Tag Archive for: Reject

The Bohemian Issue: Does Anything Really Matter?
“Nothing really matters to me.”

That line ends arguably the most unique and well-loved rock song of all time, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Interestingly, despite the popularity of the 1975 song, the term “Bohemian” hit its low in frequency of usage in the English language in 1980. Very few people, even those who know the song well, know what a “Bohemian” is. Do you?

Specific definitions vary, but that last lyric of the song does a pretty good job summing all of them up. A Bohemian is someone who lives with very little grounding in the real world. Nothing really matters to them.

Freddie Mercury was the quintessential example of a Bohemian. A man who found no grounding other than in the pleasure of wild living and the praise of man.

Over the past two and half years, we’ve seen the things that we thought could never change shown to be fragile. Who would have thought that the NBA and NHL would have shut down like they did? Who would have thought that international travel would slam on its brakes?

But sacred things, things that formed identity, things that grounded us, things that truly mattered were also halted: family gatherings, in-person school, and most importantly, the physical life of the Church in the gathering of believers around God’s Word and the reception of the Lord’s Supper.

As one pastor put it, “When people see that even the things that matter most aren’t truly sacred, why would we expect them to take anything seriously?”

This isn’t an article about how churches, schools, or families react to COVID. This is an article to acknowledge that this is the world the young Christians of our world live in today, a world that, by no fault of their own, has “bohemianized” them (if I may make up a term). If you’re older you may not feel it the same way. Much of your life and identity has already been set, and as things went back to a form of normal, you could too. But for young people who are growing into who they are, a foundation is necessary. For about 2 years, the world robbed them of that. It told them that “nothing really matters.”

The problem is that when nothing really matters, we are tempted to turn our thoughts inward to find meaning, pleasure, peace, and foundation. And while being a Bohemian occasionally produces awesome rock tunes, often it also leads into self-destructive behavior.

While most young people don’t have the resources to behave like Freddie Mercury, they do have cheap alternatives, one of the cheapest, most easily accessible, most addicting, and most destructive being pornography.

When “nothing really matters,” who cares if I watch this? Who cares if people get hurt? Who cares if it messes with my brain chemistry? Who cares if ruins my relationships with the opposite sex?

This may be hard for some to believe, but this is the fight we engage in now. We fight not just to help those struggling with pornography, but also to help those who are trapped in porn’s grip to see that this really does matter.

Psalm 144 feels this. It begins by acknowledging that from an earthly perspective, human life isn’t that significant.

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow. (Psalm 144:4–4 NIV)

If this is all we are, then nothing really matters, but then the Psalm continues…

Part your heavens, LORD, and come down. (Psalm 144:5 NIV)

And God did. God came down into the womb of the Virgin Mary to show humanity that their life really does matter, that they really do matter.

And the result? The psalmist records that when the Lord comes down…

Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. (Psalm 144:12 NIV)

You matter enough to God that he would become human to save you. He wants to grow and shape you into something beautiful.

Today, pray Psalm 144 for our young people. Pray that God would continue to come to them in Word and Sacrament to grow them and shape them into people who give glory to God by their lives. If you feel a little like a Bohemian, pray that God would make you believe that this really does matter. And finally, pray for Conquerors through Christ, that we can help more people see that this fight really matters.

 

Caleb Schultz is the Content Editor for Conquerors through Christ. He serves as a pastor in a suburb of Toronto, Canada.

 

Idol of Love
Does Love Conquer All?

Love Conquers All” is one of those phrases that people think belongs to the Bible that doesn’t really belong to the Bible. It belongs to a classical Roman poet by the name of Virgil, taken from book X of his Eclogues. It was written nearly 100 years before any of the New Testament was recorded. Like most powerful false beliefs, there is an element of truth in it. But ultimately, no, human love cannot solve all of our problems. Nonetheless, millions of us pursue it as though it has such power.

Many are controlled by the quest for romantic love. Have you met the young woman who simply cannot stand to be single because her personal value is so wrapped up in her association to and acceptance from a man? Have you met the woman who is so bitter and jaded regarding men that she has sworn off them altogether and will take any chance that she gets to tell you how they’re “good for nothing”? In different ways, both of these women show that their lives are controlled by the power of romantic love. Have you heard of the man who is such a chicken when it comes to intimacy and so selfish when it comes to pleasure that his most desired way to interact with women is behind closed doors through pornography? Have you met the man who has no desire to lead his family but idly sits back and sheepishly makes most decisions in his life simply with the goal of not upsetting his wife? In different ways, both of these men are controlled by the power of romantic love. I intentionally chose these examples so that you could see that not only on the extreme ends of aggressive dominance or passive neediness, but virtually everywhere in between, humans are inclined to do what they do so that they can somehow fill that gaping hole inside of them that seems to be crying out for intimacy and love. As the irreverently insightful 21st century sociologist and pop diva Ke$ha has noted, many live by the motto “Your Love is My Drug.” (I think I probably just ruined the word “insightful.”)

