In our Word of the Week, Pastor Mark Tiefel takes us into the Bible to define the Biblical word Confession. This word literally means to “speak the same thing.” Consider the use of the word “confession” in the following passages: Romans 10:10, 1 Timothy 6:12-13, Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 10:23-25, Leviticus 16:21, Psalm 32:5, 1 John 1:8-9t. God calls us to confess our faith with others who speak the same thing. We are also to confess our sins before God and one another, and receive the Lord’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Listen and grow in your knowledge of this important Biblical word
What is Pornography?
Pornography has many definitions depending on the person who wants to define it. Generally, pornography is defined as “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” From this definition one can see how prevalent pornography may be accessed from TV’s to tablets, from movie’s to magazines, or from cell phones to any computer.
A Reality Check
How prevalent is pornography? Statistics show that nearly three-quarters of young adults (71%) and half of teens (50%) come across what they consider to be porn at least once a month, whether they are seeking it or not. It is also reported that 62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41% have sent one (usually from/to their boy/girlfriend or friend). When they talk about porn with friends, 89% of teens, and 95% of young adults say they do so in a neutral, accepting, or encouraging way. That is, only one in 20 young adults and one in 10 teens say their friends think viewing pornography is a bad thing. Despite the awareness of the problem, most churches do not have programs specifically designed to assist those struggling with porn use. 
Is Pornography Sinful?
The Greek word “eros” is the origin and basic root word for our English word eroticism or erotic. The meaning of this word is to express love in a sensual or physical way, often igniting some level of sexual arousal. Eros was the name of the imaginary Greek god of love who was thought to be quite mischievous. We might think of our modern day Cupid who more playfully inflicts lust on an individual. But when one searches God’s Word, the word “eros” isn’t found. In fact, when this physical/sexual love is expressed on its own, outside of God’s definition of a marriage, God uses a different word to describe the activity as “pornaia” (English “porn”).
Examine how God places this in the obvious “works of the flesh.”
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19-21]
Notice what other sins are listed with “sexual immorality.” In fact, the first three listed each point in one way or another to sinful lust. “Impurity” can be defined as impure motives or thoughts. “Sensuality” or lasciviousness, can be understood as unrestrained or unbridled lust. In looking at this particular list of sins, someone might ask why are some of these sins listed acceptable in our society, while others are not? It’s NOT about what is socially acceptable, but what is acceptable and unacceptable to our Almighty God. Pornography would fall into this same category of “pornaia” (the actual Greek word used here, meaning sexual immorality), whether actually committing the sexual acts or watching the sexual acts committed. Jesus clearly demonstrated this when He spoke about the 6th Commandment in His Sermon on the Mount, [Matthew 5:28]
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
In further teaching about adultery and sexual immorality Jesus quotes, as always, with His divine authority from Genesis 2:24,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female… ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” [Matthew 19:4-6]
Jesus’ teaching about the unity of “one flesh” is very critical to understanding true sexual morality. “One flesh” means that within God’s institution of marriage, a man or woman is permitted and blessed by God to only have sexual intimacy with his wife or her husband (this is His wedding gift to the couple). Sexual activity outside of the bond of a married couple is the sinful act of adultery. Sexual activity of the unmarried is called fornication. God is clear, both adultery and fornication are sinful and against His holy law.
But is Pornography sinful, if you’re thinking of your Spouse?
It is helpful if men and women are reminded that marriage between a husband and wife is to be patterned after Christ’s relationship with the church. Since Christ would never “cheat” on the church, and since sinful man’s idolatry is often described as spiritual adultery, this question might be appropriate:
“When the Israelites were worshiping false gods like Baal and Molech, [Ezekiel 23:36-38] would God have been okay with it if they simply said to Him, ‘We were only thinking of you Lord’?”
This very thing happened when Aaron made the golden calf.
“So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’” [Exodus 32:5]
The LORD was furious that they gave all the credit of His deliverance from their Egyptian slave owners to a golden calf they had just made, and then said they were worshipping the LORD!?! Likewise, if a husband or wife says he or she is thinking about their spouse while watching porn (or even watching it together), what’s the point of the porn? Either the spouse is good enough and the sole source of the desire, or they’re not. When pornography is being used he or she isn’t becoming excited by their spouse, but by the images/videos of another man or woman.
In a similar illustration, would a man be okay if his wife was bathing and some other man was ‘thinking about his own wife’ while watching the man’s wife bathe? If a man were thinking about your wife while touching himself or someone else, would that make it alright? In the same way, if a husband or wife was thinking about his or her spouse while gazing at the private parts of another man or woman, does that make it OK in God’s eyes? Since the fall into sin (Genesis 3), there’s a reason why we call them “private parts”. When our eyes see something that they shouldn’t, we pray the Lord would remind us in that moment, “That’s not yours to see.”
