Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3

What does new birth mean? That's a tricky one for anyone who is not familiar with the concept. No, you obviously can't be born again of your parents. This "new birth" refers to accepting that Jesus Christ is God, came to earth as a man, died on the cross to forgive sins for you and then arose from the dead three days later. The new birth is renouncing our old ways - the habits, hurts, hang-ups, addictions and saying "NO MORE!" Then living a new life free from those devices.  Once you have accepted your sins and asked Jesus to forgive you and that you believe in Him, your have been saved. 

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done from that point on. Jesus doesn't just say "Poof - Problems be gone!" Nope, the consequences of our actions will play out. But how we deal with life will be different because we have that "Hope" mentioned in the verse. When we hope in something, we have strong desires for that to come true. Because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, I believe in his promises of eternal life - and that life is not plagued with the problems of this world. 

And so that living hope is the change in attitude that we have when we take that leap of faith and follow Jesus. We are living it out each day doing his good works through the Holy Spirit. And by good works I don't mean we are all called to do something spectacular. It really could just mean living a daily sober life. I don't know God's calling for you. I don't know what He has planned for you in terms of good works...but as you grow in relationship with Him you will begin to figure it out.  Since we have that living hope, our outlook on the life we have right now changes from the negative to it's possible and then it will grow to it will happen. You will become sober with the help of Jesus. Our living hope is based upon Jesus resurrecting from the dead - he was and is our living hope.

Today, have the change in attitude that comes from knowing what your living hope is all about!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Being an Exile

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:1-2

Just who are these exiles here that Peter is writing to? It says they have been chosen basically ahead of time by God. And then it says that through the Holy Spirit they are to do the work of God. 

Well these exiles were new Christians who were being persecuted for their beliefs, yet Peter is urging them on, letting them know that God has pre-selected them to do his works.  And that they have the Holy Spirit helping.

Now, I want you to think about them for just a moment. In their society they were looked down upon. Perhaps it was just because they were new Christians, but also perhaps because of their backgrounds. Perhaps they were sinners - those who society didn't want. And yet, they each came to realize that Jesus came for each of them and renounced their old ways to follow the promise of salvation.

Fast forward 2000 years, who could these exiles be now? Yup - they are us. What does society think of those who are addicted to porn, drugs, alcohol, controlling others, and .....    It's not like the local alcoholic is being welcomed into homes for food or shelter, or being given a job to earn money.  Those with addictions live on the outside of society.

But then there is that same greeting to us. Let me rewrite it
To God’s elect, those with addictions, hurts, hang-ups, habits scattered throughout the states Maine, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York (and keep it going), who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:1-2

Yes, the greeting is to you and me. In the next few days we will explore a little more about the next few verses of Chapter 1 in 1 Peter,  and where Peter was going with his message to these exiles. But today, just ponder on this verse - when you read the Bible and you see something that was written with such a greeting - it really does mean you and me as we are all sinners and need that Salvation that God has offered through Jesus Christ.  NOTE: we were selected ahead of time AND he has GOOD works for us.

And because of being exiles, it's why I think having a group to attend meetings with such as a 12 Step Program, Accountability group or a Celebrate Meeting helps all the "exiles" come together and have that peace.  If you don't already have a support group as such, I highly urge you to find one in your area.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Musical Devos - God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes

"God Gave Me You" - Dave Barnes
I've been a walking heartache
I've made a mess of me
The person that I've been lately
Ain't who I wanna be

But you stay here right beside me
Watch as the storm goes through
And I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I've lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it's true

God gave me you

There's more here than what we're seeing
A divine conspiracy
That you, an angel, lovely
Could somehow fall for me

You'll always be love's great martyr
I'll be the flattered fool
And I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I've lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it's true

God gave me you

On my own I'm only half of what I could be
I can't do without you
We are stitched together and what love has tethered
I could never undo

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I've lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it's true

God gave me you
Gave me you
Gave me you

Monday, September 15, 2014

the Lesson

The Lesson - Our Daily Bread

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Am Second ~ Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs ~ God can reconcile a marriage