Jacob’s Quest for Love

There is an edgy, painful Old Testament account that quite clearly shows the futility of holding up romantic love as the answer to your problems. It is found in Genesis 29. Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, has stolen the birthright of his brother Esau. Why would he do such a thing, stealing from his brother by deceiving his father? Jacob wanted a piece of his father that his father wouldn’t give him….love. Isaac had favored Esau, the older, more manly of the two sons. The Bible says that “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Gen 25:28) Jacob thought that if he could only get that birthright, then maybe he could quiet the inner demons that had convinced him he was unworthy of his father’s love and therefore worthless. So he got the birthright by any means necessary. And now his older brother was furious. Fearing the vengeance of Esau, Jacob fled from his home in Beersheba to the location of his Uncle Laban in Paddan Aram.

When Jacob got to Paddan Aram, he went to the region’s local watering hole (apparently the place where desperate singles went looking for companionship even then). While at the well, Jacob, for the first time, laid his eyes on the woman that he’d fall head over heels for, Laban’s daughter Rachel. This was the woman, so he thought, that would fill the void inside of him left by the absence of his father’s love. Just look at the reaction he has at first meeting: “When Jacob saw Rachel…(he) kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.” (Gen 29:10-11) He’s lovesick. He must have her. Jacob goes to work for Laban (Rachel’s father) as a shepherd. Laban recognizes that even though Jacob is his family, he still deserves to be paid, so he asks Jacob what his price for labor is. Jacob responds, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Gen 29:18) Just so we’re clear here, in ancient cultures, this type of bride-price dowry would have been fairly customary. However, this specific amount was enormous. It’s obvious that Jacob wants Rachel. He wants her badly, and Laban knows it.

Upon completion of his seven years of labor, Jacob goes to Laban and demands marriage to Rachel. But look at his language. He sounds like an addict in need of a fix, which wasn’t that far from the truth. He says, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” (Gen 29:21) Bible commentators will tell you that the words that Jacob speaks here are unusually coarse and carnal, but that should be obvious. Remember, he’s basically saying to Rachel’s father, “I need to have sex with your daughter right now!”

Laban agreed to make the wedding happen. They celebrated a grand feast, complete with ample adult beverages. At that time, brides were veiled until the consummation of the marriage. So, perhaps with the combination of a veil, the dim night light, and a couple too many drinks, Jacob failed to recognize that Uncle Laban had pulled the old switcheroo on him – he had substituted his older daughter Leah in the wedding ceremony for the one Jacob had loved, Rachel. And in the morning light, Jacob was just now realizing that he had spent his first night with his wife, but his wife was not Rachel.

It’s worth noting the Bible’s comparison between the two daughters of Laban. Genesis 29:17 says that “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.” Scholars have debated exactly what it meant that Leah’s eyes were “weak.” Some have suggested that perhaps she had bad eyesight. But if that was the case, the text would likely say that Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had very strong eyes. No, the contrast here is between Rachel’s tremendous beauty and Leah’s “weak eyes,” which leads us to assume that the phrase “weak eyes” is describing Leah as having an unattractive appearance. What’s abundantly apparent is that Rachel is a hottie and Leah is unfortunately a nottie. Jacob had fallen for Rachel and become obsessed with possessing her because of her great beauty.

Disappointed by Love

Understandably, Jacob is furious to find out that Laban had duped him into taking the wrong daughter as his bride. He confronted Laban about it. Laban offered up a lame excuse about how it’s not customary in his land to give away the younger daughter before the older daughter. So, Laban is to blame for being shady. However, Jacob shares the blame here as well for letting his hormones and obsession blind his good judgment. When he’d first asked Laban to marry Rachel, Laban never actually said “Yes.” He said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” (Gen 29:19) That’s it. Perhaps Jacob would have picked up on Laban’s shadiness about the situation had he not been so obsessed with making a good thing (Rachel’s beauty) the ultimate thing (an idol) that he thought could cure his inner hurt.

By the way, if you’re wondering, men still try to do this with female beauty today as well. Old men dump their wives in favor of younger women because they think such romantic love will make them young again. Young men try to sleep with as many women as possible, simply because they’re trying to use such “romance” to validate their own prowess and power. Sleazy, right? Jacob using female beauty to try to solve his problems was a little sleazy. In that sense, men today are a little sleazy as well. But the truth is that every man who thinks that he can validate himself through sex, thinks he’s going to bed with Rachel, but wakes up realizing it’s Leah. What I mean is this – many men think that sleeping with a hot chick sounds like a good idea at the time, but the next morning, the guilt, regret, shame, and the weight of long-term emotional damage to two lives sets in. In general, romantic love & unbridled passion, if it truly is your god, will not solve your problems, it will destroy your life.

