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Meals Matter More Than We Think

I went to the Charlotte Farmer's Market this past Saturday for the first time since we moved in our house...1/4 mile away. Sad, but true. Our lives have just been too crazy, we told ourselves as we realized on Saturday. But have they been? As we loaded up on fresh from the farm veggies, fruits and meats, guaranteeing a lot of home cooked meals was the only way we're going to eat this week - and I started stressed about how busy I am and the time it will take to prep, cook and eat. Wouldn't it just be easier (and tastier) to eat Chick-Fil-A every day? So, what's the point of a meal? 

The building blocks of the kingdom of God are families, and the building blocks of families are relationships. What if the building blocks of relationships are meals? 

Here are 3 thoughts on why that may be so:

1. What is a Meal?

On the practical side of things, meals make our bodies function. We can't do life without food, which seems a good enough reason to value them, but we still find ways to funnel down our nutrition with a quick vitamin-enriched smoothie, or a drive-thru window so that we don't have to sacrifice the time for a meal. But then meals also provide the pleasurable experience of tasting - which is functionally pointless. Why would God give us 10,000 taste buds? Maybe he wants to just make something we have to do daily not so mundane (rather than like porridge in a prison), but I'd say he was trying to get us lured into something more important; connecting us to the deeper meaning of the meal. The reality is: meals also make us stop working and slow down; to listen, and to talk.

I believe Jesus came to restore the earth to its original intent - to bring freedom, love, peace, and hope. In short: what we are made for is authentic, intimate, loving relationships; we lost all that, and Christ came to bring it back. And he gave that mission to us...a daunting task to say the least. Often we may feel frantic with this mission, and find ourselves striving to increase our kingdom productivity: more programs; more buildings; more ministries. But is that what Jesus did? He had a much weightier task at hand, and it seems the big business of Jesus was built around meals. So why should we adopt a different, more corporate strategy? I think God has set some solid precedent that the meal is one of his major  go-tos for doing his work with humanity, so let's take a look at the history of God and meals:

2. God Really Loves Meals

  • In the beginning God made a garden............enough said?
  • God gave it to Adam to cultivate it, then demanded that he spend his life literally enjoying the fruit of his labor: which would mean eating.
  • In Israel's culture, sharing a meal was sacred time and space: if you ate with someone, you were making a declaration that you would be at peace with them.
  • God gives a ton of dietary rules for some sanitary reasons, but primarily to set them apart from other cultures. Meals were so important, and so much intimacy and value was placed on them, that God knew if he could keep His people from eating with other cultures, he could keep them set apart for his purposes (continually we see the nation turn away from God as they commune with other nations and end up following after their gods).
  • All sorts of festivals commemorating all sorts of stuff in the Old Testament were established by God, which mostly consisted of...eating together.
  • Jesus was always eating with folks. Some examples:
    • His followers
      • Martha and Mary: Jesus tells Martha to stop stressing out about the details, to chill out and spend time with him over the meal like her sister Mary (Luke 10:38-42)
    • His enemies
      • He sat down with the Pharisees to get questioned and work through them always getting tripped up about who he really was (Luke 7:36, 14:1).
    • Lots of sinners (Matthew 9:10, Mark 2:15) 
      • Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton he spent so much time eating and drinking with broken people (Matthew 11:19). 
      • Jesus tells Zacchaeus the thug to to make a meal for them to have later, where Zacchaeus' life would be changed forever (Luke 19:1-10) 

3. God Does Really Important Things Through Meals:

These three are pretty much the most important meals in the bible, and they are heavily related:

  • Passover
    • When God is about to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt, he tells them to eat a meal. They sacrifice a lamb, put its blood over doors, and the spirit of death "passes over" their household as it went to take out the firstborn sons of Egypt. God tells them to prepare this certain meal, which they eat then; and every year they eat this meal and sacrifice the Passover lamb to celebrate and remind themselves of the faithfulness of the Lord to deliver them.
  • The Last Supper
    • This blew my mind when I found out, but the Last Supper was Passover. Read about it:
    • Then came the day of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover." - Luke 22:7-13

    • Jesus is about to be sacrificed as the ultimate Passover lamb (v.7), to deliver all people from the slavery of sin, and what does he do with his followers? Has a meal. This seems odd. If I am on a mission to save the world, and I am about to die, I would probably go to the biggest arena and invite the most people to share my message one last time. But Jesus has a meal with just his few followers. This should tell us something about the value Jesus has for meals. Of course we know it wasn't just any meal; it was a meal that signifies the deliverance from sin that his sacrifice would bring. He told them the bread was his body and the wine was his blood; that we any followers in future generations should get together, share some bread and wine at the table, and do it in remembrance of him. He is about to change the world, and he needs a vehicle, a natural occurring experience that the supernatural can intersect with, and what does he use? A meal.

  • The Marriage supper of the lamb
    • At the end of this long story, all of creation who were delivered from sin by the sacrifice of Christ, the Passover Lamb, come together and have a big celebration together. How is it celebrated? A meal called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). In short:

od really loves meals. His beginning redemption of Israel, global redemption through Jesus, and the celebration of all that redemption in the end are all commemorated with a meal. 

4. Meals Connect us to our Purpose: Cultivating Community

I can't write this part any better than it has already been written, so for this point I am going to recommend that you go check out what Barry Jones, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary has to say about how meals connect us to our purpose of cultivating community in his recent article in DTS magazine:

 "The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing."

