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Two of social media’s most negative effects are 1) How it can become a time waster for both those who post and those who are consumed with reading posts, and 2) how social media is uniquely suited as a playground to indulge our sinful natures in impulsive “speak-before-thinking” ways that lead to all kinds of trouble. . . including glorification of self rather than glorification of God.

In Proverbs we read these wise words: “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20) and “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

While I am far from consistently hitting the mark, I endeavor to follow the wisdom of Proverbs whenever I’m using social media. Here are some steps that you might find helpful as you take a  purposeful pause” before hitting “send”, “post”, “tweet”, or “reply.” Share these steps with parents, kids, and your church staff as a way to promote healthy social media use as an act of worship. . .

Download the rest of this article as a helpful handout here.

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How Being Self-Aware Helps Interrupt The Destructive Porn Cycle

One of the bigger challenges of pornography is being able to disrupt the debilitating porn cycle that leads to “messing up”. If you’ve ever struggled, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You have a genuine desire to move beyond the addiction, but keep finding yourself back in familiar cycles. You wake up in the morning crying out to God, “I’m so sorry! I’ll never do this again!” in a prayer that is heartfelt and real. So, what keeps you stuck then?

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

What is it about porn that keeps drawing us back even though it’s destructive not only to others but also yourself?

Surprisingly, it’s less about porn than you think. I’m not saying the sexual ramifications aren’t real, but we can almost always identify the events that lead up to the moment we regret.

A different question may be, “How do I catch myself early enough and keep from making self-destructive decisions?”


Learning how to become self-aware is essential for feeling empowered. When you don’t understand the “why”, it is easy to feel hopeless and out of control. On the other hand, you begin to feel more in control of your life when you understand what’s causing the internal reactions.

The problem is this: Most of us didn’t grow up in an environment that taught us how to be self-aware.

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We didn’t hear questions like:

“What are you feeling right now?”

“Why are you feeling that way?”

“What caused you to react so aggressively?”

“Why do you feel out of control?”

“Learning self-awareness is like working out a muscle. It will feel a bit awkward at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will get.”

1. Identify your needs. We all have needs. The challenge is to find out what yours are and get them met in a healthy way. If we neglect our legitimate needs, we become reactionary.

2. When you feel a strong emotion, stop yourself and ask, “why am I feeling this way?”

3. Allow your heart to feel emotions. This may sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many people choose to stuff their emotions. It’s not hard to find distractions in today’s world. Social media, fast food, games, smoking, or porn… they’re all escapes in one form or another.  You have to consciously choose to block out temporary distractions to engage your emotions. Even the “negative” ones are there for a reason, helping to alert you of something else. Don’t be afraid to work through them.

4. Find healthy outlets. When do you feel “alive” or “refreshed”? Is it when you’re outsideSpending time with friends? Painting? Journaling? Date night with your spouse? Begin to notice when you feel engaged and present. That’s an indicator that you’ve found a healthy outlet.

When we begin to identify our needs, our pinpoint triggers, give our emotions room to express themselves and find healthy outlets, we are able to identify what’s causing the tendencies for self-harming decisions.

It’s how we can “Flee from sexual sin….”

The good news is learning self-awareness will not only help you with porn but in every other area of your life!

Like anything else in life, it takes time to create habits. Give yourself grace as you learn how to identify areas of your life you may have been neglecting for a long time.

Are there other things you do to maintain self-awareness? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

This post originally appeared on Josh’s blog. Used with permission.

Josh Cearbaugh is a life consultant with a unique ability to lead people through transformation. Through a combination of consulting techniques, he helps individuals to identify, and then dismantle, the crippling cycles where the majority of us find ourselves stuck. He has a passion for connecting people to their heart and helping them create practical strategies to change their lives. Most Recently, Josh’s consulting practice has been located in Austin, Texas. He met Danielle, his wife of ten years, in Mozambique while attending Iris Harvest School. They currently have two boys an one beautiful girl.

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4 Ways To Porn-Protect Your Home

This blog was adapted from the fifth episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

One thing – no one solution will protect you 100%. We don’t live in boxes and there is going to come a time where pornography makes its way into your families life. The hope, however, is to mitigate its influence and impact as best as possible. Make Sure Your Kids Know Your Values. Ask yourself the following questions:

  •     Does my family have a view of sexuality founded on the truths in scripture?
  •     Do my kids know I value these same truths when it comes to sex, sexuality, and relationships?
  •     Do my kids have an understanding of what pornography is and how to reject it immediately if they see it?
  •     Do my kids feel comfortable talking with me about all things related to sex and sexuality?
  •     Are you giving a lecture or engaging in questions and dialogue when you discuss these subjects with your kids?

If you’re able to answer yes to most or all of these questions you are well on your way to porn-protecting your home.

Block Access Points

What are you doing to block access to pornography? Communication is by far the most important tool when protecting your home but it doesn’t hurt to have some tools that help you stop porn from ever entering your home.

Recognize where the points of access are in your home. These include a variety of locations – most of them found online. The obvious culprit is going to be mobile devices. Having a game plan for when your kids receive their first device should be well thought out. Remember, the most common point of entry for first-time porn exposure is through mobile devices. So knowing how they will be used before they are ever in your kid’s possession is important. 

If your kids already have a device then be sure to use the parental controls on the device. Also, limit the number of apps they can have on the device at one time. This better helps you (and them) manage what is coming and going. I might also consider removing the browser, social media channels, and YouTube from the phone till you feel they are ready. 

Encourage your kids to be open and honest with you about what apps they use on their phones or tablets. For some families, a “no secret password” policy works, where family members either forego the use of passwords on their devices or share their passwords with you, the parent.

From time to time, take an inventory of which apps your family members have downloaded, what they seem to spend the most time on, and what the purpose or content of the app entails. If necessary, use a service like OurPact, which allows you to set time limits, block calls from strangers, and more.

You might want to also consider Netflix, Hulu, and other similar accounts. Most services have filters or kid-friendly channels. Hulu has parental controls, so does Netflix, Amazon, and Sling. Take the extra time to set up filters and controls to keep your family safe.

Consider How You Spend Time With Your Kids

Often we spend time with our kids on our terms at the places we choose. However, this may take away opportunities for us to enter their world and learn about other points of access. 

For instance, video games are a popular way kids spend time playing. Sit down and play the games with your kids, or at least watch them play. This will help you make sure the game complies with your family standards. Also, be smart about which games you let your children play. Use the ESRB rating system (“E for Everyone,” “T for Teen,” etc.), but be sure to use it wisely. Even a Teen rating on a game may not be suitable for teens in your home.