I don’t mean for this analogy to sound callous to Leah. But we have to be honest about the situation. Jacob didn’t truly love her. God was sympathetic to Leah about this as well, which is why he opened her womb while he closed Rachel’s. You see, the story continues as Jacob worked another seven years for Laban to receive Rachel as his wife, creating the most awkward of marital situations – two wives competing for their husband’s affection. In fact, in the next chapter of Genesis, the two women trade “who gets to sleep with Jacob tonight” for some mandrakes – what kind of messed up life is this! (Interestingly, both women valued these mandrakes so much because in ancient cultures, mandrakes were viewed as both an aphrodisiac, which Leah thought might help Jacob become more attracted to her, and as a fertility boost, which Rachel thought might help her conceive, causing Jacob to appreciate her more). Both were absolutely desperate for his love.

Obviously crushed by Jacob’s rejection of her in favor of her sister’s beauty, Leah rejoices when she first becomes pregnant by Jacob. Look at what she says, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (Gen 29:32) You see, romantic love controlled her life as much as it had controlled Jacob’s. She had a void inside of her that was caused by someone who was supposed to love her (her husband) not loving her. And now her desire for children is for all the wrong reasons. Leah becomes pregnant twice more with the hope that it will force Jacob to love her. Finally, when she conceives her fourth son, Leah gets it. Leah, who has reached rock bottom in trying to make romantic love answer her life problems, has a fourth son named Judah, and she says about him, “This time I will praise the LORD.” (Gen 29:35). After all this time, Leah now discovered that only the LORD can truly fill the void for love inside of us. Romance cannot. And if we believe all the Hugh Grant movies and Celine Dion anthems that tell us it can, then romantic love has become an idol for us, and it will be a curse in our lives, not a blessing.

Romantic, physical, intimate love is a beautiful thing. When used properly, it is seen as the great blessing from God that it is. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But it’s not the greatest thing.

Truly Fulfilling Love

The only one who can truly fill the inner void left by those who didn’t love us as they should have is Jesus. And fascinatingly, in the godly sense, Jesus descended from heaven, and in the worldly sense, he descended from the womb of…..Leah. Yes, he was the scepter who would come through her son Judah (Isaiah 49:10). No one knew rejection of earthly love like he did. Physical romance was not even part of his life, because the bride that he’d be coming back for was his Church. And yet he suffered and died to pay for all of the times we’ve mistakenly thought that human love would conquer all.

For those who have lived a single and celibate life, heaven holds an intimacy for you that far surpasses any moments of pleasure from this world.

For those who have been unloved by those who should have loved you, heaven holds for you a feeling of absolute completion, satisfaction, and unity that the missed love of your father, mother, ex-husband, ex-wife, ex-boyfriend, or ex-girlfriend never could have offered you anyway.

And for all of us, in this lifetime, sometimes, by God’s grace through the relationships that God blesses us with, we catch glimpses of what love really is. In heaven, we’ll know it so well that we can’t help but praise the LORD.

 

Thanks to author Pastor James Hein of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI. This article is adapted from content that originally appeared on “Crossing my mind. Mind on the cross.” pastorjameshein.wordpress.com

 

Sex and the Cit

In the late 90s, HBO started becoming perceived as less of simply a cable video store as it started producing more of its own original content. Some of Hollywood’s talented younger writers, directors, and producers saw in the premium channel less restriction from Standards and Practices censorship and more creative license for their product. Consequently, HBO started producing edgy, highly acclaimed original series such as The Sopranos, Oz, and a critical darling targeted at young women called Sex and the City. 

In many ways, SATC was considered a knockoff of an earlier network sitcom called The Golden Girls, which was only able to get away with half of its content because people considered little old ladies talking about sex as cute, quirky, and harmless enough.

The show follows a New York City writer named Carrie Bradshaw. Carrie is also the show’s narrator, and every episode is structured around an article she happens to be writing that week for a relationship column in a New York newspaper.

