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Porn Is More Criticized and More Popular Than Ever

There are so many problems with porn; its hard to pick just one.

This spring, Utah became the first state to declare pornography a public health crisis, calling on businesses and educators to protect children from it. Around the same time, a Time Magazine cover story story reported that porn causes erectile dysfunction in young men whose minds have marinated in X-rated clips from the time they were teenagers.

Pornography trains the user to seek more extreme sexual experiences to receive the same satisfying flood of dopamine. It’s what researchers call the Coolidge effect—the prospect of a new sexual partner excites males (and sometimes females) so much that normal sexual activity becomes boring by comparison.

Time focused on how porn usage prevents couples from having healthy sex lives. That’s only the beginning of a troubling and growing amount of research and trends. We’re learning more and more about the lasting impact of living in a world wired to a porn-saturated Internet.

When I was a teenager in the 1990s, when the Internet was in its infancy and all cell phones were “dumb,” churches’ major concern regarding sexual matters was premarital sex. In 1993, teens had to steal magazines or VHS tapes to view porn; today, all they need is an Internet connection. While the evidence continues to reveal negative effects of this multibillion-dollar industry, few secular commentators dare to say what many of us see: our porn problem is a moral problem, with drastic consequences for individuals and communities.

Studies have linked porn consumption to depression and higher drug and alcohol consumption. Researchers in Germany found that men who watch porn showed a weaker connection between the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and the part of ...

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99 Essential Doctrines Christians Should Know

Christianity wouldn't have its framework without these essential doctrines.

Inspiration of Scripture

Most Christians realize the inspiration of God’s word is an essential doctrine. J. Gresham Machen, pastor, professor and author of “Christianity and Liberalism,” expressed scripture as

a “true account” of divine revelation whose entire text is ensured by the Holy Spirit.

From the days of the Old Testament through today, the historic view of God’s people is that “God has spoken.” Not only has He spoken, but He has done so in a way that is without mistakes.

He did this through “inspiration,” most clearly stated by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness. (HSCB)

The doctrine of inspiration is what gives us assurance God has given us His Word, and that it absolutely trustworthy for every aspect of our lives. (Inspiration does not guarantee infallible interpretation, but that’s a topic for another day.)

God Is Holy

Scripture speaks of God’s holiness many times. At its core, holiness means to be set apart for a special purpose. When speaking of God, holiness is an attribute. That is, holiness isn’t something God does—it’s part of His being. He hasn’t been set apart; He sets apart. Without holiness He would cease to be the God revealed in scripture.

From holy ground to holy days to holy people to holy places to be in relationship with God was to be set apart for His glory: to be holy. God’s holiness was reflected in the various things set apart for His use. His people were instructed to be holy for the very reason that God Himself is holy. Even the word we translate church means “called-out ones.” ...

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Why You Should Use Stats in Ministry

Facts are our friends, and so are stats.

Those of you who know me know my tentative relationship with all things sports. But, with our move to Wheaton I wanted to approach our new home missionally, so, I took in a Chicago Cubs game.

It isn’t that I know nothing of sports; I just haven’t kept up much. Going to the see the Cubs play, I’m learning the players, balls, strikes, touchdowns, and the like.

Even though I haven’t been that guy as a sports fan, Donna and I went to see Moneyball while it was in theaters. Now, almost everyone thought it was a movie about baseball—or about Brad Pitt—but it wasn’t. At least not at the core.

Moneyball was all about statistics—analyzing players’ performance, then selecting and playing those players based upon advanced stats. Home runs, hits, runs scored, and RBIs were recreated in aggregate, often using cast-off players, rather than one superstar player. It was a revolutionary approach to the game, and it was based on a statistical foundation.

Statistics, of course, aren’t limited to sports. What about those of you who are investors? Do you research the performance of a company that you are thinking about investing your money in? Sure you do.

