Porn, Covenant, Intimacy and the Answer to our Broken Sexual Worldview

Porn, Covenant, Intimacy and the Answer to our Broken Sexual Worldview

It’s every week for months now that another high-profile figure is engulfed in the next alleged sexual assault scandal.

This last one regarding comedian and actor Aziz Ansari finally struck a chord and I’m connecting the dots.

First, my heart breaks for any person who has every felt intimidated, pressured, trapped  or manipulated into a situation mental, emotional or physical. And I can only imagine the isolation that ensues from feeling voiceless-before, during or after such an episode. For those, I simply say: 1, I am glad if you find voice or advocacy for your voice; 2, solidarity of any kind is good and; 3, God is close to the broken-hearted.

Now here is my proposition. This issue, while not new by any stretch-but finally proliferated from an uncovering standpoint-originates from 3 fundamental societal shortcomings.

1 The pornification of society.

These men-and I can almost guarantee you (though there is obviously no possible way to prove this) that every single one of these accused men has been addicted to pornography.

And while I will not list all the objectively and quantifiablely destructive aspects of pornography I will simply highlight a couple relevant issues and cite what is one of the best articles ever published on the topic.

The bottom line for me is this: an insane number of-yes, mostly men-are addicted to porn; they are becoming exposed to porn at earlier ages and there are AT LEAST two horrifying side effects: 1, boys and men come to view woman as objects and 2, after a certain level of exposure to porn the type and degree of porn gets more and more graphic and grotesque.

These and many other notable objections are posted here for further reading; if you even know a person of the male variety, I HIGHLY recommend checking this article out.

2, The distortion of true intimacy

When I was still in student ministries we did a series on dating and sex and here was the big idea from 4-6 weeks of teaching on the subject: the definition of intimacy is to know someone fully and to be known by someone fully.

The basis is trust, security and in-depth knowledge of one another. And, biologically speaking, boys tend to be more wired for the pleasure of sex, while girls are wired for the real ethos of intimacy: to be known, cherished, trusted, wanted, valued and LOVED!

In the article I read about the Aziz Ansari accuser, you want to know one of the parts that stuck out to me the most? It wasn’t the graphic and very sad sexual advances. It was the part where they sat down, she had expressed discomfort and she imagined that perhaps he would rub her back or play with her hair… THAT is the very personification of intimacy.

Note that those gestures could have been accomplished by a father figure rather than a sexual partner. That may sound odd, but which one is trusted, honored and cherished more: the father who raised this young woman or the one night stand super star?

3, The lostness of covenant

Though an intensely Biblical word, I would define covenant as compact, contract, agreement, vow, commitment-all powerful words that evoke a mutual promise. A mutual promise, by the way, that forms the bedrock for ALL ELSE in a relationship-of any significant kind-romantical or otherwise!

When I was a freshman in college, I had my first major breakup where I had been intimate with the girl. Without going into too much detail, she was the one who had a breach of trust and for days and weeks I pouted about like a real victim! And then something rocked me to the core.

My dad-in no uncertain terms-said something to this affect, ‘Ben, sooner rather than later you are going to have to admit at least equal fault because you actively engaged in a relationship where there weren’t really any terms…’ It was a sort of the “alls fair in love and war” comment, but he was saying so much more than that…

He was saying that apart from covenant, it’s all up for grabs… cheat, lie, makeup, “open relationship,” sleep around, commit, don’t commit… nothing is truly defined so nothing is truly agreed upon.

So listen: does cheating and unwanted sexual advances still happen within the covenant of marriage? Sure, I suppose so. But without that starting place, without that foundational piece, without that plan you are playing a losing odds game that I just do not think is worth the human heart.

Don’t believe me? Test it for yourself: go ahead and continue serial TBD relationships and report back if it leaves you feeling more fulfilled, more known, more satisfied and happier or not… because if year over year, guy after guy, girl after girl you wind up with the same results isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Conclusion:

The thing is: all 3 of these are intertwined… the pornification leads to a demented sexual worldview, intimacy-in any significant sense-is a foreign term AND this leaves (mostly) women at a loss for a man who knows how to really unlock the needs of her heart.

