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Porn Makes You Numb

You’ve been there.

We all have.

Regardless of which addiction has taken you as its prisoner, you’ve experienced the numbing agent it provides. My pastor in Chicago once said that if there is one thing which unites all of humanity, it’s addiction.

In the words of Saint Peter (and Bob Dylan), we are all slaves to something. We are all the proverbial dog returning to his vomit. Eventually you become used to the flavor because at least your stomach is being filled with something.

I wrote in the past about porn as the quiet anesthesia. I still think it’s one of my truest blogs to date. We tend to look at all the blatant effects of a pornography addiction, like the marriages it ruins and the relationships it alienates; we look at how it fuels global sex traffickingor creates highly unrealistic expectations for how a human should look. But we overlook one of the most basic and common effects of pornography:

Desensitization.

I was once on a spontaneous date in California with a beautiful woman which ended up going well. Very well.

She and I took off from In-N-Out through the serpentine mountainous road near the small town and found a field from which to stargaze in the crisp spring night. It was nearing midnight and the clouds only let us see half the stars in the sky.

In other words, it was a really, really beautiful date.

We were lying on the ’emergency blanket’ I keep in my trunk for such situations, when she rolled onto her elbows, looked at me and told me she wanted to kiss me.

And she did.

And I remember the thought running through my mind as it happened: I feel like I should be feeling more than this. I feel like I should be more present. More blown away by this moment.

Earlier today I was talking with a college friend on the phone. He recounted times he had held his girlfriend as she wept, but he was removed. Detached. Emotionless. He said he felt nothing watching the woman he loved weep about what weighed on her heart. He was physically holding her, but he was somewhere else.

As he described the moment, he laid the blame for this removal from reality directly at the feet of pornography.

As men (and women I’m sure), we are robbed from much of the ability to feel feelings when we struggle with an addiction. It removes us from ourselves. One writer describes this as ‘the man who walks beside himself.’

We are experiencing our lives from somewhere outside, rather than from within, from our center.

The more I learn about feelings, the more I realize how many of us are uncomfortable with our feelings. As I’ve said before, I went nearly a decade without crying once. The more I grow, the more emotional of a man I become. And I think this is akin to becoming more in line with how God intended us to be: He did not create us to be binary robots with no emotions or impassioned reactions to our lives. The God of the Bible is one who is adamantly alive to His emotions, the entire spectrum.

We are quick to run to the lighter emotions of laughter and happiness, but anything that dives beneath the surface of weight or reality we are quick to wash away.

If your girlfriend leaves you and the pain is too much to bear, are you going to patiently sit in that feeling, or try to quell it with your vice of choice? For an addict, the choice is obvious, even if we don’t want it to be.

The problem with using substances (pornography, alcohol or otherwise) to escape the painful feelings is that, yes, they make the lows less low, but they also make the highs less high.

They rob us of the ability to deeply take in the power of beauty.

They may take the tears away, but how often are those tears necessary to experience life well? What kind of son wants to sit in his mother’s funeral with dry eyes? What kind of Christian wants to hear a powerful representation of the gospel and be unmoved?

Being fully human means being fully awake to our emotions, not distanced from them. God never intended to give us shortcuts when we grieve a loss or feel rejected. Nor did He want us to pacify the beautiful feelings of falling in love or watching your son take his first steps.

But pornography robs us of these beautiful moments by removing us from the present moment. It takes us to a place where pain and rejection don’t exist, but neither does beauty or intimacy.

Yesterday my church was performing baptisms and I was asked to share a few words beforehand. I stood up and, strange as it may sound, talked about a personal hero of mine, Nabeel Qureshi. I had just found out the day before that Qureshi had finally died after battling cancer at the young age of 34. He left behind a wife and daughter, but he is now reunited with another daughter they had lost to a miscarriage, and most importantly, with his savior Jesus Christ.

I had followed Nabeel’s videos the past year as his face and hair grew thinner and he became emaciated from his treatment. His last video update was an announcement that he was being moved to palliative care in order to make him more comfortable until he slipped away. Even now a lump rises in my throat.

As I spoke before my church and recounted the story of the brother we lost, a similar lump rose. My eyes filled with tears and I had to stop talking.

“Yesterday, our family lost a member…”

Silence filled the room.

“…but……but today we celebrate new members coming into it.”

I then entered the water with one of my middle schoolers and we baptized him. The beauty of the action is unspeakable. Even now. Something sacred happens as we observe certain family members moving on while new ones are ushered in.

And you know what? That moment choking up in front of my church was not bad. It did not make me feel like less of a man, nor was it painful, in the negative sense. It was a beautiful moment which I was able to experience in the presence of my community and my God, and if there is one thing the enemy wants to take from us, it’s that.

It is these moments of intense beauty which get stolen from us the more we numb ourselves with pornography. The enemy doesn’t want us to feel. I think he would be much happier if he could rob us of our ability to feel and worship God with a healthy and full emotional life.

But may we be like Christ, whose rich and vibrant emotional life should teach all of us to feel things to the fullest without taking shortcuts and numbing the pain. May we suffer well and rejoice well. May we grieve deeply and laugh loudly. May we loose the chains which keep our emotions subdued and drugged in the dungeons of our souls.

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on September 18th, 2017.


 

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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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11 Signs You Need A Break From Social Media

There’s no denying that social media has a powerful role in our lives and personal relationships. It helps us stay connected, spread information, and share our stories with one another in a really unique way.

But isn’t it safe to say that many times – instead of adding to our lives, it begins to take over?  I know that there are times in my life that I’m guilty of this. Even as I write this post, I am increasingly aware that my life is slowly creeping back in that direction.

It’s easy to get to a place where we want to post about the moments of life more than we actually savor those moments.

Maybe you’re aware of this tendency in your own life.  If so, consider the following signs that maybe it’s time for a social media break:

11.  You’ve actually said the word “hash-tag” out loud in a conversation.

10.  You’ve started formulating your thoughts in the form of a Status Update or Tweet.

9.  The majority of your socializing during the week requires the use of an electronic screen.

8.  The first thing you do when you wake up–or the last thing before you fall asleep — is check social media.

7.  You have been known to interrupt conversations with real life people or stop an actual social interaction to post a photo, tweet a quote, or update a status.

6.  The first urge you get in a moment of down-time is the urge to “check” the Social Media happenings.

5.  You’ve been known to peek at your phone while driving–just to see what’s going on.

4.  You go on with the intention of a quick look- but it quickly turns into an hour or more and devours your time.

3.  The main reason you know what is going on in your friend’s lives is because you’ve read about it- not talked about it.

2.  You find your emotions and self-esteem are either elated, or depressed- based on your experience online.

1.  Your online life is starting to have a negative impact on your real-life relationships.

If you find yourself caught up in one or more of the above list- than maybe it’s time to step back for a while and take a break.  While that might mean unplugging for an evening, a day, a weekend, or even longer–more than simply unplugging from social media- it’s a deeper call to plug back into real life.

It’s important to make sure that we are using social media as a way to enhance our lives- rather than allowing it to become life itself.

*If you liked this article this, check out: Social Pornography: Social Media vs. Real Life, and 3 Ways Social Media Can Impact Real-Life Relationships.

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 31, 2017. Used by permission.


 

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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5 Reasons Christian Singles Aren’t Dating

In the last post from #TheDatingScene blog series, I reported that over 53% of singles who took my survey reported that they have not been on one date in the past 6 months. You can read that entire article here.

The majority of Christian Singles are NOT dating.

At the end of that article, I asked singles to tell me why. Why aren’t Christian singles dating? Why has the common date become such a rare thing? The comments rolled in, and some fantastic conversation came of it. As I read through and interacted with the comments, 5 big-picture themes emerged as to why #TheDatingScene is on snooze for most single Christians:

#1 They have unrealistic expectations.

One of the most common things that many singles reported experiencing from the opposite sex is the unrealistic standard of what they’re looking for in a relationship. Men are looking for a cross between Mother Teresa and America’s next top model(click to read more), while women are after the Jesus-loving-Brad-Pitt (click to read more). There’s a false standard that we’ve perpetuated and let’s just put this out there: no one is measuring up.

I believe it’s important to have our standards of character, integrity, and morals when it comes to a dating relationship – but could it be that in the name of “not settling” we’ve confused our PREFERENCES for our NEEDS? Maybe it’s time to prioritize our majors from our minors, and consider pursuing someone that might typically be considered “outside of our usual type”.

Men, Stop Looking for a Super Model Wife.

Women, Please Learn to Settle for the things that DON’T Matter.

#2 They aren’t being asked.

There’s definitely a fear culture surrounding the topic of asking someone out on a date. We’re so paralyzed by fear, failure, and rejection. It’s almost as though we’re so afraid to fail- that we’d rather not even try. In fact, the majority of singles reported that when it comes to dating: they aren’t usually do the asking.

If majority is not asking, that also means majority is not dating.

I think it’s time to exchange our fear for faith, and take the necessary steps to get healthy and then seek out a healthy relationship. If you’re at that point in life, here’s an article I wrote with some basic how-to’s of asking someone out on a date. If you WANT to get to that point, consider taking my 21 Days to JumpStart Your Love Life e-course (more details on that plus a promo code at the bottom of the article).

#3 They’re having a hard time meeting one another.