Here is my favorite excerpt, that summarizes it:

"I’m convinced that our dinner tables have the potential to be the most “missional” places in all of our lives. Perhaps before we invite people to Jesus or invite them to church, we should invite them to dinner. If table fellowship is a spiritual discipline that is vital for shaping and sustaining our life with God for the world, we need to make a point to share our tables with people who are in our lives but far from God. This was one of the most distinctive aspects of Jesus’s ministry."

Bread and Wine

Lastly, here is an amazing song from my favorite artist, Josh Garrels, about community and meals: 

Bread & Wine
By Josh Garrels


I was wrong, everybody needs someone, to hold on
Take my hand, I’ve been a lonesome man, took a while to understand

There's some things we can’t live without, 
A man’s so prone to doubt, 
Faithful are the wounds from friends. 
So give it just a little time, 
Share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine, 
My friend

Walls fall down, where there’s a peaceful sound, lonely souls hang around
Don’t be shy, there’s nothing left to hide, come on let’s talk a while

Of the places we left behind, 
No longer yours and mine
But we could build a good thing here too
So give it just a little time, 
Share bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine

If I fall, I fall alone, but two can help to bear the load
A threefold chord is hard to break
All I have I give to you if you will share your sorrows too, 
Then joy will be the crown upon our heads
My friend

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My Friend Committed Suicide: Now What?

I've noticed that when you lose someone you love, life tends to come to a painful, resounding halt. I've been hesitant to write this post because so many of my beloved readers were deeply affected by the passing of our dear friend last week, and I want to be so careful and sensitive with my words, especially those that are written. If you are in that affected crowd, are wrestling with the pain of having lost him, and need someone to talk to, please reach out (email me at sunnysherei@gmail.com).

Losing a life through suicide is so much different from losing a friend from natural causes. Not to say that losing a friend through any circumstance (cancer, car wreck, expected or unexpected) is not a treacherous, deeply painful process - but there is something so significantly painful about wrestling with the questions around the death of a loved one when it was chosen.

A few years ago Daniel and I lost a dear, precious, beloved, and deeply adored friend to a heroin overdose. Just a few months before his death, George (name changed to protect privacy) had given his life to Jesus. Daniel spoke at his funeral, and we grieved with a full heart. A few months later, we graduated from university without George by our side, and the gaping pain was evident on that day that was supposed to be a joyful one. Though I don't believe he took his life on purpose - there was still human choice involved in his death. That was our first exposure to human choice involved with death.

Then last week happened. I won't go into the details here, but we lost a friend through an intentional, no questions about it, suicide. Our friend chose to take his life. So, what do I do now?

Here are a five things I've learned from losing my friend, and I hope it helps anyone out there that is navigating these dreadful waters:

1) GRIEVING IS SERIOUSLY OKAY

I'm a pastor, and so I have a knee-jerk reaction to help others through their grieving process. A lot of my friends are public servants as well, and are often thrust into the spotlight when things like this happen. I've heard a lot of..well..cheesy and not all that helpful stuff around the idea of death like, "he's in a better place now" or "he's looking down on us and ....". That may very well be true - but that doesn't change the immediate grief of life after death. When I was first meeting with students after the passing of our friend, I had this instant reaction to 'be strong', but I actually found that I was able to give more strength to my students when I was honest with them and communicated that I too am frustrated, hurting, and wrestling with God over our loss. Grieving is a natural part of life - and you can face some serious consequences down the road if you don't allow yourself the space to grief. Scripture puts it this way:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
-Ecclesiates 3:1-8

King David grieves when he loses his son as an infant. Job grieves when his life literally turns into unfathomable chaos. Mary, the mother of our Christ, grieves when she sees her son hanging in death. Jesus himself is known to grieve - he grieves when his buddy Lazarus dies (even though he's going to raise him!). Grief is okay. GRIEF IS OKAY! Especially for my tough, cool sons who are reading this - grief is okay. It's okay to cry. Daniel and I have both have moments of being overwhelmed to sobbing tears in the midst of this event; it is a humbling event that makes you confront the full force of what’s going on inside, and humbles you to lean on the Lord and those around you to get through it.

2) BLAME IS A DARK GAME

It's not your fault that your friend took his life. It's not my fault that my friend took his life. In the wake of losing both George and the recent loss of last week - I have been paralyzed with blame. I knew that George was struggling with drug abuse, and I often am gripped with pain when I start to wonder if there was more that I could have done to show him a way out. In light of this recent death, I'm definitely riddled with the pain and blame - and shame - of having not been there in the final months and hours of my friend's life when he so clearly needed to talk about things that were going on in his life.

In the wake of wrestling with blame, I met with my pastor (who has an amazing blog here btw) who was generous enough to lend his wisdom and his shoulder. He explained to me in gentle terms that I am not responsible for another man's choice. The truth is that suicide is often a result of depression, mental illness, or other internal struggles. Change of circumstance doesn't always change what's going on inside of a person - that takes deep and significant renewal of the mind, body, and spirit that is often carried out through the care of professional counselors, medicine, and years of mental discipline. I could have told my friend all day, every day how important he was - but if he doesn't believe that at the core of who he is - I can't change that. I can't cause one person to be set free. I can't heal bones. I can't wound up the broken hearted. There is more going on here than what is in our hands to control; and where we do have a role to play in the story - man also has free will. My job (AND YOURS) is really simple: communicate the message of love and truth that the gospel gives, and live it out by loving them as Jesus did. That's it. Let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. He is the one who sets people free. He is the one who heals bones. He is the one who binds up the broken hearted. We get to partner with him - but he carries the pressure.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:29-30

3) WRESTLE WITH GOD

Let's be clear, I'm NOT COOL with what happened. I trust Christ to carry me through this grief - but my blood boils with anger and pain over the loss of my loved one. I'm learning that God is a better listener than even the most wisest friend, and gives better love and advice than my squish-able dog Avery (no offense Avery, you are amazing and I am weirdly obsessed with you). It’s amazing how much peace comes when you just have it out with Christ. I don't have answers - and I might never - but I do have peace after spending time with the great comforter.