The lack of covenant leads to the brokenness of serial sexual encounters-damaging both parties ability to give and receive love. The lack of covenant love-making leads to a hunger to fulfill that need elsewhere and we are back to square one (porn or getting sex wherever we can)!

As a father, husband and man I will keep my prescriptions brief and pointed. I put the onus squarely on the shoulders of other men: father a young man (spiritually or biologically) and be bold and courageous enough to teach them the biblical worldview of intimacy, sex, purity, the dangers of porn and, of course, what it really means to win a woman for life… to lay your life down for her like Christ served the Church.

Take the book of Ruth as a beautiful starting place if you want a Biblical example of BOTH intimacy AND covenant; Ruth 1:16 says (from one widow to another),

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Do me a favor and share this; I think this message needs to go out… to the hurting and those doing the hurting alike. Share and challenge others to break free from the broken cycle of repeat sexual encounters and/or porn consumption. Real and lasting intimacy is not found in those places. It’s found at Calvary-where a covenant was offered to give life and meaning and hope to any and all future covenants. 

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

I have exciting things coming in 2018 that I can’t wait to tell you about but for now let me leave you with this question…

Are you a leader people love to follow?

As 2017 comes to a close, we all find ourselves at the wonderful intersection of looking back and looking forward.

(Don’t miss that part by the way-looking back. There’s learnings and lessons and all the good with the bad; you’d be a fool if you didn’t devote a serious portion of your thought life and let all of that inform you goals, hopes and dreams for 2018).

As you look back and look ahead, I want you to ask that question and I’ll be doing the same.

To get you started, I want to give you a surprisingly beautiful picture of why, of all the questions, this should be the question for you in 2018.

And I want us all to be reminded of our legacies in this picture. That’s what the end and beginning of each year builds anyway-our lifelong legacies.

It happened early this month watching (for the first time) the mid-century classic White Christmas with the wife and kids.

There’s this opening scene on the front lines of WWII and if you know anything about the film, of course, the guys break out in song.

It is the content of this one old Hollywood musical classic that is haunting me… and it goes like this:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go

Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe

We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay

Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray

Because we love him, we love him

Especially when he keeps us on the ball

And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call

With the grandest son of a soldier of them all

I mean part of it is a satire because they only wanna follow him so long as he steers clear of any danger, and yet we all know that part’s not the picture of real life-hence the satire.

Real life is a battle; you’ll face foes both spiritual and natural-this was true in 2017 like it’ll be true in 2018. The defining moment for every leader is the repeated facing of decisions through conflict. Those who fought in WWII and any conflict since then would assuredly attest to this.

So if you can take the satire for what it is, then it’s: “We love him… we’ll follow him wherever he goes…”

That’s influence you cannot buy.
That’s a leadership built on love.
That’s a legacy of fear-no-evil followership.

The romantic side of me loves the military allusion and respects the character required to attain the rank of General (who this song is devoted to).

The Jesus-follower in me understands the fundamental difference between leadership by power, force, merit, rank or even pay and leadership by humility, compassion and peace-brokering martyrdom.

Which one inspires you more? Which one would you give your life for?

You think the disciples felt that way about Jesus? I bet you they did. Every last one of them followed him all the way to their own gruesome deaths. All for the leader they loved.

Can and will your people say the same? Your kids… your staff… your team… your employees… your church?

Man I sure hope so.

And because I know I’m not there yet, I want to be willing to have the passion, grit and discipline to do the things necessary to get there… starting today, tomorrow and 2018.

What are some of your hopes for 2018?

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

This morning in my Bible time, I feel that God spoke to me… (and I was moved to blog about it… naturally).

This morning I was in Matthew 14, which is a chapter most noted for 3 pretty sizeable events: the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.

