Battle Strategies for Real Soldiers: Why Accountability Is Important

Dante Poole MA, NCC

“Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)

Accountability. It’s one of the words that bring the same reaction as cod liver oil or enema. You know it’s good for you but it doesn’t feel good. For most men isolation is comfortable and hiding is convenient. We are so use to living in isolation and so use to hiding that the thought of letting others into our sick world causes an adverse reaction. It’s as if we were allergic to being vulnerable, having real connection and living honestly.

When we are driven by fear of exposure, we continue to assume the posture and attitude of Adam that began in the Garden of Eden’hiding and ashamed. All the while God is calling for us. Adam where are you? Why are you hiding? Because God knows the true condition of our hearts He calls us back to Himself through meaningful relationships with other believers. It is through these godly relationships that we begin to experience the love of our Heavenly Father.

God understands the importance of connection. The power and source of sustained victory lies in our willingness to connect with others in the realm of truth. Without this connection our faith in achieving long lasting victory looses its grip and we are left adrift clinging to our old sinful ways of coping with ourselves. It is a dangerous and miserable state to be left to ourselves. A reprobate mind is how the bible describes this state. After many attempts to convince us to do it His way, God allows us to experience life on our own self seeking terms. What a mess we are in when we get everything we desire!

We must make a choice to live life on God’s terms as a soldier or on our own terms as a victim. Being a soldier is much more desirable than playing the victim. There is the potential for spoils, honor, and strength for soldiers. Victims always get the short end of the stick. Playing the victim also means others become our victims and eventually casualties of war.

“One who isolates himself pursues [selfish] desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” Proverbs 18:1 (HCSB)

A rebel dressed up in victims clothing!

Whenever we choose not to connect with others we rebel against the mandate of community. Once a choice has been made to engage in the Battle for purity as a soldier certain strategies must be utilized as a necessity for survival. One such strategy is accountability. Success in the battle requires, no demands, community. We must choose to fight and fight together!

If this battle were just about managing our sexuality then we would have found a quick easy solution by now. But there is something much more. Much greater than staying away from lustful pleasures of the flesh. There is something about this battle that calls to a place deep within us. At the very core of our being there is a desperate longing to be a man. Ever noticed how men are drawn to movies and activities that involve danger, a damsel in distress and victory to the underdog!

In every man there is a desire to shed his thin skinned boyhood in exchange for thick, leathery manhood; Unashamed and unafraid. Commingled with this desire is a plea to be in the company of other men engaged in the battle. This company provides a place for three things:

A. The challenge to become extraordinary

B. The opportunity to help create change

C. The freedom to develop real connections

This is real accountability. Not some watch dog sent to protect me from myself, but a ‘band of brothers’ who offer refuge, responsibility and respect. It is within the safety of this network that divine surgery takes place transforming wounds into testimonial weaponry.

Joshua said ‘choose you this day whom you will serve’ (Joshua 24:15). I echo his challenge to you. Choose. Either become a soldier and join an army ready to fight or die as an isolated victim. Join a band of men, soldiers even, and learn the art of war. Let them hold you responsible for carrying your load. Let them help you when the load is difficult to bear. Learn to fight in unity with others to keep from dying in isolation.

Live on fellow soldiers’live on!

For help in the battle for integrity see Every Man\’s Battle.

Recovery Resistance

Jeffery Baker

There are several behaviors, which sexually compulsive people habitually practice, that make their pathological sexual characteristics resistant to healing. One such unconscious behavior is the isolation practiced in their closest relationships. The need to protect mood-altering sexualization is the same as a cocaine addict hiding their ‘stash’. This can be any type of material, memory, or thought, which is used for inappropriate erotic arousal for escaping the painful life that they have designed.

In addition are the behaviors used to seek out sexual stimuli and recover from the shame based ‘hangovers’.

Isolation hides the true nature of intimate relationships. The confederate is selected for hiswillingness to practice a superficial appearance driven connection. The relationship must focus on its public image. Both addict and the partner mutually and tacitly agree to conceal all the painful shame, anger, and despair caused by lives spinning out of control. The credo of the Saturday Night Live show ‘Looking marvelous is better than being marvelous’ is the marching order of the day. The representation of healthy Christianity is sacrosanct, not the essence.

