“Freedom” Is Not Perfection, Check out BadChristian

I know it has been WAY TOO LONG since I have posted anything to this site. In fact, my countless followers must think I have faded into obscurity. Well it’s hard to be more obscure than a person who when using the word countless actually means you literally can’t count what isn’t there. That being said, my generous (understatement) hiatus from “Christian help” blogging has been quite busy and quite imperfect.

I’ve grown a lot and changed a little since the last time I “penned” a thought here, so I thought I’d read some of my previous posts. I noticed that a word I use often to describe my current condition with regard to sexual addiction is “freedom.” I suppose a mistake could be made in taking much of what I have said to mean I have some how attained perfection, or that it is something within 0ur grasp. Far from it! I cannot stress enough how imperfect and wretched I am even to this day. I have fallen and stumbled in thought and action so many times in the last couple of years. I am an imperfect husband who fails to meet every need of my wife and kids almost every day.

But for Christ I would be stuck this way. If it wasn’t for His imputed perfection through His bleeding to death for me on the cross, I would be weighed down with the shackles of addiction, deeper in sin, dug into porn and masturbation too sickeningly deep to think of. My only grounds for claiming freedom from this sin is Christ’s free gift of grace and forgiveness, and the power He has given me to have a heart that wants to repent, needs him, and recognizes my weak spots.

I am not physically released from the evil desires of my mind, and I may not be until I leave this world. I have come to grips with that. However, Jesus has taken the shame and guilt away so I don’t have to hide it in the shadowy corners of my life anymore. I can drag it out into the light and be open and honest about it. THIS IS THE FREEDOM I AM TALKING ABOUT. I should never be pretentious or pharisaical. It is too easy to talk about being freed from sin and act like it is only a part of your past, as if it was the “old you” before you were saved; as if today you are above it on your own. I speak of freedom because porn holds so little power over me anymore that I can’t even enjoy it when my addicted flesh wants to.  I am not so afraid to talk to my wife about it anymore. I barely mind even talking to people I hardly know anymore because it is a part of my life that Christ has given me peace about. That’s not to say that I don’t want it sometimes, but it doesn’t keep me captive and in the dark like it used to. It can be the same with you, as well, if you will open up.

One of my favorite music groups is a band called Emery. They are a bunch of [mostly] honest sinners like me, who pretended for too long to be great Christians, but discovered over a decade of touring, ministering, partying, and trying too hard, that they are bad Christians. I like much of their perspective on their walk with Christ and their responsibility to each other, their wives, and the Church to be brutally honest about their failings. Toby, one of the lead singers, has a similar story to mine about how bad his struggles with porn have been. I must warn you, they are blunt and honest and a little rough around the edges at times, but their heart shows through. You may not agree with everything they have to say, either, but I would say it refreshes me how open they are. I pray that all of Christ’s followers would follow their example and dialogue with one another and quit pretending to be perfect. To have a heart to please the Lord and do his will, but not hide the places they fail. Check out what they have to say at http://badchristian.com.

What’s stored in your heart?

Lately, I’ve been busy attempting to learn computer programming on my own (that is, when I happen to have any spare time). It’s been good getting to learn a marketable skill from the ground up, even a little fun, for a nerdy guy like me. In a nutshell, computer programming involves using one or more “languages” of code, in order to manipulate a computer into doing what you want it to do. I wish I could say I’ve become an expert in the last couple of months, but that would be a gross misrepresentation of the truth. However, one thing I have learned is that one of the most basic parts of any computer program is something called a variable. Though programming variables are somewhat similar to variables used in math (x, y, etc.), the difference is that algebraic variables have unknown values (x = ???) where programming variables always have a value pre-assigned to them at any time - whether numbers or words (x = “George”). From what I’ve learned, programmers like to think of these variables as “storage bins,” where they essentially store a word or value to be used in a program. A variable is basically a simplified, computer-geek version of your regular old Beanie Baby-laden plastic box – like the one in your garage that you’re afraid to touch because it probably has spiders (heck, those things have been in the dirty corner of the garage for years). However, these variables can only contain one “item,” or value, at a time.

