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Posts from May 2010

Pornography in the Church

It's the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about. . .pornography.

Do people in the church have a porn problem?  Absolutely.  Many have admitted to being drawn into pornography's trap and find it very difficult to escape.

Check out this email I received from Tony Steward, Online Community Pastor of Lifechurch.tv:

If half the men in your church lost their jobs, how would you respond? If women were experiencing miscarriages at a rapidly increasing rate, would you start to ask questions? What if 90% of the youth in your church were exposed to a deadly virus?

Hopefully, the above situations will never come true but they do give you a sense of how heavily pornography now saturates our lives and churches. Some recent statistics --

  • 53% of Christian men consume pornography.
  • 17% (and rapidly increasing) of all women struggle with pornography addiction.
  • 90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed porn online (most while doing homework).

People who counsel for sexual and pornography addiction note we’ve reached the 40-year mark of pornography’s availability in our homes. Starting in the 1970s with VHS tapes, and in the 1990s with the Internet, the easy availability and exposure of pornography has influenced an entire generation’s adolescence, dating, and marriages.

In church settings, many of us have discussed pornography from the pulpit or offered events like Porn Sunday (XXXChurch.com) to teach people about the dangers of sexual sin -- and to explain how to find recovery. But, for those in your congregation who have a problem (man or woman), is there a safe place for them to find help?

Every week, the Church Online team at LifeChurch.tv connects with people who are dealing with sexual addiction. Many find safety in the distance or in the anonymity of online ministry, and feel like they can finally let their guard down. For me, the most surprising group of people we connect with are pastors who are trapped in pornography addiction and haven’t had been able to find a safe place to confess and receive prayer.

These interactions, and the overwhelming presence of sexual issues in people we connect with, helped us realize the need to specifically address the real-life effects of pornography, both as an event and in long-term opportunities for care.

ThePornEvent.com (http://thepornevent.com) is our response to the influence of pornography in our community, and you are welcome to join us.

From May 23-28, LIfeChurch.tv and XXXChurch.com are offering this event to help people who are caught in pornography’s grip. It’s an interactive 25-minute online experience with segments for men and women. Anyone from any church, any country, and any place can attend. They can be anonymous if they want, they can receive prayer, and they can get connected with a next-steps group that will offer preliminary help and a path to a safe recovery group.

This may be something you or a loved one is dealing with.  I encourage you to check out ThePornEvent.com for help.  It's a good start to healing.

Some follow-up material and help can be found at Defender Ministries. (http://www.defenderministries.com/)


Baptism in Jesus' Name

I showed some of the photos of our trip to Israel last night and ran out of time (again.)  I ended with one of my favorite stories of the trip and trips past.  Looking at photos of the southern excavation and steps on the southern side of the Temple area, we discussed the happenings of Acts 2.  Here Peter preached and many were saved.  Following this salvation experience, they were baptized.  The question for years has been "where?"  Archeologists have uncovered many mikvah bathing pools right on the steps of the Temple.  These ritual baths were performed by Jews during the time of Christ (as well as before and in some circles of Judaism, even today.)  These "baths" were to be done nude, in a covered area, very modest and to prepare the individual to enter into Temple worship.

One of the keys is the name in which the person was to be baptized.  We baptize today in Jesus' name.  Ever wonder why?  Watch the clip below as our guide Yoni Gerrish explains the area, the ritual baths and the amazing (even to Hebrew scholars) concept of being baptized in Jesus' name.


Our Last Day in Israel

It has been an incredible week of study and touring the Holy Land.  Our group of twenty-two have grown closer together and God has spoken to each person and to the group in special ways.  Our last day in Jerusalem started with a . to the Old City and a last chance at getting some bargains in the marketplace.  Not my favorite place to be, but fun to haggle.  Where else can you be told that an item costs $10, you get to offer $2 and settle for a price of $6 (all the while knowing that the item was worth about $1.50.)

We went to the Holocaust Memorial today.  Since I have been before, I went through the new section that highlights individual stories from camp survivors as well as videos and photos of the rise of Nazism and Hitler's "final solution."  What a sobering site.  I had to go through quickly (in about 45 minutes) but literally could have spent 8 hours or more in there watching and reading all the stories.  The rest of the group saw the other memorials.  One of the most incredible memorials is the children's memorial, financed by the Spiegal family (the ones with the catalogs) in memory of their son who died as a child in Auschwitz.  In the center of the memorial are five lit candles.  The room is covered with mirrors and the five candles reflect to 1.5 million lights representing the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust.

From here we visited the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept.

Yoni Gerrish, our guide, ended our tour with a wonderful, authentic meal at a restaurant in an Arab city on the way to Tel Aviv.

