How to Overcome: Fight, Fast, Flee

A friend who attended the Pure Life annual conference this past weekend reminded me of some helpful advice which if followed can make the difference between a person overcoming addiction or falling prey to it.  The principles are these:   Fight, Fast and Flee.  

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Fight

Overcoming does not come without a fight.   It requires a battle mentality.   We must not forget that we have an enemy, prowling around like a lion, seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8).

We must not be surprised when temptation comes, or think we have done something wrong simply because we are being tempted.   Temptation provides us with an opportunity to resist the devil and say no to our impulsive desires.   We must remember that no temptation has overcome us that is not common to man, and that with every temptation God provides a way out (1 Cor. 10:13).

So many times I thought I was struggling, or fighting, against my addiction when really I was caving in at the first signs of  battle!  Develop a warrior mentality.  God has called you to be an over-comer, a victor, and has equipped you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1) and filled you with the same power which raised Christ from the dead!   You, dear reader, are a fighter, and it’s time to win some battles.

For more on this topic read “Are you REALLY struggling against habitual sin?”  

Fast

Overcoming does not happen without fasting.   Fasting is not just giving up food.  It can and often includes giving up things like TV, internet, social media, secular music, drinking, a hobby, or anything else which feeds the flesh.

When we say no to things which we think we need for periods of time (and in some cases, forever) we build our spiritual muscles as well as our confidence in our ability to withstand temptation.  When I began fasting from food for 24 hours once a week I was surprised to discover how much that practice would help free me from my own addictive behavior.   Learning to say “no” to a growling stomach helped me to see that I was not a slave to my desires and could therefore also say “no” to temptations to lust.

If you are not experiencing lasting victory over your addictive behavior then I commend to you the practice of fasting.

For more on this topic read “How Fasting Saved My Life, and Might Save Yours, Too.”

Flee

Overcoming does not happen without fleeing.   1 Cor. 6:18 says to “Flee from sexual immorality.”   Run!   Get as far away from it as you can!

Psalm 1 says a blessed man is one won’t walk in the way of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers.   The word-picture here is a person who first walks by something enticing and rather than continue walking (or better yet, run!) he stops and stands around, taking in the scene.   Soon he is no longer standing but sitting in it.

One way to flee is by not giving the devil an opportunity to entice us to stand or sit around in our sin (Eph. 4:27).   If you struggle with sexual sin it is imperative you put filters on your computers and phones, along with accountability software which sends a list of websites viewed to your accountability partners.   Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are just two of many great places to start shopping for that kind of support.

Jesus said if our eye causes us to sin, gouge it out (Matt. 18:19).    The meaning here is to take sin seriously.  When temptation comes, run!  Get out of that situation as fast as possible.   Get a friend on speed-dial who you can call and talk with, who will help lead you back to God’s truth.    Whatever you need to do, flee!

 

FIGHT, FAST, and FLEE.   Apply these principles to your daily walk with God and see if He does not grant you the strength and victory His word promises.   We are more than conquerors in all things through Christ who loved us (Rom. 8:37)!

 

Please feel free to share how you have experienced victory when applying these or other principles.

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Get Out of the Spiritual Ghetto

In Matthew 17 Jesus comes upon a man who pleads with him to heal his son.   This boy is an epileptic and the scriptures tell us he “suffers terribly, for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water” (Matt. 17:15).

Falling often into the fire, and often into the water.  

When reading this passage I felt the Lord was saying to me that this is a picture of many people’s Christian walk.   I know it was of mine at one time.   In the margins of my bible next to this verse I have written the words:

Falling into both hell and baptism.   How often I walked in both!

I remember all-too-well the days when I “suffered terribly,” moving back and forth between the realities of hell and baptism, fire and water, porn and confession.  It was a miserable existence, one that played havoc on my conscience and my spirit day in and day out.  For years I stayed there in the middle, bouncing back and forth, indulging in my flesh Monday through Saturday and then pleading for grace on Sunday.    

Fire and Water.  Hell and Baptism.  It’s a miserable way to live.

And the enemy of our souls wants to convince us that this is the place everyone else lives as well or that there is no other home but this.  He causes us to defend ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, minimizing our own sin while magnifying those of our neighbors.   When we get busy comparing ourselves to one another it’s easy to believe the lie that the Christian life is always one of hell and baptism, fire and water.

Steve Gallagher, in his book Living in Victory, describes this life between hell and baptism this way:

What is freedom, and what is bondage?  Many Christians try to have it both ways.  They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them.  Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds.  They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love.  Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus.  Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit.  Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.”  The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto (pg. 150).

If you are indulging in both habitual sin and religion, waffling back and forth between hell and baptism, then you are in this spiritual ghetto Gallagher describes.  You are what James called the “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

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The way out of hell is to always look to Jesus.   Paul says we ought to keep our mind on things above, not on things of the earth (Col. 3:2) and that our goal is to become mature in Christ, looking like him, not others (Eph. 4:13).   The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “consider Jesus” and to “look to him” who is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith, so that we might not grow weary or fainthearted as we struggle against sin.  We have not, the author reminds us, resisted to the point of shedding blood like our Lord Jesus had (Heb. 12:1-6).

When I compare myself with others around me, and justify my behavior, desires or sins based on what others are doing then I will never change.   Jesus called this path the “broad way” and said many are on it, and it’s end is death and destruction (Matt. 7:13).   That way is the way of hell.   It is not difficult to find any number of enablers, both in and out of the church, who will tell you, “boys will be boys,” or “you aren’t hurting anyone.”   Worse yet, the devil will gladly tell you what you want to hear, causing you to be proud of yourself that your private sins of lust are not nearly as bad as the public sins of your peers.   This is the broad way that leads to hell.

But when I compare myself to Jesus, always looking to him rather than others, two truths come into better focus for me:

1.  How unlike him I am.

2.  How much I need him to change me from inside out.

When I compare myself to Jesus rather than the world around me I see how much and how often I fall short of the glory of God and deserve judgment while simultaneously, by the grace of God, can know His mercy and love.    That He who knew no sin would die for me who is full of sin is a game-changer.  As the beautiful hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” declares, seeing Jesus pours contempt on all my pride and this love so amazing, so divine, “demands my soul, my life, my all.”

If you find yourself falling into both fire and water, hell and baptism, then you must first repent of your lack of faith (Matt. 17:17) and believe that God desires you to be free from this sin, and has the ability to do it.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and this most certainly includes your enslavement to unholy desires and lusts.   You cannot compare yourself to others any longer but only with the holy, righteous, perfect Father in heaven who bought you with a price and therefore has rightful claim on how you use your body (1 Cor. 6:20).

There is no joy like the joy that comes with knowing that you know that you know that you are walking in purity and in holiness with Jesus Christ.   Yes, it will cost you much, and require a complete transformation of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2) and heart (John 3:7), but it is worth it!  Jesus did not die on a cross for you and I to live in a spiritual ghetto, bouncing between hell and baptism, fire and water, but so that you and I could be new creations (2 Cor. 5:17)!    He whom the Son has set free is truly and wonderfully free (John 8:36)!

Testimony: Resurrection Sighting #2

Here is another testimony, or resurrection sighting,  submitted by a reader.    You can check out yesterday’s HERE.   If you would like to share your story please email it to cjwh74@gmail.com.

HOLY, HEALTHY, HONORABLE RELATIONSHIPS

I was born into a Christian home and accepted Christ into my heat at an early age. Growing up I was mostly surrounded by women which caused me to develop a high need for love and acceptance from men. A need I really didn’t understand until much later in life.

I have learned that all people have a need to be loved and accepted by their same gender and most get that need met very naturally and organically. So much so that they don’t even realize that they have the need, Kind of like the need for oxygen, when you are not receiving air you become acutely aware of it and your need for it and most will do some desperate crazy things to get it.

Fortunately for me those desperate and crazy things did not include physical things. It did however; involve manipulation of friendships, emotional warfare, codependence and dependence. My life circled around me and how I could get my need to be love and acceptance from guys met. Most times it turned out badly and I was left lower than when I started. Only to start again with a new set of friends repeating the cycle until I was once again left alone. It almost always involved my emotional dependence on a single guy.

I like many confused guys hoped that my desires, attraction, and needs would change with prayer and time. Certainly, they would once I got married. I soon found out that the needs marriage fills were quite different than the need I had from guys, I loved and still love Kristi and she has been a rock of grace in this journey. She however, is not and can not be a brother, father or male mentor to me.

In the late 80s, when I discovered just what was happening inside me there where not many resources available. Exodus International was pretty much it. There ministry didn’t seem to fit me as I wasn’t trying to leave the gay lifestyle…. I had never been in it. I knew no one else personally who had the same struggle as me and I didn’t dare tell anyone. But still I needed to figure out all these attractions, desires and deep need for love and acceptance from guys that I had. I felt very alone.

Thankfully, God had a plan… A plan to prosper, not destroy. A crazy plan. He gave me a compassionate and loving wife and friend that would stand with me to the end.

His plan also involved two extended periods of time away from my family. The first one was brought on by Kristi discovering an illicit online relationship along with other online habits. I was asked to leave the house. Well, my belongings were brought to me while I was at work.

During that separation I sought counseling and learned how my high need for same sex love and acceptance had been developed and what it was and what it wasn’t and how to turn it over to God. Kristi and I also attended counseling with a mentor couple and we learned to communicate a little better.

The separation ended and I started to find healthy male friendships. I started to find acceptance among the guys via working out at the gym, and here at church. I had a long way to go but I was finally on the right track.

The acceptance was coming but inside I wasn’t feeling quite like a man or comfortable with my masculinity. So God did the hilarious. He took me away form my family again and I found myself at Army Basic Training at age 41. Not the cure for a midlife crisis I would recommend. Due to good Army training I returned home with new sense of my own manhood and at last feeling like I belonged in a guys world.

So where does that leave me today? I have a wife that loves and supports me. I have three amazing kids that have a heart for bringing others to Christ and living as He demonstrated. And I have a few men that continues to show me the love and acceptance that my heart had longed for so many years.

A friend of mine asked me recently what my focus was. I responded with what God has taught me over the past several years…..

I want to focus on helping people realize that they are made in the image of God and that He can and will meet all of our needs in HOLY. HEALTHY and HONORABLE ways. ALL of our needs, physical, emotional. spiritual., financial. sexual. all of them. He made us with them and knows how to best meet them if we only step back and allow HIM to instead of manipulating our worlds to get them meet in selfish, sleazy and sinful ways.

I’m focusing on bringing people into the Kingdom and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to them when and where conviction needs to be made. By sharing my story and listening to theirs. healing and restoration will happen organically and their relationship with the Creator will be restored.

I know it has been with me.

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Testimony: Resurrection Sighting #1: Strength

Being the Easter season I wanted to offer a platform for readers of Desire Mercy to share testimonies of what God is doing in their lives.   If you would like to submit one I will be happy to share it here.   The bible says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11) and I believe that by sharing with others how God is resurrecting new life in us, in our relationships, in our faith, etc., that we are bringing Him glory and we are bringing hope to someone struggling.    So feel free to share!   Send your testimony to me at cjwh74@gmail.com and I will post it anonymously unless you state otherwise.

Be blessed today by this testimony of STRENGTH in the midst of an affair…

STRENGTH

The one thing I always said I would never be able to handle would be my husband stepping out on me. I had seen this happen over and over again as a child. My mother would catch my step-father in a lie. The screaming and yelling would ensue then the sadness would set in and my mother always seemed to be up to something. She was always looking for ways to get back at him to the point of inviting strange men to our house when he was away at work. It was a vicious cycle of betrayal and hurt. There was always drama and I in no way wanted to have anything to do with that kind of life.

It seemed I had dodged that bullet. I married a good guy but he had also come from a very broken past. We both had so many broken people in our lives that we could judge and say we would never be like. I really believed he was not capable of hurting me in that way. Then one day in late November he called and asked me to come home from work early. I walked into my home to a man that did not even look like my husband of 16 years. He was a mess. I actually asked him if he needed to go to the hospital. He proceeded to tell me what he had done. I honestly do not remember much. I know I did not cry. I actually did not cry for days. I was in shock.

I remember taking a bath that night and thinking “Why are you not crying? Are you going to crack up and end up in the hospital? Are you going to leave? What are you going to do?” It was then that I heard the Spirit say to me “ I have had your heart in my hand your whole life.” Then I remembered walking to the church across the street when I was 4 years old. I would get up and get ready all by myself and my mom would watch me cross the street for Sunday School.  I found such strength at that moment, remembering that Jesus was truly the lover of my soul. I did not need a man to be my strength. Jesus really was enough.

The story does not end here of course. Once I decided that I had a choice and I was going to stay in my marriage the hard work had to begin. But, the key here is that it was my CHOICE to stay not my necessity out of my situation or my Christian duty as a wife. Because Jesus showed up and met me right in the beginning of my pain I knew I had something way bigger than me that was going to give me the strength I needed and he would  walk beside me the whole way just as he had always done.  Recently an amazing Hillsongs worship song came out with these lovely lyrics:

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand

Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

carrying me through the storm

He has never let me down and He will not start now. He gave me the strength to handle my childhood and all the storms in my life. I know He has never forgotten me.

It is now 5 months later. My husband is going to therapy weekly and we attend couples therapy every other week now. It has been an up and down journey for sure. We have good day s and some really difficult moments but we have each other’s best intentions at heart. We are relearning how to be intimate and healthy. We are far from the end of this journey but the road is less bumpy and the footsteps in the sand are clearly marked by a BIG gracious God that has a beautiful plan for our lives and continues to give us a strength neither one of us were aware of before.

The Blood of Jesus Saved a Wretch Like Me

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You won’t be free until you see the cross of Jesus Christ for what it truly is.   This is why St. Paul said that he desired to know and preach nothing else besides Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).  The words of that wonderful hymn are true:

Would you be free from your burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o’er evil the victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood

The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus, our sacrifice:  “He entered once for all in the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscious from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:12-14).

Would you be free?  Would you be purified in your mind and heart and enabled to serve the living God with a clean heart?   You must know the power of the blood shed on the tree of Calvary.

cross

One of the biggest obstacles to our freedom is our tendency to minimize our sin, thereby minimizing the cross.   After many years of theological education which taught me all the many theories about why Jesus died on the cross none of it had any power to change my life like the simple truth:

Jesus had to die to save a wretch like me.   

Sin is a serious thing to God and the cross is proof of this.  Sin is not just inconvenient, or messy, or harmful, or depressing, or selfish.  Sin is deadly.  Sin destroys.  Sin is of such seriousness that it required God’s own Son to die in order to deal with it.   If you have any doubts about how serious God takes our sexual immorality or other habitual sins just look at the cross and see his bloody Son.   

I remember the day I first saw Jesus on the cross as though for the first time after nearly 36 years of being a Christian.   I had just completed a strongly recommended assignment while at Pure Life where I locked myself away in a chapel for about 6 hours and wrote out everything that came to mind in Charles Finney’s Breaking Up the Fallow Ground exercise.   When done, I gazed at the 20-some pages of offenses I’ve committed against this God I claimed to love and my heart was crushed like never before.    As I wept over the utter wretchedness of my life I looked up at the cross on the chapel wall and cried out,

HOW???  HOW COULD YOU DIE FOR SUCH A MESS LIKE ME???  HOW COULD YOU DO IT!!?? WHAT SORT OF LOVE IS THIS??!!

In that moment there was no longer  a question of WHY Jesus died for me.  I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no other way.  The WHY was morphed by HOW.    How could God do this for me?  I remember shouting,  I am so unlike You!  I became mesmerized by this holy, awesome, wholly-other God who would put on flesh and bones and shed His righteous blood for a wretch like myself.   Give me this Jesus!   I no longer wished to argue about nor doubt why he died for me but desired nothing more than to live for a God who showed such love for me!   There was no doubt in my mind and heart that from that moment on I would make Jesus the Lord of my life forever, and that I would one day be with Him in glory.    I knew the price with which I had been bought, and it was now a joy to honor God with all my heart, mind, and strength, including my body (1 Cor. 6:20).

My hope and prayer for you who are reading this blog is that you would see the cross this Easter season for what it truly is.    The why is simple:  He had to die to save a wretch like you and I.   The how is marvelous:  What sort of God is this who would do such a thing for you and I?   When you see the cross for what it is you will know that you know that you know that you are Christ’s and He is yours.

If you are serious about putting to death your habitual sin then I challenge you do print out the Breaking Up the Fallow Ground and read it, pray over it, and do it.   Take as many hours or days as it requires of you, and ask God to show His Son to you as though for the very first time.   He will do it!

A pastor friend of mine who came to me for help after decades of bondage took this exercise seriously and sent me the following text:

I am free! The surrender is as complete as I can do for the moment.  I have the assurance that I am Christ’s and He is mine.  There is NO more condemnation!  I am walking out of this sanctuary as a new resurrected person in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, desiring to walk in holiness and to do things not my way, but His.   Praise God! Thank you Jesus. I have the assurance of my personal salvation for the first time in my life!  Praise God for His mercy, His patience, and His faithfulness!

He has been free for over 2 months now, praise be to God.    Will today be the beginning of your freedom?     Run to the cross.   There is power in the blood!

Radio Interview

 

Hey Desire Mercy readers, I have been invited to speak on the Jesse Lee Peterson show today (Monday) at 10AM EST.   The host of the show discovered this blog and wants to talk about the journey God has had us on and our restoration as a family along with the work I do as a pastor.    The show is broadcast live in several markets nationwide but can also be heard online from anywhere.   The link to learn more about how to listen is HERE.

I’d appreciate your prayers this morning that God would use this time to encourage, challenge and equip someone listening.   Thanks for your support!

 *addition added following the interview*

I apologize to anyone who had to listen to that.   I was invited on the show under the pretense that I would be talking about my former addiction and the way God has restored my life and my family.    What it turned out to be was something very different.   I take responsibility for that. I should have done my research before accepting an interview like this.   Please accept my apologies.

God is not content with 99% of you

Luke 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the bible.  It’s what I preached from Sunday.  I spent most of the time in the story of the prodigal son but ended with the story of the lost sheep.   Here, Jesus asks an important question of his audience full of sinners and religious professionals:

Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country, and go find the one that is lost until he finds it?

 

The answer to this question is one that might surprise us:   NONE OF US!  We are quite content with the 99, aren’t we?  If one foolish sheep goes and gets itself lost we are not going to jeopardize losing 99% of our profits for one dumb sheep, right?  That would be bad business.  99% is not a bad return in our economy.    Besides, the one lost might count as a write-off.

But this story isn’t about us. It’s about our Heavenly Father.   Jesus is trying to show us that unlike us, this Hound of Heaven will not rest until He finds and brings home every one of His own.   When we wander off the path and get stuck in a thicket, we can count on our Good Shepherd hunting us down till found.

jesus-sheep

At least two applications come to mind, the first being more obvious than the second.

First, God is not content with just 99%.  He is a jealous God and wants all of His children, or sheep, home.   He is not interested in preserving the flock that is at the expense of the flock that should or could be.  This means He will move out from our little church pastures where we have grown comfortable with ourselves and the 99 we have in attendance to go hunting the dark corners of our communities in search of the one that is missing.   He will not rest till every lost soul is found.    And therefore neither should we.   We are to be like our Father in Heaven, discontent with the number we have and always seeking to find the one hung up in the bushes out back.

Second, yet every bit as important, I sensed the Lord saying to me that I am all-too-often content with giving Jesus 99% of my heart when he wants it all.   Far too often I think it’s a good return on my investment if I can give God most of myself while holding back parts here and there.   I assume that God is like me, content with the 99 and willing to write-off the part I’ve withheld.    But God is not like me.  He is a jealous God and wants, and deserves, everything I have.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Back when I was addicted to pornography I got good at minimizing this sin by focusing on all the other good things I was doing (pastoring a church, going to seminary, adopting children, etc).  I convinced myself that God would be satisfied with the good I was doing and overlook this “one little black spot” in my life.

Perhaps porn is not your “one thing” but something else.   Maybe gossip is your thing, and you know it’s wrong and you shouldn’t do it, but believe 99% of your heart is good, what’s the big deal about this one thing?    Maybe it’s an addiction to any number of things or people.  Maybe it’s anger, or fear, or envy, or lustful thoughts, or bitterness, or lying,  or crude speech (Eph. 4:25-32).  It is so easy to comfort ourselves in the pasture made up of the 99%, where we go to church, attend Sunday school, pay our tithes, and give a dollar now and then to the beggar on the street and think God doesn’t care about the one dark corner of our heart hung up in the brambles.

The good news is that God does care.   I know that may not sound like good news at the moment.   It may sound like judgment.   And it is.  God’s word judges our hearts and minds, but never for the purpose of condemning us but to free us.   He is a holy God who “yearns jealously over the Spirit which he has made to dwell within us” (James 4:5).   If there is part of you which is lost, which is inconsistent with the will of the Holy Spirit, God wants to correct it, heal it, and free it.   He wants us enslaved by nothing in this world (1 Cor. 6:12).

So God is not like us.  He wants ALL of our heart, ALL of our SOUL, ALL of our STRENGTH , and ALL of our MIND (Luke 10:27).   If God wants this, then He will impart to us the grace by which we can accomplish living fully unto him rather than partly, or even mostly.    We can trust all of our heart and mind to Jesus because he is a GOOD shepherd and knows exactly and completely what is best for us (John 10).

What is your 1%?    Pray with me…

Dear Jesus, I thank you that you care enough about me to want everything.   Forgive me for being content with giving  you what I thought was most of me when you want all of me.   I give you permission to seek out and find and bring home the parts of my life that are lost and in darkness.   Expose them for what they are and help me to see my sin in the way you see it.  I don’t want to be enslaved by anything, and ask you to take complete control of my heart, my thoughts, my desires, my words, my body, my will.   Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to save every bit of me.   Thank you for forgiving me.   Amen.

The story of the lost sheep ends this way:

I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven  over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

Heaven is rejoicing over you!