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Evangelism: Our Most Sobering Task

Christian evangelist Ray Comfort explains why natural disasters, such as earthquakes, only confirm God’s existence rather than deny it. 


“I was actually in this earthquake ... I live in Tokyo and it was the scariest thing that I have ever been in. I was in Kitasenju teaching English when it struck and after the initial shock we all ventured outside. I saw a mother of about 27/28 clutching her newborn to her chest in fear as the temperature got colder and colder and colder. Fallen creation? What are you talking about? I will NEVER accept this. NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.”

Creation is absolute evidence of a Creator. It didn’t make itself. So to suddenly say that God doesn’t exist because we have killer earthquakes and horrific tsunamis (such as the March 2011 tragedy) is to be in denial of something we all intuitively know. The question is rather, “Is God impotent?” Did He have the ability to create this infinite universe, with suns that dwarf ours massive sun, and yet He can’t stop a tremor on this little earth? The question itself is rhetorical, but it’s covered in Scripture when we are told, “With God, nothing is impossible.” So it then becomes, “Why did almighty God allow it, and its terrible train of unspeakable suffering and death?”

Atheism has no consolation for us, other than to say that such pain is the result of an indifferent “nature” that created itself, and is still in the process of creating. Richard Dawkins said, “Nature is not cruel, pitiless, indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous -- indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”  [A Devil's Chaplain & Other Selected Essays, by Richard Dawkins]

However, the Bible has the consoling answer. It says that we live in a “Fallen Creation” (see Genesis 1-3). We are like an alcoholic who is in denial, adamantly saying that all is well, and yet the symptoms of alcoholism are clearly evident as he staggers toward you.

Here is just some of the evidence that humanity has a serious problem–earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, disease, suffering and death. The Bible says the whole of creation “groans in travail” under the Fall (see Romans 8:22)—the “curse” of Genesis. Those who understand this don’t lose faith in God when terrible tragedies shake a world in denial.  Each one of them instead reminds us that all isn’t well. For the world they should be a wake-up call—a slap in our drunken face--a reminder that we are not apes with no moral responsibility, as so many are trying to have us believe. All is far from well between sinful man and a holy God. We have a problem. A big one, that is more serious than a heart attack.

For someone to accept that we live in a fallen creation means that they have to accept that we are sinners—that we aren’t the good folks we say we are. It means that we have moral responsibility—that when a man rapes a woman and slits her throat, God will hold him accountable. It means that Hitler will face God on Judgment Day for the mass murder of so many innocents. It means that God is just, and that Hell therefore is a real place of punishment for the wicked. These are not pleasant thoughts when we realize that God is morally perfect, that he sees the thought-life and considers lust to be adultery and hatred to be murder. That puts all of us, with our unquenchable thirst for (and addiction to) sin, in deep trouble.

 Earthquakes tend to make us tremble. They show us that we don’t have total control.  In the Book of Acts, there was a big quake that caused a hardened Philippian jailer to cry out to his prisoners “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”(see Acts 16:30). He wasn’t talking about the quake (that had already happened). He was talking about his relationship to the One he had angered by his sin.

Fortunately, God has more than a 12-step program for the hopeless alcoholic. When Jesus suffered in our place and rose from the dead, He balanced the scales of eternal justice. He paid the fine so that we could leave the courtroom. The cross is an expression of the love and mercy of God. He is “rich in mercy,” and can make us clean and sober with a new thirst for righteousness, and the ability to walk the straight and narrow. 

I contacted a friend early in March of 2011, whom I hadn't seen for twenty years. He lived in my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, had always mocked me for my faith, and so I was surprised that he emailed back. He said that "god" greatly scared him in 2010 (he used profanity) with a 7.1 earthquake. When I then shared the gospel with him, he wrote back and mockingly said that he was guilty of breaking the Commandments, and that he going to Hell to “party.” The next day a killer quake hit, taking over 165 lives. When I contacted him again to see if he was okay, he soberly replied, "Tell your God I am sorry and please don't do that again." This time he used a capital for "God."

Tragedies have a way of putting the fear of God into those of us who are still living.  Most of us, that is. Sadly, some may stay in denial and say, “Fallen creation? What are you talking about? I will NEVER accept this. NEVER. Do you hear me Ray? You can SCREAM this in my face for the rest of time. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT WHAT YOU SAY.” I hope you are not one of them.

Check out Ray Comfort’s book The Defender's Guide For Life's Toughest Questions, here. read more

Expression is Not Coercion

(WNS)--While the nation watches to see how the new House leadership flexes its Tea Party-enhanced muscles, the legal campaign to strip the public square of any reminders of America's Christian heritage continues apace.
 
On Jan. 4, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 57-year-old cross atop the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego is unconstitutional. The decision runs counter to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case at the Mojave National Preserve, as well as a district court ruling that said the Mount Soledad cross was not unconstitutional because it "communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice."
 
In finding the cross unconstitutional, Judge Mary Margaret McKeown, a 1998 Clinton appointee, wrote: "The history and absolute dominance of the Cross are not mitigated by the belated efforts to add less significant secular elements to the Memorial."
 
