31 October 2013

Daily Morsels--Reformation Day, 2013

Coffee and Christoplatonism--Randy Alcorn addresses the question about whether their will be coffee in the new earth. I like his answer.

What is Romans 1-8?--Dane Ortlund shares several insights into Romans 1-8.  This post is, in a word, beautiful.  For example, "Romans 1–8 is God’s answer to what he does to the bride whom he marries and finds out she’s been cheating on him with other lovers since their honeymoon—he pursues her anyway, and doesn’t stop, eventually laying down his life for her."

What are indulgences?--My friend Glenn Sunshine wrote a long essay on the genesis of the Reformation and Martin Luther's speaking out against indulgences.  This is a good read. 
What about Hell?--I had a brief discussion about Hell with a friend of mine yesterday. I remembered this post from Mark Driscoll from a couple of years ago that I think is pretty good in its explanation. 

30 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 30, 2013

Tomorrow is Reformation Day, so lots of posts are appearing about Luther and the reformation.  Here are a couple of highlights.

Justification by faith alone is still the issue--The main issue at the time of the Reformation many years ago was the issue of justification by faith alone. Gene Veith argues that justification by faith alone is still the central issue.  I would agree with him.  Our tendency is to slide back into self-justification (which I would agree with). Veith writes, "Those who deny justification by faith become first legalists and then antinomians. Many evangelicals are saying that the Gospel is about imitating Jesus. I always ask them, 'And how are you doing with that?' Because that standard and God’s standard of absolute holiness and perfect are impossible for sinful human beings to fulfill—which is why we need Christ, the Gospel, and justification by faith—legalists eventually tend to water down that Law to make it easier to fulfill. Thus, political attitudes, feelings of altruism, and various abstract and attitudinal principles replace the austere demands of moral behavior. But then moral behavior itself gets redefined. 'There is nothing really wrong with what I am doing.' If that is true, then we can feel that we are still good people who merit God’s favor. Today we have self-righteousness without righteousness, legalism without the Law, moralism without morality." If you have no idea what I am talking about, please read this article.

More on Sola Fide--One of the faculty members from the Centurions program and an all around smart guy, Glenn Sunshine, wrote this article on Sola Fide, or "Faith Alone." I would commend it to you. Given that it is Reformation week, I would also recommend his excellent little book, The Reformation for Armchair Theologians

Hounding Grace--Tullian shared this quote from Robert Farrar Capon today, “Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world. It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way through the streets of the universe, flinging the sweetness of its cassations to every window, pounding at every door in a hilarity beyond all liking and happening, until the prodigals come out at last and dance, and the elder brothers finally take their fingers out of their ears.”

29 October 2013

Longing & Belonging

On Sunday morning, I was privileged to share about adoption at Cedarcreek Community Church in a teaching entitled Longing & Belonging.  It was a hard morning, but God is good and always gracious. If you are interested, you can listen to what I shared here

26 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 26, 2013

Initiating and declining sex in marriage--Brad Hambrick has an excellent article for how to lovingly initiate sex and decline sex in marriage. He writes, "For many married couples initiating sex can be an awkward moment that leads to conflict or hurt feelings. They’re not sure what to say. They fear being rejected. They want sex to be “special” but most of the moments they’re both home together are “normal.” They don’t want to seem demanding. They want their spouse to “just know.” They don’t want to interrupt and their spouse is always doing something else. They’ve tried and been told their attempt was crude or unclear." See his suggestions here

Can they act like men?--Last week, John MacArthur held a conference called Strange Fire. The focus was on the charismatic movement and MacArthur's belief that "sign gifts" stopped with the closing of the canon. Mark Driscoll, who was in town for another conference (Act Like Men) showed up at Strange Fire and began handing out books, signing books, and praying with people. This led to an awkward back and forth. A video was posted that looks like it made Driscoll look like a liar, but he indicated that only the pieces of the video that cast him in that light were posted. Someone is being deceptive. The bigger issue, however, is that these two men of God are having a very public disagreement that makes the church look bad.  Driscoll has invited to MacArthur to the Resurgence conference to talk about these issues. I would love to see them meet and talk through this stuff as men.  

More lives destroyed--Jason Helopolous wrote about 4 men whose lives and ministries were wrecked recently by sexual immorality.  Church, we've got to address this issue!

