How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

sisters and daughters

In our previous post on this topic we looked at three steps to dealing with lust:

  • Acknowledge it, but realise that the woman is a shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.
  • Realise we have a higher calling: we men are made to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25), we are called to give (love) not take (lust).
  • Act according to our calling by praying blessing on the woman we see.  For example “Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

In this second post on this topic we look at how to prevent lust entering into our relationships with women in our Church.

For three years I led an organic church which ministered to those broken by traditional church.  I had the honour of serving a number of young beautiful women.  With one woman in particular she needed much prayer, counselling and support on her journey to wholeness and I soon realised that an attraction was growing within me.

This was not surprising due to the amount of time I was spending with her and the prayer counselling process which forms a bond between spirits.  It was becoming distracting and was starting to interfere with my ability to serve her.  But yet I was praying for her like I mentioned above.  So what was I to do?

There’s this great passage in 1 Timothy that holds the key:

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 
1 Tim 5:1-2 (emphasis mine)

We were family!  As someone much younger and in my care, she was my spiritual daughter and I was her father.  Once I saw this truth it started to change how I related to her.  I started relating as a father loving his daughter rather than a man relating to an attractive woman.  I started calling her my “daughter-in-Christ” to help outwork this view into our relationship and my mind.

The desire that I had felt inside me began to be transformed now I knew where it was to be focussed.  The sexual energy that God had given me as a man was now channelled to the correct godly destination.  No longer was it being hijacked by the worldly view that it must always result in physical gratification.

It was such a delight to love her as a father and seek her mature into a woman of God and the delight and pride I felt at her wedding to a godly man was overwhelming.

The phrase “brothers and sisters” occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament which speaks of the reality of our new relationships in Christ.  In addition, Paul called Timothy his son (1 Cor 4:17, 1 Tim 1:2a; 1:18, 2 Tim 1:2a; 2:1, Tit 1:4, Phile 1:10) as did Peter call Mark (1 Pet 5:13).  Paul also treated the Thessalonians as his children (1 Thess 2:11).

So may you start calling the women in your church your sisters (or if you’re much older like I was, your daughters) and see your relationships transformed as your sexual desires find their true purpose in Christ.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

How to stop looking at a woman lustfully (godly desire)

*Content warning*
This post discusses desires in a frank but godly way.
desire

All Christian men know the passage:

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)

The problem is we don’t know is how to stop this.

Sometimes it feels like we are wired to notice the bodies of others. In fact we can often be shocked at how much we can be aroused by just looking someone. But as a Christian man, we think “I’m a new creation – I’m not meant to feel this way!”

A brief internet search shows that we are not alone when looking for help to stop lusting after women:

looking-lustfully
looking-lustfully-2

However, the advice given seems to fall into one of three camps:

  • Condemnation/shame/works – you shouldn’t do this, it doesn’t honour God or the woman. Try harder, chop off everything that causes you to sin, etc.
  • Triumphalistic – you’re a new creation, you’re free from this, shake it off as it’s the old you, repeat “I am the righteousness of Christ”, etc.
  • Liberal/humanistic – it’s natural, men are designed the polygamous, there’s nothing you can do about it, accept it as part of who you are, etc.

As well meaning as all of these are, all of them are lacking:

  • Using internet filters to cut things off is helpful but ultimately it’s external and doesn’t change our heart.  And you can’t avoid going out in summer, nor filter the first accidental glance.  Besides self-effort will ultimately fail as apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  And so the cycle of shame will begin again and the more rubbish you feel the more you will act out of that identity.
  • Realising your new identity is important – it helps renew our mind (Rom 12:2), and how we act flows out of our new identity. But it’s too easy to treat this as a formula: “I’m saying the right words but it’s not working!” and miss intimacy with the father that changes our heart.  It’s also to easy to become inward rather than outward looking.
  • Whilst we do need to recognise how God has made us as men, we are not animals subject to our biological urges. We’re made in the image of God and our sexuality means something.

So what can we do? How can we take the good in each of these approaches?

First we recognise that God has made us men and has wired us to notice beauty – so when you notice this happening don’t try and suppress it or pretend it’s not there. That won’t solve anything.  Acknowledge it, however realise that the woman is not the goal, but merely the shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.

Second we realise that we are made in the image of God and men are meant to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We have a higher calling: we are meant to give (love) not take (lust).

