Tag Archives: Pure Life Ministries

The one thing needed for real, lasting change

In just a few hours I’m leaving for a 3 day Sexual Integrity Leaders Summit in Atlanta.  I’m looking forward to this conference which boasts the following goal:

The Holy Spirit is moving to take back ground in defining holy sexuality. Join with others passionate about intentionally addressing issues, concerns, and questions related to sexual wholeness, sexual integrity, and finding freedom in Christ. Get equipped with the tools and resources you need.

This conference comes on the heels of me and my wife attending the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which proved to be a powerful encounter with the Lord.   Over this past week I have been reading Steve Gallagher’s book, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addictwhich has helped to reaffirm the reality of my own experience in dealing with habitual sexual sin:  The best medicine is Jesus.

I sometimes get this upside down.   Sometimes I will convince myself that there are other solutions to my problem besides Jesus.  For instance, sometimes I get to thinking that the best medicine is the group of men I meet with weekly in SAA.  Or I get to thinking the best medicine is working the 12 steps, or making more phone calls, or reading more recovery literature or going for a run.

The truth is, all of these are good things, but not the best thing.   In my experience, the only times I have known profound, lasting victory is when I submitted to Jesus and his ways of healing my sinful, broken heart.

Gallagher reminds me that the medicine Jesus prescribes is repentance.   Repentance is the precursor for real, lasting change for anyone caught in habitual sin (sexual or otherwise).   This repentance must come from godly sorrow over our sin as opposed to worldly sorrow over having gotten caught (or having hurt someone we love.  See 2 Cor. 7:10).

I want to close this out by sharing what Gallagher’s lists as the four basic components to receiving this medicine which Jesus offers to each and every one of us who will place their trust in him.    You can find these on pages 40-41 in the book referenced above.

  1. Poverty of spirit:  seeing one’s need to change and coming to the realization that he cannot accomplish this change without the power of God.
  2. Mourning over sin: as the person begins to face the ugliness of his behavior, he becomes broken over it.
  3. Submission to God: as the sin in one’s heart is exposed, true repentance occurs. Self-will is replaced by submission to God’s authority.
  4. Fruits of repentance: as God is allowed to conquer the man’s heart, a change occurs which becomes evident in the way he lives his life.

Gallagher concludes,

It is vital that you, as counselor, lead the man out of habitual sin and into this kind of genuine repentance.  He cannot conjure up this experience for himself.  He must seek God for it.  The counselor’s role in helping the counselee see his need for a radical inward transformation and praying that he receives it.

Praying with and for you.  Pray for me as I am at this conference this weekend!

Grace and peace,
Chad

Recap of PLM Conference: Fix your eyes on Jesus

I just returned home from the Pure Life Ministries annual conference which was such an amazing experience and encounter with God.    Some 480 men and women gathered in Florence, KY to worship the God who has the power – and the desire – to set each of us free from the chains that ensnare us.    It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of such testimonies and witnesses to God’s redeeming love.

I wanted to take a moment while it’s fresh on my mind to write down a few of the things I took away from the great speakers who shared over the last few days.   I hope this helps me to better apply what I’ve learned and to edify you.

Steve Gallagher referenced the proclivity within each of us to gravitate towards either law bending or law keeping.   He stressed that when both are right with the Lord and walking in the Spirit both are a blessing to the Church.   We need the law benders to upset our status-quo and breath fresh wind into our sails and we need the law keepers to remind us of God’s holiness and demands upon the Christian to obey him.

Steve then did a beautiful job referencing each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 &3, showing what happens when these natural tendencies of ours (law bending or law keeping) cease being surrendered to God.   One thing in particular that stood out to me was pointed towards law keepers, or those of us who can easily become satisfied with having a form of godliness but none of it’s power.    How easy it is to play church and appear to be doing all the right things while our heart is far from God.     I know all too well how easy it is to do this, and how easy it is to fall into a delusion that all is well in doing it.