4) GRIEF IS REALLY GOOD FUEL

I wake up wanting to undo last week. I've spent a long time wanting to change the past - my own past - my loved ones' past choices. But I can't. I can't spin the earth backwards on its axis, and losing my mind and sleep over days that are done literally does nothing. There is a time and place to wrestle and grieve. There is also a time to say, "I'm going to learn from this experience." In the week following that dark monday, I had the immense pleasure of going back to Nashville. I got to meet with student after student, and I got to do things different. I was slower to speak. More full of gentleness and kindness. I took extra time to tell my students individually that I loved them - that they matter. I got to say all of the things I wish I would have said to my friend who passed before his time. See, I can't change the past, but I can change today. I CAN change the future. Some days I think the days are promised - and I can take my sweet molasses lovin' time in loving on people or showing them who Jesus is. But the days aren't promised. I thought I would have more time - a lifetime - with both George and my friend I lost last week. I was so miserably wrong. I was painfully wrong. I don't want to be wrong with the friends I have right now. I want to cherish every single day that I get to be a messenger of the gospel, and use the time I have left on this earth to tell people in every form how true the good news of Jesus is, and to love them how Jesus loves: laying my life down for those around me. I want to go to great lengths in love - showing people with lavish, unafraid affection how serious Jesus is about setting them free. I want to have the hard conversations that I hide from. I want to take every opportunity to make sure people leave my presence knowing they are loved.

That includes writing this painful post, if it will set others free.

5) THERE IS HOPE

The truth is, death wasn’t in God’s original plan for humanity. Death is a result of the fallen nature of man. One of the main reasons Jesus came was to defeat death once and for all. Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross, was not the end of the story; Easter morning was coming. Death isn't the end of the story of us either: God's plan is to put everything back to how it was meant to be originally: no death, no pain, no suffering.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. …  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
   O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
- 1 Cor 15:20-23, 54-56

I do not assume to know what only God knows, but in the assurance of the faith that my friend professed, I believe that he will not taste death in the ultimate sense; death has been defeated for him.

We grieve losing such an amazing friend. We will miss his bright smile, his sense of humor and his camaraderie. We mourn a loss of life because God wasn’t through with him here: he wanted to set my friend completely free, to redeem him fully - and then use him to be a part of that redemption story in the earth - to help others through their struggles. We are compelled to love others by his death, that those around us may never reach the point he did. But lastly, and most importantly, we are not grieved beyond comfort. We start out with grief in our hearts for our temporary loss, but let's end proclaiming that our hope is real: Christ has defeated death. So - “O death, where is your sting?”

Check out this amazing song by John Mark McMillan called “Death in His Grave”:

"Death in His Grave"

by John Mark McMillan

Though the earth cried
Out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Billows calmed on raging seas
For the souls of men she craved
Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious love would taste
The sting
Disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a king
Laid down in grief
But woke with the keys
Of hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The morning sun
Of righteousness
But rose to shame
The throws of death
And overturn his rule
Now daughters
And the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood
They owed was rent
When the day rolled anew

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a king
Laid down in grief
But woke holding keys
To hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

He has cheated hell
And seated us above the fall
In desperate places he paid our wages
One time once and for all



80% -90% of teens that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TADS study). If you or someone you love is wrestling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Day or Night at

1 (800) 273-8255

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Porn Problems

I hope you don't read any of my direction in this post as overly preachy or insensitive. I have been there, and have the scars to show it. I am hoping that my experience, both personally and pastoring others through this, and the resources I gained practically, spiritually, and scripturally might lend a helping hand to others finding themselves still amidst the struggle. I pray you will walk away with fewer scars because of my words shared here. I pray you might join me on the offensive side of the battle, where I am confident we will win, if we fight together and not alone.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom, given by God, that man might live a life of good, not evil. Something this generation needs wisdom on is pornography. Proverbs 5-7 gives a dead on portrayal of the porn struggle, step by step, and provides remarkable wisdom into how to prevail. Sorry for the "p" alliteration...I got carried away. Forget addressing cheating, sex outside of marriage, or divorce; if we take care of porn, we prevent the others at the root of the problem: our nation's men are addicted to pornography - and it's going to destroy everything in their lives. 

6 Practices from Proverbs to Prevent Porn Problems

1. Keep the Commandments

"My son, keep my words, and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words." - Proverbs 7:1-5

Scripture is apparently a magic weapon against sexual temptation, seeing how direct the correlation is in these verses between knowing/applying scripture and staying pure. The idea of "treasuring" God's commandments means they are so carefully and frequently looked over so that we know them by heart, and value meditating on them high above anything else we could be doing with our time or attention.

