The Affliction of Niceness in the Church

by Art Hobba

(Excerpts are from Chapter 8 of Called to War)

“You can say almost anything (in correction) to someone if they know you love them”  -Pastor Darrell Roberts

“Niceness” (not to be confused with the spiritual fruit of kindness, gentleness, and goodness) has overflowed into the aisles. Paid professionals know that conflict can endanger a church’s stability, so they often nominate men or women who won’t ruffle the feathers of the leaders’ direction or the established status quo of a ruling group of Elders. Staff gets selected because of their reputation or service record of giving themselves away quietly, without making waves. And love, true love, that is willing to risk the relationship so someone can be freed from a destructive deception or blind spot, falls prey to expediency or politicking. Love, in many churches, has become vapid as we sharpen our skills at beating around the bush.

“Church staffs are the most dysfunctional organizations of any I have worked with because they have such a high level of “grace” that they are unable to “speak the truth in love” to one another. Stress from work is higher among these good people than I see in the secular workforce because they’re afraid to be direct with one another in the fear that they might offend or be branded as unaccepting. — Patrick Lencioni

And fear can dominate families as well. Mom tries to be nice by seeking to be a peacemaker at any cost, while Dad sees that the shortest distance between two points is a good fight, or vica versa. Collateral damage mounts up in confused, angry, and scared kids, and a loss of intimacy in the marriage. Dad is trying to “fix” the problem, fearful it will fester; mom is afraid that conflict will hurt her family members; and strives for peace at any cost. Underneath it all, the kids are afraid their folks will break up.

Peter, Thomas, and the rest of the Disciples fled when the temple soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Yet each of them sought to best the other just hours before by declaring their irrevocable commitment to follow Jesus to death if needed[ii]. We love heroes…and we despise cowards. Stories and movies that portray men as brave gain our admiration, like secret service agent Frank Horrigan, played by aging Clint Eastwood, who takes a bullet for the President in Line of Fire. Or like William Wallace in Braveheart, when his rage ignites at the senseless murder of his young wife, and how his fire spread throughout the common oppressed men of Scotland.

We all despise evil cowards. Cowards like the usurping Commodus in the movie Gladiator, the ambitious and murderous successor who set himself up as Caesar after suffocating his father. He was terrified of Maximus and had to drive a killing dagger into his back to disable him while prearranging what was supposed to look like a fair fight.

But we are sickened by poor and weak cowards. Like I was once. There is nothing that curdled my blood like those moments when I looked inside to see, at my core, a fearful man. I believed it was the way I was wired, but it was not true.

I think of how the young disciple Mark must have felt after he cut and ran after things heated up in the battlefield of Paul’s and Barnabus’ first missionary journey. Here they were, a triad of brothers, pioneering the launch of Christianity to the world with signs and wonders! They did not know that their invasion would result in violent persecution. Paul and Barnabas stayed…they bore up under it and leaned into the darkness, driving the sled of the Kingdom of God down the throats of Hell…and raising it as they went! It just got “too hot in the kitchen” for Mark and he bolted.

As a Christian man, I thought I pretty much had it all together. But then I encountered the Core 300 Warrior series. The series asked me to look deeper; we learned to sustain each other at our table, becoming our own support group, helping to examine our fears and acknowledge where growth was needed. Now in the light of trusted friends, we were able to give over our fears to God and put on the armor of His warriors. Together we grew and became stronger and more selfless servants of God.   -Dave Tofanelli

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“What’s the Big Deal About Sex?”

(An excerpt from, Called to War by Art Hobba)

Part 3 of 3 (see Parts 1-2 below) continued.  , .

