Loving Does Not Equal Participating

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By now, the news of SB 1062 has spread far and wide. Living in Tucson, I’ve been asked by people what I think of it. I don’t normally write about politics on this blog, so I’m going to do my best to stick to that with this post (look at the bottom for the political side of this).

The bill has lots of holes and I’m not sure it will actually reach the goal it sets forth (if it’s signed into law). Also, to hear politicians who voted for it on TV begging the governor to veto it seems like poor leadership, but that’s for another post.

One thing stuck out to me last night watching Anderson Cooper and it is something that comes up in every post on this topic, associated with this bill or not. It gets said something like this, “Christians are supposed to love their neighbor, this is unloving.” Now, what this is depends on the situation and in some examples, Christians are being unloving. We (as Christians) also show some inconsistencies since the verses on homosexuality usually include adultery, greed, stealing, and drunkards to name a few (1 Corinthians 6:9-12) and other times it simply includes homosexuality (Romans 1:26 – 27). Biblically, they are all sins and need to be repented of and we need to fight those sins and the sins under those sins that drive us.

That being said, a lie has creeped into our culture and it is this: Loving means participating. That’s a lie.

 Loving does not equal participating. 

There is this belief that if I love someone, I participate with what they do. It would be unloving not to. That is untrue. You can love someone and not be a part of what they do. You can love someone and not go to a place with them while they sin. Now, every follower of Jesus must decide how they love their neighbor, you are called to do it. You are called to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Does that mean attending a gay wedding or photographing one? I’m not sure.

For me, I have friends who are not Christians who are gay. I have friends who are Christians and struggle with same sex attraction and trying to figure out what that means and how they stay pure with that pull. I’ve agonized with them as we’ve discussed my take on homosexuality and the gospel truths about homosexuality.

I appreciate Tim Keller’s answer on this question (see below)

If you want some information on my opinion of homosexuality being similar to civil rights, this is a great post.

Al Mohler nails the problem of coercion in our culture as it relates to this.

And finally, Denny Burk has nailed it with these posts found here, here and here.

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Breaking the Chains of Addiction

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I spoke on addiction today at Revolution Church. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

As a way to help men and women stuck in what seems a losing battle against addiction, temptation, negative emotions and be able to move forward by choosing the hard right over the easy wrong, here is a list of resources we put together to help.

My good friend Brian Howard also has a blog about 4 ways to protect your house from porn, which I would highly recommend if that is a struggle for you or your kids.

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Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

bookAs I have been working ahead and preparing for sermons this coming spring at Revolution, one of the books I read for our man series called Fight is the book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (kindle version) by Heath Lambert is easily the most helpful, grace filled, gospel centered book on fighting temptation, pornography addiction and lust.

Here is one thing that sets this book apart:

This book is not about pornography. This book is not about the pornography industry. This book is not about the catastrophic effects of pornography. The purpose of this book is not to rewire your brain when it comes to pornography. This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.

What follows are 8 strategies the power of the gospel gives you to fight pornography: using sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, your spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.

One of the things Lambert said that really stuck out to me is that humility is one of the best tools to fighting porn addiction (or any addiction). Addiction is an issue of a prideful heart.

Here are some things I highlighted:

