Narrow and Healthy

Stephen Arterburn

A friend of mine once wrote a children’s book about heaven. When checking out the reviews of his book on a bookseller’s Web site, he came across a reviewer who said she was attracted by the book’s title and enchanted by its artwork. Then she noted how her excitement to read the book to her children was replaced by dismay when the author claimed the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ. Deeply offended by what she called the book’s ‘obvious bias against non-Christians,’ this mother deemed the book ‘inappropriate for children.’

Men, these are days of tolerance and diversity in everything, particularly religion. After all, shouldn’t spirituality embrace all faiths? And if so, how could any faith be called ‘healthy’ that claimed only one way to God?

But have you listened to the advocates of religious pluralism? With little exception, their message is that the way to salvation’in whatever way they define that’is through our moral virtue. The message is essentially: ‘Be good, do good, and it’ll all work out.’

My problem with this is that is that I’m not that good a person, certainly not good enough to stand before God on the basis of my own feeble virtue. What about you?

Fortunately the gospel of Jesus Christ never doesn’t require me to have it all together. It only requires me to have Jesus, God’s gift to each of us. Then what I do with my life is the way I express my gratitude–or ingratitude–I have for that incredible, eternal gift.

The Pursuit of Purity

Chris Cole

Psalm 119:9: ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.’
Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

Pursuing purity is a reality for every believer in Christ. Yes, even those who struggle with sexual addiction and lust. What seems impossible with man is possible with God. God is able to transform us through the renewing of our mind and lives.

I see purity as an attitude of the heart that will result in a lifestyle change. It is an active decision every day to commit yourself to the pursuit of purity. ‘One day at a time’ is the expression used in AA. Each morning you decide for moral purity. Keeping yourself pure according to ‘Thy word’ requires a daily plan. Essential to your plan is another heart attitude, humility.

Humility is best reflected in the example Christ set for us to follow. Paul, in Philippians 2: 3-8, reminds us of the importance of focusing on the needs of others and not exclusively our own, which so characterizes our selfish nature. Humility of mind reminds me daily that, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I am dependent on Him to be able to live right. Pride is the opposite of humility, an attitude that says I can do this myself without God. Just remember where that attitude (pride) got you.

So the commitment to be morally pure is a daily one, where you build new patterns of thinking and behaving motivated by a change in heart. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:5-8: ‘Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Job made a covenant with his eyes to not look lustfully on a woman. Learning to turn away from lustful thoughts requires the daily discipline of replacing old thoughts and sinful patterns with new and God honoring ones. In your daily plan, be sure to include scripture memorization, mediation, and study of God’s word. Find a bible study group or take a class with others. Learning the scriptures and encouraging one another makes studying enjoyable and enriching. Doing this also helps you build relationships where you can develop accountability and fellowship.

Another part of your daily plan in pursuit of purity is to have a means of confession or honest discussion about your thought life. I know that when we admit any thoughts that bother us to another, the thoughts lose their power. Having another person pray with you can really encourage you. James 5:16 is a reminder of the power of confession, and Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us ‘to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.’ Having another person to share with also helps you overcome the deceitfulness of your own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking someone to mentor you in the spiritual disciplines can really be helpful. Look for people who have walked with the Lord and have a mature walk with God. Ask your Pastor for guidance to find someone to mentor you. Sponsors, like mentors, are very helpful in your specific area of recovery. They guide and coach you in the recovery process. A spiritual mentor may not have specific knowledge about addiction, but would bring the wisdom and knowledge that comes with walking in relationship with God. You need both.

In closing, as you seek God in pursuit of purity, He will enable you to develop the disciplines that have been lacking in your life. Ask Him to give you a heart inclined towards purity. As Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man\’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Studying God’s Word

Stephen Arterburn

When we receive an email or letter from a good friend, we usually find ourselves doing two things: first, we read the letter with eager anticipation’hanging on every word; and second, we read the letter over and over again’hoping each time to gain insight into, and intimacy with, it’s author. The same should be true with regard to God’s Word, for in it we find a message directed to us by One who loves us. And by reading that message intently and repeatedly, we can know the One we delight in truly and more accurately.

In Psalm 119:105, David likens Scripture to a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Men, the Bible is our map or instruction manual to godliness, and we need to keep it close by and read it often. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves walking in darkness. And if that happens, we’re sure to stumble and fall.