The Story - Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs

It was love at first sight for Cheryl and Jeff. Young and ambitious, the two fell in love and and got married. They had it all: ocean view home, the right clothes, the best jobs and there was nothing to want for that money could buy. But what about the things money couldn’t buy? Like happiness or love. Cheryl found herself secretly discontent and began to question her love for Jeff. Jeff, on the other hand went on oblivious to the true feelings his wife harbored and slowly, they drifted apart… Cheryl into the arms of another man.
She had an idea  of what the perfect life looked like. That’s what she wanted, that’s what she worked for and that’s what she had. “But it was fake.” So is divorce, then, the answer or is it just running from the real problem? For Cheryl it was the answer and that answer was to end it all. However just because our plans are to end something doesn’t mean they are God’s. And just because we make mistakes -big or small- doesn’t mean He can’t fix them. In the end, both Cheryl and Jeff had to have faith, pure faith to see things through. See how faithfully God reconciled their seven-year divorce, step by step, back into the marriage He had in mind.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I'm Supposed to Submit to my Husband? But He Watches Porn!

Ephesians 5:22-33

New International Version (NIV)
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I know this is LOADED, right? I'm supposed to submit to my husband but he views porn. Yes, the pain is searing especially when you first find out that he has an addiction to pornography (and yes, it can be the wife with the addiction so just reverse the pronouns). 

The feelings of betrayal, and lack of self-worth, and feelings of negativity towards your own body are going to be screaming in your head over and over. First, I want you to separate the addiction from the feelings about yourself. I know this is crazy - but it's not about you. I'm not saying this in a bad way at all. His addiction is not about you (unless you are the one feeding it). But his addiction to porn has to do with him and the fact that he has lack of love for himself or feels that only he can fulfill his desires because he feels no one will want to. Who know. Those are things he needs to work out!  Not you!  Don't fall into the CoDependent trap and try and "Fix" him because it's not going to work!

Some might argue that a wife withholding sex from her husband drives him to view pornography. That is not true. It's a total cop-out and I don't buy it. Yes, because of the lack of emotional connection, he may try and seek it elsewhere, but viewing porn is still wrong and he has a choice to make. Actually, what usually happens (and research can support this) is that women want to have sex with their spouse, but for some reason he doesn't - he's the one becoming emotionally detached because he's getting fulfilled elsewhere - porn.  Either way, it's so important to seek counseling to figure out the cause of the addiction for the husband and for the wife to seek counseling to deal with the grief.

Let's be real here - there is huge HURT when we find our spouse views porn. It's hard to even watch TV or go to the movies with your spouse anymore. Even a stroll through the mall could create such pain while walking by the VS store. And we don't even want to let our minds go there about having him touch me. We don't even want him to view us naked. He's seen other women so it's got to be my ugly body right? Wrong!  Those negative thoughts are straight from Satan.  But, even knowing that, it still hurts!  I mean, he's known this secret for how long and lived in his shame. But I'm just finding out..and so I often find this time is WAY harder on the spouse!!

So, how can we honor God during this while honoring our spouse. How can we live Ephesians  5:22-23 during this time. This is not inclusive at all and it's really just a small piece of the dealing with the entire mess AND some of these steps are going to be harder then others.

  • Honor your husband. Yes, he has a problem and needs help. And so do you. Don't go announcing to the word that he watches pornography. He is still a child of God and as awful as he hurt you, he deserves respect. 
  • Find a trusted friend to work through your feelings. Seek professional counseling. YES - you as the spouse will need to seek help from someone who can be objective.  Don't use social media to bash your spouse..that's not honoring to God.
  • Find a support group. The enemy WILL use isolation to attack you. Isolating yourself is going to feed into the enemy's plan and so you MUST protect yourself from him.
  • Trust in God. Too often we place our trust in people and get hurt. And even though he is your spouse - he is human just like you are. And so he WILL fail you. But God never will. 
  • It's not dishonoring to God to put space between you and your spouse until you start working through your emotions as well as  seeing that he is working through his baggage. Actually, it's honoring to your spouse to give him space to work through his addiction and not hound him.
  • Don't call and make appointments for counselors for him. Don't do the work for him. That's being CoDependent (and even though we do it to protect ourselves - it's far from healthy for both of you). He must want to change and own up to the work that needs to be done.
  • Try to understand what causes an addiction to pornography so that when/if he does want to talk to you, you are understanding what this addiction really is. It will make more sense to you. And it will help make you aware to protect your children.
  • I believe having some physical space separation is OK. I don't mean make him move out. But you don't have to share the bed right away. If he truly wants to break the addiction and is working hard you will see it. And there will be a time for intimacy again - but you are not obligated to sleep with him because you are his wife. And if he seeks intimacy and you are not ready, you have the right to let him know that. Submission does not mean to give freely to him because he desires it. (if you read further in Ephesians  the husband has even more responsibility to the wife).  As healing happens, intimacy will return...but be ready for Satan to attack you there.  It's not going to be easy. Trust is something we need to earn from each other.
  • Don't use the porn as an excuse to beat him down. Try to find ways to praise him. Even if it's a simple "I see you are trying and I appreciate it". Belittling him will only make things worse.
  • When you are ready and he is ready, be available for counseling as a couple.
  • Attend a Celebrate Recovery meeting or a group session as well as personal counseling.
  • Have a close friend to talk to or journal like crazy.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep, exercise, food, spiritual and emotional self-care. Just like an addict can't overcome an addiction without making sure basic needs are met, neither can you!

