“The time has come.” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
– Mark 1:15

It is interesting how Jesus commands belief. In doing so, he reveals that belief and the will is linked. This is strengthened even more by the connected command to repent (repent and believe). Our unbelief is linked to our attitude and lifestyle. In order for us to believe in the good news, we must change. This is the biggest impediment to our belief in the gospel, not our reason or intellect.

In order for us to repent and believe the good news, we have to decide that whatever God has for us is good – is better than our current station in life; better than what we can secure for ourselves.

This brings me face-to-face with my own rebellious heart, my unbelief, my lack of trust in God, and my fears that God will not come through for me. This fear that God will not come through is rooted in my innate shame. Why would the sovereign God of the universe come through for me? Obviously, I have to do something before God will look upon me favorably and play an active role in my life, right?

Jesus’ command to “repent and believe” strips away all pretense and reveals that I am actively excluding God from my life experience. I banish him from my thoughts, and then placing the blame upon him. I live as if his will was for me to be different before he will have anything to do with me. The good news is that the exact opposite is true because of Christ. My willful arrogance in the face of infinite, unchanging love, the near and present kingdom of God, is astonishing. Yet, his kingdom is near to me regardless.

Lord, help me to repent and believe in the good news. The time has come!

A man sits alone with a choice before his eyes,
No one else is present as he wrestles with his lies.
A fire smolders once again from deep within his soul.
He can fuel its growing heat or choose to leave it cold.

Passion begins to flow with a force against his will;
Scenes that grip his mind bring the promise of a thrill.
Emotions rage, needs unfold from a weak and lonely heart;
In this very private moment, will he stop or let it start?

A lovely wife, terrific kids have blessed his simple life;
His gracious God and prayerful friends stand by him in the strife.
But out of sight is out of mind in this moment of clear choice;
Even the indwelling Spirit speaks with ever-fading voice.

Images entice his spirit as their beauty pierce his reason;
Setting aside real joy and peace, he indulges for just a season.
More brief and empty now seems the thrill once it is done;
Regret and shame overwhelm as the lies again have won.

He walks away so dirty, feeling lost in his defeat;
Everything he really loves he chose again to cheat.
Full of remorse in this return to the filth of where he’s been
If only he knew how to stop this madness, before it starts again.

Written by Daniel Henderson in his book “Think Before You Look”
published by Living Ink Books

There is a Narcotics Anonymous slogan somewhere that is helpful for us…

“Never use, under any circumstances.”

We sex addicts often don’t take our addiction as seriously as those who deal with hard drug addiction. That is to our detriment. Drug addicts know that they are one relapse away from death…literally. As such, there is a real solemnity to their devotion to recovery once they really become willing. We obviously don’t see our sexual sins that way. We can masturbate, or use porn, and what happens? We don’t die…at least not in the way of a drug addict who relapses and dies of an overdose.

This is a subtle deception, and a powerful one. We allow ourselves to be duped by the lies of the enemy. Satan really doesn’t care if we die, as long as he can keep stealing from us. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10). If he can get away with any of those three in our lives, then he’s a happy demon! Death comes to us all eventually, and Satan isn’t in a hurry. Some methods of stealing and destroying kill us more quickly than others. But, it’s still stealing and destroying.

Every time I use my drug of choice – lust/sexual indulgence – the enemy steals from me and destroys something God would bless me with. The most important thing stolen is my connection with God himself. This isn’t to say I masturbate and lose my salvation. It is to say I lose my experience of the conscious presence of God. He is omnipresent – everywhere at all times. But that isn’t the same as consciousness of his manifest presence to me. That is what I lose when I choose my sin – every, single, time.

This is where the humility of the 12 Steps, and really applying ourselves to this program of spiritual awakening and growth in godliness is so helpful. It is a process by which we become more and more converted to “Thy will be done.” I know that using pornography and gratifying myself sexually in any form is not God’s will – every, single, time. So, choosing it, having that knowledge, is willful disobedience to God. We don’t like to think of it that way, but it’s true.

Hopefully this doesn’t hit you too harshly. I’m not trying to shame or guilt trip. It may feel like a cold splash of water to the face though…sorry about that!

Be Broken Ministries has extended an amazing offer on their weekend intensive workshops for men – Gateway to Freedom.

Here is the information from their website:

Because of the generosity of some of our donors, we are able to offer a special 50% OFF scholarship offer for the Gateway to Freedom workshops being conducted in the summer months of 2013.

 

You must be registered for one of the following workshops to be eligible for this offer:

 

Texas – June 7 – 9

Northwest – July 19 – 21

Texas – August 2 – 4

Pennsylvania – August 23 – 25

Georgia – September 6 – 8

 

Learn more about this offer on the website, and get signed up!

A couple of dear ministry friends are putting on a free webinar, sponsored by NetNanny and Focus on the Family. It is entitled, “Why not porn? Is pornography truly that bad?”

