Being a Goody Two Shoes in a Wrong-Footed World

shoes“Hey, Brandon,” she said, bouncing up to the counter – not a coworker, but the girlfriend of one, whom I didn’t know from Adam – and said, “Do you know the difference between a cheeseburger and a [sexual reference]?”

I groaned.

No. I do not know the difference between those two things, and I’ve as much desire to find out as to go dumpster-diving in full view of Main Street on rush hour. Which I suppose is not altogether unrelated.

I looked at them with what I hoped was my (increasingly common) world-weary half-grin.

“C’mon. Enough for one night,” I said.

They relented good-naturedly.

I’m trying to be gracious here. I don’t want to be THAT Christian, the one who gets all stunned and debilitated because unbelievers are acting like unbelievers. You have to let this stuff slide off your backs in environments like my second job.

Plus, I actually enjoy this particular coworker. He’s got a lot of character (other than the one-track mind), we work great together, and I do consider him a friend. Burning bridges over this stuff would not do. Not when I’m called to share Christ with the people in my life.

But this stuff does get tiring. Perhaps you relate.

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The Real Triumph for the Christian Single

triumphAs Frodo and Sam clung to the burning flanks of Mount Doom in Return of the King, the One Ring destroyed and their quest complete, Sam thought of Rosie Cotton, a girl back home in the Shire. If there were anyone who caught his eye, Sam lamented as the lava crawled near, “it would’ve been ‘er.”

Yet even as he mourned, there’s no doubt that the two hobbits’ hearts were full and glad. All of Middle Earth was saved! The darkness had been vanquished, the armies of the West delivered, and a new age of peace was dawning thanks to their bravery and sacrifice – even of their lives, they suspected, as the volcano melted down around them amidst the Ring’s death throes.

Of course, we know that Sam got his girl, because a bunch of eagles appeared out of nowhere and pulled the pair off the mountainside before they crisped. (Seriously, where were those eagles and their convenient carrying ability five volumes ago when Frodo first faced thousands of miles to Mordor? Talk about your continent-sized plot holes…)

But I digress.

My point is, it would have been silly to think that Sam underewent those unbelievable travails just for Rosie. He didn’t reach Mount Doom to find Rosie chained there, waiting for rescue. Had Rosie never existed, Sam would have gone. Much, much more was at stake – both outside the two hobbits and within.

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“Locker Room Talk” Isn’t Okay, Young Men of God – It Is Your Enemy

wastelandIn light of the heart-rending revelations of sexual assault sweeping our nation this fall, it seemed an ideal time to trot this old post back out.

I’m no better.

I have, in the past, engaged in sexual sin. That I’ve never actually touched a woman or behaved like the celebrities currently under society’s microscope? That’s irrelevant. We cannot boast of “lesser sin”. We can only repent and strive.

Fortunately, God and I are winning. At this moment, lust is being held at bay in my life through his power. Praise be to him. And only him.

It is from this freedom that I write to you, young men of God, for you on my heart, and I want you warned.

I’m no stranger to locker room talk. I spent four years in the Air Force, where I spent time in dormitories, hangars, and launch trucks with rough, hard-living men.

Some things don’t necessarily stick. F-bombs roll off my back now; I barely notice.

But their degrading talk of women – the graphic descriptions of pornographic material, the exploits they carried out in college, their contempt for their wives – has been harder to forget. I remain a virgin, but my ears aren’t. I learned way more about the birds and the bees in that truck than I should have. Then it was three years teaching at a rural high school, where the kids had been raised rough and their tongues rougher. Even they knew more about sex than I (and they weren’t afraid to share, even if it cost them a detention). I’m sincerely glad that the blood of Christ and the passing of time are cleansing those memories.

Now, as a youth leader, I’ve been charged with helping to train young men of God, and part of that is instilling respect for your sisters in Christ.

Does respect sound boring?

It’s not. It is a campaign. 

You must be set against the world from an early age, for the world does not play nice. It all may start subtly, a quiet normalization of the sexually charged talk about women. The camaraderie of men in a “safe environment” can grab at you like a riptide, pulling on you before you realize it, especially in a new setting – a new sports team, a new college, a new job where you need to make inroads. Loneliness only intensifies the pull.

It’s harmless, you might hear, because of course those guys would “never” actually do anything to the women they know. Why make a big deal of talk, they may ask? Especially if it takes place outside the hearing of any women (insert joke about tree falling in the woods here)?

The Word shatters the apathy with its answer.

If Jesus tells us that even anger towards your brother is no less destructive than murder (Matthew 5:21-22)…

If Jesus tells us that even looking at a woman lustfully is the same in his eyes as adultery (Matthew 5:27-28)……

If Jesus tells us that what comes from within is what defiles a man (Matthew 15:18-20)…

…then our words have no place in God’s universe.

 

There is a vast operation underway in the spiritual realm. A coordinated effort by our Enemy to destroy the very image of God in the world.

“Now his heart for revenge is to assault beauty.  He destroys it in the natural world wherever he can. Strip mines, oil spills, fires, Chernobyl. He wreaks destruction on the glory of God in the earth like a psychopath committed to destroying great works of art.