Furthermore, how badly we stumble and how hard we fall will likely be proportionate to how long it’s been since we’ve feasted on God’s Word. King David knew this truth, so in Psalm 119:103 he exclaims to his beloved Lord, ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’

Like David before us, we need to feast lovingly, enthusiastically, and consistently upon God’s Word. Just as you need physical food in order to sustain your body, you also need spiritual food to sustain your soul.

Ongoing Disclosure

Craig Boden

In our society of instant communication–cell phones, text messaging, etc.–we have lost the significance and meaning of words. We rarely think about the significance of the words we use to get our message across. This was not always the case. In earlier writings throughout history men labored to be exact in their choice of words so as to be clear in their meaning and intent of their message. An example is seen in the words of the Constitution of the United States of America. The words had to be exact and precise in order for the document to endure as the foundation of a country and society. If this is true of a man made document for a country, how much more meaningful are the Words used in the Bible.

In the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, when God speaks through the Prophets and Apostles the very words He uses are packed with meaning and significance. In light of using and understanding the words we choose, I want to address the importance of ‘ongoing disclosure’ and its significance for us today.

Let’s first examine the meaning of the word disclosure.
1. To uncover; to open; to remove a cover from, and lay open to view.
2. To discover; to lay open to view; to bring to light.

3. To reveal by words; to tell; to utter; as, to disclose the thoughts of the heart.

4. To make known; to show in any manner.

5. To open; to hatch.

American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828

Now why would it be important to disclose the thoughts of the heart? Why is it important to live an open life before others? Why can’t some things just remain hidden in the heart?

To answer these questions lets begin by taking a look at the beginning of time (from Genesis ch. 2).

When God spoke into existence all of creation, He made a declaration that it was ‘good.’ What God calls good means excellent ‘ perfect ‘ without flaw! (see Jesus’ conversation about the word ‘good’ with the young man in Mark 10:17 ‘ 18). Yet when He came to the creation of man, He chose not to speak him into existence but said ‘Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness.’ He took dirt and ‘formed’ man out of it. He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being.’ Wow!

What did this man, Adam, have? God planted a garden and put the man in it. Adam had a ‘good’ place to live. ‘Good’ food to eat. ‘Good’ water to drink. There were four rivers listed running through this garden. This was no acid rain ‘ in fact there was no rain at all at that time. There was no pollution in the water or poison needed to spray for insects on the plants. All food was ‘good’ for the man. Remember, ‘good’ means perfect.

What else did the man have? He had ‘good’ companionship. He talked openly with God. God gave him instructions on how to live in the garden. Apparently it was the custom for God to walk with Adam. He was not afraid.

In fact the only thing that God said of Adam that was ‘not good’ was that he was alone. After naming all the animals, Adam discovered that none would ‘fit.’ Then God took Adam’s rib and ‘fashioned’ (literally the word ‘built’) Eve and brought her to Adam.

There was a perfect relationship between God and man and between Adam and Eve. They apparently walked together in the evening in the garden. Everything was open between them. There was nothing to hide, not emotionally, not mentally, not physically. Everything was ‘good’ in Eden.

Then the temptation and the fall. They ate the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened and they saw nakedness! Their first natural (fallen nature) response was to cover and hide. They sewed fig leaves and made loin coverings. They tried to cover themselves from each other. There was no one else around except the animals. Then they heard God walking through the garden for the evening stroll. They now had fear for the first time. Their new natural response was to hide’to close themselves from God and from each other.

When we sin it is no different today than it was with Adam and Eve. We go underground. We bury our actions and thoughts hoping desperately that no one will find us out. Where are your hiding places? In the computer room or into password protected files and places of access that no one must ever go but you? Perhaps it is on the phone with a phone actress? (look up the word actress). Maybe it is a certain area of town or another town when you are traveling.

God did not leave Adam and Eve hiding. He sought them out. He called them out; they were guilty and had to face the consequences i.e. death’cast out of the garden (see Gen 3). What was true for them is certainly true for us. The ‘wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23). If I face the penalty of death, we are going to hide! We want life. God intends for us to have life’so much so that He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place. The life that God would have for us is a life open to Him and to others without fear. The debt has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. If your faith and trust is in Him, the debt is paid. You have been declared not guilty and set free. Free to run the race set before you’laying aside every encumbrance (Heb. 12:1) and sin that entangles you.