While in the 80s, a weekly show like Sex and the City, starring mostly women, addressing the content matter that it did, would have most likely been considered nearly unconscionable by the collective American public. But by the late 90s, it was met with great critical and consumer fanfare. In its six-season span, the show collected 54 Emmy nominations, 24 Golden Globe nominations, and 11 Screen Actors Guild nominations. Despite all its accolades, many Christians have denounced the overtly lewd and immoral content of the show. They’re not wrong, but we can still learn something from the influence of Sex and the City. The show is another painful reminder that Hollywood beat the church to the punch on the important issue of talking about sex. The Christian Church, by and large, shied away from openly and honestly addressing the delicate issue of sexuality for years and years and years. Sex and the City wasn’t shy at all. And while there is such a thing as an inappropriate fascination with the topic, it’s preposterous to have young people learning about sex primarily from locker rooms, or the internet, or TV, especially when you consider how much it’s on the minds of sexually maturing human beings.

"The show is another painful reminder that Hollywood beat the church to the punch on the important issue of talking about sex."

GOD is the one who created humans to be sexual beings. Yes, God invented sex! God even inspired nearly an entire book of the Bible to be recorded about it – you know that one that remains virtually unstudied in most Bibles – Song of Songs? If we as Christian leaders and parents don’t have the courage to address difficult topics with young people who are naturally going to be curious, there eventually going to be instructed by someone (or some show) that shapes their understanding of what exactly is sexually “normal” and “healthy.” What will curious Christians conclude about sex from Game of Thrones, or from Ozark, or from Euphoria? They’re drawing a lot more conclusions from TV when mature Christians are silent about sex.

 

What was “magical” about Sex and the City?

Even apart from the risqué content of the show, from what I’ve seen, I found the show virtually unwatchable because of the main character’s notorious overuse of “puns” – the lowest, most groan-inducing form of humor I can imagine. The show is littered with them. My personal preferences notwithstanding, the show was, and continues to be, enormously influential.

The show reflected on television what many women were experiencing in real life: extravagant fashion, having a gay best friend, having multiple boyfriends, occasional one-night stands, women working outside of the home, the glamour of Manhattan. Some of those are good for a professional woman; some are neutral; some are certainly unhelpful influences, but seeing these things visible in mass media has endeared SATC to millions of women.

Okay, so how has it influenced us…spiritually?

A primary influence is overt sexuality, especially female sexuality. The overt sexuality in Sex and the City is far from God’s design. One of my favorite biblical warnings about human sexuality is what the Apostle Paul says to the Ephesians, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” (Eph. 5:3) What was once “hinted at” on TV, SATC went ahead and told the whole secret.

When Paul writes to the Romans, he mentions the commonness of departure from God’s design for human sexuality amongst females as a benchmark for how far a society has fallen from God – “Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.” (Rom. 1:26)

For one reason or another, American media has historically presented women as more sexually virtuous than men. In the past, when Americans turned on the television they were accustomed to the male characters mentioning sex, pursuing sex, and feeling good about sex—even if it was immoral. (It’s not a great compliment to gentlemen.) Christians who strive for “not even a hint of sexual immorality” recognize stereotypes of male sexuality in media as problematic. In the past few decades, Hollywood has proposed a solution to that problem: They will portray female characters talking about sex, pursuing pleasure, and feeling good about sex—even if it’s immoral. Sex has always been part of God’s world for men and women alike, but a television show featuring women and their sexuality felt like something new for American media. SATC was part of a new era in which sexually liberated women on TV are just as far from God’s design for sex as the men on TV. It’s not hard to imagine some long-term implications for real life men and women.

To put it in other terms, a recent survey I was reading of 29,000 people at North American universities suggested that 51% of men spent up to five hours per week online for sexual purposes. The number of women in that category is 16%. Is the solution to that iniquity to help more women find sexual pleasure online? Maybe that’s the solution big porn companies want. Some women, the Sex and the City girls included, have taken the “may as well join them” attitude about sex. But that’s not the solution God wants. It’s also not what Christians want.

God’s solution is to satisfy the deep longings of every man’s heart and every woman’s not with a shallow click, or a temporary rush of dopamine, but with the unconditional approval of his grace-filled smile. God’s solution is to assure us that he will walk beside us as we navigate webs of temptation and he’ll bring support and forgiveness to every day. God’s solution is grace. God’s grace is what the Apostle Paul wrote about to his friend Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope.” (Titus 2:11-12) That blessed hope of heaven and the grace of God that makes it possible is far superior to learning about sex from television shows.

CS Lewis quote

God’s grace is unimaginably better than the good life as described on Sex and the City, or any other television show. But don’t wait for Hollywood to produce a show with the theme: “the grace of God teaches us to live godly lives.” Influencing the culture in that direction is our job.

Thanks to author Pastor James Hein of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI. This article is adapted from content that originally appeared on “Crossing my mind. Mind on the cross.” pastorjameshein.wordpress.com

 

Where's our focus?

What does the voice in your head sound like?