Stepping away from what could easily become a geek-fest of useless (and possibly faulty) knowledge, I want to draw a parallel between these variables and our hearts. Elementarily our hearts are our spiritual “storage bin” (not the blood-pumping muscle bag, I’m talking about the place the Spirit dwells). Whatever thoughts, desires, and intents we put inside there are going to direct our lives. I came to a realization today that there’s still a tiny piece of pornographic appetite that I’m leaving space for in there. I’m not talking about my flesh, which will always be bent toward evil and need to be beaten into submission to Christ, but a part of my conscious mind and heart, waiting to have that desire fulfilled. This is something I’ve allowed to reside in a dusty corner of my heart, and I haven’t removed it because it’s been there so long (think Beanie Baby bin). Though I mostly want to please God, there are too many times I catch a part of myself silently hoping to stumble upon something pornographic during my daily routine. I’m doing what needs to be done to resist temptation, but not entirely hating the idea that I might have overlooked a detail. That’s setting me up for disaster. Paul put it best this way:

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.   - Galatians 5:9

Has this been the case with you? Christ wants my whole heart.  ALL OF IT, dusty beanies included. He wants yours, as well. Let’s remove the poison before it corrupts the rest of our hearts (“leavens the whole lump”).I am giving that filthy desire up to Jesus, who can heal my heart and keep me clean by His Spirit. I am praying that you would do the same! His Word is the best place to start:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.   - Psalm 119:11

Just as variables used in programming can only hold one thing at a time, the Lord wants the same to be true for our hearts and minds. There should only be room in there for one thing – Him. Anything else has got to go.

P.S. -I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything new in a while… Keep coming!

Don’t Give It A Second Thought

I think often times I fail to resist temptation when I allow it a second thought. Pornography has had such a great hold over my life for years that the only way I can maintain control over its urges is to allow the Spirit to bolster my strength to make the right decision BEFORE I face temptation. Saving that decision for my weakest moment, standing before Satan’s deceit offered up on a silver platter, is never wise. I can’t remember very many times I DIDN’T make the wrong choice in that moment and then regret it. That’s not to say that God doesn’t always offer us a way out of temptation as He promises us in His Word. I just know that “way out” comes in all different forms and at all different times, and will not be easily chosen by our foolhardy, hormonal minds in that crucial moment. I think many times our way out of a difficult sin situation is just by Spirit-led self-control. I am weak im my own power.

Self control is cultivated as one of the fruits of the Spirit, and when we follow Christ and grow in our relationship with Him, self control is excercised and developed by obedience. Being in the Word every day will develop that, along with having a sincere and obedient heart before God.

Though we may consider ourselves the “strongest” Christian we can be, we are still weak in our flesh when faced with something as dangerously attractive as lust. Don’t give sin a second thought. Decide what to do before the temptation arises and stick to your guns. Satan’s lies are powerful before our flesh and giving even a moment to consider the merits of succumbing to the urge will ALWAYS cause us to fail. There is only one good choice to make, anything else we allow ourselves to consider is a blatant lie. If we sit there and consider it at all, and don’t decide what to do beforehand, we will fail and grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we are enabled to stay on the path of righteousness.

Lastly, do not harbor any positive thoughts toward pornography. Any enjoyment you may have gained from it in the past was ways a lie. Every time I allow myself a tiny moment of inward longing for the adrenaline rush of sin, I inevitably begin a downward slide that is hugely difficult to recover from. It is then that my ability to allow God to help me forsee moments of temptation and avoid them is dangerously impaired.

We ABSOLUTELY CAN be on a path to stay out of the pit of lies of pornography! Just cultivate that Spirit-directed self-control and use Godly foresight to know when you might be tempted and do all in your power to avoid it. I promise God will do the rest and you will see the fruit of obedience.

Loneliness Can Be A Dangerous Foothold.

My wife and kids are headed out this week to visit her family in California, turning my house into Lonely-ville until next week when I venture out there to meet them for some vacation time. Seldom do I look forward to times like this because, though I find time to take on much-needed projects around the house in their absence, I am much more vulnerable to the false comfort and pleasure that porn can bring. Porn and lust can usually fill a hole inside of us that gets bigger when we are lonely or even unwittingly depressed.
We may not admit it or realize that we are letting fantasies fill the void, but these are times we need to be extra vigilant. Try to find something constructive to occupy your time when you find yourself alone with no accountability. Visit with friends or plan to get some work done. Most of all, use times like this to grow and strengthen your relationship with the Lord. This can be a great growing time through your trial!  Just lean on the Lord and let him work this for His glory, because loneliness is a place we should find solace in Him, not temporal comforts in sin.

Teaching on Temptation

This morning Insight for Living (the radio program) began a series of bible teachings by Chuck Swindoll about temptation. It’s called “Staying Pure In a World Gone Wild.” The first one was excellent, and I expect the rest will be the same. Look for it on your local Christian talk station or at http://www.insight.org/broadcast/.

Do Not Stray Into Her Paths (Arrows In Your Liver??)

    Proverbs 7

 1  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you;  2  keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;  3  bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.  4  Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend,  5  to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.

 6  For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice,  7  and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense,  8  passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house  9  in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.

 10  And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.  11  She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home;  12  now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.  13  She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him,  14  “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows;  15  so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.  16  I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen;  17  I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.  18  Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.  19  For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey;  20  he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.”

 21  With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.  22  All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast  23  till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life… —http://www.bible.is/ENGESV/Prov/7/1

I think this is probably one of the most poignant chapters in the Bible dealing with sexual sin. It’s the anecdotal anthem of the foolish young man and the seductress. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been beaten (or beaten yourself) over the head with this passage of scripture so often in your fight for purity, that you can recite chunks of it backwards in your sleep. Though I may be beating a dead horse here with what I say, please bear with me for a few moments; some things are worth highlighting.

Think about the predicament this young man is in. He is described first as being “among the simple,” his character displayed in stark contrast to the admonition of the father in v. 1-5 to “keep my commandments and live.” He is “lacking sense” because he hasn’t “written them on the tablet of his heart” by the study and retention of God’s commands. I know that unless you begin to study and write God’s Word on your heart, you will lack the wisdom God has freely given for every situation in life, especially to avoid sin. The Bible gives us foresight and knowledge of His desires for us. The young man pictured here lacks biblical understanding and is about to act upon his foolish nature.

Following his description as a fool, he passes “along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.” His lack of sense does not afford him the foresight to avoid the temptress’ corner. The darkness also hides him from others who may have seen him and given him warning. He is utterly alone in his foolishness, and is about to pay for it. “Passing along the street near her corner” means he put himself in a situation where extreme temptation was probable. When we who are compulsive porn abusers allow ourselves to encroach upon her territory, as an ox goes to the slaughter, we will be taken captive by her brazen kiss. Being alone with unrestricted internet access, or surfing late-night television -whatever medium the vice may come by- makes failure almost inevitable. I can think of countless times I failed because I did not take proper precautions to avoid being online when home alone, or to avoid having a tv in my hotel room on a work trip without my family. Perceiving this danger ahead of time could have saved me a lot of unneeded temptation and failure. Now, godly foresight helps me on a daily basis to maintain purity before the Lord and my wife.

Let’s not forget the cost of failure. In this story, the Father says that the young man’s mistake in following the adulteress home “cost him his life.” In Old Testament Israel, both the adulterous man and woman would have been found guilty of a crime punishable by death. While we no longer have such harsh earthly punishments for acting out on lust and infidelity, the havoc porn addiction will wreak can still basically cost a man his life. To be left with a broken family and a faltering relationship (or lack thereof) with the Lord, is something no Christian wants. However unthinkable, it could very well happen if porn rules your life.