"My son, keep your father's commandments, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress." - Proverbs 6:20-24

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." - Psalms 119:9-11

Isn't this the question on every man's mind that struggles with pornography: "How can I possibly steer clear of this!?" Scripture has an answer: know God's word ("store up your word") and do what it says do ("guard it according to your word"). For scripture to work its magic charm, we must be "doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving [our]selves" (James 1:22). If we want to not be shaken when the storm of temptation comes, we must take Jesus' tip: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24). Plenty of people hear and even know God's word well, but will we apply it? Here is the true dividing line between those on top of this and those underneath it: discipline. 

2. Keep Away...Far, Far Away

"Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house" - Proverbs 5:8

Note here that it does not say "do not go into her bed," or even "do not go into her house:" but rather "do not go near the door of her house." God's strategy for us to defeat sexual temptation is not to flee once we find ourselves in its house, but rather to avoid the house altogether! For that matter, even the street that it is on! See what chapter seven says about keeping your distance:

"For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." - Proverbs 7:6-11

You know what the "street near her corner" and the "door of her house" look like for you. Maybe it's Netflix, an app, a website. The first step for a man struggling with pornography (meaning that he has a conviction about it, but has not overcome it) is to identify these "gateways" in their life (the "door" or "street" of her house); they won't look that bad on the surface, and you could cover up for them if you got caught there, and you might even be tricking your own mind into rationalizing why it's ok to be in these gateways. Scripture's strategy is to stay far, far away from even these gateways. Sound too dramatic? Listen to Jesus: "And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:30).  His point is that there is not a response to the causes of sin that can be too violent; cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye is about as violent and self-harming as you can get. So, if it has ever caused you to trip up even a little bit, cut it off and throw it away, forever. Cancel your subscription. Delete the app. Throw away the phone. 

But there are two problems at play here: one is our fault and another is the world's. The truth is, this isn't a fair fight. Right? We do have the responsibility to "not go near the door of her house," but we also see "her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." Right when we think we have a kicked out every gateway to pornography in our lives - temptation comes to you right where you are! And in this day more than ever. I could type in "cute cuddly bunny" into Google images and probably find Playboy bunnies. I'm walking at the mall with my wife and "ohp! There's Victoria Secret, diverting my eyes away and ohp! Lookie there! A barely clothed woman with candles and lotion around her is the ad for Bath & Body Works..." It can feel defeating. Like fighting an uphill battle with boulders barreling down and pummeling you as you climb. But the awareness of this element is part of the fight. We need not be naive or ignorant as to how common it is. And we need to take an open and vocal approach to the frustrations we have with this: I tell my wife how pissed I am about sexy commercials and have written an email to NY Times letting them know I deleted their app because of the voluptuous Game of War ad I repeatedly had to see at the bottom of my screen (they responded apologetically and promised to make efforts at providing a more family friendly news reading experience). These efforts are both to do our part in eliminating temptation for others, while also cultivating our hearts to become like God's as we love what he loves and hate what he hates (Psalm 97:10).

3. Be Intoxicated with Your Wife's Sexy Body

"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." - Psalms 5:15-19

Sex is good. It is actually one of the best and most powerful things in our world - intentionally made so by God. Marriage is crazy business - and the Bible says some wild things about what happens when we get married (two become one...what!?). So what is so magical that happens when we get married that makes it any different than two people who love each other dating? Sex. Yes, there are other things - but sex is the defining trait of what biblical marriage should have that biblical courtship should not.

Sex is not bad, it is powerful.

In the same way that nuclear fission, or a shotgun shell is powerful, sex has the potential for great good or great harm. If nuclear fission happens within the confines of a power plant, it can provide power for thousands. If it is used in a nuclear bomb, it can kill thousands. In the same way, if we smash a shotgun shell with a hammer, it might fire and BBs will fly everywhere, injuring me and anyone around; but if it is put into the confines of a shotgun, I can aim and fire with accuracy at this Thanksgiving Day's turkey dinner. Sex within the confines of a marital covenant is phenomenally powerful at its purpose of uniting two souls.

What makes the marriage covenant such a successful conduit for sex? A covenant is different than a contract. A covenant says "I'm not going anywhere, no matter what." God made a covenant with Abraham regarding the nation that would come from his children, and even though they failed to keep up their end over and over, He always kept up His, and never abandoned them. This type of biblical understanding for what marriage is is radically different than our modern interpretation of it - even within the church. But when there is a true understanding and a true marriage covenant is made, there is remarkable safety and trust that is necessary to share in the powerful, vulnerable, mingling of souls action that sex is. Side note: it is not surprising that so much damage is seen in relationships and individuals that have sex out of the confines of covenantal marriage, because true soul damage has been done (1 Corinthians 6:18). 

With that being said, a real combat to porn is to engage in the life-giving act of sex regularly and with intentional energy to improve your marraige and love your spouse well. There is no harm in enjoying your wife too much or too often - visually or physically. For unmarried men, focus your attention on preparing yourself to be the man you want your wife to have one day. Keep your eyes on working unto the Lord, and one day you will look up and she will be there beside you, running after Him alongside you.

Side note: sex is not about you. If love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5), then true love making ought not be self-seeking. Our aim in having sex should not be getting our pleasure and intimacy, but rather our focus should be on providing pleasure and intimacy for our partner. Giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). That and the golden rule should be enough reasons to convince us to realize that sex is not about us. God-intended sex is not about receiving; it's about giving.

