.

A survey of 73,00 Reddit users did.

Sam Deford and his team over at www.projectknow.com polled an internet community called “NoFap” a large online community of Reddit users committed to abstaining from porn and masturbation. There is no emphasis or leadership from any faith system in their group.

Deford analyzed the group’s answers to questions about their experience with porn and masturbation and the research is startling. I won’t recount it all here but the short story is this:

an online group of 73,000+ people are united by nothing else other than their shared experience that pornography and masturbation are woefully unsatisfying and have serious, damaging effects on them as human beings.

As of 1/27/15 the NoFap community has nearly doubled in size, currently boasting a membership of over 138,000 users.

The story caught the eye of GQ writer, Scott Christian. Christian has a great article based on Deford’s findings and lists in his article on GQ (!?!) 10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.

1. For those addicted to porn, arousal actually declined with the same mate, while those who regularly found different mates were able to continual their arousal. It’s known as the Coolidge Effect, or novelty-seeking behavior. Porn, after all, trains the viewer to expect constant newness.

2. One in five people who regularly watch porn admitted to feeling controlled by their own sexual desires.

3. 12 percent of NoFappers report watching 5 or more hours of Internet porn every week. 59 percent report watching between 4 and 15(!!) hours of porn every week.

4. Almost 50 percent of those on NoFap have never had sex in their lives, meaning their only experience with intimacy is purely digital.

5. 42 percent of male college students report visiting porn sites regularly.

6. 53 percent of the NoFappers developed a regular porn habit between the ages of 12 and 14. An alarming 16 percent said they started watching before they were 12.

7. 64 percent report that their tastes in porn have become more extreme or deviant.

8. Among 27-31 year olds on NoFap: 19 percent suffer from premature ejaculation, 25 percent are disinterested in sex with their partner, 31 percent have difficulty reaching orgasm, and 34 percent experience erectile dysfunction.

9. After committing to no masturbation/porn, 60 percent of those on NoFap felt that their sexual functions had improved.

10. And 67 percent had an increase in energy levels as well as productivity.

So there it is: The anti-porn movement is something Christians should absolutely whole-heartedly embrace. But it must start first in our own hearts.

But be encouraged, we are not alone in this pursuit. Others outside the faith are exposing the lie that porn peddles.

While many sources are pointing us away from porn and its destructive nature, only Christians can point toward the only real hope, Jesus.

For more, click on the pictures below:

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18Nov

Snapchat: Child Porn, & Sex Predators

I’ve been trying to get people to delete Snapchat for a long time now.

Snapchat’s time as a fun way for users to swap pictures has come and gone. I briefly had an account last year but it did not take long to see that the risks/danger far outweighed the benefits other, safer apps could just as easily provide.

The risk/danger side of that scale tipped even further in the wrong direction on Monday.

On Monday Snapchat announced a decision that will bust the door down between minors and sexual predators.

Snapchat is introducing Snapcash, a new feature that will allow its users to exchange money within the app.

Basically ever since it began, Snapchat’s people have been trying to mask what it really is, a safe sexting app targeted for teenagers minors. With this new feature Snapchat has moved even further from their feebly crafted image of a fun app to exchange pictures with friends.

Snapchat users have long bought into a lie but the truth is nothing is anonymous. The pics don’t disappear and have been leaked over and over and over again. However, the foolishness of Snapchat in general is not my issue.

Here’s what the new Snapchat changes might actually look like:

Old Snapchat Scenario:

  • Teenager receives snap from another teenager (you don’t have to be friends with someone to be able to send them snaps/pics unless you have your privacy settings changed from “everyone” to “friends” )
  • 1st teenager replies with a snap of their own, still not knowing who they’re sending pics to or why.
  • A mutual attraction develops and personal details begin to be exchanged.
  • Eventually the initiator convinces the other user to send some nude snaps.
  • Regardless of age, the initiator is now in possession of child pornography and has broken federal law(s). For more see: A Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography via the U.S. Department of Justice.

This scenario is what has made Snapchat into a $10 billion company. If you don’t think authorities take this seriously, think again.

10 teenage boys (aged 13-15 years old) were arrested last year for producing and sharing child pornography. All they were doing was taking screenshots of nude snaps their girlfriends sent them and showing them around to other guys.