You can register for the event here:

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/680669090

This free webinar is unique.

Not only are we addressing the questions that some insist to be true – ‘Isn’t a little bit of porn good for our lives?’ and “As long as we are consenting adults, what does it matter if we use porn?”, but we are going to discuss these issues with two experts – one of whom is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Come and learn about the implications and outcomes of pornography. See how it affects individuals, families and society.  Further, hear a brief preview of the question, “So what can we do?” Interact by asking questions in the webinar of these experts.

Topics covered include:

– The reasons people think porn is OK
– The hidden hazards
– The answers, helpful actions and discussion

Our two presenters are:

Daniel Weiss, President, The Brushfires Foundation

Daniel founded The Brushfires Foundation in 2012 after more than ten years addressing the harms of pornography and sexual wholeness.

Geremy F. Keeton, M.MFT, LMFT

Geremy is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and a licensed marriage and family therapist working at Focus on the Family and in his private practice, www.GainingIntegrity.com.  Geremy has extensive experience in counseling men and couples affected by sexual dysfunctions, infidelity and pornography addiction

These lyrics made me think of our struggle with porn. Specifically, I think of the porn actress; how she pretends to be gratified by what she is doing – and we feed off of that pretending as if it were real. Our chemically driven brains don’t know the difference, but our spirit-driven hearts certainly do.

For me, the lyrics have an overtone of jealousy in them – jealous of beauty flaunted. There is a sense of hypocrisy – that it is all just a show and underneath the mask all is not well. While we revel in a wash of chemicals to the pleasure centers of the brain, our hearts languish in our betrayal of ourselves, of others, and of God.

In case you haven’t found out – porn is a lie!

You can listen to the song here…

EVANESCENCE – EVERYBODY’S FOOL

Perfect by nature
Icons of self indulgence
Just what we all need
More lies about a world that

Never was and never will be
Have you no shame? Don’t you see me?
You know you’ve got everybody fooled

Look here she comes now
Bow down and stare in wonder
Oh how we love you
No flaws when you’re pretending

But now I know she
Never was and never will be
You don’t know how you’ve betrayed me
And somehow you’ve got everybody fooled

Without the mask
Where will you hide?
I can’t find yourself
Lost in your lie

I know the truth now
I know who you are
And I don’t love you anymore

It never was and never will be
You don’t know how you’ve betrayed me
And somehow you’ve got everybody fooled

It never was and never will be
You’re not real and you can’t save me
And somehow now you’re everybody’s fool

 

Surrendering our thoughts is an important aspect of the fight against our addiction. What does not work is to try and resist thoughts outright. Saying to myself, “I am not going to lust for that beautiful person over there” is a sure-fire way to lust for that beautiful person over there! It’s like saying, “I will not think of a pink elephant” and of course an image of a pink elephant pops right up in my mind.

What we do is apply what spiritual formation experts call, “indirect effort.” We cannot control our thoughts through direct effort. We have to apply indirect effort. What that means is we redirect our thoughts. Instead of telling ourselves, “No, don’t think that” we instead choose to think on something else. If it is appreciating beauty, we can turn our attention to something else beautiful, which does not contain a lustful element. For me, that may mean pondering how beautiful the weather is, a sunrise or sunset, the sky, a flower, a song, my wife or children, or any number of things in God’s creation for which I do not lust after. Again, I’m not directly saying “No” to the lustful thoughts, I’m saying “Yes” to another thought.

Ponder how water rolls off of a duck’s back. Ducks dive into the pond and shake off the beads as they come up. That is what happens when we redirect our thoughts. We choose to ponder things that draw our thoughts toward God and his will. We plunge our thoughts into the depths of God’s grace. In doing so, we shake off the other thoughts like beads of water.

It’s a discipline, and as such takes practice. When we do this, we are applying the principles in these scriptures:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 10:5

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
– Philippians 4:8

Another good “thought replacement” exercise is to turn our attention to thanksgiving. When lustful thoughts and images come up, gently turn thoughts toward things in your life for which you are thankful. It may be helpful to write out and carry a “thanks list” with you, and continually add to it. When the thoughts hit, pull out the list and review it. Again, this is in keeping with scripture:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A beautiful thing about these verses is how they explicitly state that these activities are God’s will for us. Thinking a certain way is a key to spiritual growth and success – which includes turning away from our sin.

A final note: when we engage in these activities, we can do so in full faith that God will empower our efforts. He wants this for us, and his grace enables us to know and do his will. When we choose God, he shows up. When we choose to think about God, he shows up in our thoughts!

I was recently a guest on the Attitudes of Sexual Integrity podcast with Russ Shaw. We had a great time talking about addiction, recovery, God and his grace. I had the honor of sharing some of my story, and talking about the ministries we have under the Pure Community umbrella. We also talked about our involvement with the Gateway to Freedom workshops that we are bringing to the Atlanta area.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, or download the MP3 directly here

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording it!