4. Realize that Sexual Sin is Surreptitious Slavery

"The iniquities of the wicked man ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin." - Proverbs - 5:22

"All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." - Proverbs 7:22-23

"Let not your heart turn aside to her ways: do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng." - Proverbs 7:25-26

In sin we often seek freedom; escape from our current stresses or sadness. But as we know, sin is a liar. We buy into the lie of satisfaction, fulfillment and pleasure over and over, but it always leaves us empty. A fleeting moment, then gone. The truth is sin is a snare, placing our ankles in shackles, chained up to a post. Rather than becoming more free as we continue to sin, the chain becomes shorter, and our radius around the post becomes tighter. Eventually, there is no freedom left; we have locked ourselves back down on the ground, every limb constricted. "How did I get here?" we ask ourselves. Well, the enemy is the father of lies, and his lies don't seem so irrational at first. Take a look at the downward spiral with the man in Proverbs:

"She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, 'I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home." - Proverbs 7:13-20

"For the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread" - Proverbs 6:26

Do you see the rationale offered? She has offered sacrifices, so she is a good girl, an exception to the others. There is such nice and pleasurable things inside her house - Egyptian linens, perfume -  why not enjoy them? Can you see him taking another step closer as he is offered and believes each subsequent lie? She tells him her husband isn't at home, and won't be until a much later known time. And lastly, it's easy - it barely costs anything. These are all lies we believe as we step through the gateways into pornography. It appears good on the surface, different perhaps, from the other times. It seems good for pleasure, and something inside us does crave those things (sounds familiar from Genesis? "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye...she took some and ate it" [Genesis 3:6]). There is then the rationale that no one will ever know. "My mom won't know, or my wife won't find out" - the plan is perfect. And lastly, its not like it's costing me anything! Just a few minutes. Just a click. Just a short peak or video. Of course we know all of these are lies. It will not relent. The chain will only shorten, and the cost will quickly grow exponentially.  

To turn an apple commercial on its head: What do we have to lose? Only everything. Which leads to my next point:

5. Comprehend the Consequences

"For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths." - Proverbs 5:21

"Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." - Proverbs 7:27

We often talk about loving God, and from this love the trust of relationship blooms. However, I have often avoided talking about fearing God, which is a key element if we want to actually obey him. This is necessary if we want real life change, and therefore real world change. I wrote more about this balance of being loved/being commanded by God & loving/obeying God here, but the gist of the idea is this: Jesus said "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15). How often do we rationalize our lack of discipline, and minimize the consequences in our mind as we premeditate our sin? Let's realize the consequence of our actions: the ugly separation that porn puts between us and God, the chief consequence of sexual sin, grieves Him greatly. We can't overlook the value of fearing God, when it comes to wisdom especially, as Proverbs starts out with the thesis statement for its book that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).

Going back to the original idea, the best strategy I have found truly is to store up God's word in your heart, and to do what it says to do. Don't miss the second part. I love what Francis Chan says about this American church tendency: "We know an important scripture is 'Go make disciples of all nations'. We say, 'Great! I'll go memorize that verse!" If we don't learn to grow a spine and start making hard choices that go against everything we want; if we don't learn to heed discipline, we are truly going to reap the consequences. As Proverbs says below, the results could be wounds, dishonor, punishment, utter ruin, and death. No good outlooks here. Or do we really think this isn't going to affect us? No, if you play with fire, you get burned:

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished...He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away." - Proverbs 6:27-35

"At the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, 'How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation...He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray." - Proverbs 5:11-14, 23

Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) Song About Porn Struggle

"Ghost Machine" from Jon Foreman's new album series The Wonderlands is a remarkable introspective study into the struggle as a whole and the mind of one struggling with pornography. I fully recommend a listen and for you to read the lyrics, as I believe it can be cathartic for wherever you are in the process:

Ghost Machine Lyrics

All hail the siren of our time
I'm possessed when she passes by
She drains the best years of my life
She makes promises
She could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Making a ghost out of me
After all her lies I'm surprised that I still believe
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
My ghost machine

Father forgive me cause I know
Exactly how I spread my soul
My idolatry is in the pocket of my coat
I make promises
I could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Ain't she a ghost machine
I'm still haunted by the faces on her screen
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me

Do you know yourself?
I heard a voice call out loud
We define ourselves
By the things we can't live without
I deny it, I could quit at any time
But my ghost is a drug
My ghost is a drug
She's in our blood
And I can't give her up

The clock - the altar of our time
The thought - the temple of our mind
Then I've been sprinkling the blood of most my life
On the altars of my ghost machine

Ain't she my enemy
My ancient remedy
The gods of all the empty promises that I believed
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me
My ghost machine

Final Word: Don't Be Discouraged

I have been more direct in this blog, because of how serious I take it. I hope in doing so I have not stirred up emotions of shame or condemnation. I hope it produced godly guilt - which is a good thing. Guilt says "I made a mistake;" Shame says "I am a mistake." Paul puts it best as he is writing to the Corinthians, whom he was writing to to confront many similar issues: "For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it...I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief...[which] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). If worldly grief (shame/condemnation) is what you are feeling, ask the Lord for godly grief. If godly grief is what you are feeling, treasure and heed His words. Take them into action. Repent. Confess. Cut what you need to out. And run for the Father. He is there ready for you, saying "Don't turn your eyes from me. My love can't be undone." 

Please email me at dbjackson3@gmail.com if you want to talk.