At first, I caught myself thinking: man this is a weighty chapter for Jesus and very clearly you see him-every other paragraph-trying to steal away… to be alone, still and quiet. When you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see this remarkable trait of Jesus’ and it’s our first marker for what I want to talk about today.

You see Jesus was in anguish… I mean just generally speaking he was-think about it: the weight of the world on your shoulders-literally to carry the burden of every human being’s brokenness all around you… painful, unimaginable. This is, perhaps, one reason why he was in constant pursuit of alone time with the Father.

But then when we find him in chapter 14 he’s also in a degree of specific anguish I imagine. In the preceding chapter he’s coming home and I’m just amazed how quickly the scene changes here in verse 57…

54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

And even though he goes on in the rest of that last verse saying, ‘yeah well typical… a prophet is never well-received in his home town’ as if he had already anticipated their response (duh, he’s Jesus), but still: these are his people, his hometown, his neighborhood, his original community. And please don’t underrate the community ties of 1st century Palestine… they did not have the same universally accepted norms of individuality.

So he’s coming off of that slap in the face and goes right into hearing the news of the mortifying death of his dear friend, cousin and, in his words, (Matthew 11:11) the most enviable man who ever lived.

That happens, he tries once again to get some solace and yet people find him, track him down, follow him and even here (in feeding the 5,000) he’s very moved (in anguish) for these people-and no, not just because they’re hungry, but I would venture that he was ‘moved with compassion’ for their spiritual hunger… they were ‘sheep without a shepherd.’

It’s what happens next that interests me the most as a teachable moment for what we are going through in our country and our world RIGHT NOW…

The disciples are caught in a storm and here’s what happens…

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

And here’s the radical perplexity of a life oriented toward Jesus and Kingdom-living:

Yes, even in tragedy, even in tremendous loss and sorrow, even in unimaginable pain-these may all be used as an invitation to experience the real and living God.

So when it may seem callous and untimely to suggest, ‘yes all things do happen for a reason’ it is nonetheless the truth of what we believe, the hope of what we live for:

that all things may be redeemed
that all things can be used for good
that all things are a means for showing us and growing us in something

So here is what I want to say:

For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in depression and anxiety…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in your marriage or parenting…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding feeling isolation, lonliness or rejection…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in sickness and death…

For any of these, Jesus is very present, very real and he bids you come…

To the person who says, ‘keep your prayers’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why does God let this happen’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why God, how God, Where’s God’ HE says YES COME

I’ll leave you with one more proof for this as God’s operation in the world.

There’s a wonderful passage from Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah-God’s messenger-brings a word from the Lord to his chosen people-the Jews-who are in captivity (again, 3 a.m., darkest hour) and while there’s a hugely popular part of the passage in verse 11 (for I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…), what I love is what comes next in verse 13: “if you search for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Do me a favor and repost/share this with anyone in you life who may be struggling in this way and if someone reaches out-good, bad or otherwise-send them a direct message, setup a phone call or coffee date and really lean into it with them… it’s worth it and it might just change a life.

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

Are you ready? Here we go: 

  1. We are possessed with listening to respond rather than listening to understand 
  2. We fundamentally cannot agreee to disagree well. Not only that; when we come upon a differing view we must demonize that person (or group behind that claim) by making them morally reprehensible 
  3. (Bonus point) we all just need a little more Jesus…

I’ll expound only on this last one then make prescriptions (cause diagnosing problems/making declarative statements about “what’s wrong” is damn folly without actually prescribing potential solutions… as Ghandi said, “BE the change you wish to see.”)

So I’m sorry for playing into the really old church joke (the answers always “Jesus!”), but I’m afraid it’s just plain true.

In other words, I believe placing Christ at the center of each and every area of our lives in greater and greater proportion is the very essence of the Christian faith. 

So yes, a little more Jesus; 1% more Jesus each day might do us all very well…

At the risk of being redundant, I make this claim because Jesus is the literal complete manifestation of perfect: truth, love, peace, hope, grace, mercy, strength, justice, goodness and life that ever was. 

He is life giving; his words and his life (as preserved historically in the Gospels). 