Secrecy is one of the major factors that keep us in bondage to our sins. Exposing our sins to one who is a trust worthy companion, accountability partner or group keeps us from hiding and covering up with deceit and lies.

Consider if God made us in His image what characteristics should be incorporated in our lives.

John 14: 21 Jesus said:
”and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.’

Jesus indicates clearly that it is His purpose and desire to be known personally and intimately. Love my Father’I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. Wow! Jesus wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him’to know all about Him. In effect He tells us that He will reveal things previously hidden from your knowledge about Him.
This is not just a New Testament concept. God from the beginning of time had a purpose to declare His glory to us. Consider the following from Psalm 19:

‘The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.’

God through His creation declares His glory. He desires for you to know Him.

For us to experience the freedom of walking with Him and with others without fear we must live a life of ongoing disclosure. God reveals His glory to everyone in His creation. But when Jesus was talking about disclosing Himself it was only to those who love His Father in Heaven. Thus it is prudent to disclose your life to those who will love and support you. If you don’t have anyone who you could trust, perhaps meet with a trusted pastor or counselor.

Remember covering and hiding were the original and natural responses of sin. To live freely is to know that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins and were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2), BUT GOD! being rich in mercy’made us ALIVE!
Being alive is not to live a life of secrecy and bondage under cover. We were intended to be like Him’for His glory.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man\’s Battle.
For more helpful resources for men click here.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself Daily

Jim Phillis

I was introduced to the practice of preaching the Gospel to myself daily 15 years ago in a sermon. My first thought was, ‘I can see how some people would really be helped by this.’ Over the last couple of years, I have come to see that the first three steps of the 12 Steps reflect the basic affirmations that Christians make when they ask Jesus to be their Savior. As a result, I have learned that I need to preach the Gospel to myself every day as an essential part of my recovery.

I am a sinner. OR ‘I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.’

No one wants to be powerless and find that they are working for something but are accomplishing nothing. This is true in our jobs, in our relationships with family and friends, and in our spiritual lives. If I am in school, I want my studying to result in grades that will permit me to graduate. As I parent, I want to nurture my children so that they grow up to become healthy adults. I want my participation in church to help me grow spiritually.

While all these desires are appropriate, I have come to see that I have no control over the outcomes of my efforts. I may think that I am working very diligently for my company, but my efforts may go completely unnoticed. I may seek to parent my children well and still find myself struggling with a prodigal. I can and should give my best effort, but I cannot control the results of anything I do.

This can lead to frustration, which is compounded by the belief many Americans embrace that God helps those who help themselves. When faced with a situation that is unpleasant, we often try to adjust some feature of it or some person in the situation. We become mechanics; we are trying to fix things. Sadly, our efforts often only make the difficult situation more difficult and can create doubts about God’s promise to take care of us. Finally, we must acknowledge that our lives are beyond our control.

I need a Savior. OR ‘Jesus alone is able to save me from my unmanageable life.’

Several years ago I became aware that I was very dissatisfied with my walk with God. I felt things were hopeless as I struggled with sins that I had first become aware of when I accepted Christ as Savior’more than 25 years before. I felt like a spiritual failure.

I then realized that my basic struggle was with spiritual powerlessness. I was attempting to do what Paul suggested the people of the Galatian churches were attempting: to finish the spiritual work of salvation through human effort (3:1-3) I was attempting to manage my own spiritual growth.

The Gospel confronts me with the reality that I am truly helpless and I need someone to rescue or save me. I had accepted that, but I was expecting that now that I was saved I would have the power to get better.

I have access to spiritual power by faith, but Jesus says that the power flows only as long as I am living in spiritual union with Him. ‘If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) I don’t get plugged in like a cell phone to get re-charged so I can leave the power source and function. I am more like the lamp that must remain plugged in to work. I can’t disconnect from Him and expect that I will become spiritually healthy. So I must declare my need of Him each day and moment by moment.

I believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. OR ‘Lord, I am turning my life over to you so that you can direct me.’

The familiar proverb reads, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ I have been placed in some situations that I could not maneuver in. I was clearly powerless and watched for a way out but I depended upon Him for courage as I waited. And I waited some more.

