Maintaining Vibrancy in our Devotional Life

David Mackey

Growing up in the church, a constant theme was the importance of a daily devotional life. As I recall this came in one basic outline: Read the Bible daily every morning and pray. There seemed to be little variation in this edict, only a variation in how much of the Bible one read. Reading more was always better. Basically this was the quest and I failed miserably. For many years I rarely succeeded for more than a few days in a row following this type outline. And when I did read, many times, it was just reading’ there was nothing vibrant about it.

Good news!! Vibrancy can be experienced. I finally did discover that vibrancy could be found in one’s devotional life. What hindered me for so many years? Perhaps several things but I believe a primary hindrance can be found in one’s heart. Consider the heart. The heart is that part of our being in which we find our beliefs and values residing. In the church you often hear phrases like ” invite Jesus into our heart,’ and ”believe with all your heart,’ etc.

When it comes to our devotional life, what do we believe, or what value does a devotional life have? Consider just one belief that might hinder vibrancy. It might go like this, ‘God demands I have a devotional life in obedience to Him and in order for Him to keep me from relapse.’ Variations of this belief might be, ‘It is my duty to maintain a disciplined devotional life.’ Or ”without a disciplined devotional life I will not please God so he will not keep me from falling.’ There are many such beliefs that could hinder vibrancy. What would happen in one’s life if we believed that God does not REQUIRE a devotional life?! Rather God INVITES us to have a devotional life. What would a devotional life be like if we believed that the purpose of this invitation is deep intimate relationship with Him rather then a tool to prevent relapse? How would ones vibrancy change?

God, the almighty creator of all things, invites us to know Him as ‘Abba,” Aramaic for ‘Daddy’ (Romans 8:15-16). Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us brother and friend (Mark 3:35 & John 15:14). If we believed we are invited into this kind of relationship, our devotional pattern might be different and lead to a great degree of vibrancy. Our devotional life may be more akin to pursuing friendship, brotherhood, and sonship. Vibrancy in these earthly relationships is not found in obedient, disciplined habits. Rather it is found as we pursue those relationships regularly and in many different ways. When we desire relationship with our friends, brothers, and Daddy we find unique ways to be in close contact. We don’t allow our busy schedule to hinder us. If we made this belief change, there will also be a change in how we pursue intimate relationship. Rather than one disciplined daily habit we likely will add many creative and changing ways to stay in touch, throughout each day. Consider some ideas listed below:

Read small amounts of scripture several times a day.
Write and pray your own Psalms.
Pray Psalms from scripture that express your heart’s joy and sorrows.
Include worship and praise music in your listening habits.
Read the worshipful writings of early church fathers.
Schedule a weekly 2 to 4 hour time to just meditate, listen, and pray.
Schedule personal weekend retreats.
Find a church whose emphasis is worship and relationship.
Read a different translation of the Bible.
Listen to the Bible on CD as you drive throughout the day.

All of the above are tools and activities that can be used to know and hear God. Vibrancy will be found when done with the purpose of intimate relationship with God. Don’t miss the point. Disciplined and daily devotions should be developed in a believer’s life. This seems to be especially true as we continue to win the battle. If this discipline is rooted in obedience and approval from God, the disciplined devotional life can easily become a routine of our mind. If, however, our purpose is toward a brother and friend relationship with Jesus, a son relationship with the Father then our devotional life will be quite different. It can be vibrant and it will likely grow as we discover creative ways to pursue God through out each of our days.

For more help on this topic see Being Christian: Exploring Where You God and Life Connect.

Singleness and Masturbation

Sam Fraser

We are familiar enough with the Scriptural mandates about sexual purity so I will say no more. During our season of singleness, masturbation is a very real and present temptation. As a Christian single man I struggled with it in the 70’s and 80’s failing more than I succeeded until I was married. Getting married however, did not cure me. Now having been divorced for several years, I am once again acquainted with the battle anew with masturbation as a single man.

Sex studies have concluded that for most men our sex drive, hormonally speaking, peaks at about age 15-20 or so. Since that is true as we move towards 25, 35, 45 and beyond, even though our sex drive begins to wane I didn’t notice that my frequency of acting out declined. So what gives?

The activity of masturbation is no longer exclusively about the amount of testosterone flowing through our veins. Rather it is an expression of another ‘drive’ taking place.

Of the many forces that could keep this battle raging, I want to address only one, loneliness. Acting out in this way actually may be a substitute for not having a special relationship. For many singles, from 25 on, it can become part of a lifestyle to manage loneliness.

This lesson took me from being an unmarried single into my 30’s, married into my 40’s, to divorced and single again to figure out.

As a single person I was never able to overcome this temptation alone, by myself, in isolation. I could white knuckle it for periods of time but never conquer it.

It was only after I was single again that I learned how much I needed to be connected to others. Having a couple of dear friends with whom I can share my needs, hurts and deepest feelings is like air and food–I can’t live without it! Until I had those kinds of people around me I was never able to have very much success in this important spiritual area of my life. I would masturbate the feelings of loneliness because I wasn’t connected.