The same could be said of books, music, or television shows. Take time to enter their world and listen to what they are hearing and watch what they are seeing.  

Utilize Filters

Finally, there are some great new filters for the home that help you manually control content on each of the devices connected to your internet. One of those is Circle by Disney. This deviceconnects to your router and allows you to filter content on every device connected through WiFi. This will also allow for TIME LIMITS on certain apps, such as social media, YouTube, and Minecraft.

Another filter is Koala safe. This deviceallows you to establish a child-safe WiFi network. When your child’s friends come over they can use the child-safe WiFi password to connect. The filters and limits previously established on this child-safe network will be applied to the friend’s device or phone as well.

There are many others and finding the one that works best for you and your family will be important. But do it before it’s too late.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

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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”.


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! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

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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 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 is a pastor and the founder of 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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CoverGirl’s Cover Boy. . . A Sign Of The Times. . .

I’m still processing and working to deconstruct/understand what’s behind the tectonic cultural shifts that have set the table for last week’s social media saturation announcing CoverGirl’s enlistment of their first ever Cover Boy. James Charles is a 17-year-old high school senior who has developed quite a YouTube and Instagram following thanks to his online glammy make-up tutorials. His recent CoverGirl photo shoot with Katy Perry has sparked all kinds of thoughts regarding current cultural realities and change. The threads and thoughts are complex and many, for sure. Here are just a couple. . .


First, social media continues to open the door for the adolescent “everyman” and “everygirl” to pursue celebrity, fame, and fortune. Of course, only a little bit of cream ever rises to the top, but the succes of guys like James Charles only serves to feed the frenzy. If kids are led to believe that anybody can maneuver social media as a path to stardom, then chances are that everybody will attempt to maneuver social media as a path to stardom at different times and different levels during their adolescent years. The dangers inherent in this are many. How much time and effort will we waste in pursuit of the elusive golden ring of celebrity? How will we manipulate and make-over ourselves in that pursuit? Will we jettison our true selves in an effort to create a false face that sells? Will we idolize self and unknowingly slide into forsaking our love for the one true God? These are just a few of the important questions to ask, as they can help us better understand the adolescent experience in today’s world, while helping to shape our ministry efforts with our kids. . . whose stories are so very complex.

Second, James Charles, his makeover, and the response to his “brand” is one more example of how the world has shifted from a stance under authority, to a stance dictated in the moment by nothing more or less than preferences. On the same day that I first heard about Charles, I was also wrapping up the book Impossible People by Os Guinness. If you’re not familiar with Guinness and his cultural insights, you should be. Guinness writes about the  the inescapable presence and power of pluralization. Endless choice and change have increased at all levels of our lives. Those “all levels” include gender and identity.

Guinness says that we have moved from a fixed world of tradition and identity to a more fluid world of modernity, “where everything always changes and nothing keeps its shape for very long. . . . People and things are always becoming, but they never become anything for long.” But rather than being reliant on self in these matters, we must realize that neither we nor the universe were self-created. We are not self-sustaining. This is not my world, but rather my Father’s world.

And for me, I would much rather find my place in God’s world in God’s way, than be left to myself to curate, fabricate, and promote a personal brand in ways that require me to step to the center of the cosmos, blur lines. . . and ultimately be left empty.

So, how are you processing these things with kids?


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A Christian Approach To Same-Sex Marriage. . .

Last year one of my college friends, Dan Doriani, released a new book on being a man. Dan’s book, The New Man: Becoming A Man After God’s Heart, is one I’ve been reading carefully for my own personal enrichment. Dan’s goal was not to write the typical book for men that’s full of lists. Rather, he encourages us to be shaped by knowing God and His Word. It’s been a good, a challenging, and an encouraging read. It touches on everything from marriage, fatherhood, friendship, work, wealth, health, and play.

Throughout the book, Dan has inserted some pastoral thoughts (or what he calls “A word on. . .) on some of the more pressing cultural issues of the day. . . things like pornography, play, working too much, etc. I found Dan’s thoughts on same-sex marriage to be especially helpful. With Dan’s permission, I’m encouraging you to read the full text of his “Word on the Legal Status of Marriage in the West, ” which was penned well over a year ago. . . .

At the moment that I write this short essay, socially aware Christians are justifiably concerned about the legal and institutional status of marriage in the West. The focus of attention today is on same sex marriage. Throughout Western Europe and South America, several nations have decided to legalize same sex marriage or to recognize civil relationships so that same sex couples have the legal rights and privileges of marriage. In America and other federalist nations, the same shift occurs on a state-by-state basis. Courts increasingly argue that interference with same-sex marriage is a prejudicial assault on human dignity and a deprivation of human rights. This positions conservative Christians as foes of human rights, which is hardly a welcome development. There are several results. First, wherever we live, same-sex marriage either has come or is coming soon. Second, it will not be easy for Christians to gain a hearing for their position. Third, we now know, if we ever doubted it, that there are no Christian nations. In pluralistic democracies, leaders are beholden to the will of the people, not the will of God.

Christians have a variety of opinions about these developments. Many are pleased by the way rights have been extended to an often oppressed group. Whatever our view of marriage may be, we should know that the law of Moses often insists on equal legal protection for all (e.g. Exod. 23:8, Deut. 16:19, 21:15-17). On the other hand, Genesis states and Jesus reaffirms God’s good plan for marriage: “From the beginning the Creator made them male and female… For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt. 19:4-5).

As always, we need to put current events in context. Specifically, Western nations have been falling away from biblical norms for decades. Divorce has become easier and easier, accelerated most notably by no-fault divorce laws that allowed either party to a marriage to terminate it at will (that is, regardless of the wishes of their spouse). Decades ago, easy divorce codified disregard for Jesus’ word, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6).

A few decades ago, cohabitation was rare, and widely considered shameful. The term for it, “shacking up,” suggested that it was a practice for the underclass. Today pre-marital cohabitation is typical. Studies have found that a period of cohabitation already preceded most first marriages by the mid-1990s. Today, that number is far higher. We now ignore another biblical norm. In America, the most recent studies report that 41% of all children are born outside of wedlock. In Great Britain, the number is 47%. These numbers are rising steadily and in almost every demographic group. Yet deliberately childless marriages are more common. Finally, there are ever more marriages with no sexual intimacy. This means that Western cultures have disregarded the created order – marriage, then sexual intimacy, then children. Today there is no strong link between sex and marriage, sex and procreation, or procreation and marriage.

