What! Pluck Out Your Eye?

big eyes, tarsier

Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Did Jesus really mean for us to gouge out our eye? Marco Polo writes of one who did just that. The man was a shoemaker and struggled with thoughts of lust after seeing a young woman’s ankle (he goes on to tell a story of the man praying for a mountain to move, but that’s a story for another time). I’ve read of another man who plucked out his eye, only to be dismayed that he could still lust.

Jesus is making the point that your eternal salvation is extremely valuable. He is telling us to do whatever it takes to secure your future. Jesus is radical sometimes and if we need to get radical to follow him, so bit it. Sometimes we need to get radical to fight our sin. This often is the case with porn. If we need to download a program to block it such as Content Protect, then we do it. If we need to set up an accountability partner to check our web browsing, like X3 by XXXchurch, then we do it. If we need to rid ourselves of the internet and smartphone completely, then we do it. They are not worth our soul.

God has brought me victory through other avenues. I’ve mentioned them in my advise to ones caught in Ashley Madison. I’ll be posting more about them soon. But I urge you, now, Get desperate to rid yourself of lust or anything else coming between you and your God. Pray for his direction. Pray to experience him through the temptations. And commit to do whatever he tells you to do.

Loneliness

maroon-bells

Most of the years growing up, my family vacationed in Colorado. We always joined other members of Mom’s family. We all loved the mountains. They were so beautiful! The Maroon Bells, shown here were one of the places we visited. Cragged rocks clad in white reached almost to the heavens. Crystal clear streams cascading down in waterfalls, eventually settling in the purest lakes. The change from the near flat world of west Texas was so dramatic. The plants, trees, and flowers were also completely different from what we were used to. We would camp out, hike and fish. I started collecting rocks at the age of six, a hobby I would keep into manhood. It was so wonderful being able to pick up beautiful crystals.

We moved to Colorado Springs when I was 13. But we didn’t live very close to my cousins or my new friends at church. I felt very lonely a lot of the time, missing Abilene and Danny, my best friend. Some things I did with my brother, but mostly I spent hours finding things to entertain myself with: Shooting BBs and a bow and arrows, hitting a tether ball back and forth on a pole, throwing darts and knives. I got pretty good with one knife, eventually using and almost always hitting the 2” side of a 2 x 4 for a target (which is actually 1 3/4″). I missed Danny, my best friend terribly. Somewhere in there, I remembered the pictures of a naked woman we had found and began to “dumpster dive”. I wasn’t just looking for more pictures. I also found other interesting trash: old transistor radios, pieces of metal and wood for building something, anything cool. At fifteen I hit pay dirt and found a couple of Playboy magazines. It took only a minute to be hooked on professional pornography, keeping them this time as “my own little secret”.

It has been helpful for me to do a bit analyzing about the associations of feeling with temptations that tend to bring them on.

I think often our emotions are mixed in with our fleshly desires, giving them more power and importance. These desires intensify the emotions we appreciate, while lessoning the effect of negative ones.  I found it was really an illusion in this case. Have you had times where you’ve experienced this?

Trapped!

A special evening from my tenth year still remains clear in my memory. It was one of the nights of a “gospel meeting” at Highland Church of Christ, my home church. I responded to the invitation, was baptized and gave my life to Jesus. This was to influence me the rest of my life. Bear-Trap-Accessories-strangeline.net

Some time later that year, another event occurred which would affect the rest of my life as well. My best friend Danny and I were exploring the alley, as we often did. We walked past a trash can and noticed some Polaroid pictures had fallen out when it was emptied. They were of a half naked woman. It was our first time to see a woman’s breasts. Even at ten, we instinctively knew this was not something we should take home to show our moms. So we stashed them away. They were our little secret. It felt like a kind of passage into being more grown up, a new freedom. But it was actually a kind of slavery – a trap that would ensnare me for the next thirty- eight years.

I’m sure Eve felt like that. That she was gaining a new freedom as she picked the fruit of good and evil. She was excited enough to share it with Adam. But actually it meant slavery and death for them and all their unborn children.

What I received that day in the alley was a duality of heart. I wanted to serve the Lord, to follow him. But I also wanted to think about and have the objects of my desire.

It might not be lust that ensnares you. It might be anger, gossip or pride. It might be anxiety, greed or foul language. It might be over-eating, lying or a lack of forgiveness. What has you trapped?

Message To Those Caught In Ashley Madison from a former adulterer

AshleyI’m sure so many in churches today were reeling from shock in the aftermath of scandal and your involvement in it. You may have resigned as Pastor, minister, and other church leader or are expected to after the list came out and someone realized you were on it. Or you may be waiting for that hammer to drop. Undoubtedly some of you are too embarrassed to attend and vowed never to return.  If you haven’t read my previous post on the appropriate reaction for the church, please do so.

You may feel the trouble at home even more keenly than at church. It may seem completely hopeless to repair.