Dave Leopold built upon this foundation laid by Steve (unbeknownst to either while preparing their messages).  He spoke of how we toil in our own way rather than God’s way.  Building a ministry isn’t always the same, he said, as building God’s kingdom.

Dave’s longing for himself, and his prayer for us, is that we may all prove that we have been with Jesus.  May our very lives – both inner and outer – be evidence that we have spent much time at Jesus’ feet.   Jesus does not desire us to be mere messengers of his message, but desires each of us to become the message.   When he has conquered us, he will send us out to conquer the world in Jesus’ name.

I loved the illustration he shared of the sun.   When we lay out in the sun, we are changed.  Our face let’s the world know that we have been out in the sun.   Likewise, as we spend intimate time with the Son of God, the world will know it.

Dustin Renz shared a powerful message on suffering.   I think he is exactly right that we do not teach or understand suffering within the church.   And yet, the life of Jesus himself as well as all of scripture is full of calls to suffer, even promises that we will.   Dustin shared the following points:

  1. We need to learn to expect suffering.   Jesus promised that we would know trouble in this world.   In fact, the very call to follow Jesus is an invitation to lay down our lives and die.
  2. Suffering shapes us and fits us for service.    James reminds us to consider it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.   These are preparing us for service.
  3. Learn to endure suffering.   Imagine if Paul had given up after being ship wrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, starved, left to die?   The loss to Christianity would be extraordinary!    We must endure to the end.  Far too often we give up too easily and we have not even come close to experiencing the sort of suffering Paul and countless other Christians have endured.    How many potential testimonies, not to mention our own, are lost because we give up too soon and run back to our sin?

Glen Meldrum shared three snares of the soul which will trip us up time and time again if we are not mindful of them.

  1. We don’t treat sin like sin.   Numbers 33:50-56, God insists that Moses and the people, when they get to the promised land, must drive out the wicked inhabitants and all their idols.    If they do not, they will be “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” and trouble you all the days you dwell you there.   Jesus was serious about sin, warning to cut out the eye of the hand that causes you to sin.    Whatever is keeping you from Jesus, get rid of it!   Even if it’s something “good.”
  2. Not being very careful to love the Lord (Joshua 23:11-13).    We must be very careful to love God!   Make it your purposeful pursuit in life to spend time with God and nurture this relationship.  No one follows Jesus by accident.  None of us default towards loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.   Our sinful hearts are easily distracted and get caught up in so many other things that we lose sight of our walk with God.    Be careful!
  3. Idolatry rises up in our hearts.   Things like bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, sexual sin, pleasure, and more become the gods we cling to to.  We become what we worship.   The destruction happening in marriages is from hell.   Satan hates God, and his work is to destroy the image of God in us by replacing it with his own image.  How does he do this?  By causing us to have other gods.

All of these messages, though unplanned to be so, beautifully weaved together this overarching theme for me:  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Pursue Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.   Submit to the love – and the rule – of God in my life.  And pray.   Pray like my life and the lives of others depends on it, because it does!

I’m so grateful for this time of refreshment and revival.   It has inspired me towards a deeper repentance and desire to be of service to God and others in ways that for quite some time I have felt unworthy to pursue because of my past failings.    God reminded me this weekend that he has not altered his feelings towards me nor his call.   I’m grateful that my wife was able to join me on this trip and for work he is doing in her life and ours as a couple.   We are both excited to see what God has in store for us in the weeks, months and years ahead.

 

Two Upcoming Conferences

I’m looking forward to attending two weekend conferences coming up, both of them addressing our sexual brokenness and the healing that can be found in Christ.

The first conference is the last weekend of April and is the Pure Life Ministries Annual Conference.

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This will be my first time attending their annual conference since graduating from their live-in program back in 2012.   My wife will be attending with me and I am excited to introduce her to a place which has held a special place in my heart for the last many years.

The second conference is the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit in Atlanta the first weekend of May.

