Tag Archives: Marriage

Will Jesus do many miracles among us?

A few years back I met a missionary from Africa who was here in Tennessee sharing the gospel with Americans.  I was fascinated (and convicted) as he shared the heart he and his church back home has for the lost here in my own backyard.  One thing he said to me I’ll never forget:

In Africa, we witness miracles all the time because we depend on them.  Without God meeting our daily needs, we would die.   The reason you see so few miracles here in America is because you’ve learned to depend on technology and modern medicine to meet your needs.   God is not so necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life where God is absolutely necessary, where I am increasingly dependent upon him to meet all my needs.   This is true of me less than I care to admit.

March Madness is right around the corner and you’ll no doubt hear many players and coaches reciting a line I remember hearing often during my brief time playing ball in high school:

Leave it all on the court.

After this game, don’t be the one who looks back with regret that you didn’t give it your all.   I wonder at times whether I will one day look back on my life and be satisfied that I left all behind for the sake of Christ, who left all to give me life.   I wonder if I will one day know all that could have been accomplished by God’s power working through me had I believed the impossible.

Or will it be said of me that Jesus could not do many miracles with Chad because of his unbelief (Matt. 13:58)?   I’m sure he’s done and will do some.  But many?   How much is many?

When I moved into Church of God country I witnessed for the first time in my life the gift of tongues and interpretation in full display.  Growing up a Nazarene I had never seen this gift.  I didn’t believe it was still in operation.  But churches in Cleveland, Tennessee proved otherwise.  Why is the gift of tongues a dominant gift in the Church of God but rarely if ever heard in the Church of the Nazarene?  Maybe because people growing up in the CoG have faith that this is a gift for them.

Why do so many preacher’s kids grow up to become pastors themselves?  Maybe because they saw their imperfect parent rising to the call and had faith that maybe they could, too?

Maybe miracles happen where people come to expect and believe that they will.

This may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but what we believe about ourselves comes to pass.   If you and I believe we can do something, than we will, or at the very least, we will die trying.   And if you and I believe we can’t do something, we won’t, nor will we try.

When I was floundering in my sexual addiction there were numerous things I believed wrongly, but two are pertinent to this post:

  1. What I’m experiencing isn’t sin, but addiction.
  2.  I’ll always be an addict

The turning point for me in my life was when I came to my senses and saw how my behavior was not due to me being an addict but due to me being a sinner.   I was a slave to sin.

The distinction is an important one, I believe.    My experience has been such that when I saw myself primarily as an addict, I did so to my detriment.   My identity as an addict put a veil between myself and a miracle working God, causing me to place my trust in a program to provide at best a daily reprieve from my addictive behavior.

But when I saw myself as a sinner, a person who has become addicted to sinning in a particular way, there was a seismic shift in my spirit.   Naming my condition rightly opened up the door for the Holy Spirit to minister to that condition.  It tore the veil separating myself from God and helped me to see that there is indeed a remedy for sin – the blood of Christ – and that in his grace and mercy he has provided wonderful tools (such as the steps, a group of brothers, a sponsor, and most importantly, his Word) to enable me to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh, one day at a time.

There is so much brokenness in our world today.  So much that is outside of God’s intended design for us.  I see it in my own heart.  I see it in my family. I see it in our churches.   And the world cannot be healed or saved when the church is sick.  I believe God is aching to heal us of our brokenness, that this has always been the case, yet we are so often unaware or unwilling.   Jesus is calling out to us still, like a mother hen, longing to bring us under his wings.  But so often we reject the message, and the messenger (Luke 13:34).

Whether the issue be pornography, divorce, homosexuality, greed, lust, anger, racism, etc., it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the church and the world.   And this is to be expected.  For when the body of Christ ceases to name these things (and more) as sin, it ceases to avail herself to the One who died to destroy the work of sin (1 John 3:8).    We see so little victory over these sins because we do not believe victory is possible. 

It is imperative that we get our thinking – our hearts – right and aligned with the Spirit of Truth if we are to experience the joy and freedom Christ purchased for us with his blood.   It is imperative we do this for the sake of our mission to the world which has not seen, nor has it heard, nor has it entered into their hearts what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).

May it be said of all of us one day that we left it all on the court, and within our midst, Jesus did many miracles.

Dear Heterosexual: You are not forgotten

It’s been just over a week since the United Methodist General Conference voted on whether or not same sex marriage and LGBT clergy will be allowed in the UMC.