Thirdly, we men are made to act not just acknowledge our godly calling to give.  After all we are meant to be co-workers with Christ (1 Cor 3:9). I have found the best way to do this is to pray for the woman we see.  Something like:

“Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you created her and that you love her.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  Father I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

This prayer is not a formula – it’s from the heart.  It’s not a inward prayer “father help me to stop lusting!” which assumes we are still bound by our old identity as a sinner.  It’s a prayer from our new identity in Christ and in line with what we are meant to do as men.

The Kingdom is advancing – and seeing a beautiful woman is an opportunity for it to forcefully advance in our lives as we step into our destiny as men.  Amen.

Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

So one of my boys kept lifting up the skirt of one of my girls to see their knickers.  An excellent opportunity to talk about godly sexuality with them I thought…

4

So true to form I followed the principles I give in my workshop and talked about the goodness and the holiness of sexuality with them.  How it’s a good and beautiful part of a lady made by God but it’s also a special part and so we need to treat it with honour.

However he kept on doing it, despite talking about its specialness and despite disciplining him for repeatedly doing it.

I know, I know, I should have called out to God for help sooner – but sometimes we have to get desperate before we find ourselves on our knees actually listening – but He’s so gracious that when I did he gave me the wisdom I needed:

“Speak to the desires of the heart”

You see the trouble was that I was saying all the right things but I was talking to his logical mind rather than his desires.  And if we want to see change then we need to address the desires:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

But the question is: how do we address desires in a godly way?  In the same way as we teach any other aspect of godly sexuality; we talk about the goodness and the holiness of our desires.

You see God made him a boy and so there is a godly fascination and yearning in him for to complete the whole image of God:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mt 19:4-6 emphasis mine)

The holiness is the fact that this fulfillment occurs in a covenantal relationship and this yearning is a shadow of our yearning for Christ (Eph 5:32) who is the “desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7).

Since he was only about 5 at the time, I had to keep things a bit simple, so I began:

“There’s something really interesting about girls, isn’t there?”  He nodded.  “God made girls attractive to us so that we really want to find out more.”  I could see that I now had his full attention.

“And that means that there’s something in us that wants to see their knickers.”

“But God made seeing a girl’s knickers to be something special for marriage just like you only get presents on special days like Christmas.”

Now it’s tempting to stop here, but doing so means that we are expecting them to conquer desires by self-effort which is law not grace. So now we need to offer to pray for them:

“But in the same way it’s hard to not open presents until Christmas day, it’s hard to stop looking at knickers.  So we need Daddy God’s help.  Can I pray with you?”

He nodded and the rest is history.

You see affirming the goodness of our children’s desires speaks to their reality, only then can we begin to steer these desires towards their intended goal.

Wired for intimacy part 2 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy

We saw in our previous post that babies brains are pre-wired to see faces and in particular their initial focus of their eyes is designed to see only those who hold them close, such as the mother who feeds them.  This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that we are designed to seek our Father’s face who gives us our daily bread and the affirmation of His love for us.

Unlike other objects our brains process faces in a different part of the brain (the fusiform face area) which is dedicated to recognising faces.  Furthermore this part of the brain is given priority over the other image processing areas in the brain, which is why we often see faces in things (called facial pareidolia):

faces in things

Hence advertisers use faces in their images as it is an effective way of getting a viewer’s attention.  Using eye tracking software you can see below how we focus on faces and their eye gaze:

face recognition

Hence the text gets more attention from viewers when the baby’s eye gaze was in that direction.

Now the world will say that this must have developed as a survival technique – so we can spot the faces of a predator in the brush.  However, we know that we are made in the image of God:

“As the Father, Son and Spirit have always know fellowship with each other, so we in the image of God are made for fellowship”  Michael Reeves

We look into another’s face to see the meaning behind their words and discover their true self – their nature and character.  For, as we know, the eyes are the windows of the soul.  Faces are needed if there is to be any intimacy.

Unlike animals*, we make love face-to-face this speaks of the fact that sex is meant to be an expression of intimacy† and it is no surprise that the Hebrew word for sexual intimacy, יָדַע (yada’), is literally translated as “Adam knew Eve” (Gen 4:1).  And in its pure form there is “no shame” as there was complete openness, acceptance and intimacy.

Interestingly, research shows that those who have religious or paranormal beliefs are more prone to see faces in things than sceptics or unbelievers.  This is a shadow of the fact that despite the intimacy of another no human can ever meet our need to be fully known.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12 emphasis mine)

Jesus is “the Desire of all nations” (Hag 2:7 NKJV).  Jesus is the face that we are wired to seek.

