Reaching Out – The Best Way I know to Give Back

giving-back
Hey Guys,

Sexual things/images—do you ever think they control you instead of you controlling them?

Here is an upcoming national workshop that is going to be held in Indianapolis, IN the first weekend of April.  I attended this workshop fourteen years ago in CA, and found it to be a great resource that equipped me with the tools needed to win the daily battle of sexual integrity in my life.  

Sexual things/images are being shot at us in every direction, so it seems.  Quite often I find other guys that are wanting to win this internal battle, too, but like I used to think, they feel like they just need to try harder or pray more.  Prior to attending “Every Man’s Battle”, I didn’t know and wasn’t using all the tools that God has available for those that are wanting to find true freedom. God created my sexual being as VERY GOOD, but the one problem was I hadn’t been taught or trained to use it for good, as our society primarily  promotes it from “it’s all about my pleasure” negative worldly view.  There is a lot more to my story that I’m open to discussing with anyone.

If you are interested in the “Every Man’s Battle” (EMB) workshop click on the link below.  Any full time pastor can attend free of charge.  If you have interest, but financially don’t know how you can make it work, give me a call or send me an email.

http://newlife.com/emb/workshop/

Satan desires for you and me to be in bondage-while GOD has put a plan in place for us to experience true freedom.

Is pride and fear keeping you stuck in bondage? In Christ you can break the chains as you step out of your comfort zone. 

If you are wanting a deeper/richer sexual life with your wife that has a WOW factor, GOD has the plan.  As for me, the awesome rewards thus far have outweighed  the work that it has taken Renee & I to get from point A to point B.  It’s a working art in progress.

To me it seems like the “Church” has missed the mark as this isn’t an issue that is commonly talked about.  Is that the reason why the foundation of marriage is failing?  Can the divorce rates (according to the Barna Research Group that are just as strong for Christian marriages as non-Christian marriage) be changed?  What can I/we do to protect our marriages and reverse this trend?  Do you know who’s plan you are using, GOD’s or the world’s? I strongly sense we are being massively deceived into believing Lucifer’s craftiness as he continues his master plan of deception. Terrible things happen, relationships are damaged, wounds are deep – but God has a plan for healing, restoration and transformation!

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” “Don’t you understand yet?”Jesus asked.  Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart-that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” - Mathew 15:10-20 NLT

The Bible is teaching me new things about good vs. evil.

It’s not the sexual images that makes me sinful or defiles me in of its self, it’s the process of how I allow my mind/heart/spirit to filter those images that then has the potential of either luring me towards sinful actions of lusting/acting out. It’s only when I willingly choose in each moment to strive to live not for my own physical pleasure that I then am able to be a mirror reflection of my Creator and bring a smile upon HIS (my Daddy’s) face and HE communicates to me “Well Done Robb, I love it when you willing choose good. The actions or your heart enables me to know that you love ME”.

Thanks for being willing to read and entertain my passions and convictions.  Challenging thoughts are welcome . . .  

Sowing Seeds for God’s Harvest,

Robb

What is 12-Step Recovery?

 

12-steps-recovery.newlife

As a seminary graduate and pastor, I was skeptical about much of psychology and recovery programs. I did learn a little more when I watched My Name is Bill W.–the story of the man who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous–but not much. I suspected that group meetings were touchy-feely, superficial gripe sessions that allowed addicts to blame everyone else in their lives for their problems. My greatest reservation stemmed from the commitment to speak of the generic ‘higher power’ instead of acknowledging Jesus Christ as the true life-changing power.

My views changed immediately and dramatically when a new job required a visit to a substance abuse rehab center. I found myself sitting in a group therapy session with men and women from their late teens to 60′s. They came from upper class homes, middle class working families, and the streets. I was amazed that they treated each other as true peers. Their pointed questions and frank confessions scared me, but I recognized that this is what real conversion looks like’people struggling with real guilt having no other hope than experiencing genuine rescue through faith in Jesus Christ. In short, they were living in true Christian community.

12-step recovery is biblical:

In my personal Bible study, I have found the principles that supported the steps. I finally became convinced that the steps were biblical when I recognized that Paul made his confession in 1 Timothy 1:15 as the result of completing the work of the 4th step: ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.’ In verses 8-11, Paul outlines the basis for a searching moral inventory: the 10 Commandments. He then confesses, ‘I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’.’ In verse 15, Paul then explains why he can complete his moral inventory without fear: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’of whom I am the worst.’ Later, I recognized the prodigal son experienced the admission expressed in the first step when he came to his senses. The 5th step is completely in keeping with James’ instruction in his letter: ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.’ The 12 Steps help addicts face their sin and apply the remedy of the Gospel.