Now we're in the airport at Tel Aviv.  Time for some more airport details:

  • Security in the Ben Gurion Airport is over the top.  It's good.  I feel safe, but believe me, they check everything and make sure everyone in the group knows where we have been, why we were here and where we are headed.
  • One of our ladies bag was 1.5 kg over the weight limit.  She had to pay $150 for the weight overage.  Can you believe this?  She was upset and I don't blame her.  Crazy.
  • There's free wireless internet in the airport, which is good because now I can talk to folks through Facebook.  The only problem is that most of the people talking to each other through Facebook right now are in our group and while I'm typing IMs to them, it would be easier to just look up and say it.  Ah, the wonders of technology.
  • Checked in with my daughter and wife.  Asked how things were I was told "good and quiet."  That's relieving.
  • It's 9:48pm here in Tel Aviv and our flight is 13 hours throughout the night.  Though I'm once again stuck in a middle seat, I'm hoping that I will be so extremely tired that I'll sleep most of the flight.
  • This group has been wonderful.  Great folks.  Great attitudes and real troopers.
  • Three cheers for Christine Nolting.  This wonderful lady is an inspiration to all of us.  She did everything offered and we are all so proud of her.
  • The Nok-Out and Magnum ice cream bars once again have won everyone over.  Why can't we get ice cream bars like these in the States?  I wish I could take some on my carry on, but afraid what my bag will look like when I land with melted ice cream all over it.
  • We should land Monday around 9:30am in Jacksonville.  According to what I'm hearing, folks are planning to go to Sonny's or La Nopalera for lunch.  Guess we have had enough falafels.
  • For such a full flight that is loading in just about 40 minutes, there aren't too many people here at the gate.  I know it's going to be full, but it would be great if there were a bunch of empty seats so we could spread out.  Not counting on it.
  • A guy came over to me and was going to sit next to me, but immediately left and went to sit on the tile floor across the terminal.  Hmmm.  I brushed my teeth and just reapplied deodorant.  Guess I just don't look friendly.
  • While sitting here in this terminal, it's obvious our group has grown close.  We are so loud.

Once again, the study tour to Israel was worth it.  We will go again and I hope more of you will plan to go too.  Our next trip will take us through the wilderness and into Jordan to Petra.  It may not be so much a "hotel stay" but a couple of nights camping out.  Anyone up for this?


Shabot in Jerusalem

Shabot began last night at sundown and is almost over at this point.  Shabot means "seven" and is the Sabbath for Jews.  Our day began as others in the city with much on our schedule.

We began by going up to the Mount of Olives and spending some time in an olive grove in Gethsemane considering Jesus' last night with his disciples.  Our guide, Yoni, said that this was the busiest he has ever seen it.  It was a madhouse.  Never have I seen so many tour groups and buses.  

We then went to the traditional Via Dolorosa and the stations of the cross.  Of course, we understand that this is a Crusader era creation (this road, that is) and the stations are more tradition than fact, but still a needed site to visit.  This road, too was more crowded than normal.  The shops on this way were open, because these are owned by Arabs and they do not close on Shabot as the Jews do.

We were reminded once again there are at least two of every significant site in the Old City.  These sites are often based on who owns the property.  The stations of the cross - well, for some they are very significant, but stories like Veronica and each station are not necessarily biblical, but traditional.  I don't think they take anything away from the story of the cross, but for me, they don't necessarily add anything.  Some Christian churches see these as more valuable than others.  There is talk about adding four or five more stations to this walk. Interesting.

From here we went to Bethlehem, into Palestinian controlled land, through a check point that will one day be a border more than likely, to the Shepherd's Field.  This location is owned by the YMCA and is a cave where animals were kept and families lived in the front.  This is much like what the Bible describes as the "stable" Jesus was born in.  The locals all understand that Christ was born in a cave and placed in a stone feeding trough.  Makes the traditional nativity scene seem not quite so right.  Some of the gift shops even sell nativity scenes made to look like caves.

We had lunch and went to a shop.  In this shop they had beautiful (and very expensive) olive wood carvings.  There were many nativity scenes, animals and Jesus statues.  Then I saw one on the shelf that looked familiar but I couldn't place it.  I asked Yoni who he thought it was and he didn't know.  Then the shop owner told me it was Nephi.  It all clicked.  This statue and a number of others are of Mormon characters from their history and their Book of Mormon.  I found Moroni and Joseph Smith statues everywhere.  Interesting.  (BTW - I don't agree with the Mormon teachings and the characters in the Book of Mormon are in my estimation fiction).  The shop owner isn't Mormon, but it's business and Mormon groups come there as well.  The power of the almighty shekel.

We then drove over to the Herodian, a palace built by Herod the Great.  This was where he was buried as well.

Our tour ended with a trip to an open field where, according to biblical descriptions of surrounding hills, David slew Goliath.

We're back at the hotel now and getting ready for dinner.  Following dinner, we're walking over to the Baptist church where Yoni worships to watch the congregation's talent show (and get some dessert.)

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