Learning To Live Without Lust

Chapter 5.

In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author talks about the lust in our lives. He brings up how our society is obsessed with sexuality, as it is the main focus of our music and our television content. The advertisement industry markets to people under the idea that sex sells.

The church has attempted to stand against this sexual culture and place the highest importance on sexual purity, but this is hard because of the content people go home to. Most churches are afraid to talk about sex and prefer to write it off as taboo and sinful, but the church is still struggling. Every person struggles with lust and sexual desires.TL005

Modern culture takes on a more welcoming approach. It tries to say that everything we want to do is completely acceptable. The media shows random people hooking up with no strings attached. There is very little you don’t find either online or on TV these days. Does this really reflect reality?

The bible has God telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, so our sexuality is a good thing. You can notice an attractive man or a beautiful woman, but when you look up and down and only care about them for their bodies, it builds a lot of lust in your heart and that is sinful.

Our lives become stale, and lust always causes us to go searching for the next best thing. The problem is a satisfying the flesh is only temporary, the author wants us to take steps towards living in God’s Kingdom, “Living in the kingdom is like an adventure. I never know how and when God is going to work in my life, but God always seems to do something at the right time, in the right way.”

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The soul-training exercise for the chapter is called Media Fast, and it asks us to take a break from all media (television, internet) for two days in order to experience reality a little more. Maybe read a book, go for a walk by yourself or with friends, help someone in need. Our minds are filled with false narratives of who we are and how our lives are supposed to be, and we need to replace those with something better.

I’m barely able to explain the chapter, but the lust is something that deeply applies to me as a young person. I have gotten caught up in pornography before, and every time I go through something it brings me to a dark place and in my mind, I stop seeing women the way I should. Many of the guys I know are much farther along with it than I am. I hear about people sleeping around, and Christian couples wondering why they must wait until marriage to have sex.

The idea is appropriate physical intimacy, as represented by a triangle diagram. The base of the triangle represents a relationship with no physical intimacy or commitment. As commitment rises, we have more intimacy.

shape_triangleFinally, sexual intercourse represents the final stage of commitment – marriage! So its good to have our relationships, but we have to do them in ways that reflect our level of commitment. I remember hanging out with a girl who insisted we were just friends, but she treated me too much like her boyfriend. After a while, I decided we could still be friends, but we had to set up some boundaries because we weren’t committed to each other like that.

I find escaping the lust aspect to be important because it determines how we treat people. I watched a video showing a woman being cat-called as she walked around the city. None of those men were going to get anywhere with their mindset, yet they found it was acceptable to act like that. When you only care about someone for their body, man or woman, it changes your perspective, and sooner or later you become willing to act on those impulses. The lust turns into many of our sexual assault and “No Means No” campaigns.

– James –

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Learning To Live Without Anger

Chapter 4.

In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author recalls a time his brother picked him up from the airport and drove him to a youth retreat where he would be speaking. As they were stuck in a traffic jam on the expressway, the author became overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of running late, yet his brother was calm and assured him everything would be okay. He ended up making it to the retreat with plenty of time to rest up before his talk that evening, but at the same time, he was embarrassed at how angry he had been over nothing.

The author says our anger occurs internally due to unmet expectations and fear, and some of it happens instantly in a way we cannot prepare for while other parts happen over time. A waiter spills hot soup on you. The anger is instant. You are frustrated at a friend for showing up late. The anger builds up with every passing minute. What if the friend was in a car accident? The anger changes to remorse. We have these fears and we believe we must always be in control, and this need to take control causes us to sin and hurt others. We are not being led by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus talks about murder as the main sin in his sermon on the mount, but he also holds anger built up in the heart to the same standard, because a person with anger in their heart is the most likely to commit murder. “When Jesus commands his apprentices not to be angry, he is showing us the way to a good and beautiful life.” Jesus made the commandment because he knows we are capable of it, but it is not someIMG_1912thing we can accomplish on our own without the Holy Spirit at work in us.

“We may lose sight of God, but God never loses sight of us. God gives us space to experiment, grow and mature; God never intrudes. But this doesn’t mean God is not with us, is not watching us, is not ultimately familiar with our comings and goings.”

There is a thing called keeping the Sabbath, a spiritual exercise for taking a day of rest from our anger and need for control, and so the soul training exercise for the chapter asks us to take a day of rest and let God be in control. Rest is very important for us spiritually, physically, emotionally.

IMG_1581As I work in retail, I work the most on weekends because that is the only time customers have to shop, and as a result I have pretty much made Tuesday my day of rest. I get out of class and I make the day carefree. I take a long tap.