As I was waiting, I wasn’t still. I did have to have some difficult talks and live in some hard places. My human assessment was that the path wasn’t straight. It looked more like one of the Family Circus cartoons in the Sunday paper, in which one of the kids wandered all over the yard or the neighborhood before accomplishing the task that he had been given.

As I look back on these times now, I can see how the path was straight’straight to Jesus. I didn’t have any advice for Him; I just asked Him to be with me where I was. I was constantly looking for Him. I was not trusting in my feelings. I didn’t wait until I felt a particular course of action was right or comfortable. (My feelings can’t be trusted. Jeremiah declares: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.’ 17:9) Instead, I spent time reading His Word in order to know His will’both what kind of character God is seeking to work in me by His Spirit and what actions are appropriate to my situation. I also listened to those I knew who walked with Him and was nurtured by their encouragement. And the Lord showed Himself to be faithful in providing everything I needed to survive and thrive in those difficult circumstances.

When I have had a good day spiritually, I am tempted to relax the next day. I become casual about prayer and Bible reading. I am careless about my boundaries. Then, I find myself having a bad day’powerless and struggling to do well. And I am reminded of the Gospel all over again.

Yes, Lord, I am a sinner who needs a Savior. I thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and being ready to help me right where I am. I’m choosing to trust you with my life. AMEN.’

For additional help and encouragement, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Discipline or Discipleship

Jonathan Daugherty

I have been pondering the difference between discipline and discipleship lately. I won’t presume to have a solid grasp on the answers to any of the questions this has produced in me, but it has certainly opened my eyes to some destructive tendencies that have come out of a life overly focused on discipline alone. I find that discipline alone tends to lead toward legalism, and legalism sounds the death knell of faith.

Before I go on let me be clear about the issue of discipline. I do not believe that exercising discipline is wrong or unwise. God even expects us to be disciplined (orderly) in how we approach our faith and our lives. But as I observe people, and especially take inventory of my own life, I find that many of us have crucified faith on the altar of discipline. In other words, we worship our discipline(s) rather than the Divine One.

This is not what God designed us for.

The more I study God’s Word and engage in conversations with Him, the more I realize how deeply passionate He is about my devotion to Him. He wants (and deserves) every part of me to be in total submission and surrender to Him. He desires this, not only because He is deserving of it, but because He understands the benefits that such devotion brings to my life and relationships. Single-minded focus on God produces the fruit of abundant life.

So I believe a shift in focus must occur if we as Christians are going to experience this abundant life that Jesus’ spoke of so long ago. This shift in focus must move us from seeing discipline as the “end all” of our Christian faith to embracing discipleship as our process for becoming what God designed us to be.

Discipleship focuses on God in the context of relationship; first with Him, then with others. This is a forever changing, forever growing, forever exploring adventure. Discipline alone, on the other hand, tends to draw our focus toward the “task” of relationship rather than simply interacting with God and others.

How does such a shift in focus affect our struggle with sexual temptation? Shouldn’t we be more focused on discipline so we can resist each temptation we face? I would argue that when we lock in too intently on discipline alone as the answer for resisting temptation, we actually end up more frustrated and defeated. Discipline often deceives us into thinking that our resisting of temptation has something to do with our own power or strength. It doesn’t. The truth is that only God can defeat the temptations in our lives and cause us to walk away. Therefore, it is through discipleship, or a growing intimacy and connection with God, that we are truly set free to live a daily life of sexual purity.

A final significant difference I must mention between discipline and discipleship is that discipline can often be pursued in isolation, whereas discipleship requires relationship. This is key in understanding the immeasurable value of becoming a disciple of Christ. We were never designed to live in isolation and disconnection; from God or others. This is where discipleship takes us out of our comfort zone, but this is ultimately for our good. In fact, God has mysteriously designed our accountability relationships with others to act as a hedge of protection, helping us fight the battle against sexual lust. Our discipleship relationships form a sort of ‘purity team’ that aids in strengthening our individual fight for purity. We need godly teammates in order to win this ongoing battle.

What’s the bottom line here? Discipline is important, but it is through discipleship that your life is transformed.

Where can you begin in shifting your perspective to developing more of a balance between these two? Take a look at your relationships and see if there are some individuals with whom you can go deeper, inviting them to be part of your purity team. Also, evaluate your relationship with God and ask Him to show you how to grow in your intimacy with Him. In the long run, you will be glad you got serious about discipleship.