C’mon . . . I know you have one. It’s not about talking to yourself or about admitting to the “voices in your head,” but about the one inner voice you’ve had for as long as you can remember. It’s probably the voice you hear up there as you’re reading this. Or, maybe it’s the voice that’s about to say, “what is this guy even talking about?”

Yeah, that one.

We all have an inner voice, but you know who doesn’t? The absolute rest of God’s creation. From everything scientists can tell, other animals don’t really think about what they’re doing before they do it – at least, not like humans do. Dog sees a treat. Dog eats the treat. The dog might hesitate if there’s danger in the way, but it’s not going to count the Weight Watcher points, think about beach season or wonder later if they really should’ve indulged.

In the same way, a tree doesn’t think about growing. A rock doesn’t think about . . . uh, rocking.

The Latin name for humans is actually related to this very point: Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Some simply translate that, “The very wise man,” but that’s not quite right. It literally means, “The man who knows that he knows.” Or, even clearer, it can mean, “the man who thinks about his thinking.”

When God breathed into Adam and gave him (and thus all of us) a rational soul, it sparked within mankind the ability not only to think about our actions, but also to examine our own thoughts. It is a tremendous gift, but . . . like everything sin touches, it can also be a tremendous burden.

I’ll ask again. What does the voice in your head sound like?

For many, the voice in their head sounds a lot like a narrator voiceover in a TV show about their life. Our inherent narcissism paints us as the lead character in our very own sitcom with everyone else either as a supporting role or as the villain.

At other times, our inner voice sounds like the scene in a court room drama. Satan whispers about our innumerable wrongs and we either tell ourselves stories to defend our actions (to an audience of one, no less) or we play prosecutor and wrack ourselves with guilt.

In either of those scenarios, it’s clear that we’ve taken a tremendous gift of God and done what mankind always does with God’s good and gracious gifts – we’ve ruined them by making it all about us.

There’s actually a fancy Latin term for that as well, incurvates in se. Literally, “curved inward on oneself.” Saint Augustine was likely the first to use the term, but it later gained quite a bit of traction in the works of Martin Luther who was both a fan of Augustine in general (being a member of the Augustibiab Order as a monk) but also the concept that so much of our problems in life have to do with being too preoccupied on ourselves.

In his “Lectures on Romans,” Luther wrote:

“Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin being so deeply curved ib on itself (incurvates in se) that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them, as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites, or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.”

This is our human condition in a nutshell. What does the voice in our head sound like? It sounds self-obsessed, self-absorbed and unable to really diagnose the condition of anything outside of our immediate wants and needs.

The English idiom, “navel-gaze” is related to this concept as well, and that’s a pretty solid picture for the life of a human—so curved in on oneself that we not only can’t see the forest for the trees, we can’t even see the trees past our own belly buttons.

This presents a huge problem in how we deal with the sin in our life.

One of Satan’s greatest weapons is isolating a sinner within his sin. Our natural inclination to think only of ourselves makes his assaults so much easier. And so, what starts as a seemingly harmless impulse or as toeing the line between right and wrong leaves us alone, broken and in a metaphorical (or perhaps literal) fetal position too curved in on ourselves to be of any use to anyone, let alone ourselves.

It plays out in the moment. “This sin can’t hurt anyone,” we tell ourselves. Of course, miles down life’s road, that same sin can be remembered as the start of a painful, destructive process. A little foresight would be nice, but we were too busy being curved in on ourselves and thinking only of what we wanted.

Even more dangerously, this plays out in how we deal with guilt and shame . . . internalizing over and over and over again. Making not only the sin about us, but also the punishment and forgiveness all about how we feel in any given moment.

God, save us from this!

He has.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains,” Psalm 121 says. “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” 

This Psalm of Ascents was written to be sung as worshippers were on their way up to the Temple, built on a literal mountain (Mount Zion). It’s also, traditionally, a Psalm used by the Christian Church in Lent—a time where we are encouraged to think soberly about our heart’s condition and where we have more muted praise as we ponder our Lord’s passion.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains . . .” Is there anything more powerful than the picture of a sinner finally straightening up to focus on something other than themselves? This, of course, is not done by our own power, but only through Jesus’ sacrifice and by the work of the Holy Spirit.

As we fit our eyes to the mountains, we focus on Mount Calvary where Jesus paid the full atonement for all sin—large, small, habitual, life-damaging, relationship-ruining and the like. As we look for the solution in ourselves, God straightens us up and our weary eyes learn to focus on his son, a solution that was there all along.

And, so, we fix our eyes on yet another mountain, Mount Zion once again. This time, as a picture of Heaven used over and over throughout scripture, a Heaven that is yours, a Heaven that is already won for you, a Heaven that is full of the richest pleasures we could never find within ourselves.