Now our twice shaken Enemy reveals his ultimate plan. Questions one and two were just primers to wear down the Son of Man. “If you will worship me, I will give you all of these kingdoms of the earth.The ultimate goal here of Satan was to receive worship from the Son of God. He sought worship in the heavens eons ago and he sought it from our Lord there in the desert.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

In Judges 6, God instructed Gideon to violently chop down the Asherah pole. Asherah was the primary female deity of the Canaanite pantheon and was worshipped alongside of Baal (her male consort) with rites that included a combination of child sacrifice and orgiastic assemblies. Gideon was instructed to “cut down” the Asherah totem and then use it as kindling and fuel for a new altar of worship to the true God, Yahweh.

Today, as adopted, sons of God, Satan targets Christian men by seeking to leverage our smut filled entertainment and marketing milieu with sensuality…and he has the same ultimate goal for you and me as he did with Jesus…to destroy everything good in your life and take away the possibility for you to find your created for purpose as a disciple of Christ. If he can bring us to that hiding place, where no one else can see, where we are alone with our fantasies, and watch us bow our souls in worship to Asherah, then he has won the day. Demonic evil spirits triumph when we masturbate while lustful images play in our minds, or give over to even more outward expressions of harmful sexual behavior. The devil delights as he can bring Christian men to embrace the burning coals of illicit lust into our breasts,’ searing our consciences and relegating us to hours or days of remorse and the feeling of alienation from our loving Creator and Savior.

If Jesus would have turned the stones to bread in His intensified and ravenous appetite for food…if He would have taken it into His own hands and satisfied His hunger, He would have been disqualified to go to the cross as our substitute. The “game saving” verse written above, where Jesus was tempted as we are correlates to us Christian men today. His struggle with hunger in the desert of self-denial exceeds any sensual temptation imaginable by any man and now He is able to succor us and help us “stand up” under it.

Sinning through sexual impurity, whether you worship as a catholic man, evangelical man or charismatic man, is the most powerful strategy the enemy has because it uniquely accomplishes five things other sins do not:

  1. It causes a decline in our desire for our wives, or even over time to have children with them. If you are single, there your will experience a decreased desire to wait for the partner of your dreams. Our visceral sense of loneliness, which we may have been partly trying to diminish by pornography or fornication, is increased not decreased.
  2. It burns us. We feel an immediate separation from our relationship with the Father after we give place to sin. How could he want to be with me now? God is robbed of true open worship for a season…or longer, and we are robbed of the strengthening joy and communion of the Lord, with the beauty of His holiness. The secondary effect of this burning is that our conscience can become ?seared as with a hot iron.? With frequent enough cycles of sin, we can actually lose our sense of touch in that part of our soul that yearns for God. After a too-long season of habitual sin, the once pure, precious soul before God can become defiled, shipwrecked and even condemned to the lostness of having once been in sweet fellowship with the Holy Spirit…now an outcast, disengaged and disinherited from experiencing life in the Kingdom of God. Where does one cross the line? We must fear God and treasure His mercy enough to never have to tread that dark boundary.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  –Jesus to the Twelve in Matthew 10:28

  1. As transparent men before God, we are living temples of His Holy Spirit. Sexual impurity pollutes His temple (and thus His property). Plus, as living members of one body, the church, it links our participation in Asherah’s rites to those to whom we relate to in the church, to defilement. Paul makes it clear when he writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12:20:

Freedom, therefore, is a decision for men and women alike. Do we, by faith, leverage the authority conveyed to us in Christ…earned when He exchanged His perfection for our pollution and then rose from the dead and conquered sin in the flesh? Or, are we summarily swept downstream into the secret practices of much of what became the practices in the villages of ancient Israel?

Art Hobba is the Founder of Core 300 a 501c3 men’s ministry dedicated to the freedom of Christian men, and the author of the new book, Called to War. Read the rest of the story…and much more (285 pages) in Called to War: Out of the Stands…Into the Arena, a book being touted as “the best men’s book since Wild at Heart.”. Check out our updates and inspiration at Facebook.com/Core300

 

“What’s the Big Deal About Sex?”