I want to convey to you that even though things are very hard right now, there is hope. A great light shines at the end of this tunnel. With those who love God, we are promised he will make good out of all things (Rom 8:28) – even our greatest sins. I know he has mine. And now that some light has been shed in the darkness, there is a much better atmosphere for real change.

Believe me, I know it’s hard. I struggled with an addiction to Playboys for more than thirty years. Though I admit, there was much more giving in than struggle. It was my dirty little secret. I was looking at those magazines even at ACU, where I majored in Bible and minored in N.T. Greek and continued both in graduate school. At 19, I got married, sure that this struggle would end, yet it continued. It continued in full time ministry. Oh, I felt terribly conflicted and wearied of the constant cycles of indulgence, confession and repentance – only to feel helpless to start the cycle all over again in a few weeks or months. I got out of full time ministry but continued being very involved with churches…and the cycles continued. It was like the most extreme roller coaster, one I could never get off of.

I eventually found myself in a place I never dreamed I would be – having had an affair, filed for divorce, and remarried. Pornography didn’t cause this destruction alone, but it certainly contributed. With the new marriage, at first pornography was out of sight, out of mind. But with short separations, I found myself getting back in the Playboys, again!

This time as I threw the magazines out, I got truly desperate. In tears, I literally begged God for help. There was little point in my trying without something miraculous. Read the association of desperation in Luke 11 with asking, seeking, and knocking. I don’t believe the Lord was being petty, withholding real victory ‘till I begged hard enough. He merely was waiting for me to be in a place of full cooperation, ready to receive his amazing gift of victory. Perhaps you are there now.

Plus, I vowed to do anything God wanted me to, whatever it takes. Because of this He shone more light on my secret life. I spoke out publically at men’s retreats and Bible studies and privately with two men who shared my struggle, getting real. We met weekly for a spiritual review. God called me to get honest and admit my sin, the extent its hold had on me and the damage it had done in my life. I urged men (and myself) to get serious with God about sin. I prayed for them and with them and received support, encouragement and prayers in return.

I became thirsty for God though his word. I wasn’t in college anymore but I was studying many hours – almost exclusively, for half a year – on sin, the enemy, the world and especially on victory and the armor of God. Incrementally, a good amount of victory came after the desperation. I wasn’t buying the magazine anymore or even picking them in the store and rarely messed up on the computer. And yet it was not enough, Kent.

So, Caught, it’s the perfect time to get started in your recovery. 1. Begin by confessing to God – admit it all. Ask for forgiveness and his help. Tell God you will do what you need to do. 2. Pick someone you trust and share about it. 3. Get rid of any inappropriate relationship(s) and porn, start with committing to it for today.

How Should We React To Ashley Madison?

Ashley

How Should We React To Ashley Madison?

August 29, 2015 I just read “My Pastor Is On The Ashley Madison List”, Ed Stetzers most recent response in Christianity Today to news that has the Christian world reeling. According to the article, likely hundreds of Pastors and Ministers will be resigning this week after being outed on the list of customers for a spousal cheating website. Ed does not mention other church leaders or members but the numbers are likely to be staggering. I suspect very large numbers of churches will be reeling from the scandal tomorrow. I would like to address the church first and then the ones involved. These posts will be longer than most, so I pray you will hang with me.

First of all, church, realize this is not just a failure of a bunch of individuals. It is a failure of us all. Have we really done everything we can to “see to it that no one is sexually immoral” (Heb. 12:15-16)? The wording here is in the strongest form of command, to all of the readers, It is the duty of every Christian. Admit we have failed our brothers and sisters caught here in sin.

Secondly, realize we are all guilty. Maybe not of adultery, but of gossip, lust, wrath, lying, complaint, pride or one (likely more) of a host of other sins. Remember Jesus’ words “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” But also remember his last words to the adulterer after telling her he did not condemn her, “Go and sin no more”. It is our responsibility to help them to find victory over their sin. Take note of Gal. 6:1,2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill tthe law of Christ.” Restoration is bringing them to a good state before God and the local body of Christ and it is our burden.

Next, build in some accountability for them. I met with an elder weekly after my affair and greatly appreciated his help and encouragement. If pornography is involved (highly likely) offer to have someone knowledgeable enough go through their computer and printed material with them and get rid of it. Suggest they Install covenant eyes or similar program on their computer and make their spouse and someone spiritual as accountability partners. Also work out the circumstances they are allowed back in the pulpit. But with how you go about these, keep in mind this: “Will I really want to pray the Lord’s prayer with it’s “forgive me as I forgive others” after this?

Lastly, realize, undoubtedly the enemy of our souls has been at work here. The world will point and say “See, I knew those Christians were a bunch of hypocrites.” But they may take notice if our response is filled with love, understanding and real help. Use the last component of the armor of God in Ephesians 6, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” This must be one of the greater times for this need. Kent