 *After extensive research I can only find two documented cases of animals having sex face-to-face. Both were gorillas and in both cases it was commented on that this behaviour was extremely unusual.

† It is no surprise that since the sexual revolution and the rise of pornography, where sex is seen to be just biological and devoid of meaning, there has been a corresponding rise in sex in positions that are not face-to-face. It is not about intimacy or connecting but satisfying our own urges and getting pleasure.

Repetition is important (teach your children godly sexuality)

Children with a burnt cooking chicken in the kitchen. Smoke. Fac

So here I am, I’ve given workshops to parents about how to teach godly sexuality to their children.  I live these principles in my own life.  I don’t shy away from talking about sex and regularly have God-focussed conversations with my children about how our sexuality is good and holy.

It’s all too easy after you’ve had one conversation with your children about sex to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done.  But just because you had “the talk” doesn’t mean they actually understood what you said.

This was brought home to me when one the mother of a friend of my youngest son said he had told her son that babies were made by the man peeing in the woman’s china.

I was mortified.  I was also humbled and repented of my self-satisfaction.  I learnt an important lesson that day:

Repetition is important, repetition is important and did I mention repetition is important.

I mentioned in a previous post about how talking about sexuality with our children should be “the talks” and not “the talk”.  Well this is another reason why.

It’s just like discipleship – understanding is something that happens gradually over a period of time it’s never a one-time brain dump.

Father may we never tire of sowing into our children’s lives until they grow into a mature knowledge of you, your creation and your nature.

God will never give you more than you can handle and other myths (teach your children godly sexuality part 17)

God will never give you more than you can handle...Welcome to the last post of our basic course “teach your children godly sexuality”.  We have looked at four principles:

  1. Good – because our sexuality reflects the nature of our three in one God
  2. Holy – because it reflects God it is not ordinary
  3. As you walk along – we tell stories and answer questions in everyday life
  4. Nothing is impossible – God can redeem all things and gives us wisdom for all situations

To finish this series I want to tackle the myth that “God wouldn’t give you children if He didn’t think you could handle it”.

The hospital was clinically negligent during the birth of our first child.  I remember the blood steadily dripping into the bucket, the junior doctor taking an age to stitch up my wife after the tears, the colour draining from my wife’s face and then that doctor calling in for more help.  As it was our first baby we thought this was normal.  My wife’s  friends all said that a baby was wonderful and left her feeling inadequate.  I was in a stressful job and was no support.  Truth be told: I actually put more demands on her during this time.  When she told the doctor about her depression he told her to pull herself together.  She spiralled into clinical postnatal depression.  She tried to kill herself and was taken into a psychiatric ward.  I was left holding the baby and had no support from work.  After pouring out my heart to my boss he told me he didn’t want me staying at home moping and so I carried on going to my stressful work and had a nervous breakdown.  This was the beginning of our parenting journey.  This, along with the deaths of two of our children (Rachel and James) and the moment when my wife had packed up the car drove to my office and told me she was leaving, was one of the darkest periods in my life.  I couldn’t handle it.

You see the phrase implies that we have all it takes.  That by striving hard or by having the encouragement of friends we can make it.  It’s simply not true.

If it was then we wouldn’t have to ask God for anything as we’d be self-sufficient. We would be able to live independently of God.  We’d be repeating Adam and Eve’s sin of being the gods of our own lives.   It is the spirit of pride.  The same spirit that led to Satan’s downfall.

The truth is we depend on God for everything.  In Christ all things hold together (Col 1:17).  We are breathing now because of Jesus.  We’re not independent – moment to moment we exist because of the grace of God.

When God chose the people of Israel for His own, He sought to train them up.  As they travelled through the desert they had no food.  They were dependent on God’s manna from heaven.  If they took more than they needed it would become full of maggots (Ex 16:20).  They had to daily depend on God’s provision.

Jesus summed this principle up when he taught us to pray:

“Give us today our daily bread” (Lk 11:3)

We have to ask God daily for what we need.  It isn’t given automatically.  Daily we have to express our dependence on Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5)

Doesn’t this verse make you want to add a qualification to it?  “Of course I can do some things – it’s talking about spiritual things or it’s talking about getting into heaven or…”.  Whatever you believe is the exception to this rule is where you believe you are independent of God.

Let’s return to raising godly children and teaching them about godly sexuality.  All the principles in the world aren’t going to achieve this.  Only with God’s help can we do this.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13 NKJV emphasis mine)

Did you know muscles only grow when they are damaged.  It’s the repairs of the microscopic tears that cause the growth.  This is a physical reflection of a spiritual reality.  Only when we are stretched beyond what we can bear do we grow.  Why?  Because then we acknowledge our dependence on Him and call on Him to transform us.

In life we will experience storms and anything built in our own strength will fall flat.  Sometimes in His grace God will allow you to experience events that show our need for Him*.  If we call on Him they become places of growth.  If we don’t they become places of destruction.  I never want to repeat those dark days but I am genuinely grateful for them, as it pushed us into Him and our lives were transformed as a result.

There was the time my friend at church was distraught as their child was refusing to eat and nothing they could do was working.  It had been several days and she was tearing her hair out.  We cried out to God for help.  We recognised that we couldn’t do anything.  We called out to Him and He transformed the situation.  Their child began eating from that moment.

There was the time my middle daughter was experiencing night terrors.  I as a Father could do nothing but call out to God and ask for help.  But a quick prayer didn’t seem to make a difference.  I found I had to stay by her bedside praying in tongues for about 10 minutes, dependent on Him, before the transformation came and her cries in her sleep turned into squeals of laughter.  And I had to repeat this every night for about a week.

All we need, all we have is found in Him.  Run to Him daily and receive what you need.  Amen.

It’s part of the problem of living in the West with the deceitfulness of wealth (Mk 4:19) that we can end up disowning God (Prov 30:8-9) thinking we have it all.  Why do you think the poor are rich in faith (Jas 2:5)?  Because daily they realise their dependence on Him.
* Please understand that I don’t believe God sends us trouble as He is a good father who gives us good gifts (Jas 1:17; Lk 11:11-13).  However, in this fallen world we will experience trouble.  And particularly since Satan hates marriage, sex and children (as they most reflect our God) he will seek to kill, rob and destroy them (Jn 10:10).

Principle #4: Nothing is impossible (teach your children godly sexuality part 16)

Freedom sky copyWe’re on the last of our four principles in our current series on our basic course of “teach your children godly sexuality”.

Previously we talked about communicating the goodness and holiness of sexuality to our children and then how we can do that in a holistic Hebrew way.  Our last principle is a daily reminder that nothing is impossible for God (Lk 18:27).

In our last post we talked about how God can redeem all things no matter how dark they may seem.  And redemption doesn’t just remove the pain but transforms the memory or situation into a source of grace.

But God doesn’t just transform past mistakes – He is working in our present parenting:

Jesus is wisdom incarnate

“…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…” (1 Cor 1:24b-25a)

There will be times when as parents we just don’t know what to do.  Our human wisdom has run out.  But the end of our wisdom is just the beginning of God’s.

One of our children kept getting out of bed at night.  They would just come and stand on the landing.  So we tried carrying them back to bed several times a night.  We tried talking to them about it.  Then we tried the getting cross.  Then we tried putting a stairgate at their door so they couldn’t come out their room – but they still get out of bed and stood at the barrier until they were so tired.  We even tried smacking.  None of these methods worked.  They would still get up.

My wife and I fell on our knees in prayer before our all wise God, crying out “we don’t know what to do!”  I know, I know.  We should have asked before.  But this was our point of desperation.  You could almost hear the Father saying “great! now I can do something”.  He gave us revelation.  He simply said “leave his door open”.

“I’m sorry?  That’s a crazy idea!”

Don’t God’s ideas sometimes seem completely irrational to our way of thinking?  Rather like Naaman being told to wash in a dirty river to cure his leprosy (2 Kings:5:10-12).  But you know what?  We did it.  Why?  Because we were desperate and had run out of ideas.  We admitted that without Him we could do nothing (Jn 15:5) .

So we left the door open and they stayed in bed.  The same thing happened the next night and every night after that.

Something so simple, so “foolish” turned out to be the key.

I honestly think that had we not been at that point of desperation we would have dismissed such a thought as something stupid and certainly not of God.  We would have simply assumed that God was silent.  Perhaps being a desperate parent is a good thing, because it is only then are we able to receive all that God has for our children.  After all, He loves them and knows them better than us.

What is it that you are desperate for answers for your child?  Cry out to Jesus now – admit that you don’t know and receive His wisdom.

Do you have a story of receiving God’s wisdom for a situation with your children?  Share it below to encourage other parents on their journey.