Perhaps the memorial keepers should have erected a 40-foot Frosty the Snowman next to the cross. Oops. That applies only to Nativity scenes and Christmas trees on public land. I'm getting the sops to secular bullies mixed up.
 
The problem seems to be that the cross is just too big and obvious. That makes it ipso facto offensive. The 43-foot concrete structure can be seen from Interstate 5, for instance. It's a wonder that the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit, hasn't claimed that the cross has caused multiple accidents as atheist, Wiccan, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim motorists clutch their hearts and keel over their steering wheels upon spying it. Given that the hillside has sported a highly visible cross since 1913, it's safe to conclude that millions of motorists have made it through that scary stretch without incident. It's probably less safe to claim this in areas with noxious billboards for "adult" services, but I haven't checked accident statistics, so let's not go there.
 
The key aspect that the court ignored in its tortured finding of the First Amendment's secret intent to wipe out Christian symbols on public land is the element of coercion. Allowing mere expression is quite different from using government power to force observance.
 
As American Civil Rights Union General Counsel Peter Ferrara points out in his friend of the court brief in Jewish War Veterans v. the City of San Diego, "With a clear, simple standard rooted in the text of the Constitution and its surrounding history, this case is easily resolved. The cross at the federal Veterans' Memorial atop Mt. Soledad does not involve an unconstitutional establishment of religion because it does not involve coercion of any sort. It just sits there, without any specified message.
 
"Each visitor to the memorial is free to decide what the cross, and the memorial overall, means to them. They can take the cross as an expression of reverence for the nation's veterans, including those who suffered the supreme sacrifice. They can take it as an expression of hope that these lost loved ones will be seen again in some unknown future. They can take it as an expression of some religious message. However each visitor interprets the cross, they are also free to then accept or reject the message that they each discern."
 
Ferrara also notes that in 1776, Thomas Jefferson led the adoption of Virginia's Declaration of Rights and that the religious freedom clause in that Declaration states, "That religion, or the duty we owe to our creator, and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason or conviction, not by force or violence;and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience."
 
It's been tough sledding for public crosses. Even after the Supreme Court in April refused to order the removal of a 7-foot cross made of metal pipe at the Mojave National Preserve, where veterans had maintained a cross since 1934, vandals cut it down. In May, a court ordered a replacement also torn down pending further appeals. Previously, a court had ordered the cross covered in a plywood box, an apt expression of the death wish that secularists have for public religious symbols.
 
In Arizona, at the behest of an atheist group, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that 14 roadside crosses, each 12 feet high and memorializing fallen Arizona Highway Patrolmen, are unconstitutional. On Jan. 6, the full court issued a stay of the order, giving the state 90 days in which to appeal.
 
The common thread in these cases is the confusion of expression with coercion. It would be nice if the new Congress found some way to coerce federal judges into living up to their oaths. The jurists should be upholding real constitutional rights instead of twisting the Constitution into a battering ram against any public edifice with religious underpinnings.
 
Robert Knight is a senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.

 

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Franklin Graham on Arizona Shooting

This weekend our nation experienced a horrible attack by a deranged man in Arizona.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families in their time of need and suffering.

As the American people grapple for answers to the question of how something as senseless as this shooting could happen, we need to be measured and cautious before we place blame.

Hasty accusations have already been made before much information is known and an investigation has occurred.  I believe this is counterproductive and could in itself incite hatred.  This is not a time for political opportunism.

Just because we disagree with someone from another political party does not mean we wish them harm.  Furthermore, if something horrific happens to a person, it does not mean those who hold differing views are responsible for the actions of a disturbed individual.

(Read Franklin Graham's entire statement, here.)

What frightens me is that our country has accepted murder, violence and rape as entertainment that we see portrayed every day on TV, movies and video games.  I agree with Sheriff Clarence Dupnik when he alluded to the fact that this country needs some serious soul searching.  If we as a nation are not careful, we could see the destruction of the foundation upon which this nation was built.

Clearly our politicians and pundits on the left and right must also be careful.  Their leadership and rhetoric must set an example for decency and civility.

My prayer is that God will put His loving arms around the families and victims in their time of loss and great suffering, and that they would sense His presence and comfort in their lives. 

Franklin Graham is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and international relief organization Samaritan's Purse. Photo courtesy of Samaritan's Purse. read more
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At Year-End, Nonprofits Must Make Their Case to Donors

By Rob Hoskins and Lamar Vest

The end of the year is fast approaching. It is a time of Christmas trees, Yule logs and year-end giving. But as millions of Americans prepare to get out their checkbooks, the decision of where to give has rarely been more difficult. In tough economic times, nonprofit organizations are vying for decreasing resources and facing an uphill battle in attracting the all-important year-end donor.

vest(Rob Hoskins pictured left; Lamar Vest pictured right.)

