If I Were the Devil

Men, the words of this commentary could have been written last week, in hindsight, but it wasn’t. This Paul Harvey commentary was broadcast on March 16, 1993 (revised from his original commentary in 1964):

If I were the prince of darkness I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness, and I’d have a third of its real estate and four fifths of its population. But I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree: thee.

So I’d set about however necessary, to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, “Do as you please.” To the young I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God, instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is square. And the old I would teach to pray after me, “our father which art in Washington…”

And then I’d get organized: I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies, and visa versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families at war with themselves; churches at war with themselves; and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellect, but neglect to discipline emotions; just let those run wild, until before you knew it you’d have to have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing; I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls—and church money.

If I were the devil I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.

If I were the devil I’d take from those who have, and give to those who want it, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich.

I would caution against extremes, and hard work, and patriotism, and moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old fashioned—that swinging is more fun. That what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil I would just keep on doing what he is doing.

Paul Harvey, March 16, 1993

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Why Teens Leave the Church

There is a new Barna study on teens leaving the church (click here for the full study).

There is an accompanying book worth looking into, much like the book unChristian a couple years ago. The findings of this research are included in a new book titled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.

Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.

Reason #1 – Churches Seem Overprotective.
One of the defining characteristics of teens and young adults today is their unprecedented access to ideas, worldviews and their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in.

  1. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse.
  2. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church.”
  3. Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%)
  4. And “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).

Reason #2 – Their Experience of Christianity is Shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church.

  1. One-third said “church is boring.”
  2. One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough.”
  3. Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church.”

Reason #3 – Churches Come Across as Antagonistic to Science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science.

  1. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%).
  2. Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%).
  3. Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%).
  4. And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.”
  5. Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.

Reason #4 – Church Experiences Related to Sexuality are Often Simplistic and Judgmental.
With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties.

  1. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality.
  2. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”
  3. The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”

Reason #5 – They Wrestle with the Exclusive Nature of Christianity.
Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences.

  1. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.”
  2. One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).

Reason #6 – The Church Feels Unfriendly to Those Who Doubt.
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial.

  1. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%).
  2. In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).

Turning Toward Connection
David Kinnaman, who is the coauthor of the book unChristian, explained that “the problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.

“Consequently, churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal.’ Instead, church leaders are most comfortable working with young, married adults, especially those with children. However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.”

The research points to two opposite, but equally dangerous responses by faith leaders and parents:

  1. Either catering to or minimizing the concerns of the next generation. The study suggests some leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and twentysomethings because they feel that the disconnection will end when young adults are older and have their own children. Yet, this response misses the dramatic technological, social and spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 25 years and ignores the significant present-day challenges these young adults are facing.
  2. Other churches seem to be taking the opposite corrective action by using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults. However, putting the focus squarely on youth and young adults causes the church to exclude older believers and “builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” Kinnaman said.

Between these extremes, the book You Lost Me points to ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Kinnaman observed that many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”

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Why So Many Moral Failures?

John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now NY congressman Anthony Weiner is the latest public figure in the news who has fallen due to a moral failure. I don’t know his spiritual situation and would never judge someone else with a superior attitude, but we all ask the question, “What was he thinking?” Did he really think he could behave like this and not be caught, embarrassed or even blackmailed? Since there is no one who is righteous, no not one, we MUST set up a system around us that helps protect us from moral failure.

The old phrase goes, “There, but by the grace of God, go I.” I’m not sure if this line is humbling by saying that we all can fall just like this guy, so don’t think you’re above the temptation, or arrogant, indicating an attitude similar to the Pharisee and the tax collector in (Luke 18:11). It’s hard to check our motivation sometimes.

So, why do these public leaders fall to such stupid decisions?

They Have No Personal Boundaries
Call me legalistic, but I am a freak about personal boundaries, like:

  1. I don’t ride in a car alone with a woman other than with my wife or daughter. I used to share a ride, and it always felt uneasy for me. And never forget, just an accusation can ruin your ministry or reputation.
  2. I will not counsel a woman alone, my office door is open, or I go to the Welcome Center, or the Library with all that glass around us.
  3. I will not share a meal in a restaurant with a woman, just the two of us, under any circumstances, (and don’t justify that lunch by calling it “business”).
  4. I don’t use a computer late at night, or in a non-public place. Men, it just makes sense. Our family computer is in the living room. If your wife or daughter could walk in at any time, makes your commitment to purity much stronger.
  5. I don’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter that I woundn’t want my wife or pastor to see; wait a minute, they CAN read it, along with all the people on my friends list. And don’t think it ends there. Re-postings can keep negative stuff online forever, for my congregation and even future employers to see.

