Realizations

Philosophy in the Middle of the Desert

The Kingdom of Terremoto February 20, 2012

Filed under: Terremoto — milesprowers @ 12:46 pm
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[written on 011612]

I toil everyday, tirelessly, building this masterpiece Kingdom in hopes of it standing out in history, like a lighthouse, bringing in people to see it for themselves. Yet it is not for me.

And I will bring people alongside me to toil towards its completion also, and on that day when the final brick is set in the highest tower I will engrave on its capstone this inscription: “The Kingdom of Terremoto: A Gift for my King.”

On that day we will celebrate by preparing a great feast. Once everything is ready a great trumpet will sound and the doors will open to all who wish to come in from the streets. I’ll cut the red ribbon (the greatest honor of my life) that hangs over the bright, red carpet which leads into the King’s hall where the pennants drape down over the checkered court as the guests waltz to the Flowers. It will be a celebration open to all for all generations to come. But the most overjoyed of all on that day will be the ones who were celebrating all the while with me during those first years of building.

The smell of coffee and bakery waft through the wooden rafters high above as the young men laugh and the maidens flirt below. And many guests stay there all their lives, never getting too full from the great feast. And all the while in the midst of this great banquet, beyond the stone pillars at the end of the marble palace stands a great throne, yet it is empty.

The people look expectantly to me, awaiting me to sit on the throne, but I tell them plainly, “It isn’t my kingdom.”

But the people don’t care because of the great banquet they feast on, for they know not the King. But some notice the throne and inquire of it. I tell them, “All of this is simply one big offering that I present to my King, to show him thanks for the gift he first gave me, which is the greatest gift that can be given, an unrecompensable gift. Yet it was his gift to me that inspired and enabled me to build this gift for him, and indeed he himself supervised its completion. For except the King build his own Kingdom, I labored in vain. For he won’t be as happy as he could be unless it turns out just the way he wants.

“As for the throne, it is a lasting testament to him, that he is the King of this Kingdom, and no other will ever take his place on the throne, so that those who enjoy the fruit of this Kingdom may praise him for it. For he is a King which cannot even be confined to a throne. In fact he is already here with us, right now, in spirit.”

“And what was it that the King gave you?”

“He saved my life. Now all I have I owe to him. All my time, all my talent, all my treasure. For I would not have any of it to begin with had he not saved me. And this Kingdom is the best use of all of them, the greatest gift I can possibly offer him.”

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Religion: √ Other February 18, 2012

[As written on 012912]

“What religion are you?”

This turns out to be a loaded question.
How would the first Christians have responded?  That was before the term “Christian” existed.
How would Jesus (does Jesus) want you to respond?
“Christianity.”
Oh, so Christianity’s a religion?
In most cases, Christianity is a person’s religion…that is, for a person who isn’t really a Christian.  Christianity is the religion of someone who doesn’t understand what Christianity really is.  Of someone who makes Christianity into a religion.

Or you could say, more appropriately,
“I have no religion.” “I don’t follow a religion.”  “I don’t believe in religion.”
As someone at work asked me,
“Are you religious?”
To which I confidently regurgitated the theologically-sophisticated answer I had been taught to believe:
“No.”
Wow.  I thought he was a Christian.  I didn’t realize he’s an agnostic. 
As I realized what he was probably thinking, all I could do is just stand there, stumped, unable to jump back on my train of thought and explain myself.  I just passed up the perfect Gospel opportunity.

In an ideal situation, their question would be:
“What is your religion?”
In which case, the simple, yet theologically profound, answer is:
“Jesus.”

Most people aren’t theologically aware enough to even realize what Christianity actually is, so most people would think,
Okay, Jesus = Christianity, so Christianity is his religion.
…and be on to the next thing.

But hopefully there would be someone who would at that point question you further.
“You mean Christianity is your religion.  A Muslim’s religion is Islam, not Muhammad.”
And then in that glorious, life-changing opportunity you fulfill the meaning of life, you obey the Great Commission, you plant the seed, you preach the Gospel to them in one sentence:

“Jesus didn’t start a religion; He personally took the place of religion.”
And if they question you further, you answer further.

It’s unclear exactly what the minimum is that a person must believe in order to be saved.  The best example of salvation in the Bible is the thief on the cross in Luke 23, who, to my knowledge, is the only instance in the Bible of someone who is clearly, definitely saved.  Of course the apostles were and all that, but I mean, the thief is the only person God Himself ever told “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  You are saved.

Specific details aside, the Gospel as simplified as possible is this:
Christianity = Salvation by God’s grace through Jesus.

[42112- Perhaps the next time we fill out one of those forms that requires us to specify our religion we should check the box “Other”, and if it provides a blank to clarify we should write in “Jesus”.  That would throw off the nation’s statistics, perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse (as it would seem to indicate Christianity dying off, when in reality it’s being resurrected in a new form, stronger and more alive than before).]

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The Greatest Possible Sacrifice January 28, 2012

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 10:18 am
Tags: , , ,

[As written on 1/17-18/12, edited 012812]

“The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.” ~ RAF Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne, shot down on 31 May 1940

All this talk of sacrifices…but I don’t sacrifice. Not really. If I did I would be out of my comfort zone, doing things I don’t want to do. As it is, I sacrifice…in my comfort zone. I sacrifice my time (not wasting time with insignificant things that don’t edify me or others), talent (use my strengths and skills to bring others closer to God), treasure (only buy what is necessary and give the rest to the ministry), body (rebel against the lusts of my flesh) and relationships (don’t let anyone become more of a priority over God, or get in the way of my calling). I sacrifice it to make the biggest impact I can possibly make…..and yet still manage to achieve my own desires, interests, and dreams. Still somehow keep my hands from getting dirty.
A wise man once said “If I even sacrifice my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.” Equally in my case, if I rock the world to its core, but have not love… I am nothing.

I sacrifice my time, talent and treasure to use it for things other than indulging my selfish desires, but even then I’m using them to do something I enjoy doing. So then, is that really sacrifice? Is it that much of a sacrifice to choose not to indulge in fleshly stimulation at all times? I put all my time, talent, and treasure towards a ministry, but it’s a ministry I enjoy doing. So is it really sacrifice?
It’s easy to sacrifice physical things within your comfort zone that you have easy access to like money and food; what’s hard to sacrifice is the intangible, things like your embarrassment and weaknesses. Standing up to defend Jesus’ name or Christianity. Making that first embarrassing detour in the conversation to culturally-awkward topics like religion. Amidst your jam-packed schedule to ask someone if they need help with something or engaging them in conversation. On your day off to look for ways to serve others. Or forcing yourself to smile. Or giving up your spiritual gifts to serve in the area which happens to need the most help right in front of you, as awkward as it is. Or even physical things like fatigue and pain. These are the hindrances of true sacrifice.

Who really does sacrifice then?
The first thing that pops up in my mind when I think of total sacrifice, or the ultimate surrender to God, is the missionary. Surely a missionary who leaves behind all luxury and family and cultural comfort behind to pursue the selfless goal of fulfilling God’s neglected command to preach the Gospel to those most desperate for it. Yet what missionary doesn’t enjoy what he does? What missionary doesn’t feel the unparalleled, divine joy that comes from joining the ranks of the apostles in being obedient to God’s greatest command and fulfilling their meaning of life? Are there really missionaries out there writhing in misery right now, guilt-tripped into the mission field, and merely riding on the fumes of conviction to keep them going? If so, I’ve never heard of them, even if their missionary journey doesn’t bare evident fruit.

Perhaps we should let the missionaries speak for themselves. What would the most sacrificial of missionaries say on the subject? Fortunately for this essay’s sake, one of the most famous missionaries was asked about his sacrifice. To which Dr. David Livingstone replied:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.

Wow. I’m reminded of the passage that “coincidentally” came up today as I’m in the process of reading through the whole Bible chronologically. Luke 17: 7: “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

So what then is the ultimate sacrifice?
100% sacrifice would be something like voluntarily going to jail or dying for no cause, where you can’t enjoy anything, nor do anything good which might bring you joy. That’s the ultimate sacrifice. And also that which God abhors.

As it turns out, “sacrifice” in reality is a relative term that requires a balance to be useful, much like the rest of Christianity. For if you truly sacrificed everything you possibly could, you wouldn’t be doing any good. God has called us all to be living sacrifices and yet I believe that in fulfilling that divine charge of making the greatest impact you can possibly make you will experience the greatest possible joy.

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Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 1 – Paul’s Reasons for Celibacy/Marriage? November 9, 2011

THE LOGIC BEHIND CELIBACY

*My main goal behind writing a persuasive argument in favor of celibacy is most pointedly (and most realistically) to simply open the average Christian’s mind to the option of celibacy for their consideration. And by using the 2 things we already trust in (divine revelation and logic) to support that option I hope to prove that it’s actually not radical or weird. Not to brainwash you with propaganda so as to join my ranks, but to show you what the Bible has clearly stated about it for 2000 years. Not to encourage you to join some kind of faith-based cult by tugging on your hearts, but to let you see that celibacy in general resonates with our innate sense of logic, so as to seem even more logical than marriage.*

Persecution
I’ve heard it argued that Paul was specifically talking about his era when referring to staying single because of how extreme the “present distress” was (1 Cor 7:26). But at the time Paul wrote that the persecution hadn’t even reached the peak it would in later years. And if he referred to the future, then was he only referring to until the 4th century when Christianity stopped being persecuted in the Roman Empire? Is that when Christians started marrying suddenly? So now that we’re not living in “present distress” in our country is it suddenly okay to live carefree lives, marrying and living comfortably in our pursuit of happiness like in the Old Covenant? Those early centuries of persecution were no doubt terrible, but were they anymore extreme than the persecution still going on right now in the world?

I wonder if the fact that we’re not personally being persecuted means we’re not living like we’re supposed to. How can we justify living a life of leisure when our brothers in the world are STILL living in persecution like the early church? Shouldn’t we forsake the excess resources which afford us a luxurious lifestyle to turn our lives and resources toward the alleviation of current persecution? If we did this we would feel the effects of persecution personally.

But really what does persecution have to do with celibacy anyways? I suppose it’s because a wife could do more harm than good in a persecution-inclined culture where your responsibility as a husband could collide with your responsibility to the ministry– as portrayed in the following joke:

What do you call a missionary’s wife in the 10/40 window? A bargaining chip.

My point is just that the logic behind celibacy goes far beyond persecution. Are the people right now who are being persecuted like the early church called to celibacy more than we? No, I think the point of Paul advocating celibacy is because the end is near. We don’t know when it is and so we need to live as if the end is tomorrow. And if the world’s ending tomorrow why would we get married, and especially have kids? Is that what Jesus advised us to do? No, just the opposite! He actually spoke woes to them that do, as he said in Matt. 24:19: “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!” He doesn’t encourage people to keep living life like it’s always been, but instead to stop and prepare for the end. “Yeah, but people have thought it’s the end for thousands of years.” Wow, do you so quickly take the side of those “mockers in the last days” who say “Where is this second coming?” It’s that conviction of the end being nigh which continues to push the gospel ever forward despite the dangers.  Without that we wouldn’t have even gotten this far.