What about those who have an important and possibly dangerous surgery coming up, do you want to know the odds of a successful surgery and recovery? Of course. Very few people want to go into it with no idea of the possible outcomes.

Numbers and statistics are part of our daily lives. Pastors and church leaders should embrace them as part of ministry.

How then do we use them?

Before I share how we should use statistics, let me share why some uses fail. Statistics shouldn’t be used to change a priori assumptions. For instance, we should ...

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How 'Stranger Things' Re-Enchants the World

The Netflix show, along with 'Midnight Special,' Frank Peretti's novels, and even Pokemon Go are trying to fill a void.

HORATIO

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

The Netflix series Stranger Things revels in the strangest things conjured by pop culture: monsters, like those that spring from the twisted imagination of Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth); government conspiracies, straight out of The X-Files; horror-thriller hybrids lifted from Stephen King; plot points that depend on Dungeons & Dragons for context.

By contrast, the eight-episode series' debt to Steven Spielberg, and especially 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, seems sweetly natural. Mothers and fathers, resolutely going to hell and back to save their children. Teenagers who make immature decisions, and then wise ones. Courageous children whose steadfast friendships strengthen them to face both bullies and monsters.

I was born in 1983 and didn't grow up watching popular films and TV shows, so my hook into Stranger Things had little to do with the nostalgia most people seem to experience watching the show, with its myriad references to films, TV shows, and music of the era. (I first saw E.T. in February. This February.) I was hooked purely by Stranger Things' plot, which melds monster horror, conspiracy thriller, and plain, old-fashioned suspense: Will Byers, about age 10, disappears one night, which sends his single mom Joyce (Winona Ryder, in the show's most obvious nod to the 1980s), his brother, and his friends and their families into a tailspin as they try to find him.

Eventually they realize something paranormal is going on—especially when the ...

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Christians to Science: Leave Our Bodies How God Made Them

Pew examines how US religious groups feel about the ways that biomedicine can enhance human abilities.

Gene editing, brain chip implants, and synthetic blood may reduce the risk of disease, sharpen minds, and improve body strength. But messing around with nature in order to enhance humans isn’t something many Americans are excited about.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center asked approximately 4,700 adults what they thought of three potential medical procedures that could improve human life. For each, adults were more worried than enthusiastic.

Religious Americans were especially concerned—in fact, the more religious they are, the more concerned they were.

“All of the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—share the belief that men and women have been created, to some extent, in God’s image,” wrote David Masci in an accompanying essay. “According to many theologians, the idea that human beings in certain ways mirror God make some, but not all, religious denominations within this broad set of connected traditions wary of using new technologies to enhance or change people, rather than heal or restore them.”

Evangelicals—especially those who say religion is very important in their life, attend church weekly, and pray daily—were the most wary. Those who seldom or never attend church or pray—in other words, those with a low commitment level to their faith—are the least concerned. Those with medium levels of commitment fall in between.

Two-thirds of white evangelicals said gene editing for babies—which could reduce their risk of disease—crosses a line (63%). Half of black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelicals, according to Pew) said the same (50%).

While about the same percentage of black Protestants (15%) and white ...

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After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didnt learn to.

My first day watching porn was also my last. I was nine when an adult neighbor took me to a house where several of her friends were gathered. The men and women came knowing the agenda—to watch hours of pornographic videos. I was placed on a man’s lap, and the tapes were played. At one point, my neighbor asked if I “felt” anything. I said no, and the group laughed.

I remember the day now as the end of something immeasurably precious—the gift of being innocent and unashamed. I’ve often mourned for my nine-year-old self, her soul plundered and her naiveté stripped. I grieve for her and fear for my two small daughters. What images (and God forbid, touches) might be lurking, waiting to take their innocence? God help us.