5 questions to ask before posting online--1. Ask yourself: If my mother, pastor, spouse, children were to read this, would they be ashamed of me?, 2. Ask yourself: Where is this coming from?, 3. Ask yourself: Have I practiced a judgment of charity toward the person I am writing about/responding to? 4. Ask yourself: Am I seeking to serve Jesus with this post, or am I seeking my own?, 5. Ask yourself: Am I casting pearls before swine?

23 October 2013

Remembering Clady

When my mom and I moved to the house across from the church, he and his wife Dorothy already lived next door, in the house to the East. Neither of those homes are there anymore. Its a parking lot now. Clayton (aka, Clady) Voskuil is also gone. He was 82 years old when he died in 1994.

I was reading my Bible this morning and talking with God when He brought Clady to mind. I cannot really say why.  I haven't thought about him in well over a decade. I spent some time reminiscing about the years I got to spend with him and thanking God for him.

My mother and I moved to Superior Avenue just before I was to begin the first grade. The home we rented was owned by Clady's younger brother Hunk, a kind and generous man in his own right. My grandmother, cut from the same generational cloth, lived a block to the East. The senior pastor and his family lived directly across the street. We lived there until the year before I began the eighth grade and it was the place we lived the longest when I was a boy.

To my recollection, I wasn't a particularly ill-mannered boy and generally respected my elders. Still, I was busy. I was generally outside from the morning until dusk engaging in fantastical adventures, taking stuff apart, or riding my bike around the block for hours on end. No doubt, I was probably a disturber of the peace, especially to those whose children were long departed from the home.

Clady loved this rambunctious boy. I would find him tinkering in his garage and I would go over and visit with him. My mom got me a t-shirt around that time that said "Motomouth", so I suspect that I talked his ear off, yet I don't ever recall him asking me to be quiet. He listened to me with interest, regardless of the topic.

He not only listened, he taught. He would show me things in his garage or in his home and tell me about them. He had the most beautiful raspberries in his garden.  They were large and plump, which in hindsight strikes me as odd because he had diverticulitis and would find it impossible to ingest the seeds. Nevertheless, he would teach me about his garden, about how it required attention and a loving hand over the long haul. 

One of my fondest memories of him was that he took me for a walk along the railroad tracks. He had an old single shot 20 gauge shotgun he brought along for me to shoot. He seemed frail to me by that time, but we walked slow. It was not the pace, but the time together that was important.

Looking back, I realize what a blessing Clady was to me. He loved me right where I was in life. He showed me grace and patience. As I was thinking about him this morning, it struck me how kind and gentle he was. I hope that when I am older I can love another as well as he loved me.

22 October 2013

Book Review: Becoming a True Spiritual Community

I am working my way through a series of books by Larry Crabb. The most recent one I read was entitled The Pressure's Off, which was a really good book. Becoming a True Spiritual Community (1999) was the next on the list. I figured it would not be much different from other books I have read recently and that I would likely enjoy it. Having said that, I was profoundly moved by this book. The message contained in this book was exciting and fear provoking. Crabb discusses his vision for what he thinks true spiritual community (i.e., church) could look like. It is exciting because I can taste his vision for community where it is safe to be broken and to remind one another of Christ's forgiveness on a deep spiritual level. Its fear provoking because I have a hard time imagining how to get into this type of community. As a typically proud, independent American male, I am less inclined to open myself to others for true spiritual friendship, laying my thoughts and emotions out to be seen. But as I said, I can taste it, and I would like to see it work.

As a psychologist, I think one of the things I most appreciated about this book was his vision for what Christian psychology, or soul care, may look like. He believes that the community of the church should be the primary place for healing to take place and I think he is exactly right.

On page 178, he wrote, "In the middle of the wild ocean of shattered dreams and broken lives, the community of Christ celebrates God's forgiveness: they believe in what each other could become, they never minimize sin but they love to maximize grace. They are carriers of Christ to each other. That's what spiritual friends do when they act together to journey to God."

I would highly recommend this book. I know that there are those who have had negative reviews of this book, but I have a hard time seeing why. If you are one of those people, I would hope that you would be able to dialog about it in spiritual community.