For decades, year-end giving has often been driven by the stirred passions of a donor’s heart. We give because we genuinely care. Our hearts are touched by images and stories of children in poverty. Families living in squalor. Individuals that have never heard the good news that God loves them. Driven by these heart tugs, Americans currently give more than $3 billion to charitable causes each year according to the Giving USA. read more

Micah Challenge Highlights Corruption as Roadblock to Ending Poverty

A Micah Challenge paper being released today reveals a critical need for Christians to further engage with international advocacy efforts to tackle corruption as a key tool to eradicate poverty.

Open for Service: A Case for Good Governance, being launched on International Anti-Corruption Day, refers to evidence of corruption negatively impacting the poor in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The paper urgently appeals for transparency in government, business and the global Christian church.

The document follows discussion between development practitioners, politicians, economists and academics reflecting the views of those living in extreme poverty and proposing solutions to corruption crimes, which could prevent governments achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Joel Edwards, international director of Micah Challenge said: “Corruption is a like a tower block on a runway. It accounts for over a trillion dollars going missing, and is a massive barricade to the well-being of the poorest people in the world.  It’s difficult to define, complex in its treatment and entrenched in business and political systems.  No wonder it has gone on underground for so long. Simply, corruption kills people.”

The Rt. Rev. Dr Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos in Central Nigeria, spoke on corruption as a global problem at Africa’s Transformation conference this year: “Compared to corruption in the West, Africa is an apprentice.”

The call for good governance comes alongside firsthand evidence on the effects of corruption on poverty released by multiple international stakeholders earlier this year.

Research in the World Bank's Africa Development Indicators 2010 report highlights the severe effects of “quiet corruption” such as bribery, weak regulation and poor service delivery in the health, education and agriculture sectors of Africa. In one instance more than 50 percent of drugs sold in Nigerian drugstores in the 1990s were found to be counterfeit. The study also mentions that there are as many as 91 children per primary school teacher in the Central African Republic, compared with 22 children per teacher in Mauritius, due to absenteeism.

Case studies from Peru, Cambodia and Zambia in a Tearfund report called Corruption and Its Discontents similarly establishes that corruption and a culture of bribery form one of the biggest barriers to poverty eradication.   

A female interviewee from Moyobamba, Peru, said: “I took my daughter-in-law to the hospital. She was really sick with appendicitis. She was initially taken to one hospital but then she was referred elsewhere because they needed to operate on her. When we arrived at the second hospital, the nurse who was supposed to be supervising her said to me: ‘It is the end of my day and I am very busy. I cannot see to her.’ I pleaded with her to take care of her, and to give her the injections that she needed. I had to take her a gift to persuade her to take proper care of her.”

 Open for Service highlights the role that churches can play in advocating for good governance in overcoming poverty. Former Director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign Salil Shetty said in the foreword: “The people in the frontend of the evangelical churches know that if public resources are managed in a transparent and accountable manner, there is nothing stopping the world from achieving the MDGs by 2015.”

President of Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and Emminent Person of the Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa Goodwill Shana said: “The document captures the central role that governance plays in the broad agenda of poverty reduction and eradication.”

This paper launch follows Micah’s 10.10.10 campaign where 60 million Christians in over 70 nations prayed for an end to extreme poverty. This global event formed part of a growing movement mobilizing the church to play a greater part in alleviating poverty.  read more

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Contrasting the President’s, Canadian PM’s Views on Israel

President Barack Obama sharply and unfairly criticized Israel while visiting Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. While visiting mosques and meeting Muslim leaders and giving speeches about building better relations with Muslims, the president gratuitously chose to criticize the Jewish state for daring to announce the building of some 1,300 new apartments in Jerusalem to deal with the city’s population growth. The president said such moves were an impediment to the peace process with the Palestinians.

“This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations,” said President Obama. “I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough. … Each of these incremental steps can end up breaking trust.”

Unhelpful? Breaking trust? You’ve got to be kidding me. Netanyahu imposed a 10-month moratorium on new building in Jerusalem and the West Bank as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians to encourage them to begin direct peace negotiations. Yet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas squandered nine of those months by refusing to enter such talks. Then Abbas engaged for a few weeks, but refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, refused to agree to the Palestinians having a demilitarized state, and now has broken off direct talks and refuses to re-engage with Netanyahu, even though Israel is offering to allow the creation of  a Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, currently visiting the U.S., immediately responded to President Obama’s criticism: “Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.” He is absolutely correct. Israel has every right to build homes for Jews, Muslims and Christians in her capital. The “unhelpful” intransigence is on the Palestinian side. If Abbas wants a state, he should negotiate for one directly and in good faith, not wait for President Obama to force Israel to accept Abbas’ demands.

Moreover, the critical question facing the U.S., Israel and the world right now should not be stopping the building of apartments in Jerusalem but stopping the building of nuclear weapons in Iran. Yet the Obama administration is not taking decisive action to stop Iran from getting the bomb, and refuses to put a credible military threat against Iran on the table.

Contrast President Obama’s deeply unfriendy approach toward Israel with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s consistently courageous pro-Israel approach.

