Tag Archives: Sin

A College Girl’s Letter To Men

ishot-2Honor, my 19 year old daughter,  wrote this yesterday and I felt compelled to share it here.

Dear Men,

Every little girl dreams of getting married. I work at a daycare and half the time my little girls are playing “marriage” or “house”. Every one of them talks about being married to their husbands one day and having sweet babies and being mommies. While they aren’t old enough to fully comprehend the responsibility of such things, it is still something they desire, from a very small age. I was one of those little girls.

For years I have prayed for the man that God has set aside for me. I have prayed he comes quickly. I have prayed he seeks the Lord and loves little ones and loves me. I pray that he knows how to lead me. But as of late, I have begun to become discouraged by such things. Days go by. Months. Years. And as I have gotten older I have been forced to recognize the utter ugliness of the world I dwell in. Pornography and sexual temptations haunt young men around every corner. When you’re young you don’t realize it, but then something happens and suddenly it seems so much closer and so much more real than it did before. Porn used to be an ugly word, followed by shame and lust and sin. Nowadays, it is thrown around freely. As if it is just a part of life. As if it is okay. As if we should just expect it to always be around. As if it is perfectly normal for every young man to have seen it and struggle with it.

The average age for a male to view pornography is by the age of 9. Nine. 9? 9! As I stated previously, I work at a daycare. The kids I work with are as old as six. It both startles and scares me to think that by the time my young boys are 12, most, if not all of them, will have viewed pornography. By the age of 16 many of them will struggle with porn addictions. 10 years and the little boys I once knew will be forever tainted. It breaks my heart into a thousand pieces to think upon such things. Because they are so innocent and so sweet and one day they will have wives and girlfriends, who will never be able to compete with something this graphic.

I have seen women struggle over the fact that their boyfriends or guy friends or husbands struggle with porn or a sexual desire that cannot be quenched. I myself have been a victim of a young man who decided to choose porn and temptation and lust over me. Perhaps you don’t know it…perhaps nobody has ever told you what it feels like when someone chooses a computer or an iPhone screen over you.

I knew a young man who was addicted to porn by the age of 16; he started viewing it when he was 10. Josh Duggar recently admitted he was cheating on his wife and struggling with porn as well. Strippers and pornography and graphic movies and unfortunate sexual interactions have forever changed the world. They have forever changed the world for so many young women who are put up to compete with things that are horrifically violent and devastating and painful and ultimately unreal. And nowadays I wonder…is there even a young man who hasn’t looked at porn? Because now I expect that every man, every young man and boy has viewed such things. The movie/book “50 Shades of Grey” is celebrated and now more and more women are told that they should be able to take on mental, physical, sexual and verbal abuse in order to maintain a man. But where in the Bible does it say that men are supposed to abuse and hurt their wives and significant others? I have yet to find such a thing. In fact, I believe the Bible says otherwise. Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Ephesians 5:25 says, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” I have looked. So far I don’t see anything about God telling men to view pornography and hurt their loved ones.

I am 19 years old. I used to be excited about getting married. Now…now I’m not so sure. I am fearful. Because I have already been left behind for a girl on a computer screen. And I know, like I know many other women have felt, like I could never compete with that. She is perfect. And photo shopped. And told how to act. She does whatever a director tells her to do, even if it physically destroys her. How could I ever hold a candlestick to a girl that’s so flawless? She does things I am too afraid to do. And if I’m not willing to do it, a trip to the strip club or elsewhere will fix that right up. Or will it? I never thought I would be so worried about getting married. I want to be married. I want to have kids and a happy home. But I do not want to be betrayed. Or abandoned. Or have something so fake be put above me. I am already hurt by the possibility because chances of meeting someone who has saved himself or not viewed pornography are so slim they are little to none. I am not saying they are impossible, for all things are possible with Christ. But sometimes it feels like my odds aren’t very high.

This letter is a plea. A plea to men. To the men who have wives – I have given you evidence to not view pornography. You have a wonderful wife that God gave you – why would you treat her such? There is a big chance she gave you her everything…and now it is time your body is hers, and only hers. To young men who have yet to have wives but perhaps have girlfriends or are struggling – please turn away from temptation. Pull a Joseph and flee! Flee from sin and run into the arms of God. You will save your future wife/girlfriend so much grief if you choose not to act upon your sinful desires. To fathers – encourage your sons. Please, oh please fathers, encourage your sons. Encourage your sons in the way of the Lord. Encourage your sons to save their minds and their bodies for their future wives. Some of you fathers have daughters. How would you feel if you find out your little girl couldn’t stand a chance against a glowing screen? How would you feel if your daughter felt forced to sexually exploit herself because the world tells her that is the only way she can keep him around?