Part Two (of Three) – See Part One below Part Two

 It’s All About Worship

For Jesus, he was at an all time acme of suffering…and He was near death. Denying His body of food for forty days, his body had exhausted its resources of body fat, beginning days earlier to digest the protein of muscle tissue. Medical science tells us that the return of hunger at this time in the starvation cycle is ravaging…overpowering all other emotions, including the highest peaks of any other kind of human or desire passion. In addition, Jesus had been exposed to the searing heat of the desert sun and chill of the desert night to further sap his strength.

This is when the Devil came and tempted him, seeking to systematically wear him down even further. Look at his strategy. First, he waited until Jesus was at the end of His physical strength…at an all-time low. The enemy of our souls has learned about how you and I are wired pretty well over thousands of years of practice. And he is as smart a coward as there ever was. Here, he waited until Jesus’ desire for food had increased to an almost unbearable level and then, attempting to engage Jesus’ imagination, crafted for Him the fantasy of the stones around him becoming fresh loaves of warm bread, maybe drawn from his mother’s hearth and spread upon the table. This was an easy way to satisfy His deepest need right at His fingertips! Using the spoken Word of God as his defense, the would-be killing blow was parried back into the Tempter’s face as He refused to take the bait.

Next, in Christ’s state of near delirium came the words designed to get Jesus to tempt His Father by casting himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. After all, the serpents voice may have gone on, God owed him one. Had He not said “no” to sin many times—and remember, it was the Holy Spirit’s fault he was out there dying all alone! If Jesus cast himself down, He could force God’s hand to rescue him from this excruciatingly horrible trial. My Father, God, was supposed to be a good God, right? He was supposed to take care of me…especially me, His only Son. Satan may have brought the thought to Jesus, “If you die in the fall, you would at least be out of your misery and, probably, translated back into your Fathers presence…maybe back to the good old days when you (I?) enjoyed complete jurisdiction over all of creation and had the applause and adoration of Angels. Again, the living Word of God employed the Word of God to parry the cattle prod of Satan. “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord God to the test.’” The Devil must have felt the shock of that blow all the way down to his bones!

But now our Enemy reveals his ultimate plan. Questions one and two were just primers to wear down the Son of Man. “If you will worship me….I will give you all of these Trapped-iStock_000005531890Mediumkingdoms of the earth.” The ultimate goal here of Satan was to receive worship from the Son of God. He sought worship in the heavens eons ago and he sought it from our Lord there in the desert.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.[i]

In Judges 6, God instructed Gideon to violently chop down the Asherah pole. Asherah was the primary female deity of the Canaanite pantheon and was worshipped alongside of Baal (her male consort) with rites that included a combination of child sacrifice and orgiastic assemblies. Gideon was instructed to “cut down” the Asherah totem and then use it as kindling and fuel for a new altar of worship to the true God, Yahweh.

Today, as adopted, newborn sons of God, Satan seeks to leverage our smut filled entertainment and marketing milieu with sensuality…and he has the same ultimate goal for you and me…to destroy everything good in your life.  If he can bring us to that hiding place, where no one else can see, where we are alone with our fantasies, and watch us bow our souls in worship to Asherah, then he has won the day. Evil spirits triumph when we masturbate while lustful images play in our minds, or give over to even more outward expressions of harmful sexual behavior. The devil delights as we bring the burning coals of illicit lust into our breast…searing our consciences and relegating us to hours or days of remorse and the feeling of alienation from our loving Creator and Savior.

If Jesus would have turned the stones to bread in His intensified and ravenous appetite for food…if He would have taken it into His own hands and satisfied His hunger, He would have been disqualified to go to the cross as our substitute. The “game saving” verse written above, where Jesus was tempted as we are correlates to us men today. His struggle with hunger in the desert of self-denial exceeds any sensual temptation imaginable by any man and now He is able to succor us and help us “stand up” under it.

