Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Growing Problem in Churches--Pornography

Ephesians 5:3-12,
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”

Some Startling Statistics

Responses from a recent poll indicated that sexual addictive behaviors are not foreign inside churches and a large number of women in the pews struggle with the same temptations.
According to a poll by and Second Glance Ministries, half of all Christian men are addicted to pornography. While the statistics for men are nothing new, the poll found 20 percent of all Christian women to be addicts to pornography. Additional findings showed
· 60 percent of the women respondents admitted to having significant struggles with lust,
· 40 percent admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year,
· 20 percent of the church-going female participants struggled with looking at pornography on an ongoing basis.

Approximately 40 million people in the United States are sexually involved with the InternetExposing Porn: Science, Religion, and the New Addiction, Paul Strand.

Sex is the number 1 topic searched on the Internet. Overdosing on Porn, Rebecca Hagelin., March, 2004.

34 percent of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites onlineInternet porn a guy thing? Not really, online rating service says, Mark O’Keefe. The Charlotte Observer.

· In 2004, there were 372 million pornographic Web pages, 2.5 billion emails (8% of total emails), 100 thousand Web sites offering illegal child pornography, and 72 million annual worldwide visitors to pornographic websites (Internet Pornography Statistics. Internet Filter Review, 2004).
· 70% of 18 to 24 year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography. First-person: the culture of pornography, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Baptist Press, 28 December 2005.
· 20 percent of men and 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work (Dec. 2004)
· Five percent of pastors and 14% or laity have committed adultery. The primary reason was marital dissatisfaction. Christians and Sex: Sexual Issues in the Church. Christianity Today, 2003.

· For every 10 men in church, 5 are struggling with pornography (The Call to Biblical Manhood. Man in the Mirror, 6 July, 2004).
· Median age for the first use of pornography: boys: 11-13 girls: 12-14 (Your Children & Pornography: A guide for Parents, Tom Buford. Tommera Press, 2001).
· Almost half (47.78 percent) of families said pornography is a problem in their homeFocus on the Family Poll, 1 October, 2003.

Internet Pornography was a factor in as many as 25% of divorces in 2003

· There are 800 million rentals each year of adult videos and DVDs (Overdosing on Porn, Rebecca Hagelin., March, 2004).
· 11,000 adult movies are produced each year (Overdosing on Porn, Rebecca Hagelin., March, 2004).

Patrick Means, Men’s Secret Wars, pages 132-133
Men’s Confidential Survey polled 350 mean from more than a dozen evangelical denominations. Ten percent were ministers, of the remaining 90 percent most held leadership positions.

· 64 percent of pastors or church staff struggled with sexual addiction or compulsion, including but not limited to the use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, or other secret sexual activity.
· Twenty-five percent admitted to having sexual intercourse with someone besides their wife while married, and after they became a Christian.
· Another 14 percent admitted some form of sexual contact short of intercourse outside of their marriage since becoming a Christian.

Out of 81 pastors surveyed (74 males 7 female), 98% were exposed to porn; 43% intentionally accessed a sexually explicit website National Coalition survey of pastors. “Seattle.” April 2000.

Referring to I Peter 1:13-21, Stephen Olford notes God's command for His people to "be holy, because I am holy." This command "does not leave any loopholes." "There is no comfort zone there," Olford adds. "Failure to obey is sin, and sin is opposed to holiness." Olford says preachers should be determined to be holy, that it should be an act of will to be in obedience to God. Noting Saul's disobedience in II Kings, Olford says that nothing pleases God as much as obedience. He compared the preacher's willful holiness to that of the Levite priests of the Old Testament, who were not allowed into God's presence unless they were clean. If they failed to do so, they died. "Do you know any Levite to have entered the temple without washing his hands and washing his feet?" Olford asks. "How can I take the Bible into my hand; how can I take the posture to preach without purity?"

Remind yourself regularly of the damaging consequences of moral failure.
When you are tempted, think like this: minimize the pleasure and maximize the consequences. Hebrews 11:25 says, There is pleasure in sin for a season.

Reasons to Maintain Moral Purity
The following is adapted from a list developed by a minister* who would review it whenever he felt vulnerable to sexual temptation. He cited the following as reminders of the negative consequences a wrong moral choice could produce.
• Grieving the Lord who redeemed me.
• Dragging His sacred name into the mud.
• One day having to look Jesus, the Righteous Judge, in the face and give an account for my actions.
• Following in the footsteps of those whose immorality forfeited or crippled their ministries.
• Inflicting untold hurt on my best friend, my wife.
• Losing my wife's respect and trust.
• Hurting my beloved children.
• Destroying my example and credibility with my children, and nullifying both present and future efforts to teach them to obey God ("Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?").
• If my blindness should continue or my wife be unable to forgive, perhaps losing my wife and my children forever.
• Causing shame to my family ("Why isn't Daddy a preacher any more?").
• Losing self-respect.
• Creating a form of guilt awfully hard to shake. Even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?
• Forming memories and flashbacks that could plague future intimacy with my wife.
• Wasting years of ministry training and experience for a long time, maybe permanently.
• Forfeiting the effect of years of witnessing to other family members and reinforcing their distrust for ministers. Perhaps contributing to the hardening of their hearts.
• Undermining the faithful example and hard work of other Christians in our community.
• Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the enemy of God and all that is good
• Heaping judgment and endless difficulty on the person with whom I committed adultery.
• Possibly bearing the physical consequences of such diseases as gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, herpes, and AIDS; perhaps infecting my wife, or in the case of AIDS, even causing her death.
• Possibly causing pregnancy, with the personal and financial implications, including a lifelong reminder of my sin.
• Bringing hurt to my fellow ministers.
• Bringing hurt to my friends, especially those I've led to Christ and discipled.
• Invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.

* Randy Alcorn, "Strategies to Keep From Falling" Leadership, Winter 1988.

Where can I get help for my growing problem with Internet pornography?
Pornography is a growing concern among ministers. Almost one of every seven calls they receive on Pastoral Care Line at Focus on the Family is regarding Internet pornography. Some are just dabbling, some are headed down the road to addiction and some are crying for help trying to break free from the addiction.

Churches of Christ are not immune from this problem.

We are seeing this problem as a growing epidemic nationally. There are several factors that make this a particularly pervasive sin:
· Thousands of pornographic web sites are being added each year.
· Internet surfing is very private. Many offenses occur in the preacher's study at church during working hours.
· Internet pornography web sites are too easily accessible.
· Men are the most vulnerable to visual images.

· Find another man with whom you can open up and be vulnerable. If you are married, you really need to talk with your spouse. Many have not told anyone about their struggles. Read Psalm 32:3-5 for an accurate picture of the challenges we face when we keep silent about our sin.
· The church needs someone courageous enough to work with struggling preachers in a confidential way.

Change our Beliefs that lead to weakness
Old Core Beliefs
New Beliefs
I am basically a bad, unworthy person
I am a worthwhile person, with positive self-esteem
No one would love me as I am
I am loved and accepted by people who know me as I am
My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on someone else (my wife).
My needs can be met by others if I let them know what I need.
Sex is my most important need (or the most important sign of love).
Sex is but one expression of my need and care for others. The nurturing that I long for can come from a variety of experiences.

Eliminate stress from your life. Addiction is often connected to high performance demands.
Find support in another individual or group
· It would be wise to purchase an Internet software filter. Concord Road Church of Christ has a deacon who checks where ministers and staff go online.
· Get into an accountability relationship. Few preachers have close friends -- folks with whom they can be totally honest and vulnerable. Ask God to help you discern who you should attempt to meet with on a regular basis for prayer, confession and disclosure.
· Immerse yourself in the word of God and prayer. Meditate on such passages as
· Psalms 119:9-11;
· Philippians 4:8;
· Romans 6 and 7;
· Hebrews 12:1-2;
· Romans 12:1-2;
· Psalm 15.
· We must kill the beast inside us. Romans 8:12-13

Monday, August 28, 2006

Christian Baptism

We can all learn a little more about baptism. Baptism is the culmination of our obedience to the gospel. Baptism without faith is useless (Heb. 11:6), without repentance is futile (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), and without love is empty (Mt. 22:37-40). It does little good to baptize anyone who doesn’t understand what he is doing or why he is doing it. Baptism is a willful, knowledgeable act of faith and obedience toward God.
Christian baptism takes place by the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus has all authority and has authorized His followers to preach and to baptize (Mt. 28:18-20). When we are baptized, we act in the name of Jesus Christ, i.e., by His authority. Whatever we do in word or deed, Christians are to do everything in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; Col. 3:17).
We are baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). In Christian baptism one comes into the possession, protection, and blessing of God (Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27).
We are united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. We are crucified with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:4-7) so that our body of sin may be done away with. We are raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Baptism is the time of transformation from death to life, from sin to salvation, from slavery to sin to slavery to righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18).
Baptism is passive on the part of man and active on the part of God (Col. 2:12-13). Baptism is an act of faith in the working of God. In baptism, God works on us to cleanse us from sin (Acts 22:16), to cause us to be born again (Tit. 3:3-7), to add us to His church (Acts 2:41, 47), and to raise us up to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
Baptism is the time the blood of Christ looses us from sin (Rev. 1:5; Eph. 1:7). There is no forgiveness without the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22). Since we are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3), baptism (unlike anything else) unites us with Him in His sacrifice on the cross.
The New Testament records show that people did not put off their baptism until a later date (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:34-39; 16:33). They were baptized immediately because they knew their salvation depended upon obedience.
What is hindering you from baptism? What are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins (Acts 22:16).


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When Dark Days Come

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them” (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12).

It is not a question of if dark days come but when. Time and chance overtake us all. It usually happens when we least expect it. Tragedy is usually an interruption that takes our breath away and leaves us stumbling through the motions. Befuddled and distressed, we are never more aware of our need for God and His love.
When tragedy strikes, turn through the pages of your Bible. Find those marked verses that give hope and promise. Too often we read those passages and smile. Now read them and claim them as your own. Believe them with all your heart. God never bears false witness; He is the God of truth.
When tragedy strikes, turn your heart to God not away from Him. He is not unaware of your pain and confusion. You can be assured that not a bird falls outside the knowledge of God. He sees and knows every detail. He hasn’t abandoned you, but He can and does take the hurts of life and make good out of them (Rom. 8:28).
When tragedy strikes, pray more earnestly. When the Lord Jesus faced His harshest night, He spent it praying. He cried out for the will of God to be done. His prayer that fateful night has blessed humanity for two thousand years.
When tragedy strikes, weep in your loss but rejoice anyway in the Lord and in the love of good people. Remember that Paul’s advice, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice” came from a prison cell. Paul did not know whether he would live or die (Phil. 1:21-23; 4:4). He could rejoice, however, in the wonderful promises of God. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:7-9).

We Lost Bernice Dodgen

There are few things in life so wonderful as people who are good. Bernice was so very good. I could not ask for a better mother-in-law. She made our lives so happy and filled with love and support and good things. She was a model for how to live and love the simple and good life.

Bernice had a garden in back with many bird-feeders and flowers. We saw peacocks, deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, quail, and even a bobcat. I did not mention that we had birds of more than 50 varieties right before our eyes. The Lazy J was and is a special place filled with love. The heart of that place was Jack and Bernice; now they are both with the Lord.

Christmas time was magic. We had a wonderfully large family of more than 30 who gathered. Bernice always made the dessert room full with endless treats of every kind: pies, cakes, cookies and candies. We even had Braum's chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer (she knew that was my favorite).

Bernice was sound in her faith, capable in her study, and committed to her Lord. Her children rise and call her blessed. They praise her name because of what she was and is in our hearts.

We will always love you Jack and Bernice. This poem I wrote is dedicated to their memory:

Into Your Hands
December 2, 2003, 9:22 AM

Into Your hands, Father, into Your hands,
I commit my spirit into Your hands.
All I am and have I yield to You.
Your love and grace will bear me through,
For You know what's best and what I should do,
So I leave my soul within Your hands.

In His body He bore our transgressions;
In the garden He gave in to Your plans.
On the cross He committed His spirit,
So we can live forever in Your hands.

Into Your hands, Father, into Your hands,
I cast all my burdens into Your hands,
All my stress and pain I give to You.
Your love and grace will bear me through,
For You know what's best and what I should do,
So I cast my cares into Your hands.


Into Your hands, Father, into Your hands,
I cast all my sins into Your hands,
All I've said and done I bring to You.
Your love and grace will bear me through,
For You have told me what I must do,
So I cast my sins into Your hands.


Into Your hands, Father, into Your hands,
I commit my spirit into Your hands.
My life on earth I leave for You.
Your love and grace will bear me through,
For You have a place I'm going to,
So I leave my soul within Your hands.