I think this is a really legitimate concern, and one in which I hope and pray the Church will listen and begin to fill the needs of this generation. Too many churches are not offering a way for their Singles to meet – leaving them to fend for themselves with things like social media, online dating, and everything in between in an attempt to meet. We offer groups for every other category of life, but when it comes to singles – if you’re past college, there’s a good chance you’re out of luck when it comes to finding a group to connect with at your local church.

My hope and prayer is that by having and sharing these conversations, men and women in leadership will realize that the 25+ singles are a truly neglected demographic within the Church – and then do something about it. It’s time to make some noise, approach our leaders, and do our part to build bridges and opportunities for singles to connect. Start a group, initiate a conversation, share your concern, and do what YOU CAN to create a places for singles in the body of Christ to connect. (One place that’s doing this INCREDIBLY well is Saddleback Church – with a Singles Event that I’ll be speaking at coming up this weekend!)

#4 They’ve been taught that women shouldn’t initiate a relationship.

Part of the problem with the lack of interaction among sexes is that woman have been taught that their role is to simply do nothing. They’ve been told the lie that a “woman of God” lets the man initiate, pursue, and make things happen. This leaves women feeling powerless – as though they have no control in their relationship status and no right to take initiative themselves. I’ve been pretty outspoken about how I feel about this subject. If you’ve yet to catch up on those posts, you can give them a read here.

#5 They’re taking dating way too seriously.

Twenty years after the I Kissed Dating Goodbye movement, and we’re finally learning to lighten up about dating. But I believe we still have a long way to go. I’m a firm believer that dating in high school is something that teenagers should do without – the problem is that too many people then take that mentality long into ADULTHOOD.

Christians tend to put the decision of who to date on the same level as the decision of who to marry. There’s so much pressure surrounding the topic, when at the end of the day, a first date is nothing more than getting to know someone better over a cup of coffee. Christians need to stop stressing so much about dating.

I believe that the more we talk about these things, the more we’ll know. And the more we know – the better we’ll do. 

Stay tuned for my entire blog series with the rest of the survey results all about #TheDatingScene

COMMENT BELOW: I want to take this conversation to the churches and ministries I interact with across the country: What is something the CHURCH could do to help encourage healthy dating and interactions between men and women? 

 

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 9, 2017. Used by permission.


True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.

Ev5W1aJG

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

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Hugh Hefner Wrecked My Life… Sort Of

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died last month.

Based on your age, you may or may not be aware of just how significant a cultural figure the man known as “Hef” actually was. . . or perhaps I should more accurately say is. Shortly after his death last evening, his son Cooper stated that his father lived an “exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer.” That statement is 100% correct, depending on how you would translate and understand the word “exceptional.” Cooper Hefner also tweeted that his father was a powerful advocate for “free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.” Consequently, whether you know who Hefner is or not, if you’re a living, breathing, human being who is swimming in the soup of today’s culture and youth culture, Hefner’s ideological DNA exists within the sexual beliefs and behaviors driving our culture and ourselves.

Pornography, or more accurately “sexual immorality”, moved into the modern U.S. mainstream when Hefner published his first edition of Playboy back in 1953. Yes, sexual immorality has been around since Genesis 3:6 in terms of beliefs, desires, and behaviors. Pornography certainly not anything new. But by pulling the curtain back on societal taboos, Hefner was a leading figure in the move to rewrite moral codes. In effect, Hefner may have been the guy standing on top of the mountain, kicking the first rock which has eventually morphed into the growing landslide of the sexual revolution which continues today.

 

Like all things crafted by God and declared as “Good!”, our sexuality is broken. And rather than pursuing redemptive sexuality, Hefner encouraged us to indulge our sexual brokenness as “sexual freedom” without borders or boundaries.

In some ways, Hugh Hefner wrecked my life. I was born just three years after the launch of  Playboy. And just 11 or 12 years into my young life, I joined several friends in taking a first-look at Hefner’s printed monthly. I will never forget it. It was the first time I had seen published pornography. In fact, like most men, the memory is seared into the fabric of my brain. And, like all human beings, my sexual brokenness has existed inside of me in ways that changed on that day just before the dawn of my teenage years.

If I’m honest with myself, it wasn’t Hugh Hefner who made me do it. It was me. And since then, I thank God that a history of sexual indiscretions in thought, word, and deed can be redeemed . . . even though the battle still rages. And, I thank God that His good gift of sexuality can be thought about, exercised, and understood in all its intended glory (by the power of the Holy Spirit) through pursuing sexual integrity to the glory of God and by the grace of God.

While reading this morning about Hefner’s death, I was reminded that several years ago, Hefner purchased the burial vault next to Marilyn Monroe’s. Why? So he could spend eternity with his magazine’s first cover girl. Another one of his crazy ideas, I know. And while we might be tempted to applaud the death of Hugh Hefner as the end to an era, there are some other ways of looking at this.

First, Hefner’s death has not brought an era to an end. The rocks of the sexual revolution landslide are still tumbling. . . picking up speed, volume, and mass.

Second, just as Hefner’s message of “sexual freedom” without borders and boundaries continues to flourish, our role is to preach the Gospel to ourselves and to our kids so that we might continually hear the message of what leads to true sexual flourishing over and above the loud, compelling, and convincing voice of culture. . . that sadly, we are apt to not even question anymore ourselves.

And third, among those of us who see and understand eternity from the perspective of the One who created, called, and redeemed us, there should be no applause over Hugh Hefner’s death. Rather, we should be grieving over his beliefs, his behaviors, and the gods of his heart. We don’t know his heart condition as his earthly story ended, but we do know that his actions and beliefs regarding end-of-life and the after-life were horribly misinformed.

I know it sounds weird, but I’ve spent time pondering Hugh Hefner this morning. . . his impact on my life, my kids, and my culture. It hasn’t been much of a direct influence since that day when I first looked at his magazine, but the influence has been strong. And, I can’t ever self-righteously forget that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Let’s continue to unapologetically  pursue, live, and speak a message of sexual integrity. 

Life is way too short to not be living God’s grand and glorious design for His good gift of sex and sexuality. I’m guessing Hugh Hefner knows that now.

A version of this article appeared on CPYU’s Blog on September 28th, 2017.


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Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. His organization is always looking for new ways to be salt and light in the culture-at-large. Walt’s the author of eight books and is a sought-after authority on youth culture and family issues.

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Virginity Doesn’t Make You A Better Christian

Several years ago, I was walking around Boston with an old friend and one of her friends whom I had just met. I can’t remember exactly how the topic came up, but her friend ended up saying something along the lines of, “Yah, we’re both Christians; we both still have our virginity.”

It was such a small comment, but it clearly reflects something many of us raised in Christian homes subconsciously believe:

That being a Christian=Being a virgin

and

Being a virgin=Being a Christian.

There are a number of problems with this mindset, that the sole factor in you being a Christian is your ability to control your private parts, and I want to look at a couple of them here. But before we get started, I’ll dispel any notion that Ethan is actually against purity now. Nope. Still a virgin and will be till my wedding day.

 

Problem #1: What about non-virgins?

 

I imagine anyone overhearing our conversation who was not a virgin would have immediately been turned away from Christianity. The notion that virginity is core to the Christian faith erases any chance for those who have slept around in the past to be saved. It’s as if their previous relations have disqualified them from the one relationship which is enduringly life-giving and soul-nourishing.

The Jesus I’ve come to know is one who reaches out to those who are especially filthy; to those who feel the mostunworthy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that our sexual transgressions are what make us unworthy in the eyes of God.

In fact, it would appear that the things which disgust God the most are things like pride and religiosity, the pointing of fingers at ‘sinners’ without first examining one’s own heart. Jesus seemed to chill with the prostitutes more than with the religious leaders of the day. Maybe the prostitutes had a unique view of God’s grace in a way the religious leaders never did with all their rules and laws and judgment…

 

Problem #2: Sexuality isn’t the only category of holiness

 

A couple months ago, I was in a thrift store thinking deeply (We’ve all been there…) when a simple yet profound line came to me:

He is no better a Christian who can control his penis but not his angry thoughts, his gossiping tongue or his worrying heart.

If you grew up in the church, your mentality may persuade you to believe that you are fulfilling your Christian duties by keeping it in your pants until marriage and maybe even reading your Bible every now and then. Some pockets of American Christianity have put so much emphasis on sexual ethics that the rest of the scope of Christianity has been mitigated to the back burner. Things like work, money, missions, friendship, food, and justice have taken second seat to the mammoth topic of Christian sexual ethics.

We would much rather debate about “How far is too far with my boyfriend?” than discuss how the Church can work toward ending human trafficking, or how we can make our inner-city neighborhoods safer.

Have you worked on growing in holiness in all areas of your life?

Keeping yourself sexually pure is a noble and admirable feat, and all Christians should strive for it (inside and outside of marriage…one needs to remain sexually pure even after the wedding day and remain faithful to their betrothed). But have we focused on this one topic to the neglect of other categories of holiness?

Do we still lust for more money and nicer possessions?

Are we generous with the money we do have, or do we spend it solely on ourselves, improving the quality of our own lives?

Do we have a handle on our emotions, especially in areas like anger and envy?

Are we patient with our coworkers and loving to everyone we meet?

Or are we merely concerned with how far we can get with our girl before God starts to frown?

What a small religion.

God cares about our sexuality and what we do with our bodies, yes, but He cares about so much more than that! If sexuality is the only area in which you pursue holiness, perhaps take a look at Scripture and see what God spends the most time talking about (Hint: It’s not sex…).