The result of isolation produces two dysfunctional tenets, which maintain the painful union. The first is replacing intensity for intimacy so the focus becomes the stimulation of the powerful emotions of fear, anger, and eroticism. One can get lost in these strong feelings and never process the content of the problems that are choking the life out of them. The distracting nature of these feelings serves an important purpose which keeps the addiction safe and hidden, and the relational dance intact. The second tenet is the practice of compulsive and obsessive overcontrol instead of a caring emotional connection. The isolation has a ‘no talk, no sharing’ rule which helps keep the separate existence preserved. Power struggles emerge from a climate where two people try to control one another and are obsessed with mistrust and mind reading. This becomes the fodder for all kinds of insane conflict, none of which address the real problem and issues they live with everyday. A caring emotional bond produces security. The overcontrol produces the inability to predict what the other is going to do when they are outside one’s direct grasp. This fact is the basis for many wasted hours of speculation and worry.

Because an emotional and spiritual bond does not unite them, they do not calculate very well how the other will react if they would take the ultimate risk and become honest. A great deal of distorted perceptions grows out of the ignorance that never gets a chance to be checked by the reality test of an actual intimate relationship.

An essential requirement to healing is being emotionally connected and living an open and honest life before God and man. Making this step is daunting for any addict due to the multiple levels of relational change for them and those coupled to them. Often the first level of change comes when a person is ‘busted’ and is faced with consequences that cause terrible shame and anguish. The change begins when one of God’s servants ministers grace and mercy to the busted perpetrator. This powerful supernatural and unnatural exchange between the sexually compulsive person and a true minister of grace begins a slow and developmental process of disclosure. Strangely and spectacularly, isolation and secrets give way to the acceptance and caring bond of confessional and priest. The ensuing battle will be against the established lifestyle and all its potent rewards and the new found freedom discovered in the acknowledgement of sin. The process is life giving but at the same time will feel very threatening.

The opportunity for a human to represent Christ’s love to another eventually leads the recipient to reach upwards to the Great Healer.

This act of hope results in another developmental process of transformation. This will challenge an additional set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that have kept the enslaved Christian practicing an empty religious front. The religious veneer must fall to expose the true need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Such a process in time will become foundational in their recovery but in the beginning, it will feel intimidating and odd.

While these two levels of change occur another level is clamoring for attention and usually is the most difficult to transform. This is because it involves other people and sometimes a network of people. They invest in things remaining the same but for very different reasons than the addict. They have been involved with the addict because many things about their sick and exterior focused relationship works for them as well. They may find that being open and honest with these people does not result in grace and acceptance but in rejection and shaming.

During this process of change, the addict finds the more he grows in God the more tension it creates with those who resist recovery. This tension must be seen as a gift, because it is through the conflict and how it is managed God can influence change. The vital key is how the addict engages the conflicts and yet builds an emotional bond with those relationships. The final antidote for isolation is the committed emotional bond developed by open honest intimacy with God and man.

For help in the battle for integrity please see Every Man\’s Battle.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Flood: Sexuality Outside the Boundaries

Jeff McVay

“…if we walk in the Light and He Himself is the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – I John 1:7.

A pastor friend of mine once preached a sermon on the topic of sexuality (scandalous to most of us, I know, but he did it nonetheless and I am glad that he did but that’s a different article). In his sermon he said that ‘sexuality is a powerful river that flows through all of humanity.’ As a hiker and backpacker, that was a powerful metaphor for me. When I go hiking, there is nothing I love more than to walk along the side of a river, creek or mountain lake. I began to think about why that is. Mostly I love it because of the life that I see all around it. Life is sustained by it. The river that I am walking next to may also water the crops of the farmer up stream which then puts food on my table and sustains life for my family and me. The river also may provide life for animals and trees that produce life giving things for many people both up stream and down stream. This is also how God intended sexuality to be among us as human beings. It (much like the river) is a wonderful, life giving, sustaining, and powerful force for good as long as it stays within the boundaries (i.e. life long commitment between a man and a woman).

