Tag Archives: Pornography

God’s X-Rated Word Pictures

Egyptian Phallic StatueThere she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. Ezekiel 23:20 (NIV)

You’re likely not going to hear a sermon at your neighborhood church on today’s chapter. The MPAA would rate a movie of Ezekiel’s word pictures NC-17 in the blink of an eye, and depending on the Director of the film, it would likely end up X rated. Today’s chapter reminds me that there are those sections of God’s Message commonly chosen for public consumption on Sunday morning, and there are those that are commonly avoided.

However, as I’ve read and studied the entirety of God’s Message over the years, I find that it does not shy away from base human realities. Sex and violence are a very real part of the human experience. Even the “heroes” of the faith are revealed to have core character flaws and to be guilty of all sorts of wrongdoing.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The pornographic imagery that fueled ancient fertility cults are akin to graphic porn on our computer screens to which many are addictively drawn. I look around my local gathering of Jesus followers and know those who have been physical, verbal, and sexual abusers as well as victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. These are core realities of the fallen state from which we all need to experience repentance, healing, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.

The ancient prophets like Ezekiel were not given to social propriety and white washing the truth in idyllic terms. They were given to speaking in honest, base terms about the human condition. Today’s chapter is a prime example in which God gives Zeke a word picture that many starched, religious church goers I know would prefer to simply skip over. The metaphors center on two female prostitutes who have given themselves over to their insatiable sexual lusts. The sisters represent the divided kingdoms of Israel (Samaria in the north and Judah in the south) who, in God’s graphic word picture, whored themselves out in political and religious alliances with their neighbors rather than being faithful and trusting of God.

This is not subtle, read between the lines, imagery. The things a person experienced in Ezekiel’s day is almost unfathomable to our relatively puritanical, politically correct world. There were sex cults and child sacrifices. Graphic, giant phallic (penis) imagery in sculptures and graphic depiction were a normal part of pagan societies, and God through Ezekiel’s message addresses these things in equally graphic terms. Desperate times call for desperate messages, and God does not shy away from speaking directly, graphically, and emphatically to his people.

Today, I am reminded that prophets are not only fore-tellers but forth-tellers who are not afraid to shock people out of their comfortable, proper religiosity to say what needs to be said. I am reminded that socially or religiously cloistering ourselves from the realities of fallen humanity does not insulate us from those realities or their consequences. Blissfully ignoring and piously avoiding any public evidence of our sin doesn’t immunize us from sin and its disastrous effects, rather it keeps us from honestly addressing sin in healthy ways that will promote positive change, healing and redemption.

I believe that messages like Ezekiel’s are God’s way of shocking us out of our religious duplicity to address this base reality.

We’re All Suckers for a Love Story

skyfall_bond_girls-620x359I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.
Ezekiel 14:5 (NIV)

Let me confess something to you. I am a sucker for a great love story. Wendy, Taylor, Madison and Suzanna can all tell you that I’m a real softie when it comes to a well written tear jerker. Don’t get me wrong. I am a guy and I love my action movies, but have you ever noticed that even that all great action movies have a love story woven through them? Script writers learned long ago that love stories are a core part of the human experience and a big part of what we respond to as we sit in front of that screen.

I believe that this has a great deal to do with how God created us. The Great Story that God reveals between the beginning of Genesis and the final chapter of John’s Revelation is a love story. It is the love story between God and humanity. God even uses the metaphor of marriage to describe the relationship between Jesus and His followers.

There is no relationship that doesn’t have its ups and downs. Even the best of marriages suffer their share of conflict. So it is with the Great Story. At the point of the story in which Ezekiel is telling, the relationship between God and His people is experiencing acute relational pain. God’s people have been adulterous. Their hearts and spirits had strayed. They had given their greatest affection to other idols and gods. There was a significant break in the relationship, and God was intent on “recapturing the hearts of the people.”

I find it hard to imagine worshipping the kinds of idols that stole the hearts of people in Ezekiel’s day. Worshipping at a pagan shrine or making an “offering” to have sex with a temple prostitute of the local fertility god is something I can’t even fathom. And yet, it seems to me that being driven by lust to have sex with a prostitute in service to Asherah is really no different than being driven by lust to masturbate to pornography or have sex with a prostitute in service to the almighty dollar. Our idols have changed faces over the millennia, but the core relational issues remain the same.

Today, I am thinking about the idols that steal my affections from God. And, I am grateful for God’s never ending desire and efforts to recapture my wayward heart.

Burning Down the House

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
    and not have his clothes catch on fire?
Can he walk on hot coals
    and not blister his feet?
Proverbs 6:27-28 (NLT)

I still have a vivid memory of our daughter Madison reaching for a red hot burner when she was only a few years old. Fortunately, I reached her before her little mits fell on the searing coil. It was the classic scenario of teaching a child to keep away from that which will burn her. She learned the lesson, as most of us do. But, this nearly universal childhood lesson becomes an apt word picture for other life dangers.

Solomon uses the word picture as he asks the poignant questions above in addressing the topic of adultery. Along my journey, however, I’ve found that the same questions can be asked of any illicit behavior that results from indulging the sexual appetite. So I’d like to broaden the topic this morning from simple adultery to things like lustful thoughts, pornography (romance novels and erotica can prove just as spiritually deadly as hard core internet porn, by the way), extramarital flirtations, prostitution, and etc.

Please understand that I am not going on some puritanical, Focus on the Family rant. This is actually a very simple spiritual principle and it’s intensely personal. My life bears the scars from these flames and I write that which I know from personal experience. So listen up, my friend and hear me when I say: If you play games with the dangerous flames of sexual appetites you’ll eventually get burned. It might not happen right away. Like a drug, the aphrodisiac of sexual lust offers a potent high for seemingly little risk. At least, it seems that way at the beginning. But once you start chasing that high and the flames intensify you will not escape without getting burned.

At best your own spiritual life will be slowly reduced to the ashes of a desperate loop of guilt, shame and despair while you struggle to hold together and maintain a spit-polished facade for the rest of the world. At worst, you will burn down your house and scorch your loved ones with you.

Avoid the flames. Learn to control your sexual appetite. If you’re in the midst of the fire and your life is burning down around you then run for help today. It’s not too late. God is a God of grace, forgiveness and redemption who offers springs of living water in exchange for the destructive flames. It may not be easy, but it will be good.