“…the lust of the eyes . . . is not from the Father, but is from the world.” [1 John 2:16]
“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” [Proverbs 27:20]
No matter how the man or woman tries to justify his or her lustful thoughts, the Word of God is clear that it is sinful (pornaia = sexually not moral). This includes pornography. After giving a list of immoral choices to the Romans, Paul writes:
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” [Romans 1:32]
Sin is serious! We need to be reminded, by watching pornography an individual is also giving approval to those who are practicing sexual immorality. This even includes those involved in producing the pornography. From Paul’s words, God holds the ones approving of it just as accountable as the ones actually engaging in the act.
Do we Dress for Sexual Success?
Just like we pray for the Lord “to lead us NOT into temptation,” it would be hypocritical for us to lead others into temptation with what we wear. If we are to dress with modesty, [1 Timothy 2:9] how in the world could we excuse something as immodest as pornography?
Is Pornography MORE than a Spiritual Issue?
Studies continue to show how porn destroys not only relationships and marriages, but “physically” men of all ages with porn-induced sexual problems, including ED (erectile dysfunction). Similar studies show the same kind of adverse effects in women also. Pornography confuses the dopamine chemicals in the brain which has a wide range of important functions throughout the body. Pornographic media creates multiple neurological “partners” that further desensitize the brain both emotionally and physically against a “normal” relationship. Porn is filmed showcasing next-to-impossible relationships and creating unreasonable expectations. 
God unites a man and woman as “one flesh” and the undivided sexual activity between a husband and wife is the blessed result of a God-gifted closeness. Pornography simply put, promotes and glorifies the physical act without the closeness.
How does God teach us to respond to Pornography?
In reading this, you may be responding to a friend or relative that has asked you questions or made statements about pornography, or you may be trying to navigate your own struggles with it. In either case, it is important that we aren’t swayed with what the world and Satan are teaching us, but rather follow what our God teaches us!
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22]
In Christ, there is forgiveness and strength. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, the Apostle Paul reminds each of us that “You were bought at a price” (with the blood of Christ = you, your body, is God’s), and in chapter 7:4 that “your body is not your own” but your spouse’s). Therefore, we are reminded to “fight the good fight of faith,” to “pray without ceasing,” and remember wars aren’t fought alone or won overnight. So Paul encourages,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Phil. 4:13]
In fighting lust, talk to your spouse, or a trusted Christian friend or Pastor for help. Pray, pray, and give thanks for Christ’s strength in weakness!
Other available resources:
- “Every Man’s Battle” by Fred Stoeker
- Accountability software: https://covenanteyes.com/
In this episode of Conservative Pastor Response Pastors Neal Radichel and
Nathanael Mayhew go back to discuss the doctrine of inspiration. In this episode they build on the internal evidence for inspiration by discussing the external evidence for the inspiration of the Bible. They will talk about how prophecy, the unity of Scripture, answers to the big questions of life and the historical accuracy of Scripture give evidence for divine inspiration. In addition, the Bible changes the lives of those who are brought to faith, and it has been supernaturally preserved throughout history. While this will not convert anyone, it does give evidence to the obviously unique and supernatural charactaristics of the Bible. Thanks be to God!
One of the most surprising things of this election year is Donald Trump’s claim that he will build a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Now, accomplishing that feat on its own would be interesting enough, but Trump is going even further. Not only will he build the wall, he will have Mexico pay for it. The thing is, Mr. Trump really hasn’t explained how he’s going to do this. What makes this claim even more outstanding is that the President of Mexico has publicly stated that they will not pay for it. Will Trump succeed? I suppose it’s possible but it seems highly unlikely. Trump’s wall claim seems like most things in politics, big promises made to make headlines but excuses for failure almost always follow.
I’m not here to speak for or against the wall or to delve into the politics of it all. You’ve heard enough of that already. But, Trump’s promise brings to mind an interesting account from God’s Word. There was a time when God built a wall, and had a foreign kingdom pay for it. That time comes from late in the Old Testament history of Israel, from the book of Nehemiah. To understand the miracle that this was you need to know who Nehemiah was. Nehemiah was a Jewish captive in Babylon during the time that God’s people were exiled. Like other prominent Jewish people who arose to high standing in foreign lands (Joseph, Daniel) Nehemiah had ascended to the position of cup-bearer for the king. While in this position, Nehemiah heard about the great disrepair of the city of Jerusalem. With boldness, he petitioned king Artaxerxes he be allowed to return to Israel and help in the re-building process of the city’s wall. Artaxerxes not only granted the request, he decided to pay for the entire venture. Nehemiah recorded his request in chapter 2 verse 8,
… and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy. And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
There you have it. Not only did Artaxerxes give Nehemiah time off, he covered the expenses for the materials. God, in His power and wisdom, was able to use a foreign king to accomplish His will. And this wasn’t the only time, either. In the book before Nehemiah’s, his contemporary, Ezra, encountered a similar circumstance. Once Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered the Babylonians he gave the order for the Jews to return to their land and re-build their temple. Ezra was tasked with this responsibility, but God was also working behind the scenes. We’re told,
In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, 4 with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury (Ezra 6:3-4).