Make no mistake: this is precisely what Snapchat was created to do. But it gets worse…

New Snapchat Scenario:

  • Teenager receives snap from another Snapchat user (you don’t have to be friends with someone to be able to send them snaps unless you have your privacy settings changed from “everyone” to “friends”)
  • Teenager replies with a snap of their own, still not knowing who they’re sending pics to or why.
  • A mutual attraction develops and personal details begin to be exchanged.
  • Eventually the initiator asks the teenager to send some nude snaps.
  • 1st teenager protests.
  • Initiator offers to send the teenager money via Snapchat.
  • Teenager reluctantly agrees, sends nudes and receives money from a sexual predator for producing child pornography.  

I cannot stress to you how extremely likely this situation is. It has probably happened several thousand times even since the change on Monday. The Snapcash function is now live on both Android and iOS version and is ready to be used.

Teenagers, you’re setting yourself up for a type of abuse and exploitation you know nothing about. Delete Snapchat right now. There are plenty of other apps that can offer the same services as Snapchat with much more oversight and accountability I know those two words may not have much weight on your life now but if you live by them you will develop wisdom to live the best life possible in a very foolish world.

Parents, delete Snapchat from your child’s phone. Have a conversation about these new changes and explain the dangers that come with this new feature. Explain to your child how you want to trust them but you can in no way trust all the other 100 million Snapchat users. For more see: 9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age.

Pastors/Church Leaders, delete Snapchat. Do not use Snapchat in ministry. As I stated earlier, the benefits are no longer worth the risks and dangers. You can communicate with students in countless other ways and even if you couldn’t , your holiness is infinitely more important than your relevancy. Stay far above reproach.

How do you feel about the new Snapchat?

13Oct

Co-Habitation, Dating, & Marriage

Are two people who decide to live together outside of marriage headed for divorce?

That’s the question I set out to answer, or at least learn more about, a few weeks ago. I stumbled across The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage, a 2012 New York Times article written by a clinical psychologist who works primarily with 20-somethings and has made a healthy living counseling couples and individuals with issues specifically related to cohabitation.

Jay tells the story of one of her clients, a woman named “Jennifer.” Jennifer lived with her husband for four years before they married yet started receiving counseling from Jay when she was considering divorce just one year into marriage.

“What happened?”

Jennifer eventually confessed that when she was living with her husband before they got married, before she knew his commitment to her, it felt like she was constantly trying out to be his wife, wondering if this was the month, or even the year, where she would be seen as worthy enough to be a wife.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. “We had all this furniture. We had our dogs and all the same friends. It just made it really, really difficult to break up. Then it was like we got married because we were living together once we got into our 30s.”

Jennifer’s story is heartbreaking, and if we’re not careful we can miss the real issue with co-habitation.

I could see how it’s easy to start living together with someone, especially someone you’re already having sex with.

You’re already staying over at each other’s houses. When you’re both at his place, you use his Internet while your paid-for Internet goes to waste with all your other lonely, underutilized utilities. When you’re both at her place and she wants to invest in some new furniture it’s not the craziest thing for her to ask you what you think. She doesn’t really care but she’s really asking, “Is this furniture eventually going to be our furniture?”

The whole 30-is-the-new-20 culture communicates that your 20’s just don’t really matter that much. And study after study shows that 20-somethings are the most likely to live together outside of marriage. It does matter what you do, all the time, especially in your 20’s. They might be the most formative years of your life because you’re making decisions then that you’ll deal with the rest of your life.

But cohabitation can wreck your 20’s, (or your 30’s, 40’s etc.) because you end up compromising in ways you never intended:

Step 1: You start dating someone.

Step 2: The exciting newness of your new relationship has worn off. Things are honestly going well but you’re not super sure about where the relationship is going long-term so you decide to fast track things, stop the house-hopping and live together. More sex. Less rent. Win-win.

Step 3: The exciting newness of living together has worn off. You look around one day, still unsure about the future of your relationship long-term, but now it’s messy. You think about what it would take to end the relationship. You’d have to find a new place, get new cable/Internet/utilities, etc. You’d have to decide who keeps the dog you adopted together. You’d have to find some, if not all, new friends. If you’re church goers you have to find a new church, small group, etc. If you’re honest with yourself, all that just doesn’t seem worth it.