12-step recovery is progressive:

Working the steps requires following a process that moves the addict from a life of isolation to healthy relationships with others. In working the first 3 steps, you recognize the futility of your efforts to overcome your addiction by your own efforts and acknowledge your total dependence upon the Lord for help. In steps 4 through 6, you face the reality of your own brokenness due to sin and declare your readiness to have God transform you through the Gospel. In steps 7, 8, and 9, you work to repair the relationships that have been broken as a result of your addiction. In the final 3 steps, you work to advance the work already by growing in your knowledge of God and sharing what you’ve experienced with other addicts

12-step recovery is not self-help:

Anyone who hopes to end addiction must work the steps personally, but cannot work the steps without help from others. Groups urge members to find a sponsor/mentor who has already worked the steps or a partner who can work them at the same time in order to provide accountability for working the steps. Demonstrating a willingness to be in relationship through the steps is one of the most important foundations for completing the work. You are choosing to end the hiding and isolation. You must begin by deepening your relationship with God first. If I don’t really trust Jesus, then I won’t be able to trust His people. In the group meeting, you invite the other members to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Knowing the God Who has walked that valley first is essential.

12-step recovery is an adventure:

The function of a 12-step group is not a precise science, as group veterans will attest. There are healthy and unhealthy groups. A healthy group fosters wholeness as the members progress through the steps. An unhealthy group permits members to repeat the same confessions they have made previously. Healthy groups can have unproductive meetings and unhealthy groups can have productive meetings.

The single greatest factor influencing a group’s health and effectiveness is the commitment of each member to work the steps. Members must help each other face the external and internal triggers that make up their patterns of addiction. Each person experiences moments of strength and of weakness’moments when it seems much easier to return to the life of denial and blame-shifting than to keep growing by answering that difficult question that has just been posed.

Following the well-trod path outlined by the 12 Steps will help you to escape the pattern of self-defeating behavior that has dominated your life and prevented you from experiencing wholeness through faith in Christ.

If you have a struggle with alcohol or drugs, we can help. Please see contact New Life Ministries at 800-639-5433.
If you’re struggle is with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Hope for the Broken Marriage

(A ‘broken marriage’ – in the context I am writing – is one damaged by sexually inappropriate conduct.)

mended-heartThere are a growing number of broken marriages in the United States today. Men, and a rapidly increasing number of women, are falling prey to the schemes of pornographers and a culture saturated in sexual gratification at the expense of moral integrity. These couples regularly lie to each other in order to keep their sin a secret. The more they lie the further they drift apart emotionally. The further apart they drift the wider the crevice of brokenness expands. Given enough time, the chasm between them seems an insurmountable obstacle. Thus, many couples who eventually wake up to the reality of their broken marriage feel they have fallen too far apart for any reasonable expectation of real healing and reconciliation.

As more and more broken couples reach out for help, too many are not finding what they really need to rebuild their relationship. Why? No one seems to be offering them the foundational element of long-term healing: hope. A host of well-intentioned counselors and pastors see a hurting, broken couple sitting on the couch in their office and immediately begin strategizing the best techniques to remedy the numerous problems of communication, finances, or sex they might be facing. What is wrong with this approach? Without casting a vision of hope, the counselor or pastor is simply offering a band aid as the solution for the gaping wound in the broken marriage. Broken marriages need hope for long-term healing and restoration.

There are many challenges to assisting spouses in a broken marriage to embrace hope. First, trust is always damaged in a broken marriage, and as such each spouse is reluctant to move toward the other for fear of being wounded even more deeply. Second, most couples suffering broken marriages have little, if any, ability to communicate well with one another. They have each learned to place their own interests first, thus making communication a tool to manipulate his/her spouse to achieve his/her self-centered agenda. Finally, the sheer distance created between spouses through lying and hiding makes it difficult for the couple to imagine closeness as God designed it.

Does it seem like the deck is stacked against the couple in a broken marriage? Only if you believe God is incapable of dealing them a new hand. And this is where hope must be reborn (or birthed for the first time) for those suffering the broken marriage. A couple must believe that God is able to heal, willing to restore, and desirous to make all things new. Spouses in a broken marriage must embrace the truth, individually and as a couple, that God can bring beauty from ashes and breathe life into their ashen relationship. Hope, true hope, is born in the one who begins to expect God to fulfill His promises even when it appears the situation is beyond repair. Hope sees beyond circumstance and anchors itself on the certainty of God’s Word.