As I promised, I don’t have all the answers. Just some thoughts rattling around in my head about some contrasts between discipline and discipleship. Maybe they are helpful thoughts. I know they have helped me to be more aware of the moments when I have preferred to grasp onto discipline rather than grow in my relationship with God. By God’s grace, I pray we will become the faithful disciples He desires us to be.

For help in developing grace based discipline born out of discipleship, please see Every Man\’s Battle.
Also click here to view more helpful resources for men.

Lessons from the Desert

Ed Grant

Recently I escaped with a number of other pastors to the Cafa Franciscan Spiritual Retreat Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were there to learn how to be quiet with God. You might think this an easy task for those committed and trained to care for God’s people. Truth be told, those who speak for God need to better learn how to listen to Him. I came away from the experience with a greater determination to make time to hear from God through more relaxed times of prayer and by taking smaller bites of His Word, allowing time to meditate instead of rushing through it.

One of our assignments was to take a walk in solitude around the arid property, wonderfully landscaped with many varieties of cactus. These thrive in arid environments that receive minimal amounts of rainfall and survive by storing it in their thick branches. I took some time to contemplate the cacti, some looking like green pancakes connected at the edge, some looking as though they were victims of a stick-up as they held their hands up, and others resembling elongated bulbs protruding from the ground. I noticed that each was naturally protected with prickly needles or spikes protruding from the branches. These intimidating spikes threatened harm to any creature that dared to take a bite.

Mixed in with the desert flora were lovely palms and other varieties of trees.

There was also a “Healing Garden” on the border of the property where winding paths were shaded by leafy citrus trees: grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangelo, and tangerine. Obviously these trees didn’t belong here. They flourished only because an intricate irrigation system had been built throughout the garden. It was here that the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes to some important truths.

The unbelieving world is like the prickly cactus plants that have adapted to arid conditions, living on the minimal amounts of water. Their limited resources have to be protected from those who would steal them. They have no spiritual resources to share with others. As people perennially thirst they try to find something that will truly satisfy their longing. St. Augustine said it well: ‘O God, You have created us for Yourself and our souls are restless and searching until they find their rest in You.’

Those who have received the Savior into their lives are like the citrus trees and palms planted in the healing garden. They are not native to the desert climate and cannot long survive without regular care and watering. St. Peter refers to us as “aliens and sojourners.” As the author of Hebrews describes the difficult experiences of members of his “Hall of Faith” he calls them ‘aliens and strangers.’ He writes, ‘People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own’ (Hebrews 11:14). We also long for the place Jesus prepared for us when He went to the cross! But for now, the life we have must be sustained through regular times spent with Jesus, the One Who comes to us as Living Water. Faithful, unhurried prayer and a patient meditation on God’s Word are the means through which our love relationship with Him is sustained.

Unlike the desert flora that diligently guard their meager resources and have nothing but their beauty to share with others, God’s Spirit intends something more than beauty and survival for us. He delights to produce a variety of fruit through us for others to enjoy. The fruit miraculously grown in the arid world gives ample evidence to a source the thirsty world longs to experience.

As the high priest led the procession into the temple carrying a golden pitcher of water, he halted, looked to heaven and was about to pour its contents onto the ground. His action would be accompanied by a prayer for the rains to water the earth anew the following year. Suddenly Jesus’ voice pierced the reverent silence of the gathered congregation like a trumpet blast. He shouted in a loud voice, ‘If a man is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’ (John 7:37b-38). Those streams, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, are the source of the life giving fruit Paul has in mind in his letter the congregation in Galatia, called ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22ff.).

May we be like the psalmist who recognized his thirst and went to the One he knew could satisfy it: ‘O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ (Psalm 63:1)

Need a taste of God’s living water, a mini-retreat?  Please join us for a New Life Weekend.

Who Are Safe People?

Jonathan Daugherty

Those who choose to face their bad habits or addictive patterns are brave folks. It takes courage to admit you are not in control and need help. One of the bits of advice that I often give to individuals seeking to overcome their sexual addictions is to surround themselves with “safe” people. I want to take this short article to expand on this idea and attempt to define what makes certain people “safe.”