For “…they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” –Matthew 24:38-39

Lack of Self-Control
Personally speaking, most of the time I don’t struggle with lust and romantic longing, but occasionally I do.  And in those times I‘m shaken to my core, to the point I would consider throwing away all my commitments, calling, and logic for companionship.  For what’s the point of celibacy if you’re too depressed to be productive–which was the whole point of being celibate?  Those times when I have given in to romance are easily the worst parts of my whole life; nearly all the valleys in my life’s vicissitudes are the direct result of romantic deprivation.  But it’s important to note that these valleys almost exclusively come after being around women which arouse a desire in me which I don’t want to fulfill.  It’s not being by myself that makes me lonely; it’s the angst of being without something I suddenly desire that so greatly depresses me.  I think if I were distanced from women (and romantic allurement) and had friends/family with me to keep me from loneliness (through accountability/fellowship) I would still struggle just like everybody does (priests, monks, apostles), but not enough to consider marriage as my calling.

You may think, “If he were really called to celibacy then he wouldn’t struggle with it.”  But doesn’t everybody struggle with it?  Isn’t that the way we were originally designed so as to populate the Earth?  All I know is if the Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way then surely he was tempted by the most tempting of human desires (romance and sex).  And if Jesus was tempted, of course a mere mortal like Paul would be, too.  I don’t see why Paul’s thorn in the flesh wouldn’t have been something like the temptation of those intense romantic or sexual passions he fought against yet still couldn’t shake.  I know during my past (and current) crushes I’ve begged God more than 3 times to take it away (to no avail I might add).  And yet Paul’s own romantic and sexual temptations weren’t enough to persuade him toward advocating marriage; it was in spite of them that he encouraged celibacy. Paul and the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 16) are the only people in Scripture I can think of whose call to celibacy was clearly, biblically-ordained, and yet if even Paul (the main advocate of celibacy) struggled against those temptations then why wouldn’t we also (who would be blessed to become even half of what Paul was)?  The struggle isn’t a clear indicator of your calling.

Is molestation at the hands of priests a sign that God never intended people to be celibate?  I don’t think so.  Maybe it’s a sign that we weren’t intended to make vows of lifelong celibacy.  Because it would have been better for those men to have been married all along than to be set apart to God only to end up burning with passion anyway and that passion being forced to manifest itself through a perverted outlet.  I think it’s these situations Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 7:9 which justify marriage.

You get the impression from reading that passage that the only thing Paul considers worthy to justify a marriage is lack of self-control (as if you would inevitably sin more without marriage to legalize your lustful thoughts and actions).  But is he justifying the lack of self control itself?  Isn’t this just a cop-out for sin?
“I have the choice between surrendering every area of my life to Christ’s discipline or giving in to my lust by justifying it with marriage?… That’s a no-brainer!”
That’s kind of like justifying your gambling problem because you donate the money you get to missions.  You don’t do anything to fix your self-control problem, but just get married only to find out later that your burning passions are too large to be righteously satisfied in marriage, and now you’re tempted by sins worse than the fornication you were tempted with before marriage.  Marriage won’t cure a lustful heart.

I used to think (as most men do) that living a lust-free life is not possible, it’s just part of a man’s daily life.  And I freely confess that I still struggle against my day dreams and wandering eyes (sometimes giving in), but I also confess that I know what it’s like to be broken free from the bondage of lust, and it’s so much better than any temporary ecstasy that has such addictive baggage.  I can only speak for myself, but God in his amazing grace allows me to break free from lust and then sustains me for extended periods of time (see my essay, “How To Overcome Lust“).  In those anti-lust streaks I don’t mean that I simply refrained from having sex or making out or looking at porn or masturbating, what I mean is I never even entertained a lustful temptation in my head!  I’m hesitant to even share that lest I be judged as being prideful, or lest people say “That’s a clear sign you’re called to celibacy; as for me I could never do that so I must not be.”  But I share that for the sake of telling you firsthand from experience that, in a society where Christians don’t really think it’s possible not to lust, it IS possible, and I don’t think escaping the sin of lust should be anyone’s determining reason for getting married. Sex will fade, and then what’s left in your marriage if that’s the main thing that brought you two together?

Lust is what keeps us on the same level as animals, and keeps us from being on the same level as angels.

And so people say, well, I struggle with lust so I must be called to marriage.  But Paul’s not saying marriage is for people who simply struggle with lust, but rather people who can’t control themselves enough to not have sex and commit fornication.  It’s better to be married than to sin by having sex outside of marriage.  This justification is for the people who know their extreme tendencies and are smart enough to recognize their weaknesses and beat them to it. Though I think a sex-based marriage will always be less successful than a ministry-based marriage of people who developed self-control before getting married.

 

Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 2 – Love vs. Romance vs. Calling

Filed under: Celibacy,The American Dream — milesprowers @ 10:06 pm
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Love vs. Romance
[I think it’s important to point out the difference between love and romance. You don’t love your family the same way you love your girlfriend; the latter would be considered romance. So rather than risk any confusion when referring to love, I will always refer to romantic love as “romance” and never just “love”, as is the common use in our culture.]

I’m always amazed by the people who freak out at me as if by my denial of romance I’m thwarting God’s plan for my life and passing up the mate God wants me to marry. As if life is a game where you have to play all your cards right or else you screw up and you’re accidentally off track the rest of your life. And how is it that I screwed up? By analyzing my life and earnestly seeking out how best to serve God instead of just giving into my selfish desires on a whim like the godless American majority? If anyone would hear God’s call for marriage wouldn’t it be those who surrender to His will and open their ears to hear from Him? If we are celibate because we honestly feel it’s God’s will, then we will marry when we honestly feel it’s God’s will. If it’s God’s will He would make it so, change the circumstances, change our hearts, and those of our soul mates, to bring us together providentially, not through eHarmony or dating every girl you see at church. It’s in His hands, any other way is faithlessness, out of fear and out of His will. There’s times and seasons in our lives, and God changes us according to our best fit in reaching the world. But at the same time there weren’t “times and seasons” in Paul’s life, and we must live with that resolve until God tells us otherwise.

I think of romance like hard drugs.  Romance is something you find physically tempting because of its promise to pick you up from your neutral-to-depressing existence and put you on cloud 9 in an experience of emotional ecstasy.  Once you give in just a little bit and have that first taste, your system is completely transformed to revolve around it.  It’s all you can think about, all you care about.  It immediately detours your plans for the day all the way until the day you die.  All your previous ambitions and decisions are immediately thrown out the window and replaced with attempts to get another taste.  Yet neither are necessities for living.  Neither help you physically or spiritually.  And in fact they do harm to your potential and that of the Great Commission as they throw away your time, talent and treasures.   Any spare time you have is spent thinking about it, to the point that you can’t really enjoy anything else anymore, so that anytime you are without it you are in emotional misery, which affects your mind, body and relationships to make all of them miserable as well.  Whatever time you do have is spent trying to get it back or fantasizing about it.  Whatever spare money you have is used to bring it back to you.  And then, of course, you neglect using your god-given talents by instead laying around, listening to the siren’s song in a euphoric state, and are no good to anybody.
How can anything be good that you are obsessed with all day?  The first thing you think of when you wake to the last thing you think about when you go to bed.  How can anything be so obsessive and yet considered good (aside from God, of course, whom we should be obsessed with all the time)?  Isn’t that just as bad as hard drugs?  In fact, isn’t that the reason hard drugs are considered bad?  Because they possess you and take over your life so that every decision is made in favor of that addiction, and so they destroy your life and recreate your identity.
[Of course this argument is largely referring to the puppy love stage, which is temporary….but I wouldn’t know anything about that having never made it beyond the puppy love stage.  🙂   And sadly I fear that many couples never make it past this romantic infatuation before getting married (so that their marriage is based on emotion instead of reason), and that is why they do not last.]

The truth is that romance is blinding, and if you randomly fall in love with someone, regardless of their compatibility, then your mind (being now possessed and controlled by emotion) will shape logic around them, shape God’s will and your calling so that the person fits in right at the center– your new god. Can’t you see that this addiction (just like any other) is idolatry?  And yet it feels so natural, so right!  When you’re in love there’s no such thing as logic, because your emotions refashion your previously existing logic. And if, as was my case, the logic is square against the romance in any area, you just ignore it. When in doubt, side with emotion. Because you and your body feel emotion. You don’t feel logic. Your primal desires are more desperate to be satisfied than your mental unsatisfactions. Romance is invincible and blind. That’s why it’s important to look for a mate not based on romance, but before romance sets in and blinds you to God’s will.

I ask you, is that love? In the immortal words of Haddaway, “What Is Love?”
If Paul, writer of majority of the New Testament, encourages celibacy then why is it so rare today? Wouldn’t we all pursue, or at least consider, his logical, God-ordained advice? It wasn’t a command, just advice. But personal advice coming from the main apostle, perhaps the greatest Christian to ever live, shouldn’t that be heeded more than the advice of any other christian leader since? I mean, it’s in the Bible! And who is the opposition? Not the Catholic church, whose leaders are celibate. It’s the comfortable American church that fits into an unbiblical, non-sacrificial, hedonistic society pursuing the American Dream. It’s just Christian enough to get into Heaven, but not Christian enough to make a difference. Unchristian enough to fit perfectly in the devil’s plan. Why would Satan waste time on the lost who are already lost when he can just keep Christians from reaching them?

Romance Is Not Ideal
 34Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” –  Luke 20

If nothing else, we can all agree that at the very least romance is not ideal, otherwise it would be in Heaven.  Because Heaven is ideal and marriage (thus sex and romance) isn’t in Heaven, marriage must not be ideal.  And if there won’t be marriage in Heaven why bother dealing with it here on earth?  Of course, you could argue “because you won’t be able to experience it in Heaven”, but isn’t the goal of Christianity to do God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven?  And to ultimately prepare this Earth to become Heaven, which will descend to reside here at the end of the age? If God’s will is perfectly done in Heaven where there is no romance then what does that imply we should strive for here on Earth in making this place more like Heaven?

Remember that in the beginning, when God commanded marriage, that everything was perfect and he himself dwelt there so that there was no need of Heaven on Earth; Heaven was already on Earth.  Which raises a serious question: God created romance in the beginning, and wasn’t all God’s creation perfect and thus ideal?  Perfect, yes; ideal, no. Because it’s only perfect for this particular, physical world; it’s not the overall, universal ideal.  Just like planet Earth itself: though perfect, it was never intended to be as good as Heaven.  As Luke says, there is no marriage because there is no need for marriage.  In other words, the point of marriage in the beginning was to procreate and keep mankind alive (and tending the Earth), but since man doesn’t die in Heaven, there’s no need to procreate, thus no marriage (thus no romance which is the seed of the others).

Which also raises an interesting point: If the main point of marriage was to populate the Earth, now that the Earth is more than populated does that original intent hold the same weight? I’d argue that the Earth had become completely inhabited by the time of Jesus, so when Jesus fulfilled the Law (including “be fruitful and multiply”) and encouraged celibacy in Matthew 19 the timing was Providential.  God created romance in the beginning, thus it was “very good.”  But oh, how things have changed!  The version of romance we have today has been corrupted just like everything else post-Eden, so who’s even to say that it is still just as “very good.”  But that’s besides the point; the point is that even if modern romance is still good according to God’s design, it’s not the best.  Romance is good, but giving up your own romance/pleasure for the greater good of humanity is better.

