This post is a “re-post” of a great article forwarded to me by a friend:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6, ESV).
If you’re a follower of Jesus—if by faith you have turned from your sins and received His forgiveness—I have news for you.
God is after you.
IF YOU’RE A FOLLOWER OF JESUS, GOD IS STILL PURSUING YOU.
He’s still pursuing you. Wanting more of you. Hungry to make sure you’re experiencing every blessing that His Son died and rose again to give you, for His glory.
It doesn’t matter how defeated or discouraged you are today. He’s still after you. All that matters is that you are His. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus said, “and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Is that you? Following Him? Not perfectly, of course, but following? Sometimes stumbling, but still getting up? And following? And trying again? And wanting to follow Him even better, even more?
Then God Himself is also following you. He’s on your trail. He’s after you. Promising you that your best days are still ahead of you, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Your greatest days of usefulness and service to God are still in the future, because “goodness” (defined as bounty and blessing) and “mercy” (lovingkindness and favor) will be on your heels and hunting you down every second of the time.
Can’t be true, you say . . .
Too many failures. “I’ve failed God too many times. No way am I on His first team anymore. I’ve blown it. I have areas in my life where I’ve never gotten victory. Even today I failed again. I’m on the shelf from here on out, and I know it.”
Too many years. “It’s too late for me. Too much water under the bridge. It’s fine for those who came to Christ as kids or in college or whatever. But I showed up late to the party. The best I can do is just sneak into a back corner of heaven.”
Too many others. “I don’t have any big-time gifts. I don’t have any great abilities. Other people have training and know what they’re doing. Not me. I’m just not that important. It might even be wrong for me to get in their way.”
Too many obstacles. “I’ve got so many things going on in my life right now—work, family, health stuff, all of it—I don’t really have time. And I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
Believe me, I’ve heard all these lies and dodges before. They’re as old as time, because the enemy will do anything to convince you that God has lost the scent and given up on you.
But just you try staying hidden behind these shadowy half-truths. Just you try imagining you’re out of sight, out of mind. Just you try giving in to the unreality that your home and heart are off His grid, out of His hunting zone.
Because, listen. Can you hear it? It’s the panting of the hound of heaven, running full-speed, headed your way, chasing you down. Following you “all the days” of your life—not to rip into you, but to restore you and refresh you, to overwhelm all of life’s badness with His “goodness.”
Which of these fears and excuses have sometimes convinced you that God’s “goodness and mercy” are not coming for you anymore?
How different would your life be, even today, if you wholeheartedly embraced this truth?
Lord God, I believe Your Word, even when I doubt myself. I believe what You have done to claim me as Your own, even when I too often resist You and choose my own way. Thank You for loving me enough to want me experiencing the full blessing of relationship with You. And thank You for relentlessly pursuing me until I’m actively living in it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Literacy alters brain function in many surprising ways.
Athletes look different from non athletes. Similarly, the brains of literate people are different from those who do not read. The neural differences are not visible, of course. Yet, they have profound consequences for brain function, intelligence, and even longevity.
Word Recognition is Between Faces and Objects
The brains of literate people are profoundly different from those who do not learn to read. One intriguing phenomenon involves how reading comes to occupy its own space in the brain such that damage to this (in the left ventral occipital temporal region) selectively destroys the capacity to read (1, p. 260). Word recognition takes up residency in the region of the brain that sits between a face recognition area and an object recognition area.
In addition to such specialized changes that facilitate character, and word, recognition, there are many generalized changes in brain function. Literate people have a thicker corpus callosum, indicating that more information is crossing from one side of the brain to the other with the left hemisphere doing most of the language processing and the right hemisphere having an advantage in pattern recognition. Literate people have a broader pattern of brain activation in response to spoken words, suggesting that the verbal stimulus evokes a visual response. They also have longer verbal memories, presumably because words are processed more deeply, both by accessing different sensory modalities (visual as well as auditory) and also getting more attention in terms of their constituent sounds.
Literacy and Intelligence
Given these varied changes in brain function, it would be surprising if being able to read did not affect information processing capacity in a more generalized way.
Literate people ask more of their brains and get more in return. One finds that as countries become more economically developed, and as literacy increases, that IQ scores go up.
This is a complex relationship and there are many different factors that boost IQ scores as a country develops, including improved nutrition, better prenatal health, less low birth weight, smaller family size, and increased complexity of life in modern societies (2).
Given what we know about the impact of learning to read on the developing brain, it is plausible that at least some of the effect of rising intelligence (i. e., the Flynn effect) is attributable to literacy. One relevant piece of evidence is the strong correlation between IQ and years of education. The more time people spend in school, the more intelligent they become and this is not simply a self-selection effect where more intelligent children are more likely to complete high school and go to college (2).
Given that education has the potential to boost intelligence, it could be argued that a third-level education should be a civil right in developed countries that could afford it.
For the more hard-headed amongst us, it could be argued that inexpensive third-level education brings more than commensurate returns to nations willing to make this commitment. One thinks of Ireland that took this leap in the 1960’s and rapidly moved from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to being one of the wealthiest. This argument is bolstered by evidence on the health benefits of literacy.
Literacy and Health
Apart from the economic advantages of higher education, research has shown that general health, and even length of life, increase with years of education in this country (3). This effect is not easily explained in terms of smoking, alcohol consumption, or other risk factors for reduced life expectancy.
The most plausible explanation has to do with functioning of the brain itself, particularly given that senile dementia is often a harbinger of death.
One of the biggest causes of dementia is poor functioning of capillaries in the brain so that neurons do not receive the nutrients they require for processing information effectively. Well-educated people likely make greater demands on their brains throughout life so that circulation in the brain is maintained at a high level, much as physical exercise boosts cardiovascular health..
1 Henrich, J. (2015). The secret of our success: How culture is driving human evolution domesticating our species and making us smarter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton university Press.
2 Barber, N. (2005b). Educational and ecological correlates of IQ: A cross-national investigation. Intelligence, 33, 273-284.
3 Molla, M. T., Madans, J. H., and Wagener, D. K. ( 2004). Differentials in adult mortality and activity limitation by years of education in the united states at the end of the 1990s. Population and Development Review. 30, 625-646.
4 Greenfield, S. (2015). Mind change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains. New York: Random House.
Reading this article reminded me of how important it is to “busy” yourself with other things while you are recovering. Anytime we “deny” ourselves the thing we are addicted to in recovery, we run the risk of creating a “hole” in our day-to-day routine…
We replace bad choices with good choices; bad behaviors (those that lead to acting out) with good behaviors; bad beliefs with good beliefs; unsafe people with safe people… and on and on it goes. Don’t JUST go without the bad things… REPLACE the bad things with GOOD things, so you never feel like you are “missing” out on anything.
If you look closely through the numbers above, you will notice a few things:
The number of women, worldwide, who view pornography is greater than you may have expected.
The number of women who view pornography in the U.S. is towards the bottom of the list… but that is not reason to celebrate with a “U-S-A” chant. The 2010 census reports that there were 157 million women in the United States. Let me do the math for you:
25% of 157 million women = roughly 39.2 MILLION women who view porn in the USA
In countries where fewer men view pornography, the number of women who view pornography is higher.
What does all this mean? Porn is a global problem, and an issue that is definitely no longer just a “guy thing.” Men and women everywhere are viewing pornography and are being affected daily by its impact. Whether sex trafficking, producing pornography, purchasing pornography, prostitution, or the victims of rape; women everywhere are affected by porn more now than ever.
Have you had the “sex” talk with your kids? You may want to have the “why porn is harmful” talk with your girls… before they are exposed and before they become a statistic. It is equally important to have these discussions with our boys, but as the title implies, the focus of this particular post was raising awareness that more and more women are regularly affected by and are users of pornography.
the graphic above was based on data compiled by a purveyor of pornographic material in their 2016 review of site traffic. I have chosen not to mention the name or cite the webpage as not everything on that page is “safe” to see. I assure you the data is good and reputable.
Every parent should read this, and every person who knows others with children should read this and pass it on. I struggled with pornography addiction for 18 years, and it all started… …when I was a kid. Read on, this article has some good info and resources:
This Is Your Kid’s Brain on Porn
January 24, 2017
When my son was little, we liked to go see a family variety show that performed around town. One afternoon, I sat at my computer to check the performance schedule. I Googled “The Buddy Club,” and, a moment later, was up to my eyeballs in hairy, erect penises. I fumbled to close the browser while checking over my shoulder to see if my three-year-old had witnessed the display. (He hadn’t.)
That incident came to mind years later, during a parent meeting of my son’s Jewish youth group, when a youth mentor warned us of the easy availability and extremity of online porn. One of the moms there recounted a disturbing anecdote: Her 13-year-old had seen an online porn video and later tearfully confided to his mom, “I can’t get it out of my head. I wish I could go back to the time when I’d never seen that.”
So began my quest to learn everything a mother never wanted to know about pornography: What is typically portrayed? How does watching porn affect adolescent boys? Is it addictive? Can I keep my son away from it?
If your idea of porn is naked women in lewd poses or close-ups of people vigorously copulating, you’ll have to put aside such quaint notions. Today’s porn is hard-core, hard, hard, hard. The industry’s diabolically effective marketing strategy involves baiting and hooking young viewers by feeding them a series of increasingly dehumanizing content, ratcheting up the shock quotient to forestall boredom.
By “dehumanizing,” I mean that the vast majority of heterosexual porn portrays women being violently brutalized and humiliated by one or more men in one or more orifices. Women are gagged, choked, struck, and verbally abused. They have cum squirted in their faces and large objects (made of flesh or other materials) shoved into their orifices. Close-up shots are careful to show the woman’s swollen, torn, and inflamed body parts.
In other words, when boys watch porn, they’re seeing women being sexually assaulted and tortured. Even relatively tame porn videos typically portray sex without intimacy, with a focus on ejaculation, speed, and unusually large breasts, buttocks, and penises. No wonder my son’s youth group friend was traumatized.
Most boys see porn for the first time at the age of 11 and, by the time they’re 18, many are consuming porn on a regular basis. Some of those young men become addicted to porn, though no one seems to know how many.
Girls watch porn, too. The recent spike in the incidence of teen girls waxing their pubic hair, undergoing breast augmentation, and mutilating their genitals with “labiaplasty” surgery has been blamed on porn.
Sociology professor Gail Dines, author of “Pornland”, calls pornography “the public health crisis of the digital age.” Her rhetoric isn’t overblown. According to Huffington Post, porn sites get more traffic than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined. A staggering one-third of all internet downloads are pornographic.
Research into the psycho-social effects and addictive qualities of porn is just beginning to catch up with the magnitude of the crisis. A slew of studies link porn consumption with infidelity, job loss, and erectile dysfunction. Young men profiled in Time’s recent cover story on porn describe their experience in similar terms – they got hooked young, and their compulsive use of porn led to sexual dysfunction, shame, and, later, withdrawal symptoms such as depression, headaches, and insomnia.
According to Gary Lynch, a neurobiological psychiatrist at the University of California at Irvine, the viewing of a single pornographic image can immediately alter brain structure. Many researchers corroborate Lynch, among them University of Texas neurosurgeon Don Hilton, who testified at a congressional briefing on pornography in January 2015.
Hilton characterizes pornography as a readily available drug that produces an addictive neurochemical trap and notes that brain imaging of porn addicts shows shrinkage in the brain’s reward and control centers akin to that of drug addicts.
Cambridge University addiction expert Valerie Voon puts it more succinctly: “Letting our children consume [porn] freely via the internet is like leaving heroin lying around the house.”
There are, to be sure, a handful of researchers who posit the innocuousness of porn, but they’re up against a growing consensus that porn is harmful and addictive.
Certified sex therapist Wendy Maltz has treated dozens of compulsive porn users at her practice in Eugene, Oregon, including growing numbers of young men who started using porn as teens but didn’t acknowledge they had a problem until they began suffering erectile dysfunction or depression in their 20s. Her porn clients are ashamed of themselves, often self-isolate, and experience poor self-esteem, insomnia, and anxiety.
Maltz, co-author of “The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography,” says that porn was the first sexual experience of many of her clients. Instead of stealing kisses under the bleachers, these young men are masturbating in front of screens. “Porn railroads their sexuality,” she says. “They don’t realize they’re forfeiting control to this industry and giving up something very precious – love-based intimacy and erotic imagination.”
A little-noticed Salon essay by novelist Mark Slouka echoes Maltz’s lament. Slouka contrasts the experience of cyberporn with the experience of lovemaking. He likens online porn to a “million-room whorehouse” that offers a 24/7 smorgasbord of pre-packaged sexual fantasies that colonize the mind. In Slouka’s experience, the price porn users pay is the loss of imagination, accountability, and agency. They become an “army of unmanned drones, piloting our libido through the ether.”
Maltz’s clinical experience bears out what Slouka intuited and researchers have found – that porn serves up a powerful cocktail of feel-good neurotransmitters and adrenaline and that this blend of novelty, stimulation, and pleasure amps up what’s already a powerful, feel-good, biological response to an irresistible intensity.
Kids whose brains are wired for novelty, excitement, and risk, are particularly susceptible.