William M. Struthers writes, “Pornography thus enslaves the viewer to an image, hijacking the biological response intended to bond a man to his wife and therefore inevitably loosening that bond.” Bonds are broken. Relationships are torn to shreds or put under strain because of something the devil is trying to use to fight against us and fight against God. But I encourage you! Take up your shield and raise your prayers and the Bible up and fight off such temptations! For the Lord is strong and he will fight for you (see Exodus 14:14).

1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We are called to love one another, men and women alike. And when we choose to give into sexual temptation and let Satan run rampant we are choosing not to love. Not to love wives. Not to love one another. Not to love girlfriends or someone’s daughter. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Men love your women. Love your wives. Your girlfriends. Your future wives. Your future girlfriends. Love them enough that it prevents you from allowing temptation and struggle to enter into your life.

This is a call to arms. A call to fathers and sons and uncles and husbands and boyfriends. A call to young men and boys and old men who have walked the earth for many years. A call to defend the Lord’s word and yourselves from Satan’s desperate attempt to tear our world limb from limb. Kick Satan’s butt. Scream at him and tell him you know love and will not fall into his ways! Resist. Flee. Run from temptation, take up your cross and follow the Lord desperately.

Signed,
The Girl Who Was Chosen By A Man 2000 Years Ago

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

You can read more of Honor’s stuff at her blog http://teawiththree.blogspot.com/

The 10 Things I Try To Do To Be Sanctified By The 10 Things I Hate To Admit.

MB PostsRight now I feel a bit like the final season of Seinfeld. I started this blog a month ago and now its peaked. I should drop the mic and walk away since it’s all downhill from here.

I am blown away by the viral nature of the previous post. When I decided to put it out there I figured at best it might receive a couple hundred views, not 165,000 in a week. It struck a deeper cord than I could ever imagine. From this I have now heard from countless pastors (along with spouses or kids) who feel a sense of silent solidarity. To know you’re not alone is a powerful counter-force to the isolation the Enemy labors to impose on those called to pastoral service.

Reflecting back on the post I was reminded of how articulating a problem is much easier than offering solutions. Perhaps this is why even the dumbest dude in the room can still effectively play “The Devil’s Advocate.” Critique is always easier to produce than clarity since the latter requires reflection while the former is shot from the hip in about the same amount of time it takes a frat guy to slam a Bud Lite and belch.

The other difficulty is that sometimes the solutions offered come across as Sunday school platitudes without a practical map for very real challenges. In comments to the post there were a few individuals who were quick to remind me, in some variant form, that, “It’s Christ’s Church NOT YOURS so you should get out of the way.” Thanks Sherlocks for Jesus! We know that. In fact we can go a step further and say, “It’s Jesus’ Universe and we should all get out of the way.” In reality however we all seem to perennially get in the way with fear, worry, anxiety, pride, fatigue, bitterness, control, idolatry and the like. We live a bipolar existence where the Spirit leads in one direction and the flesh snaps our head around. It’s this spiritual whiplash that is the essence of our fallen plight.

Therefore while I would love to title this follow-up, “The 10 Solutions To The 10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly.” the reality is that only the Resurrection will accomplish that task. Now does that mean we just throw our hands in the air with an apathetic, “Well that sucks!”? We can, but it’s not a very fruitful way to move forward: for while we may never eradicate every insecurity in life, we can be sanctified through every situation of life.

So with a more personal perspective here are “The 10 Things I Try To Do To Be Sanctified By The 10 Things I Hate To Admit.”

#1. When People Leave I Try To Remind Myself Of What I Know.

Early on in ministry people would leave the church and it would hit me for weeks or even months. This was especially the case when it was people who were particularly close to me or mission critical to the church. But what I have learned over the course of time is that those feelings always evaporate. Therefore now days when someone leaves I just say to myself, “Matt… down the road you know this isn’t going to bother you, so how about you just take that bridge right over there and get over it.” I know that may sound a bit trivial, but it really works for me. Now days when someone leaves for what I perceive to be a lame reason (and honestly some are unequivocally lame reasons) it only bothers me for about a day. When it happens I remind myself, “You won’t be irritated by this tomorrow so just get through today. Look at everyone who is still here and focus on reaching those who are yet to be here.”

#2. When Feeling Pressure To Perform I Try To Resist The Chase.