When either a river or sexuality gets outside of its banks, the end result is destruction.

After the horror of what we all witnessed in New Orleans this past summer, we know the destructive power of water when it gets outside its boundaries. The water that was life giving now becomes life taking. It flows to the lowest places and becomes polluted.  People in it and around it become sick due to the bacteria that the water picked up in places that it was never supposed to go. We saw that its greatest impact was on the poor, needy, and weak who were unable for various reasons to get out ahead of the storm. We also saw how great numbers of people became isolated from the rest of the world and from each other. As the water rose, they moved from the first floor to the second floor and then many to the attic where there was no light. They were trapped in the dark wondering if anyone would come or if anyone even knew that they were still alive.

This is also similar to what happens when the powerful river of sexuality gets outside its boundaries. What was intended to bring life, flows to the lowest places, gets polluted, harms those who are most vulnerable, brings destruction, and most of all, leads people into a desperate isolation. The flood of shame becomes so overwhelming that people wind up retreating into dead end places, alone in the dark, isolated with little or no resources, wondering if anyone could possibly rescue them.

It is into this darkness that the good news from I John comes when it says, ‘God is light and in God there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5). What isolated people who are living in the dark need is light. This is not a light that shames them for being in the dark, but a light that shows their need for rescue and a light that shows the way out. For those in New Orleans, I never once heard a news report of a rescuer shaming or belittling a person who needed rescue. They never asked, ‘Why are you in the dark?’ or ‘Why did you retreat to your attic?’ No one commented that, ‘Those people were so ignorant to rush to the dead end.’ They simply saw that there was a need of rescue and the most important thing was to help them get to safety and into the care of others who could help.

This also should be the process of recovery from sexual addiction. People need light and help not shame and condemnation. Again I John seems to give hope to those who are currently alone in the dark when He writes, ‘If we walk in the light, and God is this light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin’ (I John 1:7).

In studying this, I found it interesting that the first thing people experience when they step into the light of God is that they have ‘fellowship (another word for friendship) with one another.’ I felt like John got his priorities mixed up. Shouldn’t he have said that the first thing that happens is that we get cleansed from sin or at least that the first person we have fellowship with is God? But then I remembered that usually God allows His light to shine through other human beings into our darkness and that to be with God is to be in community. In other words, we cannot do this alone and God never asks us to. In essence it is through these friendships that God applies the blood of Jesus for our cleansing.

What does this mean for you? If you are trapped in the dark attic of sexual addiction or pornography, there is hope for you. There is light to show you the way out. There is a community of others to help, because you cannot do this yourself. There is cleansing from your sin, and there is a new story that God will write for you. All you must do is let someone know that you are trapped and make that step into the God’s light. As the boundaries of structure, discipline and friendship are applied to your life, you will find that even sexuality can be what God intended it to be: a river of life giving intimacy, honesty and openness that is renewing for both you and your spouse. The clean up (just like in New Orleans) might be long, exhausting, and difficult but in the end you will have a sexually safe place to live for both you and your family.

For more help on this subject see Every Man\’s Battle.

Spiritual Warfare and Recovery

Craig L. Boden

Congratulations on your progress in the recovery from Sexual Addiction. Allow me to remind you of the management tools you received at the Every Man\’s Battle workshop. These tools work when we apply them. You might want to take the opportunity to review those tools of management care.

If you are a Christian, you have been enlisted in the Lord’s army, and as with all good soldiers the training in boot camp applies throughout the career of the soldier. He must be equipped and ready for battle. His equipment must be clean and in working order. He must care for himself and be fit for battle. Do not loose sight of the fact that you, as a believer, have been enlisted into an army. As Paul called Timothy, so we too are called to’

‘Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” II Timothy 2:3

We are all aware of how difficult the war on terrorism is to fight when we don’t know who the enemy is, what they look like, or where they will fight. Yet we hear the news and see casualties daily. It becomes discouraging when the news reports more casualties among our forces and civilians than we hear about enemy casualties. It causes us to wonder ‘Are we winning? Can we win?’ The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ Do not be discouraged, be ready to fight!