Devil's Snare

Sometimes, I am amazed when I haven't seen something before. This morning, I was driving to Rice Lake, listening to a teaching and appreciating the beauty of God's paintbrush on the hillsides surrounding the highway.  For some reason, I thought of the plant Devil's Snare in the first Harry Potter installment. Devil's Snare is a plant that rapidly envelops those who come too near. It immobilizes the person, squeezing the life out of them. Devil's Snare is a plant that only grows in the dark and is destroyed by exposure to the light.

This is such an accurate description of the life of sin. Sin is the devil's snare and he, the father of darkness, knows that our sin will grow best where no light exists. When we leave our sin in the dark, trying to keep it from the light of the gospel, it will immobilize and envelop us. 

John opened his gospel with these words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."-John 1:1-5.  Jesus is the Light who destroys the devil's snare. He alone is able to shine His light into the dark corners of our lives and release us from the bondage to our sin.

21 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 21, 2013

I didn't post one of these over the last few days because there just wasn't that much interesting, at least in the places I tend to look.

How to Read a Christian Book--Jean Williams shares 11 ways that may help with your retention of what you read.  I particularly agree with "writing in your books"  

Is grace the answer to licentiousness?--Tullian Tchvidjian responds to recent criticisms that he promotes too much grace to a licentious culture. Reflecting on the cultural changes in the church, he writes, "With this shift came a renewed focus on the internal life of the individual. The subjective question, 'How am I doing?' became a more dominant feature than the objective question, 'What did Jesus do?' As a result, generations of Christians were taught that Christianity was primarily a life-style; that the essence of our faith centered on 'how to live'; that real Christianity was demonstrated in the moral change that took place inside those who had a 'personal relationship with Jesus.' Our ongoing performance for Jesus, therefore, not Jesus’ finished performance for us, became the focus of sermons, books, and conferences. What I need to do and who I need to become, became the end game."

I love this--A version of the cup song in Gaelic

Interrupting the Cycle of Titillation

For many years, pornography was a struggle for me. I found myself gripped by it. I hated looking at it, but I kept looking anyway, loathing myself afterward. I would seem to escape from its grip for a time and then would plunge back in. Over the years, I began to recognize a cycle that would occur. The cycle would often begin with seemingly innocent things, but would progress to much more explicit material.

By God's grace, I can recognize this pattern earlier now than I used to and put the brakes on, seeking the Spirit's deliverance. Just the other day, I was reading the news. There were a variety of stories--some about politics, some about good Samaritan acts, some about sports. But what I found was that when I would come across stories with a "titillating" title, the desire to read the story would be much stronger. I knew, in my heart, that I was not interested in these stories to be informed. Rather, material in these stories can provide fodder to begin the cycle of lust for me. Even very popular, and seemingly innocent, websites (for example, one where people can pin pictures) can prove titillating and so I find it best not to look at them at all.

For now, God uses these experiences to draw me to Him. When I sense these seeds being planted, I turn to Him and pray for whomever was the subject of the story. We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

I guess in some ways, sexual addiction remains a struggle for me. Not that I look, but that I know the temptation and how it affects me. I know that if I were to walk into an adult bookstore, it would be like playing with matches in a gunpowder factory. The result wouldn't be good. But God goes with me in the struggle and now helps me to see His Spirit at work much earlier.

Ephesians 5:3-4 reads, "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving." 

Be careful little eyes what you see.  Become aware of your triggers. Seek God and thank Him for His grace.

15 October 2013

Daily Morsels-October 15, 2013

Get Reading--HuffPo lists 7 unconventional reasons to read.  Basically, it is helpful from a cognitive, emotional, social, and psychological perspectives.  Get on it.   (HT: Z)

I Hate Porn--Excellent essay by Eric Simmons over at Desiring God about why he hates porn. He provides several reasons, but I think one of the best is that "I hate porn because it exploits women made in the image of God into an image made for a man’s lust." Too right.

The Devil Doesn't Have All the Good Music--A few decades, Christian singer Larry Norman wrote a song called "Why should the devil have all the good music."  Here's the thing--he doesn't. most of the greatest music in history was written to the glory of God. Handel and Bach to mention a few.  I saw this song on 22 Words the other day and I couldn't read what the title was so I looked it up. I wasn't surprised that it is a hymn which means, "Hear, Heavenly Creator."

