VIDEO N.T. Wright sings “Genesis”

Jan 10, 2013

N.T. Wright presenting a song he wrote with Francis Collins.

N.T. Wright is an Anglican bishop and a leading New Testament scholar. He received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University.

The Privilege of Knowing God

Philippians 3:7-11

God wants people to know Him. If He had preferred anonymity, He wouldn’t have inspired the writing of a multi-author book about Himself. But since He did, our becoming devoted followers and friends of the Creator requires us to delve deeply into Scripture. First, we learn about God from His Word. In reading the Bible, we accumulate facts about His character, principles, and ways of operating. Unfortunately, churches are full of men and women who stop at this step. They know much about religion but haven’t developed their faith.

The second step is to meditate on Scripture by thinking about God’s words and allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret them. The only way to rightly understand this divinely inspired text is with the Spirit’s guidance.

Finally, we must apply what we learn. Suppose you read that God is a very present help in times of trouble (Ps. 46:1). Then, when trouble shows up, you will rely on Him for aid. When He answers—and He will answer, although not always as expected—you will learn something about God: He helps you by responding to your trust and dependence with a custom-made solution to your problem.

I frequently admonish believers to read the Bible, but by that, I do not mean for anyone to skim its pages and walk away with only facts. Scripture is a living document that will tell you how to practice faith in daily life, but you must do what it says. Only then can you see God as He truly is—not some ancient deity full of rules, but a vibrant Friend who wants to connect with His children daily.

The Valley of Blessing

“And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.” (2 Chronicles 20:26)

The name Berachah means “blessing,” and the people of Judah surely had much reason to bless the Lord. The armies of the Moabites and Ammonites, and many others, had invaded their land, and King Jehoshaphat had no forces sufficient to oppose them.

But Jehoshaphat had already led his people back to the Lord, and now he prayed for their deliverance, acknowledging that the Lord was “God in heaven . . . so that none is able to withstand thee.” Therefore God replied, through the prophet Jahaziel, that “the battle is not yours, but God’s . . . stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:6, 15, 17). God then set the invading armies against each other, until all were slain, and God’s people were delivered without even lifting a sword. No wonder the people “blessed the LORD”!

The Hebrew word berachah (“blessing”) is used some 68 times in the Old Testament, the first being God’s promise to Abraham when he followed the Lord: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). God’s promise to Abraham has been abundantly kept, though there is much more to come. We, like the people in the valley of Berachah, have much for which to bless the Lord, for we also have seen the salvation of God: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).

Therefore, “bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1). HMM

Prison could be about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in

“And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into a prison… But Jehovah was with Joseph… and that which he did, Jehovah made it to prosper.” (Gen. 39:20-23)

WHEN God lets us go to prison because we have been serving Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in. Joseph seems to have known that. He did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because “everything was against him.” If he had, the prison keeper would never have trusted him so. Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.

Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us—until it is cast utterly from us. Joseph just turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph. Lord Jesus, when the prison doors close in on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding. Prosper Thy work through me in prison: even there, make me free indeed.—Selected.

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and, sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My soul is at liberty;
For prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

I have learnt to love the darkness of sorrow; there you see the brightness of His face.—Madame Guyon.

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost

“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost.” John 14:26

This age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Jesus cheers us, not by His personal presence, as He shall do by-and-by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Ghost, who is evermore the Comforter of the church. It is His office to console the hearts of God’s people. He convinces of sin; He illuminates and instructs; but still the main part of His work lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. He does this by revealing Jesus to them. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If we may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Jesus is the medicine.

He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of His own things, but of the things of Christ. So if we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the Comfort. Now, with such rich provision for his need, why should the Christian be sad and desponding? The Holy Spirit has graciously engaged to be thy Comforter: dost thou imagine, O thou weak and trembling believer, that He will be negligent of His sacred trust? Canst thou suppose that He has undertaken what He cannot or will not perform?

If it be His especial work to strengthen thee, and to comfort thee, dost thou suppose He has forgotten His business, or that He will fail in the loving office which He sustains towards thee? Nay, think not so hardly of the tender and blessed Spirit whose name is “the Comforter.” He delights to give the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Trust thou in Him, and He will surely comfort thee till the house of mourning is closed for ever, and the marriage feast has begun.

I will meditate in Thy precepts

“I will meditate in Thy precepts.” Psalm 119:15

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in His service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted.

So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life?

Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in Thy precepts.”

How Pornography Works: It Hijacks the Male Brain

wired for intimacy
October 9, 2013

We are fast becoming a pornographic society. Over the course of the last decade, explicitly sexual images have crept into advertising, marketing, and virtually every niche of American life. This ambient pornography is now almost everywhere, from the local shopping mall to prime-time television.