Much like Nehemiah’s re-building of the wall, Ezra’s expenses would be paid by a foreign king. But, this didn’t make either task easy. Ezra was plagued by the native peoples living Judea. They wanted a share in this great endeavor, but they were also idol worshipers. The entire reason Ezra’s people had been sent to captivity was because they intermingled with false gods. He wasn’t about to let that happen all over again, so he refused to join with the other nations in the temple reconstruction. This decision, although correct, would prove to be the source of headaches and difficulties in the project. We’re told,
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:4-5).
The native people tried to turn Darius, Cyrus’ successor, against Ezra and the Israelites. But, once Darius realized the truth of the matter, he issued his very own decree; once again, fulfilling God’s will by paying the way for the project,
Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River (Ezra 6:7-8).
Nehemiah, likewise, faced his own share of hardships as he tried to rally his people to rebuild the city walls. We’re told that the workers had to hold a weapon in one hand and their tool in the other. Half of the man-power needed to be directed at protection. In the end, though, the wall was completed in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). No plan of man can thwart the will of God. In the short accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah’s work, God used three separate foreign rulers to not only accomplish His will, but pay for all of the expenses.
The lessons of Ezra and Nehemiah remind us of many things. We see the importance of perseverance and faithfulness to God’s plan. We see tremendous examples of leadership in both Ezra and Nehemiah. We see the utter folly of trying to resist the true God. We see how God values both the physical (wall) and spiritual (temple) protection of His people. But perhaps greatest of all, we see God’s plan of grace. Long before Ezra and Nehemiah’s triumphs, the Israelites were humiliated by captivity under the Babylonians. Not only were they carried into slavery, away from their homeland, but God’s holy temple was sacked and looted. What a disgrace for both God and His people. But, throughout it all, God had a perfect plan. He used the oppression of Babylon to bring His children back to repentance; so that future followers like Ezra would learn to resist idol-worshipers, and future believers like you and I would have confidence in the work of Christ. But, at the same time He also provided the mechanism for their re-building process. He moved Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes to kindness and favor with His people, so much so, that they funded the re-building of Jerusalem. Never before had foreign rulers so willingly submitted to a nation in such a lowly status.
If God was able to accomplish so much in that setting, what can He do for your life? Well, He can certainly help with with those lingering financial issues, or that friendship that seems to be on the rocks. He reassures you with love when you’re in the thick of an unfriendly world. He listens at all times when you’re distressed or in need. Just like the Israelites, God’s got you covered at all times. You have a Friend who can use His own enemies to accomplish His will. What is too great for Him? But, the matter that God places as highest priority for you is your salvation. He wants you to know and believe that you are forgiven and redeemed. Examples of His eternal power like those in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are more than just things to wish for, or “ooh” and “aah” at in amazement. God is showing you the power of His grace in your life; powerful enough to save you from sin and all of it’s effects. So, when you hear a politician’s outrageous claims, remember Who is really in control, what He has done for you, and what He wants for your life.
n our Word of the Week, Pastor Mark Tiefel, goes back to the Bible
define the important Biblical word Chastisement. This word describes God’s love for sinners in disciplining them when they do wrong. One of the purposes of God’s Word is to discipline us. God desires to lead us to repentance over our sins. Ultimately, God has placed His judgment or discipline for our sin upon Jesus at the cross that we might be declared not guilty by God. Yes, God is love, and His love is even demonstrated in the discipline we receive from Him. Listen and grow in your knowledge of this
important Biblical word.
In this Bible Study episode, Pastors Neal Radichel and Nathanael Mayhew
take us into the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. For many people this is a very confusing book, but in this study they discuss the how to dig into this valuable book and how to properly understand it. They talk about Hebrew poetry and how it is used in this book. The main purpose of this book is to show that any life that is lived apart from God is worthless, no matter what that person might achieve. It is only through our relationship with God and the salvation He has won for us in Christ that we find purpose in this life, as well as in the life to come.
Learn more about the kind of kingdom God has!
Have you ever had someone challenge your Christian faith by saying something like, “If Jesus is god and savior, why doesn’t he save or answer me when I need him?” Or maybe it was a string of questions like, “If there is a god, why do people die of hunger in the world?” “Why are there wars and murder?” “Why didn’t he keep me from all the evil in my past and that is happening right now in my life?” “Why would a supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, always-present god allow bad things to happen to good people?”