The analogy is all too clear when we look at our recovery process. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:10 ‘ 13

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.’

Attending an EMB is like basic training without the exercise and getting yelled at! Recovery is partly your advanced training and direct warfare. Every good soldier must continue to train and learn strategies for war. Then there are the times when we have been called to the front of battle. This term is confusing because this is not conventional warfare. There is no front. Today being on the front is equivalent to a terrorist picking off his targets much like a sniper or carefully placed land mines along the roadside. Unfortunately the front can also be sitting in your office and a jet plane crashing into your building.

Men, we are at war, physically and spiritually.

It is so easy to become discouraged when it seems we are bombarded at every turn with temptation. The temptation is not sin. We fall when we turn to the temptation rather than to God. We question why did I get blind sided? How could I have let this happen again? Why do I struggle so much? And why is this desire so intense? When will it stop? When can I move to the rear and be safe of the temptation? In my great-great grandfather’s memoirs from the Civil War, at one point when the battle was very intense and he did not think he would make it, he told his ‘body guard’ to move to the rear. A while later he looked over his shoulder to discover his ‘body guard’ (actually his slave and friend) crouching behind him. I told you to move to the rear. He replied, ‘But Capt’n ther ain’t no rear!’ Sometimes I feel the same way when it comes to Satan’s attacks. It appears the rear, where we are apt to lay down our weapons for a rest, is when we step on the land mine or receive incoming sniper fire.

Perhaps it is in the times of lax or perhaps over confidence when we feel safe, that we are most vulnerable to the enemy.

I think of the conversation between Jesus and Peter in Luke 22. After receiving the Passover Meal with Jesus a discussion, actually an argument, breaks forth between the disciples about who will be the greatest. Jesus explained to them, and us, that being the greatest means being a servant to all. Then He turns to Simon (Peter).

‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’

Satan set his sights on Peter. He wanted him in the worst way. He wanted to destroy him and could have done it. But Jesus interceded on Peter’s behalf. Satan was limited in what he could do. The same is true for you. Satan is a powerful foe. Do not loose sight of the enemy’s strength. But he is limited in the use of power.

Remember the story about Job?

‘Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ (Job 1:12).

Satan was limited to what he could do with Job. In his frustration he again appealed to God to touch his bone and flesh, believing then Job would turn from God.

‘So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).

Satan had to ask permission to use his power on God’s chosen one. God, in His Sovereignty, allowed Job to be tempted to turn away from Him. He allowed his suffering. He allowed a battle that was raging in a different realm, invisible, and inaudible to Job or any other human, to pierce the realm below afflicting its devastating blows with exact precision, without any more warning than the people in the Twin Towers in NY City had September 11, 2001.

We hear the phrase, ‘War is hell,’ in this context it is not slang nor intended to be base, but graphically accurate. Spiritual War is from the pit of hell with all of Satan’s forces aimed at derailing us from faithfulness to God our Father. Satan’s forces may be ancient but are on the cutting edge of our best technology. He obviously is a master strategist in war. He knows how to use smart bombs. We are struck down without even knowing we were in danger. He is a master of cyber space and afflicts us with the click of a mouse. He is a master of infiltrating our ranks and comes between us and the ones we love the most. We become perplexed when we begin to believe our wives and children are the enemy. They are not. But they can be victims of the enemy’so can we. Satan can cause us to feel persecuted while in recovery. While doing the right thing now, our past acting out may still have left open emotional and relational wounds.

Men, take courage. There is good news. No, the war is not over, but it has been won. Jesus has not only seen the end from the beginning. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Satan has been defeated yet his forces still skirmish. You and I are their desired target. No, the encouragement comes from Paul to the Corinthian Soldiers (Christians). II Corinthians 4:7-11,

‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’

Men take courage. Do not be surprised by the ‘fiery ordeal’ as Peter calls it in I Peter 4:12. Do not think you can win the battle of temptation on your own. You are a band of brothers. Get a ‘buddy,’ an accountability partner if you do not have one. Remember even your best strategy can be under minded by the enemy. Work the management plan. If Satan can just keep us isolated in shame we will meet defeat. Talk to others about the struggle, the temptations, and defuse Satan’s booby traps.