 

Problem #3: It removes the need for grace

 

Virginity, by definition, is something someone chooses to keep. Therefore, by your own willpower, you could hold onto it until your wedding day, and share that very special gift with your spouse.

But when we conflate this (very good!) choice with our faith, then the Gospel suddenly becomes more about our own willpower than it is about the gift of grace. We don’t get a special trophy in heaven because we kept our hands to ourselves until the honeymoon. We don’t earn our salvation, period.

If the focus of our faith is on our own restraint and self-control, then it entirely removes the need for a Savior to come and lift us up out of our sin and death; we could just get there on our own. Praise God it’s not up to us or our decisions to get ourselves into the kingdom!

 

Problem #4: It places sex on such a ridiculously high level

 

This is similar to #2, but with a few slight differences.

We live in a culture in which everything is highly sexualized. TV ads, Facebook ads, magazine covers, and yada-yada-yada. To ignore the topic of sexuality in the American Church would be a huge misstep, but we also must not let our culture’s fascination with the topic define our own views of it.

My friend’s friend in Boston seemed to think that because she was sexually pure, that counted as evidence of her faith. However, this does not reflect the teaching of the Bible, but rather a specific subculture of American society which waits for marriage. If we as Christians let our faith be dictated by our sexual views, we are not thinking biblically, but rather floating along with the cultural tides of American trends. Our priorities are being dictated by popular culture rather than by the Bible.

In other words, our faith should dictate our sexual beliefs, not the other way around.

 

Conclusion

 

Jesus did not come so that all may be virgins again.

He did not come to save only the sexually pure, nor does He turn His back on the ‘unclean.’ If anything, He moves toward those who feel the most ashamed and draws them into the sphere of His love so they can feel clean and new again.

American Christians have somehow married virginity to our faith in such a way that we have come to frown on those who screw up and cast out anyone with different beliefs than ours in the arena of sexual ethics. Yet, nowhere in Scripture do we see Christ doing this. In fact, just the opposite. He rescues a woman who was caught in adultery from her punishment and tells her to be free from her sin.

And that is a religion I want to be a part of. I wan to chill with a God who doesn’t mark me down for my sexual misdemeanors, but who sees past them to a wounded soul and a struggling spirit, inviting them to come and cast my cares upon Him.

My virginity cannot carry the weight of all my sin; Jesus can.

May we be people who look to Him, rather than our own sexual restraint, to cure us of our sin, shame, and fear.

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on August 5th, 2017.


 

johnny-61-e1484779008898-2

I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Watching Gender: Kids And Media Stereotypes… A Helpful Infographic

Our media mantra here at CPYU has always been this: Media serves our kids as a map. In other words, it shapes the way they think about and live their lives. And, with teenagers engaged in 9 hours of daily media time. . . and tweens (ages 8-12) engaged with media for 6 hours a day. . . it makes sense that we (parents, grandparents, and youth workers) reckon with this reality by teaching our kids how to think critically and Christianly about music and media. We want to train them in ways that equip for a live of critical engagement rather than mindless consumption.

A recent report issued by Common Sense Media looks at issues of gender equity in media.  Along with the report comes an interesting infographic (see below) that reveals what parental concerns regarding media influence in today’s world. Give it a look. Then, take a look at a resource we’ve created here at CPYU that will help you help your kids engage in lifetime of thinking critically and Christianly about media and music.

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Dear Internet,

I just got back from a week in the mountains with my beloved children. I’m a youth pastor without any kids of my own, so when I talk about “my kids,” I mean these teens and tweens whom I love with all my heart. We had a phenomenal trip, but the more time I spend with them, the more my heart breaks as I get to peer deeper into the culture in which they dwell.

And that culture is shaped in large part by you, Internet.

When I was in high school not that long ago, girls would wear the sports jacket of the boy they adored. They would fill their notebooks with his name, and perhaps her own name followed by his last name.

But today, to catch the eye of the boy she likes, a teenage girl will just send naked pictures via Snapchat or any other myriad apps designed for just that kind of communication.

Today, in order to impress her boy, she has to strip down and reveal her body just to keep a guy interested for longer than a few minutes.

So thank you for that, Internet. Thank you for disrobing my kids just to let them feel a little bit of value or beauty. Thank you for putting into their pockets unlimited connectivity and unrestricted access to the world.

Thanks to you, I walked in on three of my 8th graders talking about sexual acts I didn’t know about until well into my college years. So thanks for spreading your wealth of information.

Thank you for stripping down and beating to a pulp any hope my kids had of holding an attention span longer than 14 seconds. They have become addicted to your apps and videos like a drug addict to his beloved heroin.

When we first arrived at the cabin, we made a rule that during group activities, discussions and meals, your phones were to be nowhere near you. That rule lasted about five minutes before my kids were pasted to their screens once again, unable to enjoy the company of the friends and leaders present with them.

 

And I know this is no accident, dear Internet. I have read article after article about how you rake in the profits the more time my kids and I spend on your apps. Not only do you beckon them back to your beloved apps with push notifications and unique sound effects, you want to keep them there as long as possible. You have countless little algorithms in place to ensure that my kids will whittle away their time (aka, lives) glued to your precious screens, unable to break from their devices longer than a few minutes.

Unable to sit in silence, their minds unstimulated.

Unable to be with their closest friends in a mountain cabin for a week.

Unable to read a book (those heavy paper things) because ‘it’s too boring.’

You hide behind the cloak of connecting us with our friends, when just the opposite is true. You don’t want to connect us; you want our time. Because the more time we spend on your slice of the web, the more money you make.

Dear Internet, you are heartless and cold; a vacuum cleaner sucking in not only our time but our money as well. You don’t see humans or feel warmth, you only see dollar signs and addictive triggers in the chemicals inside our brains.

My kids are less healthy because you have glued them to their beds and couches.

My kids are less secure in themselves because you flood them with images of far away models flaunting as much skin as Instagram will allow.

My kids are less at peace because you have programmed them to crave your constant stimulation and to wonder who has contacted them in the last 3 minutes.

My kids don’t see their bodies as things of value; they see them as a means to some kind of cheap digital affection.

My kids are more exposed, not only to sexual and pornographic content, but violent and gory images as well. One of my students is addicted to looking at snuff films and pictures of humans who had died brutal deaths. Did he wake up one day and decide to look at these? Or were they served to him on one of your popular websites?

You may have done a lot of good for the world, but most of what I see is destructive and uninhibited. You don’t care about the souls of my kids, you care about dollar bills. Perhaps if you were only aware of just how much damage I’ve seen you do in the lives of my students, you’d at least try to make an effort to improve things.

Please leave my kids alone and stop berating them with your addictive tactics and ruthless dopamine stimulation. I love them more than you ever will, so the least you could do is make an effort to change.

…or just go die.

Angrily,

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on July 15th, 2017.


 

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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Healthy Cross-Sex Friendships

 

“Healthy Cross-Sex Friendships”

“Are you two a thing?”

“No, we’re just friends.”

 

The knowing stare of disbelief that usually follows this answer is telling; our society struggles to accept cross-sex friendships.

 

Heterosexual males and heterosexual females are generally considered to be at the mercy of their biological urges, unable to be in a relationship with an individual of the opposite sex without harboring a romantic attraction. This view is quite prevalent in our society, “demonstrated in some of the most popular American television series and movies of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s – Moonlighting, Cheers, When Harry Met Sally, Friends, The Office, Scrubs, He’s Just Not That Into You – all of which thrive on romantic tension and excitement portrayed between cross-sex ‘friends’ who end up either in a romantic partnership or a temporary attempt at one.”, says scholar April Bleske-Rachek. In fact, a 2011 YouTube video called “Why Men and Women Can’t Be Friends”, which has garnered nearly 10 million views to date, apparently ‘proved’ this point beyond a shadow of a doubt.

However, while much of society may believe this, experts disagree. Cross-sex relationships, or, non-romantic friendships between persons of different sexes, can be incredibly rich and rewarding. One reason that society has so much difficulty accepting these relationships, according to Dr. Tracy Shaw of UCLA, is that “people confuse intimacy and sexuality.” Understanding the difference between the two concepts is important for those in cross-sex relationships, wanting cross-sex relationships, or even observing friends in cross-sex relationships. Developing a supportive, encouraging and close relationship can be divorced from sexual attraction, and result in benefits for both parties outside of physical pleasure. The healthiest cross-sex relationships will have benefits, but will also have defined boundaries to keep a desire for intimacy from compromising sexual integrity. Here are three benefits and three boundaries that ought to be present in healthy cross-sex relationships.

 

Benefit 1: Diverse friendships

 

No matter one’s view on equality of the sexes, Christians ought to all agree that different sexes are a God-given blessing. Cutting oneself off from the other sex in every way but sexually misses the mark on what God intended for his people. Setting aside the issue of more than two genders, the God-created male and female are meant to be in close relationship, and refusing intimacy with half of the world’s population misses the beautiful diversity of the image of God. As Dylan Selterman, psychology professor at University of Maryland, writes “cross-sex friendships [also] provide people with unique insight into the mind of the opposite sex, which can be very fulfilling and enlightening in a way that same-sex friendships are not.”

 

Benefit 2: Social Ease

 

This one may seem trivial, but it is no secret that men and women often have difficulty interacting with one another effectively. Different expectations, needs and patterns of communication can lead to strained relationships and unpleasant interactions between members of opposite sexes. Until my own upperclassmen years in high school, I had very few female friends, simply because it was more comfortable to be in the company of other boys and I did not have to worry about how I would be perceived by females. When I came to college and was thrown together with more women, I was initially tentative and unsure of how to interact with women, and while I cannot pretend to be a pro at this stage, I now have a comfortable level of social ease around members of either sex.