Sometimes to define something it helps to describe its opposite. Many of us can recognize who unsafe people are before we could recognize the safe ones. Unsafe people are those individuals who draw us toward those thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy or dangerous. For example, an unsafe person for a male sex addict might be a “loose” female co-worker who dresses provocatively and is always attempting to sexualize conversations. While it may be easy (or easier) to spot unsafe people, how do you find safe people?

The following are 7 key characteristics present in safe people:

1. Safe people are non-judgmental.

When you get serious about dealing with your secret addiction(s) you need people who are not spending their time judging you for your mistakes. You struggle enough with self-condemnation, you don’t need someone else telling you what a mess-up you are. Safe people don’t judge you.

2. Safe people listen.

When you reach out for help you need people who will really listen to your struggles. Safe people let you share your story and all the difficulty you have faced in carrying your secret sin alone. There is a sort of empathy with safe people. While they may not have traveled the exact same road, they listen with their heart and want to truly help.

3. Safe people maintain strong boundaries.

One of the dangers of seeking out safe people is that you might be so amazed at their compassion and care that you begin to move too close too quickly, and possibly confuse genuine help with old patterns in your addiction. Safe people, however, also know how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries that represent appropriate interaction and assistance. For instance, a safe person will not miss their son’s baseball game just because you are having a weak moment. They will give you their time and energy when it is appropriate and falls in line with their other priorities.

4. Safe people protect confidentiality.

Trust is critical in the healing and recovery process. And trust is gained when safe people protect your confidentiality. You must know that the deep, dark secrets you are sharing will not end up in the city newspaper over the weekend. Safe people take confidentiality very seriously and will carry your pain to their grave if they must in order to secure your trust.

5. Safe people tell the truth in love.

Some people who may appear to be safe are really just looking for a way to present themselves as superior. They may tell you the truth (i.e. “If you continue lusting over porn, you will destroy your life”), but they do so in a harsh, angry fashion. Safe people know how to tell you the truth in love. They are not pointing out your weaknesses to pump themselves up, but rather to help you move toward purity and a life that truly brings satisfaction.

6. Safe people pray for wisdom (i.e. they are humble).

Anyone willing to help another person with their most vulnerable area of weakness must understand that they need wisdom. And gaining wisdom requires humility (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”). You can often spot the safe people by how often they ask God for wisdom, knowing that apart from His leading they could lead you astray. These are the kind of people you want around when traveling the road to recovery.

7. Safe people help you get help.

Finally, safe people know their limitations and have a heart of willingness to get you the help you need. They will walk with you as you expand your network of support to include a counselor, support group, or other individuals to help you reach the goal of a godly life. When dealing with life’s difficulties you need those with a servant’s heart to lead you to the appropriate help.

As you walk through life, keep your eyes open for safe people. They will become your greatest assets in a life well lived.

For additional help locating ‘safe people’ through support groups and counselors, visit www.everymansbattle.com or call 1.800.NEW.LIFE.

Recovering Accountability

Brad Stenberg

Oh no, not another accountability pep talk! I know: I can’t fight this battle alone; I’m hiding behind a mask if I don’t tell someone; it’s not surrendering my manliness; my objection is rooted in pride that says I don’t need help. But I think I’m one of the ones that can do this on my own, so let’s move on to something more important like the eschatological implications of the vicarious atonement!

Not so fast there brother. Think about this for a minute. One of our greatest problems in dealing with sexual addiction is believing that we know what is best for ourselves, and detaching from others because we do not want anyone violating our manhood by telling us what to do. So we continue blindly down the same road of destruction that brought us to where we are.

Accountability is not just a suggested weapon to have on hand in case we need it. No, it’s one of the most powerful weapons we have in the battle against sexual addiction. The use of that weapon gets us connected to others so we can fight against something that, at least for a moment is more powerful than we are. Ultimately, it provides support in a battle that simply cannot be fought alone. Do you remember reading somewhere that it is not good for man to be alone?

Let’s look at accountability in terms of connection. Connection with others is a fundamental part of our recovery process because it’s an essential part of our character growth. Whether we like it or not most of life involves people. It’s a reality that we all must face, and one that shapes and tests our character.

The deep desire of our heart is to be understood, known and connected to others, not detached. This is part of God’s created design of us. It’s true whether you’re an introvert or extrovert here. Being connected is about being mutually and emotionally invested in another person. It’s how we started in the world ‘ bonded to our mother and, hopefully to our father. Ouch! That one makes many of us wince.