I leave you with this: any outside measures you can take, along with a healthy dose of scripture, will help you to avoid “passing along the street near her corner.” Heed the warning signs! And now the Father who pleads with His sons through this Proverb concludes with a caution that is as apt today as it was in ancient Israel:

 24  And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth.  25  Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths,  26  for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.  27  Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. — http://www.bible.is/ENGESV/Prov/7/24

We Talk “Addiction,” But It’s Still Our Responsibility

Addiction is a word I’ve used a lot (and will continue to use) on this blog.  As Dictionary.com puts it, addiction is:

–noun

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
Now this is a modern definition, which, while mostly accurate, paints a picture of someone at the helpless mercy of another: a slave. While so often we find ourselves floundering against the urge to gratify our sexual desires, this does not absolve us of personal responsibility in the face of addiction.
 
Below its English definition on Dictionary.com, the word’s origin is listed, giving us a well-rounded understanding:
Origin:
1595–1605; < Latin addictiōn-  (stem of addictiō ) a giving over, surrender. See addict, -ion
“A giving over, surrender.” At some point, we made a conscious choice (or series of small decisions) that toppled our teetering selves onto the forbidden side of the addiction fence. We gave ourselves over to sin. I think we forget sometimes that we are still at fault for what we do as addicts. It’s easy to begin to play the “victim card” when you’ve failed so many times to escape back to freedom, but it’s a dangerous way of thinking. That puts us in a place of opposition to God’s will for our lives, viewing our own position as tolerable or “right” because it’s beyond our control. Why do you think the homosexual movement has gained so much acceptance? It’s because of this same way of thinking; personal responsibility is on the downgrade in our culture, replaced instead by the idea that “I was born this way.” We are not victims, we’re sinners! God’s will is for us to have freedom from sin through Christ, even from addiction. One major part of that is taking responsibility for our behavior!
 
Learning self-control is also key. God, through Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8 tells us:
 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.  — http://www.bible.is/ENGESV/1Thess/4/2
I have failed so many times because I surrendered to that victim mentality, as if the decision to turn away was somehow out of my control. I know now that was absolutely wrong! I was submitted to my flesh, and not to the rescuing power of the Holy Spirit. He can enable us in our weakness to make the right choice. We should submit to Him to help us flee!

James 4:7

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. — http://www.bible.is/ENGESV/Jas/4/7

 

 I know it may sound harsh, but start taking responsibility. Learn self-control. It’s not completely up to you (since you are helpless on your own), but start doing your fair share of the work. Though God is able, that doesn’t mean He’ll miraculously free you from porn addiction without some effort on your end, so hop to it!
 
Just remember that you are not alone.

Two Heads Aren’t Always Better Than One (Though They Can Be, Potentially)

Yes, it’s a disconcerting and oft surprising phenomena. Given a first thought, one may be inclined to believe that getting married can solve or reduce your personal problems. Even within the first few months of marriage, when two eagerly love-struck  individuals begin to come to grips with “what’s mine is yours and yours is mine,” sharing everything is a new and wonderful experience. While assimilation into married life physically can seem easy and fun, as it should be, spiritually speaking  it can be much more difficult.

Think of it this way: your wife-to-be has issues of her own (“as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;’” – yes, that means even your perfect woman isn’t exactly so), and you, as a man, have yours (in our case, often some form of sexual sin or pornography). On one hand, marriage is a place of peace, where a partner and friend is always there to listen and “share the load.” On the other hand, bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2) doesn’t always mean you divide your sin with hers and therefore each has a half-load  -  it means her sins are compounded on top of yours. Remember, “two shall become one.” You are no longer separate people with different sins and backgrounds. I don’t mean to say that it isn’t a blessing or joy to be married, but the spiritual atmosphere when you say “I do” becomes twice as volatile.

Bringing a sin like porn addiction into marriage with a coy attitude that marriage itself is the solution, is going to make you fall flat on your face – except that this time you’ll take your wife down with you. I’m not saying that your wife can’t help you, but you both are likely in for a lot of trouble if you don’t deal harshly and honestly with your sin NOW. Sex with your wife will gratify your sexual desires temporarily, but it will not feed the insatiable monster of addiction within you. In my experience this is not a reflection of your sex life or the attractiveness of your wife. It has more to do with feeding a need that can only be met chemically in your body by masturbation to pornographic images – a need your wife will be unable to fill unless you break free. Your mind has developed unrealistic expectations for sex.

In the case of pornography and sexual sin, do not ever expect that marrying your dream woman will somehow set you free. It won’t. In my case, the Lord used our marriage and love for each other as the vehicle to help me find that freedom, but it was the most difficult time of my life. I don’t wish that agonizing road on anyone. My road to freedom cost a lot of my marriage.

Like I said before, marrying another sinful individual doesn’t make life easier. One day on Facebook recently I had a discussion with a friend (a different conversation, but this fits), and concluded with this:

I think that’s why Paul spoke of marriage the way he did in 1 Corinthians 7.
Verses 32 – 34 say, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the …Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided…”
I know paul doesn’t say this to discourage love and marriage, for he speaks highly of marriage elsewhere, but to encourage higher devotion to the Lord and to serve as a warning of sorts. He knows that in the fallen world we live in it is easy to be distracted by things not of the Lord (in many cases love and marriage). He warns us in 2 Corinthians not to be yoked with unbelievers (those who are already Christians and were not married before we were saved, but that’s another issue all together). That point being made the Lord warns us through Paul not to be frivolous with our life choices, and to have our minds prayerfully made up before we enter in to them.
The other side of that coin has Paul telling us in Ephesians 5 how to love our wives with the sacrificial love of Christ. I know first hand the blessings God has for us in marriage when we are enabled by His Spirit to love the Lord first, and then have that love overflow into love for a wife. Admittedly there are countless distractions and ups and downs in our marriage, but without fail, when my eyes are fixed on Jesus first, I know our love for one another and our testimony to others glorifies God…

 Looking back at myself before we were married, my idea of love was so limited. I found out after being married that  loving Christ and loving LIKE Christ is so much harder than it seems. It’s easy to talk about, but following through with it in a marriage relationship has been one of the hardest learning experiences of my life. I think that’s one reason divorce happens so often. I don’t mean to over-simplify divorce, but today people don’t have enough of a desire to love the Lord (and thereby their spouse) above themselves. When times get tough or temporal feelings of love leave, there is nothing more anchor to their committment. I know for me it is extremely difficult not to satiate my own personal whims as the leader of my family, instead of putting their needs above mine. Every day is a lesson to die to myself, and when God’s not first I fail as a husband and dad way too often.

 Being in a marriage relationship is hard; being designed by God to be the leader of a family is even harder. Please don’t enter into it lightly! Get counseling. Get help. Be honest! The blessings you glean in a godly marriage, however, far outweigh the danger when you trust the Lord. Listen to Him make the decision to let Him lead you in your places of weakness. Our wives share our burdens, but doesn’t Christ ask us to cast our burdens on Him first?

Do you have any examples from marriage to share? Or preparing for marriage?

Check Out “My Story”

I’ve added a page to explain a little bit more about me. It’s my testimony in a nutshell – a reeeaally big nutshell…

Psalms 62:8 – Be honest with our faithful God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  http://www.bible.is/ENGESV/Ps/62/8

One thing we can surely count on is that God is unfailingly faithful, and it is to Him that we can run when we want to hide from sin. He is our refuge!

I’m going to be redundant with a “Christianism,” but it’s true: God sees everything. He knows what you are going through and He sees every temptation and failure. If we want to begin to flee sin we need to be honest above all – especially in our pleadings with God. Don’t allow yourself to “hide” any details of your sins from Him. Pornography is one of the most secretive sins we men face. When we are in a pit of self-loathing from failure, or when we think we are being tempted beyond our control, if we can’t confess every horrid detail of our sins to Him who has the power to free us, how in the world are we going to be able to be honest with those we want to hold us accountable? HONESTY IS KEY.

“Pour out your heart before him.”

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