 

Benefit 3: ‘Bilingual’ Communication

 

Whether due to social conditioning or biological inclination, women and men can tend to speak totally different languages. For anyone seeking a marriage relationship or even just a long-term relationship with a member of the opposite sex, learning to ‘speak the language’ of the opposite sex is vital. Contrary to popular portrayals, most of a long-term relationship lies in simply living with your partner. Learning how to live everyday life with a member of the opposite sex is an important skill that ought not be overlooked before stepping into a long-term relationship.

 

 

While these benefits are important, we cannot ignore the fact that cross-sex relationships can be complex, and certainly have the potential to blossom into romantic feelings. For anyone with cross-sex relationships, especially if you are in a committed romantic relationship as well, boundaries become incredibly important to keep a healthy relational dynamic.

 

Boundary 1: Physical

 

Project Six19 teaches a series called Life Up Close, illuminating to high school students what it means to live with sexual integrity. One important piece that is presented is the need for physical and situational boundaries – and these must also be applied in cross-sex relationships. While non-romantic relationships are of course possible, it is best not to ask yourself for trouble. The reality is that even strictly platonic relationships can and should have good boundaries. Once you begin to cross lines, limiting a once-romantic relationship into a healthy, comfortable, platonic relationship may be more difficult than you might expect. Physical boundaries give both you and your friends the respect you deserve and keep your relationship healthy.

 

Boundary 2: Situational

 

Similarly, situational boundaries can eliminate difficulties for you and for the people in your community. If your friendship consists of the two of you only going on secretive walks or choosing to see romantic movies, not only is there more likely to be a shift in relational dynamic, but perception of your relationship can be warped in the minds of those around you. Now, you might be thinking ‘how could he say this, he just told me to ignore what society says about cross-sex relationships!’, and in a sense you are right.

However, having a clearly defined cross-sex relationships can reform the perceptions of society, not build further suspicion of romantic attraction. If you are in a romantic relationship, it is not fair to your partner to constantly ask them to trust you as you spend hours alone with another member of the opposite sex or go to ‘date’ locations. It is also worth noting that when married or in a serious relationship, it is best not to strain the relationship by intimacy with members of the opposite sex.

 

Boundary 3: Expectation of friendship

 

Finally, this is perhaps the most simple but profound lesson of all. It is really more of a shift in mindset, rather than a tangible boundary. All too often people enter cross-sex relationships thinking of every new face as a potential mate. Instead, enter relationships with an expectation of friendship. Of course, it is possible that something may arise beyond that friendship; in fact, I have personal experience with this phenomenon. However, the important piece is that learning to see members of the opposite sex as friends rather than potential spouse-to-be’s is important to having healthy, productive cross-sex relationships.

Cross-sex relationships can be hard, and just as with any relationship, need to have some boundaries. If done correctly, however, they can have unique and beautiful benefits beyond what one might normally expect from a friendship with a member of the same sex.

– Phillip Allevato

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Camille Paglia On Transgenderism

 

Going straight to the source, I read Jonathan V. Last’s interview with Paglia. I’ve been tracking with a wide-spectrum of opinions on transgenderism as I seek to understand and respond to this emerging cultural reality in ways that bring honor and glory to God. And so today, I’m simply passing on this exchange between Last and Paglia. . . (you can read the full article here). . .

JVL: I keep waiting for the showdown between feminism and transgenderism, but it always keeps slipping beneath the horizon. I’ve been looking at how the La Leche League—which stood at the crossroads of feminism once upon a time—has in the last couple years bowed completely to the transgender project. Their central text is (for now) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, but they’ve officially changed their stance to include men and fathers who breastfeed. The actual wording of their policy is wonderful: “It is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed.” Left unsaid is the corollary that some women are biologically unable to breastfeed. Though this would go against the League’s founding principles, one supposes. What does one make of all of this?

CP: Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security. And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube. In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone. As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.

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15 Things You Should Know About Marriage

In just a few days, my husband John and I will be celebrating our 10 year marriage anniversary!

 

It seems so short and yet sooooo long at the same time. We’ve been with each other through some of our most formative years- and have together experienced the most significant moments of each other’s lives. We’ve walked with one another through some incredible highs, and through some difficult lows. We’ve changed, grown, matured, fallen, failed, conquered, succeeded and have learned so many things together.  Yet the greatest lesson we’ve learned, is that there is so much still left for us to learn.

As we’ve been reflecting over the past decade of our marriage including changing careers, moving 4 times, and having 3 children, we had to chuckle at some of the lessons we’ve learned the hard (and sometimes awkward) way. There are so many things about marriage that we had no clue about while we were single. Here are some things we wish we would have known about marriage…but by God’s grace, we’re learning along the way:

  1. Attraction grows. In the next decade you’ll both put on weight, acquire grey hairs, and welcome the world of post-marriage (likely even post-baby) body. But don’t fret. Because even as your body fades, your desire for one another can continue to grow brighter and brighter. Be sure to keep fanning that flame…because genuine attraction is made up of so much more than just the physical.

  2. Conflict is a healthy part of marriage. It’s important to learn how to fight fair, to express your feelings in a constructive way, and to learn how to forgive often. Conflict breeds communication, and communication can breed heightened intimacy. So take advantage and fight well.

  3. Your sex life takes up a small fraction of your relationship. But it’s a really important fraction because it has the power to connect you emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. So protect it while you’re single, and then learn to make the most of it in marriage.

  4. Your spouse’s family will likely have a huge influence on your life and marriage– so know what you’re getting into because who you choose to do life with can bring barriers or blessings.

  5. Contrary to what the movies say, you will NOT sleep romantically intertwined and interlocked with your spouse all night long, so do yourself a favor by investing in a large, comfy bed and getting a good night’s rest! People tend to argue less when they’re well rested ????

  6. Believe it or not, research shows that the longer you’ve been married the less time you actually talk. Make communication important by scheduling time to just sit and talk.

  7. Unlike in soap operas and movies, marital sex takes work, practice, selflessness, and a whole lot of patience to perfect. Don’t expect to get it right away, but know that you will in time. Let go of the pressure to be perfect and just enjoy the practice!

  8. No matter who you marry, someday you will probably wonder if you’ve married the “right person”. Be assured- you have (from the moment you said “I do”). So do whatever it takes to fight for what you have and to turn it into something beautiful.

  9. True love between two people has very little to do with how you feel, and so much to do with what you do thereafter. Learn the actions of love, and practice them often (aka every moment, of every day). Always choose to protect your marriage.

  10. No matter what conflict you are facing, 100% of the time you have a responsibility in it. Learn to take ownership of your own flaws right here, and right now, long before you point the finger.  It will always work out better in the end.

  11. Most of marriage is made up of the monotony of day-to-day routine. So marry more than just a lover. Marry a best friend, a partner, a co-worker, and a true companion.

  12. Opposites do attract, but then they have the tendency to attack. Learn to work through your differences and always appreciate the beauty of your spouses uniqueness. It’s likely what drew you together in the first place.

  13. Your past has a huge impact on your present relationships, so learn to look inward. Working through your past wounds has the ability to bring so much healing to the here and now. Take the time to take care of your self.

  14. Marriage can’t bring you purpose, healing, or security– but it can bless you, challenge you, and enrich your life in so many ways. Keep your expectations grounded in reality. You’ve been given a spouse, not a super-hero, a help-mate, not a healer.

  15. Your relationship with God has the power to bring you closer to one another in powerful ways. Learn to love out of the overflow of God’s love for you. It will likely change your life, and in turn, your marriage.

Here’s to the next decade with my beloved. May God continue teaching us, shaping us, and drawing us closer to each other with each passing day and through each coming lesson.

And here’s to all of you, whether married or single: May God continue shifting your expectations of marriage and relationships to become more and more in tune with His.

Comment below: What have been the most surprising lessons you’ve learned about marriage along the way?

 

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on June 8, 2017. Used by permission.


 

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.

 

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

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Pornography: Necessary Talking Points With Kids. . .

“I want to talk about pornography.” That’s what the 15-year-old boy said to me after hearing me talk at his Christian school on “God and Sex.” Sadly, he wasn’t a curious young dabbler looking for someone to help him understand whether pornography was right or wrong. Instead, he was already spending time every day looking at online pornography while masturbating regularly. He was already a pornography addict. He’s not alone. A growing number of our students are either hooked on pornography or on the path to living future lives dominated and destroyed by pornography’s sick and twisted distortion of God’s good gift of sexuality. Should we be surprised?

The United States Department of Justice recognized the prevalence and life-shaping potential of pornography when they issued this statement: “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.” Oh. . . by the way. . . that statement was released back in 1996. . . more than 10 years before the advent of the smartphone! Since then, the “pandemic” of porn has spread like wildfire.

It is estimated that anywhere between 12 and 37 percent of all Internet web pages contain pornography. And with the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography being 11-years-old (again. . . an outdated statistic that’s over 10 years old), our youth, children’s and parent ministries must recognize, understand, and address the issue with urgency, knowledge, and depth.