Author: Michael Schottey, Palm Coast, Florida

Love that won't disappoint

Valentine’s Day was awesome.

You know, back in the second grade when you had the parties at the end of the school day. When you passed out the fun Looney Tunes Valentines to all your classmates. When you got to consume loads of sugar.

You remember those Valentine’s Days? They were great!

And then you get older. And Valentine’s Day changes. And it becomes more complex. They can still be great, but they certainly become different.

If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, you get tired of hearing about everyone else’s plans. Perhaps you put on a brave face and act like it doesn’t bother you, but deep down, it stings. Deep down, you wish you had plans as well.

If you’re dating or married, there’s pressure to make sure this day is special. There’s pressure to live up to some sort of standard. You don’t want to let your significant other down.

Social media has added another layer to this. You see the Facebook and Instagram posts of friends and acquaintances of all these “perfect” Valentine’s Days.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to stress out. It’s easy to covet. It’s easy to be envious of other relationships. At the end of it all, it can even feel like a letdown.

And here is where the devil often likes to strike.

This is often the time the devil will tempt you to turn to a convenient lover.  A lover that he says won’t let you down. This lover is there for you when nobody else wanted to spend Valentine’s Day with you. This lover is there for you when your significant other lets you down. This is, of course, how the devil makes this lover look. This lover, of course, is pornography. But despite how tempting the devil makes this lover look, all it ever does is let you down. All it does is bring guilt and shame.

As Valentine’s Day comes and goes, I encourage you to assess the situation that you’re in. The concept of love and relationships will be everywhere. It will be on television, social media, at the store, and many other places.

Assess your relationship status. 

If you’re single. rejoice! Celebrate the blessing that is and recognize all the blessings in life that come from that.

If you’re dating, rejoice! Celebrate the relationship you have as you learn what you want in a future spouse. Know that Valentine’s Day will be unique to you.

If you’re married, rejoice! Celebrate the love that your spouse gives and see all the strengths your spouse brings to your relationship.

Whether you are single, dating, or married, you are able to rejoice and recognize all the blessings in life.

You are able to do that because of Christ. You are able to do that because your most important status is secure. You are a redeemed child of God!

In (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . (Ephesians 1:7).

Jesus went to the cross, gave his life, shed his blood . . . for you. Jesus went to the cross to wash away your sins. Jesus went to the cross to redeem you, and make you his child. Jesus accomplished that, and that will never change.

It is finished (John 19:30).

Because you are a child of God, you have a purpose. God has a plan for you. And no matter what your earthly situation is, you get the opportunity to thank and worship your God for all that he has done for you.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you are able to assess your earthly relationship and identify where the devil may look to tempt you.

But I pray that you never lose sight of your status in Christ. The love that Christ has for you is incomparable to any earthly love.

You are forgiven. You are a redeemed child of God. You are loved by God.

And God’s love will never let you down. 


Author: Daniel Koch serves as the Staff Minister of youth and family ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Crivitz, WI.

Clean

Clean Slate

We have reached the point in the new year where a third of the population who set a New Year’s resolution will have broken it. This is according to various studies, so take that for what it’s worth.

Personally, I have never been one to make a New Year’s Resolution. I do find it admirable to those who who do, however. It is a respectable thing to set goals and strive to reach those goals. Having goals can motivate us, and the new year is certainly a time to make new goals.

I pray that your new year has been one filled with blessings. I pray that you are able to reach those goals you set for yourself.

However, as noted above, we are weak. We are weak when it comes to pleasing our own sinful nature. We are weak to give in to the temptations of this world.

We are weak to lust. We are weak to satisfy our sexual cravings. We are weak to give in to pornography. As the apostle Paul said, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not keep doing what I want. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Rather than feeling new, we are often feeling like the same old person.

 

Scapegoat

Obviously, we celebrate the new year once in a calendar year. For the Israelites of the Old Testament, one of the festivals they celebrated once a year was the Day of Atonement.

On this day, God commanded the high priest to carry out certain things. One of those duties was to take a goat, called the scapegoat. The high priest would confess “all the guilt of the people and all their sins” (Leviticus 16:21) and place that on the scapegoat. An appointed man would then take that goat and walk away from camp. They would walk until they were out of sight from the camp, and the man would release the goat into the wilderness, completely out of sight.

Here, God was teaching two things:

1) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

2) One was coming to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Could you imagine watching that goat leave camp? What a feeling that must have been! Could you imagine placing all that guilt of your lust and porn on that goat and then watching it walk completely away?

While we don’t celebrate today with a goat, God gives us that same promise: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

Your sin and guilt are no longer a part of you. It is completely removed from you.