Our national dialogue is not very life giving right now. 

So do yourself a favor and invite some life into your… life.

That’s prescription #1.

#2 is this: practice.

When you come upon someone, in person or in community or online who has a different view than yours: practice just actually hearing them… 

Ask questions-not in order to load up rebuttals-but rather to fully hear and understand. 

And keep asking questions until you get to a part of them that’s so personal and vulnerable that you begin to see their humanity.

When you run out of questions, just sit quietly until you think of more. 

And then thank them and walk away… 

What you do next is critical:

Think about what you heard-compare it to the origins, factual accuracy, logical consistency and existential reality of your worldview and move forward. 

This, I think, may present us with a better way to live…

Speak Like Your Voice is Gone Tomorrow 

Speak Like Your Voice is Gone Tomorrow 

Words that have been used to describe my speaking style: “enthusiastic… high energy… contagious… passionate.”

If you want to see if this is true, see for yourself…

What I want people to know is two things:

1, This comes from a place down deep in my heart that longs to be an agent of change in the lives of others and;

2, I act like every time that I’m given an audience, it will be my last.

(3, You can make passionate pleas in your own way too.)

With so much going on in the world today-hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, famine, disease and destruction-I can’t imagine another way of thinking.

I take the realities of our world coupled with the hope that I live for (that there is a Sovereign God that is orchestrating all of history and will send his son again one day AND that he will come “like a thief in the night” Matthew 24:42-44) and I think:

I had better get busy living, spreading life by speaking life.

So when you see my passion, don’t be mistaken-it ain’t mindless hype, it ain’t noise and it certainly ain’t because I think too highly of myself.

It IS however how highly I view our message.

How many of us miss opportunities to speak the word we really feel motivated to bring… every day, hour over hour, text, phone call and face to face meeting with family, friends and coworkers everyday?

One of my greatest irrational fears is that I’ll suffer a traumatic brain injury that will result in lack of speech; inability to formulate and communicate ideas.

I know… irrational. But at the same time, accidents do happen… look no further than the motor vehicle we climb into every day. I don’t live by this fear; this fear is not the motivation; real and present danger isn’t either.

My aim is not to drive fear. That’s not our message. Far from it…

The message is this:

With tomorrow not guaranteed, what are we doing with the voices that God has given us?

Fabulous orator or not, we each have a voice and our time is limited (by eternal standards). You don’t have to be a pastor, prophet or boss either, but I urge you:

  • Today, don’t have regrets about holding back
  • Today, share the word (encouragement, life, hope, truth) you have for another
  • Today, use your voice to be a voice for the voiceless
  • Today, leverage your influence by giving voice to life change

Vision Alone is not Vision At All

Vision Alone is not Vision At All

This last month that was one of my greatest learnings…

You can have literally the best idea in the whole world, you can communicate it with all the style and grace imaginable, but if you have not people, you have nothing.

I’ve said it to a couple different groups of people now-the staff team I’m a part of, a group of volunteers during a training event and then I think I may have given the same speel to the entire church that we lead but what I’m learning last month, this week, this moment is:

You can have the most tremendous vision in the world, but if people aren’t invited along, have as much buy-in as you do and you are all moving together, then you will simply be alone on an island called vision. And that’s not where any of us want to be as leaders.

Most of what I’m talking about has to do with leading change, by the way. And now that I’m finally reading John Kotter’s seminal work by the same name-things are beginning to come into even greater focus.

The Kotter model has to do with an 8-step process for leading change and one of the “unskippable” early steps is creating a coalition for change… WITH at least some people who have power.

Before finally stealing this book from another pastor, I had been listening to an Andy Stanley podcast wherein he was interviewing the former Home Depot CEO, Frank Blake.

Blake gives yet another tremendous model, equation rather, that supports the same principle; he says:

i X a = e. OR

IDEA times ACCEPTANCE equals EFFECTIVNESS.

In other words, we as leaders often get trapped in our little vision caves where we fully orb this new idea, change effort or cultural direction and it is birthed in a vacuum of 1.