To make matters worse, free porn is never more than a few mouse clicks or cell phone swipes away. Some kids seek out porn, others come across it accidentally while Googling seemingly innocent terms such as “panda movies,” “bravo teens,” and, my personal favorite, “whitehouse.com.”
Age-appropriate curiosity can land a young child searching for words like “boobs” or “butt” on some highly inappropriate sites. A colleague of Maltz’s once treated an eight-year-old boy who got shocked, then hooked, when his search for butt images delivered images of double penetration anal sex.
Maltz reminds parents that all kids are naturally curious about sex and counsels them to make sure their kids get authentic sexual education before porn becomes their teacher. Some of Maltz’s clients don’t even know they can have an orgasm without porn while others demand that their first sexual partners act out scenes they saw in a video.
If your child does get exposed, Maltz advises staying calm and not lashing out or blaming your child. Educate yourself about why porn is harmful and share this information with your child. Validate your child’s curiosity, engage in honest, non-judgmental communication, and, if needed, seek professional help.
Parental filters on devices can help protect younger children, but most seem to figure out how to disable the filter. Eventually, they’ll see porn, whether on their own device or a friend’s. Dines’ organization offers additional resources for concerned parents.
During the time it took you to read this article, eight million people viewed porn. Was your child one of them?
Louise worried her husband was way too busy and buried in work. She had more than noticed that he stayed in his home office most of the evening and late into the night, even after she went to bed. She felt there was almost a vacuum where her husband should have been. So she shared her feelings with Tom. He told her that he was working on an important project. For six months? Really?
Folks, if you have been where I have, down in the pit with pornography, or you know someone who was, then you have a pretty good idea of exactly what Tom was doing and looking at, and it had nothing to do with his job.
Pornography is an insidious snare–a snare that Tom fell into and couldn’t get out. Men, the pull of pornography is like a creeping plague–a powerful drug. Do it once, we think it’s okay. Do it twice, and we’re hooked. We are sucked in and trapped before we know what happened.
Pornography enslaves and then destroys! Christians, I cannot tell you how many men I have worked with who were in the same fix as Tom. And although he went to great lengths to conceal his misdeeds by keeping the door closed, constantly deleting history and cookies from his PC, quickly shrinking the image on his monitor at any inkling of someone approaching, she will find out. Be assured, she will.
If Tom was fortunate and had a truly forgiving wife in Louise, he might not receive the same treatment that a popular television psychologist so often prescribes, that is, “Kick his butt to the curb.” Oh! So many divorces result from just this one obsession.
Ways porn can damage your marriage
Please mentally weigh this–when we husbands are so “absent” while having sex with ourselves or the women in those images, our wives know that something is terribly wrong. They know! They just can’t identify the culprit.
Wives miss all the things that a loving husband can give, i.e., his attention, his affection, his honor, his affirmation, his loving touch, his listening ear, his romancing, his intimacy, his caring. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, how could we possibly make her feel secure in our love? But in that scenario, we are so gripped by our love of porn and of self that we have nothing to give her.
I promise you that the plague of pornography can only lead to crushing ruin. I’ve already mentioned divorce. Many such addicts have lost their jobs, gone to prison, had to step down from the ministry, and more. How do I know? I have talked with these men and counseled them, one-on-one, during the past fourteen years–more than four thousand men, each with his own story of destruction through the cancer of pornography and its seeming irresistible attraction.
How we can begin the freedom journey
Admittedly, we’re not going to get porn removed from the Internet or anywhere else, at least not by next Tuesday. The world does not have Christian values. And our church is not in charge of the media. But individually, we can confront this enemy. If we are even slightly tempted to go there, there is hope for each of us. Here is a way to start:
1. Cut off access to porn on your various electronic devices. That’s what Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering is for, right? That would be a strong beginning. The Filter will help block access to pornography, and the Internet use reports can be sent to a trusted friend or mentor to help keep you on track on your journey toward freedom.
2. Get help! Talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. Search the Internet for ministries that help with sexual addiction. Yes, addiction. If you are looking at porn once a week or more, you are hooked. Please do not believe the lie, “I can stop anytime I want.” Get help!
There are lots of Tom’s out there, and Joe’s and Larry’s, who have their own stories and struggles with porn. It’s time to get going and do something about it!
Neill Morris is a Mentor with the online ministry, www.FreeInChrist.org. Along with a number of other Christian volunteers, he works with men who are addicted to pornography and other forms of sexual immorality. You can contact Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org