Daniel

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Puerto Rico Music Video: You Are

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Worship Preview for Daniel Jackson

Author // Daniel


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Moving to Charlotte Update

 

Author // Sherei

What I'm listening to // Break Every Chain: Will Reagan & the United Pursuit Band

It's been a wild ride of summer! So far it's been Birmingham, Nashville, Jacksonville, Puerto Rico, Charlotte, Dothan, and Panama City Beach. I'm tan...word.

We just got back from Puerto Rico and are crashing at our sister and brother-in-law's house in Brevard, NC right now, commuting into Charlotte during the day for interviews, to check out housing, and to get things squared away at Gordon Conwell. 

We met with our advisor yesterday and I cried...2 times. Once during his closing prayer in our meeting and again when I was standing in a classroom. When I was a little 17 year old girl, I longed to go to a place where I could receive a Christian education, giving myself fully to the learning of scripture. It was important to my dad that I earn my college degree at a secular university first. Going to seminary has been a near 10 year dream in the making. I am excited - crying level excited - to have a consecrated season of studying and understanding God's word. Thank you seems too small of a phrase for all of those who have encouraged, poured resources, and helped Daniel and I get to this point. Nonetheless...thank you. 

A few things to celebrate so far:

  • Our classes have lined up so that I can continue to work a near full-time job during the semester & we will have a lot of room in our schedule to travel for speaking & worship leading opportunities
  • Daniel and I are getting to take the majority of our courses together
  • WE GOT THE TEAM MINISTRY GRANT SCHOLARSHIP! This scholarship is available to married couples who are enrolled full time at GCTS. It gives me a partial tuition scholarship. 
  • Some great housing opportunities are on the horizon. We found a flyer for a home on the student job board at GCTS. The house is a 2 bedroom, on an acre of land, and the rent would be low enough that the money we save can help cover the other half of my tuition! It's a local family home that is used specifically to bless GCTS students. We tour it on Saturday, and I'm praying it's the perfect fit. Daniel and I have also narrowed down the search to 3 apartment communities and 1 townhouse. Please pray that the we find a home of peace to live in where we can study together, a place that Avery pup can play, and a place that we can gather new friends and host community nights. 
  • My contract graphic design work with FundtheNations has been steady and so enjoyable! I have a second interview at another part-time opportunity on Monday that I'm excited about. Please pray that the perfect work situation irons out for us to be able to graduate debt free while we earn our degrees. 

The next few weeks:

  • Decide on housing
  • Decide on jobs
  • Buy books, start working on syllabus work
  • Have a big fat Nashville Yard sale
  • If time allows, spend some time in Nashville visiting with friends, flipping some furniture pieces, and writing
  • Rent a U-Haul and OFFICIALLY MOVE TO CHARLOTTE

Our deadline to be in Charlotte full time is Aug 22 (orientation), but we are praying things work out to land sooner. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey, and don't forget to sign-up if you want to stay posted with our newsletter.





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How do you forgive someone who hasn't said sorry?

Author // Sherei

What I'm listening to // Hillsong United's Empires

A while back a close friend of mine acted out of character, and did something that just straight up wounded my heart. It was a deep hurt, and one that I haven't readily gotten over. The shock waves of the pain reverberated for days; the kind of frustration and hurt that you wake up feeling nauseous about. My whole being was blue, and I just wasn't able to shake it for what felt like ages. 

The friend, a fellow believer in Jesus, did go out of the way to try to get back on good terms with me. No apologies were exchanged, but I could definitely tell they were trying hard to make sure we were on a good note. 

College sweetheart catastrophe

The last time I felt this way, I was in college, and my college sweetheart and I were in a major meltdown. I was totally restless in the middle of the night, and so went down to the lobby of my dorm around 3 am. Lo and behold a girl, a friend of mine, was checking my guy out of her dorm room...in the middle of the night. I was furious with both of them, and within a few painful hours the relationship was over. My friend, the girl, was a follower of Jesus and a worship leader in my community, so the pain was magnified by my expectations of her to ..well..be cool. In all of my angsty immaturity, I harbored intense hatred for her for a long time to come. I eventually moved away from my college town, and instead of dealing with the hatred in my heart, I just weasled out, believing that I would never see her again. 

I have seen her again. Even if I unfriend her through social medias, she pops up on a mutual friend's page. Or in a mutual friend's wedding. Despite hundreds of miles of distance, and 6 years out from that silly night, this girl keeps appearing in my life. Today she is a beautiful, incredible worship leader who, by every appearance, loves Jesus with all her heart. I believe it. It's become kind of a running joke in my life. Anytime the Lord wants to highlight a corner of my heart that needs freedom or healing from unforgiveness, her happy picture usually pops up somewhere.

I have begun to realize that I need a heart shift in how I view forgiveness, because apparently my current stance isn't quite the real thing: I still show some nasty occasional symptoms of unforgiveness, like bitterness, resentment and anger. So the question is, how do you forgive someone? Or, better yet, how do you forgive someone who hasn't said sorry, and frankly, doesn't deserve it?

Showing Symptoms

Given that the first offender in my story didn't happen quite as long ago, I definitely still have moments of feeling really bummed out about what happened. I'll be laughing and having a good time - then boom - intense feelings of loss, sadness and frustration will grip me in a moment and hold on longer than I'd like. 

I was processing one of these low moments with the Lord earlier this week, and was feeling genuinely frustrated. I didn't feel like I ran away this time. I wasn't that same college girl who just wrote off the wrongdoer. I felt like I had genuinely tried to forgive the wrongdoer. I had spoken to the wrongdoer, hugged them, made as much peace as could be made, and walked away with dignity in tact. I genuinely felt that I had forgiven that person, but set up healthy boundaries in my life to not have that person commit the same crime against my heart. 