We live in a country where kids’ online exposure to pornography is on the rise. Most children ages 10-17 have viewed porn one way or another; about a quarter report seeing unwanted pornography images in search results, emails, and pop-up ads. One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before age 18. An abuser isn’t always the sinister stranger luring children from a slow-moving car. In most cases, perpetrators aren’t strangers at all, like the neighbor who exposed me to graphic videos before I even understood the nature of sex.

Ninety-three percent of child abuse victims know their abusers: 34 percent are victimized by family members (uncles, cousins, even siblings), 58 percent by acquaintances (neighbors, coaches, even pastors), and 7 percent by the stereotypical stranger.

While men are considerably more likely to sexually assault a child, abuse by women happens too. A study in 2000 found female child molesters make up 12 percent of offenders ...

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What the Magic Kingdom Reminds Us About the Eternal Kingdom

The happiest place isn't on earth...yet.

Not long ago, my wife, Jane, and I ticked off one of the items on our bucket list. We went to Walt Disney World. We had made the pilgrimage to the Magic Kingdom once before, when our children were younger, before our hair turned gray. We went this year to see what it would be like with just the two of us. The answer is that it was fun, in that grueling, Disney sort of way.

If you’ve ever been to Disney, you know that it’s the kind of vacation that requires an extended rest once it is over. It takes planning to get there and work once you are there. We walked miles every day and spent hours standing in line. As I watched fellow pilgrims hurry by, the brief snatches of conversation I caught in passing only confirmed what I already knew to be true. When Walt Disney opened his first theme park, Disneyland, in Southern California, he dedicated it by saying that his objective was to create a “happy place” that would “be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” The theme park soon adopted the slogan, “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it has been the guiding principle for Disney’s parks ever since. Despite their slogan, a Disney theme park is not the happiest place on earth. There is plenty of happy to be sure. But there is always at least one child crying. Usually several. Everywhere you turn your eye, there are exhausted people. Couples are arguing with one another. In fact, if I had to identify a primary emotion for a Disney park it would be anxiety, not happiness.

We are anxious at Disney World because we are in transit. We are always on our way to somewhere else. Either we are making our way through a crowd to our next ride, anxious that someone else is going to ...

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Jerry B. Jenkins: The Tim LaHaye I Knew

I saw the softer side of a man famous for strong opinions.

The obituaries, assessments, and reflections of Tim LaHaye, who died in the wee hours this morning, will be replete with adjectives describing his public persona. He’ll be called opinionated, polemic, a right-wing conservative fundamentalist—and some will even accuse him of homophobia.

Those descriptions will not resonate with my view of the man I got to know and grew to love. Though make no mistake: Tim never backed down from a fight, or what he considered a studied conclusion. You never had to wonder where he stood.

When our mutual literary agent, Rick Christian, introduced Tim and me in the early 1990s, we hit it off. He was my mother’s age, and we quickly formed a respectful father/son dynamic. He never tired of my embellishment of Rick’s initial phone call, where I claimed he told me, “Dr. LaHaye is a best-selling nonfiction writer with a great fiction idea, and you’re a novelist with no ideas, so…”

Tim urged me to share that anecdote every time we spoke anywhere together.

Tim got the idea for Left Behind while on a plane returning from teaching at a prophecy conference—which was his passion. He says he saw a male pilot flirting with a female flight attendant, and noticed that the pilot was wearing a wedding ring and the flight attendant wasn’t. He imagined the pilot had a believing Christian wife at home.

Then Tim wondered what the pilot would think if the Rapture occurred right then and several of his passengers disappeared right out of their clothes. He told me, “That’s all I’ve got. Can you run with it?”

Well, he had a lot more than that—including the biblical basis for his view of eschatology, which he had been studying and teaching ...

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Died: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy

Jerry B. Jenkins: 'Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul.'

Tim LaHaye, the best-selling author best known for the Left Behind series, “graduated to heaven” early this morning after suffering a stroke at age 90.

His family announced the news of his passing at a San Diego hospital on his ministry Facebook page.

On the eve of his death, ministry partners, fans, and friends urgently asked for prayer on social media this weekend, offering a wave of early tributes that spread through end-times prophecy circles and chapters of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the 600,000-member public policy organization founded by LaHaye’s wife, Beverly. Some circulated a statement by LaHaye’s daughter Linda: “He will not recover from this, he will soon be graduated to heaven.”

“Tim was one of the most godly men I have ever known,” said David Jeremiah, LaHaye’s successor at the San Diego church he led for 25 years (then named Scott Memorial Baptist Church, now named Shadow Mountain Community Church). “Almost every conversation I had with him ended with his praying with me and for me. He wrote me extended letters of appreciation for what God was doing in our church. We shared long lunches together talking about ministry and praying for our nation.

“When I look back over [his] life, I am reminded of Paul’s words concerning King David: ‘He served his own generation by the will of God’ (Acts 13:36),” stated Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain and founder of Turning Point. “Tim’s ministry will continue for many years through the books he wrote, the organizations he founded, and the people that he influenced. But I will miss him when I look out from my pulpit next Sunday.”

“Whose life hasn't ...

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Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

I know from experience what happens when children face moving, divorce, or other stressful life change—and how we can help them.

When I was 13 years old and living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a friend’s mom was driving me home from school one evening. She asked, “Jess, tell me how to get to your house?” It was a simple enough question that most 13-year-olds can answer easily. But I was lost. I didn’t know a single thing about the city I was living in at the time—not a landmark, not a street name. I gambled and pointed, “Go that way.” Somehow I made it back to our rental home that night.

Now as an adult, I see with more clarity the debilitating fear that I felt in that moment. I was the poster child for generalized anxiety disorder. By the time I was 14, I had moved 12 times around the world. My father, Rick Marshall, was the director of North American crusades for Billy Graham, and he and his team arranged every logistical aspect of Graham’s evangelical meetings. That meant my family and I moved cities (and sometimes countries) every year. We spent one year in a city, at the end of which Billy Graham would come and preach the gospel to thousands.

When that week ended, so did my time in that city. The packing boxes got loaded up on the moving truck, I said quick, tearful goodbyes to brand-new friendships, and we were off again—off to a new city, a new neighborhood, and a new school. Of the four children in my family, I struggled most with this transitory lifestyle, and my struggle manifested as terrible anxiety.

Most kids don’t move as often as I did, but nonetheless, any move at all can trigger anxiety in kids. The psychological fallout is well documented. In 2010, The New York Times synthesized studies by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and reported that “moves in ...

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Dont Be the Bottleneck

Effective lead pastors must learn how to lead larger.

I love helping churches uncover growth opportunities! And oftentimes, while leading churches through this strategic process, I uncover something else. A bottleneck! The dictionary defines a bottleneck as a point of congestion or blockage. As the lead pastor, you must continually develop as a leader or you risk becoming the bottleneck for your church’s growth.

Effective lead pastors learn how to lead larger by continuing to grow, challenge and develop their own leadership skills and by making necessary leadership shifts along the way.

Leadership Shift

The first leadership shift takes place in what a lead pastor does on a daily basis.

Howard Hendricks, beloved professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, once said, "The secret of concentration is elimination." A true leader learns the art of elimination. Long before there were books written on this subject, I learned the art of elimination the hard way. While at a staff retreat, our worship pastor challenged me to stop trying to do all the things I thought were part of my job description. On a whiteboard, we listed everything I was responsible for at The Springs.

The list was twenty-seven items long. On another board, we made a list of what I needed to be doing, those specific things that only I am called to do. The list included only four items: teach, cast vision, lead the church, and pray for God's direction. I still vividly remember him standing up in that conference room and saying, "This is easy. You have to stop doing these twenty-three other things."

It was not easy. There were good things on that list, things a pastor was supposed to do. But it was a necessary shift for our continued growth. As a result, weddings are no longer on my "to-do ...

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