Google is cutting ties with Internet Pornography

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It is great to see Google taking some steps to help push back the darkness. Recently Google made a pretty bold move. It isn’t new that the company has a controversial stance within their corporate policy in regard to their position against pornographic material, but they have now decided to take things further.

While there are those who would disagree with this corporate stance for various reasons, it is incredible that Google is taking such a firm a posture against the porn industry. This new constraining and declining of the accessibility of explicit content through their platform is the first step in cleaning up the web.

“Google recently sent an email alerting their advertisers – particularly pornography and other adult themed websites – that they will be implementing their new advertising policy which eliminates pornographic and sexually explicit ads. In addition, it seems Google will also no longer link to sites that contain such materials, no matter how benign their advertising.” – PornHarms.com

As I read this news, no matter how small of a change it may directly make, I couldn’t help but rejoice a little. Simply as a person, this is a joyful day for anyone who sees and understands the harm in which the porn industry provokes for its viewers, those involved in its cultivation, and everyone who interacts with anyone involved in viewing or making porn.

While it’s obvious that not every single website will get filtered out of Google‘s system immediately, and it isn’t going to instantly do that much to limit the limitless access to porn for just about anyone with an Internet connection, it’s a great start regardless. We ought to be thankful for this; praying for Google, their AdSense platform, and the changes being made within their company. This truly is great news for the web.

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Blog Title Inspiration | Treading Paper

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I do not know if very many people have ever been curious as to what the inspiration was behind this blog site’s title… I’ve only had a few actually ask me. Anyways, this song by Thrice is where the name came from:

All my life, I’ve been treading paper in the space between the words.
And there implied is that I’m but another body for the birds,
carrion, absurd and accidental atoms – beating air,
carrying on; unwitting orphan of an unyielding despair.

But linger on, just for a moment, until we can ascertain,
if something’s wrong with me –
Or the assumptions of these self-indicted brains.
Because I contend that all of this is more than just a meaningless charade,
That each and every moment is a bottle with a message hid away.

If anything means anything,
There must be something meant for us to be,
a song that we were made to sing.
There must be so much more than we can see.

But all our lives, we’ve been treading paper in the space between the words.
And there implied’s the thought that we are barely more than bodies for the birds, carrion.
They say that we’re just accidental atoms beating air, carrying on and on,
Unwitting orphans of an unyielding despair.

But our hearts tell a different story;
our hands feel a different pulse.

If anything means anything,
There must be something meant for us to be,
If anything means anything,
There must be something meant for us to be,
a song that we were made to sing.
There must be so much more than we can see.

Something fathomless, deeper than our pride can dive;
Numinous, higher than – our hearts can rise;
Transcendent, further than our thoughts can reach;
Immanent, closer than the air we breathe.

Homophobic Bigots…

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It seems like most of the country, maybe even the world, is constantly talking about homosexuality. The conversation is virtually impossible to ignore if you pay any attention at all to cultural currents. News and media outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, television shows, and even the federal courts are conversing about this topic. What some people are saying is very interesting, but much of it is also quite frustrating.

As legislature continues to be passed on the legalization of same-sex marriage and the definition of marriage “evolves/progresses” and all of that, if you’re listening to the rhetoric, here is the accusation against Christians in the broad-stroke: they are bigots. We are intolerant. We are the American Taliban. We’re straight up terrorists and a danger to society. We are right up there with the KKK and the Civil Rights Movement trying to deprive people of rights that are God-given or self-evident. We are out on an ignorant mission to rob others of their freedoms, liberties, and happiness. Those are the accusations against us.

Please don’t close the browser and tune me out just yet. All those accusations leveled against Christians, they had better be false accusations. I don’t pretend that our view will ever be understood by those outside the faith – outside the kingdom of God – but we are a people commanded by God to be marked by love, compassion, patience, mercy, and… even hospitality. Please understand this: You don’t catch sin from sinners. Do you get that?

“If my sinfulness appears to be smaller or less detestable than sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I know some of us, in the attempt to protect our family and to make sure we all stay purer than we actually are, build walls. You don’t want your kids around those kinds of kids. You don’t want to be around those kinds of people. But you are those kinds of people! It’s God’s grace that rescues from “that” (Ephesians 2:1-10). We’ve all got to stop that nonsense. We shouldn’t be consumed with building walls. We should open doors. Our home is open, and my friends, neighbors, and co-workers can make accusations against me, but they better be false. I want them just to be confused to some degree. I just want my neighbors and co-workers to be so ridiculously confused. “This guy is a bigot, but he keeps inviting me over for dinner. He’s so closed-minded, but he speaks respectfully and kind to me. That guy makes me sick, but he keeps bringing me presents on my birthday and Christmas. That dude is such a jerk, but man he tips really well. That guy is like an American terrorist, but he sure is friendly.” I just want that type of confusion. (I’ll admit I don’t always conduct myself in such a way that would reflect the love of Christ, but it is my hope to do so.)

There has to be wisdom though. I’m not telling you to operate in a way that lacks wisdom; God has put us here for the purpose of being the light of the world. We aren’t called to hide out in a building, we are called to engage our community. We are to encourage. We are called to open up our home. We’re called to live in the world. There is some risk involved in that. Yes, there is always risk. Be wise about how you try to do that, but trust God in those things.

I have some friends who would fit the prototype of someone who would probably be infuriated with Christianity and Christians, and sure enough, as we have had conversations, as I’ve seen social media posts, after hearing story after story of being judged harshly, of being ostracized, of being made to feel worthless, feeling like their lifestyle or beliefs are belittled… there has been some unfortunate legitimacy to some of the negative experiences they’ve had with those proclaiming to be Christians, way too much legitimacy to some of those stories. However, some (yes, SOME) of the perceived harshness has been on them. Sometimes people feel hypocritically condemned even when there is no actual condemnation present. It’s not always entirely on God’s people, it’s not always 100%. Because sometimes unregenerate, unbelieving people don’t know what to do with conviction. They don’t feel it as sweet discipline from God; they see it as harsh judgment. They see it as horrible and something to flee from very quickly.

In fact, some of you reading this today probably feel judged, and no one has actually judged you. You may be “judging” yourself right now. We’re not judging you though. However, we’re going to inevitably fall short sometimes. We should be striving to live in glad submission to Jesus Christ where we laugh a lot, where we enjoy good music, appreciate good movies, where we enjoy good food, where we enjoy good drink, where we enjoy hanging out with others and sharing our lives, but not doing so in a way that is outside of the bounds of the Word of God. We should readily let others see the life that is made available to those who would put their trust in Jesus Christ, and then actually see our imperfections. Because tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.

God loves imperfect people. That’s why dressing up like you’re pretty when you’re not isn’t helpful. The bigot, closed-minded, and intolerant labels will inevitably be put on us at this point. It’s over. This is how we will be labeled. It will only get “worse.” If you can’t handle this label and don’t want to be viewed like this, then you’re going to have a hard time; you’ll have to go underground or be silent with your faith, which means I don’t think you even really have any. In the end though, let us hope that the accusations and the labels are false.

In addition to being falsely labeled, if we limit the scope of how we are misunderstood and ignore that it is a form of persecution, we will neglect the Christian ethic incumbent upon us to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14; 1st Corinthians 4:12). When people slander us, mock us, or pass laws against us because we are thought to be anti-gay, anti-science, and anti-women, that is a form of persecution. And as such, we are commanded by Christ Himself to pray for those and love those who hate us so.

Because if John 15:20 is true, and 2nd Timothy 3:13 is true, and the expectation of the entire New Testament is true, then no amount of “cultural campaigning” or PR work is going to rescue the church from being thought by some as backwards and bigoted. Where in the gospels did Jesus promise that the world would love us if we just kept our heads down and tried to be really good neighbors? I know many people who think of the church as being very “unchristian” and evangelicals as being political operatives for the Republican Party. So let’s have the humility to see if we are as obnoxious and unintelligent as many people surmise. Honestly, sometimes some of us are… but let’s not assume that bad press with the world means we’ve all done wrong by God.

As followers of a crucified King we should expect to be like the scum of the earth to some (1st Corinthians 4:13) and like the aroma of death to others (2nd Corinthians 2:16). We should not think misinformed hatred and intolerant harassment mean the church has completely gone off the rails. The presence of persecution or hate is no sign that Christians have failed to engage the world properly. In fact, from everything we’ve seen in Scripture we ought to suspect something is wrong with us if we have somehow avoided all of the world’s persecution successfully.

Because, as Christians we believe that God has reconciled us to Himself, not by demanding that we first and foremost adhere to a moral code, but rather by sending the Son of God, by sending Jesus Christ, unlike us, to live a completely perfect life. Jesus Christ was completely obedient to every command God gave Him. He was other than, although He was fully man. Jesus is fully man, but His obedience is/was perfect. His record was spotless. No accusation could rightly be made against Him. Yet He was still hated by many…

So even when we are being criticized for quoting Scripture and stating our beliefs, the God of the Bible essentially says in Matthew 5, “Hey, they’re going to falsely label you. Cool, okay, stop worrying so much about that. They did that to Isaiah. You guys have something in common now. Oh, they’re going to falsely misrepresent you. Hey, you and Jeremiah would be good friends. You guys could sit around and talk about what it’s like to be ostracized and be pushed to the margins.” Jesus will also say, “Oh, hey, btw, I’m also well acquainted with all that.” Was Jesus not repeatedly misrepresented, repeatedly falsely accused of things that were absurd? There will be nothing you can do about the accusation. Just let it be false accusation, and strive to love your neighbor regardless of their actions, or your own feelings.

Hope For Those Who Fall Short

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Hope is birthed out of a knowledge of something greater than ourselves and greater than our present circumstances. To really understand the good news that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must first understand the bad news that is sin. Consider the idea of receiving the good news of deliverance. However, to receive such news must mean you needed to be delivered from something. If you were in prison and you were to be executed in the morning, and your attorney dropped by with the information that the governor had just signed a pardon, this would be very good news, would it not? But think about it for a moment. If you received news that the governor had signed a pardon, but for some reason you did not know that you were on death row, the good news could not be received by you as really that great of news. It would just kind of bounce off, and have a much less impactful affect.

Due to the Fall, even our good deeds, our very best works, are consider but dirty rags, filthy garments, bloody cloth, and piles of crap in comparison to the righteousness of Christ that has been imparted to those who believe in and follow Him (Isaiah 64:6; Luke 18:9-30; Romans 3:10, 5:15, 6:23; Philippians 3:8-9; Titus 3:3-7; among many verses that would substantiate this). I know that language may come off as a little strong, but God says to be holy as He is holy… and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). David even says he was brought forth in iniquity, that in sin did his mother conceive him (he is not referring to her having cheated on her husband, Jesse… Jesse’s girl wasn’t running around on him) and even our good deeds fall short of that impossible standard. With that being understood, we can better understand why we desperately need the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Some passages to consider when questioning how corrupted and depraved we are from birth:

Psalm 51:5
Jeremiah 17:9
John 3:20-21
Romans 3:9-12
Romans 3:23
Romans 8:5-8

1. We have darkened minds.

Romans 8:7
1st Corinthians 2:14
Ephesians 2:3
Ephesians 4:17-18
Colossians 1:21

2. We have darkened hearts.

Romans 1:21
Ephesians 4:18-19

3. We are enslaved to sin.

John 8:34
Titus 3:3

4. We abide under futility.

Ecclesiastes 1:15-18
1st Peter 1:18

5. We are already spiritually dead.

Psalm 51:5
Ephesians 2:1-5
Colossians 2:13

In the beginning, man was created good (Genesis 1:31). Having taken of the forbidden fruit and eaten of it, he committed idolatry and tried to make himself god, he was subjected to the curse of death, pain, and futility. By one man’s transgression, sin and death spread to all men and women (Romans 5) and mankind has been henceforth born into a fragmented existence. No longer does he enjoy fellowship with his Maker or the rest of creation. Man experienced division from His Creator, his spouse, himself, his fellow man, and the creation over which he was to work. This curse spread through men by nature and not merely through an environmental influence, as all were and are born into sin. We are all stillborns, utterly devoid of spiritual good. (This does not mean that man can do no social good, but rather it is a recognition that even our righteous works are as filthy rags in God’s sight. As Romans 14:23 tells us, whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.) We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.

Because of the Fall, the whole of creation has been subjected to futility. The entire universe and all it contains has been fractured from its originally created state. I believe that includes DNA, the biochemical and biological makeup of humanity has been affected as well.

