Thinking Out Loud

October 15, 2013

A Man Who Cut Out His Eyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:35 am

 If your eye offend you

When Jake arrived in the South Carolina beach town, he knew he’d found the place where he wanted to spend his life. While you can’t see the beach from his home, it’s about a five minute walk. There’s a kind of boardwalk, set way back from the water, which offers a handful of rides and places to buy snack foods and almost a mile of uninterrupted beach which is halted at both ends by private condo resorts.

And as it turns out, there are lots of young girls in somewhat skimpy outfits, even in winter.

If your eye offends you…

Jake can’t remember when he first realized that the beach attire of females was becoming a problem. Admittedly, sometimes he was attracted to the beach by the prospect of seeing healthy bodies, and other days he would avoid the beach for the very same reason.

If your eye offends you, cut it out…

Years in, Jake realized that the buzz of living in a beach town could be experienced at places other than the beach. The town had a certain vibe that extended to storefronts and restaurants on the main street. It attracted writers and painters and musicians. Some of the same young women would frequent the downtown as well, but at least there they were dressed. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

It is better for you to lose one part of your body…

But a few more years in, Jake realized the incredible amount of temptation that was lurking in public places. Forget the internet, reality had a high-definition Imax-styled panorama. He decided to be a bit reclusive, for the sake of his soul.

It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

It was then he started thinking about the scripture in Matthew 5 about plucking out, or gouging out your eye. He noticed that the part about the arm talked about cutting off. He reasoned that if he could cut off his eyes from the things that caused him to lust he would be better served. He went back to the beach, but in the early morning when the traffic consisted of seniors and dog-walkers, or in the evening when offshore breezes caused people to cover up.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

And then, unexpectedly came the day at the grocery store. She wasn’t particularly attractive to the point of being a “10,” but there was something about the cut of her dress that begged attention. He thought, ‘Isn’t that just what fashion designers do? Garments are made to highlight certain parts of the body.’ He looked away. And then he looked back. And looked again. He couldn’t believe what he was thinking.

Sin is crouching at the door…

Avoiding the grocery store? Not as easy to do if you want to eat. He tried ordering groceries online, but it was expensive, the order was missing a few items, and the driver made it really clear he expected a tip each visit.

Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.

Jake realized we live in a reality that is filled with temptation. At the North Carolina beach. At his inland home in Indiana. When you are young. When you are old.

There is nothing outside someone that can corrupt him

Just as Adam and Eve faced the temptation of the tree in the garden, so also do we face similar temptations; in fact, each one of us has a tree; a particular area of spiritual vulnerability.* Jake decided that while the scriptures teach avoiding temptation, he was expected to prosper spiritually in his environment; he was expected to be salt and light in the middle of it.

There is nothing from outside of the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man.

He would gouge out his eyes, but he would do it figuratively, not literally.

He would not allow the things he sees to lead to sin.


Scriptures:  Matt. 5:29, Gen. 4:7, I Cor. 10:12, Mark 7:15

* There is always a tree: The Tree in the Garden (April, 2010), Your Tree, My Tree (Sept., 2013)

June 5, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

Be sure to read the post which immediately precedes this one, about Calvinist propaganda for kids… And now for another day on the links…

  • “If a church tells the Scouts they are no longer welcome to use their facilities a whole bunch of kids, most of whom are not gay, are going to get one clear message: You’re not welcome at church. Fighting the culture war has already hurt the Christian image, as we are much more recognizable for the things we are against.” Before your church has a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, take 90 seconds to read this including the updates in the comments.
  • And speaking of people we make unwelcome in the church, here’s a story like no other: A particularly buxom young woman (i.e. size DD) unravels a sad tale of a lifetime of being marginalized by the local church.
  • Another great, concise (about 12 minutes, I think) sermon by Nadia at House for All Sinners and Saints on Hope. Realistic church motto: “We will disappoint you.” Click this link to the text, then click the internal link to listen, then click back to follow along as you listen. 
  • 30 Churches in Holland, Michigan are covering their individual church signs this week with burlap on which is painted “One Lord, One Church.” This is a movement designed to promote unity between the denominations.
  • The White House has issued a statement pressing the Iranian government for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, but Iran does not recognize his U.S. citizenship
  • Yesterday’s Phil Vischer Podcast was the best so far! Phil and panelists Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor are joined by anthropologist Brian Howell discussing short-term missions.
  • Teapot tempest or major issue? A Methodist pastor refuses to stand for God Bless America. Hours later, The Washington Post has to run a separate article to showcase all the responses the first article got.
  • For the pastor: A different approach to mapping out your fall (and beyond) adult Christian education program
  • Also for pastors: What to teach about tithing? Andy Stanley teaches percentage giving. But as Jeff Mikels points out, some people don’t like that concept.
  • The K-LOVE Fan Awards are out! Guess what? They like Chris Tomlin. Wow, there’s a surprise! See the winners in all nine categories.  
  • If you don’t mind wading through a lot of posts to unearth some classic wit and wisdom — and several bad worship team jokes — there’s always Church Curmudgeon’s Twitter feed.
  • Rob Bell is on the ‘cover’ of Ktizo Magazine, an e-publication built just for tablets.
  • Porn is an issue for women, too.  Maura at the blog Made in His Image shares her struggle and suggests that step one is sharing your struggle with another person.
  • Also at the same blog: Christian women, should you buy that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polkadot bikini? Rachel says its a matter of exercising God-given responsibility.
  • We mentioned the blog Blessed Economist once at C201, but I’m not sure if we did here. It’s economics — the real thing, not personal finance — from a Christian perspective. Here’s a short piece to whet your appetite, there are some longer case studies there as well.
  • A friend of ours who graduated recently in film studies has posted a 17-minute short film about a band of orphans Fleeing through the wilderness of post-apocalyptic British Columbia in search of food and shelter who take refuge in an abandoned church and face a horrifying choice.
  • Also on video, a group of high school teens at Camp Marshall got together in 2011 to produce a rather artistic video of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing that serves as a music video and a camp promotional video
Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn't very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn’t very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

