A great night...

Thursday, February 26, 2009
I had a great night tonight!

After small group an even smaller group of us went out and hung out at IHOP for a few hours to celebrate Sara's birthday. After that the ladies left and us guys stayed and chatted for a while. On the way home I rocked out to some great music...

The worst part of a great night is that it has to end... the other bad part is that I got home after 2 and I wasn't able to buy some Boones Farm Wine like I had wanted to... oh well, I will have to wait for another day to start drinking.



Thursday, February 19, 2009
I just got word that our pastor, Kory Knott, has come down with pneumonia. He has missed two out of the last three weeks and will probably miss a few more weeks. Please be praying for him and our church for healing and understanding.


Where did I go?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
My template is not working right... I think my mom messed with it so that I would have to change it back...

EDIT: OK, that fixed it... I don't know what I did, but it is fixed.


Fighting Demons

Monday, February 16, 2009
Apparently my powers of self-restraint are not as good as I once thought... and fighting this addiction is proving to be hard.

No, I haven't slipped off the bandwagon yet, but I keep getting close. Please pray for me while I fight these demons that just won't let go.



Saturday, February 14, 2009
I was thinking about turning on advertisements in my blog. It means I would make money (how much, I don't know), but it would cheapen my blog to see ads in the sidebar... what do you think? Would you mind, or should I keep them off?


The Attack of the beards...

Friday, February 13, 2009

So Joaquin Phoenix was on David Letterman last night (YouTube link) and he was supporting a chin 'fro. That got me to thinking...

So either Joaquin Phoenix just got out of the Marines, or Hurley just quit his acting job and is pursuing a career in pop music.

You decide.


The "M" Word (yes, I stole that title)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So this post is tough for me. This is something that I have had on the back of my mind for many years now but I have only recently (the last 24 hours) spent a decent amount of time thinking about it and researching it. (In comparison, when I came out about my pornography addiction in my post "'It is Finished'", I had thought specifically word-for-word [joke-for-joke] what I would say for at least a week before I wrote it, and even then I waited five days to actually post it.) This post is also tough to write about because not only is it a controversial issue, it is extremely taboo. Christians will do ANYTHING to not talk about The "M" Word.

Note: Due to something that I recently read (I will get to that later), and my firm belief that these subjects should NOT be taboo or secretive, I will from now on speak of the topic openly. No more euphemisms or beating around the bush, I am going to speak my mind as it is. So note that this topic is not for sensitive ears, but I will try to keep this PG-13 topic as PG as possible. And I know that there will be some people that say I went too far, that I said too much, that I made this too personal. Well, you may be right, but this is the level of frankness that is needed to solve this issue (or at least to try to understand it). So feel free to close this browser window at any time, no one is forcing you to read about my personal life.

EDIT: After reading over the entire post, I realize that it is indeed very personal and it probably shouldn't be the topic of public debate. (Public not being the same as open... it should be a topic of open debate, but possibly not a topic for public debate.) In fact, I understand that I probably shouldn't be posting this. But I categorically refuse to be silent about these topics that are ruining people's lives. If Christians (especially pastors) were vocal about these issues, there would be much less of a problem. So, be doubled warned: personal information is ahead. Oh, and know that I have tried to make this post as gender-neutral friendly as possible, even though with the topic it can be rather hard to do so.

Moving on...

The subject I am reluctant to name is masturbation. Recently I had a great talk with a friend as we shared our testimonies. As I alluded to in my "It is Finished" post, I no longer give my testimony without explaining my pornography addiction, which has directly shaped my spiritual life for the past two years. So it makes sense to share it along with the rest of my testimony.

As our conversation was coming to a close, he asked me: "Have you ever read the book Porn-Again Christian?" I said no, and we explained it was a book by pastor Mark Driscoll that was so controversial he cannot find a publisher to publish it. (They don't have to read much past the book's subtitle: "A frank discussion on pornography and masturbation".) Because he could not find a publisher, Driscoll has published the book under a Creative Commons license, which means you have permission to download a copy of the book for free, print it yourself, and share it as you see fit. Go here to read the book online (has hyperlinks for the bible verses, which is nice), download a copy to print, or order a self-published version of the book ($5.64).

Anywho, my friend gave me a copy of the printed out version of the book, and I went home and read most of it it in two hours (it is only 50 pages long). One of the things that sets this book apart is that it lives up to it's subtitle. The language is very frank, often using phrases that are often suited for the locker room. I think that he did this because he doesn't want to be a snuffy professor, an educated theologian, an essay writer. He wants to be "one of the guys", he wants to make a personal connection by using slang. The talk isn't trashy, it isn't perverted, it is just open and frank. It was in this idea that I write this post. Yes, this post is personal and taboo, but all of it is true, and none of it is spoken to get a rise out of you.

But getting back to the book: it starts off with the theoretical (IE: why we are to fear the Lord, and what that has to do with this topic), and then goes to the practical (what stuff is and isn't a sin). For me, most of it was "ya, ya, I know that already", but one of the chapters rekindled a problem that I have been trying to solve.

See, even though I gave up my pornography addiction about five years ago, I have continued to be involved with masturbation. In the past I have done a little research and found some good arguments for and against the topic, but nothing solid, nothing that tipped the scale either way. So since then I have continued this practice without solving for myself the theological side of it. I just thought "as long as I don't lust, it isn't a sin."

But now I am revisiting the topic. For me, there are two questions to answer:
1) Is masturbation inherently a sin or unnatural?
2) If it isn't a sin/unnatural, is it OK to do it as long as you don't lust?

For the first question, most arguments saying it is a sin center around the idea that sex is intended to be done with a partner, not alone. This argument says that "[sexual pleasure] should be for bonding between a man and his wife." (link)

My main rebuttal to this is best put by Mark Driscoll: "Though the practice is as old as the Scriptures, the Bible's silence on the matter should cause us to avoid calling something a sin that God does not." (Page 20) In other words: "Don't put words in God's mouth calling it a sin when he doesn't." In this instance, Mark Driscoll says that "we must examine the issue" and decide for ourselves. This is not an argument that says "The Bible doesn't say it is a sin, therefore it is not a sin," the argument says "the Bible doesn't say, let's figure it out ourselves." (And that is what this post is for.)

My other rebuttal to masturbation = sin is admittedly selfish: "But I want what is mine," meaning: if I have the tools to get something done, and I enjoy doing it, then why not do it? And what about if I never get married? Even Paul says "It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am" (link). And what about homosexuals, who aren't allowed (by religious law) to receive their gratification the way that they want to, and it wouldn't be very biblical for a homosexual to marry simply to have sex, IE: marry without love... are homosexuals bound to live their lives without having an orgasm? (Then again, this logic is flawed: having an orgasm isn't a right, it is a gift from God that not everyone will experience.)

So in the end, I am not convinced that masturbation = sin. I see plenty of evidence for the idea that sex is for married folk, but I see a lack of evidence when talking about self-gratification.

So if masturbation isn't a sin, is it OK to do it if you don't lust? Actually the real question is: is it possible to masturbate without lusting? For a long time I thought I could (and I thought I was), but now that I look back, I am not so sure. John Piper so eloquently said "I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind." (link) The more I go through life, the more I see things his way. I am starting to see that I was only kidding myself when I said I wasn't lusting these last five years. In reality, as Piper said, it is downright near impossible to masturbate without thinking any sexual thoughts.

I will put it another way. A few months ago I posted about the similarities of lust addiction and alcohol addiction. At the time I was thinking about how similar the two addictions are. I would start by thinking "just as a recovering alcoholic can never have a drink again, so a person recovering from a lust addiction can never lust again." I then took it to the next level thinking "recovering alcoholics shouldn't even enter a bar for the rest of their lives as to not tempt themselves..." But so then shouldn't a person recovering from a lust addiction never masturbate again as to not tempt themselves? Why do something that brings me anywhere near the evil that invaded my life for 10 years?

So I agree with Driskoll when he says "It is most certainly possible that a man could masturbate without violating these simple biblical principles, but [it is] highly unlikely." (Page 21)

Moving from the theology to the practical... (This is where it gets rather personal... as I said, I am going to be as honest and open as possible [or as Driscoll called it "frank"], so this section might be TMI.)

In thinking about if I should stop or not, I asked myself: "If you say you aren't lusting, then why are you doing it?" I don't think I do it out of compulsion, meaning I don't do it for no reason. It does have benefits to it. I often use it as a way to relax, a way to unwind. The sexual tension that builds up makes my entire body tense. Seeing as I don't always want to be tense, I want to be able to find something that relaxes me.

Most people (including me) find hot showers to be something that relaxes their tense muscles (to clarify: a hot shower doesn't relieve sexual tension, it relieves tense muscles). To not masturbate would be like for the rest of your life you can only take cold showers. And I don't mean "Oh, the hot water heater is broken" kind of cold, I mean "I have been working at UPS in 30 degree temperature outside for 8 hours, and I get home and all I want to do is warm up and relax with a nice warm shower... what? THERE IS NO HOT WATER?!?!?!?" (sadly, this is a true story) If I were to find something that would be a good substitute to help relieve my sexual tension, then I could make a switch, but so far I haven't found that type of release any other way.

But this is a catch-22. As Mark Driscoll puts it:

...[M]asturbating does temporarily relieve sexual urges and frustrations, but also causes greater and more frequent biological urges for additional ejaculations. Practically, as the body emits semen it then quickly produces more so that supply can keep up with demand. So, a man who masturbates to ejaculation will find himself masturbating with increasing frequency as his body continues to demand more frequent relief, thus negating his original goal of masturbating to relieve sexual frustration. (Page 21, 22)

But moving past the sexual release, it is the best feeling that my body receives. Even before the orgasm, the sensation is pleasurable (foreplay is more than for "getting in the mood"). To not receive that pleasure would be like telling me when I was a kid "no more back scratches from mommy." Oh the humanity! But seriously: that would suck!

Our bodies are built to receive pleasure when certain parts of our bodies are stimulated. (Getting back into the theology...) God designed our bodies to always receive this pleasure, not just when we are married. He might want us to only feel it when we are married, but the opportunity for the physical pleasure is always there... is that proof that we can enjoy this pleasure by ourselves, or is this an example of something that we have to give up for the glory of God?

And I will say, when I would outright lust (IE: look at pornography), I knew it was wrong. There was something (IE: the holy spirit) inside of me SCREAMING that it was wrong. With masturbation, there is some guilt that I have, but it is very small, just a whisper compared to the screaming before. But just as over time your ears will grow more accustomed to hearing a whisper, and thus it sounds louder, so this feeling of guilt (or is it a fear that I am doing something wrong?) has not grown louder, but more audible. Is this the third arm of the trinity speaking to me telling me to stop, is it just my religious side getting worried about things that shouldn't be worried about, or is the guilt that I feel not about the masturbation but about the lust that goes along with it?

So where are we? After 2025+ words and 4 hours of writing and researching [now over 3000 words and an additional 2+ hours of editing], what have we decided? To put it most bluntly: parts of me would be fine giving up masturbation (the part that feels the guilt and shame of breaking my 5-year-old promise to God), but other parts would crave that release (such as the muscles that I can already feeling tense up). To put it another way (this is the first time I am thinking of it in these terms): my spirit says to stop, but my body wants to keep doing it. When you put it THAT way it sounds like an easy decision. (Maybe I should have just put that sentence at the top of this post and gotten over it...)