We then run out and tell the world about it, praying for a mutual sense of excitement, and yet how could they-they had no hand in the evolution of this idea?

Blake suggests getting the idea to 80% and then inviting the “coalition” or the people or the team or the influencers in and together forging the last 20%. In this way we will be working toward far greater impact and effectiveness.

So I have this book, I have my podcast and yet I have another source of input waking me up to this principle over the last few weeks.

A friend, and fellow leader at our organization, came along and said, ‘Ben I think you just need to over-communicate in this season of change.’

He went on saying, ‘people here have experienced haphazard and chaotic change-making processes that leave people somewhat sensitive to any sort of change.’

This, on top of the fact that most of the known world is change resistant already! (Despite the classic saying that change is perhaps the only constant in life!).

In your leadership wherever you are-family, church, business-learn from these greats and from my mistakes and:

1. Build a coalition for change (that includes at least some people with real power)

 

2. Work toward more acceptance by inviting people into the creative processes earlier

 

3. Over-communicate. I’ll use a recent quote a heard (Craig Groeschel via Thom Rainer from Groeschel’s latest podcast post on developing leaders):

As people are learning, they are forgetting.

This is especially true within the context of fresh vision and leading change, because we already have a natural sense of resistance.

I love and appreciate you all.

If you haven’t seen my last post, please look at it and even scan to the end: I am requesting some census data on the book you would like to read next! DO IT AND HELP A BROTHER OUT!

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

52 Week Blog Anniversary 

This week marks 1 year since I started this blog.

It also marks the completion of quite a sizeable goal: to write 1 post a week for 1 year. 

When I look at my dashboard it says that I’ve posted 51 times, which means after clicking ‘publish’ on this post I will have reached my goal. 

There’s a guy who writes about goal setting, I think its James Clear, when he talks about the aspiration to write a book-the discipline behind which is really just about writing consistently. And how if you could just commit to the discipline of writing consistently you would amass the equivalent of a full written work. 

Well with the average non-fiction book length of 50,000-60,000 words, I’ve produced over 57,000 words this past year (at an average post length of 1,100-a few hundred words too long by the way!). 

Obviously the purpose behind the goal was much more than to simply amass a load of written words. It was the implied meaning behind the words and the mission of my homepage-to impact, influence and ignite. And I can only hope that 1400 visitors from over 30 countries and 14 followers would feel in some way encouraged and motivated by these words this past year. 

In this past year I’ve tried my best to honestly convey the learnings and major takeaways from my life that they might be a living testimony to you and yours. This should show my attempts at being committed to lifelong learning (as opposed to presenting the words as an established profession). 

And, by the way, the blog is a fabulous learning journal medium to do just that-catalog all the things you’ve learned and processed as a means for looking back and actually tracking the wisdom and development that you’ve acquired. I don’t think we do this enough-life moves too quickly and we are prone to drift (as opposed to intentionally). 

And so maybe there will be a book… but what would be the big idea? Who would be the primary audience? How would it serve people? What book would you like to read or do you feel needs to be written?

Here are some early thoughts; send me your votes and ideas…

  1. I talk to a lot of people, typically millenials, who are perplexed and transient when it comes to their calling in life. This first book idea would be driven at these young people (and any others who feel at a vocational identity crisis). “Developing a personal mission statement: the 7 stages of discovering where all of you connects with the needs of the world”
  2. I believe that churches are at a loss in so many areas from the pragmatic (strategy, management and structural needs) to the spiritual (theology, mandate to reach the lost/next generation, mission and vision), this would be a call and a guide for churches to take the time to work ON the ministry not just IN the ministry. Passion: My personal manifesto for how the church ought to look. 
  3. For the longest time I have carried the conviction that you could tether a line from almost any social problem directly back to it’s family of origin experience; the common denominator for almost all spiritual, social and political flashpoints can be connected directly to what happens in that first community. The Family: the center and solution for every social problem

Okay, so there you have it. Would love to hear from you.