  • Harper was the first world leader to order his U.N. delegation to walk out of a speech at the U.N. General Assembly by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad several years ago.
  • Harper was the first world leader to announce Canada would not be sending a delegation to the U.N.’s Durban II conference, which was supposed to be about opposing racism but turned into a vicious anti-Israel forum whose keynote speaker was Ahmadinejad, a man who has denied the Holocaust and has repeatedly called for the “annihilation” of the Jewish State.
  • When the Gaza flotilla crisis unfolded, Harper stood strongly with Israel’s right to defend herself from terrorist and left-wing activist attacks, whereas the White House equivocated.
  • In contrast to President Obama, Prime Minister Harper has built a warm and increasingly close professional relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
  • Harper has strongly urged the world to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program before it is too late.
  • Harper has been so pro-Israel that Canada recently lost a bid to be on the U.N. Security Council because anti-Israel countries coalesced against Canada and prevented her from attaining such a globally influential position.

This week, Prime Minister Harper delivered a major address saying he and the people of Canada will continue to stand with Israel and defend the Jewish people no matter what the cost.

“As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the U.N. or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost,” Harper told a conference on anti-Semitism. ”Not just because it is the right thing to do but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.”

“We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is,” Harper said. According to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Harper noted that Israel, like any country, may be subjected to fair criticism, he said. But Harper said Canada must oppose what he called the “three Ds—demonization, double standards and delegitimization.”

“And like any free country Israel subjects itself to such criticism, healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.”

Please lift Harper and his family, advisers and his country up to the Lord. Please ask the Lord to bless them, to continue giving them courage and boldness. Please ask the Lord, as well, what we as evangelical Christians can do to properly thank and bless the Prime Minister for the courage of his convictions. read more

ACLJ: Election Signals Need to Repeal ObamaCare

Lawmakers--both old and new--just got their next assignment: repeal ObamaCare, says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).  Representing the Washington-based constitutional law firm, which focuses on preserving religious liberties, he says voters sent a powerful message to the Obama administration on Nov. 2.   The results of the midterm elections, he says, indicate Americans have rejected the president's agenda and signaled a need to repeal the health care law. Sekulow outlines his thoughts below.

"The outcome of this election underscores the fact that most Americans don't believe this country is on the right track and want a change from President Obama's failed policies of the past two years. In addition to jobs and taxes, voters sent a powerful message about ObamaCare, the government-run, pro-abortion health care law forced on the American people.

"This election was fueled by voters who were concerned less about party labels and more about troubled policies.  Most Americans have said they want ObamaCare repealed.  And, now with a sweeping change in Congress, it's time to do just that.  The fact is with the outcome of this election--along with growing opposition to ObamaCare--this is the perfect time to act legislatively and repeal the health care law.

"We have started a nationwide petition campaign to demand that the new Congress repeal ObamaCare.  We expect to hear from thousands of constitutional conservatives and others who certainly want health care reform--but believe that ObamaCare is not the reform that America needs or deserves."

In addition to legislative efforts, the ACLJ has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of five taxpayers challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law.

In support of other legal challenges to ObamaCare, the ACLJ has filed an amicus brief in Virginia's legal challenge of the health care law, representing 28 members of Congress and more than 70,000 Americans.  The ACLJ will soon file an amicus brief supporting Florida's legal challenge.

Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice focuses on constitutional law and is based in Washington, D.C.  read more

From Social Activism to Biblical Advocacy

Here's a Christian response to the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2000, global leaders met for a United Nations summit and agreed to "spare no effort" to rid the world of the scourge of extreme poverty, which has kept more than 1 billion people in degrading and inhuman circumstances.

Ten years later, 190 world leaders returned to the U.N. building in New York to assess our progress on those promises to the world's poor, and it was hard to escape a sense of significance, but outright expectations were muted by the "outcomes" document that had already been agreed upon by governments before they even met.

By common agreement it was little more than diplomatic speech for, "We're doing OK, but we still have a long way to go." read more

Christian Extremism Can Bring Tsunami of Disaster

Worldwide, more than 5 million Christian missionaries are connecting with people to share Christ's love with their neighbors. Of these, according to Todd M. Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, roughly 30,000 are in the parts of the world where little is known about Christ. Each day these people put their lives on the line to share the gospel with those who may otherwise never know Him.

Evangelism is built on relationships, which take years to establish. With the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, sometimes it's hard to imagine that in some parts of the globe people are beaten, jailed and killed for their faith. The danger of Christians taking an extreme approach to other belief systems is that it could bring about a tsunami of disaster for the missionaries and other humanitarian groups around the world. read more

On Defense, Obama Tries to Improve U.S. –Israeli Relations

The last few weeks have provided a fascinating insight into U.S.-Israel relations and how the leaders of both countries see the Iran nuclear threat. Monday’s Oval Office meeting was important, but it needs to be put in context with recent statements by CIA Director Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let me explain. 