Those are just a few of the examples, but the bottom line is this, you can’t commit adultery with a woman if you are not alone with her. Too many men have sold their marriage, reputation or ministry down the river just to have an orgasm. It’s not worth it men. We’ve got to make tough decisions now and be willing to experience some “inconveniences” for the sake of our family, marriage and the kingdom.

They Think They Can Handle the Temptation
One of the Bible verses that has always sticks out for me on the issue of temptation is 1 Corinthians 10:12. Paul warns us to always be careful because the minute that we think we have a particular sin mastered, we are in danger of that very sin actually becoming our master.

I once read about Gordon MacDonald, pastor and author of Ordering Your Private World. Billy Graham said of one of his books: “It struck me right between the eyes with conviction and I wish that I had read it many years ago.” Another prominent Christian leader described him as “one of the most Godly men I have ever met.” He was the pastor of the largest church in New England and taught at the local seminary.

He became the president of the Intervarsity evangelistic organization, one of the biggest in America. Then it came out around 1987. A sin from a few years previously was exposed, and MacDonald was forced to resign. The sin was adultery. His wife was so shocked she has never trusted him since, and it’s been over ten years.

He was forced to step down as president of Intervarsity. It made most pastors aware of our own spiritual frailty. If this man, with all his much vaunted spiritual discipline, could fall so hard, then no-one was immune from danger, ever. He would never live it down.

Later he said, “The most costly sins I have committed came at a time when I briefly suspended my reverence for God. In such a moment I quietly (and insanely) concluded that God didn’t care and most likely wouldn’t intervene were I to risk the violation of one of His commandments.” Years later, he authored a sequel called, “Rebuilding Your Broken World,” which is confessional and a book of hope for others who have fallen.

They Stop Pursuing Jesus
If these public figures are professing believers, they begin to pursue other things. It is a fact that no one can pursue Jesus and sin at the same time. If someone is trying to get in the pants of a woman who is not his wife, then he cannot claim that his eyes are on Jesus.

This is why the Word of God is essential for anyone who wants to keep a pure heart. Men, we are called to pursue Jesus, and doing so will always lead us away from sin, not towards it.

They Allow Stress to Bring Weakness
When a man experiences a time of intense stress and anxiety he is way more vulnerable to be lured into sin. We’ve got to take the fourth commandment seriously (the one about rest). We’ve got to take care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically, and if we neglect these things, we become an easy target of the enemy.

They Believe They Have the Power to Get Away With it.
It is amazing the arrogance of so many men in power, that they can do something so devastating and sincerely believe that there will be no consequences. Adultery is a big deal, why throw your life away on something so preventable?

They Have No Accountability.
This topic is going to be a kick I will be on for the next few months; just so you will understand and realize where I’m coming from. When there is no accountability, we begin to live secret lives: hiding from our wives, kids, friends and other men. Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). We need each other. How can we move toward more accountable relationships to keep us on track, out of trouble, and living in integrity? Who do you know that needs an intervention or rescue? Do you need help? This can change everything we know about the church.

Men, I want us to make it, so keep your eyes on Jesus. If anyone is struggling in this area and feel like you are about to sin, get help, call me, let’s talk (at least talk to someone).

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Destructive Consequences of Porn

Here is a post from Craig Gross, the founder and president of xxxChurch, which is too good to not pass on. He attributes this information to Jay Dennis:

26 Destructive Consequences Porn Viewing Has on a Man:

The following destructive consequences are the result of a Christian man viewing pornography. The A to Z format covers the wide range of negative results that porn has on a man who is a follower of Jesus.

Alienates You from God. You no longer feel close to God. You don’t experience the power of God. You no longer have the joy of your salvation.

Blinds You to the Consequences. It temporarily turns off your walk with God, your relationships with your wife, your children, and others. It blinds you to what is going to happen to you spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, vocationally, and relationally.