Be prepared for an assault at all times. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4).

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man\’s Battle.

Looking at Your Life: Grieving Childhood Losses

Lance David

Most of the men I see in therapy who struggle with sexual addiction and temptation have no idea what is driving their battle. What I often hear from them is that it seems like they were just born with an overactive sex drive. However, something else is going on in the person who uses sex in an addictive manner. Addictive behaviors do not make the addict feel good even though they would seem to. Instead, they numb a person to what seems unmanageable to him.

One of the most common factors that contributes to sexually acting out is shame from childhood wounds. By exploring and grieving these wounds, the roots of the weed of addiction are attacked.

No one would deny that it is important how we raise children. Good parents protect, nurture, correct, affirm, and discipline their kids, all the while knowing that they cannot always keep them from harm. Why is it then that so many adults say their childhood had no effect on them or they had no childhood hurts?

Often I hear statements like the following: ‘The past is in the past. Just leave it there.’ ‘What good would it do to blame others for what they did to me?’ ‘I can’t do anything about it so why bother.’ ‘The Bible says, ‘forgetting what lies behind, I press on…’ ‘ Let’s look at these objections to looking at the past, and consider what a healthy model of grieving one’s childhood losses might look like and bring about.

I would agree that there are ways a person can look at his past that would not be helpful. One such way is to play the blame game. Blame merely keeps a person just as stuck if he doesn’t address his wounds in the first place. Both options do not take the sovereignty of God seriously. God knows everything that has happened to us and his desire is to take the good, the bad, and the ugly and turn it into something beautiful for His glory. When we refuse to look at our past, we keep a door closed that God may want opened so He can move in and through us more freely.

When Paul writes in Philippians 3:13, ‘forgetting what lies behind,’ he is not commanding or even suggesting we forget our past. Rather, Paul is making a rhetorical descriptive statement of what he is doing. Much of scripture is telling stories of the past, many of them painful. Looking at the context of this passage, the past about which Paul says he is forgetting is limited. Paul says he is forgetting the accomplishments he had thought during his Pharisaical days gave him a right standing before God. He was not forgetting his entire life history, merely his religious performance. So this passage should not be used to avoid looking at the past.

One exercise I like to give my clients is an impact egg. I take a piece of paper and draw a large egg on it. Then I draw horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on the egg to make compartments. I ask my client to draw or write something in each compartment that represents a story of impact in his life. Each story can be positive or negative and they need not be in chronological order, but should include ones as early as a man can remember. I encourage men to tell their stories of impact to as many others who will give a receptive ear. But men should make sure they tell someone who will give them feedback on their emotional processing as they tell their stories. I have heard heartbreaking tales of pain and loss told to me by the person who lived it as if he were describing the scores of a ball game- or worse, with a laugh. What this person needs is the feedback of a safe friend who can create the space to allow the emotion- whether it be fear, sadness or anger- to flow.

Most men learned at a very young age that it is not okay to be a male and show that you have hurts. We have all been made fun of, shamed, punished, or withdrawn from for showing emotion–especially crying. The impact of this is to send our emotional selves, our hearts, into hiding. When we are not able to feel for ourselves, we have to do something to take the pain away. Many turn to sex in an attempt to quell an ache they do not even know they have or just because it has become the repository for all unmanageable feelings. However, looking at our past and the wounds we have sustained can help open our hearts to allow God to break in with His healing touch.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man\’s Battle.

Freedom for Life

I absolutely love it when I understand a Biblical concept! I know that sounds a little strange, not like the usual, ‘I love pizza’ or ‘I love that dress,’ but it is true! Too many times I have heard people say they, ‘don’t get that religious stuff’ or ‘Bible study is boring.’ If they only knew the freedom that comes from understanding God’s Word!

I have taught Bible study for over 10 years and throughout that time women have come to me and said that God’s word is just what they needed in their life and they would be lost without it. That is music to my ears and I am sure it is music to God’s as well! He gave us His word to help us. It is ‘living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12).