What are your thoughts? I know that the majority of readers here are married, and I want a married person's opinion for a single guy like me. What should I do, what questions do I need to ask, what answers do I need to look for, where do I go from here? Feel free to leave a reply below (anonymously if you want to) or send me an e-mail with your thoughts. Calling on the phone also works, but talking out loud about such topics is still rather awkward. But however it may be, give me your input, and as always please continue to pray for me as I search out God's truth.

EDIT: So after I wrote the above post I thought about it some more while trying to fall asleep, and I made a random connection: I was thinking how much my life is like Jonah's. Jonah was determined to defy God's orders, so he tried to sail as far away as he could. But God wouldn't be undermined so easily, go God sent a storm to derail Jonah... think about it, God used a huge natural disaster to get one person to go where he wanted. Next God used a large fish to transport Jonah to where he needed to go. After Jonah preached his message to the Ninevites, his faith wavered again, and God sent a plant to shelter Jonah, and finally God sent a worm to kill the plant to teach Jonah one final lesson.

God went from a natural disaster to a large fish to a plant to a worm, all to get the attention of a single man. In our lives, doesn't God work from big to small? Doesn't he get the log out of our own eye before he tries to get the splinter out? (I know, that metaphor doesn't really fit, but it works.) Doesn't it make sense that God would say "Matthew, first we are going to take care of your lust problem... I know that you will continue to sin through masturbation, but there are bigger problems in your life, we will address that issue later."

The more I think about it, the more I soul search, the more I think: God is now addressing the issue.

To sum it all up, I feel a calling from God to stop masturbating. I don't think that it is inherently a sin, but it is not something that I should be doing because of my past lusting problems. Please pray for me while I struggle with the spiritual decision and the physical withdrawal.


PS: My boss said that as long as I am working on this post at work I have to do what he says. (He only knows I am writing a long post, he doesn't know what it is about.) So, here you go Bryan: "Just call me muffins!" (don't ask)

PPS: You know, if I were to find myself a wife this entire issue would be moot... or at least more moot.

PPPS: Final word count (including this post script): 3068

A teaser...

There has been something that has troubled me for a long time, but I have only recently made an effort to address the issue. I just wrote out a 2250 word essay on this topic, and I would post it, but I like to read over all of my posts before I post them to edit them, make sure the spelling/grammar is correct, and make sure it flows like I intended it to. But seeing at it is 3:40 AM, and I have to be awake in 6 hours, and I am already tired as it is, I am going to push off posting it until I have had time to read over it. I might have some down time during work tomorrow, but you never know...

Until then, I thought I would add one last teaser: the title of the post is: The "M" Word (yes, I stole that title)


More on weather...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Just to let people know I have started to post on my Twitter feed:


For those that don't know what Twitter is (IE: mother): it is kinda a mini blog. It is limited to 140 letters, so it has to be short. It is more of "what I am doing right now" type of things where a blog is longer form.

My latest post: I am here at work in Plano and the tornado sirens are going off... I think I am going to go cower in the shower.

Actually, I think I am going to go outside and enjoy the storm blowing in (as work permits it of course... oh, and don't worry, the sirens have turned off by now).



I am really enjoying the weather this week.

It is cool, it is breezy... some people don't like it because there is always cloud cover, but I kinda enjoy that too: it helps keep it cool and breezy!

So while others keep scoffing about the rain and clouds, it just gives me reason to open my windows!



Monday, February 02, 2009
The Dave Ramsey side of me says "you should deliver pizza to help pay off your debt." And that side makes a lot of sense... as it is I am currently working less than 30 hours a week and most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays I have nothing scheduled... well those are the busy pizza nights!

Should I consider this as an option, or am I just completely plastered from the wine I had tonight?

The other part of me says "Just go try it for a few weeks... if you don't like it, you can quit... and you will still have beaten Stephen's record for shortest job ever."

Another part of me says "Go back to work at Chick-fil-A... at least you know the work there."

I bet you didn't know I had so many parts to me...