The confusion about the order of cohabitation, marriage, sexual intimacy, and procreation will create additional challenges in coming years. For example, everything is in place for polygamy to become the next challenge to God’s design for marriage. Advocacy groups already make the case for polygamy and unofficial polygamy is on the rise. It will be all too easy to make a legal and  experiential argument for polygamy.

Legally: At the moment, polygamy is illegal in all Western nations, but enforcement is lax as officials increasingly tolerate unofficial polygamy among Muslims in France and Mormons in America. Reports say that Canadians leave their polygamists alone. If an official hauled the members of a local polygamist community into court, how (unless the accused chose to incriminate themselves) could they prove that the group is practicing polygamy? If society sees no essential connection between sleeping in the same bed and marriage, what evidence could be presented? Besides, if “male and female” is irrelevant to marriage, how can the number of participants become its one immutable feature?[1] Can anyone argue that a marriage between two men promotes the social good more than a marriage between one man and two women? Moreover, the so-called right to privacy assumes that governments have no legitimate interest and no right to intervene in private acts between consenting adults.[2] As a thought experiment, try to construct a principled argument (as opposed to an emotional or historical argument) against polygamy that doesn’t also condemn same-sex marriage. If we approve one, we must approve the other.

Experientially, people will say polygamy is loving and compassionate. “Yes,” they may concede, “Monogamy is ideal, but we hardly live in an ideal world. Many women long to marry but can’t find a suitable mate because men have no money, no character, no interest in marriage, or no interest in women. If a man can support several wives, financially and emotionally, how can anyone deny an interested woman the right to love, companionship, and children? Even if it isn’t ideal, we constantly accept things – like divorce – that are less than ideal. Besides, several of the world’s religions have accepted polygamy.”

So then, how do cohabitation, common divorce, same-sex marriage, births outside wedlock, and (one day) polygamy affect the cause of Christ and the gospel? In a vital way, nothing changes. Jesus is still Lord and Savior. As Christian ethicist Russell Moore said, the gospel doesn’t need family values to flourish: “Real faith often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That’s why the gospel rocketed out of the first-century from places such as Ephesus… Corinth and Rome.” The Roman Empire lacked a moral system that promoted healthy marriages. In fact, the very contrast between Christian marriages and the wreckage of pagan marriages, which included slave concubines, easy divorce, and sexual chaos strengthened the appeal of Christianity.

A nation’s authorities may permit, tolerate, or even promote marriage-like arrangements that fall short of God’s plan. But let us remember that those acts do not compromise our freedom to love our wives, husbands, and children. Courts permit many things that are contrary to biblical morality. Abortion is legal in most countries, but we can still have children. Legislatures promote gambling, since states expect to profit from it. But the state cannot drag us to casinos any more than Rome could force its people to attend gladiatorial shows.

For those who are prone to despair, consider the status of abortion today. Through persistence and courage, abortion has declined in many areas. In the 1980s, my state of Missouri had abortion rate that exceeded 20%. Today it is 8% and the rate is lower in several nearby states. Since the abortion rate remains as high as ever in some states (near 40% in New York), it seems that gentle persuasion can create a moral consensus.[3] Not long ago, this sort of progress in the protection of the unborn seemed impossible.

More importantly, social trends in no way restrict our freedom to marry, have children, and love each other. If anything, they should prompt us to rededicate ourselves to Christ-like love in marriage. The Christian marriage ideal attracted many pagans to the faith in the apostolic age. When the Reformers restored the biblical teaching on marriage 500 years ago, it enhanced the call to the gospel. When Reformers like Martin Luther married and became faithful husbands and fathers, their conduct beautified the gospel. May our marriages become a similar testimony to God’s purposes.

Jesus said, “From the beginning the Creator made them male and female.” We use this statement to promote God’s ideal and rightly so, but let’s remember that Jesus made that statement to correct an error of his age – arbitrary divorce. On that front, church conduct looks all too similar to the culture around us. How then shall we live?

First, we should tend our marriages and regard our spouse as God’s great gift. (Prov. 19:14). At its best, Paul says, the love of a Christian marriage reflects the love of Christ for the church (Eph. 5:25). Strong marriages adorn the gospel (Tit. 2:10). Waves of good marriages will make the case for God’s plan more effectively than any state or federal law.

This year I officiated at a wedding on the campus of a major American University that was founded on secular principles. At the reception, I sat next to a professor who did his doctoral work at that school and now teaches at another secular university in the same state. He said that the great majority of his fellow professors are secular. Nonetheless, he said they love their Christian students. On the whole, they are far more likely to come to class faithfully and well-prepared. They are willing to argue their convictions, they are active in campus life, they volunteer for worthwhile projects, and they keep their commitments.

The Christian faith has lost the home-field advantage in Western cultures. We have to accept reality as it is, not as we wish it to be. That means we will need to acknowledge legal marriages as the state does. As always, we are free to distinguish between a legal marriage and an ideal marriage, between marriage as humanity sees it and marriage as God intended it (Long ago, pastors distinguished between the being and the well-being of marriage.) That leaves us free to articulate, and, more importantly, to live out our concept of marriage. May we seek lives that are beautiful and words that are coherent and peaceful. That is the surest way to promote God’s good plan for salvation and a good life, one that includes God’s plan for marriage and family.

[1] Mark Steyn, “The Marrying Kind,” Atlantic Monthly, May 2005, 142-3.

[2] Unofficial polygamy means there is one legal wife. Additional wives are not reported at the courthouse or claimed on tax returns, but the additional parties still take marriage vows before witnesses.

[3] These statistics are the most recent numbers from U.S. government web sites. We understand that trends may continue, accelerate, or reverse themselves and that abortifacient medications introduce uncertainty about the real abortion rate.

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Teen Dating Violence: An Infographic to Spark Discussion

For today’s kids, the word “dating” and the realities of “dating” bear little resemblance to what those of us from past generations understood and experienced as we “dated”. . . even if were teenagers just ten short years ago. It’s a new cultural context with new rules, borders, and boundaries. . . if, in fact, rules, borders, and boundaries even continue to exist. Perhaps that’s why we need an understanding of these things so that we can guide our kids into healthy habits and relationships.

Here’s a little infographic that will not only help you understand the landscape of dating in today’s youth culture, but just might prompt some much-needed discussion on dating rules, borders, and boundaries with the kids you know and love. Parents, look at it with you kids and ask them if this is an accurate portrayal of what’s happening in the world as they’ve experienced it. Youth workers, this is a discussion started that could lead to some deep, deep teachable moments and learning opportunities.

You can download the infographic here.

teen violence

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Three Truths to Living a Transparent Life

phone and b packIt seems more and more often, I  become increasingly aware of how we position ourselves online and offline. Or rather, how we act when we think no one is watching.

This past year, 2015, was a testament to how prominent this phenomenon is becoming. There is a plethora of headline stories reminding us we don’t know what is really happening in someone’s personal life. Everything from celebrity pitch men being caught with child pornography to prominent Christian voices being caught in the act of adultery.

 It should surprise me, but it doesn’t.

Maybe the Internet has caused us to live two different lives. Maybe it has created a multiple personality disorder. While I’m not a social scientist, I do know I am seeing more and more people saying one thing online and doing an entirely different action in real life.

I work a lot with teens and young adults, so maybe this is not entirely surprising.

I fear we are only going to see more of the same trends in the years ahead.

In recent months I’ve listened to podcasts, had conversations with others, and read books on how we fail to acknowledge our whole being. Rather, we fail to bridge the gap between how we act around others and what we do in private.

Social media is changing the way we act.

Online we are able to create our own persona. In fact, we can craft an entirely new identity. Our identity is shaped by what we post and others see. This is powerful, but this does not mean it always translates into other aspects of our life.

One book that makes this clear is called Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.

Rudder is the co-founder of OK Cupid and has tons of data showing this multiple personality phenomenon in action. Story after story and data structure after data structure revealed how what we say we want in our online profile might not actually match with what we want in private (or what we actually do when no one is watching).

If we are going to see change in this kind of activity I really believe we’ve got to create a more transparent and vulnerable society.

 Here are three truths I believe are important to making this a reality:

Be humble and recognize your own brokenness.

Our human condition, as we read about it in scripture, speaks of our own brokenness. Genesis reveals this reality and Jesus is the solution. But this requires humility…recognizing we don’t know everything and we are all broken. Most importantly, I am broken!

Surround yourself with other transparent and vulnerable individuals.

Often times we model what we see around us. For the last decade many of us have modeled what we see others do online while watching them do something different in their daily lives. We need individuals who are transparent and vulnerable about their own struggles (both online and in person). This takes courage but it also encourages others to do the same!

Place your struggles in the light.

Our secrets only have power when they sit in the darkness. It is why light is such a powerful tool throughout Scripture; it reveals the hidden things in our lives. By placing it in the open the power that our secrets have are washed away almost immediately.

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What the Sexual Revolution Got Wrong. . . And What We Must Get Right. . .

free loveIn thinking about the changes announced at Playboy magazine and what I blogged on two days ago, I started to dig through my memory and my notes (you should see my desk!) to find an article on the sexual revolution that I had read in ByFaith magazine a couple of years ago. That article, “The Shameless and the Unashamed” by Alan Dowd, offers a concise and compelling critique of the sexual revolution and what it’s left in its wake, along with biblically-based suggestions for the way forward. The article is spot on and very good. That said, I want to encourage you all (especially parents and youth workers) to take a few minutes to read Dowd’s article, as I believe it can shape our response in significant ways. . .

Those who pushed the sexual boundaries in the 1960s fancy themselves as revolutionaries throwing off the shackles of centuries of taboos and stigmas. “Emancipation is now a reality,” as Margaret Drabble wrote in 1967, cheering what she called “the golden age of adult sexual equality.”

The reality is quite the opposite—in two ways: First, the sexual revolution did not usher in a golden age. And second, God is the real revolutionary, challenging us to aspire to something more than the base instincts of human nature.

Promises and Consequences

The free-love sexual revolution of the 1960s was anything but a revolutionary step forward. Instead, it was a step backward, to the ways of the ancient past.

The context of Genesis 6 and 7, for instance, strongly suggests that human kind had taken an anything-goes approach to sex. The twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were so hungry for sex that some 4,000 years later, they are still synonymous with depravity. Lot’s life was deformed by the misuse of sex. Even the patriarch Abraham agreed to a plan to conceive a child outside of marriage—and outside of God’s will.

David took a whatever-feels-good approach with Bathsheba and stole another man’s wife. In following their impulses, his sons followed his example: Amnon was blinded by lust and assaulted his half-sister. Absalom disgraced his father and his father’s throne by having relations with David’s concubines—“in the sight of all Israel” no less (2 Samuel 16). Solomon was so controlled by his flesh that he had 1,000 wives and concubines (I Kings 11).

The gospels tell us that Herod took Herodias, his brother’s wife, as his own. Then he cast his eyes on Herodias’ daughter. And the Roman world of Paul’s day, as underscored by Paul’s letters, was a society consumed by aberrant sex.   


p align=”left”>In short, there was nothing revolutionary about our own sexual revolution. In our time, as in Paul’s, Solomon’s, David’s and Lot’s, the enemy’s promises are never fulfilled—and the consequences are never fully considered until it’s too late. . . continue reading the rest of the article here.

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Listen and Watch! . . . Kids, Sexual Identity, and Social Media. . .

This is a simple “heads up!” If you care about understanding kids and pointing them in the direction of Gospel-centered human flourishing, then I’m about to point you to three listening/viewing opportunities that I hope you won’t ignore or miss. Two can be accessed today and tomorrow as they run and air. The other can be accessed at your leisure.

Transgender_Banner_Live_streamFirst, over the course of the next couple of days, there is a conference on issues related to sexuality that is live-streaming. The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is meeting on the campus of Southern Seminary. The pre-conference for two days on “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” is running today.  You can access the live-stream here. Of special interest is tomorrow’s 5pm session with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield. Dr. Butterfield is a voice you must hear and heed. She is an articulate voice of Biblically-faithful reason who has come out of the academic community and was once living in a committed lesbian relationship.

Second, I want to encourage you to listen to this very helpful podcast from Eric Metaxas that includes an interview with Rosaria Butterfield. I was absolutely blown away by Butterfield’s suggestion that hospitality is actually a form of spiritual warfare. Wow! The implications for youth ministry are many. Be sure to give it a listen.

being 13Finally, CNN is running what looks to be an eye-opening one-hour special report tonight at 9pm, #Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens. If you’re in youth ministry you should not only watch, but get the word out to parents that this might well be worth their time.

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#shoutyourabortion. . . A Tragic Sign Of The Times. . .

Last night I saw this post from a Facebook friend: “As a woman conceived in rape and incest, I am so very grateful that my 14 year old birthmother didn’t join the voices of ‪#‎ShoutYourAbortion‬. My life has been incredible and 6 children and 15 grandchildren later, I am thankful for this dear woman every single day!!!” 

Wow. Not only was that post moving and thought-provoking, but it sent me on a quest to learn more about the alarming hashtag launched last Friday that started receiving publicity in a big way yesterday. #shoutyourabortion was a Twitter hashtag launched by three female activists who are disturbed by conservative efforts in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. The women are calling for women who have had abortions to proudly share their stories and thus remove any remaining stigma attached to having an abortion. One of three posted this on Facebook as they began their efforts to send the #shoutyourabortion hashtag viral:


And this tweet from another of the activist organizers. . .


One of my heroes of the faith, Francis Schaeffer, pushed back hard on the abortion movement and the worldview from which it came and which it promotes back when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. An astute cultural critic who knew that ideas matter, Schaeffer wrote these words that I’m contemplating today. . .

“Certainly every Christian ought to be praying and working to nullify the abominable abortion law. But as we work and pray, we should have in mind not only this important issue as though it stood alone. Rather, we should be struggling and praying that this whole other total entity ‘(this godless) worldview’ can be rolled back with all its results across all of life.”

“But the dignity of human life is unbreakably linked to the existence of the personal-infinite God. It is because there is a personal-infinite God who has made men and women in His own image that they have a unique dignity of life as human beings. Human life then is filled with dignity, and the state and humanistically oriented law have no right and no authority to take human life arbitrarily in the way it is being taken.”

“If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography … , the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.”

With the proud trumpeting of the hashtag #shoutyourabortion this week, we have moved one steep deeper into the hole of narcissistic cultural decline that we as human beings continue to dig for ourselves. The great and tragic irony in all of this is that our efforts to secure what we believe is human freedom results in humanity killing itself. . . whether the victims are the unborn, the poor, the refugee, the trafficked, or those who look different than ourselves. Lord, save us from ourselves.

Perhaps we need to #shouttheimagodei with courage and conviction. And our shouting needs to be seen and heard.

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Post-SCOTUS Chatter. . . And Trying To Get It Right. . . .

While tracking some of the social media chatter after yesterday’s Supreme Court decision I had a few thoughts that, I hope, are helpful. So many of them have to do with how we, as followers of Jesus, respond to what’s happening.

For me, this isn’t about a “culture war.” I’ve never liked that language, I’ve never considered or seen myself as a soldier in a culture war army, nor do I think the “culture war” posture or language reflects a faithfulness to Christ’s calling on our lives. While I believe that politics maps and mirrors the spirit of the times, I don’t believe that politics solves anything or is ultimately salvific. I believe that the “culture war” posture creates and maintains division and anger. That’s why I find fundamentalism repulsive and counter-productive. Instead, I think we do need to adopt a posture of “faithful presence” in the world in a manner that is clearly marked by conversation and love. For those of us who are not happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, we need to look inside and evaluate whether we are angry or grieved. I think there’s a big difference between the two, with the latter being indicative, I believe, of being on the right track. Anger causes us to write off people. Grief is driven by a response of love, care, and concern due to the loss of something good. It is a deep brokenness over a shift from the way things are supposed to be to the way things are not supposed to be. That’s why a life snuffed out by death causes grief.

white house scotusLast night, I grieved. As I was flipping around the TV channels I encountered this picture of The White House.  It’s powerful. And then I pondered what the image represents about our collective spirit. I thought about words I had read just an hour earlier in a little book penned and recently published by my 83-year-old father.  His book is titled God’s Amazing Grace and it’s about the message of John Newton’s magnificent hymn, “Amazing Grace.” My dad wrote, “We think love allows everything and gives everything. But though this be what we think, deep down we know this isn’t true. Love denies that which isn’t good for the one who is loved.” I think my Dad’s words capture well that which a growing majority of people, even Christian people, do not understand about the deep, deep love of Jesus. This is how he loved the woman on the verge of being stoned.

At this point, I think my grief is occasioned far less by the loss of God’s order and design for marriage in our culture. Rather, it is fueled by what appears to be a diminishment of the understanding of “love” among my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is occasioned by the scales tipping perilously from that delicate balance we’ve been called to strike between truth and grace in ways that increasingly leave the truth-side of the balance sitting empty. And when that delicate and difficult balance is lost. . . on either side. . . then we have nothing truly Christ-like and transformative to offer to a broken world.

The culture-at-large is already deeply entrenched in conversation equating “love and welcome all” with “marry all.” Therefore, those who do not marry all are said to not love and welcome all. That’s a horribly erroneous assumption. . . and I hope and pray that we followers of Jesus don’t buy in.

One of my friends posted this powerful and helpful three-word reminder on Facebook last evening. . . “Citizen of Heaven.”


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Wesley Hill. . . Framing Conversations on Same-Sex Attraction and Sexuality. . .

The culture continues to discuss and frame discussions on sex and sexuality. Ambient sexuality is the order of the day.

One voice seeking to remain faithful to Christ and the Scriptures is Wesley Hill, a young New Testament scholar who is same-sex attracted. As a result of his struggle to understand his sexuality in light of the Scriptures, Hill has become a voice not only for the same-sex attracted, but for those believers who long to show compassion to the LGBTQ community. His insights are helpful and profound.

In the past, you’ve heard me recommend Hill’s book, Washed and WaitingI want to encourage parents and youth workers to listen to Hill. His book is well worth your time.

To give you a little taste of Wesley Hill and his message, I’ve posted this short 10-minute interview. . .


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Tony Campolo, Biblical Interpretation, and How ImM Feeling This Morning. . .

Sleep didn’t come easy last night. Writing these words is equally difficult.

While sitting on the couch taking in a Phillies game last evening (lost. . . again), I checked my Facebook feed and spotted a story linking to Tony Campolo’s public statement released yesterday, “Tony Campolo: For the Record.” I read Tony’s words – several times – with a heavy heart.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised, but I was saddened. Then, as I continued to read, I saw social media lighting up with folks responding and taking sides. Some were less than gracious and charitable. Others, reflected a pendulum swung to the other side. I want to be biblically balanced and fair to a brother I have known for a long time.

Tony’s statement has left me with a pit in my stomach. You see, early on in my walk with Christ, Tony Campolo was a loud voice who God used to summon me to a deeper understanding of God’s call on my life. . . first and foremost to integrate my faith into every nook and cranny of my life and to live my life to the glory of God. Then secondly, to teach kids to do the same. I still remember Tony’s rousing call at a couple of Jubilee Conferences in Pittsburgh well over thirty years ago. He encouraged me and a room full of young college students to seek first and to embrace the glorious and wonderful Kingdom of God. Those were watershed moments in my life. They changed me. As I got older, I appreciated Tony’s ability to serve as a kind of evangelical conscience. . . poking and prodding guys like me out of spiritual slumber and into a life of devotion to Jesus. As the years have passed, I have continued to appreciate Tony’s heart. I have always, however, listened to Tony with a bit of caution, knowing that everything he says needs to be evaluated in the light of Scripture. Consequently, as I’ve gotten older, there have been times when I’ve had to disagree with Tony on some of his positions. Never, though, in the way I feel I have to disagree this morning. I’m saddened and disappointed.

I don’t believe it to be coincidental that I spent a good portion of yesterday reading, writing, and posting some things that I think are necessary and helpful as we navigate the issues of the day. For the Christian, the issue isn’t just matters of sexuality. It goes deeper. At it’s root, we have to think seriously about our hermeneutic. . . those foundational principles of interpretation that we embrace that serve as our starting point for understanding and responding to any theological issue that comes our way. I had blogged on this last week in my post that was simply titled “Jenner. . . ”  Yesterday, I blogged again, this time with “A Message to Parents,” written to encourage parents to take the Christian education and nurture of their children seriously. If you check out my Facebook page and my posts from yesterday, you’ll see that I included some relevant quotes, an article from my friend Nicholas Black on “Voices that Confuse: Reclaiming Biblical Truth from Interpretive Distortions,”  and the announcement about a new book from Mark Yarhouse on Gender Dysphoria that I look forward to reading. In other words, Tony’s statement is just a small part of this larger conversation that’s front and center in our culture and our churches. But even though it’s a small part, it’s big.

So, last night I posted a reminder to myself that I hope others might find helpful. It was the best thing I could do at the moment. I wrote this: “To all my young friends: immerse yourself in the Word. . . Incarnate and written. Always evaluate the words, teaching, and opinions of those who are older (even loved and respected) under the light of the Word, not vice versa.” It doesn’t matter who the teacher or preacher is. . . evaluate under the light of God’s Word.

This morning, still churning inside, I posted this: “While laying in bed last night pondering the events of the day, I once again considered the battle inside. I truly wish the Kingdom of God was all-inclusive. All sheep. No goats. All born again. None dead in their trespasses and sin. But God is not our genie. Our wish is not His command. We don’t get to define. Even better, we get to follow. Our calling is to submit our wills, desires, hopes, minds, hearts opinions, and very lives to Him.”

I hope and pray that my words this morning and the spirit of this post are gracious and charitable. I also hope and pray that it humbly reflects truth. I think there is much at stake here. Yes, this is about sexuality. But that’s only a small part of it. The real issue is much, much deeper.

This morning, I looked across my desk at my book shelves. I looked at the shelves that are loaded with Bibles, commentaries, and theological texts. I realized that everything I learned in all those years of reading, listening, education, discussion. . . all those things that have shaped me, what I believe, my commitments, and how I do ministry. . . all those things are being called into question. Seriously. . . I wonder if I have wasted all my time, my money, even my life on errors and lies. I don’t believe I have, but the culture and even respected brothers and sisters in the faith would, I think, have me believe it’s all for naught. I’m not wavering here. Just processing and giving more than just passing thought to the critique of others. Taking the time to do that will only serve to further cement my commitments.

After a conversation with a friend last night and thinking about what shapes us most these days. . . I don’t ask this snidely. . . but seriously. . . Are we living in a time where theological education and Christian education that was once shaped by and looked like this. . .

blog photo 2

. . . should be jettisoned and look like and be shaped by this? . . .

blog photo 1

God, keep us from being shaped by the spirit of the times. Holy Spirit, shape us.

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Jenner. . .

“Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” That’s the prayer I was reminded to pray once again this morning as my heart felt like it was in the grip of conflict.

Last night, I returned from five days spent totally off the grid and out of touch with anything and anyone other than the guys who were with me. I was in the North Woods wilderness of Ontario. When our travels intersected us with a phone signal and we eventually hooked up to wireless, the craziness and pace of the world we had ignored for five days took center stage once again. We had actually wondered out loud what we were missing while we were away. Who died? Have there been any world catastrophes? Did the Phillies climb their way back into first-place? (Not a chance on that last one!)

The connection led to some kind of news about “Call me Caitlyn.” It took some time to process those words and the accompanying photo. Yes, more than we imagined had happened while we were gone.

Now, once again, my ongoing journey to grow in my faith and then to move and engage faithfully and to the glory of God in a rapidly changing culture has gotten even more difficult and confusing. And with social media offering me infinite opinions and directives on what it means to respond to these and other issues to the glory of God making things even more confusing. . . well, my head is really spinning and the conflict in my heart is strong.

How are we to process, understand, and engage with these issues as followers of Jesus? That’s the question that drives me here. The commitment that drives me is to the revealed Christ of the Scriptures. . . not some revisionist Jesus who has been tweaked and remade in our own image, opinions, feelings, and hopes (a reality that I fear is happening to more and more of us without us even knowing it). Yet, I want to always be open to what God’s Spirit might be teaching me because, after all, I can’t and don’t have it all figured out and right. So, with a combination of a stake in the ground regarding Biblical authority, and an earnest search for humility and teachability, I process.

This morning, one blog post appeared in a variety of places. It was shared by a few friends. So, I read it. It’s from question mark10someone I don’t know, Josh Cobia, who is a worship leader and pastor. His post caught my eye because of its title: “I went to church with Bruce Jenner and here’s what Caitlyn taught me about Jesus.” I’ve read it a few times over. I believe it to be an honest and straightforward recounting of what Josh Cobia has experienced and believes regarding the Kardashians and the Jenners. It’s heartfelt. As a result, there is a certain kind of tug that it elicits on one’s heart and emotions. It certainly did for me. In many ways, I want to believe and affirm his sentiments and analysis. After all, based on our current cultural leanings, that would be what most believe to be the kind, compassionate, and right thing to do. Still, I can’t go there.

I would encourage you to read Josh Cobia’s blog. I think it provides clear evidence of where we’ve gone as a church culture. It’s the reason why I earnestly pray, “Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” I desperately desire to follow and please my Lord. I want desperately to follow Him in His kindness, compassion, and rightness. But I want to do so in a way that reflects good, faithful, and correct exegesis of God’s revelation of Himself in the Scriptures, and good principles of Biblical interpretation. I fear, however, that more of more of us are praying that prayer while seeking wisdom not from the Word, but from some kind sage-like cloud that hovers in the ethos, dispensing an enlightenment that’s trumping decades of historical orthodoxy.

In the world of biblical studies, this task of interpretation is called Hermeneutics. While this is a complex matter, I fear that a growing number of us are forsaking responsible biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, and resorting to reading the Scriptures and the life and ministry of Jesus through a heremeneutic that’s driven by cultural values and personal emotions. Could it be that more of more of us are praying that prayer while seeking wisdom not from the Word, but from some kind sage-like cloud that hovers in the ethos, dispensing an enlightenment that’s trumping decades of historical orthodoxy? And so, we wind up being drawn to “niceness” and “kindness,” somehow assuming that since this reflects love and compassion (as we define them), then it must be right. So when Jenner and the Kardashians do and say the right things in kind and nice ways. . . well. . . then what they do and say, like them, must be good, true, and right.

Let me be blunt. . .  I don’t want Caitlyn to teach me about Jesus. I don’t even want me to teach me about Jesus. I want Jesus to teach me about Jesus. I want Jesus to teach me about the complete Jesus. I don’t want a Jesus who is all about truth with grace that’s been amputated. Nor do I want a Jesus who is all about grace and love, with truth amputated. We must first and foremost seek the complete Jesus who has been revealed in the Scriptures. . . not a Jesus who has been revealed in our hearts, minds, and emotions.

The writer of Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” You and I need to tread fearfully, carefully, and with deep humility into God’s revelation of Himself, all the while praying, “Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” And, we need to realize that He will never take us down a road where He contradicts Himself. That’s why, as I read Josh Cobia’s blog, I couldn’t help but think about the Jesus who loved, cared for, reached out to, and forgave the women caught in adultery. That’s why I had to remember that He also said to her, “Go. . . and sin no more.”

Once again, I want to remind you of these words from Alex Davidson (a Christian who has wrestled through his same-sex attraction) in his book The Returns of Love:A Christian View of Homosexuality – 

“The part of the jungle where I am lost may be miles away from the part where you are lost, but the same map and compass can help us both. That map and compass I take to be the Word of God, both Christ the living Word and Scripture the written Word. Why do people who are otherwise thoughtful and sincere find it so easy to break the third commandment? They take the name of the Lord, and call themselves ‘Christians’; yet they take it in vain, by emptying it of what is necessarily contained within it. The only Christ I can accept is not the tenth-hand Christ of the popular imagination, but the first-hand Christ of the New Testament, and once I admit Him I find I have to admit a whole range of teaching which is inseparable from Him – not only His own as reported in the Gospels, but that of the prophets whom He upheld and ratified, and that of the apostles whom He taught and commissioned: in other words, biblical revelation as a whole. It is on the principles the Bible lays down that I try to base my belief and behavior in general, and therefore my attitude to the matter (homosexual attraction) discussed in this book in particular.”

One line from Cobia’s blog has really caught my eye. He’s not stating anything new here as we’ve been hearing this more and more these days: “What’s more pressing to me is how the church (my tribe) will respond to Caitlyn. The LGBTQ people I know are loving, excepting (sic), beautiful people and many of them have been so hurt by their church communities that they have left the faith.”

How we will respond is the issue. Our response is the issue with any and all matters of sin. When we lean on the law and we are void of grace – which happens far too often – shame on us. But shame on us as well when we fail to faithfully serve Christ and sinners by showering them with grace void of truth. In the former, we hurt them through condemnation. In the latter, we hurt them through accommodation. In addition, we must realize that even when we do strike a faithful, God-honoring balance, there will be those who walk away due to the offense of the Gospel. When that happens, we can’t remove or water down the Gospel to keep people in the building.

‘Jesus. . . always keep opening our eyes and giving us wisdom.”

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Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Molestation In The News. . . Framing The Conversation. . .

For the last few days, the social media splash of the moment has been all about sexual assault and molestation. Triggered by revelations of a media icon’s heretofore hidden history of horribly destructive and damaging behavior, everyone is talking about this story. Of course, we easily forget that the story is mediated. . . too many times to count. . . in ways that should make us all careful and cautious about what is and isn’t fact. So maybe rather than debating what did and did not actually happen in this one particular case, perhaps it’s best to stand back, pause, and consider the bigger picture, of which this incident is only a part.

Kid needing help

I’ve been working hard to think more about the issues than the personalities involved. I’ve been trying to frame this story in the bigger picture of our sexuality, God’s sex story, and the sexual stories our culture is communicating to us all. This morning, my walk through II Samuel with Scripture Union’s Encounter With God took me to Chapter 11 and the gut-wrenching story of David and Bathsheeba (yes, for those of you following along, I’m a week behind in my readings!). After reading, I jotted some thoughts that I hope will be helpful in framing the conversation about the individual stories of sexual assault, abuse, and molestation that we encounter, and the bigger picture and scope of the issue itself. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful. . .

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 tell’s 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.

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 now 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.”

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.

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 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.

So that’s a start that’s not at all complete  . . more tomorrow. . .




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What Rules My Life? . . . A Homosexual Ponders Desire. . .

The battle rages every day for me. I am a broken person. Consequently, my desires, wishes, and wants are marred.  Quite often they move in the wrong direction and they need to be reigned in. I cannot deny it. I must recognize it.

“Following my heart” as a guide in decision-making. . . a mantra preached by today’s culture. . . could wind up in the making of some good choices from time to time. I wish that were true in every case, but it’s not. I continue to realize just how untrustworthy my heart really is. I realize this more and more as I read the Scriptures, grow older, add to my human experience, and as I look in the mirror and am brutally honest with myself.

go and sinFor those of us who are followers of Christ, we tend to be pretty good at trumpeting our understanding of God’s borders and boundaries, especially when those borders and boundaries speak to areas of life where we might not personally struggle. In recent months, my reading and conversations regarding my quest for a deeper understanding regarding homosexuality and other issues of sexual identity have forced me to encounter the very valid criticisms regarding the church’s aggressive outspokenness on the issue of homosexuality, but all-too-often blind eye when it comes to other things that the Scriptures call sin. . . sexual and  otherwise. In effect, we might be guilty of pointing an accusing finger at heart-followers who follows their hearts into homosexual activity, all the while ignoring the way we thoughtlessly follow our hearts into greed, narcissism, injustice, gluttony, gossip, pride, lust, and all other kinds of excess that the Scripture’s clearly call  sin.

The antithesis to following one’s own self and desires is the intentional, thoughtful, prayerful, and informed pursuit of knowing and following God’s will. And yesterday, it was some words written by a man struggling with his strong and ever-present homosexual impulses that not only prompted these thoughts, but which ministered to me in a deep way. The words were penned way back in 1970 in a book titled The Returns of Love:A Christian View of Homosexuality, by Alex Davidson (a pseudonym). The book, published by InterVarsity Press, is a collection of forthright letters to a male friend, written by Davidson about his battle with his homosexual desires.

Davidson’s approach to his battle is exemplary, and I think there is much that he teaches any Christian who is battling with any kind of sinful desire. . . which means, all of us. Davidson strives first and foremost to be biblical. . . that is, he wants the Scriptures to inform his response to his desires, rather than vice-versa. He writes, “The part of the jungle where I am lost may be miles away from the part where you are lost, but the same map and compass can help us both. That map and compass I take to be the Word of God, both Christ the living Word and Scripture the written Word. Why do people who are otherwise thoughtful and sincere find it so easy to break the third commandment? They take the name of the Lord, and call themselves ‘Christians’; yet they take it in vain, by emptying it of what is necessarily contained within it. The only Christ I can accept is not the tenth-hand Christ of the popular imagination, but the first-hand Christ of the New Testament, and once I admit Him I find I have to admit a whole range of teaching which is inseparable from Him – not only His own as reported in the Gospels, but that of the prophets whom He upheld and ratified, and that of the apostles whom He taught and commissioned: in other words, biblical revelation as a whole. It is on the principles the Bible lays down that I try to base my belief and behavior in general, and therefore my attitude to the matter (homosexual attraction) discussed in this book in particular.”

As I pondered Davidson’s words, I thought about all the desires, passions, and heart-pulls that we experience as human beings. When I talk to kids about the “Just follow you heart!” mantra I tell them in no uncertain terms that that’s the kind of stuff the Greek word skubalon best describes. It’s the Greek word for dung.  I also tell them that if I had lived my life by that mantra I would most likely be living in a jail cell right now. Reality is, the same is true for you too.

At the time of writing his book, Alex Davidson had enlisted all the resources he could imagine to see change come in his life. Still, his desire remained. His attitude, once again, is exemplary for all of us, regardless of the type of sinful desires that constantly remind us of their presence in our lives. He writes, “One should groan over it as a sample of the perversions evil has wrought into the world, and long for something better. But if in spite of everything it is there, and the Lord apparently sees fit to leave it there, then surely my concern is to see what He can make out of such unpromising material? Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ came from Satan, and Paul longed to be free of it; but the Lord let it remain, and made it a means of blessing. It was a risk he thought well worth taking.”

Whose heart will I follow? That’s the question our first parents asked in the Garden, isn’t it? And in a world misshapen by their faulty and horribly destructive choice of answers, we must realize that our default setting is to follow in their footsteps.

That’s all the more reason to know and name your sin, to be on guard. . . and to know God’s heart.

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Should We Be Surprised??? . . . We’ve Set The Table For Spring Break Gang Rape. . .

If you track with the news, you’ve probably been seeing some of the many reports coming out of Panama City Beach, Florida about Spring Breakers gone wild. The latest is that a third young man has been arrested in the alleged gang rape of an intoxicated (or perhaps, drugged) 19-year-old girl on the beach during Spring Break.

That’s horrifying enough. What makes the story even worse is that hundreds of onlookers watched and did nothing. . . in broad daylight.

It’s a story reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese rape and murder back in 1964. . . except that occurred during a cultural era where there was extreme disbelief and outrage. In today’s world, what happened in Panama City might just be the result of vice becoming normalized. I wonder if the perpetrators even thought they might be doing something wrong.

The Today Show ran this news story on the incident this morning. . .

Should we be surprised? I don’t think so. This is certainly sad. . . very sad. . . but not surprising. We have raised a generation of kids on a steady diet of moral relativism, narcissism, and entitlement in a hyper-sexualized culture void of a shared moral compass. If you throw all of these ingredients into the devekopmental mixing bowl and let it all simmer and bake during childhood and adolescence. . . well, this is what will pop out of the oven.

We need to seek, know, tell, and trumpet the truth to adults and kids alike. If we don’t, we will continue to spiral down into moral oblivion and social anarchy. We want our kids to know and follow their Maker. We want them to flourish and embrace their full humanity. We don’t want them to fail.

A group of young adults failed miserably on the beach in Panama City. . . and they should be held accountable. Prior to that, they were horribly failed. . . and that needs to stop too.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading through the history of the Israelite Exodus. The Israelites were always wavering between going their way or choosing to go God’s way. Perhaps the words of Joshua to the Israelites are worth pondering here: “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15). 

Yes, we too, are at a crossroads.

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These Facts About Sexting Might Make You Rethink Pressing “Send”

Sexting. It’s a buzzword that has become synonymous with irresponsibility or promiscuity, something we know exists and yet we don’t quite want to openly acknowledge, kind of like not really wanting to admit that frozen yogurt doesn’t actually contain less sugar than plain old ice cream.

But here’s the exposed truth about sexting: It DOES exist, and it’s something most teens will participate in or face sometime in their young years.

11 facts you need to know about sexting:

  1. Teenage girls have a few reasons for why they participate in sexting: 40% do it as a joke, 34% do it to feel sexy, and 12% feel pressured to do it.
  2. 17% of sexters share the messages they receive with others, and 55% of those share them with more than one person.
  3. While nearly 70% of teen boys and girls who sext do so with their girlfriend or boyfriend, 61% of all sexters who have sent nude images admit that they were pressured to do it at least once.
  4. Nearly 40% of all teenagers have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages, but this practice is more common among boys than girls.
  5. Sending semi-nude or nude photos is more common among teens girls. 22% of teen girls report sending images of this nature, while only 18% of same-age boys have.
  6. 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/semi-nude images of themselves send these messages to people they have never met, but know from the Internet.
  7. Sending or receiving a sexually suggestive text or image under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges.
  8. 24% of high-school age teens (ages 14 to 17) and 33% of college-age students (ages 18 to 24) have been involved in a form of nude sexting.
  9. Sexting is defined by the U.S. court system as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” The messages may be text, photo, or video.
  10. In the U.S., 8 states have enacted bills to protect minors from sexting, and an additional 13 states have proposed bills to legislation.
  11. 11% of teen girls ages 13 to 16 have been involved with sending or receiving sexually explicit messages.

Folks, underage sexting is NOT COOL! While sexting might seem like a better alternative than real, in-person physicality, sexting does nothing to lessen the temptation of going too far when you’re actually in the same room with that person. And sending a picture to someone you may or may not know, who may or may not show that picture to other people, and who may or may not still have that photo for months or maybe even years after you regretted sending it? Just plain risky (and in some cases, illegal – see #7). And, let’s face it, stupid.

Get the citations here.

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