As the spouse of a person who has an addiction to pornography, you are going to feel like your world was turned upside-down. And those feelings are legit. The hurt and pain are searing. It's how you deal with that hurt and hang-up that will determine how honoring to your spouse and God you deal with it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Does the Bible Say About Porn (Pornography)?

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  Matthew 5:27-29

First, let's define what porn (or pornography) really is just so we are talking about the same thing. 

  1. 1.
    printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.
    synonyms:erotica, pornographic material, dirty books

Since printed or digital pornography didn't exist during the Bible times , can the Bible really have anything to say about it and offer up anything that I need to take seriously?  There was no internet or printed material that contained images - so can the Bible really talk about pornography or sexual addiction?   The Bible is very clear that certain sexual acts are definitely wrong such as sex with animals, sex with family members, rape, adultery, orgies. It's even written in the Bible that these acts are punishable by death!  So clearly they are wrong.

But, what about just looking? Is there harm in that? "I'm not touching anyone or hurting anyone right?" - oh haven't I heard that one before!  A lot! That is something that is often used as an excuse but in reality,  there is a lot of harm being done both to you and to others. Today, as we focus on the verse above, we see that  Jesus tells us that even looking at a women in such a way is lust, which is defined as a strong sexual desire - many call it lust. When we just "look with desire", have we committed adultery? Yes, this "lust" thing was punishable by death. And Jesus does go on to say that your body will be thrown into hell. 

Perhaps others don't know your secrets desires and lust habits because they are just in your mind, but Jesus knows and is promising that you will not receive the kingdom of heaven.

So, how can that be bad? I'm just looking and not actually having sex. The thing is - as Christians we are called to also have pure minds. We are called to a higher standard. And so when we look at images, we create that desire in our minds and because Jesus tells us that even the desire is sin - then looking at the images is sin! Porn is this crafty medium that helps feed our addiction because by viewing these images we release chemicals in our mind that feed us pleasure - and therefore we seek more. And what's different about pornography compared to other addictions is that we can bring back those images in our minds at ANY point and get that high again. However, as all addictions go, you need more and more to get that same high. And so the awful cycle continues and grows. And maybe you act further on it or maybe you don't - it's still wrong and why tempt yourself!

When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we gave up our bodies. They now belong to Him and it's our job to take care of our body. I'm not saying we can no longer have "fun" but there are LOTS of other ways to create the same amazing feelings that are good for us and pleasing to God .. it's our job to find them.  That's why counselors, sponsors and accountability partners are crucial to have to recover from an addiction as they can help lend you ideas on how to create healthy habits.

The cost to a family or marriage is so high. I won't get into that because this is a devotion and I want to keep focused on God's perspective. But do the research to what watching porn is really costing you besides your personal relationship with Christ. It's a lose-lose situation no matter what.

Here is the great part about it all...when you decide to honor God with your eyes and mind and give up pornography or a sex addiction in any form, Jesus is waiting for you. He has been all along and he has the tools you need to break free from this habit. You can overcome and will overcome AND he offers forgiveness FREELY. Watching porn or committing adultery might cost you a marriage, relationships with others or maybe even your job, but Christ is offering forgiveness and is offering you a NEW life with one condition - truly accept his sacrifice on the cross and leave the porn alone.  I just want to scream FREEDOM from the top of my lungs.  He offers freedom!