  • If this was the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it would have been great. The President was warm and friendly. He reaffirmed the “special relationship” and “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel. He said he trusted the Prime Minister and appreciated the steps Mr. Netanyahu is taking towards peace and security. Netanyahu publicly invited Obama to come to Israel and meet there, and Obama smiled and said, “I’m ready.” read more

Supreme Court Missed the Mark on Religious Freedom


It is a decision that is both disappointing and troubling.  By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court dealt a damaging blow to First Amendment law for religious organizations in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

The Supreme Court was presented with the following question: "May a public law school condition its official recognition of a student group-and the attendant use of school funds and facilities-on the organization's agreement to open eligibility for membership and leadership to all students?" read more

An Atheist's (Surprising) Defense of Christians

Christianity has always had its controversies and robust debates. The charismatic movement alone has been riddled with arguments over flamboyant ministers, the so-called prosperity gospel and modern-day apostles and prophets.

The same types of debates also have rattled atheism. The most recent major controversy was the defection of the late Anthony Flew—once called the most famous atheist in the world—who in 2004 said evidence and science led him to conclude there was a God. read more

Stop Iran or Israel Will

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy is now clear.

After the worst week in U.S.-Israel relations in 35 years, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington Monday and gave a powerful and effective speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) gala dinner at the Washington Convention Center, warning the world to stop Iran - or Israel will - and respectfully but directly challenging the Obama administration on Jerusalem and the peace process.



Netanyahu received scores of standing ovations from the 7,800 guests in attendance, the biggest event in the history of AIPAC. More than half of the members of the U.S. House and Senate were there, as were ambassadors from more than 50 countries and many top Israeli officials, including defense minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. The longest and most sustained came when the prime minister firmly resisted the policy of President Obama, who seeks to divide Jerusalem and stop Israel from building "settlements" in East Jerusalem. read more

The Overlooked Victims of the Tiger Woods Scandal

Two people have been overlooked in the middle of the Tiger Woods scandal. The consequences of his actions upon their lives will only be seen years down the road. Of course, I am referring to his children.

Family breakdown is not limited to celebrities or the rich and famous. I know this all too well. read more

A Man's Brain on Porn: A Neuroscientist's View

Have you ever wondered why pornography seems to hypnotize the male brain, or why it can override all logic, sometimes to the point of ruining a guy's life? William Struthers has the answers. A neuroscientist and professor at Wheaton College, Struthers has researched what goes on in the mind of a man when he looks at pornography. His findings are enlightening. Our conversation with him hit on a variety of topics, such as why porn seems to be worse for Christians than non-Christians and how single men can find hope. Don't miss this interview from New Man E-magazine.

New Man: What goes on in a man's brain when he's looking at pornography?

Struthers: I think even before you answer that question you have to know a little bit about how a man's brain is built. Obviously it starts developing in the womb. The critical part in making a masculine brain is testosterone. It causes the brain to develop along a certain pathway. That's what makes little boys different from little girls. You'll notice that a baby boy likes to look at things, but a baby girl likes to look at faces more.

The next big chemical changes take place during puberty, when the brain becomes cued in to sexual maturity. Every brain has certain parts that are more masculine or feminine. What you find during this time is that the masculine parts of the brain are really triggered by visual stimuli. This goes back even to the example of babies—the boys are more interested in looking at things. This visual preference shows up very clearly with pornography.

In tests, when men are placed in brain scanning devices and look at stills of naked women or video of couples engaged in intercourse, the visual parts of  a man's brain light up more than a woman's. The example I use in the book is that, to a man, pornography is like a high definition television. For whatever reason, it tends to draw in men reflexively and maintain hold over them. Just like when you're looking at TVs in Best Buy, the HDTV is going to grab your attention more than the standard definition. To a woman's brain, it's all standard definition. So pornography lends itself to a man's brain.

Another critical thing for a man's brain when looking at pornography is that many men will use pornography to masturbate. Once again, when you look at what goes on in the brain around an orgasm, it is the parts of the brain that are involved in reinforcement. They are the same parts that activate when a person eats or drinks or takes addictive drugs.

So when you start pairing the visual image of pornography, which men see incredibly well and are almost hypnotized by, and if you combine that with the reinforcement of masturbating or acting out sexually, you're laying down a powerful neurological habit where the orgasm reinforces the response to pornography.

Within our larger Christian worldview, the purpose of the brain reinforcing the response to an orgasm is to bind a man to his wife. This response ties you to whatever is sanctioned with it. In the context of marriage between a husband and a wife, this binding is a good thing. If, however, this sexual response is bound to something else, like a pornographic image, you are bound to it and you develop an attachment to it. This is a neurological process as much as a spiritual one.

New Man: Does this process only happen when looking at extreme pornographic images—such as naked pictures or video—or does it apply to anything we are sexually drawn to?

Struthers: A lot of that is culturally defined. All men are drawn to look for nudity and the female form, but how much depends on the culture you grow up in. If you are in a conservative culture where the female form is taboo, a little female skin may get you sexually aroused. If you are in a culture where there is a lot of sexual imagery, you may need even more than a naked body in order to elicit a sexual response. To continue the metaphor, if you've been watching HDTV for a while, you want a bigger screen. You've gotten used to it.