Step 4: Something gives. Marriage, all of a sudden, doesn’t seem so terrible. Maybe you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re just exhausted at the idea of starting all over with someone new. The thought of doing the whole first date, awkward get to know you, meet the parents routine sounds dreadful. So you get married.

Step 5: Divorce? Maybe. Happy marriage built on a fierce sense of loyalty and covenant commitment to one another? Probably not. You think to yourself, “How did I get here? I would never date my spouse if I was just meeting them now.”

What happened?  Cohabitation happened.

If you’ve made it this far in this post you might be familiar with a cohabitation, dating, and marriage survey I created over the weekend. It was taken by hundreds of people and brought about some interesting results. You can see the most recent version of those results here. (The survey is still open and the results are constantly being updated).

Survey Background Facts:

  • 75% of the survey responders are female.
  • 50% are under the age of 30.
  • 34% have lived or are living with someone outside of marriage.
  • I intentionally left out comment boxes or religious preferences.

5 Thoughts on Cohabitation

1.) Cohabitation is more simple than some people realize.

Cohabitation is most dangerous for people living with who the studies referred to as a “serial cohabitater.” This person, male or female, has no real desire to get married. They are operating out of a misguided, more sex/less rent attitude and/or they desire some companionship without a deep commitment. Ironically, cohabitation requires a commitment that cohabitation cannot actually provide. This group is full of the people trying to rationalize their decisions when really their situation is simple: get your own place.

2.) Cohabitation is more complex than some people realize.

For some, cohabitation is much more common and increasingly more complex. This group is made up primarily of lower-income populations, particularly uneducated, single mothers. Maybe they made some mistakes in their past, giving up on a dream or college to be with the man they loved. Maybe a teenage pregnancy altered their life forever. No matter how they got there, they have now arrived at a place of need it seems impossible to break out of. They might have multiple kids with multiple partners but for them, cohabitation has become a financial necessity.

My hope for them would be to move in with parents, friends, other family members…basically anyone but a potential sexual partner. It’s this group of people that gets overlooked by these studies and articles. Remember “Jennifer”? She was paying to see a very expensive and highly sought-after therapist to unpack her cohabitation-based problems. No one from this group is able to acquire such help yet their life’s problems can be largely chalked up to cohabitation as well.

3.) There is a very real correlation between couples living together outside of marriage and the success of their future marriages.

An absolutely conclusive study does not exist. Cohabitation does work sometimes, as long as “work” is defined by a lack of divorce instead of faithfulness to the God-ordained covenant of marriage. When cohabitation does “work” it is almost always the same situation: Two people who genuinely care for one another in a particularly selfless way date and eventually move in together. They later get married after living outside of marriage but it turns out that both of them only ever lived with each other before they got married.

My encouragement to them is simple: If you’re ready to move in together, you’re ready for marriage. If you’re not, then you’re not. That’s even more selfless. Cohabitation relationships are harder to dissolve than just dating but much easier to dissolve than marriage. Marriage communicates the ultimate “I love you and I actually mean it.”

Yet the facts are hard to dispute. Cohabitation does make breaking up harder and eventually makes marriage easier…all to someone you may not actually have ever decided to marry if you had never started living together.

4.) Cohabitation requires absolutely zero commitment.

This might be the hardest reality to grasp because perceived commitment is all around you!

  • You picked out the furniture TOGETHER.
  • You made new friends TOGETHER.
  • You got a pet TOGETHER.
  • You have a bed TOGETHER.
  • Yet there is nothing, no level of mutual trust or lasting commitment keeping one person from waking up one day, deciding to quit, and walk out. People definitely walk out of marriages in similar fashion, but they break real commitments to do so, not perceived ones, not counting the financial and social consequences divorce has.

Men often perceive cohabitation as precious time bought to avoid marriage while women simultaneously think they’ve got their man moving toward marriage.

5.) Co-habitation is incredibly uncomfortable for kids.

If you’re a single and/or divorced parent, you should never have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleepover and you should never live with a partner and force your kids to live in that same environment. It is confusing, unfair, emotional, and incredibly selfish. You put your kids in a very difficult situation to like, trust, and/or ever love your significant other if they do indeed become your spouse one day. Just don’t. If your partner is not willing to marry you, they don’t get that level of access to you. Even if you don’t value yourself enough to deny them that access, value your kids enough to make the right decision.

What are your thoughts on cohabitation? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below.

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