Imagine all the drama that would vanish if there were no ulterior motives and mind possession from lust/romance.  Imagine people living without exclusive relationships to be jealous of or bitter about, to make for awkward situations. No one would be left out or marginalized based on their insecurities, looks, or handicaps.  While there would still be jealousy, loneliness, etc, it wouldn’t be magnified by this amazingly-large staple of human life, this void which only serves to intensify the pain of those who would be single regardless.  People would just be people, living together as friends.  Some are better friends than others (enter jealousy/bitterness/loneliness), but there’s no exclusive/legal/sacred bond between 2 people.  There would still exist the same kind of issues that exist today among people, it’s just that they wouldn’t be romance-related, which probably takes away half of our major issues.  Oh, what a relief the very thought is!


Your Calling
Doesn’t God have a divine plan for every person? Don’t we need to seek Him and wait on Him to reveal our specific calling, how to fulfill it, and the provisions needed to fulfill it, all exactly as God planned it? Of course. If that’s how it is with the most important thing in our lives, wouldn’t it be the same with the other most important thing in our lives (aka, marriage)? Worrying about marriage and rushing around trying to find a good enough girl to marry lest you miss it and are lonely your whole life or it’s too late to have kids is the same thing as worrying about missing your calling and rushing around trying not to waste time and plugging into a ministry based on society’s influence on you and what’s available, instead of based on prayer and seeking God’s voice that calls you to the ministry He created you for. No devout Christian condones the latter, why then is it the norm to condone the former?  Just as God created you for one specific ministry above all others, so God has chosen one soul-mate to complement you above all other people.

Everyone should start off as celibate until God reveals his talent/ministry/calling so they know what attributes to look for in a mate, but waiting on God to join them together supernaturally, not just marrying whoever is convenient or who you happen to be around and fall in love with.  Because you’re not just marrying another person, you’re marrying your future self- as you two become one mind. It’s not good to live a life of solitude unless you’re specifically doing some good project that requires it (ie, monks copying manuscripts). Celibacy might not be best for you if you struggle more than usual with being single while living in a world of single women to tempt you and married couples to make you jealous, bitter, lonely, feeling left out, and longing. But struggles are inevitable while living in this sinful world in our sinful flesh, regardless of your calling.

Celibacy is a gift (1 Cor. 7:7), but what is the gift exactly? A lower sex-drive? Simply more self-control? Greater contentment or independence? Couldn’t it just as well be the realization and conviction that Paul himself had that this life is short and temporary and we should live as such? Many things are done better with a helper (someone to pick you up, as iron sharpens iron), but some things are better done alone.  And why can’t your helper just be a friend? Celibacy doesn’t mean living a life of solitude, in most cases celibates would probably have more friends than couples because couples are so tied-up with each other they don’t have time or care about socializing. It’s not like being single means you’re all alone and don’t have any friends or family, or you’re living a sad existence alone at your house every night. If you’re single you probably have roommates and it’s like being in college your whole life, which could be better than marriage.

Just as your talents are spiritual gifts, the means by which you employ them (ie, celibacy/marriage) is a gift, too. Sure celibates are seen as set apart or above the norm of society and flesh. But I think couples can still be “set apart” or holy in contrast to the society they live in, and in deed should be. In fact married couples probably have it harder being in, not of, the world as they live more in the midst of the world and its temptations and trials, whereas celibates are typically set apart literally and physically. The married are tempted to keep up with the Joneses and the American Dream, and in fact the world looks down on them, too.  Because they’re abnormal just like the celibate, though not as much.
But just as one member of the body isn’t better than another, the means of one calling (celibacy) isn’t better than another (marriage). We’re two different kinds of people, members of the body, with different functions/missions. Celibates shouldn’t look down on the married for “giving in” to their primal desires. And the married should not criticize celibates for being “too uptight”, “legalistic”, “missing out on the joys of life”, or “rebelling against their design”.

Of course the most persuasive argument for celibacy comes from just reading 1 Corinthians chapter 7, which I encourage you to read alongside this essay, and I don’t feel the need to expound on it because it speaks for itself. But where Paul talks of his own advice (not of the Lord), the Lord Himself gives the same advice in Matthew 19, and if the Lord is giving advice, is it really just advice? Jesus says getting divorced and remarrying while your spouse is alive= adultery. The only justifiable reason for divorce is if your spouse committed adultery, but even then the innocent person is forced to commit adultery when they marry someone else (it’s the only justified adultery). The disciples responded saying that it is better to never marry once, than be divorced once. Then Jesus condones their words in a curious way by saying, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given….[For] there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Jesus changes the topic slightly to affirm the call to celibacy, later echoed by Paul (the 2nd most influential person in Christianity, next to Jesus). God Himself lays it out plainly: If you can remain single you should. Which seems to me that if you can remain single but do not, you are not living up to God’s expectations. It seems like He’s saying if you’re not sure you are called to be married then stay single. It is better to lean towards remaining single and being sinless than to lean towards marriage and possibly sinning. Better to err in the noble fight for righteousness than to err by simply giving in to the temptations of the world.

Ministry before Matrimony, Matrimony above Ministry
You should not marry because it feels good, nor should you be celibate just to lock yourself away to meditate in a euphoric state all the time (get high on God). The feeling you feel doesn’t benefit others, so it’s not worth doing unless it benefits others, such as if it is a means of a spiritual rest or equipping to prepare for future service. When it all comes down, the only reason you should marry is if it brings you closer to God to help you preach the gospel better. If your relationship takes away time from service or hinders your relationship/growth with God then you are clearly in sin. But if you’re married then it’s too late, and you have higher responsibilities than your calling. You must first understand your calling, then if marriage would help it or hurt it, then figure out what type of person would complement your ministry. Although only God ultimately knows what would help our ministry, there should still be some obvious things to look for and look against.
What is the one thing you are best at?

I think the answer to this is the clearest indicator of where you could make the biggest impact for the Gospel’s advancement (aka your calling).  I have the gift of song-writing; I feel it is the one thing I can do better than anything else.  So if I felt called with my mind and God’s spirit to marriage, it would only make sense to marry someone who would understand my calling, appreciate my songs, give constructive criticism to strengthen my ministry, and also give me enough time and space alone to work on them. It would be a sin to marry someone who I’m attracted to, though they could care less about music and would get mad at me for spending large amounts of time writing and thinking. If they need more time with me to fulfill their own calling so that my own is watered down and put on the shelf then I screwed up in marrying the wrong person, going with my emotions rather than the spirit, not waiting for God to reveal it first and confirm it in a way that makes sense.  And I fear that is the fate of many (if not most) marriages, if they aren’t centered on ministry. I’m not saying your ministry takes priority over your marriage in your daily life (it’s the opposite), but your ministry/calling comes first chronologically in your life-time and defines what your marriage will be.  If at all.  Marriage takes priority over ministry, so make sure your marriage complements both the ministry of the groom and bride. That way when you make marriage your top priority you strengthen your ministry at the same time.

Luke 14:16-24:  Jesus said to them, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many… One said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’  … The master said … “None of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”

 

Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 3 – Against Procreation

Filed under: Celibacy — milesprowers @ 10:05 pm
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Reproduction: Sin of Omission
Even in the times when I’m tempted by marriage it always inevitably comes back to the same wall, which is procreation. Some people are against birth control because it’s unnatural, goes against God’s purpose of sex (“spilling the seed” so to speak), or if nothing else because it’s been proven to cause abortions by accidentally killing the embryo after conception, just a tad too late. However, the reason I’m against it is because it’s not 100% effective. There’s still a slight chance life could be conceived. I feel strongly that to have a baby is the sin of omission. In other words, in a world like ours where over 2/3 the world is on their way to Hell, how can we leave all those innocent, dying children out in the cold by bringing in new children? Brand new souls who will never know starvation, or likely damnation, to lavish on them all the love, support, and basic needs we could’ve given to the ones already here and already without it, the ones who likely won’t ever get it. And the reason they won’t get it is mainly because of us keeping it from them.

It’s not just giving to the needy, it’s giving the opportunity of salvation to those on their way to Hell (who are dying faster than Americans, by the way); it’s the Great Commission. So what, instead we give our amazing gift of Christian parenthood to souls we make from scratch, who otherwise wouldn’t exist to go to Hell? What is so beneficial and selfless so as to entice people to have babies? Desires to live a life that’s physically and emotionally fulfilling in every way? Experiencing the joys of sex? Pregnancy? Parenthood? Passing on good genes? Legacy?  The only things I can think of are not selfless– they’re selfish. It’s all about you. It’s not even about the baby.

Q: “What about raising a godly family to impact the degrading society?”
But is that even a truly noble goal? Of course saving people from a life of starvation, oppression, and spiritual blindness is among the noblest of endeavors, but raising a family itself? Perhaps the end result is noble, but nothing in the means of getting there. And the end result is still less noble than other options. Godly parenthood is so time-consuming that you might as well be living a life of solitude in your homey comfort-zone, away from the world outside that threatens the safety of your family. Again, a huge temptation- as in the temptation to protect your children from evil and danger (as is your responsibility as a parent). But at the expense of actually being a light out in the world, so that you and your godly family are absent from the world, making it just as well that you and your godly family weren’t godly at all or even in the world in the first place. It’s kind of extreme, but I wonder if parents rightly trying to fulfill their responsibility of being a good parent end up being so consumed by it that they themselves are made almost useless for ministry themselves. Almost as if they’re hiding from ministry behind their children saying, “Well, it’s too late for me. I’m too overwhelmed to minister now, but I’m raising up godly children who will be able to do what I couldn’t.” Putting off their own responsibility of ministry on someone else, as if expecting their kids to make the sacrifices they weren’t willing to make.
[Of course that argument breaks down somewhat because a father still spends his time being a light at his job, may actually be full-time in the ministry, and does have some free time to minister, especially when his kids are older and out of the house. Still it’s an interesting point worth noting, and I do think there is truth to it.]
A: What could make more of an impact and be a testimony of Christianity than adoption.

I can’t think of a single good reason to have your own children instead of adopting.  You don’t know that that soul you’re bringing into existence will be saved, and if that soul you brought into eternity is damned for eternity it will be better if it had never been born.  If you want to raise up a godly legacy and leave behind salt in the world why not raise up the souls who are already in existence, already in eternity and soon to be judged, and who will go to Hell if you don’t adopt them?

“But adoption is so expensive!”
Then adopt from America.
I mean, in the U.S. they pay you to adopt! As is the case with being a foster parent. American adoption is less ideal because American orphans have infinite more resources and opportunities for life and salvation than 3rd world orphans, but there’s still a desperate need.  American orphans and foster kids are more likely to live broken adult lives after having broken childhoods, thus multiplying the slippery slope in America.  If you really wanted to “impact the degrading society” wouldn’t you try to fix it yourself instead of just leaving behind salt to take care of it?  Society is degrading at an exponential rate because the people who are degrading it are also having all these kids who will do the same (just in greater numbers now), and so on.  If you really cared so much about America then why wouldn’t you step in and stop the cycle?
Jesus never said be fruitful and multiply. No, he said take care of the widows and orphans for the end is near.

Here’s my question:
What good for society and the Great Commission does romance and sex produce?

I’m not against marriage, in fact I think that the greatest defense for marriage is the prospect of adoption (which wouldn’t be nearly as effective outside of marriage). But I am against procreation, and thus against sex. What greater temptation to have sex is there than marriage? Where suddenly satisfying your God-given desires and experiencing the single greatest physical euphoria of your life is not only legal, but encouraged. Of course I guess you don’t actually have to have sexual intercourse to satisfy your sexual desires, which is how it’d be with my marriage. But who would be up for that? I mean, sure, give up going out to eat, but SEX?!?!