So many of us turn to what the world offers for our life through magazines or books that may not be all bad, however, the Word offers us truth and hope in all areas of our life.

One of my favorite Bible studies is from Beth Moore called, ‘Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Life a Reality in Life.’ In the study Beth talks about the benefits of your relationship with God. They are

1. To know God and believe Him

2. To glorify God

3. To find satisfaction in God.

4. To experience God’s peace.

5. To enjoy God’s presence.

She goes on to say, ‘One of the most important truths I hope we’ve learned is that any benefit missing in our individual lives for any length of time is an indicator of a stronghold, an area of defeat. We are never more beautiful portrayals of mortals who know and believe God than when others can look at our lives, hear our testimonies, and say, ‘It is true.’ Beloved, that’s what it means to be living proof! If you bask in knowing God and dare to believe Him, someone close by has seen truth through your witness whether or not you are aware of the effectiveness of your testimony’.

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM!” (2 Cor. 3:17)

What a life! Wouldn’t it be great if you could experience that freedom? To not be enslaved to the chains of this earth? Take a step towards freedom today. If you don’t know Christ as your personal Savior, choose to today! It is a great way to live and you will be an example of the hope that God offers!

Need some help finding the freedom offered through God’s word? Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Miracle that Almost Wasn't

Edward J. Grant

Naaman, a trusted general in the Syrian army during the days of Elisha, was a brave, well decorated soldier. The king trusted his judgment implicitly as he basked in the glow of a decisive victory over his arch enemy: Israel – God’s renegade people.

However, any biography about Naaman would inevitably conclude with one sad note: ‘but Naaman had leprosy.’ Leprosy – that hideous, debilitating, skin disease inspired fear and was viewed by many as a punishment from God. He could never fully enjoy his long list of accomplishments so long as that ‘but’ remained a part of his biography.

Through the testimony of an Israelite slave girl Naaman heard about a prophet in Israel who was purported to have the power to heal his affliction. With the permission of his king and laden with extravagant gifts for the prophet Elisha, Naaman and his retinue made the trip to Israel.

When he finally reached the prophet’s house he was filled with hope and expectation. Both were quickly dashed when the meeting didn’t go the way he expected.

In the sight of his entourage Naaman masked his nervousness as he walked up to the prophet’s door and knocked. A servant answered and announced Naaman’s arrival. Naaman wondered what this miracle working prophet looked like and was visibly upset when Elisha had the audacity to send the servant back to deliver a brief message to the decorated general: ‘go, bathe yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be healed.’ With that the servant went back into the house and closed the door.

Was that it? His hopes of healing depended on his bathing seven times in the Jordan? Naaman shook with rage: ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord His God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Arbana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ Naaman had traveled so far filled with hope and was within seven baths of a new life sans leprosy: would he simply walk away from it?

Naaman faced two difficulties that threatened to abort his healing: his expectations and his faulty reasoning. ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me” God had a different plan for Naaman, one that involved lessons the general needed to learn that were of equal or even greater importance than his desire for healing. He who was accustomed to giving orders needed to learn to take them from the one true God! Notice also how his faulty reasoning almost sabotaged his healing: ‘Are not Arabana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel?’ If all he had to do was take a bath, why couldn’t he have stayed at home?

Those whose lives have been trashed by addictions usually find themselves at the bottom of a huge pile of emotional rubble. Out of desperation they are willing to try almost anything that holds the promise of help. They make deals with God, promises to loved ones – if any are still speaking to them – and are even willing to attend a recovery group. I’ve seen many of them come through the doors of our church to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery ministry used by congregations around the country. Perhaps for the first time in their lives they profess a need for God and willingly admit that their lives are unmanageable. Over the weeks that follow they remain sober, they engage in heart felt discussions with fellow pilgrims, and a flicker of hope becomes visible in their attitude.

But then they are faced with the demands of the third principle: ‘Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.’ Suddenly they flinch: ‘Can God be trusted to control my life? Why can’t I keep some of it for my direction and allow God to just handle my addiction?’ As I like to say to these queries: ‘Your best thinking got you into the trouble you find yourself in.’