 

 

The rapid rise in pornography’s popularity has been facilitated by a perfect storm of factors. At its root is the fact that we have been created for sex and wired for intimacy. God made us as sexual beings with deep sexual desires. . . and said it was “good.” But with the advent of sin into God’s “good” world, nothing remains the way it was supposed to be, including our sexuality. Sex “becomes distorted” – as Dennis Hollinger writes in his book The Meaning of Sex“in its longings, directions, misdirected end, and idolatrous impetus.” No surprise, our fallen sexuality yearns for, creates and consumes pornography. Pornography, in turn, is a “gasoline” that fuels our fallen sexual fire.

Experts also cite the “three A’s” as contributing to the problem. First, pornography is accessible. Fifty years ago, pornography started its trek into the mainstream with  Playboy magazine. As of 1973 there were fewer than 1000 adult theaters across the country. Eventually, home video technology created a gateway for pornographic film to enter the privacy of one’s home. Now, technology provides 24/7 access to pornography regardless of who you are or where you are. Google the term “xxx” and over a billion and a half results appear. A seemingly limitless ever-expanding supply has created a world where even if your kids don’t go looking for pornography, it will find them.

Second, pornography is anonymous. All you have to do is sit alone at home or focus your gaze on your hand-held device. There’s no need to go into a quick-mart to interact publicly with a clerk. The stumbling-blocks of embarrassment and age-restriction are relics of the past. In today’s world, nobody sees you, and you can even hide your identity on online. Even those who have a clear sense of right and wrong can sit alone and indulge. Sadly, the anonymous nature of pornography won’t even matter in future years as pornography becomes more culturally acceptable and normalized. There will be no need to hide.

Third, pornography is affordable. Internet pornography doesn’t have to cost you a penny. Surveys show that 80 to 90 percent of those who access pornography online only access the free online material. It couldn’t make it any easier. . . especially for a kid.

I was a curious and inquisitive 12-year-old boy when I was first exposed to pornography.  Like most other men my age, that watershed moment from my childhood was so powerful that the memory is still ingrained in my brain. I remember where I was, who I was with, what was said, and what I saw. I’m not at all proud about it. I shudder to think who I would grow up to be if I was a 12-year-old boy living in today’s porn-infested world. I fear for our kids, both boys and girls. What kind of men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers will they become after spending their formative childhood and teenage years in a world where encountering pornography is no longer a possible if, but an inevitable when?

Parents and youth workers have a window of opportunity and an even greater responsibility to address the pornography issue with kids. Here are three initial elements that must be present as you address pornography in your family or youth ministry.

 

First, define pornography.

 

Not only do kids need to know what pornography is if they’re going to face it in their lives, but they need to know how ugly and broken it is so that they can develop a healthy hate for pornography. Used a variety of times in the New Testament, porneia  (por-knee-a) refers to fornication, whoredom, sexual unchastity, sexual immorality, harlotry, and prostitution. “Pornography” comes from the Greek word pornagraphos, which is written descriptions or visual depictions of prostitutes. Drawing a connection between these definitions and the current worldwide scourge of sexual trafficking and victimization might serve to open their eyes to just what pornography really is. In his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, Tim Chester defines pornography as “anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.” Another helpful definition comes from Harvest USA : “Anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.” Be sure to emphasize the “anything,” as our boys are typically drawn to visual representations and our girls are typically attracted to literary pornography (think Fifty Shades of Grey). . . although these differences are leveling out as more and more girls access visual pornography.

 

Second, educate on pornography’s consequences.

 

The old saying “actions have consequences” couldn’t be more true of pornography. Disobedience to God’s sexual will and way through pornography leads to consequences that are immediate, long-term, and far-reaching. Contrary to what is rapidly becoming widely-held opinion, pornography is not harmless, benign fun. The consequences are spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational. Like all sin, pornography destroys your relationship with God. Research points to a host of other negative outcomes.  It distorts your view of sex and sexuality. It shapes sexual expectations as users expect others to “make love like a porn star.” It leads to sexual dissatisfaction and intimacy issues. Pornography teaches us to view other people not as individuals made in the image of God, but as nothing more or less than sexual objects. The more you use, the more desensitized you become, leading into the downward spiral of more frequent and extreme use. Pornography fuels lust and leads people to believe that marriage is sexually confining. Pornography users tend to engage in sexual activity at earlier ages, and they grow up to see having children and a family as unattractive prospects. New research on the brain shows conclusively that pornography is highly addictive. Finally, a growing body of research is connecting pornography use to sexual addiction, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. On the flip side, there are absolutely no benefits to the use and abuse of pornography!

 

Third, take steps to respond.

 

While there are no fool-proof and immediate strategies to protect the kids you know and love from seeing and suffering from pornography, there are steps you can take to prepare them to deal with the inevitable temptation that most – if not all – of them have alreadyfaced and indulged. As Martin Luther once advised, we might not be able to stop the birds from flying over our heads, but we can stop them from building nests in our hair.

Here’s a list of some of the steps to regularly include in your youth ministry:

  • Teach on positive biblical sexuality. Start with the positive. Sex is a good gift from God to be expressed/experienced within the context of a monogamous covenantal marriage between one man and one woman. God does not look down on sex!
  • Remind them that their sexuality is broken. . . just like everything else in the world. Their default setting is sin and it’s for that reason that they must be “soberminded and watchful” as “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion” who seeks to devour them and their sexuality (I Peter 5:8&9).
  • Let them know that Jesus knows what it’s like. Yes, he shares in their temptation and he is praying for them! (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Engage in biblically-based sex education at a young age. The reality is that by the time they arrive in your middle-school youth group much of pornography’s initial damage will have been done. Raise the awareness of parents and children’s ministry people at your church so that they can proactively educate children in age-appropriate ways.
  • Teach them to respond to their engagement with pornography in healthy and redemptive ways. Encourage them to talk to their parents, to seek help, to share their struggle with others who can hold them accountable, and to run to God rather than to pornography.
  • Process media portrayals of fallen sexuality as you encounter them together. Think with them about the skewed portrayals of sexuality that they see and hear each and every day in film, music, TV, and advertising. Challenge those portrayals that are sinful and wrong, while celebrating and affirming portrayals that reflect God’s will and way for sexuality.
  • Have people tell their stories. Invite those who are battling pornography addictions to share their stories along with how they are making it through with God’s help. Have them answer these questions: “What made you give in?”, “How has pornography affected you?”, “How has pornography affected your relationships?”, and “How have you learned to effectively deal with pornography now?”
  • Provide redemptive and recovery resources. There will come a day when you will have to act. . . and quickly. Have a referral list of competent Christian counselors and other referrals at your fingertips. Know where the recovery and support groups meet. Provide a list of mentors who have not only been through it themselves, but can guide students to redemption and hope in Christ.

The reality is that we might not want to talk about pornography, but we must. And whether they know it or not, our students want to talk about pornography too. They might not think so now, but they will wish they had done so if they get caught in pornography’s addictive grip. We have a small window in which to get talking. Culture is shifting quickly in ways that are moving pornography from something once seen as a vice, to something seen as a matter of personal choice. . . or even a virtue.

What steps are you taking to guide your students through the spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational minefield of pornography?

Some additional resources you can use. . . .

-CPYU’s Sexual Integrity Initiative – loaded with free downloads, resources, and media clips.

-CPYU’s  Handout on Internet Pornography. . . found on this page at our Digital Kids Initiative.

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Bill Nye The Science Guy. . . Sex Junk Education. . .

If you’ve been paying attention at all to those elements of the rapidly changing culture soup that have been talked about online over the course of the last week, you’ve probably heard some rumblings regarding the latest venture from long-time science educator, Bill Nye. From 1993 until 1998, Nye was a PBS staple with his popular kids’ show, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nye never disappeared from television, making numerous appearances over the years in an effort to promote his view and theories. He now has a new venture. . . which we’ll get back to in a minute. .  .

Interlude. . . for a little bit of social science reality. As we say and teach here all the time at CPYU, culture is both a map (directive) and a mirror (reflective). As a map, it tells us what to believe and how to live. It’s especially powerful in the lives of kids since they are at a very vulnerable and formative stage of life developmentally. Consequently, we need to know what the cultural maps are and where they’re leading our kids. When they lead them in the right direction, we can celebrate and affirm those maps. But when they lead in a direction away from God’s order and design, we are called to issue challenges and correctives in an effort to lead our kids onto the narrow road that leads to life. As a mirror, culture helps us see who we are, the choices we’ve made, and the course we are on.

So, back to Bill Nye and his latest venture that’s been getting so much press over the last few days. . .

 

 

Ironically, on the same day that our CPYU family gathered for our annual Celebration Banquet of our mission and ministry to know ulture (April 21), Bill Nye was making culture and mapping life through the debut of his new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World.  While the show’s moniker is telling in and of itself, a peek into Nye’s beliefs and the show’s mapping message can be found in Episode #9, titled “The Sexual Spectrum.” During the show, Nye introduces a performance by Rachel Bloom as a “cool little segment” that’s “very special.” Bloom’s performance of the song “My Sex Junk” clearly maps and mirrors emerging societal attitudes on gender, promoting the idea of behavioral relativism, personal choice, a sexual/gender spectrum, and fluidity. . . or as Bloom sings, “there’s nothing taboo about a sex stew.”

I want to encourage you watch Bloom’s performance. I want to encourage you to quietly ponder and digest how her performance serves as a map and a mirror. And, I want to push you to view the performance and the beliefs at its’ core through the framework of a biblical sexual ethic. Then, talk to the kids you know and love. The Scriptures must shape our view and practice of God’s good and glorious gift of sexuality. Our transitory feelings and shifting opinions on sexuality should never be used as the foundation from which to develop a view of Scripture. Overall, we need to be speaking up and framing the issue in God-honoring ways with our kids.