Despite my every effort, I was still experiencing moments of deep sadness, and some bitterness. I was still replaying the events in my head, trying to figure out how things could have gone as bad as they did, and sometimes found myself cringing at the mention of them in conversation. I've heard it said about bitterness, but I believe it can be said about this more broadly: unforgiveness is like poison that we drink expecting the other person to die, but it ends up killing us.

We Can Let Go, Because He Won't

In desperation, I sought the Lord. My dialogue with God went something like this (*through His still small voice...not an audible experience here):

Sherei: I don't get it. I HAVE forgiven them, but that doesn't mean I need to be close with them again. Why do I still feel this way?

God: You haven't forgiven them.

Sherei: How DO you forgive someone? 

 God: You lay it at my feet.

Sherei: What does THAT mean? You're INVISIBLE. I can't see your feet. 

God: You keep holding onto it, and remembering it. You won't give it to me. If you'll give it to me, I'll remember it. You're allowed to let it go, and forget it, because I'll never forget it. I never forget those who have wronged my children. Unless the blood of Jesus covers that sin, those people will have to answer to ME. GOD. And trust me, nobody wants big Daddy God to get involved. Because I HATE when people mistreat my children, and I will make sure every wrongdoing is justly paid, down to the last hair. 

Sherei: So you just want me to...forget?

God: I want you to let me have it. If I have it, I won't forget it. You can relax, because I'll carry it. You can let it go, because I won't let it go. Plus, your friend who hurt you follows me, and you'd much rather I convict their heart than you. If I talk to them about it, real change will come. 

Sherei: Okay, you can have it. 

And just like that, I felt free. I felt permission to let it go. Forgiveness doesn't mean friendship. It doesn't mean sweeping things under the rug. It doesn't mean fake it till you make it. It means getting out of the way, so that God can take ownership over the pain, and allowing Him to carry it. It does mean letting it go...to someone who will take care of it. 

lWe Have a Big, Daddy God

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”
    says the Lord. 

- Romans 12:17-19

When I was a child, probably my favorite thing was to get my big sister in trouble. I know right. Classic youngest child move. But the reality is, if my big sister were teasing me, and I tried to kick her in the shin or something to get back at her, she could just sit on me and totally crush me, or pants me, or demoralize me. I didn't stand a chance next to my stronger, smarter, faster, wittier big sister. BUT if I got dad in the mix, it was game over. If my dad saw someone mistreating his youngest, he would go beast mode. He would put my big sister in her place in about half a second, 10 times better than I ever could. The second I said "DAD..." the worry, fear,  and frustration was gone. I had let it go into his hands, and I KNEW my Dad would take care of whatever was happening. 

God is the same way, but better. We don't have to hold a grudge. We don't have to seek our own justice. We don't have to defend our own name. We don't have to seek vengeance. Vengeance is the Lord's, and He will pay it back. He will protect, defend, and silence the voice of every accuser. He's a good papa, and has no toleration of people picking on His own. Ever action will be accounted for. Every wrongdoing. At this point, I'm praying mercy over those who wrong me, because I know that Daddy God will never forget without some payment, either by them, or by Jesus on the cross. 

The Remarkable Result

That's the funny reaction to letting it go: mercy. My heart is now full of mercy; realizing that it'll be so much better for every wrongdoer to plead the blood of Jesus over that sin than to let Daddy God measure the wrongdoing and ask for a price of payment. 

My resolution? To forgive more fully. To let go, and recieve the freedom that comes from being a child of a Daddy God who has got me taken care of. To stop carrying the weight of something I can't fix, let God do His job, and let me do the job He gave me to do: love.

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Does God Really Ask Us to Obey Him?

Author // Daniel

I have always related to the requirement to love God, and accept his love - but it seems I have tried to avoid obeying him, or even accepting that he gives commandments. It brings to mind a sort of authoritarian dictator that I don't relate to. I think- well if I do what he says out of obligation, it isn't true relationship. And so if I follow him with this mindset my actions won't be powerful or long lasting or authentic. But I think I have been cheating myself out of a big part of my relationship with God. I have seen him as a friend, as a father, and a lover, but not as a shepherd master: which is how the bible often describes God's relationship to us. And what is a shepherd's main directive? Obey me. I mean I can't deny this in scripture, it's pretty clear: 

"For when I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. However, I did give them this command: Obey Me, and then I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you" (Jeremiah 7:22-23).

We are dumb animals in need of total obedience to our leader. And the more I look at it the more I realize - I don't need to just obey all the time and see myself only as a sheep - I need to do it in addition to my love of God.  It's not an either or - it's both! And then I look at scripture, and it's biblical! I can't love without obeying, and I can't obey without loving. In fact, they are so intermingled and overlapping in scripture that they can be tough to distinguish as different:

"And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it" (2 John 1:6).

I believe Christians often find themselves leaning on one end of the spectrum more than the other, and it is causing some dangerous side effects. 

If you lean too much towards obedience - then you probably will have some religious, pharisitical tendencies. We have all the do, but do we know why to do it? There is no heart behind it, and we miss the Father's meaning behind the action. Often if we aren't in sync with the Father's heart on something, He would rather us not do it - it might be done in vain- or by wrong motives. He doesn't want our sacrifice out of duty and obligation alone! But he does want it - even if we don't totally feel like it; our obeying pulls us through when our love isn't quite there - but it must still be there! Even if love shows up to the party late and is a little bit puny. 