To be married is to sleep in the same bed which is to inevitably have sex sub-consciously.  So if you don’t plan on having sex and thus don’t take birth control then you can’t sleep in the same bed or you’ll accidentally have sex while not fully awake, when you aren’t conscious enough to choose to restrict your body’s primal instinct.  So what are you going to do, be married yet sleep in separate beds or rooms?  I say there’s no point in even being married, you should just be engaged for life.  “This is my fiancee with a ring on her finger; she’s off limits.” And that’s it. (…a cheap ring of course.  ;))

Having such ideals as these make it seem marriage is not God’s will for me, or others with whom this essay resonates in their souls, and thus why torment yourself longing for the perfect mate that fits all of these requirements when it’s inconceivable aside from God’s sovereignty? Rather we are called to be content in our lives of sacrifice and obedience, longing for the Spirit alone, and if it’s God’s will to confound the improbability of a soul mate then it’s up to Him and He will do it in His time by His means, one way or another. I mean, it’s not like we’re celibates for ourselves, in spite of God’s real calling that we’re denying.  If we are celibate for ourselves, then we are in sin.

We are the ones who will discontinue our surnames, the dead ends of the family tree.

Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.”  Isaiah 56:3

The Great Commission vs. The Great Omission
What is the sin of omission? It’s the sin of not doing something you were supposed to. In that sense, not feeding the starving keeps them starving. Not saving someone who is dying is murder. If you can’t afford foreign adoption but can afford reproduction/procreation then why not give that money to sponsor a child who needs it more?  Through Compassion International and other ministries you can pay to have a child get fed, clothed and shown love and the Gospel in a 3rd world country where they might not have any of those things otherwise. Why waste the resources they need by making a new soul? Why keep them out in the cold, starving, just so you can create a little you? The ultimate selfishness. Don’t you know that these people will either live or die by your choice to aid them or not?  When these people live on a dollar a day, you have the choice of going out to eat tonight or letting 10 people live another day, who will die if you don’t. That puts everything into perspective. Shouldn’t that be our whole life’s perspective? Sponsor 3 children for the price of your one hypothetical American, Christian one.

Let’s be liberal for a moment and assume that there are 50 million Christian couples in America right now. If each of those American couples adopted or even just sponsored one foreign child that would be 50 million people taken out of their dark, hopeless fate. If they each adopted 2 children that would be 100 million souls removed from the road to Hell and raised on the road to Heaven, with abounding opportunities for salvation and the personal examples to make those opportunities extremely persuasive. And it doesn’t just have to be Americans that adopt.

It’s a little haunting to note that of all the things God could teach man during his time on earth, one of the main things he stressed was the necessity of helping “the least of these.” His emphasis on this in Matthew 25 was so stern that he warned those who neglected this duty as being in danger of Hell.

//

 

Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 4 – Its Non-Biblical Incentives and Flaws

Filed under: Celibacy — milesprowers @ 10:04 pm
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OTHER, NON-SPIRITUAL REASONS FOR CELIBACY:

*You change. You lose your self, your identity, and your individuality and become more like someone else as the two become one flesh. Marriage makes it harder to be yourself and do what you love because you now have a responsibility to be what someone else wants you to be. Instead of being “you”(who you were your whole life) you suddenly become a “unit”. I can’t just hang out with you anymore, now I have to mess with red tape. And even then I have to hang out with you and some stranger I’m not as good of friends with. It will never be the same. All those good times can never be relived, because you’re too busy having good times behind closed doors that only one other person will get to experience.
*Your character is tamed/watered down. We’re all characters in this great story, and the cool characters are the ones who live on edge, who stand out. Would you rather be the independent, mysterious loner, or the domesticated softy anchored to a house, job, kids, and routine?  What is cooler, really?  James Dean who is a promiscuous ladies man sleeping around all the time?  Or the mysterious, virgin, loner James Dean who’s above the animalistic instinct of sex, and too cool for the mush of romance?  I say the latter, through and through.  Because he’s on a whole other plane (higher than the common, normal, predictable, natural plane) touching the divine.  A legend.  And more respectable, too.

-You only live once.  So in the great story of History, if you got one blurb to sum up your whole life would you rather be recorded as being a character like Isaac, who’s only real significance was his birth and death (legacy) through whom Abraham’s descendants would be blessed (whose life is little more than the dash on a tombstone between 2 dates, that dash mostly being summed up by family quarrels), or Elijah, the loner in the desert who pours out himself before God only to be filled by him and so see the supernatural first hand as it works through him while he stands before kings to rebuke them as ambassador of the King of kings.

– – Of course this is the stupidest argument in the whole essay, yet it still has some merit.  Isn’t it true that the most captivating, attractive men of the Bible are the prophets out in the wilderness?  The revolutionaries?  Of course being married doesn’t automatically mean you will be tied down and have kids, routine, etc.  It just makes it that much harder to be a living sacrifice, and it’s how the vast majority of marriages end up (not that those things are bad if they are what God called you to, and even then you are still called to be radical in that calling of marriage, parenthood, and routine, and not mediocre).  One thing’s for sure, in marriage the mediocrity of life is so much more tempting than in celibacy.
*Romance stinks, it complicates everything, makes it so you can’t really be good friends with the opposite sex, and when they’re married even more so. They’re off limits. It’s so exclusive and cut off, creates so much drama, and makes the most ordinary interactions with the opposite sex instantly permeating with paranoia and awkward tension.

FLAWS OF CELIBACY:

Of course celibacy has its own temptations and stumbling blocks.
When you think of a monk, what kind of sins would he be most likely to struggle with?
Well, if you’re alone most of the time, then the person you think about the most is yourself, because it’s the main person you “interact” with. It’s very good to have time to be still and meditate, analyzing yourself and how to serve God better, but it can also be dangerous.  Too much thinking can lead to depression, judgment, anger, perversion and insanity (what my Mom calls “morbid introspection”). If you’re so focused on yourself it’s inevitable that you become selfish, because there’s no one around to do anything else for or think about. It’s inevitable that you become over-analytical toward yourself which can make you depressed at still not doing all you can do for God. Also, in quiet seclusion it’s easier to desire what you don’t have/the things which are more obviously absent: the friends, romance, commotion, and fun you think everybody else is having right now, which makes you lonely and depressed. So you either jeopardize your convictions by indulging in those worldly things which will fill the emotional void in your life, or stick to your convictions and make yourself feel better by judging them for not sacrificing as much as you are for God’s kingdom and thus being in sin.

Judging
“This life of sacrifice sure is hard, but at least I’m doing the right thing, unlike everyone else who is sinning because they aren’t obeying God’s commands to the degree I am.” This is the case with the righteous man who thanks God he’s not like other men, and whom Jesus condemns in Luke 18. You have to assume what other people do or don’t do, though you really don’t know for sure what they’re going through or their attitude to God. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible not to judge and make assumptions as we go about daily life, and in fact Jesus actually tells us to judge righteously. But judging is perhaps the most sensitive issue out there, and if we venture into those waters we’d better be sure we’re living above reproach. We need to be so careful that we judge with the right motives and based on facts only, for those who judge are the ones in the cross-hairs of God’s judgement and the world’s. Who is more likely to be called a hypocrite, an adulterous, violent celebrity strung out on drugs or a preacher who told a lie?  Remember that when God was on Earth the people he rebuked were those set apart as holy, not the the average “lukewarm” Jews.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7)

When you take a stand and truly surrender your life to God, making sacrifices beyond what most Christians make, it’s hard not to notice the distinction between your ideals and the majority’s. And thus it’s hard not to compare yourself with them and be frustrated that other people aren’t sacrificing the same things you are. Here you are laying down your life, denying your selfish desires, and living on edge after the model set by Jesus and the apostles (whom every Christian should model their lives after), and everyone else in the church is buying whatever they want, indulging in their physical desires, wasting their time watching tv, and never mentioning Christ outside of church. All without it ever crossing their minds that they’re doing something wrong; they’re just going with the flow.

Pride
This judgment of course leads to the biggest sin of all, which is pride, so that in trying to surrender yourself to God the most, you end up surrendering to him the least. Pride is the worst sin because it puts yourself in the place of God, the very one you were trying to serve. So that even in your attempts to serve God you have selfish motives and put your own ambitions over those of others (whose ambitions might actually be what God would rather have you pursuing at the time than your own).
“O that these people would become true Christians like me and the apostles, think of how different the world would be!” And then inevitably it goes to, “How dare they live their lukewarm lives, never stopping to examine themselves, keeping the starving starving and the lost lost! Delaying Jesus’ return.  What evil people!” And of course there’s a lot of truth to this, but more importantly this is pride disguised as righteous indignation which leads to elitism, among other things.

Anger
Your pride hardens your heart making you arrogant and unable to see your own sins, so that you can only see the sins of other people. It’s the plank in your eye (sin in your own life) that blinds you from seeing the situation clearly, from seeing what you actually are (just another sinner and really no better than they). And in your one-way “righteous indignation” you get angry at the sins of others you perceive, since you can’t perceive your own (because they’re blocked from your view by the plank). If you could perceive your own then you would be mad at yours just as much as the other person’s (if not more since you know the full extent of your own, and it’s you who’s sinning (the only one you are responsible for and able to control). Not being proud allows you to gain an accurate perception of yourself which convicts you of your sins and pulls you down to the same level as the other sinner, thus cancelling out the anger altogether. Humility allows you to see things as they really are.

Seclusion>Self-Absorption>Selfishness>Elitism
… of course you’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “You’d have to be pretty self-absorbed to write a whole essay about your personal views on this subject.” Alas, so goes the curse of the artist, the best of whom isolate themselves with only their ideas so as to become immersed in them and thus manifest them to the best of their human ability. So I’m not so much opposed to self-absorption, nor do I equate it with selfishness. It’s just that you need to beware of going down that road which ends in elitism. You are so possessed by your masterpiece of ministry that will one day reach the world that you neglect your daily responsibilities. Drive down that road ignoring those stranded hitchhikers on the side, excusing it because it’s not your gift. “Let the one who has the calling of pulling off pull off.” You can’t help because it would only distract you from your real calling– which seems bad and convicting now, but one day when your ministry bears fruit your present decision will be justified.
But sometimes the most mundane of service in the present is just as good as the monumental milestone in the future. All God really wants us to do is to do his will right now, at the present, and all the time. To be faithful with the talent he’s currently entrusted to us until he reveals the next thing we’re supposed to do for him.

I used to be ignorant and think all those monks living as hermits in monasteries were in sin, not going outside to fulfill the Great Commission. But now I realize how critical they were in the advancement of Christianity. The Kingdom of Heaven needs people who will be set apart from the temptations of the world in isolation so that they can do those sacred acts of ministry which can only be done in such an environment. I’m talking about copying manuscripts and the like. That is the kind of ministry where you can’t take chances getting distracted or tempted by the outside world and really do have to be set apart from evil, having a clear conscience and clear mind focused on God.

Those kinds of ministries are few and have tangible ends when there will no longer be a need for most of them, and so ideally God would set apart only a minority for those sacred services until finished.  But that’s ideally-speaking. In reality there are so few people currently involved in them that the need is perhaps the greatest.  So we might as well assume that God has called everybody to that kind of work until it has been accomplished.  I specifically have things like foreign Bible translation in mind, which would probably result in a greater number of salvations currently than would evangelizing Americans, who could learn about Christianity any time they want.  Yet even so, Jesus’ general commands were for us to be in the world, but not of the world- spreading the Gospel by forming relationships with people, acts of service, and communicating the gospel out in the world. Be careful of hiding behind your ministry to give you an excuse for not helping someone in your path (the priest in Luke 10:31). That person would not be brought into your path in the first place unless God wanted them there; if God wanted you to be secluded he would keep them away from you. Unless it’s a special case where God has called you to a sacred ministry, you shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty in the process of helping the tax collector’s and sinners right where they are; chances are the ministry you’re using to justify your isolationism actually isn’t as significant as the need you see right now.  Just like everything else in Christianity, the Great Commission is a balance. In order to reach sinners you’ll have to be around sin and thus run the risk of falling into it yourself. But a tainted evangelist is arguably better than a perfect hermit.

Perversion/Insanity
Nikola Tesla, the great inventor, suppressed his desires for romance and companionship so that he could focus on science, only to become deranged in the end and have those desires force themselves to the surface in a perverted way– in this case developing romantic feelings for a pigeon.
I think it’s common that in the case of a monk who separates himself from all temptations that those tempting desires force themselves back into your mind in one form or another. If you aren’t around women, then you’ll be tempted by whatever else is around you– in the monk’s case by other men, in Tesla’s case by an animal. Though it may sound absurd, anyone of us is capable of this given the right circumstances. As celibates we must acknowledge our tendency towards insanity and perversion more than the married person who has those temptations satisfied in romance/companionship and sex, and we must take the precautionary steps in preventing it.

Others would include:  
*Mooching
off people because you’re so obsessed with not spending your own money that you take advantage of others who you assume would spend it anyways and reason that it’s not hurting them if you take a little from their abundance.   “They shouldn’t be spending money on this, but since they do anyways they might as well give it to a good cause.  The least they could do is give some to me (since I don’t have any of it) which is ultimately giving to my ministry.” It’s kind of like taking from the rich to give to the poor, or designating people’s funds for them, because otherwise it would all be wasted on vanity.  As if you are more important than they because you are more obedient to God than they, which isn’t for you to think about.
*Becoming obsessed with people, because your deprivation from relationships or THE relationship (romance) makes you idolize the few relationships you do have.
___________________________________

But just as there are certain sins celibates are particularly prone to, there are certain sins that married people are particularly prone to (that a celibate wouldn’t struggle with). Such temptations from marriage would include: complacency in your comfort zone, chasing after the same things as the pagans/Joneses, materialism, idolatry (giving things priority over God), wasting time, etc.  All of these things can still tempt a monk, but he’s not as likely to give in as a married couple is; likewise a married couple will still be tempted by the monk’s temptations (judging, pride, anger, seclusion, selfishness, elitism, etc) in their own married manifestation.  For a celibate, the greatest temptations are the things he’s giving up, aka romantic companionship and sex. Likewise with the married, the greatest temptations are probably adultery and alone time to do what you want to do (independence), because those are the things you sacrifice when you get married.  In marriage the temptation is all the stronger to waste time by enjoying each other, which betters no one else in the world. And then you feel guilty when you do work by yourself on projects, etc, because you think you’re not upholding your duties as a spouse (which your sub-conscious mind tells you are to attend to your spouse at all times). And if the 2 of you can’t think of anything to do to spend time together and fulfill your marriage “obligations” then you just waste your time watching the television, which isn’t really time together anyways. Marriage tends to make null and void not one soul, but 2.

However, “celibate” or “married” should not be your main attribute. It is simply one of many attributes which collectively find their place in the background as your foundation, not your goal; they are just means of your ministry. No more than not being a liar should give you the label of a “Non-liar”. It’s just one of many disciplines of the Christian life; no more special just because some people don’t have it. The better off you are the sooner you forget about being celibate and focus on the Great Commission.

Also, I think one of the reasons for people struggling in the absence of romance is due to that being the norm of society, and there being such an emphasis on it in society. If the majority of society was celibate than it wouldn’t be anywhere close to the temptation it is today, because it wouldn’t be part of the culture. The reminder of your singleness wouldn’t be all around you, and thus it wouldn’t be on your mind to struggle against.  Just like most homosexuals today wouldn’t be homosexuals if they were living in the 50’s when homosexuality was an unspeakable sin that no one talked about, because they didn’t think about it enough for there to be a temptation.

Ultimately you are only responsible for yourself and can only control yourself, so therefore just worry about your own relationship with God, which still needs a lot of work. Maybe you are doing better than some people in an area, but they’re probably doing better than you in another. Who’s really to say which good deed or sin outweighs another? And you never know what a person has been through or is going through to justify that sin in their mind. All you can do is keep living out your own vision of how best to please God, hoping to inspire them to do the same (if it even is in fact God’s will for them to do it), and encourage them softly, in love, to surrender their whole lives to God (a lifelong process for every person) and take steps to get rid of what is keeping them from that surrender.//

 

Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 5 – Opponents, Proponents and Conclusion

Filed under: Celibacy — milesprowers @ 10:03 pm
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OPPONENTS:

Let’s face it.  Biblical examples of married couples (good ones) are scarce.  One of the only ones I can think of (and the only Christian one) is Priscilla and Aquila.  If a couple is committed to living the married life exemplified by this couple, then by all means be married!  Too bad Christians rarely found their marriage on the model of these two, and even rarer are the couples who follow through with those foundations. The temptations of comfort and security (that weren’t as magnified before marriage) are now just too hard to overcome.

J.S. Bach, who wrote more compositions than any other major composer. Not only was he married during all of his unprecedented career (composing more than 1200 compositions, each extremely more sophisticated than today’s pop song) but he managed to father 20 children throughout it all! If he could achieve that as a married man with 20 kids anyone can. Of course maybe he was a lousy husband and father who never spent time with his family. He eliminates any excuse of marriage keeping you from art, though I can’t fathom how he did it.

Toby McKeehan, whose lyric-writing and artistic/musical vision grew and arguably reached its pinnacle with the album Jesus Freak (in my opinion the greatest album ever made), which was inspired and created during the time period in which he met and married his wife. Although interesting to note that dc Talk member Mike Tait never married as far as I know.

PROPONENTS:

Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, other apostles probably (at least the traveling apostles), also Philips’s virgin daughters (as if Philip took Paul’s advice to not give your daughters in marriage), and presumably many Old Testament prophets such as Elijah, Jeremiah, etc. I would assume the apostles who still weren’t married during Pentecost remained single being of the same mind and spirit of Paul. Likewise I doubt Timothy or the next generation would have married either, heeding Paul’s advice and assuming the end was near (and with the increasing persecution). But the only ones who were married were married before they were Christians, and I doubt they would have married after becoming Christians because in those days Christianity was a radical way of life; they weren’t living for the Earth anymore. I wonder how Peter’s wife fit in when Peter left everything to follow Jesus. Paul said for the married to live as though they weren’t, and Jesus Himself mentioned His followers leaving family, including wives, behind to follow Him. (Luke 18:29)

Here’s a list of several significant, extra-biblical people who were bachelors (whether by their own choice or not).  Some of these were in a relationship/married at some point in their lives, but not during the years that gave them a spot on this list. Of course there might be a greater number of significant married people, but this is just to encourage you that if you are celibate you’re in good company with some of the most influential people in history:
Beethoven
G.F. Handel (When King George II asked why he wasn’t married, he simply responded with: “I have no time for anything but music.”)
Nikola Tesla
Leonardo Da Vinci
Michelangelo
Soren Kierkegaard
Rich Mullins (engaged for 10 years before going celibate)
Gandhi (left his wife to become celibate)
Buddha (left his wife, child and luxurious life as a prince to seek the truth)
Descartes
Elizabeth I
C.S. Lewis
Augustine
Origen (who castrated himself)
Isaac Newton
Joan of Arc
Mother Teresa, and all the other Catholic nuns, monks, priests, bishops and popes.

It is true that many of the people on the list above lived celibate lives filled with struggles. Some fell into perversion or near insanity, others battled depression, and even Kierkegaard after deciding it was better not to marry supposedly could never completely get over his love for his ex-fiancee.

Soren Kierkegaard, who would later become the greatest Christian philosopher of the 19th Century, fell madly in love with a girl in his youth and the two became engaged. However, he had strong convictions about the Christianity of society becoming a mere part of their culture, and felt it his duty to reintroduce Christianity to Christendom. He knew this calling to be a philosophical activist conflicted with the responsibilities and baggage of the married life and so he came to a fork in the road, knowing he had to choose one life or the other. He chose the other.  That is, to sacrifice his overwhelming passions and instead live a life that focused solely on achieving a goal for the greater good of mankind.

And if you’ll allow me to use a non-Christian example, I’m reminded of the story Journey to The West in which the Bhodisattva, who after dying and going to the after-life, chose to refrain from entering into Nirvana (which is permanent) so as to help those still on the Other Side to find the way there. Likewise with celibacy we willfully choose to stay outside the temporary bliss of marriage for the sake of helping mankind toward the permanent bliss of Heaven.


CONCLUSION:

If you’re reading this right now and you’re offended, then I tell you plainly, as one who has been on both sides myself, you are in sin. You need to accept that people have different callings and different ways to fulfill them. Not everyone is created the same with the same gifts/weaknesses.

This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” 1 Cor. 7:35

I’m doing nothing different than Paul did, and I think that he too had the spirit of God.  I’m simply encouraging people to remain single until God first makes it clear you are to marry AND THEN supernaturally provides your companion also. Because if God has created every person for a specific ministry and gives them specific gifts so as to do that ministry as well as possible, what greater gift is there than their spouse? I think it is always God’s perfect will for us to reach as many people as possible. Though we might not see the direct fruit in our lifetime, if we are in the center of God’s will then on Judgement Day the final number of souls in Heaven will be greater than if we weren’t in the center of God’s will. We could go against God’s calling and see many people saved, but the final number on Judgement Day would be less than if we stayed true to him, trusting that he knows what’s best (even if it doesn’t seem best to us). And if a spouse will help you do that more than prevent it then God will raise up that perfect person he has chosen at that perfect time. So don’t worry. If you are committed to God and he doesn’t bring a spouse into your life it’s because the Kingdom of Heaven is better off without it.  Hallelujah.

Why is there such hostility and opposition to celibacy? Perhaps because it seems we’re threatening marriage in a time when it’s already rapidly disintegrating. But no one’s attacking marriage (as is explicitly condemned by Paul himself in 1 Tim 4). We’re just promoting celibacy. Marriage isn’t in jeopardy because of celibacy. It’s in jeopardy because it’s become more about emotion and less about commitment/discipline (something celibacy fights against on the extreme side of the spectrum). It’s better to never marry than marry the wrong person, than to be divorced.

2 major flaws in the modern church are:
1. Commission: Pitying/making a spectacle of people who desire to remain single, discouraging them as if it were heresy or immature, and not supporting their celibacy.
2. Omission: Not publicly advocating it as an option for everyone to be aware of and consider.

I know it’s not popular, for obvious reasons, but I believe the ideal life is the life of sacrifice. You sacrifice everything you’ve been given: your time, talent, and treasure.  You sacrifice your comfort and pleasures (vanity).  You sacrifice your health, relationships and job (necessity).  You even sacrifice your sins, weaknesses, worries, and doubts.  You ignore the staples/milestones of the human life (youth, marriage, sex, parenthood, retirement), and then you die, preferably as a martyr. Sacrifice in life, sacrifice in death. Your life is altogether one big offering poured out on the altar, in modeling after our Christian examples who poured out their lives like a “drink offering”. (2 Tim. 4:6)

As Toby McKeehan wrote: Kamikaze, my death is gain. I’ve been marked by my Maker a peculiar display. The high and lofty, they see me as weak because I won’t live and die for the [same] power they seek.

I realize this is a lot of talk and I can’t expect people or myself to live up to this (perfectly), but regardless, this is the way I think it’s meant to be, what makes sense, and what we should strive for.

PERSONAL TAKE:

As if this all wasn’t my personal take already, right? My personal reasons for celibacy are myriad, but even so sometimes I toy with the hypothetical notion of a marriage that would fit with my convictions. I don’t see any flaw to living with a companion to keep me company, keep me accountable, and know me/love me on a more intimate level no friend could, in fact that would be better. But there are also many temptations/distractions that wouldn’t exist except in marriage: sex, romance itself, conviction of not spending time with spouse, etc. And these are such powerful distractions to make the whole thing not worth it, or likely to keep you from making the biggest impact possible.

I also freely confess to having a lot of “pet peeves” that make the stereotypical woman extremely unattractive to me, but most men wouldn’t be phased by– things like dress and the way they act. Things like cosmetics absolutely gross me out, but those deterrents would generally be considered abnormalities on my part (though maybe it should be more normal, as Paul and Peter both condemn such things in 1 Tim 2:9 & 1 Peter 3:3). And I also concede to being an eccentric person with a sensitive mind and a weak stomach, which makes celibacy the more tenable option of the two.

Perhaps my call to celibacy isn’t so much celibacy for the sake of celibacy, but rather celibacy because the kind of woman I WOULD marry is unlikely to exist. That is, who would agree with my “radical” beliefs, and who would be okay with me spending most of my time in solitude writing. If I plan on spending all of my free time in solitude pursuing my artistic projects, what’s the point of marriage? What void will marriage fill that friends and family can’t? Weakness isn’t a good reason to get married, it needs to be a benefit to a life/lives already complete in God.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?Jeremiah. 17:9

And after all this if I get married people will think I’m a hypocrite, but I freely confess how tough it is to live by reason and the spirit, resisting temptation and my built-in desires.   All I know is that romance is blinding and a remarkably overwhelming, possessing force. Who can stand against it? All my logic can only slow it down and give me more chances to resist temptation and break free. Celibacy has to be something that God sustains because I’m not strong enough to withstand the lure of romance. But He does. It’s amazing because every single time I’ve fallen in love God always closes the door somehow before the relationship can be established. It’s supernatural, and I praise God for it looking back, though at the time it’s always painful.
I just pray that God has mercy on my heart and doesn’t let me screw up, being taken by romance so as to jeopardize my calling. But I know he won’t, and he will make me fit the character in His Story perfectly, whatever that may be.

I have nothing that you have not given me. I am nothing that you have not made me. Everything that I have or am is by your choice alone, your grace. Therefore all we can do is give it back to you with everything we are, as one giant sacrifice. For we are ourselves sacrifices. Living sacrifices. (Romans 12)

//

 

How To Overcome Lust November 8, 2011

Filed under: Celibacy — milesprowers @ 10:37 am
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[Written especially on 8178, 62511, 112311 as stemming from Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 1, and finishing additions on 224-2513]

*DISCLAIMER: The following essay is a completely honest look at how lust operates and how to overcome it, thus awkward, graphic, personal details are mentioned in exchange for helping people to break free.  It is written with an audience of single men in mind. I guess I picked now to finish this essay because I happen to be going through a lust-free time of my life and I feel less hypocritical posting it.*

  • Definition of lust: An extreme, excessive, indulgent desire for something.
  • My definition of lust: desiring that which you should not, will not, or cannot have.

Why is lust wrong?

1st because it makes you to suffer, as you are in agony desiring something which you cannot, or will not, or should not have.  Lust is similar to coveting and both are wrong for the same reasons.
2nd because it distracts you, divides your mind so that you can’t focus on God, life, etc.  It divides/distracts your heart so that you don’t have as much passion to do the things you are supposed to do, because you have passion for something else besides your calling (what you’re supposed to be doing) also.  Divided passions.  So that when you do what you’re called to do, your heart isn’t completely in it to make the best product, your mind isn’t completely in it to make it the best product (through analyzing how to make it really best).  You have 2 passions: one is fulfilled partially by completing a watered-down version of your calling; and the other one (the lust) isn’t fulfilled at all.  So what’s the point?
3rd because it’s pointless.  You desire something you cannot have so you never get it, you just waste your time and passion wanting it for the sake of wanting it.  There’s no point in entertaining your desires for something if you will not or should not ever get it.  Why not desire something you can have now and work to get it so that your desire is satisfied?  Think about something that will produce something to benefit God and others.
4th because it cannot be satisfied.  Lust is desiring something you cannot have.  So if you desire the unattainable your desire will never be satisfied because it will never be attained.  The more you think about it, the more you will want it and the more you will think about it.  The more you entertain it, the more you think about it and want it, so that it’s all the harder to suppress, all the harder to break free from, all the harder to regain complete focus (possibly ever again) or any focus at all.  All the harder to fulfill your calling as best you can, if at all.
5th because it makes you defenseless to temptation.  Desiring evil makes you more likely to actually do the evil which you desire, and if you do ever get what you desire, then you screwed up and have sinned.  Because the only reason what you’re doing is considered lust is because you are desiring something you should not (whether it is impossible, unprofitable, or abominable).  No one desires something simply for desiring it and then leaves it alone.  If I entertain fantasies of lust in my mind, that same state of mind exists in the real world so that my eyes look the same places they do in my mind, when given the opportunities to.  And if my desires make me, in my thoughts, do things I shouldn’t, when Evil presents those opportunities in reality I will be all the more likely to give in to those same temptations I already gave into in my mind.  I’m at least more likely than if I already resisted those temptations in my mind and have set my mind against entertaining those thoughts and the actions that follow.  The more you give into lust, the more you want it, the more it controls you, and so the less you can resist it.  You cannot logically reason with your desires when your mind isn’t sober (intoxicated from being under the influence of your physical desires).  You cannot control your desires when they control you.

Lust: Desiring that which is impossible, unprofitable, or abominable.

Why is lust wrong?
1: Pointless
2: Insatiable
3: Suffering
4: Distraction
5: Defenseless

or P.I.S.D.D. (perhaps in order of severity)

 ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Abstaining from entertaining your body’s natural sex drive seems unfair at times, especially because it’s like you have an “intense euphoria button” on your body right next to where your hand naturally lies, but you’re not supposed to press it.  It’s like taking someone whose favorite food is chocolate and putting a piece of it in their mouth and telling them not to eat it.

I used to think (as most men do) that living a lust-free life is not possible, it’s just part of a man’s daily life.  And I freely confess that I still struggle against my day dreams and wandering eyes (sometimes giving in), but I also confess that I know what it’s like to be broken free from the bondage of lust, and it’s so much better than any temporary ecstasy that has such addictive baggage.  I can only speak for myself, but in my own life, solely by God’s amazing grace, he chose at 3 different times to keep me from lust for over 6 months.  By that I’m not saying that I didn’t have sex, make out, look at porn, or masturbate in those allotments of time, what I’m saying is I never even entertained a lustful temptation in my head nor was I sexually stimulated once.  I could get into the specifics of this topic, but even in such a personal essay as this there are still some things too personal for the internet.  I’m hesitant to even share that lest I be judged as being prideful.  And actually it’s to my shame that I’m even astonished at those streaks, because I should be lust-free all the time, and also because it means I’m comparing myself to others.  But I share this for the sake of telling you firsthand from experience that, in a society where Christians don’t think it’s possible not to lust, it IS possible to live a life where you don’t give into lust.

I remember those days well when I was so consumed with lust that my eyes would glaze over and I couldn’t even see straight (literally/physically-speaking) and I’d almost get in car-wrecks my thoughts were so distractingly powerful and vivid.  But lust is an addiction, and just like any other addiction it needs to be fed more and more to get the same buzz until finally it’s so powerful that it rules you and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop.  I’ve been there and I’ve found that after many failed attempts to get rid of the addiction the only thing I can do is fall to my knees and cry, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” That’s when God gives you just a spark of motivation to break free, and at that moment you have the choice of staying on that road of addiction (to whatever danger it leads) or turning around and starting on the road to freedom. However hard it is, it’s at least possible (whereas before it was impossible).  In that moment your choice will determine your future.  If you act on that little bit of motivation then more motivation will follow, which leads to more and more motivation, until finally you arrive at the place where resisting lust is natural and you don’t have to actively fight against it.  Lust is something you will be tempted by and must fight against every single day of your whole life, but you can get to a place (by God’s grace) where you genuinely don’t want it and constantly rejecting it is just another part of life.

Quicksand:

Lust reminds me of quicksand (though the analogy breaks down in many aspects).  You’re caught off guard by it, and give in just a little thinking it’s not a big deal, and then you give in again (more so than the first time), and ever so slowly you start sinking, getting deeper and deeper in it.  Where at first you have enough free will and control to choose to get out of it, eventually the fight to get out is too hard and exhausting.  Maybe one day you’ll be motivated to fight against it, and you’ll start breaking free, but the next day you’re too tired and sink back where you were before.  Then, realizing your dangerous situation, you’ll be motivated to fight it, but you can’t even make it a day now.  Finally you get to the point where you realize you are too far gone to get out now and just give up.  Still you are in greater pain now than you ever were before and want out, but realizing you can’t fight it any more, realizing your ultimate depravity, all you can do is cry out to God to save you.  It’s then when you give up that you start to float to the top.  God throws you down a rope that you can choose to grab on to, and while almost impossible at first (though not impossible), every small pull you take in the right direction is one easier step out, until it becomes easier and easier and finally, by the grace of God, you get to the top. However, on your way out if you stop climbing even once, you start to sink back down.  Even when you are at the top, as soon as you stop fighting you start gradually, ever so slowly, sinking back down again. I don’t think you ever get out completely in your whole life, but you can be on top where you aren’t sinking, fighting it is easier, and it’s tug on you is less powerful.

This analogy is the same for any form of addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, food, sexuality, etc.

Getting Past The Breakers:

From personal experience I found that once I reach my depravity (when I become a slave to lust) and cry out to God from the bottom, I wake up the next morning with a strange feeling of stability and an active desire to fight against lust.  While it is still at every corner, behind every thought, now I suddenly have the desire (and ability) to say “No!” and so begins the fight of not giving in to even one thought (lest I fall back to the bottom, as is the case with any addiction). The first day is the hardest, and then the second is a little easier, and the third easier still, until you’re ecstatic and begin to taste freedom.  Approximately a month down that road is the second biggest challenge, for this is when you start to say to yourself, “I’ve got it nipped in the bud.”  It’s then that your guard is down and that whole month’s worth of suppressed desires comes back in one last desperate attempt to reclaim you.  And since you let your guard down you don’t have the motivation/barriers needed to fight against it and you inevitably give into it that one time and BAM! you’re back on the bottom, depraved and enslaved again.
There have been so many times when I made it to that one month mark and started to entertain some pride (as if I had anything to with it) and then out of nowhere got ambushed by a temptation I couldn’t resist, and had no defense against its offense.
The keys to freedom are:
1.  Recognize that it is merely by God’s grace that you have the motivation to fight against lust (as if you could choose when to be motivated).
2.  Resist every single lustful thought, and even thoughts that are associated with/could become lustful thoughts.  Thinking about sex isn’t lust, desiring it is. But thinking about sex can easily present you with the thought of desiring it.  I’ve boiled it down as far as I can and realized that the road to sexual bondage begins the very first time you’re presented with a mental temptation, and you think “Yes” instead of “No.”  Basically, it’s the first time you desire it, saying, “I want it,” instead of “I don’t want it.”
3.  Curiosity = Lust.  Kill your curiosity and you kill lust.  “I’m not going to check her out, but I’m just curious to see what she is wearing.”  Or you think, “Is she really wearing that in church?” and your eyes go over and then the image is in your head. You need to get to the point where you don’t even look to see if that image in the corner of your eye (whether that be a real person or an internet ad) is an attractive female or not.

Yes, this means you might have to be a jerk at times.  I personally don’t even look at attractive women if I don’t have to, even if that means walking by one on the sidewalk and rudely checking my phone or looking the other way.  But better to be a jerk than a pervert, as I always say.  I personally try to stay away from women in general as much as I can, unfortunately that isn’t an option for many men, and you have to be around temptation in your life.  So your struggle is probably greater than my own.  But I do still have to go to church once a week, and I wish I could say that church is a safe haven from temptation, but unfortunately it’s the opposite.  I find that that’s the time I’m most tempted all week (and often results in me stumbling later).  One thing’s for sure: there’s more cleavage in my church than in my office.  What are these girls thinking?  Who tries to be sexy at church?  How can they not realize they are causing other Christians to sin in the one place that should be a refuge from sin.

Sundry Advice:

Not to compare myself with others, but I assume I struggle with lust less than the majority of Christian males.  This is probably because my interaction with females is only a few times a week, if at all, and I don’t watch tv, movies, play video games, surf the web, watch random youtube videos or engage in other situations usually designed to stimulate one’s sexuality. And as ridiculous as it may sound, I think things like wearing boxers (as opposed to boxer-briefs) make it more likely for stimulation to occur.

I don’t know the science behind it, but I’d imagine that certain foods make your sex drive more active.  As well, I know from personal experience that if you are sleep deprived, your mind isn’t as alert and you are less likely to be on guard and remember how to combat temptations.

“Go to the Praying Mantis thou whoremonger and consider her ways!”

One more analogy from nature.  Consider the praying mantis.  After the male and female copulate it is customary for the female to… bite off the male’s head.  Hmmmmm.  What’s up with that, Darwin?  I wonder why the males go in for it, knowing that it will cost their lives.  Is it really worth it?  A few minutes of ecstasy for an eternity of not living anymore?  It seems so foolish and outrageous…until you consider that human males aren’t much different.  Consider the people involved in sexual promiscuity and homosexuality, even though they know it’s likely they’ll contract AIDS (which is arguably worse than getting your head bitten off).

If someone came up to you and said, “Come over here and be still while I stab you with this butcher knife,” no one would obey.  But if a supermodel came up to you and said, “Come over here and have sex with me… and then I’m going to stab you with a butcher knife,” you might at least think it over.  Why is that?  What is so powerful about this non-material thing that people would risk pain for it?  “Hmmmmm,” some might say.  “Is it just one stab?”  And honestly, as outlandish as it sounds, I wonder if some men are so lost in lust that they would actually do it.  Maybe they’d say, “I’ll get away before I get caught,” or maybe even, “I’ll heal.”  Still there are some sad souls who wouldn’t even think at all saying, “Oh well.  Whatever.”  Wake up!  You’re getting stabbed with a flippin’ butcher knife!  Look at the reality of the situation!

Likewise, though on a less extreme level, are the few exciting minutes of giving in to lust or porn or masturbation worth the ensuing misery of slavery that follows?
Giving In:

For me personally, the only unavoidable situation for lust (also where it’s most contagious) is the beach where I go for a week annually.  Often it has been my goal to go a whole week there lust-free, but it has yet to happen.  And many times the beach week has marked the end of one of my lust-free streaks. I recall one year where I was passionately motivated to remain free from lust, but after the first day of being in the sun with bikini girls all around (and remaining pure), all I could do was just lay in bed at night fighting the thoughts and I eventually just got tired and threw all conviction to the wind letting my eyes and mind go crazy that week.  However, that initial motivation for purity was bred out of recently breaking free from a cycle of lust, and unfortunately I wasn’t far along enough in my purity.  The barriers hadn’t had time to be fortified enough, and so my defenses were easier to break down.  Whereas if I’d gone a month or 2 without lusting, it would have been harder for me to go back to that lustful mindset, and taken more time to break down my defenses.

However, even when I wasn’t struggling with wandering eyes at the beach, I found that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is boredom.  After a day or 2 of swimming in the ocean and being in awe by it, it just gets boring.  When you have to choose between being pure and sitting around bored, or easily giving in to the orgasmic world all around you which is instantly exciting and euphoric, now that’s a tough one.

I’m pretty sure every time my lust-free-streak was broken it had nothing to do with media, but was a time when I was presented with a temptation in real life and thought to myself, “This is just too go to pass up.”  If you ever catch yourself thinking that then your are doomed.  Good bye freedom, hello months of miserable bondage.  Once you give in to look one time, your sex drive sparks and everything in you wants to grow that euphoria as much as it will go (if nothing else for curiosity’s sake), and once the image is in your head it doesn’t matter if she’s not even around anymore, she’s still there in your head tempting you.  And once the sex drive gets going, there’s no way to righteously satisfy that.

This usually entails me going about my daily, pure life and then suddenly seeing a random, gorgeous girl with a revealing top bend over right in front of me so I can see everything.  Then I have to force my eyes away, and then keep them away.  That’s tough.  That very situation is was what ended my streak on a mission trip I was on, and then another time at a bowling alley.  And the months that followed were months of slavery.

Fighting the thought before it’s in your head:

As soon as you start to think “What if…” you must recognize what’s coming and rebuke that thought.  This is very hard to do when lust is something your mind and heart are used to, but if you go several weeks or so of cutting out lust from your system, you’ll be amazed at how much control over your mind you suddenly have.  It’s amazing to find that you can actually tell when a lustful thought is coming before it even pops in your head.  It’s like your body detects some foreign feeling stirring that it’s not used to.  You can just feel it, and you have to fight it right then, before you visualize it/think about it, while it’s still just a feeling.  It’s like you can feel a thought forming, or leading to another thought, or you can feel your tendencies kicking in.  Sometimes you feel a tendency towards lust in a primal, physical desire form, or sometimes a tendency towards rebellion/breaking the rules/doing whatever you want/being wild. Sometimes you can feel a tendency towards thinking about something you’re not supposed to and then your mind races to think of something you consider taboo (once it realizes it’s trying to think of something considered forbidden it’s very hard to stop it from finding something forbidden, as your brain is designed to automatically connect the dots).  I find what helps is when I feel a sinful thought coming (before it’s even visualized) I close my eyes and focus on God, like I’m focusing my attention on another person, and dwell on the holy thought of him or ask him to rebuke this coming evil.  And still other times you can feel a tendency towards apathy (not being willing to fight whatever thought pops into your mind).  It’s those times of apathy when you are in trouble and you have to recognize your potential danger, and even though you aren’t feeling it with your heart (which is what makes it apathy), cry out for help to God with your mind (though there’s no heart behind your prayer).
I can’t speak for other addictions, but I assume the addiction of sexual lust sums up addiction/lust as a whole.  It’s easy to become indignant toward people who smoke/do drugs/drink/fornicate, etc.  But the truth is when you’re addicted you do not have the choice of “Am I going to do this or not?”  You just do it. There’s no reasoning behind it, no logic.  You’ll have spurts of motivation and conviction that make you realize what you’re doing is wrong and then you try to fight it.  You’re convinced by all the logic against it and say, “I refuse to do that again.  Now I’m going to start fighting it.”  Until 5 minutes later when the temptation inevitably pops into your head and you have no way to fight against it, so you give into it yet again.  It’s become a part of your life like eating or even breathing.  Even when you’re not actually engaged in the activity you’re addicted to you’re thinking about it.  All the day.  All the time.  It is pure misery. Torture.
It gets to the point where it doesn’t even bring you any buzz or relief, but you just have to do it to get it out of your system, so you can get back to living life with at least some normalcy and being able to focus on things other than the addiction for a while.  While I can’t speak for other addictions, I have experienced the addiction-to-freedom cycle of lust, and I assume that the same steps involved in breaking free from the addiction of lust are similar to breaking free from any other addiction (even anxiety, romance, etc.).

“Lust neutralizes your spiritual potential.”
Some advice, as was advised to me by one of my spiritual accountability partners: “Don’t set goals in being lust-free.  Focus on right now.”  Someone told me once he heard if you can go 21 days without giving into your addiction you’ll be broken free, and yet he could never make it to that.  But even if you make it past the breakers (as I mentioned previously about the first month of breaking free), all it takes is one day and you’re back to the very bottom.  Sometimes it’s more gradual than that, but all it takes is that one thought you subconsciously give in to because your defense was let down/worn down, and then from there on it’s harder to resist each thought after that.  Don’t say, “Oh, if I can only make it past the breakers of a month,” or “Let’s see how long this lust-free-streak can go.”  It’s not about going a long time without lust; it’s about fighting it moment by moment, day to day, so that it becomes just another daily discipline.

I find that whenever I start counting/trying to figure out how many days/months I’ve gone without it that I start to lose my endurance and motivation to fight anymore.  And of course I give in again, sometimes after months of being free.  Maybe embracing pride causes you to rest (letting your guard down) and psychologically relaxes your defenses to make you more apathetic, or maybe it’s just a rule God holds you to, “Pride comes before a fall.  God hates pride, so if you have pride, he will bring you down.”

The story that often comes to my mind, whenever I number “my” achievements, is when King David numbered the people in his kingdom (Israel).  Though he wasn’t doing anything that was obviously wrong or breaking some clear command, he was acting in pride, taking credit for something God did.  And God surprisingly took a great offense to it (and proceeded to slaughter thousands of random Israelites until he repented).  Then again pride is commonly regarded as the worst of all sins (because it puts us in God’s place), as was Lucifer’s sin that got him kicked out of Heaven and made him the prince of darkness, the personal symbol of Pride.

My Current Status:
As of right now, by God’s grace (and I say this cautiously lest I get smacked back down to addiction in order to humble my pride, as has happened before), I am not ruled by addiction.  Whenever I get to these times I think back to when I was living a life of bondage and some of the things I thought and did, and I’m appalled and can’t fathom how I could ever come to that place where I’m numbed to the point of justifying doing those things.  And I can’t imagine ever doing them again.  And yet inevitably I always fall back into it, and gradually as the addiction takes over more and more of me and becomes a regular part of my life for an extended period of time, then in those times of bondage I’ll think back to when I was free and it doesn’t seem real to me (just like when I was in freedom looking back on bondage that didn’t seem real), because I can’t imagine life being like that, being any other way than this.  And in both of those scenarios (freedom and bondage) I think to myself, this is the norm and accept it.

My current strategy for avoiding lust is to simply not think about sex or lust or how long my lust streak has been, etc.  Don’t even entertain anything that could be associated with lust, or give it the time of day.  When I drive down the road or check emails and see what looks like it could be a sexual ad I don’t even find out, but distract myself from it, scroll past it, squint my eyes and cover that part of the screen.  Some of you might think this post is excessive or over-hyped, but say what you want, one thing’s for sure: I’m living the sweet life of freedom from bondage.  And while this advice may be extreme (and not as applicable to men in a steady relationship), I think extreme measures need to be taken to break an addiction (though those same measures may not have to remain as extreme to maintain freedom after the addiction is initially broken).  But if taking ridiculous steps is what I need to do to remain free I’m more than happy to do it.  At least until the beach.  😉
Praying_Mantis_Sexual_Cannibalism_European-26

 

The History of the World/Israel April 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — milesprowers @ 1:21 am

12/4/10

God.  God created Heaven.  God created the physical universe, and then time began.  In the beginning God created the first man and woman and from their offspring came all the inhabitants of the Earth.  In those days God interacted with his human creations until they began to do evil and so he stopped interacting with them and left them to themselves.  So man did whatever was right in his own eyes, for God was not there to tell him what to do, and thus mankind became more and more evil, giving into the selfish desires of their physical bodies.  Eventually mankind became so evil that God regretted making them and decided to destroy it and start over.  It came to the point where there was only one righteous man left on earth and so God destroyed the entire world but protected the man, Noah, and his children.  Then from that righteous man’s offspring came all the inhabitants of the earth.

God decided to restore the world to himself as it was in the beginning and enacted his plan.  He appeared to the most righteous person in the world and established a relationship with him.  This man was named Abraham and because Abraham was righteous and loved God, God put his blessing on Abraham and his descendants, and brought him to live in a prosperous land called Canaan.  Abraham’s grandson was named Israel, and Israel had 12 sons, which became the 12 tribes of Israel.  Among these sons was Judah (of whose line Israel prophesied would come the kings of their people) and Joseph, whom his father loved the most.  Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery in Egypt (the world’s greatest kingdom), but God’s favor was on him and he eventually rose to become 2nd in command of Egypt, only under Pharaoh.  So it was that there was a famine in the earth and it caused Israel and his sons to come to Egypt for food, and Joseph, being 2nd in command, gave them a nice place to permanently live in Egypt.

The Israelites were there for 400 years; however, during that time there arose a Pharaoh who didn’t know about Joseph.  He saw that the Israelites, with God’s blessing, were outgrowing the Egyptian population so he made all the Israelites slaves to the Egyptians.  During this slavery the Israelites cried out for God to rescue them from this oppression, so God rose up an Israelite man named Moses, from Pharaoh’s own house.  God used Moses to inflict 10 plagues on Egypt before Pharaoh would release the Israelites from slavery.  Once they were released, Moses led them back to their home in Canaan where God destroyed the evil people there who had come to inhabit it since Israel left 400 years earlier.   God gave Moses instructions for the people of Israel on how to live healthy, righteous lives.  He made a promise, in honor of his promise of blessing to Abraham, that if the people kept this covenant with him then he would bless them, but if they broke his laws then he would curse them.

In the land of Israel, the successors of Moses were known as judges and for 400 years they communicated God’s will to the people with God as their king.  But the people were enticed to have a king over them like the surrounding nations, so God gave them king David, instating a dynasty of rulers from the line of Judah as originally prophesied by Israel 800 years earlier.  For 500 years God dealt with the kings accordingly.  He blessed Israel and its king when it kept the laws, and he punished Israel and its king when they broke the laws.  Eventually Israel became evil more often than good and God, true to his promise, cursed them.  God raised up prophets in the days of the kings who spoke out against the kings and warned them of the consequences for breaking God’s covenant.  In one of the books God spoke to Moses (Leviticus), God said if the people rebelled against him he would let other countries destroy them and take them away as captives.  This is just what happened when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Israel and captured the king and its people and took them back to Babylon in 605 B.C.  But in Leviticus God also said if the people repented and turned back to him in their captivity then he would also turn back to them and restore them to their land.

This occurred when there arose a righteous Israelite named Ezra who restored the people to God’s covenant and then God turned back towards Israel and allowed Cyrus king of Persia to conquer Babylon and release the Israelites from captivity.  Back while the evil kings were still ruling Israel, God communicated through the prophet Jeremiah to warn the king that if they did not repent that they would be taken away as captives for 70 years.  Thus after 70 years of captivity they were released and returned to Israel.  But soon after the people became corrupt again so that God never again restored them to be a self-governing nation.  During this period of oppression the prophets all prophesied of a coming king who would restore Israel once and for all.  But this king was different from all the others.  God spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying: “The LORD himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).”  And in chapter 9, verse 6: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.”
It appeared that this wouldn’t be just another righteous king, but this king would be God himself!

After the last prophet, Malachi, spoke, there were 400 years of silence with no recorded word from God through the prophets, and Israel remained in their oppression awaiting the coming king who would save them.  During these 400 years of oppression they were ruled by the Persians, then the Greeks when Alexander the great conquered the Persian Empire, and then finally the Romans conquered the Greeks, making the land of Israel ruled by the Roman Empire.

It was in the midst of this silence that Jesus suddenly appeared, performing miraculous signs never done before, challenging the religious establishment, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, teaching that men could once again be brought into a relationship with God as at the beginning of time, and even equating himself with God.  The people wondered if this could be the king they had waited for.  Many believed that he was the one prophesied about, but many did not, because they expected their god-like king would come in glory, as if out of Heaven, and overthrow their Roman oppressors and set up his royal kingdom.  Then the nation of Israel would return in glory never seen before in all its history.  But Jesus was a commoner, without wealth or regal appearance.  He was indeed born into the line of David, but he was also born in a stable and spent time alone in the wilderness, more like a prophet than a glorious king.  And instead of rebuking kings, of all people he rebuked the religious leaders!  Yet it was Jesus who changed history, and whom history revolves around, literally.  Instead of overthrowing the government he taught people to submit to authorities.  Instead of destroying Israel’s enemies, he taught people to love their enemies, and to turn your cheek when someone strikes you.  Instead of setting up a royal kingdom, he taught that the Kingdom of God was in your heart.  He established a new covenant between man and God which was based on faith instead of keeping the law.

His teaching was very radical and so many people resisted it.  He claimed he was God, and he prophesied against the Temple of God that it would be destroyed in the next generation and not one stone would be left on top of another.  The religious leaders considered this blasphemy and had him killed for it; however many people claimed later that he raised from the dead and was in fact God in human form after all.  These followers of Jesus became known as Christians and declared that Jesus’ death was God’s sacrifice for human sins, and if people would trust in this sacrifice that takes away their sins and repent that they could attain the spiritual relationship with God that existed between God and the first humans, and without sin keeping God from people’s presence people would now go to Heaven when they died to be in God’s presence.

Christians continued proclaiming this openly until the Roman Emperor Nero began killing Christians, and they were forced to take Christianity underground.  Exactly as Jesus prophesied, in 70 A.D., a generation after he made his prophesy, the Roman Empire destroyed the Israelites’ temple of God.  And after being burned, the gold roof melted down into the bricks of the temple so that the people took all the bricks apart to get the gold (thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that not one stone would remain on top of another).   And without a temple to keep the Israelites together, and without the ark of the covenant which was supposed to have the very presence of God himself there in their midst, and with continued persecution by the Romans, the Jews dispersed to other countries, settling down all across the earth.  This fulfilled the curse God warned about in Leviticus when he said if they rejected their end of the covenant that he would disperse them to the ends of the globe.

And that’s how the Israelites remained for thousands of years, fleeing from persecution and still awaiting the coming king, that is, the jews who didn’t believe Jesus was that king.  But as for the ones who did believe it, Christianity spread like an epidemic through the underground of the Roman Empire to the point that this “Jewish cult” became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and then the Roman Empire (which overthrew Israel) did finally get overthrown by King Jesus (through his church).  Through the wars of kings and countries all across earth, the passive philosophies of Jesus were adopted by all the countries that heard them, to the point that Christianity was the dominant religion of the world, civilizing parts of the world formerly known as savage and immoral.

In Leviticus God warned Israel of the curse that comes with rejecting his covenant, but he said if they repented then God would restore them.  But, after being restored, if they once again rejected his covenant than he would curse them seven-fold.
Now back when Israel was taken to Babylon in 605 B.C. there was another prophet named Ezekiel who prophesied that Israel’s punishment would last for 430 years, unlike Jeremiah’s proclaimed 70 years.  So after the 70 year captivity there were still 360 years of punishment left for Ezekiel’s prophecy.
As it was, Israel rejected God’s covenant and was thus given to Babylon, but when they repented God, true to his word, restored them back to their land.

However, even after being restored they didn’t keep his covenant, so now God continued their punishment (fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel of more punishment after the 70 years) and cursed them seven-fold.  Ezekiel prophesied 360 years more of punishment that was to increase seven-fold.  Thus 360 was multiplied by 7, producing 2,520 years of punishment left for Israel.  Of course this prophecy is referring to years according to the calendar the Israelites used, aka the lunar calendar.  A lunar year consisted of 360 days, unlike the solar calendar adopted by the Roman Empire of 365 and a quarter days, which is used by modern civilization.  So in order to calculate how many of our solar years are in 2,520 lunar years, you just calculate the days:

2,520 X 360= 907,200 days
907,200 days/365.25= 2,483.7 solar years
605 B.C. – 70 lunar years= 536 B.C.
536 B.C. – 2,483.7 solar years= 1948 A.D.

What happened in 1948?  Following the worst genocide of Israelites in all of history, the United Nations officially established the nation of Israel once again for all the remaining Jews, so they would no longer be persecuted in other countries.

So here we are at present day.  Modern Israel has been re-established with God’s covenant and the question is whether they will keep their part of the covenant and be blessed above all world nations, or reject it again and face unknown, unprecedented destruction worse than the holocaust.  And that creates a problem for all other nations, too.  Do we partake in their blessing by blessing them, and thus God’s blessing extends to us, or do we reject them and their blessing and risk reaping God’s curse?  Or what if Israel rejects the covenant again?  Is it a sin for us to aid them that blaspheme God yet again, even after the worst persecution they’ve ever suffered in all their history as a people?

Is our support of Israel in 1948 what allowed America to be so blessed in the 50’s as the leader of the world?  And did our inevitable ignoring of Israel in the late 60’s cause our consistent downfall to the present?

Once Israel was reestablished as a nation, the Jews fought to obtain control of Jerusalem, and eventually built the 3rd temple to God (whose blueprint was prophesied by Ezekiel).  Now with Israel in the same place it had been before its destruction in 605 B.C., it once again awaited its Messiah, and this time their Messiah came.  He came from the Heavens with all the glory and power they could have imagined, as prophesied by their prophets, and conquered Israel’s oppressors once and for all, setting up an everlasting kingdom where God himself, as a man, ruled in the temple in place of the ark of the covenant.  Of course that Messiah turned out to be Jesus after all, who came back according to the Christian end-time prophecies, but also came in the appearance of the long-awaited Messiah as was expected by the Jews of Jesus’ time.  So in this 2nd coming of Christ all the Christian and Jewish prophecies were fulfilled and Christians and Jews became one to dwell as children of God in the midst of God himself.

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