The sad reality is that many of us choose to remain detached and impenetrable. In doing so we develop too much of a gap for others to bridge to our hearts. Simon and Garfunkel wrote about this in their song, I am a rock, I am an island, which includes these words:
I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty; that none may penetrate. I have no need for friendship, friendship causes pain; it’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. Hiding in my room, safe within my womb; I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island; and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.

This is not the experience of someone whose character is healthy and growing.

God’s design is that we develop deep connections throughout our lives because it gives us a context in which to grow, be secure and able to deal with life. To do this we have to move away from ourselves as the primary reference point and towards knowing and valuing others. If we were in those kinds of relationships most of us would not be in the mess we’re in right now.

So, get connected and recover accountability into you recovery plan. At its root accountability is a simple word that means “the willingness to stand up and be counted as part of a committed process.” If you see it in this way accountability is less something I’m held to, or something done to me; rather, it reflects my personal choice and willingness to contribute to an expressed outcome ‘ my sexual purity and integrity.

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

Recovery as Spiritual Warfare, Part 1

Jim Phillis

The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was riveting. I had never before seen such a realistic portrayal of men going into battle. The vomiting and praying, tangible expressions of the upset the men were going through, were believable.

As He prepared for the battle of Calvary, the Bible tells us that Jesus sweat blood. He poured out His heart in prayer to His Father. He was prepared for the battle and did not flinch in the face of it.

Examining Paul’s second letter to Corinth can help us better understand how we can prepare for and win the battle before us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

WE ARE CITIZENS OF TWO KINGDOMS THAT ARE AT WAR

Paul says we are waging war. We live in the world. The majority of you who are reading this are US citizens. But Paul makes clear that we are fighting an otherworldly battle while we are here. By faith we are citizens of God’s kingdom. The battle lines are drawn.

God’s objective is to show His glory by redeeming His fallen creation and fallen creatures. At the same time, Satan’s objective is to obscure the glory of God. Because Christian marriage is a part of God’s creative design, God’s enemies attack husbands and wives in order to divide them and rob them of the joy that results from true intimacy.

Sexual sin is one aspect of the disciple’s struggle. When Christian men are sexually impure, God’s love and grace are obscured and Satan gains a victory in the battle for God’s kingdom. The battle for sexual purity is a battle for recovery from the effects of the sin nature. Recovery is discipleship. Recovery is putting off and putting on.

WE ARE SOLDIERS IN GOD’S KINGDOM ARMY

All who know Christ by faith are soldiers of the King’s army. There are no deferments. There are no conscientious objectors. There is no Switzerland’no neutrality in this war. I am a warrior for God’s kingdom.

Over 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote the timeless military classic, The Art of War. In it, he challenged: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’

In gathering intelligence about the enemy, we immediately consider the devil and the world. What we often fail to consider is that while I am a soldier, I am also fighting on the enemy side’my flesh is at war with the Spirit’s work in my life. While I am still vulnerable to the evil desires of my flesh, the temptations that this world offers, and the attacks of Satan and his legions, I am not vulnerable as I once was. By faith, I benefit from the indwelling Holy Spirit and the promises of God’s Word.

Further, I can’t win the war by myself. Paul didn’t write, ‘I do not wage war as the world does.’

The Rambo movies were very popular, but not a true reflection of genuine war. My addiction predisposes me to isolate myself from others and attempt to fight the war alone. Wars are a fought on an overwhelming scale and require armies to vanquish the enemy. By faith, I have been placed in a company of those who aspire to do God’s will and do it, though not perfectly.

Just as an individual soldier is trained to fight as a part of a squad, a platoon, a company, etc., so we need training to begin fighting our addiction alongside others. Many of the men who attend the Every Man\’s Battle workshop find sharing their stories with others to be freeing. They feel like they have unburdened themselves. However, they often struggle after they return home to unburden themselves with the men they work or worship with. In order to win the battle for purity, I must become we. For the soldier, his training doesn’t end with Basic Training. And so we need training that continues beyond Every Man\’s Battle.

See the article Recovery As Spiritual Warfare part 2, where we will consider the objectives and tactics that Paul urges us to adopt in fighting this spiritual war.

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries