Last week I was both blessed and privileged to represent FBH with Brent at the Set Free Summit in Greensboro, North Carolina. I also met Jarrad Miller with God Over Porn and had time to get to know him.
I would like to share with you my impression of the conference and how I perceived it was accepted overall. Now my personal perception with $4.00 might get you tall Latte at Starbucks but not much more.
About 850 people came to the conference. Out of that only about 300 Churches or other religious institutions were represented, and of them only about 90 or so visited our table and connected with us. When you consider the total number of churches in a two hundred mile radius of Greensboro, it’s a little disheartening. However the amount of lay people seeking either self-help or materials and information they could take back to leadership was a little more encouraging. Plus they seemed willing and determined to convince their leaders that it’s well past time—we must start now. That to me was more encouraging.
The majority seemed to have come in search of the magic pill that would sanitarily make this epidemic disappear, and they left with the realization that they are going to have to get down and dirty for as long as it takes and it has to start at the top. What they got there was the truth which Jesus promised would set us free.
There were more than a few from Canada and other countries like England, Australia, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, and Egypt, which opened my eyes to the fact that this is a worldwide epidemic. Most of these came with the hope of finding materials in their own languages, only to find nothing yet. Although I wasn’t discouraged; I just saw another opportunity for someone to fill that need.
There was also addressed in one of the sessions the need for materials and resources for the growing number of women in the church struggling the same issue. It’s not just a guy issue anymore. But even this need creates another opportunity for ministry.
I sometimes felt like these pastors were overwhelmed—it was like finding out that what they thought was an outbreak of the flu infecting over half their congregations was, in reality, the bubonic plague. But it was a much needed wake-up call.
At the end we met three guys from the Chicago area who were already having success in three groups of about sixty men, and they were looking for an additional church facility to start another group.
Overall, I came away encouraged because even though the steps are small, they are in the right direction. The Bible tells us not to despise meager beginnings. And when you’re trapped between Pi Hahiroth and Migdol with the Red Sea blocking your way and the entire Egyptian Army is bearing down on you from the rear—our God will part the Red Sea.
I am seeking your prayers for these pastors and individuals, that they will be strong in their resolve to engage in the battle and work past their fears, doubts, and concerns by trusting in God. After all, it’s His church, not theirs.
I have recently shared my testimony with you about my struggles with pornography, so I don’t need to expand on that, but rather relate more to the war at hand in the Church of Jesus Christ. In 1998 I finally listened to God and followed His plan lined out perfectly in James 5:16, and I confessed my sin of porn addiction to a group of believers on a Sunday night. I then began the process of deliverance from that which had ensnared me at a very young age. At that point in 1998, I had been a Christian who had tried to deal with this issue on my own for eighteen years—with very limited and short term success. The church was in denial that any true believer could have such a struggle. After all, we are a new creation; old things are passed away and behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17). That scripture and the church’s silence on the matter often led me to doubt my salvation, because I still struggled with sin. On three separate occasions I fasted forty days and begged God to remove this from me. But the only response I would hear from God was to confess your sins one to another and pray for one another that you can be healed. At that time my pastor was also my father-in-law, so I wasn’t open to the idea of confessing to him. I did one time after my fastings and prayers weren’t bringing results. I tried giving my father-in-law a very watered down version of a confession which was hardly a confession at all, so it hardly worked at all. It wasn’t until the marriage failed that I confessed on that Sunday night (which was, by the way, a different pastor and different church). I also confessed to my wife, but she couldn’t forgive me. After that time, I would speak anywhere and anytime I was invited to share my testimony. Again, the churches were not ready to address the issue. Neither Freedom Begins Here, Transparent Ministries nor Celebrate Recovery existed at that time. Ten years and many disappointments later, I got out of the fight, and before too long I began losing battles with my struggles with porn. Since the births of FBH, TM, and CR, I’ve gotten back in the battle which helps me stay much more alert to the wiles of the enemy and the triggers that can lead me in a downward spiral. I have to STAY THE COURSE.
I need to be reminded, and so I’ll restate the porn stats that directly concern the church:
60% of men and 30% of women, even in the church, struggle with porn.
The 12– to 17-year-old age bracket is the largest consumer of Internet porn.
42.7% of Internet users view porn.
7 out of 10 lay leaders and 4 out of 10 pastors admit to having viewed porn as much as once a week.
Ashley Madison is a Canadian based on-line dating service, soliciting people who are married or in serious relationship with their slogan “life’s too short, have an affair.” On August 19th, 2015, the Ashley Madison web site was hacked and many were exposed, including over 400 pastors and church leaders. On September 8th, one distraught pastor committed suicide in his shame.
Friends, our pastors, elders, and deacons are hurting just like we are. We have to speak up. We can stay silent no longer. If we don’t actively and aggressively attack this problem, it will continue to grow and entrap our brothers, ours sisters, our sons, our daughters, and our grandchildren. SILENCE IS THE PRISON DOOR TO THE CELL OF OUR SHAME THAT KEEPS US IN BONDAGE TO OUR SIN. Confession releases those bonds so we can be released and healed. It is a process and WE CAN’T DO IT ALONE. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 tells us, Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can he be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not easily broken. You and I in Christ are that threefold cord. Proverbs 27:17 reads, As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another. We must work together. Each of us needs a friend, a brother who loves us and that we trust and know they have our back. I need a friend/brother like that and I want to be a friend/brother like that for anyone willing to trust God and to allow me to help and encourage you and protect you from yourself and the enemy.
In the beginning of this message, I quoted 2 Corinthians 5:17 and shared how it made me feel I wasn’t saved. The scripture is true, however, and I now believe I have a different understanding of its meaning. The more years I have in relationship with Jesus and the better understanding I have of God and His grace through Jesus Christ, the more I’ve gained understanding of its meaning. We know that God sees us perfected in Jesus. I now could expand the scripture to say, If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are PASSING away, behold all things are BECOMING new. In the book THE CURE by John Lynch and Bill Thrawl, they talk about the butterfly. In essence God has created us a new creation, a butterfly. Even though we may still resemble a caterpillar or cocoon, if a scientist were to check our DNA at any stage, he would say we are a butterfly. So we are maturing/becoming new.
Over the past four or five years, my wife and I have been ministering and mentoring people at the Union Gospel Mission, 5 Rock Ranch, and now at Celebrate Recovery at the Salvation Army. I have befriended many hard core guys with all sorts of addictions and anger issues. These big, tough guys will confess their alcohol and drug addictions, their anger issues, they’ll confess that they abused their wives, stole from and mistreated their mother, attacked their fathers, and maybe even confess to a killing or maiming, but when it comes to admitting anything to do with pornography, they become silent. I’ve been wondering about this for a while and I feel I’ve been given an understanding (from the Lord, I hope) into why this is so. Alcohol, drugs, and violence are “macho” sins, but pornography carries the additional shame of masturbation. There is nothing overly masculine or macho attached to that. Guys will brag about their many conquests but hide in shame anything to do with masturbation. So there is an additional pride issue involved.
Until we break the silence of our shame, we’ll continue in our imprisonment. Until God’s children (the church) become transparent and the church (institution) becomes a safe
Nearly 12 million people in America today fight a sexual addiction, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Pornography is recognized as an addiction in the counseling and psychological community. It has been treated similarly by Alcoholics Anonymous since the late 1970’s.
Addictions are labeled as diseases and disorders by the medical community. I’m not writing this to dispute those labels, but to speak to what my experience and education by said experience has taught me about addiction. And in particular, my (past) addiction to pornography (sexual addiction).