December 11, 2011

Guys Need to Guard Their Hearts, Too

Jamie Wright blogs at Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, where this rather blunt admonition to guys appeared under the title, Guard Your Heart, Bro. Very blunt, actually. I warned you.

Once upon a time, we took a short line from the Bible and we turned it into a life song for girls. We slapped it on silver promise rings and we stamped it on rubber bracelets. We emblazoned it on fitted v-neck T’s, engraved it in hinged lockets, and chickified it in every way imaginable. Then we developed flowery, heart themed girls-retreats around it to ensure that our daughters would embrace it.

      “Above all else, guard your heart…”

                                    Proverbs 4:23


We admonish our girls to guard their hearts, and we warn them about “giving away pieces of their heart” in the form of every kind of love to the unworthy slobs they hang out with after school. Then we wind their “heart” up with their virginity so tight it becomes a two-fer-one deal – in the process of guarding their hearts, we end up guarding organs south of border. It’s a pretty brilliant plan, when you think about it.

Oh, and we train our boys, too, but not to guard their heart. To our boys we say,”For the love of God, avert your eyes and keep your johnson in your pants.”

I’m, like, kind of an authority on guys because I have a husband who is a guy, and I have lot of friends who are guys, and, also, I have a bunch of kids who are all guys. So yeah, listen to me when I say that it turns out guys really don’t talk about their hearts that much. In fact, most of the guys I know don’t talk about their heart at all. And I’m guessing 90% have never, ever been told to guard their heart. Probably because everybody knows that’s totally a chick thing to do.

As the mother of 2.8 teenage sons, I win the awkward award for trying to engage dudes in these conversations. When I start talking about heart stuff, the eye rolling gets so intense it blows my hair back. This makes me nervous, so I do that thing where you try way too hard to be hip and relatable and end up saying stupid crap, like, “The Bible says you need to guard your heart…dawg.”  And then my kids shake their heads, “No, Mom… Just, no.” So then I say something even more idiotic, like, “I’m just bein’ straight wichyou. My boy, Solomon, was, like, the wisest brother to ever walk the planet and it’s his advice, not mine, Bro.” And then, naturally, one of them will point out that they are, in fact, not my “bro”.

It’s all very embarrassing. And worthwhile.

I don’t think that our men are reminded often enough that they need to guard their hearts.

We teach them to guard their eyes, but I want my sons to know and understand that what porn does to their eyes isn’t what will break them, it’s what it does to their heart that will eventually leave them empty and hurting.

And we teach our men to guard their junk, to keep it in their pants, but I want my sons to know and understand that what promiscuity does to their loins isn’t what will break them (although herpes is no cakewalk), it’s what it does to their heart that will leave them lonely and aching for more.

I want my kids to get it when I tell them that the greatest thing they can bring into marriage will be their own well-guarded heart. A heart that, for all of its years and to the best of its ability, has borne the wisdom of Solomon“For they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.”

When I look around the church, when I talk amongst my friends, when I peek into the world – I see men who are broken and hurting, men tied to their addictions, men out of control, men drowning in lust, so many men longing for peace and grace and mercy, and in desperate need of restoration for their tattered and broken hearts. Hearts that have gone unguarded for far too long. And I want to break this verse like an alabaster jar over their brows. I want to pour out the perfume of Redemption on their lives. I want to release the words of Solomon to his sons, that they may be free to take up their spears and stand guard over their own hearts, because their hearts are worthy of the effort…. above all else….

   “Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.”

May 25, 2011

Wednesday Link List

There are a couple of blogs I read where there are well over 30 links represented weekly.  Trevin Wax at Kingdom People does a summary of each one, at least four a day with some longer lists;  while Zach Nielsen at Take Your Vitamin Z turns each one into a post of its own.  I guess that relatively speaking I’m not that dedicated.  …The Iberian Lynx makes a rare appearance here this week, while these weekly links do contain items that deserve a few clicks:

  • A Christianity Today item last week reported that atheists want to be participants in military chaplaincies, in a story appropriately titled, Atheists in the Foxholes.
  • Here’s a fun activity for those of you who studied the maps in the back of your Bible, it actually was an ad-link from the above the story; you simply click and drag the push-pin from the tribe name to the territory on the map and thereby Locate the Lost Tribes of Israel.  (I did not do well…)
  • Living Bible Explorers, a ministry organization in Winnipeg, Ontario which tries to steer younger youth away from gang activities believes that gang member wannabes are responsible for fire destroying their three buses.
  • A Christian counselor suggests that, of all things, humility is the key to a Fresh Approach to Facing Fear.
  • Yawn!  In case you missed it yesterday, Harold Camping, everyone’s favorite prophet, has revised the 5.21.11 date… it’s now 10.21.11
  • Russell D. Moore tears a strip off the romance novel genre, and before leaving the topic suggests that while some of their Christian equivalents are different, some are not.  Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?
  • Is a lazy pastor one who simply wastes time, or one who chooses the easy approach over the difficult?  Darryl Dash shifts the priority emphasis at The Pastor Who Jogged While Mowing His Lawn.
  • Justin Holcomb at Resurence thinks perhaps the parents of young girls need to consider Eleven Ways to Protect Your Daughter from Barbie.
  • Julia Rhodes guests at SCL and attracts over 300 comments with another look at the need to Proofread your Worship Slides.
  • Some of you know that in addition to whatever we do on Sunday morning, every Sunday night at 6:00 EST since last fall I’ve been part of virtual church with Andy Stanley at NorthpointOnline.TV.  Well…this week I also checked out what Pete Wilson is doing at Crosspoint.TV; a service which features a live Q&A after the message.  Their time is 6:00 CST which is an hour later, or 7:00 PM Eastern.  His guest was Jon Acuff and together with host Jenni Catron the program was both informative and entertaining to the point where I began to wonder if Leno and Letterman might have some competition.
  • It’s too bad the retail book industry was such a “sitting duck” for online takeover, and too bad that non-computer-user book-lovers have to pay a great price for the changing paradigm in book sales; as I rant yet again in Anger in the Face of Retail Contraction.
  • A timely cartoon from Sacred Sandwich

June 1, 2010

The Perfect Excuse For Sin

As an itinerant youth worker who did music and seminars on music in a variety of churches, the closest thing I had to a base was a small, conservative Evangelical church in east Toronto which also happened to have, throughout the 1980s,  a very dynamic youth outreach on Friday nights.

On the Fridays I wasn’t booked elsewhere I would spend my evenings there listening to the performers and talking to people who just wanted to talk.

I knew Mike superficially but we hadn’t really had much in the way of conversations, so I was a little surprised when he told me that he really needed to talk with me about something important.

I had arrived early that night to unload some boxes, and hadn’t moved my car, therefore, parked as it was by the front door where teens were coming and going every few seconds, it offered a place that was both public and private at the same time.   I often used it as a portable office.

Mike shut the door and began telling me how his life was plagued by lustful thoughts and how he was often swept away by uncontrollable urges; often several times in a single day, if you get my drift.

My policy had always been that I felt questions concerning sex or sexuality should be handled by the married individuals and couples who were part of that ministry’s core team, and had I known ahead of time that this was the topic of choice, I would never have suggested Mike start telling his story.

But I was also not completely unprepared.   I have two stock answers to questions of this nature:

First, I told Mike that the Bible is very clear that the mind is the battlefield.   I may have mentioned the verse in Proverbs 4 that reminds us to guard our hearts.   I may have mentioned the one in II Cor.  5 which tells us to take every stray thought that enters our mind captive. I definitely would have got into the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus equates a lustful look with adultery.

Second, I reminded Mike that one aspect of the fruit of the spirit is self-control.   That nothing, no matter what, should overtake us.

I thought those two points summarized the issue quite well.   It also avoided ridiculous advice like, “Why not just take a cold shower?”   That would not have been helpful at that point.

So, confident that I had done my job, nothing prepared me for Mike’s response:

“But you don’t understand, Paul; I’m Italian.”

Apparently, somehow, ethnicity, or culture, or citizenship rendered all my earlier points null and void.    Mike’s self identity as an Italian canceled out all requirements to adhere to the lifestyle ideals presented in the scriptures I had quoted or alluded to.

The strange thing about this is, despite the clarity with which I can retell this story two-and-a-half decades later, I have absolutely no idea what I said next to Mike.   I can guess.    I know I didn’t give him an opt-out on the basis of his parentage.   I know at the end he appreciated my willingness to share.  But I can’t remember my response exactly.

Had Mike found the perfect excuse to just ignore everything the Bible teaches? He believed his answer to me had validity.

What would you have said to Mike at that point?

Blog at WordPress.com.