The culture is speaking. We must be speaking even louder.

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Should I Give My Kid A Smartphone

 

I got this email today. I get this at least once a month, so thought I would just post it.

Note, this is exactly what was written:

 

“My 11-year old daughter wants a phone and my Ex-wife wants her to get one. 

Only 26% of kids her age have one and they’re mostly all rich kids in Orange County.

I wanna find ways to protect her from seeing big c*cks as much as possible.

Help me Craig!”

Here is my response to this email and so many others. 

It’s also what I have done with my kids, who are 11 and 14 years old:

1. First of all, if you are worried about your kids having an emergency and not having a phone, then head down to Walmart or 7-Eleven and get a pay as you go flip phone. Those will work great if your kids need to call you. 

You can’t use the “My kids needs a smartphone” line because of emergencies.

Not needed.

 

2. If you want to get your kids an iPhone or Android, don’t ever give it to your pre-teen or better yet 9-year old out of the box as it comes from the store. 

3. Don’t give your kids a device you are unfamiliar with and don’t know how to use yourself.

4. Don’t allow your kids to play an app, watch a movie or binge on a show on Netflix that you are unfamiliar or unaware of. 

5. Parents still must be parents and that is a hard one, I know. 

Most parents are clueless and cave into the pressure from their kids. Then kids get into trouble on devices because they are acting like kids, but playing with devices designed for adults.

6. A lot of parents have an old iPhone 4 or 5 sitting in their junk drawer and when the times comes will give that one to their kid. That is an okay idea, but you need to keep reading.


iPhones and Androids have parental control settings built into the phone.

 

Use these before you try and buy an app or search for another option. The best options are now built into the phone.

For iPhones head to Settings -> General -> Restrictions and then enable restrictions with a four digit passcode that you don’t give to your kid. This puts you in charge. 

Both my kids have phones and have these restrictions:

– I have turned Safari OFF – I don’t need or want them searching the web or wasting time online with their phone. They can use the computer at home to do that. 

– Installing Apps turned OFF – I don’t allow them access to the iTunes store to purchase or get free waste-of-time apps. If they want something, I look at it and if I allow, I will enter the passcode and download.

My rule is they can have productive apps but only 3 games on their phones. I am not going to have my kids playing games on a phone all day. I can’t stand grown-ass men and women playing candy crush or words with friends on their devices all day long. WASTE OF TIME! 

Whenever I board a plane with my kids, I have them look at the first class section and ask them to find a person in the first class that is on their phone playing games. Never. Successful people today don’t waste time playing these games. 

Go to the middle seat in the back of the plane and see that dude who is 35 playing some Game of War game. I don’t want my kids to be that guy/girl. It’s not about the money you make, but the time you waste with your life. Worse than that, people on their phones all day long can’t talk to people in person. 

I don’t need my kids growing up with their heads in a screen and not experiencing the life and people in front of them.

I wrote some more reasons why I don’t let me kids play on their phones when their friends are over here. You can read that HERE

– Deleting Apps turned OFF – I don’t let me kids delete things on their phones. This applies to text messages, emails, and apps. This is more of a life lesson for kids online.

Snapchat and Instagram stories tell you things delete in 24 hours, but ask Draymond Green if you can still see his penis online? The internet keeps a history, and so does your Ex-boyfriend or future employers. Everything you do online doesn’t disappear. Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t delete her emails forever yet kids are growing up thinking things they do will just disappear or be deleted. That kind of thinking is the furthermost thing from the truth.

 

If my kids send a text message or email to a friend, my kids know that they better be okay with the whole school seeing it because nothing is private.

– No Social Media apps on their phones – This could be old school. That’s okay. I don’t need my kids on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or anything else right now on their phones. Over time I will loosen up there, but how many stories do I hear every day of kids and adults making stupid decisions on social and wasting a ton of time?

If my kids want to get on social, they do it on my phone. I also am aware of who they follow and activities on their accounts. When we are on a trip, I will allow my 14-year old to download and post updates and I have started to allow more access to Instagram with him at the house.

As far as your home goes. There is one device I recommend to anyone with kids still at home. It is called CIRCLE. You can read all about it HEREIt will cost you a one-time fee of $99 and it is amazing!

Last thing, Check out www.xxxchurch.com/parents. You can get a free book I wrote called Touchy Subjects and read more about things you might not know anything about. If you are a pastor and want to host a parents night at your church, we have a free video available for download HERE.

That’s all I’ve got!

Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s all doable, you just have to be willing to jump in. 

 

A version of this post originally appeared on xxxchurch‘s blog on May 10th, 2017. Used by permission.


 

craig-gross

Craig Gross is a pastor and the founder of xxxchurch.com and author of Eyes of Integrity / Pure Eyes / Jesus Loves You This I Know / Starving Jesus / The Dirty Little Secret / The Gutter / Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama / Open: What Happens When You Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable / Touchy Subjects / Go Small / and most recently Through A Man’s Eyes. Craig lives in California with his wife and two kids. Craig speaks at a number of church services, colleges, festivals and youth events each year.

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Ed Sheeran, Body Image, and New Rules For Dating. . .

It’s been on the charts for 18 weeks. It peaked at #1. Today it sits at #4. “It” is Ed Sheeran’s single “Shape of You,” one of two lead singles from his third studio album, ÷ (divide). The video (embedded below) has amassed well over 1 billion views. And with Sheeran currently touring in South America and ready to start the North American leg of his tour on June 29th, the song is sure to stick on the charts for quite some time.

 

 

What’s the big deal and why would the song be blog-worthy? For culture-watchers who understand the power of music to serve us as both a map and a mirror, “Shape of You” is not only reflecting how we now think about love and sex, but directing us into a normalcy on these matters that disrupts God’s good design for His good gifts.

“The club isn’t the best place to find a lover so the bar is where I go,” sings Sheeran in the opening lines (see lyrics below). Some fast-drinking , a conversation, and then a dance to a Van Morrison tune lead to a sexual hookup(s) fueled by nothing more than physical attraction. Thus, the song’s title. Sheeran’s declaration of love is not about a person. Rather, it’s about a body (“I’m in love with your body/Everyday discovering something brand new/I”m in love with the shape of you”). And then, a week into more hookups, “we’re going out on our first date.” That’s the way it works in today’s world.

Today, we posted a 1-minute “Youth Culture Today” radio spot on Sheeran’s song, “Shape of You.” Give it a listen. Then, talk to your kids about God’s order and design His good gift of sexuality, along with challenges to our culture of objectification. “Shape of You” is a matter-of-fact statement of cultural opinion. And that’s why it needs to be talked about.

 

Ed Sheeran and Dating Standards

 

The club isn’t the best place to find a lover
So the bar is where I go
Me and my friends at the table doing shots
Drinking fast and then we talk slow
Come over and start up a conversation with just me
And trust me I’ll give it a chance now
Take my hand, stop, put Van the Man on the jukebox
And then we start to dance, and now I’m singing like

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don’t mind me
Say, boy, let’s not talk too much
Grab on my waist and put that body on me
Come on now, follow my lead
Come, come on now, follow my lead

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

One week in we let the story begin
We’re going out on our first date
You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat
Fill up your bag and I fill up a plate
We talk for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
And how your family is doing okay
Leave and get in a taxi, then kiss in the backseat
Tell the driver make the radio play, and I’m singing like

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don’t mind me
Say, boy, let’s not talk too much
Grab on my waist and put that body on me
Come on now, follow my lead
Come, come on now, follow my lead

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
Last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

 

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You Don’t Find “The One,” You Choose “The One”

There are so many Christian singles out there who believe that they just need to wait around until God reveals to them the lucky “one” they are going to marry.

As though the right relationship is just going to fall from the sky.

As though God is going to knock on the door one day, and all of a sudden there will be the one they are supposed to marry.

As though somehow, they will “just know” when they come face-to-face with the right person.

And sadly, Christian culture perpetuates this lie. I had the opportunity to speak at two different Christian colleges at each end of the country in the past two weeks, and the students affirmed to me that this belief still runs rampant within the student body.

But no matter how many Hollywood films you’ve watched, or how many romantic stories you’ve heard, I’m here to tell you this: you can’t just “know” from the outside looking in whether or not someone will be a good match for you. It’s not about a feeling, and it’s definitely not just about getting lucky.

Relationships don’t work like that. And generally speaking, neither does life.

I was at the grocery store this summer, and found myself standing in front of a bin of beautiful, green watermelons. My family loves watermelon, and especially my four year old son who could eat watermelon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So I decided to pick one out to take home.

 

 

Now if you knew anything about my family, you would know that purchasing a watermelon is a process. First you have to find the right one, typically because of it’s bright green color. After you’ve found the right one, you test it out to make SURE it’s the right one by drumming on the outside of it, and listening for the sound it makes. I don’t know if it’s just my family, or of this is a universal thing (I’d like to think everyone does this….otherwise my family is just strange) but based on the thumping sound the watermelon makes, you know whether or not it’s a good one.

The only problem with this theory, is that I actually don’t have any idea what sound it’s supposed to make. So I end up grabbing a watermelon, drumming on it one or two times, and putting it in my cart. When I take it home and cut into it, it’s always a mystery. Even with the special drumming I did at the grocery store, I still have no idea whether or not it’s going to be a good one until I bite into it. And frankly, it’s a hit or miss process. As illogical as this all may sound, I do it every time I go to the store.

