purity

Those Uncomfortable Talks: Moving Past the Pause By Anne Kerr of TrueNorth Freedom Project

Talking about sexual things is uncomfortable. I know. As a child, I looked at the porn I found, yet couldn’t tell anyone. In college, I fit the description of a “good” Christian yet crossed many boundaries sexually. My closest friends had no idea, and I carried a lot of shame. As my own kids grew, we had a few talks about sex. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t enough.

Most parents aren’t comfortable talking about sexuality. They pause, and in the silence, the sexualized culture rushes in. 

 Sexuality is God-given and one of the most common aspects of our being! Everyone is sexual. This isn’t the same as saying everyone’s ready for sex. At a deep level, even molecularly, we are all sexual beings from birth, male or female. A boy has a penis and experiences erections, a girl has a vagina and can feel arousal, but do we ever talk about that?

We discuss other body issues like skin and eyes and keeping them healthy. We teach kids to bathe. But when it comes to private parts and related issues, we Pause. It can feel uncomfortable. We learned to be reserved.

Many realize the importance of early and regular talks about bodies and sex. We all encountered something sexual early on without having a framework for it. Maybe you saw a more developed peer or a friend showed you porn. Maybe it was more harmful like inappropriate touch or exposure. Perhaps a sexualized scene in a book or a magazine ad felt arousing. In an instant, your light, innocent heart became heavy with shame, and sexuality became taboo.

Now you have little ones, and you want to lead them. But you pause, hearing excuses; “I have no idea what to say.” “I’m no expert on all this.” “I don’t want to make them curious about something they might be too young for.”

Did your first sexual encounter catch you off guard? Your loved ones will have similar experiences.

Did you make mistakes sexually? Most of us did, and your kids will.

Did you have someone to talk with about sexuality? Most of us didn’t, but your loved ones can.

Will it be easy to become a safe place for your loved ones? Maybe not, but it will be worth it, and God is on your side.

We have an enemy working to derail us in our sexuality. We are inundated with overt and subliminal sexual messages. Cartoon characters have shapely bodies, wear revealing clothing, and are targeted to young children. Viewers internalize messaging that may be contrary to your values. Children, teens, and adults may see pornography that is simultaneously exciting and shameful. These images can’t just be wiped away. Don’t think your kids would never look at porn. Remember things you did that your parents still don’t know about? ALL kids can fall prey to these temptations, and adults can too. We are sexual beings living in a sexualized world. You cannot protect your loved ones from every harm or temptation.

These questions can help you move beyond Pause:

How well was wholesome sexuality modeled for me?

Most of us received limited information about sex or learned about it via unhealthy means. You can learn the wholesomeness of it and forge a new way for your family. God redeems our past and equips us. Check out Authentic Intimacy, or God’s Design for Sex Series.

How did my experiences affect my understanding of sex or sexuality?

Are there wounds, past sexual sin, or areas of weakness God may want to redeem? We all have some level of sexual brokenness. Consider a Christian counselor, perhaps someone who specializes in trauma care or sexual addiction.

Are current sin patterns keeping me from living authentically?

God’s best for us is to live fully known and fully loved. His perfect love helps us live authentically. Bringing our sin into the light, confessing to others, repenting, and working to restore broken relationships are markers of an authentic life being conformed to the image of Jesus. Find a more mature Christian to speak with as a starting point, someone who will call you up into your holy identity in Christ. Satan’s power begins to diminish as we bring our sin into the light and God’s healing grace transforms us. Read my husband’s five-part blog series here.

How have I modeled healthy sexuality? Does it go beyond simply what not to do?

In terms of sexuality, we need identification as much as information. Remember confusion from your early experiences? Have you asked your children about feelings associated with things they’ve seen? Even a lingerie ad can be arousing. God wired the brain to respond to sexual things in various ways at every age. A friend’s seven-year-old had seen porn and said this: “It makes your penis hard!” Yes, it does! And porn might give a girl a funny feeling in her vagina. It can feel good, but children aren’t ready physically or emotionally for sex. Parents can help kids separate the good feelings from what is best for them and give them a plan for when they encounter something sexual. Teach about God-honoring sex and that porn is the opposite of that.

Could God have more for me?

Satan works to bring couples together sexually before marriage then keep them apart after. Sex is a sacred gift for marriage, bonding couples at a deep level. Science proves this. Brain chemicals released during sex bind us with the object of the encounter and remind us of pleasurable feelings associated with sex. This happens naturally in God-honoring sex or counterfeit sex. Begin to talk more authentically with your spouse, repent of past mistakes, and ask God to redeem this aspect of your marriage. A Celebration of Sex, shares biblical truth and practical application. Find other resources here.

