Virtual Sexuality

I'm taking a little time away from everything right now. That's new for me. The concept of a sabbath rest. Working two jobs and taking calls and e-mails from people trapped in prison of porn has made me more tired than I have ever been in my life. Honestly, I had never been more physically and emotionally fatigued than I was last Sunday.

God graciously provided a place for me down at the beach to just sit and be alone. It has been a great week of nothing. I've been sitting in a little coffee shop down here in Gulf Shores, Alabama called "The Dizzy Bean." I'm not quite sure who made the rule that coffee shops have to have names like that, but I am thankful for the reminder that grace applies to them to. Shocking, but true.

One of the things I like to do, but haven't in awhile is to go to movies by myself. So, yesterday I did just that. As I sat there watching the trailers of upcoming movies, I was surprised by what I saw. Coming out soon is an adaptation of Beowulf. This is computer animated with what looks to be the same process as The Polar Express.

Did that creep anyone out besides me? That movie and those Charles Schwab commercials with the animation really creep me out.

Anyway, a couple sitting behind me watched the preview as they loudly crunched their popcorn, the wife leaned over to her husband and said, "Look how real that looks. It's amazing how real that is."

I was surprised by that comment, but then I remembered how often we all say that. Most of us say it in reference to all of the improvements in video game technology. "It just looks so real." I even said it about Mattel's Intellivision video game system when I was in high school. It was a joke, but we all marveled at how real it looked in comparison to Atari and their silly little Space Invaders.

There were several previews of upcoming films, and a commercial for a new video game with this computer generated animation. The wife continued to say each time, "Look at that. It just so real."

I started to question it in my head each time she spoke - which was a lot. Each time she said it, a little voice in my head responded, "Really?"

What is going on in our world that we prefer virtual reality to reality? In movies it allows characters to do things that actual actors couldn't do, and it allows effects to be carried out without risking the lives and limbs of stunt people. But is it really real?

Real has risk. Real requires risk.

Reality TV isn't always all that real either. It was recently disclosed that MTV's The Hills is not even close to being real. The past season of Big Brother was not real. The producers changed the rules on the fly to ensure the final two that they wanted. What media puts in front of us as reality seldom is real.

Porn, my friends, is not real. It is a projection of reality that is beyond fake. We want to convince ourselves that it is real, but it is not. It is sex outside of relationship. It is sex devoid of intimacy, and where there is no intimacy there is no reality.

We flock to porn and label it as real, and many want it to be real. We want to believe that sex is really like that. We use to label porn as fantasy, but no longer. It is labeled reality, and there is now a whole genre of pornography centered around "reality." But it is not real.

People are still being paid. People are still being objectified and scripted. People are still being exploited, and people are still addicted.

We get addicted to this false reality, and then don't know how to cope with actual reality. This virtual reality makes actual reality seem so disappointing. We actually begin to crave virtual reality over actual reality because it looks better. Isn't that exactly how porn works?

Reality, my friends, requires risk. The risk of intimacy. The risk of letting our masks fall and allow people to see who we really are. That's reality. That's intimacy. It's not virtual reality - it's actual reality. It is scary, and it is risky but it's real.

When you step out and live life like that people will look at you and say, "Look how real he/she is. They are just so real."

It's SO much better and more exhilarating. Take the risk, it's worth it.

Come on - get real.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Hello Friends,

It's been a couple of weeks, so sorry for my absence. It has taken a bit to recover from the trip to Grande Prairie Alberta. So, nice to be back and to have a thought or two that are not of sleep.

Last night at Tapestry, we had a very special time of worship. Have you ever had one of those worship experiences? God was very gracious to our community last night, and I was so happy to be a part of it.

We talked last night about 7 words. Jesus has these 7 words right in the middle of what we call "The Lord's Prayer," which we really should call The Disciples' Prayer.

You know, on the surface it seems out of place, doesn't it? The prayer opens with these gargantuan themes of hallowing God's name, Kingdom and the expansion of God's reign and then there's a request for bread, and then we return to these huge themes of forgiveness and temptation and deliverance from evil.

So, in the center, Jesus places a request for bread. Have you ever uttered that phrase and really meant it? Honestly? Most of us, if you are reading from America, have no clue what it is like to really be desperate for bread. Look at us, we are the most obese nation on earth - many of us should be asking for our daily small salad with no dressing. We clearly don't really understand hunger - or do we?

We know hunger for things that we don't need. We know hunger for things we want - and that's why we spend so much time in prayer asking God for what we want. And then are those things that we don't ask God for because we know He does not want us to have. You know - like porn, or sexual relationships, or a second third or fourth helping of our daily bread.

Mick Jagger was right - you can't always get what you want, but if you'll try sometimes, you just might find - you get what you need. God will always provide what we truly need.

The Hebrews knew need. They knew what it was to be hungry, and desperately so. God then provided for them on a daily basis. No more - no less. You know, when we lose sight of daily desperate need, we lose sight of God.

Elijah knew daily need. During a draught God fed him by having ravens bring his daily ration of food. I love the humor in that. Ravens don't share food - they attack it. That's why we get our word ravenous from them. I just know that God had a good time with that one.

The people listening to Jesus as he spoke these words knew the need for daily bread. They worked mostly as day laborers. They got paid each day for their work, and it was only enough for them to eat. These are concepts that are just foreign to us in the west, aren't they?

It seems like such a minor thing, but that is part of the incredibly profound nature of these words. Because Jesus has met our ultimate need by dying on a cross for us, we have been adopted by God. Adopted. We are now children of the King - redeemed. Captured from hell. Joint heirs with Christ.

Because Jesus has done that for us, our Father cares about our most basic needs, and meets them. He is meeting them before we are even aware of them. Isn't that amazing? Not like laundry detergent amazing - but truly amazing?

We have trouble trusting that, don't we? You know, when older children come home from orphanages, they have some trouble adjusting to their new family life. They have been used to fighting for food in the orphanage because it can be scarce. They hover over their plates and watch everyone closely. Move toward their plate and they may stab you with a fork. They will also stuff their pockets with food since they don't know when they may eat again.

Parents are baffled by this and don't know what to do. They ask, "Do they not know we have plenty of food and we would never allow them to go hungry?" Then they ask the big question, "Don't they trust us?"

We are so much like that, aren't we? We don't trust God to provide for our needs. We lose sight of the relationship we have with Him. We concentrate on the pennies in His hand as opposed to holding His hand. The relationship guarantees that our needs will be met.

We might not get what we want, but if we try sometimes, we just might find...we get what we need.

Tal in the Great White North

Hey friends,

SO, I just finished the Ruth Graham and Friends event in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada. We had a really nice time here, and what's a trip through Canada without a swing out to Timmy's! You know I'm a loyal Krispy Kreme guy, but The Tim Horton Donut is in its' own league. We must tip our hat to Timmy, friends.

The conference went well, and I made some new friends here. The key is that several people came forward wanting to break free from pornography/sex addiction. That is a great day! It's amazing to watch God redeem and bring glory to himself through my rank disobedience over the years of my struggle.

There's such confusion around justification and sanctification everywhere. Even in the Great White North, eh?

When we surrender to the call of the Holy Spirit, and accept the gift of God's astounding mercy and grace that was paid for by the death of Jesus, we are immediately justified. Our sin debt is cancelled out, and we can never owe again. NEVER. We don't OWE God. How could we? How could we pay? And if we could pay, why would we need Him, right? We are found Just in the eyes of God, because we are then hidden in the powerful blood of Jesus Christ. God looks at us and sees his Son. Amazing, I know. It's "just as if I'd" never done anything wrong. We are given the righteousness of Christ. That's why our righteousness does exceed that of the Pharisees - it's not us or what we do or don't do - It's about Jesus and what He did.

We are not, however, sanctified at that moment. Sanctification is becoming like Christ. That process is with us as long as we continue to sin which is as long as we live on this earth. Until Christ returns to set up His eternal reign on earth, we will struggle, sin and put it in the ditch.

I had this talk a million times here in Grand Prairie, and I'll have it as many times back home. It's difficult for some to understand - especially in addiction circles. You hear it when people say, "I'm delivered from that. I am not in recovery - I am recovered and no longer struggle."

Now hear me carefully - I do believe that can happen. I know a few people that have been miraculously healed and delivered from various addictions, but that is not the normal way out. Remember Paul and the thorn in his flesh here. We still struggle with things to remind us of our total dependence on Christ.

When we talk like that, those that are still struggling with an addiction suddenly begin to fear they may not be believers - they may not yet be justified. NO! You are justified at surrender. Sanctification takes the rest of your life.

I am still powerless over porn and sex. If I allow any other thought than that, I will fall. My only hope for victory is the constant empowerment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in m life. His presence with me enables victory. It's the Gospel. It's only the Gospel and it is ALWAYS the Gospel that frees us, but the Gospel is not just a one time thing.

The Gospel is life - it's how we must live day in and day out. It's not just about one time salvation and eternal security. It's strength and the empowering presence of Christ right here, right now.

I'm sitting in an airport on the net right now. What's to keep me from surfing porn? The Gospel. Not me. Not my will. Not an acrostic. Not a formula. It's desiring God's glory more than the satisfaction of my flesh. That only comes from having seen glimpses of God's glory and that comes only through relationship with Him which comes only through the Gospel. You see, it's always about Jesus, isn't it? It really is. It is only about Jesus.

I don't steer clear of porn because I'm afraid God is going to punish me. I steer clear of porn because I have Jesus. I am becoming more and more like Christ as I die to my will. I want that more than sex or porn now.

We have all prayed and prayed and prayed "God please just take this desire away from me." He is not going to. He may, but that's not the normal way. He is waiting for us to desire the relationship with Him and His glory, more than our flesh. And we're back to the prodigal.

The prodigal wished his Father dead by asking for his inheritance. He wanted his satisfaction more than the relationship with his Father. And very often, so do we. But there is the Father, waiting at the gate every single time.

So do you need to come home today? Desire that relationship with Him, and His glory, and He'll run to you. Trust me. Make that step...

The Black Knight is Vincible! (and so are you)

Ok, so this is you fighting porn/sex alone. Maybe you are an addict, and maybe you are not, but if you try and fight it alone, this is what you look like. Really, if you fight any sin issue alone in your life, this is what you look like. The Gospel, my friends, is meant to be lived in community. We are to be Proverbs 27:17 people - iron sharpening iron. We are to encourage each other on in the race to win the prize.

This clip is such a great metaphor. The Black Knight initially does not talk with his adversary - that was the right call. But then, he engages in conversation, and ultimately in combat, and he winds up a bloody stump in complete denial. How many times have you been there?

Your alone, and the urge hits. You try and shut it down, or walk away from the computer. That's the right call. Even better is to call your friends and accountability team. But you don't, and soon the rationalizing begins and you stay at the computer, and you are engaging. Well, I'll just look at a splash screen, and then I'll stop. An arm falls off, and you claim it is only a scratch. Hours later, there you are, a bloody stump in denial.

Think about it - when you isolate yourself from your community, isn't that when you get into the most trouble?

Watch this, get a laugh, and get a point. None of us are invincible...

Fight alone, and you wind up a bloody stump in complete denial. It's just that simple.