By some estimations, the production and sale of explicit pornography now represents the seventh-largest industry in America. New videos and internet pages are produced each week, with the digital revolution bringing a host of new delivery systems. Every new digital platform becomes a marketing opportunity for the pornography industry.

To no one’s surprise, the vast majority of those who consume pornography are males. It is no trade secret that males are highly stimulated by visual images, whether still or video. That is not a new development, as ancient forms of pornography attest. What is new is all about access. Today’s men and boys are not looking at line pictures drawn on cave walls. They have almost instant access to countless forms of pornography in a myriad of formats.

But, even as technology has brought new avenues for the transmission of pornography, modern research also brings a new understanding of how pornography works in the male brain. While this research does nothing to reduce the moral culpability of males who consume pornography, it does help to explain how the habit becomes so addictive.

As William M. Struthers of Wheaton College explains, “Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives.”

Struthers is a psychologist with a background in neuroscience and a teaching concentration in the biological bases of human behavior. In Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, Struthers presents key insights from neuroscience that go a long way toward explaining why pornography is such a temptation for the male mind.

“The simplest explanation for why men view pornography (or solicit prostitutes) is that they are driven to seek out sexual intimacy,” he explains. The urge for sexual intimacy is God-given and essential to the male, he acknowledges, but it is easily misdirected. Men are tempted to seek “a shortcut to sexual pleasure via pornography,” and now find this shortcut easily accessed.

In a fallen world, pornography becomes more than a distraction and a distortion of God’s intention for human sexuality. It comes as an addictive poison.

Struthers explains:

Viewing pornography is not an emotionally or physiologically neutral experience. It is fundamentally different from looking at black and white photos of the Lincoln Memorial or taking in a color map of the provinces of Canada. Men are reflexively drawn to the content of pornographic material. As such, pornography has wide-reaching effects to energize a man toward intimacy. It is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.

Pornography “acts as a polydrug,” Struthers explains. As Dr. Patrick Carnes asserts, pornography is “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Boredom and curiosity lead many boys and men into experiences that become more like drug addiction than is often admitted.

Why men rather than women? As Struthers explains, the male and female brains are wired differently. “A man’s brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience.” Over time, exposure to pornography takes a man or boy deeper along “a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. This superhighway has countless on-ramps but very few off-ramps.

Pornography is “visually magnetic” to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain’s wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.

And then, enough is never enough. “If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time,” Struthers reminds us. So, the experience of viewing pornography and acting out on it creates a demand in the brain for more and more, just to achieve the same level of pleasure in the brain.

While men are stimulated by the ambient sexual images around them, explicit pornography increases the effect. Struthers compares this to the difference between traditional television and the new high definition technologies. Everything is more clear, more explicit, and more stimulating.

Struthers explains this with compelling force:

Something about pornography pulls and pushes at the male soul. The pull is easy to identify. The naked female form can be hypnotizing. A woman’s willingness to participate in a sexual act or expose her nakedness is alluring to men. The awareness of one’s own sexuality, the longing to know, to experience something as good wells up from deep within. An image begins to pick up steam the longer we look upon it. It gains momentum and can reach a point where it feels like a tractor-trailer rolling downhill with no brakes.

Wired for Intimacy is a timely and important book. Struthers offers keen and strategic insights from neurobiology and psychology. But what makes this book truly helpful is the fact that Struthers neither leaves his argument to neuroscience, nor does he use the category of addiction to mitigate the sinfulness of viewing pornography.

Sinners naturally look for fig leaves to hide sin, and biological causation is often cited as a means of avoiding moral responsibility. Struthers does not allow this, and his view of pornography is both biblical and theologically grounded. He lays responsibility for the sin of viewing pornography at the feet of those who willingly consume explicit images. He knows his audience—after all, his classrooms are filled with young male college students. The addict is responsible for his addiction.

At the same time, any understanding of how sin works its deceitful evil is a help to us, and understanding how pornography works in the male mind is a powerful knowledge. Pornography is a sin that robs God of his glory in the gift of sex and sexuality. We have long known that sin takes hostages. We now know another dimension of how this particular sin hijacks the male brain. Knowledge, as they say, is power.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at mail@albertmohler.com. Follow regular updates on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AlbertMohler.

This article was originally published on February 1, 2010. I interviewed Dr. Struthers on the January 11, 2010 edition of The Albert Mohler Program – listen at the link below
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/11/sanctifying-the-male-brain-the-fight-against-pornography/

http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/10/09/how-pornography-works-it-hijacks-the-male-brain/