12 October 2013

Review: He Has Spoken

Earlier this year, I completed the Centurions Program through the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. During the year long training program, I was immersed in the study of worldview with a great class of people and under the direction of godly faculty. As a part of that program, I spent several weeks teaching one of the video curricula available through the Colson Center, specifically the one called Wide Angle and I closely reviewed two others. 

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of their latest study curriculum, He Has Spoken: The Worldview of Scripture (2013). According to the cover from the DVD, John Stonestreet and TM Moore seek to answer the questions, "What regard is there for God's Word today? Do we rightly handle the Holy Scriptures? How ought we to respond to its authority?"

The materials consist of a 98 minute DVD and an associated study guide. If recollection serves me, the other Colson Center materials I have used are centered around the DVD with an associated discussion guide. I assumed this set would be the same way with the DVD being the primary driver.  I soon discovered, however, that in the case of He Has Spoken, the DVD supports the study guide rather than vice versa. Once I realized this switch, I appreciated how well it was done. There are three basic sections.

Five Clips of John Stonestreet

On the DVD, although there are ten video clips, the first five videos include John Stonestreet addressing the following issues:
  1. The Idea of Revelation: Clarifying the Proper Place of Scripture
  2. Being Biblical: How We Miss the Point of Scripture
  3. The Big Picture: Grasping the Purposes of Scripture
  4. Not Ashamed: Trusting the Power of the Scripture
  5. Under the Word: Assuming a Posture Worthy of the Scripture.
These five videos are meant to be shown at the outset of the study for the week. If you are familiar with the Two Minute Warning videos, these clips follow that format. In each short video, Stonestreet in his lively style presents these relevant issues. They could best be considered an appetizer--although full of good stuff about God's word in and of themselves, they only begin to whet the appetite.

Stonestreet seeks to establish that the Bible is God's revealed word to His people through both the Old and New Testaments. He makes the point that as God's revealed word, it cannot be incidental to our lives and cannot be simply a book. He commented "It has to be the ground on which we stand."

I really appreciated how Stonestreet talked about what the Bible is not, because there is a lot of confusion about this not only outside of the church, but inside as well. He suggests that we cannot see the Bible simply as a book of fragmented nuggets, love letters, or a series of stories about heroes, but rather as one story that centers on Jesus. Consistent with the mission of the Colson Center, Scripture is not only true Truth, as Francis Schaeffer would say, but should shape our entire lives as Kingdom people. Consequently, we approach the scripture with humility, obedience, expectation, repentance, and in community.

Study Guide-TM Moore

The second part consists of a study guide prepared by theologian and Dean of the Centurion program, TM Moore. Having completed the Centurion Program, I know the quality of study materials that he writes. This study guide is no exception. It contains 35 separate lessons divided into five parts of seven lessons each.  The five parts are:
  1. The Word Which is Able to Save
  2. Let God Be True
  3. Threads in the Tapestry of Truth
  4. The Sword of the Spirit
  5. Receiving God's Word
Initially as I began interacting with the materials, it wasn't immediately clear to me how the video clips fit with the study guide materials. The different titles for the videos and the lessons was somewhat confusing, but I was able to figure it out. Moore spends the initial section establishing the uniqueness of Scripture from all other books. Having established the importance of the Bible, Moore moves on in the second section to show how Scripture is not merely a moral guideline or series of life verses but the grand story of all of human history. In this second section, the model of worldview thinking that has been regularly promoted and discussed by the Colson Center (creation, fall, redemption, consummation) begins to take shape and is more fully developed through the remaining sections. After discussing in more depth the grand narrative of Scripture in section three, Moore develops the practical points of how the "Sword of the Spirit" is used in our lives. Christians are a "proclaiming people" who have the good news of the Gospel. Though we will face challenges, God's word is powerful and active. Although the whole study guide is applicable to the Christian life, the final section zeroes in on how to receive the Word. Moore discusses, among other things, how to read, meditate, study, and discuss the Word of God.

Five Conversations--TM Moore and John Stonestreet

Finally, the conversations between Moore and Stonestreet were a real highlight for me. I have a deep respect for both of these men and to watch them interact about the materials was a blessing. I have had the chance to talk with them on a personal level and they are effective, clear communicators of the Word and Christian worldview. Essentially, in these conversations, Stonestreet would ask Moore about the materials and they would talk over them. In many regards, these conversations were also immensely practical to the Christian. They discuss issues such as how to choose a Bible without an obvious nod to one translation versus another. They suggest that you choose one you will read. After choosing a Bible, we must come to know what it says because Christians are involved in a war and this Word is our primary weapon. If we come to know the Word, we can start where people are and, using reason and the Word, we can share with them the love of God. However, they make the point that we must approach Scripture humbly, prayerfully, and with an eye to the grand story that it presents, being careful not to over-"metaphoricalize", a word I learned from Mr Stonestreet in the final conversation.