I graduated from college a few weeks ago. I made it. We grouped together in our caps and gowns and we walked the stage. The next thing I have to do with my life is to find work in my career, which is tough sometimes. Many of your jobs don’t know what to do with the applications. The week after graduation I went on a retreat with my college group to a camp in Albany where I took a workshop on social justice. Many of your homeless face tough conditions living on the streets. Many of your refugees flee countries where there is no going back and they struggle to become part of American society. Many women in the United States and across the world are the victims of sex slavery. What are we to do? Up until this year, I wouldn’t have been up to taking that workshop. I wish I could tell you about all my adventures, but things are so different now.

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I too have been struggling with anger. I get frustrated with people while I am driving, and I get frustrated with customers at work, and in the long run it’s not worth it for us as a community and a society. The one customer attempted to beat up the other customer, and then he attempted to beat me up because someone knocked over a soda, and sometimes the answer is we have to have self-awareness for our anger and how it affects others. I was angry today. A friend canceled plans on me, and it’s hard because that is an area where I give up control and I accept the circumstances no matter what. I have to show Christ to them every day and I don’t know what the future will hold.

– James –

The Grand Invitation

Chapter 3.

In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author talks about a young man who was called up to give his testimony at a church. The young man won many medals from competing in the special Olympics, and he might have won a few more if he did not stop to help the other runners who were struggling. The young man attributed his happiness to God, and to Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He struggled with a disability, but at the same time he found himself welcome in Gods kingdom. He saw no need to compete because he knew everyone was on the same team, where everyone wins.

The author uses the chapter to explain the Beatitudes. The blessings listed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3–11).

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The author first thought the Beatitudes were meant to impress God, however, Jesus actually used these to bring the kingdom of heaven to Earth. Originally, “Those who would enter the kingdom of God comprised an exclusive club: they were Jewish, male, religiously upright, healthy and wealthy. Jesus’ ministry ran counter to this narrative. Jesus blessed the poor, touched lepers, healed and forgave gentiles (even female gentiles).”

The Pharisees criticized Jesus for associating with known sinners and non-jews. Mathew 21:31 quotes Jesus, saying “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Jesus was able to make those statements because he is a living expression of the kingdom. At the time of his teIMG_1469_Legacyaching, he was dealing with a large number of people who were oppressed and persecuted because they lacked the opportunities that would make them part of the ideal group.

Jesus is saying “well off are the people who feel marginalized from God, and have nothing going for them spiritually – for they too are invited into the kingdom.” The people are not blessed for their circumstances, but because of Jesus. There is a comfort in the kingdom because God is in control. At the same time, God also accepts the rich, but there is a point where wealth, power, and possessions can numb us to our need for God and make us overlook the needs of others. The wealthy are encouraged to live out the fruits of their labor, but they must also have a concern for the poor. The divide between people was very strong during that time, as it is today.

The Soul Training Excercise for the chapter talks about how living in the kingdom involves loving others, forgiving others, and practicing hospitality. Each of us makes decisions on who will be included and excluded from our lives, and so the aim is to venture outside your comfort zone and open yourself up to another person, maybe connect with someone you have never met. The results are surprising.

It’s the week of my 23rd birthday in March and I am home coughinIMG_1493_Legacyg during a snow storm. It took me a while, but I made it to work in the blizzard yesterday. The cash registers were down for a while and customers were upset. One thing I took away from yesterday was I reached out and helped a blind associate make his way to the computers where he worked. I escorted him anywhere he needed to go. The store was empty and freezing. He was not difficult to reach out to, but you’ll remember that I have done Flower City Work Camp the past few years, and it can be very scary for the students to reach out to strangers on their prayer walks. We never know what will happen, but at the same time we often end up reaching out to people who need something in their lives.

A member of our church passed away a month ago and a big televised funeral was held for him, commemorating his generosity and humbleness in the face of his Christian faith. Despite everything, he was still remembered because of his works. I hate to say the money was brought up over and over. He was a true friend, and he gave lots of money to education. We do not all have the sort of money and influence he had, but at the same time there are many small ways we can reach out and make a difference. You can volunteer for a few hours a week instead of watch Netflix, or smile and say hello to someone in passing. The only thing we have to do is be willing to reach out and take a chance.

– James –

The Gospel Many People Have Never Heard

Chapter 2.

In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author talks about the good news of the gospel and how the message is somewhat incomplete. The gospel Jesus preached includes more than being loved, forgiven, reconciled and given a new identity. The gospel also invites us to go on a great adventure as we have the option of living in the kingdom of God.

The author uses a quote to say that one day as Christ-followers we will outlive death and be with God in the kingdom of heaven, however, Jesus has preached that we can even experience the kingdom of God during our time on Earth. Jesus said in his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This quote has a meaning behind it. Jesus wanted the people to change the way they had been thinking because a life of intimacy and interaction with God was now available. He offered the people a gracious invitation to live their lives through the kingdom of heaven.opener-copy

“With as much biblical scholarship as we have available today, it is shocking to me that we have not heard more about the kingdom. If this is indeed the central message of the gospel, we simply cannot be wrong about it.”

The author realizes he does not always live the kingdom of God, he sometimes only lives the “kingdom of Jim,” but this does not mean the kingdom is not a present reality that will come together fully in the future. Jesus and his disciples taught about the kingdom in a present tense, and it became part of their message to change the world.

As Christians, we need to work on the aspects needed for us to enter the kingdom someday. Humility, pure heart, gentleness, respect. Does your life have those things? What about your inner life? I don’t know if mine does.

The soul training exercise for the chapter suggests that Jesus favored children for their kind attitudes towards life, yet adults get so tied down with greecowboy-january-week03d, worry, and commitments, and so it asks us to engage in joyful play with our children or a younger relative, or join a group that allows us to be active and carefree.

I haven’t been looking to write a blog the past month or so. I was trying to fix something in my life and I was not successful. I eventually decided that instead of trying, and trying, and falling on deaf ears the way I was, I needed to make a change in my life which went beyond them, and would allow me to find my own happiness.

If that person ever needs me, I will always be there for them.

We had four registers open at Walmart and lines twenty people long. A customer came through my line, and he became angry at another customer and his son who did not speak English. He was looking to beat the guy up, and I made him more angry by saying “You don’t need to do this.” I cashed the ccloser-copyustomer out and sent him on his way. The other guy wasn’t through yet. He was looking to beat me up too. The cashier. On security camera. In front of everyone in the store. Over something small. I answered him a few more times, “You don’t need to do this.” He took off, his lady paid for the groceries, and I’m sure he left assuming he did nothing wrong. A manager showed up after the yelling and took me off the register.

The angry customer probably had never heard the gospel, or if he did he did not apply it to his life. I meet many people who I could say that about. I had a customer bully me once, and that was five minutes he wasn’t bullying his children. People put all their effort into stealing. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their cashier.

Despite this upset, I see more customers who know the gospel and live it out everyday and that can be very inspiring. I’ve had people assure me i’m a great cashier and do things to make my job easier. Most people are friendly. I gave a foreign college student a ride home once. We have all these struggles, but we can still see the kingdom of God active here on Earth in everyday people. The kingdom is active despite the news media and its attempts to only focus on the worst things happening in the world. If you feel you need to live out a story or make a change yourself, there is no better day for it than today!

-James-

Blog 11 – January 2017

James Yaw - CMC 327-01

The semester has come to a close, and I have created a nicer, more professional looking website through www.1and1.com! The web host has some good promotional rates, and I’ll see how it goes. I don’t know if I will actually take on any clients though, haha.

I’ve been on here for a few weeks, and I’ve gotten about three spam phone calls a day ever since, so it’s legit with my personal information.

Slowly but surely, I’ll have to begin posting my photos and video. I don’t have much video at this point, but I might be able to work on it.

The positive side is I’m getting my name out there, and I’m using principals of good web design to make the web page more attractive. The negative side is that I used the website builder tool, which is an easy road to building with html.

Through my course…

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The Good and Beautiful Life

Chapter 1.

In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author mentions a summer he worked as a chaplain at a retirement home, and one of the residents confessed to him that he had lived a wonderful life… he was the richest man in his state and his employees looked up to him and politicians wanted to be his friend. He lied and he cheated and he stole in the pursuit of greater wealth. He treated people poorly all his life, and now in the retirement home years there was no one who cared about him.

The author was also given the chance to meet his hero, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who brought his team through many winning seasons and broke records which no other team may ever beat. Although he is known for his success as a coach, his Christian principals have made him who he is. He taught his players courage, honesty, and hard work. He taught them to master the basics, and to discipline themselves so that others won’t have to.

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Rock or sand. Both of the men the author met lived the same life, yet the one man built his life on a metaphorical foundation of sand and it fell apart because he only cared about his wealth, and the other man built his life on a metaphorical foundation of rock and it was a life he was very proud of. Everyone is seeking a meaningful life full of happiness, and joy, and contentment, and prosperity, but sometimes we go about it all wrong.