If you lean too much towards love - you probably have some tendencies towards living on spiritual milk too long and not growing, or abusing grace and writing it off on forgiveness. Basically stunting your sanctification and spiritual maturity. God's going to ask you to do some hard things, and it's going to look more like a general telling you to do something life threatening in battle sometimes than a lover beckoning you to sing them a song of affection. 

And just in case you weren't convinced yet, here is my absolute favorite, smash you over the head, truth searing, and o' so simple verse. 

"If you love me, obey my commandments" - John 14:15

Wow, Jesus, you couldn't have said it better. Thanks for giving us the cliff notes, dumb sheep version of this concept, in a whopping 7 words. If you love me, obey me. And guess what - if you obey him - what is his greatest commandment? Oh shoot - love him. 

Whoa. 

Why should we love God? Because we obey Him. Why should we obey God? Because we love Him.

I hope this provides some breakthrough for someone today!

-Daniel

"I am resolved to obey Your statutes

to the very end" (Psalm 119:112).


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What is GOOD anyway?

Author // Sherei

What I'm listening to // Great are you Lord by All Sons and Daughters

Well, old blog lovers, welcome to our new spot.

My heart is stirring with a noble theme, to recite verses to my king. -Psalms 45 Sherei's Memory Version

I simply sense that God is longing for people to know and interpret Him as a GOOD father.

  • A good father doesn't hold grudges
  • A good father isn't keeping score
  • A good father has long term vision
  • A good father sees all that could be, and forgets and forgives all that comes short 
  • a good father is vulnerable
  • a good father is kind
  • a good father protects
  • a good father sets boundaries
  • a good father knows how to play
  • a good father knows how to listen
  • a good father knows when to speak
  • a good father gives space
  • a good father is always quickly found
  • a good father doesn't have a hard heart
  • a good father doesn't keep a heavy hand
  • a good father has a good laugh
  • a good father dreams big dreams
  • a good father isn't too busy at work for his family
  • a good father isn't too busy
  • a good father never outgrows quality time
  • a good father is available
  • a good father is resilient
  • a good father is bold in love
  • a good father is creative in pursuing his children
  • a good father is very, very, very patient
  • a good father disciplines
  • a good father doesn't know how to give up
  • a good father doesn't know how to disown
  • a good father isn't embarrassed
  • a good father takes responsibility
  • a good father knows a good adventure
  • a good father is a little bit of a renegade
  • a good father is safe
  • a good father is wild
  • a good father loves fiercely

I think that God wants us to encounter Him, understand Him, embrace Him, receive Him, and follow Him. If we understand his character, then His commands become an effortless and liberating expression of a child, well loved, living out the will of his Father. Let's go back to the drawing board, and figure out what we think of God. Will you go with me? 

When we know God as GOOD there is:

  • no more striving
  • no more comparison
  • no more insecurity
  • no more doubt
  • no more fear
  • more peace
  • more stabililty
  • more energy
  • more security
  • more adventure
  • more willingness
  • more freedom
  • more kindness
  • more gentleness
  • more patience
  • ....more love. 

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We Need Humble Boldnes

Author // Daniel

I am convinced that if we are to compel this generation to live as no other has, it must be through humble boldness.

In the book of Philemon, we see Paul ask his friend Philemon to forgive and free his slave, Onesimus, who now had become a Christ follower - so that he could partner with Paul in his ministry. Onesimus was most likely a runaway slave, which meant in that time that he had given up the few rights he had as a slave and could lawfully be executed or beaten for punishment. 

Paul’s request of Philemon to have Onesimus freed would have been revolutionary in their era. Not only was he asking that Philemon not punish his slave, but furthermore that he might be freed - all due to Paul’s testimony of his conversion. Paul has an impossible task before him that goes totally against the current of the age, and yet it is clearly the heart of God. Wilberforce and Lincoln probably felt the same overwhelmed way as they fought an ubiquitous slavery era. And yet this is how he responds:

"Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for loves sake I prefer to appeal to/(encourage) you” - Philemon 1:8-9

He has the boldness, but chooses to infuse humility. The result is a sweet balance between passivity and aggression. Between justice and peace. Between boldness and humility. It is loving assertion. 

This is truly heaven’s path, to compel those around us through love. To let love compel them, even though we carry the authority and would be just in forcing it, we let them choose. Paul does it, Jesus does it in His first coming. It’s the right way.

This is no weak-back passive plea for change. And yet neither is it an iron clinched fist of forceful aggression. It is a passionate, boldly beseeching, tough love, wade through the muddy waters with them call to action. 

The rarest, yet most effective Christians are ones who are both humble, and bold. I have seen lots of one or the other. But it is time for the peace and justice keepers to marry. 

We have a generation to change. We have a higher vision for humanity than they can see for themselves, or can see anywhere around them. This can be frustrating. Those of us who are passive will tend to give up and settle for what exists. Those of us who are aggressive will push hard, forcing those around us to make an outward behavior that is not inwardly genuine, effectively pressure washing the outside of the tombs of their life, and then getting angry and perhaps giving up when we see the dead body, bad fruit of their life pop up again. 

Our response to the revolutionary task ahead of us must be that of Paul’s: to boldly and humbly challenge them, lovingly inspire them to live according to a different standard, dare them to move upstream "that  (their) goodness might not be by compulsion, but of (their) own accord” Philemon 1:14.

To practice humble boldness.

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