But you know what? When it comes to relationships, SO many people are JUST as illogical.

They look for “signs and wonders”, “feelings and emotions”, “chemistry and connection” in a relationship that will ultimately tell them whether or not this person is going to “be the one”.

But at the end of the day, they ultimately have no idea what they’re getting in a relationship until the relationships progresses further – or even until marriage.

You can choose a bad watermelon with little to no consequences, but choosing the wrong marriage is absolutely devastating.

 

Despite the lies we’re being fed from our culture on a regular basis, the most important thing you need to grasp about all of this is that good relationships aren’t just “found”. They are CHOSEN. They are made. 

 

They are built through a series of choices, a consistency of exchanges, over a proper length of time, with important conversations, healthy communication, and one positive decision at a time.

They are not something you find, they are something you CREATE, with someone who is just as willing to create a healthy relationship as you are.

There are so many people who rush into relationships without ever assessing the risk. Without knowing enough about the person they are dating. Without giving it enough time. Without having some really important conversations.

They meet. They like. And then they rush…..without ever knowing how healthy their partner is.

And so many times, going blindly into relationships, they end up with a broken heart and shattered dreams.

God gives us the responsibility to use wisdom, discernment, and discretion in choosing who we are going to marry. We’re responsible for this most important life-decision, and we’re the ones who have to deal with the ultimate consequences.

In choosing someone to marry, it’s up to each and every one of us to take our time, to assess the risk, to uncover the baggage, to invest in counseling, to prepare, and train, and learn everything we can possibly know. It’s up to us to choose well. Because once you choose “the one”, they become “the one” – til death do us part. 

*This post was adapted from my new e-course: Breaking Free From the Lies of Singleness. Sign up today to uncover the subtle lies you might be believing that are impacting your relationship status!

 

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on April 12, 2017. Used by permission.


 

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”. Learn more, or pick up a copy for yourself by clicking the image below.

tld-3d-book cover

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

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Where Is The Line?

Anyone who grew up in an even remotely Christian culture has probably had this conversation at one point or another. How much it actually affected each of our lives is debatable, but it has certainly been a popular topic in Christian circles for decades.

When it comes to sex, where is the line?

How far can you go before it’s too far?

My hope in writing this is not to sound like a 1990’s purity-bot, spouting off the same unhelpful jargon which ultimately leads people into shame, fear and the like, but maybe to help you think through some things as we all labor together to seek out a more holy and pure sexuality.

There was once a queen who was looking for a new bodyguard to tote her around on her royal litter. This was an incredibly important position in the kingdom, as he had to be incredibly strong to tote her around on the shoulder litter everywhere she went, but he also had to be trustworthy.

The royal court had narrowed the selection down to the top 3 contenders. The first man was called into the chambers and immediately bragged to the queen, “Your Highness, I am strong and capable and if we found ourselves in the mountains on the edge of a cliff, I could safely carry you within 5 feet of the edge of a cliff!”

He continued his speech and then the queen called in the next man. He began, “My Liege, I heard what my fellow candidate here said and I want you to know that I could carry you within three feet of the edge of a cliff and you would be completely safe!”

The queen considered this and finally called in the third man. He humbly entered the corridor and said, “My Queen, if the situation arose, I wouldn’t carry you anywhere near the edge of a cliff. I would keep you as far away from it as possible in order to keep you safe.”

And for some reason, the queen picked the third man.

Because there is safety in fleeing from the edge. There is no wisdom in tiptoeing the edge of catastrophe and hoping we don’t just trip over the edge.

And when it comes to sexual purity, I think we too often embody the first two candidates; we ask how close can we get to the boundary before we are in risky territory. But if we truly want to pursue purity, our hearts should be in a place of asking instead, How far can I stay from the edge? 

But that still leaves the question of course, Where is the edge?

 

 

I once heard a chapel speaker teach that, outside of marriage, you should not do anything you would not do to your mother or father, as that would therefore subject the action to being ‘sexual’. It seemed reasonable, as I would certainly not want to do anything beyond peck my mom on the cheek, and I could see how that would draw a rigid line between what is sexual and what is not.

However, this definition, while it may be necessary for some people, seemed to fall short for me. And the reason is, you will not date your mother or father. The person you will date will most certainly be other from your parents, and with this otherness comes a different set of rules, permissions, and boundaries.

I have engaged this conversation numerous times with all sorts of people, and I have finally come to my own definition of The Edge. It may look different for you, and of course, as with any theological statement, it is subject to critique and flux.

So my definition of sexual boundaries outside of marriage is: I refrain from anything involving reproductive organs. Sex in itself is reproductive in nature. And as such, certain organs are meant for reproductive purposes.

So when people ask me if oral sex is permissible, I’m forced to say no, because it directly involves a reproductive organ. Breasts are also inherently reproductive, so they too should be reserved for the husband and the child being fed by them. The list goes on, so whenever a sexual act is in question, I simply ask if it directly involves a reproductive organ.

In other words, if I ever find a girl loco enough to date me, I plan to refrain from everything but handholding and kissing. We don’t want to initiate the reproductive process (or even stimulate any reproductive organs) prematurely.

I think there is immense value in being someone who “stays far away from the edge” when it comes to sexual purity. I know it probably makes me come off as prudish, but someday, my wife will be so happy I was able to save as much of myself for her as possible.

I also want to add, as I do with all posts about sexual purity, that there is absolutely nothing that can make you too dirty or unredeemable for Jesus. He wants you and your body, and it is never too late to be washed by Him and to begin to live differently. (And if you’re anything like me, that means screwing up several times a day at first, but thank God He is patient and gracious when we do!)

There is such a stigma in the American Christian world about being a virgin, or crossing a certain line, or becoming unclean if we do, and I disagree with that. I think these boundaries are helpful in helping us to fight for purity because God has commanded to, but with them come a heap of shame and guilt if we ever cross these lines. That is not my intent with this post. There is no sin Christ has not destroyed, and no shame He is unable to heal.

My goal with this post is to bring some clarity to what is often a foggy gray area, often left to relativistic maxims like “whatever your personal line is, don’t cross it!” I hope to bring many of us to a better understanding of sexuality, and how to fight for purity as best we can. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

As we continue this conversation and thought process, may we be people who love purity and hate sexual immorality. May we be people who seek to please God with our bodies as much as with our souls and spirits, and may we be people who love to stay far away from the edge of the cliff.

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on February 14th, 2017.


 

 

 

I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Keep up with the wanderings of my mind over at ethanrenoe.com

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The Public Health Crisis No One Wants to Fund

Have you heard? Pornography is now being considered a public health crisis in three states with several more considering this option. South DakotaUtah, and Virginia are among a growing number of states whose lawmakers who are saying that children are being exposed to porn “at an alarming rate,” while noting that it is also “linked to a lessening desire in young persons to marry.” The measure in Virginia goes further and calls for more “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of the Commonwealth and the nation.”

Although this is great news we must understand the many realities that have lead to this moment in history. For much of the last decade organizations like Fight the The New Drug and ministries like XXX Church have spoken of the many ills of porn. However, up until recently no one really listened. Yes, sexual imagery has always been available but never to the extent it is today.

 

Porn is anonymous, free (or very affordable), and more accessible than ever before.

 

Divorce, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, a dismantling of trust between partners, and unrealistic expectations of the love partner are just some of the many results from habitually viewing pornography. These results have ended marriages and destroyed others before they even started.

I am grateful that so many are starting to realize the harm pornography brings to our society, but I worry it’s not amounting to much more than words.

Most of this legislation is nothing but gestures of kindness. It expresses a concern but no funding mandate, no programs they are making available, or offering any solutions to ending the cycle of distribution pornographers have created over the last several decades. Porn is being declared as dangerous with few actionable programs in place to battle exposure or addiction.

And the church is not in any better of a position to answer the call in addressing the issue of pornography.

In a 2016 Barna Group research study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, church leadership indicated that this problem is much bigger than it was 20 years ago, yet only 7% of pastors said they have a ministry program for those struggling with porn.

 

Churches should be the hospitals in this health crisis, but very few have something to offer when it comes to sexual discipleship.

 

A few years ago we asked several lead pastors from around our region how often they addressed issues related to sex from the pulpit. On average the topics of sex, sexuality, and pornography were addressed 1-2 times every three to four years. This blew me away.

 

The church is struggling to offer support in this area.

 

Recently we hosted a lunch with over a 100 church leaders addressing this very issue with my friend, Walt Mueller. During our time together I realized that its not because church leaders don’t want to address it. Rather, they lack the tools. Seminary prepared many of these men and women for sharing scripture but not the resource or expertise to dive into the sensitive landscape we now find ourselves in when it comes to sexuality.

 

Let us use the momentum of states like Utah, South Dakota, and Virginia to create a measure for own congregations.

 

Initiating such vulnerable conversations can be a major hangup for most leaders, but by simply speaking about the impact pornography is having in your church will open up opportunities for change and healing.

 

Take steps to develop tools that shed light on this conversation.

 

The churches greatest resource is its people. Often we think we need the hottest or greatest sermon series or program to create change in our congregations. And there are some great organizations and programs that are incredibly helpful in this journey! But I’ve learned that the best thing we can provide someone struggling with pornography is a community that is willing to sit down, listen, and give direction. Every church has people that can do this!

 

Recognize that we sometimes need trained professionals to help us.

 

There is absolutely nothing wrong in seeking outside help. Because this issue has become an epidemic we need to understand there will be times a community of people will just not be enough. Fortunately there are several qualified counselors in every community to help. Don’t be afraid to admit if something is over your head.

What else do you think the state or church could do to end this public health crisis?

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Are You Stuck On Fantasy?

I recently overheard two women discussing their fantasy boyfriends over coffee. They were chatting about their favorite “celebs”: analyzing their “hotness”, what they love about them, why they would make amazing boyfriends, and how amazing it would be to meet them face to face…or better yet…

A while back on the news, I listened to reporters praise a pubescent teenager for asking his Sports Illustrated supermodel crush (probably his mom’s age…) to come with him to prom. How brave and courageous of him, they said. What an honorable thing to do in stepping out of his comfort zone and taking risks to engage his fantasies, they said.

To top it off, just last week I noticed the room of one of my friends’ teenage children – plastered with posters of dreamy celebrities and attractive musicians staring at her each night as she dozed off to sleep.

It’s amazing how fixated we are on fantasy.  So much so, that it’s almost become the norm.

We live in a society in which I’ve actually heard people claim they have literally fallen “in love” with celebrities, movie stars, porn-stars and supermodels.  But the problem is that they are falling in love…from a distance.

There is something safe about keeping people at a distance.  There is something appealing about the unknown that makes it attractive; something about the invisible that is seductive. Whether it’s the supermodel on the cover of a magazine, or that guy at work that you’ve never actually talked to.

Somehow, keeping people at a distance makes us want them even more.

Because keeping people at a distance is never messy. Loving them from far away, is never hard.  It isn’t mixed with the reality of pain, vulnerability and selflessness; nor does it know the sacrifices of forgiveness, and grace. But to really love, as C.S. Lewis says, is to be vulnerable.

So many men and women today are falling in love with a dream; falling in love with someone or something that doesn’t really exist, by taking the character of someone they don’t really know and adding the story that they find themselves living in the world of fantasy.

Falling in love with a dream, falling in love with an idea, but ultimately – falling in love with a lie.

And this isn’t just about crushing on Hollywood celebs, because fantasy can permeate so many other parts of our life. The bottom line is this…

Fantasy is living in what could be, rather than living in the reality of what actually is.

From pornography, to affairs, to toxic relationships.  The list could go on and on, but in each of these you will find men and women, imprisoned within the confines of a dream.  Stuck in a life they make up with people who don’t actually exist. We’ve succumbed to a life fueled by fantasy rather than by reality.

The married man who glances at the beautiful office secretary, mentally engaging in a relationship with her- forgetting her flaws, neglecting her deficits.

The single woman, analyzing and obsessing over a man she’s hardly talked to. Imagining what life could be if, and when…only to have her heart broken by his lack of interest. 

The housewife, trapped in the fantasy and excitement of her romance novels, leaving her own reality behind instead of dealing with it. 

The young woman stuck in an abusive marriage, making excuses and living for the dream of who he could be rather than acknowledging who he actually is and taking steps toward safety. 

The lonely young man, spending hours every evening trapped by the pornographic images on his computer screen, growing numb to the beauty of the real woman…and of real life. 

There is something provocative about living in a dream, but there is something even more paralyzing about it.

When we live in a dream, we lose sight of what’s real. We exchange our realities for something that can never actually exist.  We live for what could be, and end up missing what really is.  And in the end we are led into disappointment, disillusionment, and destruction.

We set ourselves up for failure by seeking to find this thing that doesn’t actually exist, setting expectations that cannot be met by ourselves, much less anyone else.

When we live in a dream, we stop really living.

Though they might not be as easy as Hollywood romance, real life and real relationships are well worth the investment.  With the help of God’s grace, forgiveness, and selflessness they can flourish into far greater than a simple dream, because they can become your glorious reality.

Close your eyes to the temptation of fantasy, and instead, open your eyes to the reality of life here and now.  And if reality isn’t what you’d hoped for it to be, than make a chance. Challenge yourself to learn and to grow; to forgive and mature. Deal with things in your past, face the things in your present, and become the person you want to be. Don’t live a passive life, but instead create a reality that you can be proud of.

Because only then are you able to truly live.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 16, 2016. Used by permission.


 

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”. Learn more, or pick up a copy for yourself by clicking the image below.

tld-3d-book cover

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

 

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Framing Sexual Sanity

In just a little over 50 years, our media culture has gone from treating matters of sexuality as a “hush-hush” topic, to putting all kinds of sexual practices and issues center-stage. That’s certainly been the case in the last few months as a variety of high profile stories regarding – among others things – molestation, abuse, and gender reassignment have filled everything from the news to “reality” TV

I’ve been working hard to think more about the issues than the personalities involved. I’ve been trying to frame these stories in the bigger picture of our sexuality, God’s sex story, and the sexual stories our culture is communicating to us all. A recent walk through II Samuel took me to Chapter 11 and the gut-wrenching story of David and Bathsheeba. After reading, I jotted some thoughts that I hope will be helpful to myself and other youth workers as we engage with kids about all matters sexual. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful.

First, we cannot deny or forget that sexual desire and curiosity is a good thing that we should expect to exist in all humanity. God is the sexual gift giver, and we are the recipients of this good and wonderful gift.  Sadly, the church has failed miserably to communicate this reality. Failing to see how our sexuality was made by God right at the start, woven in and through us, and given to us as a gift for our flourishing. . . well. . . we not only fail to communicate good theology, but our silence and uneasiness with things sexual communicates a horribly flawed theology of our sexuality which leaves young and old alike scrambling to figure out how to understand and live out these powerful drives and desires. Our silence communicates that sex and sexuality is shameful. Could this be why Christian fundamentalism is a hotbed for sexual sin? And while the church sometimes erroneously tells God’s story void of sexuality, the culture is guilty of telling a sexual story void of its rightful place in God’s story. We all struggle to get it right. . . but get it right we must.

Second, all people are horribly broken. Our sexuality is broken too. Yes, we need a robust and realistic theology of sin. When we understand human depravity, we will not be surprised by revelations of sexual sin. Perhaps even more important, a robust and realistic theology of sin should leave us looking inward with great fear and trembling. “Know yourself” is a mantra I tell myself all the time. And what I should know more than anything else are my points of weakness. And, as I tell youth workers all the time, “You are just one bad decision away from being a headline.” As sinners ourselves, we must be sure to help our kids see that their default sexual setting is to rebel against God’s good plan for sex and do the wrong thing.

Third, we are responsible to develop self-discipline. Peter issues this warning in I Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I don’t know about you, but I can easily downplay and forget the unseen battle that rages all around us and inside us. Mistake. Have you ever read the first three chapters of Genesis? Why is redemption necessary? Why is our world so broken? Know yourself. Know your default settings. Know your unique issues and temptations. Know your triggers. Don’t go where you can’t go. Seek accountability and help. And if someone you know comes to you and says you have a problem and you need help. . . listen.

Finally, in a “do-anything” and hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality.  Honestly, I’m surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” As I always say, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” And then there’s the schizophrenic mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids. . . things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong. People are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. But I’m not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission.

Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. And in doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and mis-used good gift of God!

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Pornography And The Brain

This morning I got up early to head south to Daytona Beach. I’m spending the next couple of days with a group of youth workers talking about significant trends in youth culture. This afternoon, I will be speaking about pornography’s growing and pervasive influence in our culture. For some reason, my mind wandered back to a day almost five years ago when I was flying and noticed what the young women in the row in front of me was reading. While sitting here during a delay, I went back to read that post. I’m sharing it here once more. . .

Today I had a long flight. I decided to dig into the stack of books that’s growing on a spot on my office floor. My summer reading/study emphasis is pornography. . . its place in our culture and what it’s doing to our lives. The pile of books has grown in the last few weeks and I’m not at all looking forward to what I’m going to be reading and what I’m going to learn. Still, it needs to be done.

As I settled into my seat I pulled out my copy of William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male BrainI’ve been fascinated by the little bit I’ve read from this Christian Biopsychologist who teaches at Wheaton College so I’ve been yearning to learn more about the not-so-surprising connection between pornography and the things it does to men’s brains. After all, we’re integrated beings created by a Maker who has made us with amazing complexity.

At the same time that I was opening my book, a young woman who appeared to me to be in her early twenties settled down in the row in front of me. She quickly stowed her carry-on bag under her seat and then eagerly opened her book. . . . Fifty Shades of Grey. You might remember that I blogged on this blockbuster book a few posts ago.

And so I proceeded to read these words about what pornography does to the male brain:

As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed. The neural circuitry anchors this process solidly in the brain. With each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon-like gorge in the brain through with images of women are destined to flow. This extends to women that they have not seen naked or engaging in sexual acts as well. All women become potential porn stars in the minds of these men. They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women right as created in God’s image.

Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is oversexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed in on either side by a high containment walls making escape nearly impossible. this neurological superhighway has many on-ramps. The mental life is fixated on sex, but it is intended for intimacy. It is wide – able to accommodate multiple partners, images and sexual possibilities, but it is intended to be narrow – a place for God’s exclusive love to be imaged.  .  .

And as I read these words from William Struthers, I kept wondering to myself about what was happening in the brain of the young lady seated in front of me. . . . . and the brains of so many other young men and women.

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