Now days I can discern when this lure is slipping through the water because I feel a sudden urgency to ramp up for wrong reasons. As soon as I start thinking we need a newer, bigger, louder, cooler, funnier (fill in the blank) because the church down the street just introduced something – I intentionally slow down. I kill the chase on the spot because I know the chase will be a waste of resources fueled by ego. If however I think we need a newer, bigger, louder, cooler, funnier (fill in the blank) so we can advance the Kingdom for Jesus – I proactively ramp up. The difference is an honest look in the mirror to see whether I’m chasing to compete with men or creating to please Jesus. The latter fills me up and makes ministry exciting, the former stresses me out and makes it exhausting.

As a side note: If the church you’re in sits in the shadow of a mega-church, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to match up (unless Jesus has specifically called you to that style of ministry). I say that because Chucky Cheese is cool, until it’s next door to Disneyland and then it’s just cute.

#3. When Struggling To Get My Worth From Ministry I Try To Elevate The People Around Me.

Sin at its core is a deep lustful gaze upon the self. Thus when I am not experiencing a sense of worth from ministry I have two options. The first is to get everything around me to make much of me and perform to my expectations. The second is to look away from me and to make much of those who are around me. It’s much harder to focus on my own disappointments if I’m attempting to celebrate others’ accomplishments.

#4. When I’m Seriously Thinking About Quitting I Try To Quit For A Couple Of Weeks.

I don’t literally submit my resignation, but I step back and take a 2-3 week break. My reasoning is that if after a couple of weeks I’m dreading going back, then I may need to seriously consider an occupational change. The team around me nor the church will be healthy for very long if I don’t really want to be there. In my case what I have found is that my love of pastoral ministry begins to outweigh the hardships or frustrations I may be experiencing. After a week I become antsy without an outlet. I begin to tinker with a sermon idea, ministry issue or some other pastoral curiosity. In other words I find I can’t do anything else because I don’t want to do anything else.

#5. When Tempted To Be Transparent I Try To Remain Opaque.

Yes you read that right. I believe opaque is healthy for pastors and their families. We are called to a higher standard and because of that we automatically face higher scrutiny. This was no secret going in and to resent that fact may invite more burden than we want or need. Now we don’t have to like it. We can think people are critical for it. Some individuals are demonically abusive with it. But we still need to accept it.

Aside from this is the reality that we are – by the nature of our calling – leaders. This anticipates that we show no anxiety even when fearful: display strength even when worn. It’s simply part of the job that shepherds remain composed so sheep feel secure.

Ultimately I seek to be genuinely transparent to the degree that people know my life is very much like theirs, but also opaque enough so that they don’t wonder if the craziest guy in the asylum is running the joint.

What this doesn’t mean is that we should seek to be opaque with everyone. I am very transparent with a core of friends, all of whom are actually in the church I’m a part of. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, I have opted for the deepest transparency with the people I spend the majority of my ministry time with. I’m not saying that is a great rule for everyone, but I have been blessed to be a part of a church that is remarkably receptive regarding pastoral humanness while maintaining a clear biblical expectation of leaders.

#6. When Driven By The Numbers I Try To Stop Counting.

Since it’s birth our church has taken weekly attendance. I have not looked at the totals once in those 2 1/2 years. At one point numbers became my idol, so I dethroned the idol by ditching the metrics. Others on our team keep track of these things because that is not their idol, but they kindly don’t share that information with me. Now can I tell generally when things seem to be on the incline or decline? Sure. Does that general perception still mess with me from time to time? Absolutely. Right now we are in a growth phase so I’m in a “good mood.” When it seems like we are in decline I can get discouraged (for both godly and ungodly reasons). But not being bound to the numbers is personally liberating.

On the same front I want to stress that to not care about numbers is as potentially sinful as being motivated by them. Dr. Luke was all about celebrating the numbers as was Moses and Nehemiah. If the numbers are Jesus’ numbers, I should rejoice. If the numbers are my numbers, I must repent.

#7. When Feeling Discouraged I Try To Hang With A Pastor Who Has It Tougher Than Me.

In my opinion no pastor has it tougher than a solo or bi-vocational pastor. In that situation one must serve as a spiritual Heptathlete; mastering preaching, visiting, counseling, budgeting, marketing, marrying/burying and inevitably cleaning the church as well. It’s a lonely service, requiring a ton of output, often with minimal return on investment. These are my hero pastors and the kind I try to spend time with when I’m down.

I do this because sometimes when I’m discouraged it’s a grave case of “first world problems: church edition.” I get bummed because I wish…

  • we could hire a fourth pastor to strengthen our small groups.
  • we could have our own building for better control over environment.
  • we could have $400,000 of surplus in the bank since $135,000 is just not enough flexibility for our current “needs.”

Boo-Flipp’n-Hoo right! Then I go and spend time with a hard working faithful Heptathlete for Jesus whose tireless investment probably brings a bigger smile to Jesus than anything I’ve done in a decade. After that I am remarkably grateful for what Jesus has allowed me to be a part of.

Obviously there are other times where discouragement is far more legitimate and deep. In those circumstances I find a seasoned pastor (65+) who is active or retired with at least 40+ years of ministry under his belt. Those dudes have weathered it all. Three hours with a Jedi Master like that offers a perspective unmatched by a conference or leadership book.

A final aspect to this one is that I immerse myself in the Psalms. When I see how jacked-up David’s life was and yet he still managed to praise God it always makes me feel better.

#8. When I Worry About What The Church May Think I Try To Pray For Them More Than Myself.

There has been more than a few times where I have given an announcement I didn’t want to make, preached a passage I would have desired to skip or released a pastor that many would prefer we keep. Every one of those circumstances makes me uneasy. Therefore in those times I pray for strength, not for myself but for the church since they are the ones who suddenly receive something without warning. It would be terribly self-absorbed if my deepest concern is having the courage to say the hard things. My greater concern should always be that the church would have the strength to receive and I would have grace in the sharing.

#9. When I’m Feeling Competitive I Try To Worship With The “Competition.”

I hate to admit that it was only a couple of years ago when I casually viewed every evangelical church within a 10-mile radius as competition. They were brothers and sisters in Christ, but it was a sibling rivalry. Then something unexpected happened, a couple of other pastors approached me about the idea of having a citywide worship night for the evangelical churches. At first I was about as interested as Ted Nugent being asked to join PETA. Then one of the pastors, a man named Randy, said to me, “I feel like God called me to try to start this because, well to be honest, you have been the competition and only the Devil wins with that attitude.” Wow, he said it out loud. He said what most of us don’t have the courage to admit to anyone. With that admission the Spirit confronted me and Randy won me. Within weeks an evangelical worship night called “One Voice” was born and with it a brotherhood of once jockeying churches. In worshiping with the “competition” I fell more in love with what Jesus is doing with His Church and thus I wanted to pray for these churches far more than contend against them.

As a great byproduct I have found that this also helps with #1. When someone from the church I am in goes to one of those churches I’m actually cool with it because I love the people who are there.

#10. When I Feel Like I’m Failing The Church I Try To Preach More And Think Less.

When I was in high school my teachers would say, “Use your brain Boswell.” Well I finally started doing that and I have regretted it ever since. As a natural pessimist thinking often drives me to notice the worst in a circumstance or how something is problematic. My solution for this: think less, preach more. Not longer Sunday sermons, but out loud confrontational preaching directed at myself from the Bible. For example:

  • When I’m dealing with an angry person and I start thinking about all the ways I could cut them off at the knees in an argument, I stop thinking and start preaching “Love your enemies and pray for them – Matt” Matthew 5:44
  • When I’m beginning to feel irritated by the angry person and I sense a bitter preoccupation with them, I stop thinking and start preaching “Let no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble because many will be defiled by that – Matt” Hebrews 12:16
  • When I’m thinking the church isn’t going right and the wheels are all going to come off the wagon any day, I stop thinking and start preaching “Upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it – Matt.” Matthew 16:18
  • When I’m beginning to listen to the Enemy and feel like I’ve failed, I stop thinking and start preaching “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved – Matt.” Ephesians 1:3-6

You get the idea. I preach the Word with the deepest conviction possible – directly to myself – because at the end of the day only what God has said has the power to override and heal any justification I have created to maintain how I feel. What I know is that only Jesus, His Gospel and His Word can effectively engage and alleviate “The 10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly.”

Last Thoughts

What I have not sought to offer up in this list is a formula to fix our problems. We are chock-full of formulas in the church today. In fact it’s sometimes the formulas themselves that have exacerbated the problems. Yet my intent was simply to remind us that sanctification isn’t the implementation of more tactics, but the avoidance of the things that tempt us along with the desperate pursuit to find the real us in Jesus. As C.S. Lewis wrote:

The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented— as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call ‘My wishes’ become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils. Eggs and alcohol and a good night’s sleep will be the real origins of what I flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me in the railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political ideas. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

Thank you Peter Svensk for reading me this quote yesterday. God has perfect timing.