  • Jesus Christ died to set you free from every sin that can be committed. That includes pornography.
  • When you believe in God’s grab towards you, you get God’s righteousness.
  • God’s grace pardons you and forgives your sin, and God’s grace empowers you to live differently and be obedient to him.
  • The first step in repentance is talk to God and tell him about your sin.
  • Mental punishments are not helpful because they deal with sin in a self-centered way instead of a Christ-centered way.
  • Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you.
  • Worldly sorrow is sad over losing the things of the world, while the focus of godly sorrow is God himself. Godly sorrow is pained over the break in relationship with God. It is heartbroken that God has been grieved and offended. The tears of godly sorrow flow from the sadness that God’s loving and holy law has been broken.
  • The person full of godly sorrow has a heart that wants to please God rather than self. Godly sorrow motivates real and lasting change.
  • Godly sorrow hates the sin itself. Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness.
  • To find freedom from pornography, you will need to employ radical measures in at least three areas. You look at porn when you have the desire to see it, when you have the time to look at it, and when it is available to you. Nobody looks at pornography without all three of these elements coming together. In your fight to be free from pornography, you must learn to take radical steps to eliminate each one.
  • The Bible promises that there is no prosperity for those who cover up their sin.
  • The circle of your confession should be as broad as the circle of your sin.
  • You can never stop thinking about something by trying to not to think about it. If you want to get something out of your mind, you must begin thinking about something else.
  • God wants to change your thinking, not by having us focus on the things we’re trying to quit thinking about, but by replacing old, sinful thoughts with new, righteous thoughts.
  • God wants you to quit thinking about porn and start thinking about your wife.
  • Whenever your thoughts begin to drift toward porn, see this mental drift as an alarm reminding you to pray for grace to refocus your thoughts on your spouse.
  • If you look at pornography, you are arrogant.
  • Every bad thing you do flows from an arrogant heart that is selfishly ambitious.
  • Men look at pornography out of an arrogant desire to see women in a way that God does not allow. They show arrogant defiance to God’s commands, rejecting the delight of sexual intimacy in marriage and deciding for themselves what they believe is better – looking at naked women in porn. They show arrogant disregard for God’s call to selfless marital love. They show arrogant derision for the female actresses whom they should be seeking to respect as who women who need to hear the good news of Jesus. They show arrogant disdain for their own children by hiding their sin and inviting the enemy into their home and their marriage. They show arrogant disrespect toward all those who would be scandalized if their sin was known. The root problem with men who look at porn is not neediness – it is arrogance.
  • Men who struggle with pornography often see pornography as their only sin.
  • If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.
  • Porn is only consumed by thankless people.
  • Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed. Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not. Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.
  • You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus because you want to be finished with porn. You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus for any purpose other than knowing Jesus.
  • Your struggle isn’t just to avoid looking at porn. It’s much more glorious than that. You have the unspeakable privilege of being invited to have a real relationship with the Savior of your soul who alone has the Father’s seal of approval.
  • You cannot look at Jesus and look at porn at the same time. You have to stop doing one to do the other. A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else.

When it comes to recommendation for men and women fighting lust, temptation, porn addiction, this is the first book I will recommend to them.

Every Saturday I share a review of a book I’ve read recently. If you want to see some of the past books I’ve reviewed, go here.

How to Help Someone Find Freedom from an Addiction

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I get asked a lot based on my past how to help someone find freedom from an addiction. I’ve shared in numerous places about my addiction to porn from when I was 11 until I was 21 and then my food addiction that followed that. I can honestly say now that I am 34 and have found freedom from these, it feels good. But, freedom is a long road. My wife Katie talks about her part as my wife in that journey here.

When someone asks me how to help someone find freedom from an addiction or the first steps in this process, here are the most important things:

They must want to be free. 

This may seem obvious, but everyone who asks for help in an area doesn’t truly want help. Too often people are looking for attention, wanting to be the victim or simply draw attention to something or someone. People like being helped and like being seen.

There was a guy who every week would post on his connection card at my church that he would like prayer for an addiction. This went on for over a year. I finally talked to him and asked, “How long is this going to be a prayer request? Are you doing anything to move away from this addiction?” The answer was no.

I knew a woman who said she wanted to be free from an addiction, yet every time I or someone else stepped in to give accountability or help her with it, she would balk. It wasn’t until she lost her job because of that addiction that something changed.

One thing I ask people is, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to be free?” Any hesitation in the answer often shows a desire to stay in their addiction.

Freedom from an addiction is hard work. It might take years. You will always be in recovery, a moment away from wrecking your life and falling back into your addiction. I know that without boundaries I could very easily fall back into old patterns. The reason freedom is so hard is because those patterns have become an enormous part of our lives.

Identify the “why” behind their addiction. 

Often in talking about freedom, we jump to what to do. Things someone can and should do to be free. Accountability groups, software, cutting up credit cards, breaking off relationships with the wrong people, getting rid of a TV or certain clothes.

These have their place and are helpful.

If you don’t identify why you do something, you won’t find freedom from the real issue. 