“Both were exceptional in their own ways. But you and I are no less exceptional. Each day we make decisions that move us closer to a life of virtue or vice. We face decisions whether to be greedy or generous, self-centered or self-sacrificing, condemning or forgiving, cursing or blessing. While Ben and John were not average, everyday people, their souls are no different than ours. No matter who we are, we must choose the narrative we will practice daily.”

Romans 1:18-32. We forget to give honor to God for all he does in our lives, and we invest our time into false idols such as money, or a nice new sports car, or sex and pornography. These luxuries are only temporary and will leave us feeling empty inside. The life that Jesus shows us throughout the bible is everlasting!

The soul-training exercise for the chapter mentions how Ben wrote his daughter a letter asking for forgiveness and the two of them reconciled. She saw a changed man in her father’s last years of life, and so the chapter asks us to write a letter to God. Acknowledge a mistake you have made, but focus more on what a beautiful life would look like to you! It might involve a major life change, or a new set of friends, or changing some old narratives and habits. Feel free to dream big, and tell God about your greatest hopes.

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Okay, so I’m a photographer, I take photographs, and I’m a carpenter, I’m always looking to fix things, and I’m also the occasional crazy person, I’m willing to do something crazy as long as I see some value in it. I work as a cashier in retail, and unfortunately my store chooses to stay open for the “Dark Thursday” sale on top of “Black Friday” every year and it takes people away from their families on Thanksgiving. Those people were thankful the one day, they became greedy by that afternoon and the next day, and it left some of them regretful the day after that, standing in a long line at customer service. One good thing that came of all the chaos is the Associates Black Friday 25% discount. I decided a few weeks ahead of time that since I wasn’t looking for a whole lot this year, I would just fill up a cart with canned goods and donate them to one of the food pantries.

We get very tied down with material things around the holiday season, and that’s not supposed to be the focus of Thanksgiving or Christmas. We should be Thankful! Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and spending time with family!

I bought a few things that I wanted, and then I headed over to the grocery section and started looking at things I could get on the cheap. I had to fill my cart up all the way. If I only got out of there on $25 I wouldn’t be making much of a sacrifice. I had to spend at least $100 on donations. Hopefully it helped someone. The joy from that was a permanent emotion because I was doing work which benefited my community, and I wasn’t just buying a material object that was going to sit in a corner somewhere.grim-reaper

When you build upon yourself,  it not only benefits you but the people around you. I started off when I was 17, 18, 19, and 20 working long summers for the school district, where my bosses were very particular about getting things done correctly, and even today working in retail I like to think that seasonal job was the foundation I’m building my life on. I built a work ethic that made me a decent employee, and I always hope more people can get into that kind of a work pattern.

2016 was full of good and bad, and I decided to end it off by making one pursuit that was not selfish. My final grades are in and they look like A,A,B,B,B, which means I will be taken off academic probation and be able to walk the stage in May 2017.

I had to prove to the world that I still want to be here.

The thought of graduation sounds scary, I’ll have to pray for the journey!

-James-

The Second Book

The young adult group at my church has for the most part disbanded. Many of us have just been going to the Bible 101 class, and so I am going through the book on my own.

James Bryan Smith wrote a second book called “The Good and Beautiful Life,” where he looks to use the teachings of Jesus to expose the false narratives in our day to day lives. The book is meant to ask us as Christians – What did Jesus think? Jesus reveals the true character and nature of God, and as we read the book there is both a spiritual and a character formation that occurs. As the book changes your heart, it will be revealed in both your actions and your character, and from there you can hopefully go out and change the world for the better.

John Wesley was a great preacher and the founder of the Methodist movement, and at one point a man came to him lost and asking what he preached. He gave an answer that I can only summarize with a quote, “And what is the religion Wesley prescribes? Not a religion of laws or ceremonies or mystical knowledge, but of love and kindness. Our world is badly in need of people who love, and it is hungering for people who demonstrate genuine kindness. We are so deprived of it that we are astonished when we encounter it. And what is the point of this religion? To get us to heaven? No, to get heaven into us. To help us discover a relationship with God wherein we enjoy God and are easy in ourselves. If we can discover such a life, Wesley believed, we can even face our death with calm assurance and the certainty of a joyful eternity.”

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Quite frankly, I don’t know how much these books are changing me, but the act of going through them and doing the reflections every month puts a new thought in my head, and that is sometimes just the start. One thing I hope the book covers is the idea of spiritual gifts, because not all of us have the full esteem of our pastors at church, but each of us has been given a series of spiritual gifts we can use in our day to day lives. We each have our own ministry.

As a reminder, my blog helps to raise awareness and is by no means a replacement for actually reading the book, and so it is my hope you will follow along with me!

Never pay the full price! Those book people are out to get you!

– James –