lent-word-1

Lent – A Season of Reflection

Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.  Typically celebrated by most catholics and few protestants, it gave us a great discussion at ThirdPlace to consider where in the Bible are we challenged to stop, reflect, and examine our lives.  Throughout scripture we see the importance of allowing God’s Word to constantly re-align our hearts and our lives to God’s priorities, almost as if God knows we are very good at becoming busy and preoccupied and forgetful of His Words.

 

In our discussion at group we talked about what we should consider sacrificing for lent, considering how much Christ sacrificed for us.  Many people will take a break from social media (yeah right!), chocolate, alcohol, coffee, sweets, etc.  Yet most people won’t consider what is a new habit they could start this lent.  Maybe making time to surrender/examine each day to the Lord, or spending time reading the same verse over and over and over for 40 days, or maybe even thinking of 40 different people you can encourage or serve each day.

 

Here are a couple articles that can encourage you in thinking more about this:

https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/02/how-can-you-observe-lent-this-year/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/march-web-only/lent-is-here-to-throw-us-off-again.html?start=1

Village+Church+-+2014+Advent+Guide

Advent – A Lesson on Waiting

Growing up in a small mountain town makes the idealized view of Christmas become a reality almost every December.  I remember always hoping for a fresh snow fall to blanket the mountains and backyards of Tahoe, waiting for that perfect white Christmas morning.  Add in the traditional Christmas songs of Christmas Eve service, the anticipation of opening presents Christmas morning, and of course the huge Christmas dinner. The waiting was such a momentous build-up that knowing the exact day for our anticipation and longing made it bearable, at least until the last night when I would rarely fall sleep before midnight and always woke up long before sunrise.

As I read this article on Advent from the blog at crossway a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the uncertainty in the fulfillment for so many of our longings and desires.  The element of waiting is so difficult in this digital age, when we can get things we want almost instantly, and yet there are many hopes and dreams that may never come.  I’ve been reminded frequently this season that the hope of Christ’s salvation and return is one thing that will come, even if we don’t know when.  Enjoy reading the article and being reminded of our great Savior.

https://www.crossway.org/blog/2016/11/how-advent-teaches-us-to-wait-well/

Share your thoughts below. Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

How do you react when you have to wait for something?

What have you waited for, knowing that it would be a long time before it came?

What hope, desire, or longing do you have that has yet to come?

images

The Technology Temptation

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-technology-makes-us-anxious?utm_content=bufferf3477&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

When was the last time you turned your phone off for a whole day?  How did it make you feel?

Do you intentionally use social media as a source to unplug from the day or a tool for God’s Kingdom? Why?

Who can you serve or encourage through your favorite app?

College-Boy-Binge-Drinking-1

Parenting Binge Drinking

The Atlantic published an article recently that brings up an interestingly correlation between drinking, college, and parenting. Titled “How Helicopter Parenting Can Cause Binge Drinking”, the author sets out to explain the way some white parents raise their children is exacerbating an alcohol problem on U.S. universities. The article brings up many worthwhile questions for discussion, to name a few: Do universities encourage binge drinking? How should acceptance into a university be valued? How important is a university education? How influential are parents in the area of use and abuse of alcohol? Is there such a thing as “good parenting” and “bad parenting”? Do white parents raise their children differently from other races?

At the end of the article, the author makes the observation that many parents have raised binge-drinking children because they are only concerned with success and raising “winners”. She cites the importance that our culture places on status and power, not excluding the high school context, which permits excessive drinking. In her conclusion she makes the makes the connection the pursuit of prestige leads to emptiness in life. For a liberal magazine to publish such an argument is strange, for the connection between pursuing power and pursuing emptiness to be so clear… is not strange at all.

Disagree? Agree? Why? What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

You can read the article here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/09/how-helicopter-parents-cause-binge-drinking/492722/

5611594783_4a35ba2da9_o

Porn-Again Christian?

Christianity Today recently published an article titled The Porn Paradox about the growing crisis of pornography use and its negative effects. In the past 20 years, the availability of pornography has rapidly increased with the development of technology and the smart phone. Purchasing porn no longer requires buying a magazine, asking a friend to see one, or going into the age-restricted section of the video store…even as sleazy as that sounds. As porn continues to become easier to access, Americans are also becoming more tolerant of porn use than ever before even though the research coming out proves the devastating effects and long-term consequences of porn use.

“The Porn Paradox” seems to be the catchphrase to understand the unnerving research and stats on porn use. In articles from Time, The Atlantic, and Townhall to various TED talks on the subject – the public awareness on the negative effects of porn is ever increasing from its contribution to sex trafficking and child slavery, to erectile dysfunction, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Along with the research stating the biological, neurological, and relational damage that is taking place because of pornography, there does not seem to be any decrease in the availability nor the use of it. The article from Christianity Today helps bring into the open the seed of deception that porn plants into its viewers. The most jaw-dropping insights from the article come from research from the Barna Group that,

“…only half of US adults and one-third of teens and young adults thought pornography was “wrong”. Teens and young adults believe not recycling is more immoral than using porn….some 41 percent of Christian men ages 13-24 and 23 percent of Christian men ages 25 and up said they “frequently” used porn. (The figures were 5 percent and 13 percent for Christian women in those age groups).”

In a society where recycling is valued more than the objectification of a naked body; we must ask, is this really a social problem or a moral problem? To what level of immorality will people go to satisfy their sexual desire? To what degree of personal pain does someone need to experience before realizing the damage that porn causes? The conclusion of the article challenges the Christian to really see what the Bible says about sexual sin and that it doesn’t say to just fight the desire or resist the desire. We need to flee from the thought, the temptation, and the action (1 Cor. 6:18).