I have been listening to “The Principle of the Path” by Andy Stanley on audio book (for the third time). It is a great book of wisdom regarding life, our choices and how we can better position ourselves, and our loved ones for the lives we hope for.

In Chapter 4, there is a quote I wanted to share (or paraphrase). Andy says, almost in passing, that when we realize we are addicted to something, it is not the time for accountability and increased self discipline. No, it is much too late for that. Those things are effective preventative measures, but they are not enough to break an addiction.

Andy keys off of this verse from Proverbs…

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (Prov. 27:12)

What Andy goes on to recommend, again almost in passing because it is not the main topic of the book, is to get a counselor, and get into a recovery group or 12 Step program. The point is that addiction recovery is serious business, and can’t be broken through half measures. We can’t act like un-addicted people and expect to find freedom. To those people, our efforts to break free may seem foolish and extreme. But, we see something that they do not – an addiction that is ruining our lives from the inside out.

When we see we are addicted, we see danger. Looking back to that verse in Proverbs, the question is how will we respond? Will we respond like the prudent and take refuge, or like the simple and keep going? Will we take Pastor Andy’s advice to seek counseling and a recovery program, or will we keep on acting like nothing bad is going to happen and pay the penalty?

Are you uncertain if you are addicted to pornography (or something else)? Take the test here…it only takes a few minutes. Try to stop and see what happens. If you find you cannot stop, as many of us have, merely getting an accountability partner isn’t likely to stop you either. Getting back on the right path is going to require more drastic measures.

We offer a great first-step called The Purity Report. It is a safe, online community where you can break the silence with others in recovery. We even offer a private 12 step forum where you can begin working the 12 Steps in a Christ-centered environment. We are under no illusion that a website is capable of breaking your addiction. But, it is a good first step, and we can point you to other great resources for counseling and face-to-face groups.

This is a post from one member of our online community, The Purity Report. We thought it worth sharing here…

SSA has been an underlying theme in my story. Some of the root causes that I see here: father who was often overbearing and not affectionate, early abuse by a much older boy that felt like acceptance at the time (age 4 or 5), feeling inferior to boys who were good athletes or very sure of themselves.

I have come to dislike the very concept of identifying ourselves by what society calls “sexual orientation.” There was a very large group of reports on the social costs of pornography put out by the Witherspoon Institute in 2010. One of the areas of research was done by Norman Doidge on “sexual plasticity.” Essentially, he found that the kind of person that we are sexually attracted to is neither hard wired from birth nor does it remained fixed throughout our lives. A quote:

“Though some scientists increasingly emphasize the inborn basis of our sexual preferences, it is also true that some people have heterosexual or homosexual attractions for part of their lives and then develop opposite attractions later on in life.”

This is secular (not Christian) research, but the point is (for me at least) we are learning that sexual attraction isn’t really something we are born in, it is something we largely develop due to what we are exposed to. So, why do we obsess on identifying ourselves by what we are sexually attracted to? If that is NOT something which is hard wired in us, why would we consider it a defining characteristic?

This point was driven home to me last year watching one of those vocal talent shows so popular on TV these days. They often do a kind of backstory video piece on contestants just before they sing for the first time in front of the judges. There was one guy they showed, and in his video backstory, the very first words out of his mouth were, “I’m so-and-so, and I’m gay.” I remember thinking, “Okay, this guy is on national TV in a singing contest. What relevance does his sexual attractions have on whether he can sing or not? Why is he even bringing it up?”

I am guessing he brought it up because more than he wants to be a good singer, he wants to be approved for who he is. And, sadly, he appears to see his sexual attractions as the most defining part of who he is.

I am now a married man with two teenage kids. I’ll be honest, before marriage I didn’t have much sexual interest in women at all. I did want to be married and be a father, however, so when I met the woman who is now my wife and found someone I really liked, I married her. It did take time, but I am now quite sexually attracted to her. Do I ever feel SSA anymore? Sometimes, but I don’t need to “own” that as if it’s a part of my identity. Certainly not a very important part of my identity.

I chose to identify myself as a child of God, a loved member of my church, a father, a husband, a musician and other things. What or who I may feel sexual attraction toward comes way down the list of anything I want to own as my identity.

Twenty years ago I could not say any of this. But, it has been this shift of mind that has helped me accept myself and feel accepted. I want to be accepted as husband, father, church member, brother in Christ and child of God. When I focus on that, the rest is way less important and therefore has way less power over me to make me feel inferior. I can ignore it more easily when I don’t feel it is who I am.

Sexual abuse damaged me. The healing process is a lifelong journey and I am much more at peace than in the past. However, I will always carry some scars until I reach heaven. I do better when I don’t focus on the scars anymore, however. When I look at them too long I feel ugly. My close brothers in Christ know all about them, but that’s not what they see when they look at me. I am not the scars.