In our culture, which is hypersexual, many men will need to escalate their pornography usage. Some men will develop fetishes and go to specific Web sites or look at particular types of women. They are training their brains to only respond to that one thing. Other men will view multiple Web sites with multiple different models and types of pornography, training themselves to only be aroused by lots of women doing lots of different things. Then, when they go to their one wife whose appearance doesn't change and generally keeps to the same sexual script, it doesn't arouse the man anymore.

New Man: That's fascinating. Why does it seem sometimes like Christian men can have a greater struggle with pornography than non-Christians?

Struthers: If you don't see sexually acting out as a spiritual matter, then you don't have the same issues as a Christian, who sees it as sin or a moral failing. Christians will have emotions like guilt and shame related to their pornographic use, and that can make it worse. They feel a self-loathing because of their issue, and they try to soothe that loathing by acting out sexually. That momentary orgasm response of relief and pleasure gets rid of the shame for a moment. It's a cycle that gets worse over time, even more so for men of faith.

Another important thing to understand is that viewing pornography and sexually acting out is not just done because it causes pleasure. It can be done as a way of relieving stress, dealing with depression, or done just out of a compulsion. Some men see it as a reward. They've been good all week and they deserve it.

Some men are narcissists. Actually, that's a personality type that attracts a lot of pastors. We have to be careful when dealing with pastors in recovery because sometimes they'll talk too openly about it so that they can be admired, but they will draw others unnecessarily into the issue.

The point is that you wouldn't treat a heroin addict the same way you would someone who is depressed or someone who has a compulsive disorder. So when we rightly understand the particular reason why men are viewing pornography, we have a better chance of helping them. Rather than just saying, "It's an addiction," we have to find the reason why men are acting out and develop behavioral patterns to deal with the issue.

New Man: Is there hope for men who are stuck in this habit to rewire their brains?

Struthers: Just as you are creating neurological habits out of your sexual immorality, so too can you also create neurological habits out of sexual purity. The same rules that govern how you got to this point can also be used to get you out.

Imagine that you were addicted to purity and compassion. You would feel the same lack of freedom to control yourself, but you wouldn't be able to stop yourself from doing good things. That process of being neurologically unable to fall prey to temptation is called sanctification. As I make small decisions, they have long-lasting neurological consequences for me. That can be good or bad.

The other important part is having a right understanding of what our sexuality is for. It is not primarily about reproducing. If that were the case, every man should get married, no man should have sex with his wife after menopause, and there would be no place for single men and women.

Also, you hear all kinds of crazy things about men being wired to spread our seed [or our] being biologically promiscuous and women being more selective. That's just rubbish. When you look at the statistics, women are just as promiscuous as men. It's just that men tend to over-report their experiences and women tend to under-report them.

The other thing is, it's not just about pleasure. If that were the case, men should just sit around masturbating all day. Neither reproducing nor pleasure is the primary purpose for sexuality.

The primary nature of our sexuality is tied to the fact that we are made in the relational nature of the image of God and that sex is about knowing and being known. It is about speaking goodness into someone else and having them speak goodness to you. That takes place in a unique way in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, and it models God's exclusive love for His people or Jesus' exclusive love for His church.

But we also need to move away from understanding sexuality as solely between mates. Sexuality affects every relationship we have. I can be a father figure to many young men on my college campus, but I'm a father to my son in a different way. I'm a son to my parents, but I can be a spiritual son to older men and women. I can be a spiritual brother to women who aren't my wife, but I have a unique relationship with my wife that is exclusive. All these relationships are affected by our sexuality. It's about intimacy that is being made into a relational image of God.

New Man: Single guys have a unique situation. Any advice for them?

Struthers: In our culture, and this is exacerbated in the church, single men feel trapped because they don't have an outlet for their sexuality. This is because they only see their sexuality as genital. When they can see their sexuality in a relational context, like I was talking about a minute ago, then they can be freed up of feeling the weight of having a sexual outlet. They need to understand that sexuality isn't just about pleasure and that they can channel that energy into their relationships and service. Combine that with the fact that the sexual drive will die down with age, and there's hope for them.

That's also important for the rest of the church. When we understand they can be ministers for good in a way that a married man can't be, then we give them greater esteem and a higher place in the church. Just because married is the norm, it doesn't mean it is the ideal. The church doesn't value chastity as a lifelong decision anymore, it only sees it as a holding pattern until marriage. That's not biblical. The church desperately needs the service that single men can give. Without it, the church cannot become what it is supposed to be. 

To learn more about William Struthers' book, or to place an order, click here. read more

Haiti and Earthquake Theology

Concerned Americans have been shaken by sobering images from ubiquitous news footage of rubble and rescue in Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked the tiny poor Caribbean nation earlier this month, prompting many to ask, "Where is God and why would He allow such extensive suffering?"

Whether it is an earthquake or some other adversity that turns our lives upside down, Christians grapple with trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and His role in human suffering, including our own personal afflictions. I believe there are important truths about God and suffering that we need to keep in mind. read more

Disappointed by Pat Robertson's Statement

In the aftermath of what the Red Cross, United Nations and other agencies now consider the greatest tragedy in the history of our Western Hemisphere—the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti—the reaction by leaders and the common man were predictable.



The immediate response to this incomparable human tragedy by governments, world relief agencies and religious organizations is the only bright spot in this dark episode of human drama. An event like this “natural” disaster could happen anywhere at anytime and reduces us all to simply being human. Tragedies like this graphically remind us of the fragility of our existence on this unstable planet we call Earth. read more

Be Thankful for Suffering

As Thanksgiving approaches once again, I am reminded of so many people who are learning to be thankful despite their suffering.  However I want to encourage them to go one better — I believe we can even learn to be thankful for suffering.

It is a common response to question God's goodness when we endure hardships — whether physical limitations, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, you name it. read more

Jesus’ Health Care Plan

You can't turn on the TV, listen to radio or read a newspaper without confronting some information about the raging debate on health care. Surveys continue to show that Americans are not well-informed on the issue and are struggling to figure out who is telling the truth about existing needs, the financial implications of the policies under consideration, and how they will personally be affected.

Because so much of the debate relates to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, Americans are playing this one a bit more cautiously than usual. Most adults define themselves as living a middle-class life, and believe their levels of comfort are a direct result of their own hard work and diligence. As politicians plead their case regarding health care provisions, citizens are conflicted, vacillating between a hard-line stance that expects others to work as hard as they have to get good health care and showing some compassion toward those who are less fortunate.

Views of Poverty
Our surveys underscore the fact that about three-quarters of all adults believe poverty is one of the most serious issues facing the nation. Even more significantly, most Americans also contend that when it comes to alleviating poverty, that's mainly the government's responsibility. Two-thirds of adults look to the government to solve issues related to poverty - including health care deficiencies. Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.

As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner. For instance, the most common responses are for people to give money, food, and clothing to someone else to get the job done. In contrast, the most personal responses are the least common. Relatively few Americans talk directly with the needy, tutor them, build homes for them, visit them, befriend them, or engage in other types of personal activities to address the issue.

One might say, then, that we mean well but we're too busy, too disinterested, or feel too inadequate to actually address poverty personally, head-on. Given that mind set, it's no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle.

In essence, what Americans seem to want is increased government services, more efficient delivery of services, no increase in taxes, and no personal involvement in the process. In a nutshell, our argument is: it's not my fault and it's not my job, so let the paid professionals deal with it.

Jesus the Healer
Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian's obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the "let the government handle it" philosophy?

If a Christian were to turn to the Bible for guidance in these matters, a simple read through the gospel according to Luke would provide some answers. Luke, the author of the third gospel account in the New Testament, was a physician and would have been especially sensitive to how Jesus dealt with people's medical needs.

In fact, Luke's narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people's physical and medical needs. The book shows that Jesus healed hundreds of people. But it also gives us some consistent patterns from Jesus' ministry to the poor and suffering people He encountered that we might use as principles to guide our personal responses to today's health care challenges.

There were at least seven noteworthy perspectives that underlie Jesus' health care strategy.

Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters. People with serious medical challenges lack hope - and people without hope have no reason to keep living. Since life is a precious gift from God, and He wants people to enjoy and celebrate life, as well as the God who gave it to them, restoring health was a viable means to an end. Whenever He had the opportunity to do so, He healed people and sent them on their way.

Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people. In Luke 7:13 we read that "His heart overflowed with compassion" for those people. He did not heal them because it showed His power or grabbed attention as much as He healed them because He felt their pain and knew their desolation. Healing was a practical demonstration that God was not wrathful but graceful.

Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified. Whether He knew them or not, He helped them. Whether they supported Him or not, He helped them. Whether they were adherents of His faith or not, He helped them. He did not set up conditions and hoops in order for people to qualify. He just healed them because He could.

Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered. No malady was too simple (such as a fever) or too complex (including paralysis, leprosy, and demonization). He even took on the impossible - death - and raised people from the dead on three separate occasions!

Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant. A servant does what he can to address the needs of those being served, whether the needy one comes to the servant or the servant must go to the needy. Jesus did not get caught up in the ego games of who should pursue who; when He saw a need He went out of His way to address it.

Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people's pain and suffering was their top focus in life. Because the main value in His life was giving love, things like remaining on schedule, following His pre-determined agenda, maintaining orderliness and predictability all took a back seat to the chance to affect other people's lives with genuine love.

Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others. The needs of the people were substantial and providing a healing touch grabbed people's attention so they could see Him for who He was and what His message to them was. Consequently, Jesus included healing in the marching orders He gave to not only the 12 apostles, but to another group of 72 disciples that He had been mentoring in the ways of grace. (Luke 9:1; 10: 1, 9, 17)

Jesus Health Care Strategy
In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus' health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it.

Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem - but not too much - so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us. The former approach was the whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever strategy.

It's quite a contrast, isn't it?

The Underlying Foundation
Don't overlook the fact that Jesus called on His followers to personally attend to the health care needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Not only did Jesus model healing for His followers, but He supported such outreach with ample philosophical underpinnings. You see Him teaching His followers before, during and after instances of healing. We are familiar with the principles, but perhaps not their application to health needs.

Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31). Jesus asked His followers to see themselves in the people who yearned for a healing touch and to respond accordingly. Although He was mocked and opposed for His efforts to heal, such opposition never stopped Him from treating others as we would want to be treated.

Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45). These days, we might think of His teaching as admonishing His followers to not pass the buck. He reminded them they had been given gifts and resources so that they could affect reality. He warned them against simply discussing solutions and instructed them to conceive and implement solutions.

Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36). Jesus used love as a verb, not an adjective. He exhorted His followers to prove their love by doing compassionate things for those in need. Jesus showed them what was important by focusing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care - but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope.

Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31). Your life is not about what you want; to be a follower of Jesus your desires should match God's. The way we demonstrate that we understand this principle is by allowing God to change your heart, and by following His plan.

A Personal Challenge
So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs - and if a nation where 83 percent of adults label themselves "Christian" can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions.

Government clearly has a role in people's lives; the Bible supports its existence and circumscribed functions. It is unfortunate that when God's people, collectively known as the Church, fail to exhibit the compassion and service that He has called us to provide, we are comfortable with the government acting as a national safety net. In a society that has become increasingly self-centered and self-indulgent, we simply expand our reliance upon the government to provide solutions and services that are the responsibility of Christ followers. Some Christians have heeded the call, as evidenced by the medical clinics, pregnancy centers and even hospitals across the nation that were initiated and funded by small numbers of dedicated believers who grasped this responsibility. Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!

As we think about the elements embedded in the national debate, perhaps each of us should be asking ourselves a few simple questions. What kinds of people within your realm of influence need health care assistance - and how do you respond? How do you figure out who to help - and who to serve them in partnership with? How do you decide when and how often to invest yourself in helping poor people who have health needs? What limitations do you place on the kind of health care assistance you offer to the needy? What gifts, talents, and resources can you be more aggressive at applying to the health care needs of the poor?

I don't know what God is asking or preparing you to do in relation to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. All I know is that we have been told to imitate Christ, and His health care strategy is whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. read more

Urgent Call to Prayer: Signs of the Times

Convergence

It is critical that the church in America understands the times and what needs to be done now. The natural things speak of the invisible. Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm. There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested. Several happenings are converging this week. First of all, our President has recently proclaimed, honored, encouraged the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting called Ramadan. He was very silent on the National Day of Prayer but very vocal on the support of Ramadan. Interestingly at the same time a major Christian leader of the Emergent Church called for forty days of fasting and prayer in the same Ramadan period with the goal that the church will better understand our Muslim friends. We are all for understanding but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.



Cause for Concern

At the same time, on the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington D.C. They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the D.C. Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering, “Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house.” These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.



A Divine Moment


Now one of these events is enough to awaken us to this significant throbbing moment, but when they all converge it becomes a massive spiritual alarm that must be responded to by the praying Church. However, I believe in this moment of divine providence God has raised up on the stage of history a little “Esther” that if we pray and fast for her she could be a major voice to expose the dark under-belly of Islam and radiate a bright hope for a day of salvation for Muslims in America.

Headlines

On Monday, Rifqa Bary, a young 17-year-old woman, will be in the headlines of U.S. news. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her savior. She hid her conversion, began praying secretly, and began hiding her bible from her parents. Then, on Facebook, her love for Jesus was exposed to the radical Muslim community in Ohio. Rifqa’s father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran. As a radiant believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now, the father is appealing to the courts to bring her back under his custody. Major television networks have already covered her story. How must the Church of America respond in this moment for our sister who is a part of the Body of Christ?

A Major Sign

This convergence, I believe, is urgently summoning us in the midst of the rising tide of Islamic influence in America to recognize that our God is above every god and that if we return to Him with all of our hearts and call upon Him with fasting and prayer then God could use what the enemy meant for evil to bring about a great day of salvation for Muslims in America, of which Rifqa is but a major sign.

Here is The Call

First of all, we cannot be passive as a Church to let these kinds of developments go on without being challenged in the spirit. Our fight is not against Muslims, it is against principalities, powers, and forces of darkness. We are calling the Church of America at the end of Ramadan, from September 21st through 25th, to five days of concerted prayer. On Monday, we must pray that God would grant supernatural wisdom to the courts so that the testimony of Jesus would be proclaimed and that the best situation for Rifqa and her family would take place. We must pray for Rifqa to be bold in proclaiming Jesus that even thousands of Muslims would hear and be awakened to the love of Christ. She has already said that this is not about her but about many Muslims coming to Jesus. We must pray for her lawyers who are being bullied, threatened, and challenged on every side. On Friday, Sept. 25, the Muslim Day of Prayer, we are calling the Church of America to fast and pray that Muslims would be moved by the Holy Spirit, convicted by the testimony of Christ, and even be visited by Jesus in dreams. We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.

Let us hear the call to prayer and not miss this moment,

Lou Engle
The Call read more

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