Safeguarding Your Heart

David Mackey

It was 1998. I had just begun a counseling practice with New Life Ministries. I had finally bought a new computer that worked rather then a hand-me-down computer that really didn’t.

More good news, geographically, my New Life Clinic office was closer to one of my best college friends. I didn’t know what an ‘accountability partner’ was then, but he was the guy I first confessed to regarding my struggle with pornographic magazines. Our regular talks and prayer times were a big tool toward my finding victory over the use of porn.

So I called my friend to exchange my office and email addresses and to catch up after many months of being too busy to pick up the phone.

One of my friends first questions was ‘Hey Dave, did you get a filter for your computer?’ ‘What’s a filter?’ I asked, as I tried to imagine how a coffee filter could possibly be used with my computer. Tim went on to explain how late one night when he was just starting to figure out his computer, he came across sites that were beyond his imagination. He wasn’t looking for them, they easily found him. After 25 years one of this guys first inclination when talking to me was concern for how I was doing in the Battle. How cool is that!?!

Internet porn may be the biggest issue for those in the Battle. Pornography has been around for a long time. Sexual temptations have been around even longer. But it was the advent of the Internet which really awakened the world to a need for EMB Workshops. Indeed many of the men who come to EMB Workshops found the use of Internet porn to be THE slippery slope that finally brought them down. Most men’s story is that they started looking at magazines at the ages of 10 to 13. Most men report that they continued looking at magazines throughout their life. Most, often secretly, men carried this secret passion right into adulthood, even throughout their marriages. Other sexually impure behaviors often came into play including actual affairs and connection with real women but the pornographic magazines never really left UNTIL the Internet.

For with the Internet comes way more freedom and access than most men can handle. Indeed we are bombarded with seductive ads constantly. Even pictures can pop-up without our request. Sometimes just the subject line in an unsolicited email can be a powerful trigger. I personally learned this the hard way.

This article is to provide some practical tips on using the Internet on your computer. Let’s look at 3 levels of protection: Our Personal Tools, Passive Tools and Proactive tools to assist in our internet use.

Personal Tools involve some work in our heart and mind. Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Let me encourage you to renew your mind with truth that ‘The Internet Can Be Dangerous.’ Know that in your head. Know that in your heart. Believe this truth so you can approach it appropriately. If you have any love for guns you know that they can bring much enjoyment and good times. But they are dangerous and any gun owner worth his salt, knows in his head, knows in his heart and believes the truth that guns are dangerous. So when they use them they do so with safety constantly on their mind. Treat the Internet the same way! Too often the way we got in this mess was because we treated the Internet as a toy’ it’s not!

Passive Tools involve setting up your Internet and computer services in such a way that access to pornography on the Internet is difficult. Unfortunately one can’t say access is impossible. There is always a way that our devious hearts and minds seem to figure it out.

The first and I believe best Passive Tool is to get a Filtered Internet Service Provider (ISP). Very likely you have ‘aol’ or ‘msn’ as your ISP because they come with computers and/or offer lots of freetime. However, what you need is an ISP which filters porn before it even gets to your computer. I personally have used Integrity-On-Line, Cleanweb, and Safe-eyes. They are very effective and I didn’t even have the titles of porn sites come up when I searched for something else. Do a search for Filtered ISP’s you should find many to choose from.

However, when receiving emails I did receive solicitations. The subject line itself would be pornographic, and I don’t even need to read that. I also found out that if your email account is set up to preview your emails, it opens some of them up and you could be hit with a picture.
To fight this you do 2 things:
1) turn off your preview option on your email account and
2) purchase spam blocker software.
I have used software called ‘Mail wiper’ which worked well for me. This software will automatically send a message to a sender asking if they know ‘you’ the receiver. If they respond then they will be added to your mailing list. If they don’t respond they will be added to your delete list. Your own personal mailing list will not be blocked. McAfee also has a ‘spam killer.’