Perhaps they get beyond the third principle but get hung up by the fourth : ‘Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust.’ The thought of telling your faults to another person can be terrifying! Why not simply let it remain between you and God?

Remember – God’s healing will always take us out of our comfort zones, forcing us into the realm of faith and obedience. It is there that we meet God and experience His healing on various levels, many of which we weren’t aware we needed!

By the way – Naaman’s story has a happy ending. His servants pleaded with him saying, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, than, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!” Naaman heeded his servant’s urgent pleadings, bathed seven times in the Jordan, and was completely healed. When you’ve come to the end of your ideas, resources and hope, don’t be surprised that God’s path toward healing is one you never expected!

Need some help in the battle for purity? See Every Man\’s Battle.

What Am I Recovering To?

Jayson Graves

Have you ever wondered, ‘Okay God, I know what I’m recovering from, here’but what am I recovering to?’ Ever felt like, in a sense, recovery needs you more than you need recovery (in such a formal, programmatic way)? Well, if so, I say ‘HALLELUJAH!’ The truth is, you are pondering one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of recovery: Vision!

I want to give you a way of thinking about Vision that will pull your recovery from sexual addictions into the future. My heart is to share a few ideas about areas where you can pay attention and with following-through, enrich the process of recovery with greater meaning, radical redemption, and down-right Kingdom authority. I also want to warn you about some common challenges to Vision to help you anticipate how the enemy will try to take you off your God-ordained course.

The bible is clear: ‘Without a Vision, people will perish!’ God wants us to be forward thinkers as a body and as individuals. He has given us each dreams, gifts, talents and passions and He expects a return on His heavenly investment, yes? Well, why is it that so many of us in recovery can’t see past the edge of our 12 step workbooks? The bottom line is it’s not that we can’t'we often just don’t or simply won’t. But that can change and is changing for many. In fact, men all over the world who are getting ‘sexually saved’ are partnering with God to minister redemption in three key areas: Family, Community, and Culture.

Let’s talk about several ways Family Vision can take place. Maybe you have a wife that needs a recovery process of her own. She needs you to work hard on your own stuff first, but eventually, as a result, will be more likely to respond when invited to look at her own issues. (INVITED, being the key word, here fellas!) Perhaps you have kids’they need their father’s shepherding around their sexuality more than any other time. How about other family or extended kinship? Couldn’t they benefit from your openness regarding the process and victory you’re experiencing? You better believe it!

I have a client in Tennessee who shared openly with his family about his past struggle, recovery program, and healing’as a result, his adult children have entered their own healing partnerships with the Lord and a recovery community of their own. In fact, his daughter wrote a compelling story of faith, openness, and purity featuring her dad’s ability to say no to a bunch of peers who wanted him to join them in a visit to a strip club while visiting Las Vegas! Talk about inspiring. Do you think he sleeps easier at night knowing how he’s overcome the enemy’s lies of condemnation and disqualification? I know I do!

What about our Community Vision? How many times have you recognized an individual you work, attend church with, or live near may be struggling? Will you allow God to minister through you to those co-workers, fellow congregants, and neighbors? I know one guy in Reno who was gifted athletically and also suffered from Juvenile Diabetes. When he found out a local girl had the same condition and couldn’t afford treatment, he used his extra time, talent, and treasure (which used to be wasted acting-out) to swim across the frigid waters of Lake Tahoe. He raised thousands for her care in the process. Can anybody get excited about that kind of self-sacrifice? It blows me away!

And then there is Vision regarding Culture. Needless to ask, but can you see where the problem of sexual sin has caused erosion and destitution? My partner on The Blazing Grace Show, Mike Genung sure has’he’s on a mission to put billboards reaching out to the sexually broken in all major cities across the land! Then there’s my client in Ohio who writes and does web-development and served his local sexual integrity ministry by building a much-needed website. Do you get the sense that these guys get excitement and fulfillment form these involvements? Trust me, they’re alive and plugged-in to the Vision they asked the Lord to share with them!