In summary, this is an excellent resource for the church. It could certainly be employed as an individual Bible study, but I believe it may be used even more effectively as a small group resource because, as we learned in this video, Scripture is meant to be studied communally. In my own church, we have made a concerted effort to help people get into the Word on a consistent basis. He Has Spoken would be of great use for Christians to deepen their own understanding of Scripture and understand its importance in their lives and in the culture. Ideally, many churches would avail themselves of this excellent set of materials which may help the Christian church reclaim their biblical literacy and subsequently improve their capacity to have an influence upon culture to the glory of God.

The Colson Center has allowed me to give away one copy of this DVD and study guide. If you are interested in being considered you can: 1) comment on this post, though I will need your email, 2) share this post on your Facebook page or Twitter (and let me know you did), or 3) retweet this post. I am sure these materials will be a blessing to you. I will do the drawing next Saturday, October 19th.

11 October 2013

Daily Morsels-October 11, 2013

The Romans Invented Jesus?--I wouldn't even post something like this normally, but I was asked about it yesterday and then this came through my newsfeed today. Every year, some new controversy about Jesus pops up (interestingly right before Christmas) that is quickly disproven by reputable scholars. Unfortunately, these folks get good airtime because the History Channel and Newsweek love to write about apparent controversy if it has to do with Jesus.

Tim Kimberly writes, "All-in-all I consider Joseph Atwill (the developer of this new theory) to fall into the 'What If?' camp. This is a camp of people who believe one 'What If?' statement without any concrete historically reliable evidence can carry the same weight of tons of historically reliable orthodox evidence. It would be like me saying the entire existence of the world is actually a dream I am currently having. JFK never lived. JFK only lived as a subpart of my dream where I conceived of a president of a country that was assassinated."

Tullian was on Morning Joe this morning--Tullian was on TV this morning talking about his book Inexhaustible Grace. It was a good interview though I really wanted to see more about how the grace comes only through the person of Jesus.

Sanctification and Anxiety--I listen to a lot of sermons. Some good, some not as good.  This one from pastor Matt Chandler this week was really stellar. It deals with anxiety and the belief or fear that God is not good.

Sanctification: Examining Fear and Anxiety from The Village Church on Vimeo.

10 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad.

The Darwinist's Dilemma--Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about the science's predilection for supressing or ridiculing theories that conflict with the mainstream, which seems antithetical to science. Quite fortuitously, I came across a piece written by James Barham in 2011 that gets to this issue a bit. He writes, "The absurdity of a state-enforced scientific doctrine is a scandal that scientists ought to be the first to protest. We are talking about science, for goodness’ sake—that most corrigible of all fallible human endeavors! Scientific ideas change—and generally improve—over time. On the Origin of Species was not inscribed on stone tablets and Charles Darwin was not Moses. And yet, when Kitzmiller quashed all discussion of the many problems with natural selection in the public schools, presumably for all time to come, the professional Darwin lobby congratulated itself on a great victory."

Five Characteristics of Legalism--Michael Patton expands on these 5 characteristics
  •  Excels only in the visible aspects of righteousness.
  • Focuses on the easier commands of God.
  • Follows by the letter of the law.
  • Neglects the more important morals.
  • Have a distorted view of others due to their legalism.
Pornography changes the brain--I have been writing a lot about porn recently. It is a huge problem. This article from yesterday at the Desiring God blog explores the neurologic substrates. Citing an article from Morgan Bennett: "Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent — if not more so — than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin."

Pornography is physiologically and emotionally addictive, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be overcome.

I would encourage you to read the whole thing.

Here is a 7 minute highlight clip from the AACC world conference. This may have been the best one I have attended so far.

09 October 2013

Daily Morsels-October 9, 2013

Judging bad mommies--This mom of a child with brain cancer wrote a message we all need to hear.  I certainly do. "I only ever said something once. I apologized and explained to the lady that my son had brain cancer and could sometimes be loud and disruptive. I told her I hoped he had not bothered her too much. (she was glaring at him and he was noticing) She cried. So, I decided to not do that again. For the love of Cheetos, people don’t be so judgy….really….your stare or off-hand comment will not shame me into being a better parent."  Read the rest here

Fighting the good fight--From what I have read, Rosaria Butterfield is a pretty remarkable woman. She is a former lesbian feminist scholar who Jesus grabbed hold of. She told her tale in what I hear is a rather remarkable book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. She now speaks around the country and routinely faces ridicule and contempt. This story discusses a recent talk she gave at the University of South Florida. Pray for her.

Scientism and global warming--Eric Metaxas shared an important story on Breakpoint today reflecting on the the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In reacting to how this group is digging their heels in, Metaxas wrote "The panel’s critics, of whom there are many, wasted no time in pointing out the report’s shortcomings. Richard Lindzen of MIT said that 'the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to a level of hilarious incoherence.' He added that 'they are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase.'”

Challies on the Porn Free Family--Tim Challies described 4 goals that he has for his growing family as they live in a culture where pornography is all too easily accessed.
  1. I want to guard my children from seeing or experiencing what they don’t know exists. 
  2. I want to prevent them from seeing or experiencing what they may desire once they learn that it exists.
  3. I want my devices to remain useable.
  4. I want to train my children to use the Internet and their devices responsibly.  

08 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 8, 2013

Nutritional Supplements for Mental Disorders-I am not one to recommend nutritional supplements for emotional issues or mental disorders. I think a lot of what shows up in the blogosphere regarding nutritional supplementation in general is a whole lot of hot air. I suspect the author of this article, Matthew Stanford, would agree with me. I am familiar with his work and was previously a respondent to a presentation he did on the biology of sin, though his book Grace for the Afflicted is my favorite of his writings. Given this, he recommends the possibility of three supplements: Phenibut, 5-HTP, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. *I should note this does not constitute medical advice and if you are experiencing emotional or psychological issues, you should speak with your doctor. 

NFL concussions--here we go again--My friend Zach posted this link on his blog. Here was the comment that I left.

I find that I say this a lot. How the media is portraying this is well ahead of the field of neuroscience. The media has found a great story in the "poor head injured NFL players", even while discounting the fact that there is pretty stark disagreement between scientists who study this phenomenon. Just this summer, there was a very significant debate between Robert Stern (who is the media's darling regarding his work on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and Chris Randolph. Each of these men are well-respected neuroscientists who work in the field of concussion. What I have observed in following this theme is that the CTE promoters are making pretty big leaps in his interpretations based on just a few people. Furthermore, the people they are basing their findings on have had many more issues (drug use, chronic pain, depression, etc.) that may or may not be attributable to having had concussions. Frankly the jury is still out by a long way.

I am more concerned about how this will affect future generations. I am not saying we should not be appropriately cautious with concussion management, but I fear the pendulum has swung too far. Parents would rather have their kids sitting on the couch playing Madden 2014 and eating Cheetos than playing a sport where injuries are a potential risk.  The legalities and financial concerns (e.g., prohibitive liability insurance) for schools are often unmentioned as well. 

I really wish the media would do a better job of providing balanced perspectives on these issues, but all one must do is watch the news and realize that balance is clearly out of favor.

07 October 2013

Daily Morsels--October 7, 2013

Jonathan Merritt interviews Tullian Tchvidjian--"The fact is, the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace, but by driving it home."

Scalia and the Devil--Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia believes in the devil, like most Americans. Read an interesting interview here.

Divorcing for the Sake of the Children?--Steve Cornell address a common myth.  He writes, "Divorce is not an easy solution for a troubled marriage, but it’s far worse for the one million children each year in the US who share the experience of their parents’ divorce.

"In 'The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce' Judith Wallerstein presents sobering evidence of the long-term negative effects of divorce on children. Those questioning whether they should keep their marriage vows for the sake of the children should read this book."

Bluegrass + Thriller = For The Win

The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home.  - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/#sthash.XEelmQGE.dpuf
The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home.  - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/#sthash.XEelmQGE.dpuf
The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home.  - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/#sthash.XEelmQGE.dpuf
The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home.  - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/#sthash.XEelmQGE.dpuf
The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home.  - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/10/02/tullian-tchividjian/#sthash.XEelmQGE.dpuf

02 October 2013

A Most Wicked Addiction

Our image of addicts is often of those who are gaunt and pale, bearing a vacant expression. Sunken eyes, missing teeth, unkempt hair. They seem dodgy and untrustworthy. We just know that they will do whatever it takes to get their next fix--betray their families, steal from their neighbors, lie to their employers.  If their drug of choice is a "harder" drug, we know that they probably began with a gateway drug sometime in the past.  Smoking leads to alcohol leads to Marijuana leads to ecstasy leads to cocaine leads to heroin.  School children hear this message beginning in Kindergarten. Movies and television programs may provide narrative flesh to the skeletal facts.  Having said that, about 7% of Americans use marijuana. Less than 1% of Americans are regular users of methamphetamine, cocaine, hallucinogens, or heroin. 

In contrast, 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women say they are addicted to pornography. 64% of college men and 18% of college women say they spend time online for Internet sex every week. Nine out ten boys have been exposed to online porn by age 18.  Six out of ten girls. 

The highest rate of illicit drug use is seven percent, which is for marijuana
.  In contrast, pornography affects nearly everyone to some degree and it enslaves about half of Christian men and one in five Christian women. This is an epidemic the likes of which we have never seen.

No one would be surprised that drugs affect the brain. Indeed, a primary purpose of drugs is that they affect our brain chemistry and subsequently the way we think and feel. What might be more surprising is that pornography is an equally efficient engine for altering brain chemistry. The work of neuroscientist Dr William Struthers demonstrates that, as he puts it, "pornography hijacks the brain." He documents the euphoric similarities between sexual release and the use of cocaine or heroin. Pornography, with its never ending novelty and easy accessibility, provides the ultimate vehicle for rewiring the brain's reward center. Pornography is then desired more frequently while "normal" sexuality provides diminishing returns in terms of the neurochemical reward.

The effects upon families are legion. Pornography use is a frequent contributor to marital infidelity, family breakdown, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the spouse of the sex addict.  Work productivity may diminish and people even lose jobs because of pornography usage. Much like drug use, it can have broad-ranging effects. 

Unfortunately, the issue is even more egregious. In the abuse of drugs, the vehicle for intoxication is a substance--a plant, a plant derivative, or a manufactured chemical. With pornography, the intoxicating agent is a person--a divine image bearer. Sex addicts are willing to abuse real living people--even if they are not directly present--to get their next high. What's worse is that because of the constant drive for novelty, images of many different men and women are required to achieve the same "high".  Furthermore, pornography also has gateway drugs. Rated R movies give way to soft-core pornography, which in turn gives way to hard-core pornography featuring all manner of deviance. For some, even this isn't enough.  Too many stories exist about men and women engaging in illicit sexual encounters, adultery, prostitution, and even child pornography and child sexual abuse. 

The majority of pornographic actors abuse illicit drugs, have sexually transmitted diseases, and deep emotional wounds. Consumers and performers alike become like the Nazgul, or perhaps Gollum, in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, shells of their former selves rather than fully functioning, authentic image bearers. 

The spread of pornography is one of the most significant societal concerns facing us today. Pornography affects all aspects of a person's life and the physiological and emotional addiction is often harder to break than some illicit drugs. In addition, children at their most impressionable from a developmental perspective and their greatest risk from a neurological perspective are prime targets to become addicted. And yet pornography marches on undeterred flowing into homes and smart phones at an alarming rate. Even so, schools celebrate the sexual awakening of our children and churches too often ignore it.

Neither celebration nor ignorance will be of any benefit in turning the tide of this moral crisis. Parents, schools, and churches must step up and address this issue with a multipronged attack. We must speak with our children about healthy sexuality and the dangers of pornography. We must be aware of what images are coming into our homes, careful not to give an implicit nod to things portrayed on screen that we would be uncomfortable viewing if it were happening in our living rooms. We must address these concerns on a societal level. Churches must speak out, but also must love those caught as either consumers or producers. We must also address this issue societally, speaking to the media and to our representatives. We must shed light on this issue that is too often left in the dark. 

Struthers, W.M. (2009). Wired for intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain. 
Pornography stats gathered from: Covenant Eyes
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