The fact that this issue has so captivated mainstream thought and life, and has been the key issue of debate every quadrennium in the UMC is quite impressive. Why?  Because according to a Gallup poll in 2018, only 4.5% of Americans self-identify as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual.   In this study, 95.5% of Americans identified themselves as straight.   What is so impressive is how the sex lives of 4 out of every 100 people has so captivated our consciousness, both within and without the Christian community.

It got me thinking:  What about the other 95% of us?  It can feel as though we have been forgotten.   It can feel as though our struggles and our sins are of little consequence.  With the spotlight so intensely focused on what 5% of the population is doing behind closed doors it’s easy to minimize or even justify our own struggles.

With 95% of Americans uninterested in marrying someone of the same sex it seems strange that nearly 100% of our conversations about sex have little to do with what all of us, gay or straight, are struggling with, such as….

Pornography

I wish we discussed this in the church more than we discuss homosexuality.   I wish this were seen for what it is – the epidemic destroying our lives – and our church leadership took it every bit as seriously if not more than homosexuality.   While we obsess over the 5%, consider these statistics regarding pornography

The porn industry generates 13 billion dollars in revenue in the US alone.
1 in 5 mobile searches are for pornography
69% of the internet pay-per-view market is pornography
51% of pastors say pornography is a real temptation
64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month
71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents
9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before age 18
Average age of first exposure: 12
68% of young adult men and 18% of young adult women use porn weekly.
This sin, legal to view and purchase everywhere, affects every one of us.  The struggle is real, and it is destroying more families and lives than gay marriage ever will.  Our nation’s legalization of gay marriage pales in comparison to the overwhelming acceptance of pornography in our culture and our failure to address it.

Premarital Sex

Even before pornography began to flourish with the advent of the Internet, virtually everyone was having sex outside of marriage.  A study published by the USA Today in 2006 showed that 9 in 10 women born in the 1940’s had premarital sex.  The median age in 2003 of those having sex for the first time was 17.  Of those interviewed in 2002, 95% said they had sex before marriage.

According to one study, 61 percent of Christians said they would have sex before marriage. Fifty-six percent said that it’s appropriate to move in with someone after dating for a time between six months and two years.

While everyone is talking about who 5% of our population is now allowed to marry, the church has often failed to offer to the struggling rest of us a healthy, positive view of sex and why God intends it to be reserved for marriage. We have failed to offer a positive, affirming, theologically rooted understanding of singleness and celibacy.  We do not teach well what it means to have a body created in God’s image to be used for God’s purposes in unique ways as a single person or as a married couple.   (Read my review of the excellent book, Faithful: A Theology of Sex. Better yet, get the book!).

Sexting

While our Church directs her focus on who can and cannot get married or be ordained, our youth are floundering as we turn blind eyes and hearts to their struggle.   Sexting, which is sending sexually explicit material through mobile devices, is a growing phenomenon among both youth and adults.  40% of all teenagers have sent and received sexual material through their phones.  You can read more stats here, and this CNN article suggests that over 60% of youth are using apps on their phones to send sexually suggestive material.  It’s worth checking out, parents, to learn ways to safeguard your kid’s online behavior.

I know firsthand the reality of these struggles, and know all too well the pain they bring to bear on all of one’s relationships.  Even more, I know the guilt and shame surrounding these behaviors and I know how easy it is to minimize and justify these things because they are done in secret.  Because so few will admit they struggle in these areas, and because the church spends so much time talking about the 5% rather than the other 95%, it’s no wonder there is so much confusion in our churches regarding sex ( and given our negligence here, it’s no wonder we struggle to speak the truth in love when it comes to the important matter of homosexuality, gender confusion, and more).

The church, when operating as she ought, is a hospital for the broken.  She is to be the place where sinners like you and I, the 100% of us, can be real about our struggles without fear of being shamed or judged so that we might discover the transforming power of grace at work in each of our lives, healing our brokenness and restoring our communion with God and each other.  And yes, that includes our sexual brokenness.

This is not to say the church has nothing to say about marriage, or shouldn’t address the 5% of our population, but it is to say that as we look at the landscape of sexuality around us, we must admit we are deeply broken and in desperate need of healing.   As I read Scripture, it says that judgment begins in the church, not upon those outside (1 Cor. 5:12).  Perhaps the most faithful and God-honoring thing we can do at such a time as this is to look within ourselves and bring to the cross our own struggles and sexual brokenness.   Perhaps the best thing we can do as a church, particularly this day as we enter into the penitent season of Lent, is to beat our chests and cry out, “Have mercy on me, Oh Lord, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

My hope and prayer for the church is that we are offering places of healing for all people, no matter what their struggle.  I don’t want to see us become so fixated on one sin that we forget that we are all sexually broken.  We all need healing.  We all need to have our minds renewed.  We all need to lay our sexual selves down at the altar and offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).   We all must remember that our bodies our not our own, but have been bought with a price, and we are to therefore honor God with how we use them.

The one way in which “all means all,” (a refrain often used by those fighting for affirmation and acceptance), is truly accurate is in the sense that we are all broken and are all in need of a Savior who not only can forgive us, but can transform our desires into holy affections, pleasing to God and for the glory of His name.

So, to the 95% of us out there who are struggling, please know you are not forgotten amid the cacophony of voices, both gleeful and despairing, over the results of General Conference.  And you are far from being alone.  I hope you’ll seek out a church this Lent to offer up your own struggle to the lover of your soul, and find a brother or sister to walk alongside you as you both recommit to surrendering your bodies, and what you do with them, to the God who made you.

Resurrection is a recovery promise

Hi!   I have some great news to share!  On Saturday, July 28th, I married my lover and best friend, Stephanie.   That this day came to pass is a miracle deserving of many words to describe but I want to share at least a few thoughts this morning.

On Saturday we stood before each other, surrounded by our children, presided over by my dad, as we read to each other vows we had written ourselves.   Getting to write down promises to my bride was something I couldn’t have imagined being able to do this time last year, but here I was, sober and present and in love with this woman with whom I knew I wanted to share all my life.   And I got to hear her vows to me, describing a man that she somehow, by the grace of God, was able to see beneath all the junk through the last couple years.   She described a man who, with the help of God and my program, I am fully capable of being and, more importantly, I love being.

My wife has been instrumental in showing me unconditional love – the love of Christ – so much so that we both had the word agape tattooed on our wrists to forever remind us of the love God has shown us both, even at our worst, and the love we desire to show to each other with God’s help.

I’ve written before about how there was a time when I believed I deserved a piece of shit car because of the wreckage the choices I made in my addiction caused.  When we are acting out with our drug of choice it is impossible to think we are deserving of anything good.   I shared how Stephanie was with me then and loved me through those days.   Standing before each other Saturday, pledging ourselves to each other, I knew in my heart that I am loved and capable of giving love in return.   What a gift that is!

It was important to us that our kids witness this ceremony as we acknowledge our dependence upon God to continue resurrecting our lives, restoring our hearts, and redeeming past hurts.   I wish I could adequately describe to you the pain that permeated our lives just a few short years ago which, at that time, seemed like it would never end, because if I could you would marvel like I did as I watched my son Maddox hug my new wife and tell her how happy he is that she married his dad.    You’d know the miracle it was to see them gathered together, holding hands, promising to love each other as we formed this new family and marked the occasion by each of us pouring different colored sand into a heart-shaped vase.

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Recovery is a resurrection miracle and it’s promises come true if we continue to desire them and work for them.    Today I am so very grateful that my wedding day celebrates the love my wife and I have for each other as well as the beauty and joy of lives restored by God’s relentless love.

If you are reading this and you are someone pursuing recovery, you know this to be true.  If you are someone still running from it, as I have done many times before, my prayer for you is that you find a ray of hope here.   No matter how helpless and hopeless things may seem right now, no matter how undeserving you may feel you are of love or joy, no matter how far down the scale you feel you have fallen, I want you to know you are not alone.   You are loved. You are worth recovery.   God has not forsaken you or forgotten you.    A new story can be written in your life if you will allow it.   The things you are holding onto today which you know deep down are not giving you life can and will be replaced by something – Someone! –  that can and will give you life.    These promises are true for anyone who desires them.     I am praying for you now.

 

 

The #1 cause of divorce is marriage

A counseling session this morning was an hour well spent.   He unpacked for me and my girlfriend a concept he calls “The Bullshit of Oneness.”  This idea, he said, is so ingrained in our understanding of marriage that it has become marriage itself, thus the reason why it is the number one cause of divorce.

The bullshit of oneness, he explained, is derived (in large part) from our culture’s misappropriation of Genesis 2:24 where man and woman become “one flesh.”   What the beginning of Genesis is trying to do here is expound upon our God-given task to “be fruitful and multiply.”    Becoming “one flesh” is about procreation. It’s about sex.

But that is not how many, if not most of us have been taught to think about one flesh, or oneness.   We have taken this to mean that I am no longer my own, and she is no longer her own, but we are now one.   My desires should now be her desires, and her desires should be my desires.    My friends should be her friends, and her friends mine, because we are now one person rather than two individuals.

If you don’t believe that the bullshit of oneness is so pervasive in our cultural understanding of marriage, especially in the church, just look at our marriage ceremonies.   Look at how the bride and groom each extinguish a candle, which represents their individual selves, only to light a unity candle together.   Or how they take individual cups of sand and pour them into one container as the priest points out how impossible it would now be to pluck out each person’s individual grains of sand.

It’s no wonder so many marriages end in divorce when our expectation of marriage is that on our wedding day, our partner is no longer their own but mine, and I am no longer my own but thine.   We divest ourselves of ourselves so that we can now become something until this point we had not been:  her or him.

When marriage is defined as this bullshit of oneness it is no wonder that marriage is the number one cause of divorce.

This was certainly my experience in my marriage which ended in divorce.   I was raised drinking the cultural church Kool-Aid about marriage and thought, at least subconsciously, that I was doing it wrong if I was not losing myself so that I could make my spouse happy or holy.  My job as a husband was to meld myself as well as I could to her, and her job as a wife was to bend her will towards mine, so that we were “one flesh,” no longer our own.  This only caused disappointment, pain or shame when the other person exhibited their own oneness.

I remember the first time I went hiking after my divorce and realized how much I loved it.   How liberating it was to discover that there were parts of me that had lain hidden and barren for years because I was abiding by the bullshit of oneness creed for so long, without really knowing it, and feeling that unless we both enjoyed hiking (or whatever) than I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it.

Today I am grateful that I can be me in my relationships.   I’m grateful that through my program of recovery I am learning that I am worthy of love for the person I am, not the person someone wants me to be.   I’m grateful that I’m learning that I cannot fix people, places or things and that my relationship with my girlfriend is the healthiest when we are both mindful of this fact and working on ourselves, not the other.   We are learning that it’s not necessary to extinguish our individual candles in order to burn as one.   I like her light and she likes mine.   I think we can create even more light that way.  That’s pretty awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting the power behind the power of the Gospel

When I was in the pit of my addiction and everything around me was unraveling, a trusted friend and mentor asked me over dinner,

Chad, do you believe in the power of the Gospel?

I responded by saying I do. After all, shouldn’t pastors and seminary students, of which I was both at the time, believe that?  But today, four years later, I realize I didn’t know what I was really saying. I didn’t understand the power behind the question nor what would be required of me to access such power.

I am still very much a work in progress, but here I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about that power and how it’s made available in your life and mine.   My prayer is that it will help you, as it’s helped me, to live free from whatever is holding you hostage or restore the joy of your salvation.

If when you hear the phrase “the power of the Gospel” you think of Easter, you are thinking about it the way I did four years ago.  If you think first and foremost about resurrection, new life, freedom from addictions and failed relationships, healing, redemption, an eternal home in heaven, or anything of the sort, you are believing in only a partial gospel.

It’s easy to do.  Who wouldn’t want all of those things? And when you are in the pit, you certainly want out.  The problem with it though is that this partial – yet hopeful – gospel obscures the real power behind the gospel.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church which was plagued with living a defeated Christian existence (sexual sin, relationship issues, church division, etc), he reminds them where the true power of the gospel rests:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Did you hear that?  Or better yet, did you hear what Paul doesn’t say?  None of the things I thought was the power of the gospel back in the day.  Paul says the power of the gospel is not in resurrection, but in crucifixion.  It’s not an empty tomb, but a blood-stained cross.  Not Easter, but Good Friday.

A partial gospel – one that emphasizes Easter over the Cross – can be used by the enemy to rob you of ever knowing the power of the full Gospel, thus keeping you in perpetual disappointment and defeat as you seek a resurrected life without crucifying the present one.

This was the predominant truth I was missing in my life.  I did not know or understand (it was foolishness to me) the power behind the blood of Jesus Christ and the reason why the Cross must take center stage in my life – even more than an empty tomb.   For when the cross gets diluted in my thinking and in my life, the tomb of my life gets repopulated and polluted.

Paul stresses this just a bit further on in his letter when he writes that he desired to know nothing among the Corinthian church “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).   It was the cross that dominated Paul’s thinking, not Easter.

Because Paul put Good Friday first, he lived an Easter life.   The paradox of putting the cross at the center of our lives is that it leads to a reality only God can produce in us: resurrection.

Tragically, far too many of us want the new life without dying to the old one.  We love the promise of resurrection and cringe at the prospect of crucifixion.  Can’t we just be bandaged up a bit and go on with our lives as we have come to know them minus these “bad behaviors”?

Not if you want to experience the power of the Gospel.   For the power of the Gospel knows nothing of making men and women better people and only of making men and women new.    God’s program of redemption, then, requires we go the same way of Jesus, which knows resurrection only as hoped-for promise of a life crucified to God.   It requires that everything we know dies.

Death to our dreams and hopes for how our lives should be. Death to our past, our present, and our future.  Death to our desires and preferences.  Death to our plans for how we intend to recover ourselves or others.  Death to our rights.  Death to our pride and place and prestige.  Death to our intentions for where we want to live, what we want to do, what we desire to be, and how we can carve out a “life” for ourselves.

Every time I experience a rift in my spirit, or sense a shift in my relationship with God or others, or feel as though the future is scary or the present suffocating, I can usually identify something of my crucified self that is rearing it’s defeated, yet greedy, head.   There is something within my flesh that I must hand-deliver to the Cross of Jesus Christ and crucify once more so that I might be able to experience the life of the Spirit in which I, and I imagine you, desire to walk.

The paradox in all of this, and perhaps the reason why Paul called this fixation on the Cross “foolishness to the perishing,” is that every time I do this I find God a more-than-ready and trustworthy steward of my crucified self and where my sin abounds, His grace abounds even more.   When I live to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified I receive a life that is not my own, but Christ in me, who is new and alive and full of Easter promise and power.

If you have been missing out on the fullness of the power of the Gospel my advice to you would be to prayerfully ask God to give you a heart willing to take everything to the cross.   Pray this every day until it becomes a reality in you.   Then, and only then, after you have been to the cross, will you experience the gracious gift of Easter and the power of the Gospel which makes men and women new.

Living by a better script

You’re a lousy father!

I wish I had married someone else.

You’re a worthless friend.

You are just an addict and will always be one.

Perhaps you have had these words or similar ones directed towards you.  Perhaps you have said them.   Words are powerful, aren’t they?  They have the power to build us up or tear us down.  James 3 speaks of the tongue as a small thing but one with great power, able to set an entire forest on fire with a spark.   I’m sure all of us could testify to this truth.  How many times have the sharp, hot words of another set us ablaze with anger, fear, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness?

There are times in my life where the words of others have more power over me than other times.  When I reflect back on those seasons – seasons where my world can be set on fire by the words of others – I recognize something that is true 100% of the time: I’ve taken my eyes and ears off of the One who speaks words of life 100% of the time.

I am listening to the wrong script.

The other day the Lord made this clear to me.  I had heard some words that were hurtful.   My response was to live into those words.  To accept them as true and be that person.  Have you ever done that?   Someone tells you that you are an inattentive father, for example, or that you are a lazy worker, or a boring wife, or a miserable friend, and you take that inside you and choose to live down to that script.

When that happens to me I usually retreat.  I will feel sorry for myself and shut myself off from others because I feel ashamed of what others think of me.  Maybe you do the same. Maybe you lash out in anger or get defensive.  Maybe you say to yourself something like, “Fine! You think I’m a terrible wife?!  I’ll show you how terrible I can be!”

Well the other day I was having a moment where I was closing myself off and wanting to hide because of the words of another.  It’s then that I heard the Lord say to me,

Son, why are you so willing to live into the ideas that others have of you rather than Mine? Why do their words about you matter to you more than My words?

As is often the case when the Spirit speaks to me I didn’t have a good answer.   It was true.  I was living by the wrong script.

I’m learning that when someone’s words cut me down I have a choice in that moment.  I can choose to live into their assessment of me or God’s.  I can choose to live down to their low expectations of me or I can live into Christ who lives through me.

I’m also learning that as Christ lives through me, my words to others ought to be words that build up and encourage rather than tear down and belittle.   God’s words to others are not only those written on the page, but can sometimes be those words we who are His ambassadors speak.   So speak life, not death.

Which script do you live by most of the time?  If you are not in God’s word daily you will not know the truth about you, nor be able to resist the temptation to live down to the words of others.  If you are a slave to shame and self-pity, to living into the self-fulfilling prophecies of others who don’t know any better, then maybe it’s time to feast on God’s words to you.  His words are pure and true, and will lead you to life, not death.

Here are just a few of the things God thinks about you. The next time someone’s words threaten to spark a fire in you, allow these words to speak louder.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:17-18)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 6:3).

Sweet Jesus, give me the will to live into Your thoughts and words about me rather than those of this world.  Enable me by your grace to live deeply into the script You are writing for my life.  Amen.

The Walking Dead and Step Ten

I came to The Walking Dead late in the game but became a fan almost immediately.  Beyond the zombie lore there is a story consisting of compelling characters struggling against good and evil in both the new world around them and the one within them.  Rick, the main character, is the leader of a group of survivors who for five seasons have been battling it out against both the walking dead (zombies) and the living who are in some ways even more deadly, all while trying to maintain some sense of decency and connection to the values by which they were once governed.

By the time we get to the current season five, the group is battle hardened.  They have been tested at every turn and have grown wise to the ways of this new world.  In episode 12 of this season they arrive at a camp called Alexandria which from all appearances looks like an oasis, nearly untouched by the death around it.  Walls protect a town of citizens who have running water and electricity and a budding form of government.  The people of Alexandria have jobs and they throw house parties and they discuss what sort of food they should bake for their new neighbors.  It’s a very different world than the one Rick and his gang have known for the past few years.   It’s one they longed to find for themselves, but now that they are in it, the question posed to us viewers is how well can they adapt and live normal lives after being part of so much death?

At the end of episode 12, Carol, Rick and Daryl look out from the porch of their new home and bring voice to their growing concern about this seeming paradise:  What if we grow weak here?  What if we drop our guard?  It’s at this point that my recovery antenna began beeping and I was willing Rick to quote the scripture passage that corresponds with Step Ten:

Therefore, let anyone who thinks that they stand take heed lest they fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

He didn’t. Instead, he assured the others that they would not grow soft, that they had been through too much to go back.  If by this Rick means that they will rely on what they have learned thus far and practice the tools which have kept them alive, I couldn’t agree more.   But if he means what far too many of us in recovery often think, that they will never grow soft merely because they have been through so much already, then they, like every addict in recovery, are setting themselves up for a great fall.

Step 10 says that we “continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”  Combined with it’s scriptural component, quoted above, it is the step we must never skip nor cease stepping.  It encourages us to stay vigilant, to always keep watch, and to never forget that sin, like the walking dead, is always crouching at the door with a burning desire to consume us, and we must learn to master it (Gen. 4:7).

Every person who has ever been sober for a good length of time and then relapsed will no doubt testify that the days and weeks leading up to their relapse were less than vigilant.  The routine that had gotten them sober was somehow disrupted.  The fellowship between they and God was somehow strained.   Devotion time and prayer time waned.   If you have ever relapsed think back on the days leading up to it.  Had you grown comfortable in your sobriety?   Maybe you started letting things in which before you had cut off?

When we grow comfortable in our new found paradise called Sobriety we open ourselves to the walking dead who haven’t stopped being hungry. 

12Steps.org has this to say about Step 10:

Step 10 begins laying the foundation for the rest of my life. It is a pledge to continually monitor my life with honesty and humility. It requires me to be vigilant against my addictive behavior and against the triggers for my addictive behavior. It requires me to be humble before my God who can keep me from my addictive behavior if I have the right attitude. It requires me to deal with my defects promptly when they arise and not to let them linger in my life.

How can we practice Step 10 in our lives?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Practice what got you here.   Continue the daily disciplines that you did when you were first getting sober.  If you have stopped these at some point pick them up again.  If you feel it’s time to alter them in any way, talk it over with a sponsor or mentor first.
  • Begin every day with prayer.  Turn your will and your life over to the care of God for today.   It doesn’t matter that you did this yesterday.  Jesus said we need to take up our cross daily.  We need to daily put to death our willful selves and surrender each morning to the life God wants to work in us.  We can’t do even one day alone.
  • End each day by examining where you were dishonest, what secrets you may be keeping, what wrongs you have committed.   Who were you unkind to or where did you puff yourself up or look at others as less significant than yourself?  Ask God to bring to light anything that you need to bring under the blood of Jesus and go to bed with a pure heart and clear conscious.
  • Clean house.   When you first got sober you no doubt cleaned yourself and your environment of your drug of choice.  If porn and sex is your thing, you probably limited your cable TV (or better yet, cut it out completely), monitored your music, kept clear of certain hot spots, installed filters and accountability software on all your devices, unsubscribed to any magazines or books which have suggestive material in them, etc.  Beware of creep.  Creep is when these things which you once were convinced needed to go begin to creep back into your life.   It’s human nature to think we are doing great so now we can slack off and watch a show or two which before we would never consider.   Remember, sin is crouching at the door!  The Walking Dead are still hungry.

These are just a few suggestions based on personal experience.   Please add your own suggestions in the comments.

I don’t know what is in store for Rick and his group in Alexandria but I do know that unless they, and we, remain vigilant and keep walking the walls to ensure there hasn’t been a breach, we are setting ourselves up for relapse.  So to the question, what if we grow soft and let our guard down?  May we be resolved to answer like Rick:  We aren’t going to let that happen.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

My wife shared a testimony today that never should have been

This morning my wife shared her testimony to a group of 60 or so women.   It’s not the first time she has been invited to do something like this but it never ceases to amaze me that she is doing this.  I’m blown away once more by the amazing ability of God to do miracles in people’s lives.

You see, what happened today shouldn’t be happening.   At this time 3 years ago I was a bum living in an economy hotel taking a taxi to work at Little Caesars while Amy was high on anti-depressant/anxiety drugs and knocked out on sleeping pills.  I was eating cold pizza every night for dinner, alone and glued to my laptop in my “Free Wi-Fi” hotel room while Amy was contemplating suicide and struggling to stay awake long enough to drive our 5 kids to school each morning.   The divorce was to be finalized in 3 months and I was wondering how I was going to come up with $2000 a month to pay in child support and alimony.   Nothing was good. All was hopeless.   We were both dead inside – towards God, each other, and a future with any significance.

Guys and gals, if you think porn is a harmless habit, something private which won’t hurt anyone, you are a fool.  Like I was.   Stop being a fool.  Please.

So as you can see, it’s an absolute miracle that today, 3 years later, my wife would be able to stand before a group of women and proclaim the power of Jesus Christ to break through even the hardest and miserable of hearts and resurrect not just a marriage but the faith of two very lost souls.

I wanted to write this today because I wanted to give praise to God for what He has done in my life, my wife’s life, my kids’ life, our ministry, and more.  I am so proud of her and the woman she is, and the woman she is becoming by God’s grace.

I also wanted to write this to encourage anyone reading who is in the pit today.   Whether you are the addict or the one living with one, we know the hell you experience every waking moment.    I know what it’s like to think there is no possible way life could exist apart from lustful thoughts and compulsions, and Amy knows what it’s like to feel utterly alone and abandoned by God and to fight constantly the battle of wanting to leave but not knowing how or to where.

So how can I encourage you?   By shouting this one simple, yet world-altering truth as loud as I can and for as long as I can:

GOD HAS THE POWER TO MAKE YOU NEW!!

It’s true!  God doesn’t want to “fix” you, He wants to do a complete overhaul on your life!   Yes, the foolish you, the deluded you, the drunk-on-porn you, the high-on-drugs you, the suicidal-thinking you, the depressed you, the cheating you, the lying you, the struggling-just-to-stay-alive-one-more-hour you, cannot imagine any other life because the life God can and will impart to you will require the current you to DIE!    The moment you realize and believe that God doesn’t desire to make the you you currently are better but to make a brand new creation out of chaos and brokenness is the moment you are on your way towards sanity.  Towards a new life. Towards a testimony which God is going to design in ways you can’t imagine right now but will one day bring Him glory and honor and praise.   Why?  Because this is what God does.   The same God who spoke a universe into existence is the same God ready to create a new you.

So cry out.  Cry out to a Father who loves and cares for you so much that He died for you while you were still in this mess, snubbing Him at every turn.  He loves you that much!    He didn’t bleed for you so that you can live in bondage to sin and shame.   Cry out.  Be willing to die.  Be willing to allow God to create you all over again.

God is looking for people to showcase His amazing ability to do the impossible.   Like my wife, who shared a testimony today which goes against all the odds.    Thanks be to God that our Father in Heaven is a odd-beating God.

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them (Isaiah 42:16).

testify

So You’ve Cheated? Know Your Rights.

One of most common questions I get asked by men (I’m writing this as a man to other men, but the following advice applies to women caught in the same) who have been unfaithful in their marriage (whether through pornography use or a physical affair) is this:

How can I win back her trust?

The answer to that question will vary from couple to couple, but the foundation is always the same.  That foundation gets laid when the offender acknowledges what his rights are, which are these:

Did you catch them?   They are very important, so take a moment to write them down.    To say it another way, in case you missed it the first time, the rights that are yours as the unfaithful one in a marriage are these:

none

Speaking from personal experience, the longer it took me to realize this foundational truth – that I had no rights – the longer I delayed healing and the rebuilding of trust in my marriage.   The moment I stepped out of my marriage in unfaithfulness was the moment I forfeited whatever rights I had.

What sort of rights am I talking about?   Well, at the risk of sounding simplistic, ALL of them.   There are things about a broken marriage which will look different from a healthy one until trust is restored, and the sooner you recognize that the better.   Your marriage is no longer one of equal footing (if it ever was).   So what does this mean in real life?

  • When she hurts your feelings you don’t tell her that she has hurt your feelings.   Most likely she was trying to.   Suck it up.
  • When she calls you all sorts of names and her anger is bearing down on you with both barrels, you bear it.   Don’t assert your “right” to have your argument heard, and don’t try to tell her she is sinning against you with her words or actions.*
  • When she wants to stay up until 3am talking about her fears you listen.  Don’t assert your “right” to get some sleep because you have to work in the morning.
  • When she wants to cancel a family vacation or alter other routine events, comply.  If friends and family object, defend her.
  • When she wants to convert your office space into a scrap-booking room, help her do it.
  • When she wants to look through your cell phone every hour, or have access to your laptop, or wishes to know every move you make every minute of the day, be grateful she wants to be involved in your life so intimately, and thank her for it.

There came a point where I was so broken over the sin I had done and the pain my actions had brought upon my wife that I no longer had the will to rise up and assert myself.    The sooner I stopped asserting myself, the sooner healing began and trust was restored.   The more I fought that, the more miserable we both were. Here is a handy chart to demonstrate that:

degreeofmisery

A person who has experienced true brokenness over their sin, who understands godly sorrow over worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), will willingly lay down their rights.    This is not something any of us can do on our own.  We must have the Spirit of God at work within us, constantly remaking us into the image of Christ, who “though in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).

We must become like Christ towards our hurting wives, and bear them and their pain the way Christ has borne ours.  You, like Jesus, have no rights.  

How long, you ask?  How long until I can eat where I want to eat?    Well, here is a helpful chart I made that depicts the length of time your rights are withheld:

norights

This is not a hard and fast rule, but the longer you have been sinning against God and your wife the longer it will take to establish a good foundation.    Of course, the ideal you are shooting for is where both partners surrender their rights to each other, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).     And no, you do not have the right to tell your wife she is to submit to you out of the fear of Christ.   You lost that right, too.    With God’s help, she will willingly give that back to you when you have done the hard work of following the above advice.

Guys, believe me, it’s worth it!

* While the offended party may indeed be sinning against God and you with their anger and bitterness, it’s crucial you understand 2 things:  First, you caused this.   Second, it’s not for you to point this out to her.    Your primary duty is to pray for her and to intercede on her behalf to God, bearing her sins in the way Christ bore your own.    The longer your wife sees her daggers falling on a humble, prayerful, loving target the sooner those daggers will lessen, become duller, and soon cease altogether.

From Ashes to Beauty

In my last post (Marriage Isn’t for You (Or your spouse)), I shared some resources for marriage which Amy and I have found helpful.   But there were two I left out which would be of great benefit to you if you are 1) a couple seeking to rebuild a marriage after infidelity or 2) you are a pastor or counselor seeking resources to help you help others.

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The first is a book by Jeff Colon, President of Pure Life Ministries, called From Ashes to Beauty.  Jeff knows first-hand the wreckage sexual sin will bring to a home and he and his wife have been powerful examples of what a life surrendered to God looks like.  God used Jeff’s sermons and presence at Pure Life while I was there to help turn me around and his wife, Rose, was Amy’s counselor-by-phone.    The book, From Ashes to Beauty, offers sound spiritual truth and practical advice essential for rebuilding and revitalizing a marriage, particularly if it is one affected by sexual sin.  I can’t recommend this book enough!

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The second is for husbands.  It’s called The Complete Husband by Lou Priolo.   What I liked about this book is how it challenged me on every page to take responsibility for my marriage and give me practical, biblical tools with which to do so.   Every chapter contains an exercise of some sort geared towards making you think through and act upon your role as a Christian husband.

Check out these resources.   You’ll be glad you did.