I meet with a Vision and Leadership group for an hour every other week and we discuss these things, challenge one another and take risks. We also anticipate the things that would want to prevent a redemptive partnership with Christ: selfishness, laziness, lack of commitment to our own recovery, being ‘driven’ rather than ‘called,’ pride, arrogance. Listen, these will kill you and steal your dreams so look at them, men! Lay them at the cross, pick up your sword and let’s take back the land!

What are your ideas? I mean, I’m not saying you have to go out and save the world tomorrow’focus on getting better, by all means. But don’t neglect the mandate being given here: ‘seek the Lord while He may be found,’ find out what He means when He says ‘I have plans to prosper you’to give you a hope and a future,’ and ‘they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.’

Ask Him to begin showing you your unique, custom-tailored Vision of redemption and then slowly move into that Vision, one step at a time.

Need some help finding vision and fighting the battle for purity? See Every Man\’s Battle.

Shame: A Toxic World of Self-Deception

Jonathan Daugherty

Shame is the underlying belief that you are defective as a person. It is different from guilt. Guilt is actually good because it alerts us to inappropriate behaviors and can be a useful emotion to point us back to truth. But shame is destructive because it doesn’t act as an alarm for wrong behavior. Instead, it chooses to attack your personhood through the deception that screams into your soul, “You are a mistake.” It slides right by the behavior and lunges at your inner being.

This toxic self-deception can create great confusion, frustration, and even despair to the point of seeking relief through addictive patterns.

The entire premise of shame-based thinking is founded on lies. You are NOT a mistake. God took great care and precision in fashioning you after Himself (Gen. 1:26,27; Psa. 139:13-16). But shame wants to cause you to believe that at the core of your being your design is defective. If that were true, then God Himself is defective. Shame lies about who you really are.

But belief is a funny thing, isn’t it? Does the object of your belief need to actually be true to keep you from acting as if it were? No! A good example would be people who believe in Santa Claus. The fact that Santa doesn’t exist in reality (sorry) has no bearing on how people who believe he exists will act. The belief is what ultimately drives the behavior, not the object.

So, if shame has convinced you that you are defective at the core, a mere cosmic mistake, guess where your actions will follow? They will lead you down a path of self-hatred and woundedness because the belief says you should behave in self-destructive ways.

So, where do we form our beliefs? From our thoughts. Do you see the breadcrumb trail we are on now? Starting with your self-damaging behaviors, you wind a trail back to the underlying beliefs of shame, and then you must come to their place of origin: your thoughts. Thoughts are those ideas that we allow to remain in our minds until they become patterns of thinking. Imagine thoughts being to you what cud is to a cow. You bite off an idea you read in the paper, or in a passage of Scripture, a conversation you had with a friend, or from a sermon you just heard. You chew on it for a while and down it goes into your mind library. Over time you bring it back up to chew on it a little more and send it back down, this time even deeper than before. Do this long enough and you form a belief, whether the original idea was true or not.

Shame is toxic because it moves us to embrace false beliefs that affect how we view everything else in life. If you latch on to the belief that you are a mistake and defective at your core, every decision you make in life from that point forward will be tainted in some way by this false belief. This is why it is so important to combat the lies of shame with the truth of God’s Word.

We are told that God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Now that’s the kind of weapon we need to extract this cancer of shame! As you wield the Sword of the Spirit in all the areas where shame has deceived you, new patterns of thought based on truth will form new beliefs. Your new beliefs will move you toward actions consistent with your true identity and carry you farther and farther from your old, shame-based lifestyle. But in the same way it took time for you to create a belief system built on shame’s lies, it will take time to reverse such a system and develop truth-based beliefs.

The following are some good starting points for building a new belief system based on truth.
Think of these verses as ‘Truth Cud.’

‘ 2 Cor. 5:17 ‘ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

‘ Galatians 2:20 ‘ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

‘ 2 Peter 1:3 ‘ His [God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Start chewing on truth today. As you bring truths such as these listed above back to your mind over time, you will not only develop a new system of belief, but you will also destroy the stronghold of shame in your life. And when shame is destroyed, purity and joy will thrive!

Need additional help in the battle for purity? See Every Man\’s Battle.

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries