When I was formulating a worldview of sex and sexuality – thinking about women and how to relate to them – I had a lot of help from Playboy. Starting very young, I was exposed to the explicit images of pornography from friends of mine whose fathers dabbled in the dark side of sex. This is an odd thing to think, but you have to remember that this was before the advent of the internet when explicit images of women were sought and bought quite purposefully and intentionally. That is to say it shouldn’t have been that easy to come by. But it was.
I don’t remember a lot of images that have passed before my eyes. I will have trouble detailing the particulars of what my coworkers were wearing today. I can’t even recall what color the bridesmaids wore in the wedding I officiated this past Saturday. But I don’t think I will ever forget the image of my first centerfold. I know what color the woman’s hair was, the sheet, the pose, the whole thing. She was holding a book and if the book had had a title, I probably would have been able to tell you that too. And I wasn’t even in middle school. The power of the pornographic image is unmistakable.
In this age, it has become almost accepted that men (and women, too) will look at pornography. My job as a pastor is to tell you that looking at pornographic images is bad. But most people don’t feel bad when they look at pornography. Most people look at pornography because it feels good. It is an entirely solitary way to experience what God meant for us to experience together. Sex and sexuality, from a Christian perspective, is never something experienced alone. The loneliness of the man and the Lord declaring something “not good” tells us that he was lacking something to complete the experience of humanity. That he needed more than just a sexual partner is absolutely true. But it is also absolutely true that he needed a sexual partner. Sex, as it turns out, isn’t a solo flight.
Yet porn, in its alluring way, has offered us just this – solo sex. It comes in any flavor, with anybody, doing anything imaginable, and mostly for free and without the pesky involvement of something I like to call “other people”. The effect on sex and sexuality is devastating. Naomi Wolf, a feminist critic I’m told, makes this comment. “The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women…. For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”
Hypocrisy is a disease of which most men seek the remedy at some time in their lives. It is very often so vague in us that only others can see it. Just like the woman who stands before the mirror as an anorexic, so the hypocrite can see nothing but a distorted image when everyone around him can see it plainly. The pretender can sometimes be so immersed in his act that he will actually believe himself a knight in shining armor. Yet he will be Don Quixote fighting windmills of unbelief.
There is not a man living or dead who at one time did not deal with a hypocritical heart. Each of us faces ourselves at times when we would rather not see what is really there. Then we are faced with a radical decision. We must decide whether we will deal with self or let self rule. Our inner selves at times may become much like a despotic king, tyrannically forcing it’s subjects (the mind, will, desire, etc.) to turn in rebellion against God. When we notice this king gaining a strategic position we must unseat him. Self must be brought into subjection. Continue Reading
Here are my boys. The word “here” is an adverb indicating the position or place of my children. In this case, the sentence is pointing to the picture, yet it gives a sense of proximity or closeness. “Are” functions as the verb and is a form of being. It tells us that my boys exist. The adjective “my” describes the boys. They are mine and belong to me although they are not my property. The subject of the sentence and the word to which every other word points is “boys”. This word describes something about them. It identifies them as male and it is generally used to denote male humanity. It is plural so that you would understand that I have more than one boy.
A simple sentence. Here are my boys. I can write this sentence because it is true. The photograph is a testimony to its validity. This is not fanciful imagination. These boys exist and they are mine. They exist because I married a woman whom I love very much. They are the product of our love as a gift and reward from God. They are alive. They live with Marie and I. We feed them, dress them, teach them, clean them, love them, shelter them, protect them. They are ours and we face a responsibility because they exist. They are growing as any normal boy would. They learn new words, motor skills, patterns of behavior, how to respond to stimuli, interaction – the list could go on and on. They are becoming men. Continue Reading
This is a wonderful story of redemption and what church discipline is all about. I personally know John and he is a wonderful encouragement to our entire congregation. Read and enjoy the article and then stop and pray for John that he would continue to have victory over his sin and that the Lord would work in his life through the circumstances that he has brought upon himself and his family. He is facing some serious consequences and has a loving wife and three wonderful boys awaiting the final word. Use this in your ministries and churches. Church discipline is a no-compromise area of church life. We simply have the choice to obey or be disobedient in this.
Gambling, embezzling & church discipline
by David Roach FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP)–John Fluharty says church discipline saved his life.
Even though Fluharty was a member of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., he still had major sins in his life. A gambling addiction snowballed until he began embezzling from his employer to fund his habit. But when Buck Run and its pastor, Hershael York, intervened with church discipline, Fluharty repented and began to grow spiritually like never before.
Those of you who know me know that I have had quite a bit of disruption in my personal life caused by theological disagreement. I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of those stories firstly because I hope they are part of my past and not an ongoing part of my present. Secondly because I want to honor those people who have disagreed with me and keep their reputation as clean as I possibly can. I will say that some of the most miserable times in my life were direct results of the confrontations due to theological difference. These were times that caused extreme anxiety, emotional pain, and agonizing stress. I cannot be too clear on this point that theological disagreement has, in my life at least, brought about some of the most painful moments.
As I was packing the final items into our van for our move to Frankfort last friday, I experienced yet another unprovoked confrontation due to theological disagreement. Continue Reading
You cannot participate in church discipline if you do not know the people within your fellowship.
To claim that your church practices church discipline presupposes that your church knows one another. Because church discipline is not done primarily on a professional basis (i.e. the members themselves must be actively involved and not just the paid pastoral guys), everyone in the church must know and be concerned with each other. Church discipline cannot work in a vacuum. There are instances I suppose, where discipline would be applied to a brother or sister you did not know, but try to imagine that being the rule and not the exception.
Discipline will build strong relationships. It lets others into your personal world. It opens up your own weaknesses to the fellowship. It allows others to see you in particularly vulnerable and painful moments. When relationships include this sort of intimacy, there is a natural cementing of friendship and brotherhood. Some of the closest friends that I have are men that I have been involved with in a disciplining relationship – both giving and recieving. The world would say that this drives a wedge in between people, and to be sure, it probably has to some in the church. Yet, when Spirit-filled believers lovingly bring the holiness of God to bear on each others attitudes and conduct, there exists a natural and ever-strengthening tide of friendship and familial bond that can only be forged in the fires of hardship.
Church discipline cauterizes the church from drifting apart and practicing “island Christianity”, where one person’s life doesn’t touch another’s. It will either build strong bonds or reveal that the bond never even existed at all. Both are good revelations. Both prove the need for discipline and the reality of community in the fellowship.
Christians sin. I know, I know, stop the presses! Call an executive meeting and kick the dog! I’ve just solved all the pastoral woes for everyone wondering why in the world their people are so miserable. Well, that’s it – Christians sin.
Which one of us hasn’t used the tired old joke, “Boy I would sure love the ministry if it wasn’t for all the people.” Because most of us are reservationists around here I’ll bet all of you have at one point or another. The number one downfall to the church (which is made up of people, both theologically and practically speaking) is people. People consistently let other people down. They run about and generally make a mess of everything. Not even Jesus surrounded himself with perfect people; look at the disciples for goodness sake.
So if the church is people and people are a bunch of sinning fools, then what do we do? We discipline them, that’s what. Continue Reading