Sinning through sexual impurity is the most powerful strategy the enemy has because it uniquely accomplishes five things other sins do not:

  1. It causes a decline in our desire for our wives, or even over time to have children with them. If you are single, there your will experience a decreased desire to wait for the partner of your dreams. Our visceral sense of loneliness, which we may have been partly trying to diminish by pornography or fornication, is increased not decreased.
  2. It burns us. We feel an immediate separation from our relationship with the Father after we give place to sin. How could he want to be with me now? God is robbed of true open worship for a season…or longer, and we are robbed of the strengthening joy and communion of the Lord, with the beauty of His holiness. The secondary effect of this burning is that our conscience can become “seared as with a hot iron.”[ii] With frequent enough cycles of sin, we can actually lose our sense of touch in that part of our soul that yearns for God. After a too-long season of habitual sin, the once pure, precious soul before God can become defiled, shipwrecked and even condemned to the lostness of having once been in sweet fellowship with the Holy Spirit…now an outcast, disengaged and disinherited from experiencing life in the Kingdom of God. Where does one cross the line? We must fear God and treasure His mercy enough to never have to tread that dark boundary.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell”  -Jesus to the Twelve in Matthew 10:28

  1. As the living temple of God, it pollutes His temple and His property (us)[iii]. Plus as living members of one body, the church, it links our participation in Asherah’s rites to those to whom we relate to in the church, to defilement. Paul makes it clear when he writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12:20:

Freedom, therefore, is a decision for men and women alike. Do we, by faith, leverage the authority conveyed to us in Christ…earned when He exchanged His perfection for our pollution and then rose from the dead and conquered sin in the flesh? Or, are we summarily swept downstream into the secret practices of much of what became the practices in the villages of ancient Israel?

Be careful little eyes what you see

It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings

Be careful little feet where you go

For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day

It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade. – SLOW FADE by Casting Crowns.

[i] 1Corinthians 10:13 [ii] Proverbs 6:27-29; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; [iii] 1 Corinthians 6:20

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Part One (of Three)              Partner with us TODAY to see men transformed to God’s best!

“”What’s the big deal about sex” Nothing short of exceptional! I have already passed along to many of my brothers in Christ, for I know there are many we touch outside of our fellowship that may be in need of this outstanding and biblically supported truth for their lives” – Gene, Warrior Grad, Los Angeles.

Since the time that God made man and woman with the adam_and_eveability to procreate, Satan has been enraged with jealousy. We must remember that his aspirations are to be like God in every way and when God gave the ability for mankind to reproduce unique living beings imprinted with God’s image, he craved that creative ability so much that his only recourse was to declare war on everything that surrounds our sexuality. What is the net result of overindulgence in sexual promiscuity and preoccupation by a society? Recent demographic and social studies have brought some surprising conclusions to the surface.

The decline in birth rates in Japan and other more sexually “progressive” nations have lead to both a decline in birth rates, as well as the frequency of people engaging in sexual intercourse. The irony is that, as pornography and preoccupation with sexual fantasy increase, real sex and birth rates decline. Multimedia exposure to sexual content permeated a society that was then shrinking in intimacy and population! Populations are in decline with an average household giving birth to only 1.2 children among many European countries[i].

Historically, the carnal nature of men has lead women and entire civilizations into sexual bondage. The Roman Empire during the years of the reigns of Caligula and Nero (AD 37-68) descended into massive gross immorality and it brought serious decline to the strength of the empire, giving place for laxness in the discipline of the military and the quality of public service. Famine and disease followed the gradual erosion of the integrity of this massive and seemingly indestructible empire.

The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so this is not a new problem. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 almost instantly buried the entire city of Pompeii under 60 feet of volcanic ash, sealing for modern archaeologists the contemporary first century lifestyles of the people in this city with remarkable accuracy. Pornographic painting, mosaics, and sculptures were pervasive, adorning the walls of homes, public places, streets, and temples of this city.

