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I’ll confess a certain hedonistic tendency. If you’re honest my guess is you’ve found yourself strung out on pleasure seeking from time to time as well. That’s just it, pleasure, the Bible doesn’t condemn it unless it becomes the only thing we find worth living for. Or if it becomes the only way we know how to cope with life. In fact I would say pleasure has always been God’s idea. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And remember Jesus words in John 10:10, “…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”(The Message)
Sounds like a thumbs up for pleasure to me. So there’s a reason we’re created with certain pleasure sensors in our bodies. There’s a reason why parts of our brains light up during sex, eating good food, and even when we solve a difficult problem. There you have it! Pleasure is just something we were born for! Let’s eat, drink, and be merry people! (by the way that’s in Ecclesiastes 8:15)
But still, as a Christian it’s easy to be suspect of pleasure and whether or not God is pleased with my being pleased. After all there’s an overwhelming amount of self-denial, and sacrifice talk in scripture. That seems far more inline with how Jesus lived. But could it be that our guilt about pleasure stems from a lingering belief that I still have a debt to pay? In other words, while I understand what was accomplished through Jesus, that “my debt” is paid, and I am “saved”, I still struggle with having it too good. But that really is the point. We have it really good, that’s what the gospel is, really, really, “good news!” It’s good news about freedom, joy, salvation, and yes, even pleasure.
Again, it can’t be overlooked that our tendency is to go overboard on this pleasure thing. That’s why even though we know the gospel, and the good that it brings, there’s the need for caution. Too much of a good thing is still too much. So while pleasure isn’t prohibited for the Christian a hedonistic approach to pleasure is. For the hedonist it’s all about the next pleasure trip. It’s always self-serving, and it has no limits.
That really is the issue. We have to set limits. I know it’s unheard of in our country, where it’s life to the max, but for believers it’s the only way we live well in obedience to God. I love the way Paul puts it in I Corinthians 10:23, “Looking at it one way, you could say, ‘Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.’ But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well…”
So I leave you with these three ideas about pleasure and living well…
- Love Jesus more than pleasure.
- Live the gospel when it comes to pleasure.
- Limit pleasure for the sake of living well.
I hear from college students and young adults quite a bit on this. They’ve found Mr. or Ms. “right” and plan to spend the rest of their lives with the best thing since sliced bread. Then comes the awkward revelation either by confession or accidental discovery that the love of their life struggles (or has struggled) with sexual sin (porn, masturbation, sleeping around, fantasy etc.).
For some it’s a deal breaker and they walk away from the relationship in search of someone a bit less defiled. But others can’t, or won’t walk away from the relationship, and believe the one they’ve come to cherish can and will change before the big day. If you fall into the latter category here’s some guidance on just how to proceed…with caution…because I’m not convinced that you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater in all cases.
- Watch their actions don’t just take their words to heart. In the heat of a relationship that has progressed to the point of a proposal and an anticipated wedding date it’s easy to just take your struggling significant other for his or her word. Don’t do it. Look for significant, intentional actions he or she is taking to get better and achieve sobriety. Further don’t you be the one doing all the work for them. An identifying mark of someone who is pursuing purity is that they are in fact doing the pursuing! Remember that CONSISTENT action speaks louder than mere words.
- Don’t be afraid to put things in a holding pattern. The thing about being engaged is that it doesn’t have to be permanent! Marriage is a solemn vow to a lifelong commitment. So before things get to that point it’s wise to be certain you want to spend the rest of your life with a guy or girl who is dealing with their problem in the best way. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and putting the wedding plans in a holding pattern. I know this is so hard for people because you have “plans”. Parents, relatives, venue, dresses, tuxedos, the limo, honeymoon, not to mention the minister who we just have to have perform the ceremony. All these things add pressure and potentially cost you money if things aren’t kept on schedule. I totally get that, but still, the damage is really minimal compared to the overwhelming cost of an unhealthy marriage. If he or she is unwilling to alter the schedule then that might be a good indication that it wasn’t meant to be anyway.
- Pray. I’m not just trying to fill space here. I can’t emphasize enough how important seeking God is when you’re contemplating marriage. It is especially important when you know your potential spouse is struggling sexually. So many young couples simply move forward assuming that things will just work out. Optimism is important for sure but the stakes are too high to rely on human intuition and wishful thinking. There’s a divine component to marriage that can’t be overlooked. If you’re a christian young man or woman truly seeking to have a God-honoring marriage then you’ll spend more time praying and less time making excuses for your potential mate. Anyone married anytime at all will tell you that there is nothing more painful than marital distress and chaos. Don’t get me wrong every marriage will have it’s share for sure. But out of the gate if you can have an edge it can make all the difference in the world down the road. Seek God out in prayer and make it your discipline through your courtship, engagement and marriage.
So, if your boyfriend or girlfriend is struggling it doesn’t mean you have to kick him or her to the curb (at least not right away). But don’t ignore it either. Watch what they do not just what they say. Don’t be afraid to press the pause button. Pray.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
…self-deception is one of the chief characteristics of addiction.” -Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God
In recent years Christians have spoken openly about addictions in the church. Members as well as pastors have confessed the reality of a double life, hidden, and enslaved. Porn, pills, pot, and food are just some of the ways Christians are coping with life in destructive ways. Recently, I’ve observed what I believe is the newest addiction on the rise in the church. The new addiction that I speak of could be at an all time high among believers. It’s the new elephant in the pew that we aren’t talking about. Our silence may be due to the fact that this particular addiction, though easily detectable, is quite easily disguised. What I mean by that is that it has become such the norm, and so readily accepted that we’ve lost any sense of discomfort with it.
The addiction I’m speaking of is NEGATIVITY. I’m guilty of indulging too so that’s why it’s easy for me to write about it. You may be a user of negativity and just not realize it. Take a few moments and think about the last time you got together with friends after church for a meal. Inevitably the conversation comes around to the worship experience, the sermon, or some random observation about church. Then the urge hits and just like snorting coke off a mirror you’re whisked off into a negativity high. It may start off innocently enough, besides none of us really want to act out, but we can’t really help ourselves. I’m ashamed to say that it happened to me recently. More disappointing for me is that I was around new and younger leaders. I know better than that but I couldn’t resist the urge.
We disguise it behind rather superficial phrases like, “Well I hate to be negative but…”, or “I’m sorry but…” or it may sound more like the typical user, “Why doesn’t the pastor do…”, “Isn’t the church going to…”, “If something doesn’t change…!”. Sound familiar? And on the surface at least, it would appear that those comments are fairly innocuous. Sure, it’s hard to know the context, and it’s tough to judge when someone is tripping out, or high on negativity. Their eyes likely aren’t blood shot, and there’s no odor to give the illicit usage away. But the reality is we all know when the conversation gets filled with the smoky air of negativity. It actually leaves us feeling pretty high, and pretty good about ourselves. After all we’ve managed to effectively articulate our utter dissatisfaction with Christ’s bride and those that lead it.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t voice our honest thoughts on the church and where she’s headed. It is to say that perhaps the church and her leaders are better served when we make things less about us and our well-informed opinions and more about seeing ourselves as part of this imperfect bride we call the church. If those of us with strong opinions about the church spent half as much time engaging in real activity to bring about change we might very well have the church we’ve always wanted. Our (mine and yours) negativity could just be the thing that’s keeping us from getting there. I’m not naive and I’m not advocating for pushover believers that just go along with everything with little thought. There is a time and a place to offer direct, and important feedback. I just happen to think it isn’t around the dinner table, at the coffee shop, or in the car on the way home from church.
I’m calling for an end to the illicit, and abusive use of negativity. I’m praying that we take the first step and admit that we have a problem being downers. Here are a few ways I believe we can kick the addiction:
- Annihilate your SOAPBOX: Reject the urge to get high and mighty with your opinions especially in small settings around people you know and who likely agree with you. Essentially I’m saying keep your pride in check! This is especially true for leaders. We just can’t give in to the lure of negativity even when frustrations run high, and we just need to blow off some steam. Give honest, appropriate feedback, but only in the right setting, never among new leaders, young leaders, new members, or new believers.
- Tame your TONGUE: James taught us that the tongue is a powerful thing. Sometimes emotions run high and it’s easy to spout off about the church. A good friend of mine always says, “loose lips sink ships!” If that’s the case the church is on it’s way down quickly. We can stop the negative descent, inject some positivity, and watch the church come back to be all that God intends. The tongue can be particularly destructive when we begin to speak of church leaders negatively. I get it, our leaders are easy targets so it’s natural to want to throw them under the bus in front of others. But we do great harm and it only reveals the immaturity of our own walk. As a Christ-follower make it a point to push back against those who are constantly putting down church leaders through unhealthy, destructive, and negative talk.
- Join the MEDIOCRITY: So if we have a beef with the church, whether legit or not we’ve got two choices: stay or go. What I despise is those who stay only to be antagonists, berating the bride every chance they get. They’re like the obnoxious parent at a little league game questioning every call by the umpire. My advice to those of us guilty of using negativity…join the mediocrity. No one is saying the church is perfect and we’re certainly not saying it’s leaders are infallible. We perform in a mediocre way quite a bit. To come across as one having a superior idea or vision of what the church can and should be, but then to separate oneself from that which you deem mediocre, and then claim to be united with it is the height of hypocrisy. Join the mediocrity, have the courage to stand with the imperfect church. Own the good and the bad and not just when it’s convenient. It’s ok to apologize for us as you stand with us but don’t you dare speak of the church as “them” and call yourself a member of the body of Christ.
Romans 12:3, “I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”
The WCA Global Leadership Summit is coming to a close. Unfortunately I had to leave the host site I was a part of before the final session. I thought I would share the insights, inspirations, and most significant messages I took away from day 2.
This specific post is about the guy who really blew my mind today. Business professor Vijay Govindarajan. He was amazing and everything he shared had deep implications for the church. Here are some of the things I took away from his interview with departing WCA president Jim Mellado:
- “Ongoing operations are at odds with innovation.”
- “Dominant logic is a double edged sword.”
- “Dominant logic can become our self-imposed boundaries inhibiting innovation”
- “Innovative leaders have to be humble.”
- “Innovation is not about value for money, it’s about value for many.”
- “Conflicts are healthy, providing you know how to handle them for the benefit of your future.”
- “The role of an innovative leader is to be humble and to harness the abilities of their organization.”
- “Box 3 is a bet on the future.”
- “The central leadership challenge is preserving dominant logic while overcoming it.”
He covered a ton of great material with obvious implications for every organization but in particular churches and denominational systems.
He spoke of the “3 box strategy” which involves:
- Box 1 = Manage the Present
- Box 2 = Selectively Abandon the Past
- Box 3 = Create the Future
In order to initiate “innovation” or create a “box 3” it requires:
- Performance Engine (“mother ship”)/Shared Staff + Partnering w/ “Dedicated Team”.
- Project Team = Dedicated Team + Shared Staff
- The dedicated team is custom built for the initiative.
- The shared staff retains in its existing responsibilities and supports the initiative.
Other key thoughts:
The way to hold the “box 3” accountable is to evaluate their ability to learn. They will have the opportunity to conduct low cost experiments to determine their effectiveness.
Again this was an absolutely riveting interview. I’m certain I haven’t even scratched the surface of the material he covered but this is what stuck!