Psalm 103:12

And that brings us to number two.

The one promised to come. The one promised to make atonement has come and done just that.

Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was the sacrifice, taking all your sin and guilt on his shoulders when he went to the cross. Your sins are paid for. Your sins are atoned for. You are at one with God.

Jesus has “made us clean from all our sins” (Leviticus 16:30).

I pray that you have a blessed new year! I pray that God gives you the strength to reach the goals and resolutions that you have for yourself.

But above all, look to the One who has removed your guilt. Trust in the one who has taken away your sin. Praise the one who has made you clean.

In Christ, we are new – today and always.


Author: Daniel Koch serves as the Staff Minister of youth and family ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Crivitz, WI.

A Date With The Holy Spirit

A Date With The Holy Spirit

Do you want someone around when you sin? Almost never, right?!

It’s almost as if our conscience finds a megaphone when it knows someone is there to witness what we are doing wrong. We don’t want our conscience to hurt so much. “Calm down,” we may tell ourselves. “No one will see me. No one will come in. No one knows about the thoughts I have. I can hide it.” But the conscience knows better.

You may hide them from some people for a little while, but can you really hide your sin from everyone?

Whether you want him around or not, the Holy Spirit knows your mind and its desires. Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” David sang those words with wonder. But do they frighten you?

It may seem like a good strategy, then, to always remember that the Holy Spirit is present with us. We can attempt to scare ourselves away from sin. You may have even heard someone comment about a frisky couple, “I hope they leave room for the Holy Spirit!” If we remind ourselves that God is always watching us, then we can avoid sin.

Those thoughts are certainly a good curb to sin, but is it the best overall strategy in our approach to sin?

Couple holding hands at table

If the Holy Spirit is with you on your date, or while you are alone, or in any moment of the day, how does that make you feel? Scared? Nervous? Guilty? Ashamed? Powerless? If so, that’s a work of the Holy Spirit and he’s good at it. Very good at it.

John 16:8 “(The Holy Spirit) will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin.”

Whether the Holy Spirit grabs a line of the law in the Bible or uses the divine law written in the hearts of every human being since Adam and Eve, his work is decisive. We stand alone. Convicted. Ashamed. Scared. We have offended God. That knowledge may certainly help us to avoid some sins some of the time, but it will never give us hope and positive desires.

The best work of the law only prepares us for the best work of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 6:11, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

The Holy Spirit’s work does not end with a soul crushing conviction. We find our hearts naturally tugging toward the rules as if they could relieve us. Do this. Don’t do that. Follow this. Go there. The list is a tempting source of hope! The plan is all laid out, step by step. If I only do this and this and this, then I will successfully escape.

Nope. As tempting as it may be, the list is always out of reach. Like reaching for apples high in the branches of a tall tree. So close, but so far!

Apple on a branch

Our hope lies in another tree . . . a tree as preposterous and ugly as one placed on Golgotha. And the Holy Spirit is eager to fill you with the fruit of that salvation. Fervently. silently, and passionately, he opens the Scriptures for us. With the message of Jesus, fear dissipates, shame turns to honor, and guilt hears the happy voice of an innocent man.

It is good that the Holy Spirit is here to work his miracles. The miracles continue with new desires – better desires – that the Holy Spirit creates in us. Instead of hesitance to be in the Holy Spirit’s presence, fearing his approach and being eager to push him out of mind, we want him to be with us! We want him to help us war against our sinful self. In fact, we want to keep up with the Holy Spirit in the battle for our soul!

Galatians 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

In the battle against sin, we want to travel the whole path of the Spirit’s work – from law to the gospel to its precious fruits. It’s tempting to stick with the law, but the law won’t fully help us on our eternal journey. The full and complete message of the Holy Spirit makes him pleasant company whether we are enjoying him alone or with other people.


Author: Nathan Schulte serves as a missionary in WELS missions in Latin America. He lives in Quito, Ecuador.

