Hope for the Porn Problem by Guest Blogger Anne Kerr, Founder of TrueNorth Freedom Project

Recently a friend forwarded a Fox News article that asserted five ways that porn was good for us.¹ It was directed to women. I guess they figured most men didn’t need convincing to head over to their favorite porn site. Statistically a lot of men use porn, but a growing number of women also fall prey to it. In 2016 one porn site alone logged 4.6 billion hours of porn watched—that’s over five thousand centuries.² Sounds pretty hopeless, but it’s not, because we were created for something much greater. I'd like to share some thoughts for the millions of porn users in the world and for those who love them. (I use he and she interchangeably.)

Porn never satisfies. 

The temporary ecstasy that porn can elicit is just that: temporary. Just one more click will not reveal the perfect body that will make one cry out, “Eureka!” and end the search. No, one click leads to more clicks. Porn is an endless sexual abyss that pulls the user deeper into shame and isolation. It will mercilessly tempt again. Porn creates chemical longings in the brain that long to be fed. And the cost? It will only increase with time. Porn can steal one's self-esteem, faith, job, relationships, and family, and it will not stop there. Porn is bondage of the worst kind. Our hearts long to be satisfied, but they will never be satisfied by porn.  

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Porn keeps the user from true intimacy with others, and we all need to be known.

A desire for intimacy is beautiful and good. Our relational design moves us toward other people because we have been created to live in communion with others. But our desire for sexual gratification can get in the way of true intimacy with others. Knowing and being known are deep human needs fulfilled only by genuine relationships—by connecting with others. Porn does not lead us to connection; instead, it isolates. The image on the screen cares nothing for the user. In fact, it is actually hurting him at a soul level even as his mind enjoys the temporary euphoria. We need real relationships and using porn isn’t going to help us develop those. But a desire for true intimacy in actual relationships can be a great motivator to give up porn.

Porn doesn’t help one become the person she or he truly wants to be.

We grow in character through adversity, experiences, delayed gratification, perseverance, and hard work. Unlike character building experiences, porn asks nothing and steals everything. Real relationships are demanding, complicated, multifaceted, and a lot of work, but they're worth every ounce of effort because they shape us and bring value to our lives. Porn requires nothing and takes no work whatsoever. It can be addictive as it causes high levels of dopamine to release in the brain much like cocaine does. No one wants to be addicted to porn. 

Porn is a killer of love, and we truly desire love.

Love grows best in a secure environment. Exclusivity in love is one of its most beautiful and timeless features. Love takes trust and requires vulnerability. Porn takes a beautiful gift like love and makes a mockery of it. In the moment it’s exciting, but a real-life partner doesn’t want to be second to anyone, including a pixelated image of someone in porn. A desire for true love can be a strong motivator to walk away from porn and begin to enjoy the love found in an authentic relationship with God. 

Porn will always be a counterfeit.

True sex is amazingly good. God-honoring sex is even better. It bonds a couple at a soul level. It is pleasurable to both the man and the woman because it honors, is tender, sacrificial, and takes into account the whole person, not just certain parts. This kind of sexual experience makes one desire a spouse again and again. Porn will always be a counterfeit, a poser, a cheap imitation that falls short of the real thing. Like any counterfeit, it will eventually be exposed for what it truly is. God-honoring sex within the safety and security of marriage is the best sex.  

Porn makes God feel distant, but He stands ready to forgive and redeem our wandering. 

This is where our true hope lies. Because we need God’s grace in our lives. We depend on His unmerited favor. I love how the father (representing God) ran to the prodigal son in the parable that Jesus told. He said the young man “came to his senses” and decided to return home to the abundant household and the gracious father.³ Turning away from our sin is the essence of repentance. God wants to redeem our past and make something beautiful out of the rubble.

For years my husband battled a porn addiction and kept his struggle hidden from everyone including me, his best friend. It broke my heart to learn of it a few years ago. Like the prodigal son, this man I love had been in a dark and destructive place, but thankfully, Jesus ran to welcome this repentant sinner home. We have worked through the messiness of redemption together, and my husband walks ever closer to Jesus now. We have honesty and transparency in our relationship. His faith is growing. He found true freedom, and you or someone you love can know this freedom too. 

The tomb is empty. Jesus conquered sin and death once and for all. He came to set captives free and He lives and intercedes for us even now. A porn user is every bit as precious to Him as every other sinner. Jesus died not just so we could stand righteous at the gate of heaven, but so we could live a life of freedom on the earth. Jesus satisfies every need, and He loves us with a perfect love that nothing on this earth can match. Jesus is our living hope!

TrueNorth’s website has resources for someone struggling with sexual sin and for those who love them. You'll find information about weekend retreats, men’s and women's groups, and more. Read some of our past blog posts under "Stories" to learn more and find hope.

¹ Suzannah Weiss, 5 Ways Watching Porn Can Make You a Better Partner, FoxNews.com, 2017.

² Sage Lazzaro, 9 Crazy Stats That Prove We Watched a Whole Lot of Porn in 2016, Observer.com, 2017.

³ The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, verses 11-32.

 

A Living Hope

by Anne Kerr, Guest Blogger & Founder of TrueNorth Freedom Project

 

“The one thing I didn’t have when I was addicted to pornography was hope.”

Last year, my husband spoke these words to a group of supporters of TrueNorth. God set Greg free from his bondage to pornography in a powerful way in the fall of 2013. I learned of his addiction a few months after God rescued him from it, and his journey toward restoration and wholeness became our journey of transparency, healing, and hope.

Casual porn use can escalate into repeated porn use, affairs, purchasing sex, and abuse. Addiction is multi-layered and different for everyone. Porn addicts are not on a quest to find the perfect body. They are seeking to repeat pleasurable feelings in the brain that viewing porn generates. These feelings are a result of a chemical called dopamine which is released into the brain.

Dopamine plays a healthy role in everyone’s brain. Chocolate can give us a sweet reward, no pun intended. Joyful experiences like a wedding, or birth of a child, can send dopamine levels sky high. But watching moving porn can release up to ten times the amount of a normal, healthy dopamine spike. The brain literally gets high on it, higher than the brain was designed for. Similar to the neurological response to cocaine, the brain remembers the feeling and initiates a desire to feel that way again. Tolerance for the good feeling can develop, and more hardcore porn or riskier behavior may be needed to achieve the same chemical levels. This can lead to addiction.

God designed our brains to respond to sexual sights and experiences, and even children can get aroused by them. Many of us have forgotten how various sexual encounters caught our attention when we were young. Learning to talk about those feelings and to channel them as God intended is important, whether we are young or old. God-honoring sex within marriage also produces dopamine along with other chemicals that bond us to our mate. Sex outside of marriage, or variations of it such as viewing porn, creates unhealthy bonds that can leave us empty, isolated, and alone in our shame.

I began TrueNorth a few years ago to help Christians learn to talk about sexual issues and struggles more authentically within relationships. We’re working to bring information from science and God’s Word to help others understand the truth about sex and porn use. While God designed us as sexual beings, His Word gives direction for living within a sexualized culture and for raising children in this environment. Since we cannot fully shield kids from an overly sexualized culture, we must prepare them for it and lovingly guide them through it. And since we cannot completely avoid the temptations that a sexualized culture brings, we must learn to handle the temptations in a way that leads us toward God and each other and keeps us from falling deeper into sin and despair.

God has a clear message of hope, but sometimes habitual sin can make it harder to hear truth. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Slavery can take many forms. Porn addiction is a form of bondage, and Christ came to set us free.

 Some who use porn may not hear God’s freedom call because they are bound by sin and shame. Some may believe it’s too late for them, or that God doesn’t hear their cries for help. Others may be wounded by another’s sexual sin and feel hopeless themselves.

God has so much more for us when He opens our eyes to the things that give us less. Porn is something that not only gives less; it steals more. My husband can attest to this. And when God reveals the truth of our sexual design and shows us that none of us are immune from the temptation of sexual sin, I believe we can begin much-needed conversations that lead to deeper intimacy with others.

My husband found a living hope in Jesus and together we have found healthy, healing ways to talk about sexual struggles and sexual intimacy within our marriage. If you’d like to read more about how God began changing Greg’s heart and his restoration journey, check out the blogs he wrote earlier this year beginning with Revealing the Heart. (click bold 'revealing the heart' to read that blog).  Whether you struggle with sexual sin or someone you love struggles with it, Greg’s story will give you hope.

TrueNorth has resources and information for couples, parents, ministry leaders, and anyone desiring deeper intimacy with God and others while living with the challenges of a sexualized culture. You can find these by clicking “Tools” or “Stories” on the TrueNorth Freedom Project website, which is www.truenorthfp.org.

Christ, our living hope, frees us from our shame, gives us courage to step into the light of truth and grace, and invites us to go deeper with Him as we face the challenges this culture presents. Ask God to show you the next step and trust Him to lead you into truth for your journey. You will find grace for your own sin or perhaps God may use you to help rescue someone you love from their own bondage to sin. Trust Him to provide all that is needed.

 

Part 2- Restoring a Broken Marriage by Tom & Lisa

Part 2 – Restoring a Broken Marriage

What was going to happen? How was this going to work out? Our marriage was at a critical point, and I wasn't sure what to do or what to say. Lisa and I had to talk it out. I asked her to give me 30 minutes to get my thoughts organized and then we’d go through it. I told her I would explain everything. She was broken inside but agreed to listen.

After a few minutes, I felt the Lord working in my heart. I prayed for His wisdom to help me. The Lord knew that I was tired of running from Him. He showed me the only way out was to confess completely to Lisa what I had done. It was time to break the chains and give Him the authority in my life. But how was that going to happen? He led me to scripture. I wrote down 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” He led me to another verse, 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Frankly, I had accepted the fact that our marriage could be over. But the Lord gave me hope. I wasn’t going to leave my wife or lose my marriage. I was going to do anything and everything I needed to save it. When Lisa and I sat down, I read her the scripture that the Lord had put on my heart. I told her that I had been unfaithful for the last ten years and asked her to forgive me.

Lisa was crushed. She felt like she had been kicked in the stomach. Her reaction was expected. She felt that she didn’t deserve this. She needed me to leave, and she would figure out how to salvage whatever she could for our daughters. The plan certainly didn’t include me.

I told her that I would get rid of all the garbage and was willing to do whatever she needed me to do to save us. I didn’t want our marriage to end this way.

We went to bed that night in separate rooms. At the time, our three daughters were 13, 11, and 9, and they were in the house. They may have been too young to understand what was going on, but being in the house made it even more awkward and uncomfortable.

Lisa cried all night until there were no tears left. Her pain was so deep, and she felt lonely and helpless. In the stillness of the night, in the midst of such pain, the Holy Spirit came to her. He told her to forgive me. She said, “No, you can’t ask me to do that. Look what he has done to me and to our family.” But in her heart she knew the Lord wasn’t asking her, He was commanding her to forgive me. Out of obedience to Him, Lisa came to me in the night, laid her hands on me, and said she forgave me and loved me because I was beautifully and wonderfully made.

What just happened? I witnessed God perform a miracle that only He could perform. I cried and cried. God was pouring His mercy on me. Lisa didn’t trust me a bit, but she fully trusted the Lord. Of course, everything wasn’t ‘fixed’. Lisa was afraid and knew our recovery was going to take a lot of transforming power from the Lord. But she was ‘in’. And I was ‘all in’.

Godly friends advised Lisa that she should be very careful, that marriages don’t come back from situations like this. The question in her mind was What will it take? As she prayed, the Lord gave her peace and wisdom. She was very specific in what she wanted me to do. She said I needed to meet with my pastor and confess to him. I needed to attend an Every Man’s Battle conference that dealt with addictions and infidelity. And she and I needed to meet with a Christian counselor. I didn’t hesitate. The Lord was leading the way and I was ready to follow.

As I met with and confessed to my pastor, he was supportive and committed to helping me. We started a Bible study with a few men and began by memorizing scripture; Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. After attending an Every Man’s Battle conference, I joined a strong support group to continue the steps. Over the next several months, I was in various men’s groups just about every night of the week. I knew the Lord was changing me. He was defining me as a man and a husband. It wasn’t a quick fix, but I wanted to be the man God wanted me to be, and He led me to Christian men to make it happen.

Being out of work during the initial six months turned out to be a blessing for Lisa and me. We were able to spend a lot of time together. Lisa’s confidence in us was growing, but we were a long way from where we needed to be. Through those months, there were almost daily occurrences of things the Lord called me to confess to her. As the Lord worked in Lisa, He took these confessions and turned them into compassion and forgiveness. Lisa and I prayed together every night. There were also occurrences of hauntings for Lisa that brought back awful emotions. I relied on the Lord to comfort both Lisa and me and give her an assurance that we were moving in the right direction.

Over the next several years, our marriage continued to improve. Lisa remained obedient to forgive me, but it was not an easy process. Her trust and love continued to be restored. It wasn’t until five years later that Lisa felt confident and trusting to put her wedding ring back on. And now, fifteen years after the full breakdown and confession, God has blessed us with daughters who love the Lord, two loving sons-in-law, and three wonderful grandchildren. Our marriage is our testimony to God’s sovereignty and power.

As I reflect on the entirety of this story, it’s no mistake that God put Lisa and me together. He was working in our lives long before we became believers. He has written this story for His glory and we’re hopeful that He will use it to help others who are struggling through similar situations. I was not worthy of His mercy, and yet He covered my marriage with all spiritual blessings. Lisa and I are flawed individuals and our marriage isn’t perfect, but we both know that God works miracles and doesn’t make mistakes. He can restore relationships and save marriages even when the Christian supporters closest to us doubt. It’s our prayer that by reading this, you will be encouraged and that you will share this with whomever it may help in restoring a struggling marriage. 

A Broken Marriage~ The story of Tom & Lisa Part 1

A Broken Marriage

Tom and Lisa were college sweethearts. They met at the tender age of 18 and dated for five years. They fell in love and decided to get married. Unbeknownst to them, their marriage, although conceived in heaven, was not blessed by God. Tom and Lisa were not Christians. They were not honoring God prior to their marriage. Their marriage was destined for heart wrenching breakdown. Only by the grace of God was it recovered, restored, and ultimately glorified in God’s eyes. This brief story describes the events that led to the broken marriage and eventually the wonderful blessings God provided to redeem and restore it.

Some background info

Tom was raised in a single parent home, the youngest of three siblings. His father divorced his mother when Tom was two years old. Tom never observed a model of a Godly marriage within his extended family or in his neighborhood. Tom did well in school and stayed out of trouble. He was well liked and succeeded in athletics. But there were no male figures in his life, and certainly no Christian men to lead him into manhood. Consequently he never developed honoring or respecting relationships with girls. However, Tom entered college on an athletic scholarship and planned to major in engineering.

Lisa faced challenges in her early years as the second sibling of five. Her parents led her in Catholicism but continually explored alternative spiritual frontiers. Her spiritual foundation never solidified. She learned to take care of herself at an early age and soon established definite goals for her life. She entered college determined to get an engineering degree and provide a sound living with her career.

Upon entering college, Tom and Lisa met soon into their freshman year. They started dating immediately and spent large amounts of time together with engineering studies and myriad social activities. There were no boundaries in their relationship, and everything seemed to be going according to mutual expectations.

After college, Tom and Lisa got married. Two engineers in love and working in Silicon Valley in Northern California. They were following their plan and it was off to a successful start. Life was good!

For a while… Over the next several years, things began to shift. At first, it was manageable. They were excited to have their first child, but they were determined not to let it inconvenience them. Over the next four years, Tom and Lisa had two more daughters, moved four times, and now the cracks began to emerge in their marriage. The original plan had shifted dramatically. Lisa had stopped working which was never part of the plan. She now placed her desires and expectations of a fulfilled career and life on Tom. But Tom had changed jobs three times and was traveling more than ever. Through that period, Tom drifted into secrecy and pursued extramarital affairs while traveling. Tom was in a dark place, and Lisa was not fulfilled either. But no one knew.

Where do we go from here?

Tom: Let me pick up the story. One night, we were invited for dinner at a couple’s house. We were meeting this couple through an introduction by mutual friends. That evening, Lisa and I were amazed to see what a loving marriage they had between them, and we wanted what they had! We asked them how we could have a marriage like theirs. They suggested we go to church! And we did. After visiting several churches, we settled on one and began attending regularly. Lisa realized quickly that she was ready for a personal relationship with Jesus. Although it seemed like she was moving in the right direction, she still held on to some of her worldly, perfectionist ways and struggled to reconcile the two. Initially, she thought I was with her on her new faith journey. But I was still lost in the dark and secretly wasn’t going to give it up.

The next ten years looked pretty good on the outside. Our church experience was good, our faith walk was developing (so I claimed), the children were growing up, and life appeared to be good again. It looked like the plan was back on track.

But I knew it wasn’t. I knew I was still in a dark place. Lisa once asked me what I would do if a man pointed a gun at my head and asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I remember responding that I would say ‘No, so I could get away’. And she knew right away that was the truth. She had doubts about my faith and had suspected there were things going on with me, and this confirmed it. I didn’t believe that Jesus was my Lord. Lisa knew she couldn’t trust me as a Christian or that I could be the spiritual leader that she needed. By God’s grace, Lisa started praying for me. She would wake up in the middle of the night, lay hands on me and pray. She wondered why the Lord was waking her up at night. Then it happened.

One night, Lisa saw me on the computer contacting someone online and asked me what was going on. She forced the issue into the light. This was it. She needed answers. She told me she was willing to fight for our marriage and fight for our family but she needed to know what she was fighting. I had to decide whether to go on lying or to break down to the core and confess. I knew how wrapped up and miserable I was in deep sinful behavior for years. That night, the Lord dismantled our marriage and miraculously started putting it back together.

Stay tuned to the next blog post to read how God saved a wretch like me and reunited me with my wife.

After the Affair: Striving and Thriving in Jesus by Telie Sumner


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
Isaiah 43:18
 
Many months after learning of my husband’s affair, the day I had feared for so long finally arrived. I rounded a corner at my workplace and ran right smack-dab into the other woman. It was a huge surprise to us both! I don’t remember either of us saying anything. All I could think about was getting back to my desk and picking up my Bible to see what God had to say. The Scripture above is exactly what He gave me, and I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated it to myself since that day!
            When I look back, it is so clear that for years God had been preparing me for the day I asked my husband about his affair. We were high school sweethearts, and on the eve of our 29th wedding anniversary I confronted him about it. Though we had spent most of our lives together, in that moment, with his cold, unremorseful response, he seemed like a total stranger. He said that he had been unhappy for a long time and was determined to leave our marriage. I was shattered and numb. But rather than dwell on what I could not change, God immediately spoke to my heart about what I needed to take ownership of in the demise of our marriage.
For example, God led me to address with a counselor a significant event from my childhood that I had stuffed deep down in my soul. Many of us are in bondage in ways that we are not even aware of. My husband was the only other person with whom I’d shared about this, but it was early in our marriage, at a time when people rarely addressed past woundedness. After so many years, God was bringing it up to the surface and opening the door to set me free!!! I also began to realize that in many ways I had prioritized parenting and busyness over my husband and our relationship. 😊
In the days and weeks that followed, I spent hours each day on my face seeking God, reading His Word, and allowing Him to breathe truth over me. Never in my life have I felt His presence so vividly as during this season. God became not just my Lord, but my husband, my counselor, my healer, and my precious Heavenly Father. He gave me unexplainable JOY in the midst of complete uncertainty. Whether or not my husband returned, I knew that God would take care of me.
Early on, God gave me Psalm 32:10, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Each time I had a conversation with my husband I would leave knowing that it was God, not I, who had done the talking. God gave me the confidence to know that in spite of what Satan was trying to tell my husband, I knew him better than anyone on this earth! And even though he said he was “happy” with his new life, I knew he was headed to a place of deep misery. God was able to use me as His instrument, equipping me to act more as a friend and less as a wounded wife during this time. I was able to extend forgiveness and show him that no matter what happened, I was not going to live my life with bitterness towards him. As I began to pray on behalf of our marriage, God directed my attitude and demeanor in every conversation we had. Only through God’s grace was I able to communicate with him solely as someone who cared about helping him understand why he was in this situation. True surrender is not being a doormat and submitting in the wrong way but giving of ourselves in a way that allows others to know our true intent is for their good, no matter the outcome for us.
In God’s perfect timing, He worked in my husband’s heart and gave him the courage to end the other relationship. We spent the next year examining our marriage with a fine-tooth comb to expose many things that needed to be worked on. We changed the way we communicated, knowing that we were not each other’s enemy, but the ENEMY was our enemy. Instead of holding things in and allowing bitterness to grow, we learned how to feel safe sharing our deepest thoughts and concerns about our relationship. We changed our demeanor and tone of voice in ways that brought bonding rather than conflict. More than anything, God used physical intimacy, the very thing that Satan had used to try to destroy our marriage, to begin to heal our marriage. I completely surrendered to God this aspect of our relationship, though it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and learning how to love my husband better through sex. Through that surrender, God gave us a joy and completeness that far outweighs anything my husband could find in someone who was not his wife. What we have discovered exceeds all that we had in the first 29 years of our marriage.
            Even though I thought I was doing all the right things to make my husband feel loved and respected, I have learned that one important thing he needs from me is to love him behind closed doors with total freedom, just as God directs us in Song of Solomon. It has now been 13 years, and we can truly say that we would go through it all again to have what we have today. God continues to give us “a brand new thing” as we lean on Him through every stage of life, striving toward obedience to Christ and thriving in God’s love toward us. Our marriage is safe in His arms.

How to Have Overcoming Faith

My only daughter is leaving in a little over 2 weeks to go on the mission field for a minimum of two years to a nation that is very hostile to the gospel, where there can be severe consequences for sharing Jesus’ love.  Many people have asked me, “How can you let her go?” and “How are you holding up?” Or, they have assumed that I am a ‘basket case’ and distraught about her going.  As the youngest of my four children and the only girl, she and I share a very special relationship and I can tell you that I am going to miss her. VERY, VERY MUCH!!! It will be difficult to be apart, not only because I will miss having face-to-face conversations with her, but also because our phone contact will be limited due to our different time zones and busy schedules, and our ability to openly communicate via text and email will be restricted due to security reasons. Despite where she is going, how long she’ll be away, and the fact that I will miss her, I want to testify that God has given me His perfect peace that surpasses all human understanding. (Philippians 4:7)  I want to share with you why that is.

·      I have known since she was conceived that first and foremost she is the ‘Lord’s daughter’ before she ever became mine; He not only created her, He also bought her with the price of His precious blood and He has entrusted her to me and my husband to raise her in the 'fear and admonition of the Lord' and  for His pleasure and glory.  It is to His glory that she honor and serve Him by sharing His love with others. (1st Corinthians 6:20; Jeremiah 1:4-5; Isaiah 43:7-9)

·      If we love God—which she and I most definitely do—we demonstrate our love for the Lord by obeying Him. (John 14:15)  If we want to be Jesus’ disciple, we must be willing to do as Jesus did—‘lay down’-- or ‘surrender’ our will to the will of Our Heavenly Father. (Luke 9:23)  And His command and will for all of us is to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES in all nations. (Matthew 28:19) I demonstrate my love for Him by being willing to ‘offer up’ the daughter He has entrusted to me, knowing that He loves her even more than I do, and that WHATEVER He asks of her—as well as of me as her parent in ‘letting go’ of her—is ALWAYS and ONLY for our good and for the glory of His Name! (Romans 8:28)

·      Yes, Jesus is worthy of her and our obedience!  And, the souls of those with whom she will share the good news of the gospel are also worthy of her giving up her time... and even her life. Jesus came to earth to ‘seek and to save the lost’, and as His followers, we are called to do likewise. (Luke 19:10) Every day 66,000 people die who have not had the opportunity to hear about Jesus and His life-transforming love for them. God’s heart breaks for them—and ours ought to as well. How can we who know Jesus not hurt for and have compassion upon those who have never heard of the forgiveness, hope, truth and love that is found in Christ alone? The truth that His love can set them free from the power of sin in their lives and the penalty of sin, which is eternal death and damnation. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

·      I know that she will be living a truly meaningful life, investing her time, energy and resources in what is eternal--developing intimacy with Jesus and sharing His love with others—an investment that cannot be taken away from her and for which she will reap the benefits for all eternity. In contrast, a meaningless life is living for the things of this world that will rust, rot and burn and cannot enter with us into heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21) I know she will be blessed over the next several years with the intimate Presence of the Lord and the sure knowledge that she is doing His will by sharing His love with others; I also know that life on earth is brief and that we are all eternal beings. Great will be her reward on earth, and even greater will be her reward in Heaven for all eternity! And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29 ESV

·      I keep my eyes fixed upon Jesus, Who is worthy of her—and my-- ‘all and everything’!  I know that although I will not be able to be with her physically, that Jesus ‘will never leave her or forsake her’. I know that no matter where she is and wherever she goes that she will NEVER be alone; she will ALWAYS have Jesus beside her, Who is a Warrior and FAR better protector than I—and He alone loves her with an ‘unfailing love’. (Hebrews 13:5: Isaiah 54:10; Psalm 36:5-7; Zephaniah 3:17)

God is Love…Love never fails…therefore God CANNOT fail her!!! (1st John 4:8; 1st Corinthians 13: 8) I am trusting my beloved daughter into the hands of her Heavenly Father Who is her Creator, the Sovereign Lord over all of the earth, Who is ALWAYS with her, and Who can never do anything that is not ultimately for her good!  I know that NOTHING and NO ONE can thwart God’s will and that not even a hair on her head can be touched without Him allowing it to happen…and if He allows it, it is for her good and the glory of His Name! If she is persecuted for her faith—even unto death, I trust that God will continue to grant me His peace because I find my hope and rest in His Word-- which is truth—and He says that, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 ESV) She and I also believe, as Paul stated, that ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ if we  have truly surrendered our lives to Our Savior and Lord Jesus. (Philippians 1:21) May her life--and all of our lives-- bring Jesus the honor and glory that He is due, for He is worthy of everything, including our laying down our very lives, as he so lovingly did for us!

Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

Why Pursue Purity

Is there anything in your life you’ve ever regretted doing, or not doing? I think we can all readily think of at least one thing---and more than likely many things that we wish we had the opportunity for a  ‘do over’. It’s noteworthy to me that in over 20+ years of teaching bible studies and counseling women of all ages that every woman I know who succumbed to the temptation to have sexual relations before she was married regrets that decision. In contrast, I do not know of anyone who chose to remain sexually pure until her wedding night that regrets that decision. Why is purity something God desires for us—regardless of our age? What is the cost we incur if we disobey God’s command to remain pure?

In a culture where sexual immorality of all kinds is exalted, promoted, and normalized--and at a time when even many who regularly attend church are biblically illiterate—it’s important for us to consider God’s command for sexual purity. 

First, let’s look at the definition of purity. According to my 1951 Webster’s dictionary --I prefer that edition because it uses words considered archaic in our now ‘sophisticated’ culture, such as ‘sin’ and ‘chastity’-- purity is:

The state of being pure; freedom from admixture with extraneous or superfluous matter; cleanness; freedom from foulness or dirt; freedom from sin; innocence (as purity of heart or life); freedom from sinister or improper views. Synonyms include: chastity, sinlessness, uprightness, integrity, virtue.

 God, Our Creator Who designed us and therefore knows what is best for us, commands us to be sexually pure. Our purity brings glory to God. The first thing we have to remember in order to understand why purity is so important is that God created us for His pleasure and for His glory (Isaiah 43:7-9).  We were not put on this earth for us to satisfy our own desires nor to engage in whatever makes us ‘feel good’ at the moment.  No, in fact, I am convinced that the reason we have skyrocketing alcoholism, drug addictions, depression and suicide rates is because we have forgotten God and His higher purpose for our life:  we have settled for so much less than what God created us to enjoy. He created us to enjoy unbroken fellowship with Him, a sinless, pure and holy God.  We cannot have close fellowship with God when we choose to disobey His commands; our disobedience is rebellion against Him and proves that we do not truly love Him (John 14:15). We have taken sex-- one of his greatest gifts-- and abused it by engaging in it when and with whom we want rather than following His clear commands regarding this priceless gift. It is to God’s glory that we live lives that are set apart from the world and set apart for Him. 

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1st Corinthians 6:13b ESV

As Jesus’ disciples we have been called to die to our own sinful desires—the lusts of our ‘flesh’ (Luke 9:23) which war against God’s perfect desire for us, which is that we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and live in accordance with His will and His commands (John 14:15).

 Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.  Colossians 3:5

Yes, our sexual sin is idolatry! Sexual immorality is idolatry because the person who engages in the sexual sin in effect is saying, “I love myself more than I love You, God, and I am placing my lustful desires above your desire for my purity.” Sexual sin by its very nature is self-centered rather than God centered; it is putting your desires above God’s desires and putting your lusts above loving another person.

Our culture and the media would have us believe that those who have sexual relations outside of marriage are living the ‘good life’ and those who choose to remain sexually pure are the ones missing out.  However, the truth is that God only wants what is best for us and He restricts us from the things that He knows will harm us.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV

Sex is God’s special gift to married couples, the means for a husband and wife to experience a unique and very special kind of intimacy and oneness. Our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—share a mutual love and oneness that is completely pure and unblemished by sin. God intended for couples in a marriage to experience the joy and oneness of a mutually loving, pure relationship too. In the context of a committed marital relationship sexual relations allow for great freedom and joyful intimacy. When a man and a women both remain sexually pure until they are married and they continue to walk in purity after they take their vows, they are truly free--- free from the guilt and shame of sexual sin; free from fear of pregnancy outside of wedlock; free from STDs; free from bringing images and memories of other sex partners into the marriage bed; free from the emotional pain of giving themselves wholly to someone who was unwilling to commit to ‘love and cherish’ them ‘till death’ parted them; and most of all, free to truly give themselves wholly and unreservedly to their spouse and become in every way ‘one flesh’.

Yes, God designed our bodies for sexual intimacy and pleasure and for oneness with our spouse. God made provision for the sexual desires of both men and women to be fulfilled in a monogamous marriage relationship.

 Marriage is to be held in honor among all [that is, regarded as something of great value], and the marriage bed undefiled [by immorality or by any sexual sin]; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.  Hebrews 13:4 AMP

He also gave clear commands in the bible regarding with whom we should not have sexual intimacy for our good and for His glory.    

·      There is to be no fornication (sexual relations between a man and a woman who are not married to one another); this command is not just for unmarried teenagers. It is for people of ALL ages, including those who are older and single, divorced, or widowed. (1st Corinthians 6:18; 1st Corinthians 7:1-2)

·      There is to be no adultery--voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse. (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 19:18) 

·      There is to be no sexual relationships between two people of the same gender. (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27)

·       There is to be no sexual relations between a human being and an animal. (Leviticus 18:23)

·      There is to be no forced sexual relations. (Deuteronomy 22:23-29).

God tells us in the Bible that we are to flee from sexual immorality and that sexual sin is different from other kinds of sin. Our lives have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood and we bring glory to God by choosing to obey His commands regarding how we treat our bodies. We greatly dishonor God Who dwells within us whenever we commit sexual sin.

 Run away from sexual immorality [in any form, whether thought or behavior, whether visual or written]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.1st Corinthians 6:18-20 AMP

God views sin—which means ‘missing the mark’ of His perfect will-- very seriously! What a contrast to the flippant way in which our culture views sin, glorifying what Jesus said can cause your body being thrown into hell!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30 ESV

Another consequence of sexual sin that many people overlook is that it can keep our prayers from being answered.

 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 ESV

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. Proverbs 28:9 ESV

The bible lets us know that purity is a matter of the heart; before anyone ever engages in any physical act of sexual sin, the sin always starts in his or her heart.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. Matthew 15: 19

Therefore, it is imperative that we first ‘purify our hearts’ (James 4:8). We do that by seeking and drawing near to God; by ‘renewing our minds’ in His Word and meditating on it (Psalm 119; Romans 12:2); by confessing our sin to Him so we can be cleansed from our sin; and by continuing to walk in purity before Him and others (1st John 1:9; John 17: 17). How wonderful to know that those who choose to be ‘pure in heart’ are able to be in intimate, unbroken fellowship with God on earth and that they will also see Him and be in relationship with Him for all eternity !

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart… Psalm 24:3-4a ESV

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 ESV

How blessed we are when we choose to set ourselves apart from the world's standards and instead pursue purity, the key to unbroken fellowship with our holy Creator-- Who is also our good and loving Heavenly Father--and Who always and only desires our best!

Oh Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right Spirit within me! Please forgive me for sinning against You by my sexually impure and immoral thoughts and actions. Thank You for the gift of sexual intimacy and may I always and only use that gift in a way that honors and pleases You! Give me the strength to choose to flee from every form of sexual temptation, including my choices of what I watch on TV, the movies, or the Internet, or what I read.  Give me the desire to daily renew my mind by reading your Word so I can grow in my knowledge of what is your will and how to live in accordance with it. Empower me by the Holy Spirit to daily die to my selfish interests and lustful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the high calling I have--and the desire I long to fulfill--to live for Your glory!

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

"What's In a Kiss?" by Toni Turner, Guest Blogger

I have often heard it said, “Experience is the best teacher.”  That actually may be true for some things.  For some things the “hands-on” approach is perfect because if mistakes are made, there are no long-term negative consequences. For other things, however, I personally prefer another 'old saying':  “The best teacher is someone else’s experience.”  Take cooking for example.  We can prepare an awesome dish by following a recipe that’s been tried and found delicious!  I’ve got some relatives that are “legends in the kitchen” (at least in their own minds!) who we have learned (by experience) to ask to bring the beverage, not an entre, to family dinners!

There are certain words that my mother used to utter when I would ask her to do something. Although she might use the same exact words, the words could have completely different meanings.  Sometimes she would say, “Go ahead”, and she meant that she was giving me permission.  At other times she would say the very same words but her tone of voice carried a warning with it; her tone said that if I ‘went ahead’ that there’d be something on the other side of that experience that would make me wish I’d made another choice.  For those of us who have had to learn the hard way--myself included-- we might want to consider some different choices than what we have been led to believe from our culture is the right, or only, choice.  God gives us choices, as well as the wisdom to choose wisely.  In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, He says, “I set before you life and death.”  I want to present to you another choice about purity, and in particular another view of kissing, that you may never have heard or thought of before.

When I think of the word “purity” I think of it in terms of one’s entire being-- body, soul, and spirit-- being free from anything that would contaminate or spoil its best state of being.  I think of my spirit being 100% open to pray and to be able to hear from God.  I think of my mind being able to think clearly (Prov.4: 23) and to make choices and decisions that will allow me to experience and enjoy the freedom and joy that Christ died for me to have. I think of being unafraid, unashamed, and having a clear conscience.  I think of my body being free and healthy and able to do whatever I want it to do; disease free and not encumbered by addictions to unhealthy or sinful lusts.  I think of my spirit, mind and body as total gifts from God. I had to learn that my life had more value than I was giving it, and even when I found out what a treasure my life is, it was important for me to learn how to ‘treat the treasure', in other words—how to truly ‘treasure the treasure’.  

It is very important for us to learn about relationships-- good ones and bad ones-- before we make decisions about the folks with whom we want to share our ‘goods’.  Yes, I said our ‘goods’!  We have to remember that when God said, “It is not good for man to live alone”, it was within the context of the command that He had given to every living thing, “Be fruitful and multiply!”  So God meant for sex to be something good!

At a single women’s retreat sometime ago, I made a statement to a group of young women.  My statement was the following, and it shocked them:  I told them that I date, but that I do not kiss.  You would have thought I’d told them that I always drive with my eyes closed!  I know that kissing is thought of as innocent behavior.  I stated to them that I hadn’t always lived by that ‘rule’, but I’ve lived on the planet long enough to know what a kiss means to the rest of my body and so I have made the choice not only to be celibate, but even not to kiss. They were so shocked that I had to ask myself, “What’s up with not kissing?” 

kiss_PNG10803.png

So after the retreat, I started asking myself, “What is it about a kiss that really isn’t so innocent after all?” I kept hearing the refrain from an old song by Cher, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ in which was this lyric, “If you wanna know if it really is, it’s in his kiss.”  So my question became, “What’s in a kiss?”  So I consulted with my friend ‘Google’ and typed the words, “What’s in a kiss?”  Lo and behold, up popped the word, “Oxytocin!”   I’d never heard of it before. So I read further.  Oxytocin is a chemical that we are born with.  Have you ever observed an infant when he/she is hungry?  When that baby spies its milk source…  OMG!  Their little legs and arms start moving at the same time and they begin to suck even before the milk gets to their little mouths.  If a baby doesn’t suck it won’t thrive, but oxytocin sends messages to the brain that something wonderful is about to happen even before the baby drinks the milk.  Wow! God is amazing in His provision for even a baby’s survival!

God was absolutely brilliant in His design for the human body, including his design for sex and for reproduction. There is a whole neuroscience that is involved in kissing and sex and reproduction, including several different chemicals that are released into our body when we kiss. Oxytocin plays a major role in the bonding that takes place between a male and female in a relationship. Oxytocin is called the ‘bonding hormone’. Couples physically touch a lot, from holding hands to kissing, to just simple body contact. All of this causes oxytocin to be released, which leads to feelings of pleasure and bonding. A woman may say; “I want to touch him! To hold him! I can’t stop thinking about him! I can’t wait until I see him again! I think I am addicted to him!”  To a great degree this is the influence of oxytocin.  It is the bonding chemical oxytocin, in combination with a woman’s estrogen that causes a woman to attach or bond to a man.

When a woman kisses, she feels a tingling sensation in parts of her body as her brain and neurotransmitters prepare her body for sexual intimacy. God designed our bodies and it was his intent that the exchange of a kiss would be experienced by a man and woman committed to one another within the bounds of marriage, for as long as they both shall live. Our culture and the media influence a lot of our thinking, attitudes, and behaviors about everything, including our sexual relationships and intimacy. A mere Google search will reveal countless affairs and short-term marriages and relationships in what I call “Follywood.”   The media, the storylines in the soaps and movies, the shows that give us a picture of the glamorous and romantic lifestyles of the celebrities never show us relationships that endure struggles or that work through issues, or that last past the infatuation stage. Our view of relationships is warped and impure unless we continuously renew our minds by the Word of God and by His Spirit (Romans 12:2) and therefore have the mind of Christ alive in us (Phil. 2:8). The media proudly boasts that its purpose is to mold the minds of the public-- particularly the young-- before their brains are fully developed.  But the media only shows the infatuation love.  We rarely see committed love, and we never see the bonding phase.  Only God’s Word can give us the true picture of real intimacy and pure love.

Some 40+ years ago I started an informal research project after closely observing hundreds of relationships in a particular work setting in which couples’ sexuality was discussed.  I had noticed some very negative and common threads that always seemed to surface as a consequence of sexual activity outside of marriage.   Those consequences have not changed.  We hear about them in the news all the time, but we often don’t realize that they are what we can expect if we choose to ‘do relationships’ and sex ‘our way’ instead of God’s way.   As a pastor once said, “Fire in a fireplace is beautiful, but in the curtains, fire is disastrous.”  What I noticed was that these relationships usually resulted in one or all of the following:

1.   The man becomes passive while the woman dominates in some way. She cannot trust him because he was supposed to bring the fruit of the Spirit into the relationship, which includes self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

2.   The man becomes jealous or obsessed with the woman.

3.   The man becomes abusive. Even today we’re trying to figure out how to put an end to domestic violence.

4.   The man (or woman) becomes unfaithful.

Even though they are rarely if ever talked about as consequences of sex outside of marriage, many of these situations pop up in movies, in talk shows, and in newsrooms, as well as in way too many homes.

I can’t think of any woman who has any of those outcomes on her wish list. Frankly, I cannot believe any man would find these outcomes desirable either.   So perhaps someone reading this has made some choices that have not led to the relationships and life you desire.  Perhaps your mind, body or spirit have been contaminated in some way at some point in time. This writer wants you to know that it’s never too late to get ‘cleaned’ up.  In Psalm 119:9 the psalmist asks the question, “How can a young man cleanse his way?’ The answer is, “By listening to and living by God’s words.” Jesus told us that we can’t live by bread only, but we can live by every word God speaks. (Matthew 4:4)  God cannot—and will not-- bless what He says ‘don’t do’.  So marriage alone doesn’t make premarital or extramarital sex righteous. It involves repenting and agreeing with God that what we did was wrong and apologizing, if appropriate, to those with whom we have ‘muddied the waters’. It is deciding that ALL of our attitudes and behaviors are going to line up with the will of God, including our relationships with others.  God wants our happiness even more than we do, and He alone knows that what truly will lead to our happiness is our purity in mind, soul, and body.

It saddens me to hear a young man or woman who apologetically makes the declaration that he or she is a “virgin,” or who is judged to be a freak of nature because he or she made a choice not to have sex. What would happen if a guy and girl totally got to know each other from the inside out before anything physical took place—including kissing? I have a few personal friends who abstained even from kissing before they said, “I do.”  The man in one of those couples said, “I never kissed her because I did not want to put her in a position to compromise what we believe.”  So, the truth is sexual purity is possible and it still does happen, and it  happens when people choose to make the right choice regarding their relationships—according to the Word of God.  I believe that purity begins in the mind-- before marriage --and that true purity can carry even through the marriage and until death.

Toni Turner is an associate pastor at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, and a counselor.  She has also formerly worked as a counselor in a reproductive health center, as well as a Pastoral Director and facilitator for post-abortive women at the Women’s Choice Network, a pregnancy care center.

How to Find Hope in a Divided World

We are living in a day and age that is more polarized than at any other time in my lifetime. That is a refrain I am hearing from many others as well. The divisiveness is causing strife within our communities, the Church, and even in many families.  Recently I sat at a wedding reception where a friend poured out her heart to me that at Christmas, in exchange for the gifts she sent to her sister, she received a letter notifying her that her sister no longer wanted to have anything to do with her. Her reason? Their political viewpoints were so far apart that she thought it was hopeless to think they could have a relationship.

It is almost impossible to tune into any news outlet without hearing caustic comments, discord, and dissension. Facebook--which initially helped friends to connect-- has become a vehicle that now is separating those same ‘friends’ due to views expressed and pictures posted that align the person with a particular ‘side’ of our increasingly fractured culture. Instead of healthy, respectful discussions about the differences in viewpoints, the modus operandi all too often seems to be pride-filled personal attacks that stir up fear, prejudice, and hatred, creating barriers that separate people rather than building bridges that unify them.

Is there any hope for our fragmented society and world?

Yes, there is! However, we must keep in mind that our fight truly is not with one another: we are wrestling against the powers and principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). We are in a spiritual battle with Satan and his demonic hordes, whose goal is always to ‘rob, steal, kill and destroy’. Satan is using his age-old method of‘division’; first, dividing us from God and His Word, and then working to bring division among God’s most treasured creation, mankind. Satan has blinded people to his schemes and the reality that he is the one behind the divisiveness.

Regrettably, even within the family of God—those who have received the free gift of salvation that He offers--we appear to be oblivious that it is Satan who is behind the schemes to divide us from one another, and we frequently play right into his plan to 'divide and conquer'. All too often we live in apathy toward and divided from one another-- if not outright conflict-- misrepresenting the heart of our Father in Heaven Who longs for His children to live in harmony with one another and to love one another as He has loved us.

We have allowed sin—particularly the sin of prejudice that is rooted in the sin of pride—whether it be racial, denominational, or socio-economic--to divide us as the Body of Christ.

But He, [well] aware of their intent and purpose, said to them, Every kingdom split up against itself is doomed and brought to desolation, and so house falls upon house. [The disunited household will collapse.]  Luke 11:17 AMP

Our sin of pride is not only playing into Satan’s scheme of bringing division among God’s children, it also grieves the heart of God Who longs for unity among those who have put their faith in Him. He desires that they experience the joy of oneness in Him, and He also wants the world to come to know Him by seeing the love and unity that Christians share in Him!

 I do not pray for these alone [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for [all] those who [will ever] believe and trust in Me through their message, that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me. John 17:20-23 AMP

Our Heavenly Father longs for the world to know Him by our love for one another. The trinity is one, and He longs for His disciples to accurately represent the triune God's love by our love for each other and our living in unity with one another. 

I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another. John 13:34-35 AMP

As His children, we have the opportunity--and the commandment--to bring glory to God and to make His Name known by our loving one another as He has loved us.

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you. John 15:12 AMP

John 15:12

John 15:12

As stated, we are in a spiritual battle, so a spiritual solution is necessary to overcome our enemy Satan. That solution is to be found: first, in our receiving God’s love; then, in our loving God; and lastly, in our loving others as He has loved us. God, Who is love, (1st John 4:8) demonstrated what true, unconditional love looks like by sending His Son Jesus to earth to die for us ‘while we were yet sinners’ (Romans 5:8). Our sin had separated us from God, who is holy, and the only way that we could be reconciled to Him was through the atoning work of His perfect and beloved Son Jesus who took our sin upon Himself and died in our place on the cross. Jesus is the ‘bridge’ whose death and resurrection enables all who put their trust in His atoning death to be reconciled to God the Father. The Holy Spirit is the priceless gift that is given to all who put their faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to be reconciled with others, to love them as He has loved us. Sacrificially. Selflessly. Unconditionally.

Jesus lived out 1st Corinthian 13 love:

Jesus endured with patience and serenity, Jesus was kind and thoughtful, and He was not jealous or envious; Jesus did not brag nor was He proud or arrogant. Jesus was not rude; He was not self-seeking, He was not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; He did not take into account a wrong endured. Jesus did not rejoice at injustice, but He rejoiced with the truth [when right and truth prevail].  Jesus bore all things [regardless of what came], He believed all things [looked for the best in each one], and He had hope in all things [remained steadfast during difficult times], He endured all things [without weakening]. Note: the name Jesus or “He’ was inserted in place of the word ‘love’ and the verb tense was changed where appropriate in the above passage taken from the Amplified version of 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7

If you inserted your name into the above passage, would the statement be true of you as it is for Jesus? What would your relationship with your family, friends, acquaintances, the Body of Christ, the world at large, and especially those with whom you differ, look like if you demonstrated Christlike love to them?

You may wonder, ‘Does love mean accepting everyone’s viewpoint and condoning their beliefs, even if that means endorsing what is unrighteous before God?’. No, not at all! Jesus is not only the epitome of love, but He is also Truth. Love and truth are inextricably linked together. If we truly love others as Christ has loved us, we must share the truth with them, but we will do so in the spirit of love. We will also follow Jesus’ example and intercede with prayers for those who have been deceived and taken captive by Satan to do his will, praying that the eyes of their heart will be opened and that they will have the faith to comprehend ‘how wide, long, high and deep, is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

How different our world would be if we who claim to be Jesus’ disciples demonstrated our love for Him:  by obeying His command ‘to love one another as He has loved us’; by living in obedience to 1st Corinthians 13:4-7; and by praying for those with whom we differ! We would be lights shining forth in the darkness of this world, pointing the world to Jesus, the Source of our Light and all Love, who is able and longs to set the world free from its enslavement to pride, fear, prejudice, and hatred, and Who alone is able to empower us to love one another as He has loved us so that the world will come to know Him and receive Him as their Savior and Lord!

Which Voice are You Listening To?

 

    “Mom, mom, there was this super scary guy in our neighborhood that was yelling at us!  He was really creepy!” my youngest son exclaimed.

Concerned, I immediately stopped what I was doing and began to ask more questions in “rapid-fire” mode.  You see, my youngest son was going door-to-door in our neighborhood to sell raffle tickets for his hockey team.  To be safe, I sent my older daughter with him so that he was not alone; I also trusted her judgement in case a precarious situation arose.  

    “What do you mean he yelled at you?  What was he saying?” I asked impatiently.  “Why was he yelling?  Were you misbehaving?” I asked all of these questions before they could even answer the first one!

Like most parents I know, I have spent years, (over a decade actually) teaching my children to make good choices and to obey the Holy Spirit that dwells in them when they sense the Spirit warning them or prompting them to do or say something.  Other things I have taught are basic, DO NOT get in a car with a stranger or go into a stranger's home, DO NOT answer the door if there is not an adult home, DO NOT tell a person on the phone that your parents are not home and the list goes on…but I sat in disbelief as I listened to my teachings, warnings, and even the promptings of the Holy Spirit that were all ignored on this evening.  What could make a person ignore all of this?  (I will answer this below)

    My son recalled, “We went to this house and there was a sign on the doorbell that said to knock because the doorbell was broken, so we knocked and a very loud, mean sounding man demanded that we come into his house…” 

 

    Interrupting her brother, my daughter continues “and I thought that you know because first impressions are very important, and we are trying to sell him something, that we should just go in, so Tyler went in…and then I felt really scared inside my heart like we shouldn’t be doing this”

    Interrupting his sister, my son, with eyes wide open and brows raised to the ceiling reassuringly states the facts… “but mom, we didn’t go all the way inside his house, we were just standing on the rug by the front door mom, so if anything bad happened we could just run back out.” 

    My brows were now raised but for a different reason, “so let me get this straight; you’re scared;  a mean sounding man is yelling and demanding that you come into his house; and then YOU DO IT?! With your hearts pounding and thinking it’s not a good idea you still do it?  Why?  To sell a raffle ticket?”  So then what happened?”  I asked trying to contain my total shock and hopeful that the worst was over.

    “So then he shouted like he was angry, ‘Come in I said’ but I couldn’t see him so I took a couple more steps and peered down the hallway toward his kitchen…” my son gets annoyed as his sister jumps into the storytelling.

    “and I was thinking about grabbing Tyler’s sweatshirt so he didn’t go any further into his house, but I just didn’t know what to do,” pausing to allow her brother to finish.

    “and so as I was saying, I tried to be nice and I said loudly from the hallway‘We are selling raffle tickes…’ and that’s when he finally saw us and in disgust said ‘oh, you’re selling something?  get out of here’ and shooed us out like this with his hands.” Tyler said demonstrating.  “then we turned and just took off out of there, it was really scary, and he looked as mean as he sounded.”  

So what kept my kids from obeying the promptings of the Spirit that “said”  ‘don’t go in’ and what keeps you and I from obeying God?   There are some hints I am going to illuminate from their explanations.

 

  1. When we allow “man’s wisdom” to override God’s.  God knew we would have this tendency and it is sinful, we are to obey God understanding that ‘His ways are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:9) and God also tells us: “don’t lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  When we lean on or depend upon our own understanding we make statements like my daughter did when she said this: “and I thought that you know because first impressions are very important,”
  2. When we fear man vs. fearing God.  My daughter was afraid that her and her brothers’ “first impression” might be tainted if they didn’t do what this man was demanding.
  3. When we become more concerned with what we think we might gain by disobeying God,  in this case my daughter said “and we are trying to sell him something”  which was a result they knew they would benefit from.
  4. When we think we can escape the consequence or situation if things get bad like my son thought when he said“so if anything bad happened we could just run back out.” 

 

Is there anything situation that you are sensing that God is telling you to leave?  Ask yourself these questions:

Am I leaning on my own understanding?

Is fear of “man” impacting your decision in any way?  Fear of what others will think of your decision?

Is there something you’re afraid of losing by obeying God?

Are there any negative consequences you are trying to strategically avoid?

 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9 (AMP)