For a long time I did not know how to admit this need.

With my boyhood training about being independent, self-reliant, and standing tall, coupled with “big boys don’t cry” attitudes that pretty much shut me down emotionally throughout my formative years and well into adulthood. I was programmed to grow up as a man to stand alone. To ask for help went against the very grain of my upbringing. Some men have been able to battle sexual temptation and succeed on their own. However, for me and many others like me I am unable to do it without help.

As a single man this becomes even more pronounced. Not having the type of friendships, or having the personal communication skills to express my loneliness openly and honestly had been my downfall. Since I couldn’t be real with my feelings, the development of a secret life became the place where I felt and acted in a manner that I didn’t feel was ok in my “real life.” Masturbation became the intimacy I craved in lieu of having a genuine relationship. Masturbation became the outlet I had substituted for healthy expressions of my maleness. It became sort of the social life that I did not have in real life. It was a way to cope with loneliness. It became the way to connect with myself since I was not connecting with others.

One of the great benefits of attending the Every Man’s Battle workshop is the opportunity, for many, the first time to be open and honest in a safe environment with other men to speak openly and frankly about this problem. We are all aware of the Scripture’s directives about sexual purity. But there are few places that we can openly discuss the struggles we have in this area of or spiritual life.

Churches and Christian men’s groups are beginning to respond to the need for men to talk about the battle. There are people and places that can support you. Find them or you call us at 1-800-NEW-LIFE for help.

Holy and Healthy Sex In Marriage: Part 1

David Wever

When I first began recovery, I thought I knew everything there was to know about sex. My choices to sexually sin and the continual need for greater and greater intensity for sexual arousal had taught me a lot about sex. Or so I thought. My sexual acting out had indeed taught me a lot about pleasing myself or someone else to greater pleasure. However, I began to see that pleasing myself or reaching orgasm was only a small part of the whole of sexual intimacy. In fact, most of my knowledge of sexual intimacy was in many ways tainted by the large amount of hyper-stimulation upon my heart and mind due to the use of pornography and masturbation for years.

One of the neatest aspects of our recovery is to actually learn about something we may have always thought we knew everything about. Part of the premise of this thinking comes from a misperception that our greatest need has been sex. When a need is that great, we often put a great deal of importance on it leading us to a false sense of security. Think about it. What young man in high school, when the subject of sex came up, would not want others to know that he had a pretty good knowledge base about sex? Part of our feeling secure is often based upon how sexual or how much we may know about sex, even if we never divulge that it is that important to us. So, to that end, I want to propose something. Allow God to not only transform your mind and heart around your shame and sin but also around your perspectives and practice of sexual intimacy now and in the future. 

Whether you are currently married or single, I believe that a healthy understanding of sexual intimacy and sexuality is essential to our continued growth in recovery, both for ourselves and our marriages (including future marriages). We will cover topics such as sexual development, sexual intercourse, emotional connection in sexual intimacy, and oral sex. As I stated before I had so many misperceptions of these and other areas of sexual intimacy.

In order to grow and have healing sexually in our lives I believe our misperceptions must be challenged. Unfortunately, my misperceptions and hyper-stimulation through sexual acting out influenced my pushing the limits of sexual intimacy in my marriage bed. I attempted to bring into our sacred union the acts and over the top sexual practices that I saw in pornography. Those attempts only reinforced my misperceptions about sex. The pushing of the limits left my wife feeling unsafe within our marriage bed and left me empty and frustrated with her and myself. This eventually brought us to stagnation in the true oneness God had for us.

In Genesis 2:24-25, it states, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (NIV). One of the tenets of oneness is that the man and woman felt at ease with one another ‘safe. My misperceptions made it very difficult to be fully ‘naked’ with my wife thus making true oneness suffer. Becoming a man who understands sexual intimacy from a holy and healthy perspective will mean being transformed. Our sexual sin has caused us to conform to the world’s way of looking at sex. But God wants to cause a metamorphosis of your soul and your mind (Romans 12:2). A transformation of your thinking in every area of your being, even your sexuality. Just as giving ourselves to reading of scripture, daily prayer time and regular fellowship helps us transform our lives into a lifestyle that is pleasing to God, being an understudy of how the Lord has created sex within His parameters leads to a holy lifestyle in that area of our lives as well.

As we begin this journey of exploring healthy and Godly sexual intimacy in marriage, I invite you to open your hearts to the changes the Lord may begin to cause within your thinking and your heart. It is so encouraging to know that as we move along this path of recovery and healing, God replaces our sin with His love and strength. And it is also encouraging to know that He also replaces our old thinking and perspectives with His wisdom and understanding that far surpasses what we have ever known or thought about sex before. I look forward to the journey of discovering with you God’s design for holy and healthy sex in marriage.

See Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage Part 2

For additional help, we encourage you and your wife to join one of our marriage groups our next New Life Weekend