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I’m excited to attend this conference as I continue to discern what God has in store for me in future ministry (both in the ongoing work within myself and sharing that with others who struggle with compulsive, addictive behaviors).    One of the speakers at this conference, Jay Stringer, has written an excellent book I highly recommend:  Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.

Please pray for those of us attending these conferences that God may use them to draw us closer to Christ.   And, if you are looking for a place to spend a weekend which promises to be a rewarding experience for your spiritual growth, consider registering!

The all important morning watch

Next to receiving Christ as Savior, and claiming the filling of the Holy Spirit, we know of no act attended with larger good to ourselves or others than the formation of an undiscourageable resolution to keep the morning watch and spend the first half hour of the day alone with God.
~ John Mott

I read these words during my devotion time this morning and was struck by their truthfulness.   I can testify that the greatest blessing or hindrance to my spiritual well being rests on how and with whom I spend the first moments of each day.

I can also testify that this truth is the easiest for the enemy of our soul to minimize, distort and steal.   If you are like me you have probably had that internal dialogue that says things like this:

I just don’t have time.

I’m not a morning person.

I will make up for the time I missed today, tomorrow.

I don’t feel like it.  I’ll do it when I feel like it.

I don’t know how to spend time alone with God.  It feels forced or fake.

All of these are excuses manufactured not from the Spirit of God but by the enemy who knows that if he can distract us from the first part of the day, he can have the whole day.

One of the things I have to guard against is the lie that I can bank up grace and spiritual fortitude.  I have thought at various times in my Christian walk that since I spent an hour with Jesus yesterday morning, and since I’m too busy this morning, I can coast.

But trying to stockpile grace when it’s convenient for me to do so, and expecting it to sustain me for the days ahead while I’m too busy works as well as collecting multiple days worth of manna worked for the Hebrew people seeking the Promised Land (see Exodus 16).

Why?  I am convinced it is because the One who created me and you knows better than we that with each setting and rising of the sun we must acknowledge our desperate need to abide in Christ today.   Apart from me, Jesus said, we can do nothing (John 15:5).   When I think that yesterday’s grace is sufficient for me today I presume upon the gracious gift of God, using it in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

When I wake up and tend to a thousand other perceived needs besides spending time alone with God I am saying I have the power to manipulate yesterday’s manna to be good for today.  I am taking control of a gift that was never mine to begin with.

The quote above from John Mott reminded me of a few key things.    First, keeping a morning watch is an act of will, not emotion.   There must be an “undiscourageable resolution” to make the first part of our day the Lord’s part.   There will be plenty of times where we will not feel like it.  There will be plenty of times where other things, even good things, lobby for our time.    But if it is true that apart from Christ I can do nothing, than even these good things must wait until I have spent sufficient time alone with God today.

Second, this undiscourageable resolution is formed, not innate.   It will go against our nature to lay aside a morning watch with God.   It doesn’t come naturally to any of us.   Hopefully you can receive this as good news!  You aren’t a terrible person because you don’t feel like spending time with God this morning.   What is true, however, is that you are human and acting and feeling precisely the way God’s word says you will.   The will to spend time alone with God is something that must be formed in each and every one of us.   No human since sin entered the world has desired this naturally but every great man and woman of God who experiences the fullness and richness of God’s grace each day have been formed into such people over time.   You can be, too.

Finally, it’s of the greatest good to ourselves and others.  Our Father in Heaven who created the days, who proclaims that His mercies are new every morning, knows His children can’t experience the abundant life nor have the capacity to love others well if we don’t first rest in Him.   The greatest gift I can give to those I love, who may be demanding of my time and resources, is to rise early enough to spend time with my Creator and soak in His mercy.