That issue is your heart. For me, I simply traded a porn addiction for a food addiction. Both are dangerous and destructive in their own ways. The one main difference is that no one in a church will say anything to you if you put 100 pounds on in a year. Think of a vending machine of sins, going up and picking one. Without identifying the heart issues, we will simply do this.

What drives you to spend money you don’t have? To look at porn? To hoard your money? To work too much or too little? Why do you gossip and put people down? Why do you want to control everything?

The answer to these questions will identify the why behind any addiction you could fall into.

Identify the “when” of their addiction. 

The last thing someone needs to do is identify when they are most likely to fall into this. Closely related to the why question, understanding when you’ll do something will enable you to create an action plan. Are you most tempted when you are tired? In front of the TV? By yourself? With a certain friend? In a certain place? Where and when does it happen?

By identifying these things, you are able to uncover a good process to find freedom from the addictions that hamper your life.

What would you add? If someone asked you this question. 

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Sex Doesn’t Equal Intimacy

Whenever I talk with couples that are dating or engaged, at some point sex and intimacy will come up. When Katie and I do premarital counseling, there are 5 things a couple must agree to for me to do their wedding. One of them is that they won’t have sex from that point forward until their wedding night. Regardless of their background, regardless if they live together, regardless of where they are on their journey with Jesus.

Depending on the situation, this brings with it an interesting follow-up conversation. Many couples don’t care, they’ve already chosen to wait and have stayed with that commitment. Some are excited because while they’ve wanted to wait, the lack of accountability has made it difficult and they’ve fallen back into patterns they wanted to move away from. Others are frustrated because they don’t see a problem with sex outside of marriage.

I remember once talking with a couple who lived together. They weren’t followers of Jesus and he asked me if this was simply a way for me to put my morals onto other people. It was a fair question. Pastors are often guilty of thinking of ways simply to make people behave more godly without changing their hearts.

I told him that was not the point of this. Here’s why we ask couples to do this and what I told him:

  1. The bible does tell us to save sex for marriage (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21;Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).
  2. Sex doesn’t equal intimacy. Many in our culture think they are being intimate simply by having sex. For men, when we think of intimacy, sex is what we think of. Intimacy is much bigger than that. It involves sex, but involves be open and honest with another person, trusting them completely, not hiding from them. Willing to share our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our failures, our hurts, and pain with that person. Far too many couples think we had sex, so we must be in love. As soon as sex enters a relationship, it changes drastically. By abstaining from sex before marriage, they are able to broaden intimacy in their relationship in other ways, ways that are non-sexual.
  3. There are seasons in marriage where sex is not an option. Whether that is traveling for a job, health, children, pregnancy, time or energy. Abstaining from sex before marriage helps a couple to prepare for these moments and for the couple to learn they can trust the other. Is a man or woman able to control themselves when they aren’t having as much sex or intimacy as they’d like.
  4. It builds trust. On some level, usually for women, having sex outside of marriage is a trust issue. For men, sex is mostly physical, but for women it is mostly emotional. It involves trusting the other person. Making a commitment to abstain from sex and keeping that commitment goes a long way of building trust for a couple.

There are other reasons, but these are the top ones. After doing weddings for 7 years for numerous couples who have made this commitment and kept it, I’ve yet to have a couple tell me it was a waste of time or be angry that they made it. In fact, I’ve had almost every couple tell me this was one of the most beneficial things for them in their premarital counseling.

Image by Cuentosdeunaimbecila (via Flickr)

10 Gospel Truths about Homosexuality

Saw this on JD Greear’s blog. You can read more here or watch him discuss this here.

Here are the 10 theses about Christianity and homosexuality:

  1. The point is really not homosexuality; the point is the Lordship of Jesus.
  2. Our stance on this issue may be one of the most important tests of faithfulness in our generation.
  3. The loss of gender identity has devastating consequences for society.
  4. God loves the homosexual.
  5. God doesn’t send people to hell for homosexuality.
  6. We speak as redeemed sinners, not saints.
  7. Just because you’re ticking people off doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong.
  8. Avoid pat answers or simplistic statements.
  9. We can and should be friends with people who are homosexuals.
  10. Sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity.