Proactive Tools involve setting up software which monitors every move you make on the computer. I have heard the Net Accountability, Covenant Eyes and X3Watch are all helpful. Each week an email is sent to the person you designate, perhaps an accountability partner so they will know what you have been doing. This not only protects you from wandering/searching for a way around the filters but also will show what time is wasted playing solitaire. Time stewardship is another problem we who struggle with Sexual Purity seem to have.

To be sure this is not an exhaustive list of that which can be done to safeguard your heart while on the internet. However, these are effective tools. Of course, if your heart continues to pursue Internet porn even after these tools are in place, the best plan is to get rid of the Internet all together. After all we did survive before the 1990’s.

See Every Home Protected Internet Filter.

Spiritual Loneliness: When the Lord Seems Far Away

Brad Stenberg

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” – Psalms 13:1-2

Spiritual loneliness is an experience we’d like to avoid because we feel excluded, punished, and abandoned by God. Still, there are times when we all experience that strange inner gnawing or hunger, that unsettling unrest that makes us say, O God, where are you? Few struggles are as acute as our soul’s search for God. We so desperately want His attention as we grope for answers, support, and relief.

You might have felt it when your prayers went unanswered, making God seem remote and uncaring. You may have felt it when you heard a friend’s experience of God’s presence in ways you’ve longed for, but never had. You might have felt it when your attempt to hold on to a word or promise from the Lord was not enough to keep you from acting out. You likely felt it when your sin separated you from God and the experience of His grace.

So what can we do? Spiritual loneliness is maintained by passivity, so it’s important that you get up and do something about it. Here are some things to consider.

Connect with others. Spiritual loneliness is a problem of relationships. People who feel like God is distant usually disconnect with others because a part of their soul is hidden, isolated, and lost. So the commands to love God and others as ourselves are not being realized. 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God whom we haven’t seen if we don’t love others whom we have seen. So begin with the deficiencies in your relationship with others. Find out where you’re hiding from relationships and seek to connect with others. In the process God will find you and restore the connections.

Draw near to God. Though God may at times remove His presence to develop our faith, it is usually us that has moved, not God. Richard Foster says that ‘God aches over our distance and mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He longs for our presence’ (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 1). So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:4)

Listen to what God is saying. Embrace this time as an opportunity for listening prayer. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) Be intentional. Like Jacob, seek the blessing that comes from a spiritual battle fought alone. (Gen. 32:26) Turn off the radio, TV, cell phone, pager, PDA, fax machine, computer, and take time to listen. Reflect on what is happening to you. God will meet you and speak to your heart.

Focus on who God is. He is with you. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) He knows what you’re going through because He has been there too. Jesus experienced a painful spiritual loneliness at Calvary when God forsook him for a time. So, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathized with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ‘ yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) God cares about you. Knowing would be empty if God did not also care with His concrete love. “He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Ps. 72:12)Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

Tell God how you feel. Our honest, candid complaint to God leads to a more authentic relationship with Him. Prayer is not about “theological correctness,” but about a real relationship in real life with a real God who really wants to know the real you. Pious words will not fool the One who knows the attitude of our hearts. Thus, Job cried out: I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter: I have to speak!’ (Job 7:11)

Take control of your mind. It takes an inner determination and discipline of spirit to take the reins of your mind, speak to your situation, and choose to praise God. The psalmist repetitively did this: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:4, 11; 43:5)

Also See:
Transformation

Super Charged Communication

Martin Fierro

So your back home from being motivated and super charged at the last EMB conference. Feeling super charged spiritually? Ready to talk? ‘Hey honey let me share what happened and what I just learned!’ Her response of ‘un-huh, but what about me?’ should not surprise you. How you respond with any information shared from your wife will be vitally important. It is in the healing of the relationship that the events of the past behavior may be in the past historically but not emotionally. In such, healing for the relationship will come through periods of communication super charged with a sensitivity fruit cocktail of caution, fear, hurt, grief, despair (shall I go on?).

The keys many men miss in the opportunity and recovery of the relationship are the components of truly listening to your wife. She too, has a story to tell and an experience to process.

The reality is that the relationship is changed and you cannot go back to the old manners in communication with your wife (and behavior for that matter). For it was in that old nature of communication that deception and manipulation was nourished. On this side of the coin, your communication model should be based in love and grace (in speaking and listening). In the construction of listening there are three strong skills to listening to your wife. Before they are detailed, let it be known that problem solving (Mr. Fix-it) is not the top of the list for listening skills. Research has shown that when the primary components of listening are worked through first, then problem solving and resolution has a higher probability for success.

Think of it this way, we have been given two ears and one mouth. A good probable reason is so we will listen twice as much as we speak.

Listening is not a matter of making the comment back, ‘so what I hear you say is” or ‘I understand.’ Or worse is the appearance of listening while preparing for a rebuttal, ‘I see honey, and I understand, BUT’.’ Do you want to continue super charging the communication level through defensiveness? Because this last example is one sure way of doing it. Or do you want to change the engagement of the communication patterns to a deeper level of intimacy? Your options; continue the old patterns of super charged communications or create the change in your response behavior. And that is typically a good spot to start. Any change in one of you will create a change in the relationship.

The three primary components of productive listening are attend, acknowledge and inviting. Attending has three sub factors: look at the person talking to you, listen to what they are saying (not what your mind is thinking and feeling), and track what they are saying. Acknowledging is about reflecting back through brief statements the thoughts and feelings being heard and understood. And this does not mean a lengthy sentence. Think of acknowledging your spouse with simple words as she shares, such as ‘wow, that is sad, how awful, mad, disappointed, how exciting’etc.’ Inviting is about when you see that your wife is holding back on sharing, and you know that look and feeling, you simple say something to the affect of: ‘keep going,’ ‘tell me more,’ ‘I am with you, please continue,’ or ‘Is anything else you want me to know?’

These skills (attend, acknowledge and invite) give the opportunity to listen to your spouse through love and grace. Notice there was nothing about giving feedback or fixing what was being shared by the other. But more importantly time to allow your spouse to experience the thoughts and feelings without correction, distraction or manipulation.

It is important to know that communication of thoughts and feelings should never be expressed through physical aggression. Appropriate boundaries may need to be set if either one of you have such difficulty. It is also just as important that listening to your spouse may appear to be verbally abusive when in reality she is inviting you into her world of thoughts and feelings of pain, depression, anger’.

In communication there are two words that are recommended to avoid or use cautiously: why & you. Both have at their base a probable result of discord and passive aggressive communication. These two words all too frequently create defensiveness even if such is not meant. Yes there are alternatives that create an opportunity for clarity. Instead of using ‘why,’ try using ‘honey can you help me understand what you meant by’.’ In regards to using ‘you’ statements, it is best to not start a sentence with it such as ‘you should,’ ‘you said” ‘you are not making sense because’.’ Instead, as silly as it may sound, focus on using a ‘you’ later in your statements while responding with the pronoun of ‘I.’ Such as, ‘There is no way I can truly understand the pain I have put you through and I want to support you through this the best that I can. It pains me to know I have caused you so much hurt in your heart.’

In all, these skills are to build empathy and intimacy with your wife. The thoughts and feelings of the relationship will ebb and flow as the issues are worked through. The communication problem solving steps will have to be another article. But for now, it is important to clarify that when your wife is not attended to, acknowledged, or invited to share more of what they have on their heart and mind, the common experience and sense of feeling ‘crazy’ overcomes your spouse. Let me stress again that in listening to the communication from any person is the pathway to inviting you into their world as they experience it. Listening is sitting there with them, feeling and experiencing the world that person lives in. If the information being shared is abused, made fun of, not attended, acknowledged or invited to expound upon, one will commonly shut down. Listening is truly about following not leading. If you want to super charge the intimacy of communication, practice the basic skills of listening.