During my time at Pure Life Ministries the first task I was given was to spend the first 20 minutes of each morning with God.  Ten minutes reading scripture and 10 minutes in prayer.   Over time that was increased bit by bit.    A year later those 20 minutes blossomed into 90 minutes of the most precious time of my day.   It is without question the habit formed which is most essential to my well being and my ability to love others well.  When I neglect this, I, and those I love, suffer.  Leaders at Pure Life tell me that the number one cause of relapse is when people minimize this morning time with God and begin to think yesterday’s grace will carry over today.   Setting a time aside to be with God each morning is as essential to our recovery as breathing is essential to life.

I want to encourage you today to determine to begin being formed in new ways.   Resolve to set a morning watch and then taste and see how God honors this with not only a greater capacity to love and be loved, but also changes your desires.    Please feel free to share with me how God shows up in your life over the upcoming weeks and months!

According to the Word of God

This morning in group, one of the men shared that he is thankful that God will never leave nor forsake him, according to the word of God.  

According to the word of God.

I was impressed with the way he stated this and told him so.  What impressed me is that his assurance that God was with him was not based on how he felt but rooted in the trustworthiness of God’s word.   God said he would never leave him and this young man believed it, regardless of his feelings.

No doubt this is why he is 20 weeks sober and continuing to flourish.

In my personal experience in both my own recovery and being a coach for others I have learned that the extent to which we flourish in our recovery – and life! – is the extent to which we have utter reliance on God’s words over any other words.  Those who continue to preach the gospel to themselves, who consistently chew on and digest scripture, who replace the voices of this world with the voice of the Holy Spirit are those who get and remain sober and are less likely to allow the troubles of this life to knock them off the wagon.

It’s imperative for us to daily remind ourselves that we are in a war and there is an enemy that wants to destroy us.  His name is Satan, which literally means “The Accuser.”   The bible says that he is a liar and is the father of lies (John 8:44).  Ever thing that is untrue finds its genesis in Satan, The Accuser.  He lives to accuse those who belong to Christ (Rev. 12:10).  He lives to sow lies into us meant to harden our hearts towards the truth of God, inspire bitterness in our hearts towards others and make us feel unworthy of the abundant life Jesus promised.

And he’s crafty. He has been doing this from the beginning and knows our weak points.  He knows how to whip us into a frenzy of anger or lust or pride or self-indulgence.  He knows how to inspire in us the justifications to seek our own way and defend our rights and put ourselves before anyone else.  He knows how to cause us to doubt the faithfulness of God or the kindness of others.

Your best defense against this liar is a good offense.   My counselor, when he talks about the way Satan works his lies into my head, will get very animated and jump up and scream,

Damn him!

It reminds me that I’m fighting someone very real who is playing for keeps.  My best defense is a good offense.  I need to be in the word. I need to replace the lies with the truth so that my mind can be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2).

I’ve written extensively on this blog about how to do that.   Three very practical ways you can begin today are these:

1.  Get into the word and begin by reading Psalm 119.  It will, if you open yourself to it, nurture in you a love for God’s words.   If you commit to the reading I outline HERE, you will find in a few months a hunger for God’s truth that you’ve never known before.

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2. Pray for people instead of think about them, including yourself.  The Mercy Prayer (click the link) is a prayer that changed my life and my thoughts towards God, myself and others.  Commit to this prayer for the next 3 months and I promise you that your inner world will do a 180.

3. Finally, ask yourself this question often:  Is this feeling, emotion or response I’m about to give one that is produced by the Spirit of God or by some other spirit?  My counselor reminds me that it will always be one or the other.  Recalling this again and again helps me to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).  If it’s not from God, renounce it and replace it with truth from God’s word.

According to God’s word, you are a beloved child of God (1 John 3:2).  You were worth dying for even while an enemy of God’s, thus proving God’s love for you (Rom. 5:10)!    Nothing, NOTHING, can separate you from God’s love, neither death nor life, not even angels or demons – including The Accuser – nor the present or future nor any other kind of power (Rom. 8:38-39).   Let that soak in.   Let those be the words that shape you.

Let it be so, according to the Word of God.

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.