So, how does a couple suffering from a broken marriage actually embrace this kind of hope? Surprisingly, this type of hope is gained through brokenness. That’s right. The couple who wakes up one day and realizes the extent to which their marriage has been broken is closer to hope than they might know. But such a realization and appropriation of hope cannot come without outside intervention and guidance.

Most couples can experience brokenness without any help from anybody else. In fact, it comes naturally to those who allow sexual sin to infiltrate their union. But hope, healing, and a rebuilt marriage must involve external influence. Of course, there must be the touch of God if true and lasting healing is to occur. But there must also be the instruction and guidance of wise counselors and friends to help a broken marriage be rebuilt. Without such influence the probability of the couple drifting back to old patterns of deception and self-centeredness is virtually certain.

In choosing those to counsel the broken couple, the determining factor is truth. Invite truth-tellers in; reject falsehood. How can such a broken couple determine what is the truth and what isn’t? Through the benchmark of truth, God’s Word. God never lies. Never. If particular counsel does not match up with God’s Word, it is not good for the healing of the broken marriage. And such false instruction does more to damage hope than to encourage it. Truth, though it may require painful self-examination, will always lead to the path of freedom. And freedom (from deception, bitterness, fear, and self-centeredness) is exactly what the broken marriage needs in order to rebuild to a healthy, whole, ‘oneness’ union.

Why is hope so important in this process of healing the broken marriage? Because without hope it is easy to become discouraged. Healing a broken marriage is not easy. It takes time, sacrifice, endurance, and hard work. When the road gets bumpy it is hope that reminds the couple that their efforts will not be in vain. It is hope that reminds them that God is good, patient, and loving even when this appears not to be true. And it is hope that encourages the couple that what they are working toward will be more beautiful than anything they had in the past. This is the importance of hope for the broken marriage.

God promises a good return for those who invest in seeking hope. Amazingly, the Bible even tells us that we can ‘rejoice in our sufferings.’ Why? Because ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ (Rom. 5:3-5) The benefit to pressing through the suffering of a broken marriage and pursuing hope to rebuild is that the love of God will increasingly abound. True love, true intimacy, and true joy can be experienced even by those whose marriages have been broken by sexual lust and unfaithfulness.

If you are living in a broken marriage, begin today to ask God to lead you and your spouse to hope. Keep a watchful eye for wise counselors and friends who can help you persevere, build character, and invest in hope. The small steps you take today toward a new attitude of hope will produce long-term benefits that far outweigh the current momentary sacrifice. And even if circumstances do not progress in the manner or time frame you expect, you can know that the hope you gain in Christ is not in vain because movement toward God is always movement in the right direction.

‘May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
(Rom. 15:13)

We would like to help you in your journey of finding hope and healing. Please consider attending our upcoming Marriage Solution Workshop or getting a copy of some of our resources. Read what previous attendees of our Marriage Solution Workshop are saying. Call us on 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433), we can help.

Bounce Your Eyes

In talking to alumni over the past few weeks, the thing that seems to keep cropping up is, “It’s summertime, and the women are wearing less clothing. How do I deal with that?” This summer is the perfect opportunity to practice ‘bouncing the eyes’ as Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker wrote about in the ‘Every Man’s Battle‘ book.

First of all, what exactly is meant by ‘bouncing the eyes?’ Well, as those of you who have read the book will know, it’s not complicated, but it is extremely effective. Steve writes: “The problem is that your eyes have always bounced toward the sexual, and you’ve made no attempt to end this habit. To combat it, you need to build a reflex action by training your eyes to immediately bounce away from the sexual, like the jerk of your hand away from a hot stove. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: “When your eyes bounce toward a woman, they must bounce away immediately. . .”
If you bounce your eyes for six weeks, you can win this war. As I write this, it is the middle of July, which means there are six weeks left of summer. Coincidence? I think not!

First Step: Make a List of Your Enemies!
The first way to start, Fred tells us, is by making a list of your “greatest enemies”. These could be lingerie ads, either in a seemingly harmless department store catalog, or that Victoria’s Secret magazine that your wife left laying around. It could include billboards, it could be TV shows or ads, it may be female joggers, or maybe it’s that female co-worker who tends to dress a little suggestively. And then there’s always the beach.

Second Step: Set up a Battle Plan!
In any event, the second step is to set up a “battle plan”, a way you are going to get victory. Let’s look at each of our examples:

  •  If you are looking at a department store catalog, make a covenant with your eyes and with yourself that   you will only look at men’s clothes, and then you will close it.
  • And if Victoria’s Secret is an issue, simply ask your wife to be discreet with where she leaves it. She will respect you for being honest with her.
  • If billboards are a problem on your drive into work, and an alternate route is out of the question, make a mental note of which streets or exits on the freeway the billboards falls between, and then as you approach that area, focus on something else; prayer, some verses you’ve memorized, or even something else near the road that is neutral.
  • As far as the TV goes, use your TV guide, turn on one show that you know is safe, and don’t flip around during commercials. Or if you’re watching a ball game and the advertisements are the problem, have the remote handy, and when the commercials come on, go to a program that you have already designated as being safe.
  • Joggers. Practice bouncing your eyes to the other side of the road, or straight ahead. It will be tough at first but if you continue to do it, it will get easier as time goes on.
  • At work, again, practice bouncing the eyes onto something else when that female comes into your line of sight. Have a picture of your family at your work place. Pretend that your wife, or if you’re single, maybe Jesus, is sitting next to you at your desk or wherever you’re working.
  • If you have a problem at the beach, don’t go, at least until you feel this part of your life is under control. There are other ways to have fun during the summer.

The above suggestions are admittedly not rocket science, but too many of us neglect them. Let’s use this summer as a way to get victory, not an excuse to act out. Make it a goal to be regularly bouncing your eyes by Labor Day. God will honor you for it.

For more help, see Every Man’s Battle. You can also call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

Fighting the Battle Alone

In order to stay ‘in the fight’ for the long haul and be successful, you have to connect with others. For most of us, we may have the hunger and desire to connect, but struggle with HOW we do that especially when we’re in the midst of temptation.

It’s rather ironic that the Internet is about connecting people to each other, and it can be such a great tool for doing just that. But like any powerful tools, its purpose can be corrupted to the opposite extreme.

So many of the people I work with have found isolation and avoidance of interpersonal connections through the Internet. It’s amazing how subtle and desirable a substitute for the real can be.

“Who is SAFE?”
So, how do we go about making quality connection so that we can fight being in the battle alone? One of the first questions you must ask is: ‘Who is safe?’ The problem is that for many of us, we don’t even know what the word ‘safe’ means in regards to relationships. Professionals, who are bound by confidentiality are usually safe. But there are many others too. To understand what makes for safety in a relationship that will move you toward health and healing, think of a safe spot that you may have in your home. It’s a place where you place valuable things and know they will stay there protected. You’ll want to apply this same principle to your struggle. Look for who you can tell the ‘good, bad, and ugly’ stories to and be rest assured that they will stay ‘safe!’ It’s by communicating these personal stories that each of us can find freedom from many of the lies that Satan would have us believe about ourselves.

Make the Accountability Connection Work for You
Being connected to someone for accountability means that they will know what questions to ask you, because they will know your weaknesses. But to help make the accountability connection work for you, ask your partner to do the following:

  • Call you every day (or whatever the two of you work out between you).
  • Ask you ‘How you are feeling.’
  • Then ask you, ‘Now, how are you REALLY feeling!?’
  • Ask you ‘What do you have planned today to build the life God wants for you?’
  • Ask you, ‘Who are you resenting, angry at? Where do you feel out of control?’
  • Ask you, ‘Where is the greatest point of desperation in your life?
  • Connecting with someone who will ask you these questions and encourage you in your life’s journey will change your life.  If finding a trustworthy confidant is tough for you, we’d like to help.

Call us today on 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433).

Warning: Facebook Could Destroy your Marriage

A New Jersey pastor told his married church leaders that they either had to delete Facebook or they would have to resign from their leadership role in the church. Other pastors have likened Facebook to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and have urged their entire congregation to shut down their pages. The issue became more urgent when the marriage statistics came out for 2011. The report said that 33% of all divorce filings mentioned in their paperwork Facebook as a factor that led to the divorce.

We cannot blame Facebook–it’s what people do on Facebook that is the problem. The most obvious problem develops when out of curiosity, one reaches out to an old flame–“just to see how they are doing.” Or an old flame reaches out to us for the same reason. Without realizing it, we can soon be spending more time “Facebooking” with an old flame than we’re doing face-time with our spouse. And the longer we reminisce about those old feelings the more we find they become current feelings.