Any thoughts? Please share. The full article is printed below.

 

This spring, Utah became the first state to declare pornography a public health crisis, calling on businesses and educators to protect children from it. Around the same time, a Time Magazine cover story story reported that porn causes erectile dysfunction in young men whose minds have marinated in X-rated clips from the time they were teenagers.

Pornography trains the user to seek more extreme sexual experiences to receive the same satisfying flood of dopamine. It’s what researchers call the Coolidge effect—the prospect of a new sexual partner excites males (and sometimes females) so much that normal sexual activity becomes boring by comparison.

Time focused on how porn usage prevents couples from having healthy sex lives. That’s only the beginning of a troubling and growing amount of research and trends. We’re learning more and more about the lasting impact of living in a world wired to a porn-saturated Internet.

When I was a teenager in the 1990s, when the Internet was in its infancy and all cell phones were “dumb,” churches’ major concern regarding sexual matters was premarital sex. In 1993, teens had to steal magazines or VHS tapes to view porn; today, all they need is an Internet connection. While the evidence continues to reveal negative effects of this multibillion-dollar industry, few secular commentators dare to say what many of us see: our porn problem is a moral problem, with drastic consequences for individuals and communities.

Studies have linked porn consumption to depression and higher drug and alcohol consumption. Researchers in Germany found that men who watch porn showed a weaker connection between the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and the part of the brain involved in memory storage and information processing. A wave of “pornified” advertisements, depicting women in erotic poses selling everyday products, lead both men and women to view women’s bodies differently—and certainly not more humanly.

Aside from the neurological consequences, science has unpacked a plethora of sociological effects. Pornography negatively shapes romantic relationships; one study found that women in relationships with men who use porn report being less happy than those with men who abstain. Research in a dozen countries showed that men who viewed pornography when they were boys were less likely to form healthy relationships and more likely to think sexual harassment was acceptable.

At the same time that researchers are unearthing porn’s tolls, Americans have grown more tolerant of it. According to an extensive study conducted by Barna Group, only half of US adults and one-third of teens and young adults thought pornography was “wrong.” Teens and young adults believe not recycling is more immoral than using porn. Barna found porn use is up among Christians, too. Some 41 percent of Christian men ages 13–24 and 23 percent of Christian men ages 25 and up said they “frequently” used porn. (The figures were 5 percent and 13 percent for Christian women in those age groups.)

Porn isn’t just an individual moral problem. It strikes to the heart of what it means to be human.

Porn advocates argue that pornography feeds our innate and uncontrollable instincts, and that healthy adults should explore those instincts freely. Christians know better. We are right to exhort each other to make every thought captive to Christ and to live into our new life in him.

But, as we have learned from abstinence campaigns, Christians need to offer a robust teaching that goes beyond simply repeating “this is wrong.” I saw the benefits of abstinence once I recognized what premarital sex did to my soul and witnessed the example of others choosing a better path. Likewise, when we argue against porn, we ought to, as an English proverb advises, “Use soft words and hard arguments.” Here, we find an ally in social science, which has linked porn with troubling biological, neurological, and relational outcomes.

The commentators and researchers are, in part, right: Porn isn’t just an individual moral problem. It strikes to the heart of what it means to be human. This is why Paul urges believers to “flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Sexual sin can affect us in profound and devastating ways. Some sins we can fight. Others we must flee—even when temptation is only a Google search away.

Halee Gray Scott is an independent social researcher and the author of Dare Mighty Things. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two daughters and can be found online at hgscott.com.

 

i2NWVBiMcEH0

The Cost of Divorce

I didn’t go into much depth in the passages that deal with divorce on wednesday night and maybe I should have, but too often we want to know what the bible says about an issue and apply it or prescribe it to every situation we are confronted with in life.  The problem with that mindset is that we often overlook the heart of God’s reasoning behind the response because we only want the answer.  Jesus’s response to the pharisee’s question regarding the lawfulness of divorce in Matthew 19 is fascinating in and of itself.  But what happens when we read it in light of the story Matthew includes beforehand?

Though the story is separated with Jesus traveling from one place to another, Jesus answers Peter’s question about forgiveness by telling the parable of the unforgiving servant.  If you don’t remember this parable, read Matthew 18:21-35 for the whole recap, but the punch in the parable comes in verses 32 and 33, “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’”  Jesus is essentially telling Peter, you forgive your brother as many times as he asks for forgiveness.  But how do we reconcile this debt that is brought upon us?  In this case, the financial debt of one man to another, but what about the emotional debt? or the physical debt? If we are honest, as Tim Keller points out, “No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator.  If you have been robbed of money, the opportunity, or happiness, you can either make the wrongdoer pay it back or you can forgive.  But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt.  You bear it yourself.  All forgiveness, then, is costly.”

In returning to the issue of divorce, there is similar pain and debt that is accrued over time in marriage.  It’s not that some marriages have no debt and others have heaps of debt; all marriages accrue pain, hurt, and consequently a debt that has to be paid.  So, the cost of forgiveness is so large it’s seemingly impossible to give and “absorb” the debt.  If marriage is a representation of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph. 5:22-33), and Christ gave up everything for the church to deliver complete redemption from death and forgiveness of sin, to reconcile us to himself;  how selfish then do we have to be to not forgive others and not trust God for the strength and perseverance to love our spouse?

The beauty of the gospel is the cost of the God’s grace.  It totally goes against the way we view the world and our relationships.  We want marriage to be this painless, effortless, euphoric delight, and when that’s not the case, we run away.  But God’s grace, though free, is not cheap nor effortless.  Christ endured much pain and great cost, to bring life and the fullness of it to you and me, so that we might know what love til death do us part truly means.