Pornography in and of itself is sin. Therefore, a pornography addiction is sinful. The bible teaches us this in 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” Galatians 5:19 “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;”
You see her, Sunday after Sunday. You notice how pretty she is. She seems to be everything that you aren't. Everyone seems to like her. She seems to have the "happily ever after" that you only dream about! Her marriage is perfect. Great family, great kids. She always smiles, always seems to have it all together. You have her all figured out. You assume she never gets angry. She never yells at her kids. She never misses her daily time with Jesus. You are so sure that she never feels awkward or insecure. There is a big part of you that wishes your life was more like hers. For you, life has been so unfair. You think if she had half the problems you do, she certainly wouldn't be smiling so much. She is so intimidating to you. Why would she want to be friends with someone like you? Your life is so messy. She certainly wouldn't understand.
So what do you do? You keep your distance. You may even avoid her at times. Even though she has tried to reach out to you, your assumptions about her will not allow a relationship to take root.
But, what if your assumptions are all wrong???? What if the thoughts you are having are not reality at all?
Can I be frank with you, dear sister? If you look closer, with your heart and not with your eyes you may see something you never noticed before. She is a woman just like you, a woman with a story. Her life is not perfect as you have invisioned. She may look peaceful and happily married but it did not come without a price. She is not what you think. Maybe if you befriended her, you would find out that she struggles, has insecurities and a heart that is covered with scars. Maybe if you reached out to her, got to know her, shared your own story with her...you would know the truth about her instead of the imaginary picture that keeps you at a distance. Maybe you could help her and she could help you. Please, dear sister, stop the assumptions. Open your heart and allow the walls that keep you from connecting with your sisters in Christ to come down once and for all.
Bottom line....we need each other. We were not created to go through this journey of life in seclusion. Relationships are what God uses to fulfill His plans and purposes on this earth. It is through these relationships that we learn more about ourselves and the LOVE of Christ.
It is in the confines of community that our character is molded and shaped to be more like HIM. We need real relationships with our sisters in Christ. Not only do our relationships challenge and change us for His Glory, they also are a mighty force against the enemy and his schemes. Satan is quite aware of what happens when we come together in the name of Jesus. That is why he wants you to be paralyzed by your perceptions in such a way that you miss what is real. He WANTS you to stay in seclusion. He knows how powerful the encouragement and wisdom of a Godly woman is to a sister who is broken. He knows how powerful the prayer of agreement is when sisters in Christ unite. The giftings, the sensitivity, the passion and the discernment that God has placed in each one of us is a force to be reckoned with. He knows that when we engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of our sisters, our husbands, our children, our communities....... something changes.
Together, we are stronger and together we can win battles as we lock our shields in prayer. We must not be blinded by what we percieve to be truth about our sisters in the body of Christ. We must not allow the enemy to separate us or to seclude us.
I have been BOTH of the women mentioned above....too insecure to befriend a woman who seemed to be all that I wasn't AND I have also been misjudged to the point that I was kept at a distance. In both cases, wrong assumptions and perceptions stole the blessings that might have been.
Lord, help us to not allow insecurities and our perception of others keep us from the divine connections that you have for us. Convict our hearts where we are judging instead of loving. May we see others through your eyes. Help us to reach out and befriend those you place in our paths. Lord, you know this can be scary. For those of us who have been hurt by others, this can seem downright risky. Deliver us from our fears and help us to live life in community with our sisters in Christ. Help us to find joy in our journey as we share our lives with others. Help us to be real and transparent so that others will not be intimidated by what we seem to portray on the outside. I pray for my sisters that you will send divine friendships their way. That your daughters may embrace all that you have for them. May our influence point others to YOU in such a way that lives are changed for YOUR GLORY. May we be a powerful force that pushes back the enemy as we join together in friendship and love. For such a time as this!! AMEN!!!!!
We have another idea for a video and we need your help!
Since you helped us make "Freedom Is" such a success, we decided to ask you for more ideas.
We want to create a video about “SAFE PLACES.”
Where do you go to find unconditional acceptance, love, forgiveness, and accountability?
We want to use real thoughts from real people(don’t worry, we will keep your name anonymous).
So, the question we want you to answer is:
WHAT IS YOUR “SAFE PLACE?”
Please respond in the comment box below.
Thank you so much for your help!