Three Years Ago Today…

My son’s 5th birthday, three years ago today, was one of the darkest, loneliest days of our lives.  Brody woke up to what should have been a celebration only to see his dad’s bags packed as I waited to be picked up by a friend and taken to another state for at least 7 months.   He, and our one year old daughter (the rest of our kids had already left for school) clung to their mother’s leg as I waved goodbye to them all, not knowing if I would ever see them again.

I left town that day leaving a wake of destruction.  Nearly 2 decades of sexual addiction had gutted me of any real desire to change or hope that I could while systematically destroying my wife’s faith and trust in both God and myself.  I wish I could tell you what state of mind my kids were in but the truth is I was too involved in my own junk to really notice or truly care.  I could tell they were sad and scared and confused but I was not in any condition to address their needs when I was powerless to address my own.

This trip to a place called Pure Life Ministries was a last ditch effort to save my life, or what was left of it, and to hopefully turn me into a productive member of society, if not for anyone else then at least for the benefit of my five kids.  They deserved a dad who could stop looking at pornography long enough to hold a job so that they could have food to eat.  Amy had already filed for divorce, so this trip was not meant to salvage a shipwrecked marriage.  It was to save my life.

That was three years ago today.   Three years ago today I living in an economy hotel, taking a taxi to Little Caesars to work flipping pizzas while contemplating ending my life.   Three years ago today I witnessed my kids cry because their daddy was going away and I didn’t have it within my heart to really care.  Three years ago today my youngest son celebrated his 5th birthday and I was numb to the fact that I would miss his party, just like I had missed most of his life because I was so consumed in my addiction.  Three years ago today I was waiting for my divorce to be finalized and trying to figure out how I would pay child support.  Three years ago today was the darkest time of our lives.

It was also the beginning of a miracle. 

I would have laughed in your face three years ago today had you told me that.  I would have told you that you are out of your mind.   There was no way on earth I could have believed that three years ago today would be the beginning of my sobriety.   No way would I have believed that three years ago today, while experiencing unbearable darkness and despair, would be the genesis of a new life rising up out of ashes.   No way would I have been able to believe that three years ago today God was already at work, long before Brody’s birthday, and that He was not finished with any of us yet.

But that is exactly what happened.

Today I am 3 years sober!   Today I am celebrating all that God has redeemed, restored, and renewed.   Today I am rejoicing over the change God has brought to bear in my life, my heart, my mind.  Today I am celebrating what God has done and continues to do in my marriage, my family and in our home.  Today I am in awe of a God who has mercifully restored me to the work of ministry and called me to pastor a church that I love and they love me and where I get the privilege of now witnessing God changing lives, restoring marriages, setting captives free and faith taking root.

And today I am remembering that there is no darkness so dark that the Light of the World cannot overcome.  Today I am remembering that while there will be troubles and trials and sorrows in this world, there is One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Today I am reminding myself that God leads the blind in a way they do not know, turning darkness into light, and makes rough places smooth (Isa. 42:16).  Today I am rejoicing that God truly does work all things into good for those who love him and pursue him (Rom. 8:28).   Today I am thankful that the good work God has started in me, and in you, will be seen to completion (Phil. 1:6).  

God’s not done with any of us yet!  If you are in a dark spot I want to encourage you today.   God isn’t done.   If you are in a place of despair and feel that all is lost, take heart.  God isn’t done.   God is willing and able to resurrect new life where there isn’t any.  He longs to make you new, not just better (2 Cor. 5:17), and the best way and only way that happens is when we are brought to the very end of ourselves.   So if you feel like you are in a tomb today, prepare yourself!  The voice of the one who weeps for you is making it’s way to your ears even now:  Come out!  Come out!  Come out!  Unbind him or her and be set free! (John 11).  

What looks impossible to us is totally possible for God.   What will your 3 years from today look like?   God knows.  And with him by your side, the sky is the limit.  I, and the world,  can’t wait to hear your testimony!

Happy birthday, Brody!