Have you ever seen a two year old bite when they don’t get there way? Have you witnessed a toddler become violent when they want a toy that another child has? Ever seen a little kid quickly shove all their candy in their mouth if someone asked for a piece? I don’t see too many adults demonstrating those particular behaviors. Where does that seem to instinctively come from? Would you disagree that some people seem more prone to alcoholism, addiction, violence, anger, depression, etc. And that may not just simply be reactions to their environment or behaviors they’ve seen displayed?

Does that merely excuse any bents anyone may have toward certain sins? No, of course not. Is every sinful action predestined and purposed by God? I am certainly making no such claim. When we sin, regardless of genetics, age, gender, ethnicity, race, culture, society, environment, etc. we are still sinning, and we’re still responsible for our actions. It is too reductionistic though, and ignores much of scientific discovery (which helps serve to reveal God’s created order), that shows humans are more complex than simple action and reaction free-willers. People are not simply stimuli-response organisms. We do not act and perceive the world strictly based on our brain stimuli; just “free will” responding to any and all experiences and environment. How does one explain human personality? Ever meet people with an oddly optimistic disposition, or someone who can’t seem to find a positive thing to say no matter how well their life seems to be going?

How would you explain the differences in what people find beautiful? Are our aesthetic appetites merely reflections of our experiences and environments that we’re able to express once we reach some mystical age of accountability? Are we pre-determined genetic robots, so-to-speak? Do humans simply react to all perceived experiences only according to the way their biochemical make-up has been hard-wired to allow them?

I believe we are born with the proclivity towards certain types of sin; that our hearts are little idol factories. Our environments and experiences help serve to shape and manipulate the way we express our sinful idolatry. The Bible teaches that one has only the choice between God and idolatry. For if one denies God, they are worshipping some created thing(s) of this world; while thinking of said thing as not that big of a deal, their actions demonstrate the belief that they see it as deity. (Because though it is often unknown to an idolater, they’re imagining the attributes of divinity in the things they pursue.) We often think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. Everyone is building their identity on something and must find some way to justify their existence in order to stave off the universal fear that they have no purpose. In more traditional cultures, the sense of worth and identity comes from fulfilling duties to family and giving service to society, while in our contemporary individualistic culture, people tend to look to work or educational achievements, social status, talents, or love relationships.

“The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ.” – Paul Tripp

I’m not saying everyone is born pre-programmed to act out specific sins, but we are predisposed to being more likely to sin in certain ways. I’m also not saying both genetic and environmental influences are equal by any means either, just that genetics does indeed serve at least a small part in it all. I believe we all have bents more toward certain types of sin and idolatry and then our society, culture, environment, experiences, and whatnot help serve to shape and grow those.

In college, I actually had a philosophy professor who used to joke that when you look in at the sweet, cute little babies in the baby ward at the hospital, they are just as depraved in their heart as any adult, and if they had the coordination and cognitive ability, some might even try to steal your car keys and leave. Basically that we’re all prone to wander, prone to sin, and as we age, we’re more apt and able to express the depravity that resides in our hearts. But like I said, I’m not making any claim that some individuals are going to grow up and rape, murder, steal, drink excessively, do hardcore drugs, beat women, verbally assault others, etc. and there’s nothing that could ever be done to stop them from doing so. I just believe genetics and one’s biological make-up does play some kind of role or small factor in things.

So in light of the horribly extensive ramifications of sin (which I have not even begun to scratch the surface in explaining the vast personal and cosmic affects in this article), we can better see why the gospel really is such good news. It is the news that God saves. It is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.

“but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Jesus Christ is the gospel. Jesus isn’t part of the story, He is the point of the story; from Genesis to Revelation. The good news is revealed in His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return. If righteousness could be obtained through the law in any way, then Christ died for absolutely nothing. Christ’s crucifixion is the heart of the gospel; His resurrection is the power of the gospel, and His ascension is the glory of the gospel. Christ’s death is a substitutionary and propitiatory sacrifice to God for our sins. It satisfies the demands of God’s holy justice and appeases His holy wrath. It also demonstrates His mysterious love and reveals His amazing grace.

Jesus’ claims are particularly unnerving, because if they are true, there is no alternative but to bow the knee to Him. He is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which men must (or can) be saved. At the heart of all sound doctrine is the cross of Jesus Christ and the infinite privilege that redeemed sinners have of glorifying God because of what He has accomplished. Because of this, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.