Question: Do you agree? Disagree?

 

FREE Book on Helping Your Kids Fight for Purity

If you are parent, you need to check this out. You may think purity and having to worry about your kids encountering porn is years away, you may want to think again.

Chris Spradlin has released a new e-book that is currently available for FREE Download. The book is a candid look at how to fight for purity for our kids in a sex saturated world. I think the title says it all “Sex, Lust and XXX.” Download it now, read it and be sure to check out his daily posts over at EpicParent.tv. 

Thanks to Big is the New Small for the link.

Responding to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate as a Christian

The debate surrounding same-sex marriage has been all over the news and internet this past week. I’ve gotten questions about how to respond as a follower of Jesus and since so many others have already responded, I thought I’d just share some of the articles that have been the most helpful to me.

Here’s a helpful video of Tim Keller answering the question.


A couple of years ago Matt Chandler did an hour and a half of teaching, followed by 40 minutes or so of answering questions from the audience, on this subject. This is tough to handle well. Some pastors harp on this issue in a disproportionate, condemnatory way. Others, swinging the pendulum in the other direction, don’t want to appear insensitive or right-wing and thus avoid it altogether. So it takes courage to tackle it head-on without being a jerk.

In the first video below Chandler begins by tracing the biblical storyline. In the second video, he gives some basic responses to several street-level objections, like:

1. If you’re not hurting anyone else, what’s wrong with it?
2. Since you’re a sinner, too, who are you to call out others?
3. Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality.
4. Some animals have same-sex relations, so if it’s in nature it must natural.
5. The homosexuality condemned by Paul is a different type of homosexuality than we see today.
6. Revisionist arguments from modern scholarship.

He also talks about the way in which he seeks to engage in dialogue with homosexuals in a gospel-centered way.

In the third video he fields questions via text message—e.g., on how parents should handle their adult kids who are gay with partners coming to visit (via Justin Taylor).


How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual Addiction

In honor of preaching on the topic of marriage at Revolution this past Saturday and this coming Saturday, I thought I’d repost some of the more helpful things I’ve written on the topics of marriage, dating, sexuality, roles, communication and others topics related to marriage.

At Revolution, we’ve never been afraid to talk about hard topics. One of the topics we’ve talked about is porn, sexual addiction and adultery. It is a hard topic, but one almost every couple is dealing with. Either the actual issue or the aftermath. You can listen to the most recent sermon on this topic here.

In the message, I was very honest and open in my talk about our journey. When I was 10, I was at a birthday party and the guys dad thought it was time for all of us 10 year olds to learn about sex and women, so he brought down a box of porn. That began for me an addiction that lasted until I was 22.

My talk came out of the journey that Katie and I experienced as we tried to heal, move forward, understand the reasons why (ironically, this is the last thing people talk about, the why, but I believe until you understand that you will have a difficult time finding freedom), and how to heal our marriage and find trust, integrity and purity.

I can honestly say, this was the hardest thing we have ever done, but worth doing. What came out of this journey is a stronger relationship, honesty, trust, purity. We put many different boundaries and protections in place in our lives to keep us pure. We have accountability we didn’t have 7 years ago because our marriage is worthwhile.

The most common questions we got after the talk were, “Is it possible to be free?” and “What does a wife do, how does she handle it?”

Yes, it is possible to be free. It will take a lot of work, prayer, some drastic changes in your life, but you can find freedom and have eyes only for your wife. Our life is a walking example. Like any addict, we celebrate 10 years of freedom!

To answer the second question, Katie did something that I am very proud of her for doing. She walked through our journey, her journals, her heart and shared them on her blog. These are must reads for any guy who is addicted to porn and any wife who suspects or knows her husband is and she is trying to find answers or healing.

Here are the posts:

If you need some more resources to help you through this journey, here are some that have been incredibly helpful to us.

One thing I learned through preaching on this is that enough churches do not talk about this. Statistically, over 80% of the men in your church are dealing with this. The stats are crazy and the church needs to step up to the plate, call men to integrity, help couples find freedom and answers and healing.

I’m going to step off my soap box now.