But most of all, he hates Eve. Because she is captivating, uniquely glorious, and he cannot be. She is the incarnation of the Beauty of God. More than anything else in all creation, she embodies the glory of God. She allures the world of God. He hates it with a jealousy we can only imagine. (John and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)

Shall we dirty and sully this reflection of God, young Christian men? Would we tarnish it, treat it as an object for our fulfillment, callously ignore the heart and soul of these precious sisters?

We shall not.

… Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:2)

Timothy was a young man, tender-hearted, possibly feeling out of his depth as pastor of the Ephesus church. Paul assigned him a dizzying standard: absolute purity. It was a standard that would cost him:

…they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:4-5)

Purity would cost him. But Paul knew immorality would cost him more. So he charged him, without apology, with a high but holy calling.

Was this standard unfair? No. It was an honor. We cannot be party to the activities of the enemy. The beauty of woman is under assault, and so is our righteousness as men. The days are short. Life and death are on the tongue.

My refusal to leap into the dissipation in that launch truck wrought a cost upon me. I was mocked, dismissed with a chuckle and a shake of the head. We all know virgins have a stigma in the world.

But I fought. As the jokes rolled on, I fought the corners of my mouth as they tried to raise themselves into an accommodating tweak. Every day. Sometimes I faltered, to the grief of God. But I kept fighting.

I do not say this to brag – merely to offer hope that victory is possible. God can master us, if we let him.

Locker room talk is Satanic. There’s just no other word for it. Look around you at the hearts of women, at the state of marriage in this world. It all looks like Mordor. Desolation everywhere. Did you think locker room talk plays no part in this? Whether it ever permutes into actual sexual assault or not, this talk is unjust, destructive, and sickening in God’s eyes.

I have known young men who brought courage, character, and conviction into their locker rooms. They became leaders there. Sure, they paid a price at first. But they also shone. Do the same. Quietly, grudgingly, but undoubtedly, the world will see you shine, and it will draw them towards Christ.

Let us instead be defenders of our sisters. Let us pay the price in their defense. You want to play the knight? Be prepared to bleed.

Single and Feeling Like God Doesn’t Care?

thinkingOne of the analytics tools WordPress gives us bloggers is labeled “Search Terms”. It shows us the search words that have brought up one of our posts to someone (though it doesn’t specify which post).

Most of the time, for (I think) privacy reasons, Google hides the actual search words the person used and just says “Unknown Search Terms”, but occasionally the actual words show. I’ve seen “losing friends” (which presumably led someone to this post), “being godly and sexy” (I’m guessing this), a surprising number containing the phrase “last minute” (which probably all led to this), and some hilarious non sequiturs that aren’t all appropriate to share.

On Monday, this one popped up: “single and feel like god doesn’t care”

My heart broke.

I will never know who it was, out of 7.5 billion people, that was led to my site by that search phrase. I don’t even have a way of knowing which post they viewed. I can only hit my knees and pray that God got their needs to them.

Because I know what that feeling is like.

Sometimes we must sweep aside the thick knot of church-foyer theology, rationalizations, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just shine a light upon what our hearts are really believing. And I know what that feeling is like.

No matter how many married people tell you that marriage won’t fix everything (it won’t) or sweep aside your feelings with a big hearty “You shouldn’t be lonely, you have JESUS!!!”*, loneliness is real. There are those who’d give anything to have someone to share a dinner with, someone to entrust with a few uncomfortable secrets, someone to help with the calendar or budget or even just touch them on the shoulder. It’s amazing how many people go without these small comforts. Only the lonely really understand. And that only makes them lonelier.

It’s another level of suck entirely to bear the clenching idea that God doesn’t care. That he’s too concerned with The Plan** to notice how our hearts react to it.

To feel cut off and dismissed by the greatest hope we have? Awful.

I have wonderful news.

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The Stocks of Virginity

stocksSo much for “her body, her choice”, it seems.

Amanda Prestigiacomo of the Daily Wire wrote an article last weekend on actress Yvonne Orji and her decision to share with PEOPLE Magazine her desire to remain sexually chaste until marriage.

You can guess what happened. The Twitter peanut gallery lost no time attacking her with all the usual talk – how her decision wasn’t “healthy”, how she was affirming harmful patriarchal constructs, bad role model, quit flaunting your faith in everyone’s face, etc.

Man alive. Is it just me, or has the left gotten just as preachy as the right in the last decade?

Some might be tempted to say that these keyboard warriors are basically the Westboro of the left and don’t truly represent their attitudes.

But I can testify that Yvonne is not experiencing an isolated incident.

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Wait Gracefully

horse“Wait gracefully”.

This truth bomb was dropped on my head by Sarah over at Love/Power/Strength in response to a discussion here on my blog, and my ears are still ringing from the impact.

It’s just such a deceptively great phrase! And it applies regardless of what you’re waiting for.

Because there’s so many directions you can take the idea of “graceful”, at least in my mind. And because there’s an alternative: to wait gracelessly. I’ve done my share of that.

What could “wait gracefully” mean?

 

1. Graceful appearance

The outward appearance of our lives can be staggered, jerky, tumultuous and ungainly, or it can be smooth, tranquil, flowing, and confident – pleasing to the eye.

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An Open Question to Christian Singles

Over the years, we have all received guidance on how to life the Christian single life.

Some of it has been good. Some of it never should have seen the light of day. And there is a great deal, I am growing to suspect, that has yet to be said at all – and very much needs to be.

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