Don't Let Covid-19 become porn's pandemic

Don’t Let Covid-19 Become Porn’s Pandemic

Published originally April 2020

I wish the pastor’s text was wrong about porn.
A colleague of mine shared some recent data about the correlation between cases of Covid and the amount of traffic on the internet’s biggest pornography site. According to the study, from late February to mid-March, traffic spiked nearly 12%, a swooping upward curve that resembled the side of Mt. Everest. Even worse, in the 16 days since that study was released, global corona cases have quintupled.
That’s right—quintupled. Which means, in my unscientific analysis, there’s a lot of porn out there.
I should be upfront and let you know that I believe porn is a serial killer of God’s good gifts. Both through a ministry I serve (Conquerors throughChrist) and in a book I wrote (From Dirty to Dancing), I have tried to persuade people that pornography wrecks our bodies, our souls, our relationships, and our world.
Yet, I get it. I get why so many of us, even those of us who follow Jesus, would be so drawn to porn at a time like this.
In my studies on addiction, I have learned that five of the most tempting times to fall into destructive behaviors are when we feel…
  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired
  • Bored
Know anyone who feels like that these days?
The coronavirus has messed with our routines and structures, affecting our meal times and hunger levels. Our utter loss of control and feeble attempts to be productive with work while caring for kids makes us angry. Social distancing, despite technology’s blessings, has left us lonely. Staring at screens for double-digit hours makes us tired. And, even after watching every episode of The Tiger King, we are bored, our brains itching for some dopamine-releasing novelty to excite us again.
That is just the physical factors that might lead to porn use. Add to that the spiritual forces at work—The sinister part of our hearts that lusts for short-term pleasure. The world that loves to make a dollar off of us, no matter what the cost to our integrity or our relationships. The Devil who convinces us that no one has to know and no know has to get hurt.
So, I get the graph. It makes sense to me why so many people, even Spirit-filled people, would click where we shouldn’t.
Which begs the big question—How do we fight back against the pandemic of porn?
Here are the 5-Steps that have blessed many people pre-corona and are even more urgent today:
  1. Get Real about the Wreckage—Porn seems so innocent when it’s just you and a screen. Just a release. Just a way to pass the time. Just a way to explore your sexual desires. But porn is not innocent. We must, through scriptures, stories, and studies, get real about the wreckage that every click causes. Spouses are crushed when they discover the images. Children are trafficked as supply to meet the demand. Eternities are lost for those who turn their backs on God. Take off the filter and see porn as the hates-your-future enemy that it is.
  2. Get Back to God’s Grace—Porn may be worse than you thought, but Jesus is better than you believed. Run back to Jesus, cling to his cross, and know that he is the friend of sinners. Meditate on passages like Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:8-9, Romans 5:8, and Jeremiah 31:34, and be amazed at God’s grace for those who fall into sexual sin. Embrace your identity as a child of God through faith in this Savior. Let the message take root in your heart that you are not what you have done. You are who God says you are—his own, beloved, pure in his sight.
  3. Get Rid of Porn—As much as possible, cut off your access to porn. Delete apps, pictures, and videos that cause you to stumble. Be ruthlessly honest about the triggers that lead you down a road that has no u-turns. Ask a friend to password protect your devices from installing anything that wouldn’t be good for your soul. While there is no fool-proof way to get away from porn in our digital age, there are wise ways to give the Holy Spirit more time to snap you out of your porn-pursuing fog. Make sure porn is way more than 1-click away for those moments when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or bored.
  4. Get Accountable to Others—Nothing helps our self-control as much as the good news of God’s love and good people who love us. Deal with the embarrassment and tell someone about your struggles. Confess to a trusted friend or two, be honest about when/how/how often you sin, and ask for their prayers, encouragement, and love. Remind them to remind you of Jesus’ patient love for sinful people (you will need it). This is the biblical path to healing (James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13).
  5. Get Ready for Battle—Craft a battle plan to fight porn one day at a time. Memorize a Bible passage that has proven helpful in your struggle. Screen save a picture of Jesus that reminds you that he is better than the pleasures of porn. Install filtering software on your devices (I personally use Covenant Eyes). Go to war, so that this day ends invictory, not defeat.
If those 5 steps work for you today, repeat them tomorrow. And if they don’t “work,” repeat them anyway! They will keep you close to Jesus, his truth, and his grace. Nothing matters more than that.
Resisting sexual immorality has always been a challenge. That only got more challenging when corona changed our lives. But we have a God who is up to the challenge. Talk to your Father, look to his Son, and ask for his Spirit.
With his help, let’s make sure there’s only one pandemic among God’s people.

Author: Mike Novotny serves as CtC Chairman and pastor at the CORE in Appleton, WI

FAQ

Do not overreact. This was going to happen eventually. Nothing is ruined. And your child is normal. It’s not shocking that this is happening, it’s shocking that you didn’t know about it. Now that you do know about it, you can have a conversation about it with your child. Let them know that sex is good, but pornography is not. Let them know what your plan will be going forward. Consider putting a content blocker on the devices your child uses. Let them know they are forgiven and loved.

FAQ

Pornography objectifies people and creates unrealistic expectations for sex that are completely void of the intimacy God intends. Pornography can be very addictive. Pornography encourages the abuse of women. The harm of pornography on your child extends beyond a guilty conscience and a damaged understanding of God’s design for sex. Pornography harms self-image and leads to lack of confidence and low self-worth.