All of these type of questions are really just asking the same question, “If God is REAL, why is he allowing (this) to happen?” “Why doesn’t God seem to care?”
We are all tempted to ask questions about God’s presence in our lives. But the Bible narrows in on our expectations of God and exposes a critical truth. Instead of starting by pointing the finger at God, you and I should start by pointing at ourselves and recognize this deep spiritual truth about life as we know it. ALL people and the world are infected with sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). The Apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote in Romans 3:10-12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
The Word of God teaches a much different and much better question for each one of us to ask, “Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?” Despite the evil of the world, the wickedness of mankind, and the sinful nature of every person who sins against God in thought, word, and deed, God STILL loves us all! Our Lord God, Jesus Christ, loved you so much that He died on the cross to take the full penalty and punishment of your sins away (Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 8:1). He did that so that you could one day leave this sin ridden world and spend eternal life forever with Him in heaven. Until then, God could rightly challenge you and me, “If your love for Me is real, what are you doing to prove it?”
Evil may come upon us in this life, because we live in an evil and sinful world. But we see the goodness and love of God, our Savior, as a light in this dark world. Those who love and trust in Christ, the Savior of sin, the Word of God in the Bible gives the confidence that He uses every evil thing that happens out for our eternal good (Romans 8:28). While the Bible certainly uncovers the shameful sinfulness of mankind, it also reveals the undeserved goodness of God our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)
Now that’s good news. No question about it.
An appropriate topic around Labor Day, listen to what God tells us about our vocation.
We’re here to uplift your Christian faith, to build you up in the knowledge of Christ, you Savior. It would seem appropriate, then, to explain the name of this blog. How uplifting can we really be if our title starts with “burden”? For those enlightened by Jesus, the idea of a burden seems far and distant. To look at our faith as a burden, in fact, seems downright inappropriate. What’s the point of this thing called Christianity if it’s just another hardship in life?
While not the lasting impression we want to leave on our readers and hearers, the idea of a burden is an entirely accurate description of the Christian faith. Twice in his prophecy, Zechariah started his message by saying, “The burden of the word of the LORD…” You may notice in your Bible translation that Hebrew word for “burden” can also mean “oracle” or “revelation”, and that’s true. But, the most basic meaning of this word is “burden”. It’s used for something difficult that must be carried. Was it right for Zechariah to speak about the LORD’s word like this? The fact that the Holy Spirit was working through Zechariah is answer enough. Zechariah wasn’t the only one, either. God’s final Old Testament Scripture, written through the prophet, Malachi, used the same phrase for his message.
Furthermore, every other prophet of God bore the same burden as Zechariah and Malachi even if they didn’t use the same phrase to describe it. For God’s prophets, and to the Hebrew mind, having an oracle or revelation from the LORD was synonymous to carrying a burden. We can relate to that. The most important pieces of information in life are often difficult to carry. To have something important, valuable, and precious is an awesome responsibility and not to be taken lightly. How much more so with the inspired words of our eternal and almighty God?
But, perhaps the most compelling evidence comes from Jesus. He would tell His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23).” According to God’s own Son, following by faith was not only a burden, it was like carrying a cross. His own example shows us how difficult that is. Jesus would set the tone to these words near the end of His life. One cannot be a Christian and avoid this burden. Therefore, burden-bearing is not only appropriate to faith, it’s absolutely necessary. If we are looking to give up the word of God or to deny it because of pressure from the world, then we cannot be Christ’s. To be the Lord’s is to live under the burden of His word. It means we feel the compulsion to follow that word and to proclaim it. It means we embrace it and use it. How heavy a burden this is at times!
God’s law speaks to all and its message isn’t very fun. But, this is where the other part of our name is meant to come into focus – Blessing. The end of the Christian faith gives us hope. There is a blessing to come from this burden. And because of Jesus, it is a blessing that is free. We do not bear the burden of the word to earn blessings for ourselves. We bear it to reflect the Lord and Savior who bore the eternal weight of the world’s sin, shame, and guilt on the cross. We have blessings upon blessings because of Jesus. Our “cup runs over” day after day.
Jesus does not promise earthly prosperity. He is not a ‘seven-steps to success’ teacher. He does not help those who help themselves. He did not come to earth so that we could sit back and be comfortable. We carry His burden.
Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
We’re not here to fulfill our debt, but to revel in Christ’s glory. Our sufferings for His name are a testament that we are redeemed from sin. Let us not shy away from this burden but bear it with pride and gratitude for our Lord and Savior. God uses this burden, the name of His Son in His word, to drive us back, again and again, to the blessings of forgiveness.