Creates Unrealistic Expectations. Men begin to think this is what every woman should look like and that this is what your relationships with your wife is to be like.

Distorts Your View of Sex. It makes you believe that sex is solely for the pleasure of a man and that women are simply objects to be used rather than God’s creations to be honored and respected.

Enough is Never Enough. Pornography has an escalating effect. Like a drug you need more and more to satisfy the lust. It takes you further down a destructive path and further away from peace, joy, and healthy relationships.

Freedom Over What You Think and Do is Lost. You become enslaved to your sinful thoughts which lead to sinful actions.

Guilt Comes Upon You After You Look at Porn, but the guilt is not enough to prevent you from doing it the next time.

Healthy Sexuality is Numbed Through Porn. Healthy sex is married sex only that includes regular sex, unselfish sex, and loving sex.

Isolates You, and makes you feel you are all alone and are the only one who struggles with porn and lust.

Jeopardizes Your Relationship With Your Wife or Future Wife (if you are single), your witness for Jesus Christ, and everything in your life that is important to you. You put it all on the line for pornography.

Keeps You In a Cycle Of Self Destructive Behavior. It may appear to medicate the pain in your life, but it only adds to the pain with more pain. Porn leads you to do things you never thought you would do. Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. And it will cost you more than you want to pay (Unknown Author).

Lust—Sexual Sinful Lust—Leads to Sexual Sinful Actions. Porn put in your mind is like putting fuel on the fire of wrong sexual desire resulting in destructive thoughts and actions.

Masks The Real Wound, that you are seeking to heal and makes things worse.

Never a Neutral Experience. You cannot look at porn and not be affected by it. That experience is always inconsistent with God’s Word.

Objectifies Women. It makes them a sexual object. Porn hijacks a man’s ability to see an older woman as a mother figure, a same-aged woman as a sister figure, and a younger woman as a daughter figure.

Porn Initially Brings a Very Short-Lived Pleasure, followed by pain and more pain.

Quitting Becomes the Struggle of a Lifetime. Once you allow porn in, there is a raging battle with Satan and your old nature to keep looking. Once you have allowed porn into your life, there will always be a battle. It is a winnable battle, but a daily battle.

Remains Imbedded in Your Mind Forever. Satan uses that image to replay in your mind to create a cycle of sinful lust again and to drive you back to looking at porn. You become bound to an image and a not a person.

Shame Enters Your Life. Guilt is feeling badly for something you have done, shame, however, is based on feeling badly about who you are. Pornography brings shame. God never brings shame. Satan always brings shame.

Trust Is Broken With, the people you love and respect the most.

Unlocks the Door to Every Sexual Sin. Porn is a portal, a gateway that leads to nothing good and everything painful such as compulsive masturbation, affairs, dangerous sexual practices, visiting adult-oriented businesses, paying for sex, perverted sexual practices and sexual abuse.

Violates Women. How? You are putting your stamp of approval on an industry that degrades and dehumanizes women.

Wandering Eyes Toward Other Women are Invited .

Xtinguishes Truth. Pornography promotes lying. You lie to others, you lie to God, and you lie to yourself. You lie more to cover up past lies. You become a living lie.

Yokes You to an Image. You become bound and attached to the image instead of your wife or future wife if you are single.

Zips Your Lips to Praising God, speaking about your faith, and telling others how they can experience God.

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National Porn Sunday

Statistics says that pornography use is rampant in America, and the American church is not exempt. It is sort of the elephant in the pew. Take a look at this:

  1. Men admitting to accessing pornography at work-20%
  2. U.S. adults who regularly visit Internet pornography websites-40 million
  3. Promise Keeper men who viewed pornography in last week-53%
  4. Christians who said pornography is a major problem in the home-47%
  5. Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction-10%
  6. Breakdown of male/female visitors to pornography sites is 72% male & 28% female
  7. Internet Pornography Sales-$4.9 billion
  8. Pornographic websites-4.2 million (12% of total websites)
  9. Pornographic pages-420 million
  10. Daily pornographic search engine requests-68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
  11. Daily pornographic e-mails-2.5 billion (8% of total emails)
  12. Internet users who view porn-42.7%
  13. 89% of porn is created in the U.S.
  14. $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. porn sites in 2006
  15. Over $3k a second is spent on porn worldwide.
  16. 72% of porn viewers are men.
  17. 260 new porn sites go online daily.

Source: www.XXXchurch.com

National Porn Sunday Super Bowl Sunday, February 6

I’ve been thinking about this event, King’s Grant has outreach Super Bowl parties scheduled, but what if the Men of Steel took this farther?

Over 300 churches throughout the country have taken part in Porn Sunday. This is the chance to bring hope to those who are struggling with pornography. For some it is ludicrous to link three X’s with church and for others it is long overdue. The one undeniable truth that can’t be ignored is the blatant push for all things sexual in our society. Porn Sunday seeks to drive the conversation about pornography into our churches, families and lives. This weekend service brings healing to those sitting in churches who are caught up in pornography.

F.A.Q’s

  1. Will this prepare my church to have accountable relationships? Yes.
  2. I don’t know if my church is ready for this yet. Take a risk. The freedom and healing for the people in pew is worth it.
  3. Can I use the kit just as a resource for my congregation? Yes.
  4. Doesn’t the title and approach trivialize a serious topic? It actually does the opposite. People will laugh a little but in the end they will walk away equipped to deal with a tough issue in their lives.
  5. Why is an elephant the mascot? Porn is the elephant in the pew. The thing everyone wants and needs to hear from the church on, but continually does not.
  6. Will the press show up at my church? Maybe. If you send out a press release (included) and promote the weekend well.
  7. Will some people in my church not understand why we are addressing this issue? Yes, but a few should not hold us back from helping the majority.
  8. Isn’t pornography a men’s only issue and be dealt with at a mens breakfast? Definitely not. There are women who struggle greatly with pornography and also there are women who need to hear a message of hope because their husbands are in way too deep.
  9. What age group is PornSunday appropriate for? Middle school and up appropriate. The average age a child sees pornography is age 11.

A Word from XXXchurch.com

The reality is that as men we all struggle. And for some it’s an overwhelming struggle with pornography. We know where to find porn and we know how to keep it hidden. In our culture the line has been blurred on what is porn. The magazines, TV and the Internet put it right in front of us every day of our lives.

It is time to make some decisions. What are we doing with all the junk that is coming at us? Consume it, get in way over our heads or are we going to live for things that are greater? There is a point in which we have to acknowledge that what we keep hidden from our wives, girlfriends, children and even closest friends we are not proud of. The question is simply will you live a life that is transparent?

At the core of consuming porn is selfishness. I will get my fix. No one will know. It is my secret. It is what I do in private. My dad did it. Everyone does it and I am going to as well.

Porn is a fantasy designed to do one thing, keep you completely to yourself. It is a lie. Porn tries to tell you what sex should feel like and look like. Porn will destroy the relationships around you. You will pull away from reality because of this dirty little secret. As you consume porn, it becomes your life and you will eventually lose control to addiction. Stop now. Be done with it all. Change today because there are much greater things than porn to give your time, money and energy to.

Next Steps:

1. Confess
Go before God with everything. Confess your struggles through prayer. He already knows it all anyway, right? You have to put all your junk out on the table and acknowledge that you can’t handle it anymore-you need God. You cannot handle it on your own.

2. Get Accountable
Find someone in your life that you trust and let him or her in on your struggles. Such as a close friend, pastor or family member. You are not alone. You are not supposed to deal and carry this on your own. God has placed people around you that will walk with you as you move toward freedom. As men we naturally want to keep it all to ourselves. It it is time to own up to those closest to you.

Download XXXchurch’s free accountability software X3watch. It’s simple and completely free. This software monitors what is accessed online and sends a report of any questionable websites to your accountability partners e-mail addresses.

Download X3watch – www.x3watch.com.

3. Clean It Up
Throw away the porn stash. Delete it all. Literally get rid of the things that are tripping you up. It is time to break that pattern of the things that make you stumble, the things you go right back to.

Maybe you need to cancel your cable or internet altogether, move the computer out of the basement to the kitchen or get a filter on your computer. Take solid action steps toward moving away from your places of struggle. The process of cleaning it up is continuous and will not happen overnight. Define the specific situations you struggle and take tangible steps to eliminate those places from your life.

Source: www.XXXchurch.com

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