Turning People into bodies title graphic

Turning People Into Bodies

In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.

With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.

What is lust?

Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.

An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15

The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.

The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?

The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray

A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.

Sex Drive?

They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?

Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.

The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.

Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.

But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.

When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.

That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.

The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.

You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.

For a great resource on this topic, check out Michael John Cusick‘s book, Surfing for God.

Next Post: Pornography short circuits intimacy because it is a form of idolatry.

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Because of giving by Brian Branam

“Because of” Giving, the emotion we are missing.

In my previous post, we began to listen in as Jesus draws our attention toward a widowed woman in the treasury who gave all she had to live on. Our obvious question is as to how could she afford to give all? From this story in Mark 12:41 we are looking at three ways people calculate giving. With this post, we examine the first of the three, “because of” giving. In “because of” giving there is an emotion we are missing.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

Giving is Emotional Before it is Financial

When it comes to giving, people make an emotional decision before they make a financial one. They consider motive before amount. Giving comes from the heart before it comes from the hand.

As Jesus is people watching opposite the temple treasury, I’m certain there are as many motives to giving as there are people giving. So let’s ask the question, why do people give?

3 Types of Givers

Some people are cause givers. They will give if they feel that they are giving to a worthy cause. Is their giving going to help children? Will their money be used to find a cure for a disease? Is there someone in need or something of need that giving will benefit? The cause giver is usually not a consistent giver, but they will rise up when they feel that what they give will make a difference.

Some people are connection givers. Connection givers won’t give unless they are involved. The connection giver usually starts out as a passive bystander who may appreciate the cause, but they are for all practical purposes an outsider. Somehow they get involved. Now from the inside, they see the need so they give. The connection giver eventually becomes a champion of the cause, who ironically enough, can’t believe that there aren’t more people giving to this.

The reluctant giver may not give at first, but eventually, he or she will give out of compulsion. This person is moved to generosity because they feel guilty. They would feel worse for not giving than they feel the financial loss of giving.

Facebook Figured it Out

Facebook has done a brilliant job to tapping into the emotions of giving. They have intertwined the cause, necessary connection, and compulsion of giving. Have you ever seen the post that says, “This year for my birthday I am giving to . . .?” And then you, as a gift to them, are encouraged to join in the worthy birthday cause. The connection is with your friend. The compulsion comes as you see a list of everyone else who has given to the cause – and your name is NOT on the list! How could you? The truth is that you haven’t bought this person a present for their birthday in years, maybe not ever! But due to the cause, connection, and under compulsion you make the emotional decision to give.

Giving is emotional before it is financial! Mark Zuckerberg got you!

The Missing Emotion of “Because of” Giving

However you slice the emotion, we are still left to wonder. Why would she give all? What was the widow woman’s motive?

If giving is emotional before it is financial we have to ask, what was she feeling? What kind of emotion must you be experiencing that moves you to give all? Is it joy? The Bible presents her in a sad situation, but is she happy? If so, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that happy, that joyful? What emotion is it that moves her so much to think that her two nearly worthless coins are better in the treasury than they are with me?

Whatever her emotion, it is the antithesis of our approach. We believe that the greater emotion comes in having rather than in giving. As a result, we make emotional decisions to buy things that do not turn out to be sound financial decisions. We think it would make us happy to have it. And true, for a time, we are happy with it. But in time, we have forgotten it. And then, we are emotionally motivated to find the next thing we think will make us happy. We are never satisfied. Emotional spending never works.

Question her emotion.

Whatever it is we feel we have to have, I think we would all agree. Compared to her, we have more, but we are not motivated. What is that emotion she feels? What is the emotion we are missing by not giving all?

When the Bible encourages us to give all we’ve got, maybe there is a happiness, a joy, an emotion in letting go that is much greater than simply being a consumer. Perhaps there is something liberating in giving that is greater than any experience we have ever had in spending.

Maybe she has something we don’t.

Maybe in calling us to give all, God wants us to have something that only comes through giving.

Next post – “Out of” Giving

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A good reason for bad things blog post

God’s Good Reason for Bad Things, Part 1 – Anticipation

An online poll of over 2,100 people asked what a person would be willing to do for $1,000,000. The answers ranged from funny to downright disturbing.

  • 38% said they would be willing to give up TV.
  • 186 people said they would be willing to never see their family again.
  • 58% would be willing to move to another country.
  • 21% would be willing to get a tattoo on their forehead.
  • 31% would swim in a tank with a shark.
  • 21% would lay in a bed with scorpions.
  • Almost 200 people were willing to have a limb amputated.
  • 37 people said they would be willing to have their tongue removed.

As they say, everyone has their price. As whacky as some of the responses to the poll sound, it does prove something about humans. We are willing to suffer as long as we know it will be worth it.

Everybody Hurts

As a person and as a pastor, I have both experienced and witnessed intense pain. There have been some things that have happened in all of our lives that cannot be quantified on a poll and for which there is no amount of money that would make it worth it.

When we suffer to that degree it can bring about a crisis of faith. It makes us wonder, what is God up to? What is the reason for all of this?

The Bible makes some head scratching statements, several of which I will attempt to cover over the next several weeks. The first one I want to tackle is not as much a direct statement as it is a divine theme. God has a good reason for bad things

Knowing that reason could be life changing!

Imagine gaining a perspective that begins to help you make sense of the worst of what you have experienced.

You may never be thankful for what happened, but imagine a future time in which you are thankful for what came from what happened.

Imagine how much it might help you to know that God has a good reason for bad things.

There are a lot of passages in the Bible that speak to the idea that God has a good reason for bad things, but one of the clearest is Romans 8. Romans 8 also contains one of the most popular verses in Scripture, Romans 8:28. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

The entire chapter is magnificent, but I want to focus on verses 18-30 as God’s good reason for bad things. God’s good reason:

  1. Creates in us ANTICIPATION
  2. Gives us an EXPLANATION
  3. Offers us Divine INTERVENTION

With this post, I want to talk about how God’s good reason for bad things creates anticipation.

The Creation of Anticipation

The Bible tells us not only that there is a good reason for our suffering, but that there is a plan for it. God has a desired outcome that he shares with us in Romans 8:17b.”

He says we are, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

According to the Bible, the overarching reason we go through suffering is so that we can be glorified with Christ. Suffering is a necessary pathway. There are no alternate routes.

While the news of coming suffering is somewhat unsettling, knowing that at the end of it is our glorification should give us a sense of anticipation. As previously stated, we are much more willing to suffer so long as we know it will be worth it.

Romans 8:18 expresses such anticipation.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

What is the Coming Glory?

What is that glory? While I would fail to be able to adequately capture all that “glory” entails I can point to three Biblical themes that make it quite amazing.

First and foremost this “glory” is the glory of Jesus Himself. He is the faithful Son of God who has pleased the Father. It is the glory of all things made by Him, for Him, and to Him. It is the glory of Him being preeminent in all things. It is the glory of Him being our resurrected Savior whose atoning death has brought to us new life. The glory of Jesus is that there will be people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and kindred that will have life on the other side of death. The glory is Jesus forever our conquering hero.

There is glory in our resurrected bodies. The Bible speaks more to this glory in 1 Corinthians 15, but in short, it is a body that is imperishable and incorruptible. It is a body that will no longer be susceptible to disease and death. Your skin will be fit for a sinless eternity. What is the glory? It is the glory of you becoming the way God always intended for you to be.

No doubt the New Heavens and the New Earth will be forever glorious. It will be the world as God intended, fruitful, vibrant, and clean. The cities will be righteous and good. There will be no injustice, prejudice, or divisiveness. There is no more famine, want, or hunger.

Pulling the Comps

As amazing as all of this sounds, even still, our minds cannot fully get there. And it is hard to anticipate something of which you have no concept. We need a comparison. The problem is that there is no comparison to the future glory that is to be revealed to us. To wrap your mind around future glory is like an attempt to get an appraisal on a mansion surrounded by slums. There are no comps. Therefore the Bible pulls its comp from a world we know too well. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared . . .”

A World of Wow

My daughters have some creative ways of engendering talk during our family meals. Recently, my oldest daughter called for everyone at the table to share 1) their high for the week 2) their low for the week and 3) their “WOW” for the week.

The “week” of which she was speaking was particularly hectic for me and so my mind began to try to process the week by replaying it. If recalling my high, low, and WOW moments were not enough, I had the added pressure of going first. All eyes were on me to kick off the family roundtable. So I said,

“My high was the bike ride I just finished about an hour ago. I felt strong and made good time. I feel pretty good about that.” “My low was our upstairs air conditioner giving up the ghost.” It was an air unit we had been propping up year after year. This year, it became scrap metal with a fan. “My WOW? The 5 grand we just dropped to replace that air unit.”

We live in a world filled with wow. All of it is memorable, not all of it is good. But this is our world and it is from here that we pull our comps. In this world, sometimes our “wows” are our worst.

Consider the Sufferings

So as a way of helping us build the anticipation due a glorious world, I think it is critical that we do what the first part of Romans 8:18 does, “consider the sufferings of this present time.”

The word suffering includes all of it – the loss, the tragedy, the mistakes, the injustice. Suffering in this world includes both our suffering for Christ as well as suffering without him.

We’ve all lost someone we loved. 

Many have lost love. 

There are those who have lost children. Some before birth and some soon after. There are some who die too young, but from what I have heard it does not matter how old. I have held too many mothers and fathers who tell me through the tears that there is nothing that hurts worse than losing a child.

Some have suffered with an addiction. Others have suffered with the addicted. 

Some have been through a horrible health crisis.

Some have survived tragedy but now hurt so badly that they wished the tragedy had taken them.

Consider the sufferings of this present time.

It Doesn’t Even Compare

With that pain in mind, now we can better identify with the monumental amount of anticipation the created by the rest of the statement. 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

Anticipate a future that Christ creates for us that is so glorious that it takes the worst moments that you’ve ever been through hardly even worth talking about.

Imagine the pain of the worst moments of your life eclipsed by the pleasure of an incomparable, glorious future secured for us in Christ.

Anticipate the joy of the pain of losing a child being eclipsed by the glory of spending eternity with him or her.

What about the “wow” of being forever free from addiction and hearing the story from heaven of how an all-knowing God rescued you and brought you to Himself.

There is coming a day in which that loved one you once watched lose health; you will lay eyes on them in glory forever healed!

Touch all of the pain, but realize as bad as it feels, it does not even compare to the glory that Christ will reveal to us! 

God’s good reason for bad things is so that you can be glorified with Christ. As bad as this world is, the suffering we endure in it will not even compare with the glory that is to come. We have something amazing that is coming that makes it worth it. Anticipation!

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Read last week’s posts, How to Live and Really Love It.