I don’t do Facebook. I have a Facebook page, but it is managed by the New Life Live radio/TV program people. But I’ve worked with couples whose major complaint was that their spouse was spending hours a day on Facebook, posting pictures, chatting, and checking on their “friends’” postings. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what appears to be someone else’s exciting life, especially if we feel we are merely existing.

Another step to creating a major problem in a marriage is for one partner to become too personal in what they share with a “friend.” Talking about your marital issues with someone other than your spouse creates intimacy with that person, and it is especially dangerous if they are of the opposite sex. That’s really how just about every Facebook affair begins–They say they simply just sat and talked with an attractive other about what was not working in their marriage.

In the real world, an affair can take months to develop. But on Facebook, all it takes is a couple of clicks. People are tempted, and it is so much easier to give in to that temptation on Facebook. One may be too reserved, or shy in real life, but they can become much bolder behind the screen than they would be in person. Many of those who have ended up destroying their marriage would never have even thought about having an affair without the private seduction available over Facebook.

How do you know if your marriage is in danger? The problem is already occurring if one person refuses to talk with their spouse about what is happening on their Facebook. If you are being shut out of your spouse’s activities on Facebook, your marriage is probably already in the danger zone. Safety comes with complete openness regarding who you each are talking with, and when both of you know all of each other’s passwords. That’s at least a beginning point in protecting your marriage. Be careful in this digital age–you don’t want to be one of the 33%.

How do you handle Facebook and other social media issues in your marriage? In your family?

Article was sourced from the blog of Dr. Dave Stoop with permission:  Dr Stoop is a regular co-host on New Life Live.

Rebuilding Trust in Marriage

by Bob Damrau

‘Our lives will never be the same,’ voiced my wife as we drove home from our respective 12-Step groups. Then, we looked at each other and smiled with the realization that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Repairing our marriage was not easy, yet the hard work was yielding a sense of connection that neither of us ever thought possible.

When trust is violated by sexual sin, our spouse’s emotions are damaged and those feelings will not heal overnight. Rebuilding trust in a marriage cracked by infidelity (in mind and/or body) requires our full surrender, intentionality, and persistence.

SURRENDER

Our personal relationship with God exemplifies the beginning of building trust. When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus we effectively give up control. This is a one-time decision with ongoing ramifications. So, too, surrendering our sexual wills over to God takes place at a particular time (usually when the realization of not being in control hits home), yet the battles are won and godly character is built on a daily basis ‘ sometimes moment by moment.

The defects that once defined me (liar, control freak, manipulator’) have been replaced with a spirit of openness and transparency. When once my wife doubted my sincerity, now she sees me as a changed man disciplined by our Abba Father. Recognizing this sacredness validates our efforts to love and respect one another. But rebuilding trust doesn’t end with simple sincerity because a spouse will also doubt her compulsive husband’s ability to change his long standing behaviors.

INTENTIONALITY

It is a paradox that by giving up our lives we get them back. The hidden blessing of purposefully working through our stuff is that we’ll never be the same, but better and healthier. The same is true of relationships. Have you ever agreed to something before you felt like doing it? When we seek to rebuild trust, we may not feel trust or that we are trustworthy, but we can stay committed to try. This will send a signal to our spouses that we may have what it takes to make the necessary changes.

The ability to make significant personal changes was demonstrated to my wife by following a structured plan of recovery. If you have attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop you received an outline describing the elements needed for recovery. Put that plan into action then share it with her. Trust and honest communication work hand-in-hand, and as she watches you fulfill your plan she’ll know you have what it takes to get it right.

It is worth noting here that the shame identity at the core of an addict’s belief system can still speak to us. It says, ‘I must hide my true self because no one will accept who I really am.’ This can cause us to withhold information and continue to live the lie. Our wives interpret our isolating behavior to mean we really don’t love them, so keep talking and working the whole plan. Over time you’ll be seen as an able husband.

PERSISTENCE

Willing and able must be calendar tested. Many times when a sexually compulsive person repents of his sin, he expects his partner to trust him immediately. Don’t go there! Consistent behavior over the seasons of life rebuilds trust. In sexual addiction this is called maintaining sobriety.

Some marriages have involved lies for years. Restoring trust, when both partners work at it, can take between 18-30 months. My repentant spirit coupled with my consistent behaviors relegated trust to the back burner in just under two years ‘ a drop in the bucket for a lifelong partner.

One of my favorite bible verses is Joel 2:25, which promises, ‘God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.’ My wife and I are experiencing the import of that promise in terms of intimacy. Prior to my disclosure and work of rebuilding trust we had only a surface intimacy. Since then our level of connectedness is deeper and more fulfilling. So give it your full surrender, intentionality, and persistence. Never being the same can be a good thing.

In addition to the Every Man’s Battle Workshop we have two programs designed to help you and your spouse. See Every Heart Restored–for wives of men struggling with sexual purity and Rescue Your Love Life–for couples.

You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

Men Need Good Men

by Stephen L. Cervantes

I would like to share some observations about men. Below are two observations for your consideration. First, have you noticed how some men have a healthy variety of adult males in their life? That is to say, some men have good male buddies.

  • They spend time together.
  • They periodically eat meals together.
  • They may enjoy a boys-night-out occasionally.
  • Those men talk, play and work together.
  • As Christians, they may study their bibles together.
  • Even if they don’t read scriptures together, they still strive to spur each other on to good works.

These relationships have quiet boundaries. Christian men have a sense of right and wrong. Relationships define who you are. When a man is in a relationship with a Godly, Christian brother, they call each other to a higher level.

There is a simple, unspoken truth among Christian men. That is, as Christian men we bridle our will, desires, and biological urges to act more Christ-like. If what you just read makes sense, then you will agree with this statement. Men need good men in their lives. Or, said another way, good men make regular men better.

Here is my second and very different observation. If you went into a Men’s Club, you would see a room full of tables. Most tables would have just one man sitting by himself. He is there alone. He wants to be there alone. This is his private, alone, secret life. In most cases, male companionship is the farthest thing from his mine. Think about this image. It is a wonderfully descriptive metaphor for an unbalanced male life. It is the picture of a man sitting alone looking for the perfect female. He believes that a fantasy female will ultimately make him happy, satisfied and content. If you asked, you would quickly find out that that the men sitting alone at those tables have no solid male friendships.

Those men have decided their greatest needs can be fulfilled with the ultimate sexual fantasy experience. The dilemma of the fantasy female solution is that she does not exist. Those men return week after week to pursue their fantasy. He sits alone. He has a thrill provided by a stranger. His body responds with excitement. The response is short lived. However, with each fantasy thrill, his spirit shrivels up. At the end of the evening he is still alone. He has grown, but his growth just means more sexual fantasy thoughts. He does not end the evening being built up. He is not strengthened in his manhood. He is, if anything, a weaker man. Fantasy is ultimately followed by restless discontent.

Here are some conclusions I have reached.

The first group of men are practicing true growth and intimacy.

  • They seek to build relationships with other men.
  • They know they need good men in their lives to help bridle and shape their manhood.

The second group of men are misusing their sexuality.

  • They are pursing a fantasy female experience when they should be growing healthy male relationships.
  • Real men practice real intimacy, not false intimacy. Pursuing inappropriate sexual fantasy thoughts is pursing false intimacy.

What is the difference between these two pictures? The first man is growing healthy relationships with other men. He probably goes home to his wife and enjoys friendship, conversation, and healthy sexuality. The second man is shriveling up in his manhood. He is often the man who is emotionally under-developed and under-involved with other men. He is stuck in adolescent thinking. He believes a sexual rush will make him complete as a man. I believe there are a bunch of Christian men who are living dangerously close to this second example. They may not go to Men’s clubs. However, they run plenty of sexual fantasies in their head all day long. They are under-involved with other good men. They push their sexuality beyond the intended purpose. They misuse their sexuality in ways God never intended.

I believe many men were shaped in their youth with unhealthy sexual perceptions. They picked up the belief in their mind’s eye that they must always be looking for the perfect female for the perfect fantasy. Further, they believe having the perfect sexual experience will make them a whole, complete man.

You many be asking, ‘Why is this discussion important?’ I would like to challenge men to review their thoughts. If you are wasting time with female fantasies it is time to stop. Please consider this thought. You do not need to practice any more fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need to invest in stronger Christian male relationships. Most men have a significant need for deep male friendships.

The solution to being a better man is not found in private, sexual, fantasy thoughts. Rather, you need stronger male relationships – not more inappropriate sexual thoughts.

My goal for this article was to challenge your thinking. I hope that was accomplished. If so, to God be the glory.

For more help on this topic see our Resources for Men and join us for an Every Man’s Battle weekend.

Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.