What was clear in the messages conveyed by these ancient images is also clear in the message of pornography today: that a man can be elevated to an object of worship if a woman can be debased to an object of pleasure…at his whim, and under his control. Male porn for women accomplishes the same objective, elevating a woman to the status of a goddess through words spoken and acts of obeisance.

What is the nature of moral decline? It is important for us to recognize the one who holds the world in his corrupted hands and pulls the strings. Satan uses three battlefields—the world, the carnal nature, and his demonic armies—to execute his strategic plan. It is only the operational power and presence of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church, operating as salt and light, that hinders the spread of darkness.

In a conversation recently with one of my sons, a college student, I was preparing to bring the fifth Warrior series (the same material in this Chapter) to a group of coed Christian college athletes, at one of our nations leading universities. We were half way though the Warrior track and the group had already doubled in size for any previous gathering, and lives were being transformed. I had been speaking to men on this subject for some time, but never to a mixed audience. I asked him,

“What is different about this new generation (called the “Y” generation) that is different than they way your mom and I think when it comes to sex?”

He immediately responded, “We live with a daily expectation and pressure among our peers to engage in “casual sex.We’re not supposed to get attached to one another…it’s  supposed to be for entertainment only.”

I tried to grasp his meaning…and then I saw it. How similar it must have been in Gideon’s day. It, for them, was perfunctory worship…it was supposed to be no big deal. Everybody did it.

How much our western society resembles the corrupt sensuality practiced before the deities and in the back rooms of Pompeii today! The hope for our youth…and yes, for the church in America, depends upon those men who still fight. We must maintain and mentor young people in  the truth that sexual intimacy is one of the most sacred, special and wonderful gifts of God. And that it is designed for a husband and wife to declare their love and fealty towards, and oneness with, each another. This bond is at the very core of family. The devil’s strategies and the incessant waves of the world system have gradually overwhelmed the unwary and eroded the uninstructed and fallen human nature in our culture. For many of our sons and daughters, it has become a part of an evenings’ entertainment; dinner, a movie…some texting…and sex.

Sinning through sexual impurity is the most powerful strategy the enemy has because it uniquely accomplishes five things other sins do not:

  1. It causes a decline in our desire for our wives, or even over time to have children with them. If you are single, there your will experience a decreased desire to wait for the partner of your dreams. Our visceral sense of loneliness, which we may have been partly trying to diminish by pornography or fornication, is increased not decreased.
  2. It burns us. We feel an immediate separation from our relationship with the Father after we give place to sin. How could he want to be with me now? God is robbed of true open worship for a season…or longer, and we are robbed of the strengthening joy and communion of the Lord, with the beauty of His holiness. The secondary effect of this burning is that our conscience can become “seared as with a hot iron.”[ii] With frequent enough cycles of sin, we can actually lose our sense of touch in that part of our soul that yearns for God. After a too-long season of habitual sin, the once pure, precious soul before God can become defiled, shipwrecked and even condemned to the lostness of having once been in sweet fellowship with the Holy Spirit…now an outcast, disengaged and disinherited from experiencing life in the Kingdom of God. Where does one cross the line? We must fear God and treasure His mercy enough to never have to tread that dark boundary.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  –Jesus to the Twelve in Matthew 10:28

  1. As the living temple of God, it pollutes His temple and His property (us)[iii]. Plus as living members of one body, the church, it links our participation in Asherah’s rites to those to whom we relate to in the church, to defilement. Paul makes it clear when he writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12:20:

Let’s pause on our list of five for a moment and drill into this a bit further.

Freedom, therefore, is a decision for men and women alike. Do we, by faith, leverage the authority conveyed to us in Christ…earned when He exchanged His perfection for our pollution, and then rose from the dead and conquered sin in the flesh? Or, are we summarily swept downstream into the secret practices of much of the citizenry of ancient Rome?

[i] No Babies, New York Times, June 28, 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/magazine/29Birth-t.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

[ii] Proverbs 6:27-29; 1 Timothy 4:1-2;

[iii] 1 Corinthians 6:20