Sexuality is precious, but also fragile and easily marred in a broken world. We need a guide. Become a trusted source of information for your kids and work to create a shame-free home where you can talk about anything, and prayerfully move beyond the Pause.

Written by Anne Kerr of TrueNorth Freedom Project

 

 

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Signs of a Porn Problem and What to Do If you Suspect One

Mindy Pierce is a licensed professional counselor for GROW Counseling in Atlanta, GA. Below, she shared with us her answers to some of the most common questions she receives around the topic of porn use and figuring out whether it’s something that needs to be addressed with your loved one. We loved her answers – and believe you’ll find them helpful! In addition, we want to add a reminder that God wants us to experience His victory in every area of our lives! We have approached the topic of pornography not to condemn those struggling, but to shine a light on the harm it can cause to those trapped in bondage by it as well as their family members, and to illuminate a path out of the darkness. Rather than living isolated, fragmented lives filled with shame, secrets, and separation from God and our loved ones – the Lord wants us to walk in the joy, freedom, and fulfillment that comes through Jesus Christ alone. As you read Mindy’s article below we encourage you to keep in mind the following promise from 1 John 1:8-9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. Mindy—and we—want you to know that help and hope are available! There is professional help and the chance for freedom from addiction, if you choose to pursue it. And more importantly, there is eternal hope – the forgiveness of all sins, if you will receive it.

                                                                          Jamie and Julie

How to tell if porn is a problem for your loved one – and next steps if you suspect there is a problem.

When speaking with large groups, or even with individuals and couples in our counseling practice, we are often asked questions along the lines of: How do I know if my loved one is looking at porn or not? How do I know if it’s just occasional use – or if they are addicted? At what point does it become a serious problem? And, if it’s a serious problem, then what should I do? We know it can feel scary to even ask the questions! Here’s some practical information that offers clarity and the hope of a way forward.

How do I know if my loved one is looking at porn or not?

First, let’s just acknowledge that it is very difficult to know for a couple reasons. To begin with, there’s a bit of a belief that people who watch porn are a certain “type” of person. AKA: they’re “bad” people; they’re not leaders in ministry; their marriages stink or they don’t love their spouse; or they don’t respect their parents or make good grades in school. This is just not true. Many people who view porn respect their parents or love their spouses, manage other areas of their lives well, and are active – even leaders – in their faith communities. And many are aware that they “shouldn’t” view porn or that it would hurt their partners or parents to find out. In fact, many people are trying to not view porn… they’ve tried to quit or they’re hoping to quit soon. They want to keep the habit private and may plan to fix this struggle privately – to avoid others knowing, to avoid shame and embarrassment or losing a job, and/or to avoid hurting someone they love.

Another reason it’s difficult to recognize porn use, abuse, or addiction is that most of us are almost never more than arm’s-reach away from our devices (with constant access to porn). So, in this digital era, we all have access to it, pretty much all the time. Anyone who is viewing pornography doesn’t overtly have to go out of their way to attain it – they pick up their phone or their iPad and that looks normal and then it’s pretty easy to cover the digital tracks of where they’ve been. It’s also difficult to detect because porn doesn’t smell or cost a bunch of money and it doesn’t necessarily change someone’s appearance markedly.

Now let’s talk about a few, inadvertent signs that may lead to wondering if porn is present. Not guarantees – just things we hear and see consistently that are possibly worth exploring further if you notice them: overprotection of devices; long periods of time in the bathroom (with a device); feeling disconnected emotionally from the person; increase in depression, anxiety, or anger; decrease in empathy and emotional availability; new requests for sexual behaviors that feel more extreme, unsafe, or unloving – sometimes revolving around intensity rather than intimacy; on the other hand, lack of interest in sex or decrease in pursuing sex with you; difficulty becoming aroused or maintaining arousal during times of intimacy; irritability or decreased pleasure in daily life, in general; answers don’t add up – late to events, not following through on responsibilities; unable to account for significant chunks of time or lack of productivity.

If I suspect porn use, what questions do I ask?

First, it’s important to know that there’s often so much shame around porn use that it’s very difficult for people to talk honestly about it. So, they may not answer truthfully the first time you ask. It doesn’t mean they hate you; it may mean they’re scared of losing you. That said, it may take several conversations to help them believe that you love them, want to help, and that you are serious about wanting to know the truth.

'Fight the New Drug' recommends the following questions if you’re trying to ask about porn use:

– Have you ever viewed internet pornography?  If so, when did you start viewing it?

– How often do you view it? For how long?

– Why do you watch porn? 

– When did you notice that you were seeking more images for more arousal?

– How long has it been since you last watched pornography?  

If my partner is viewing porn, what should I do?

First, give yourself permission to have a reaction. It’s normal to feel big feelings and to feel them intensely: hurt, insecurity, betrayal, pain, loss. Rushing too quickly to immediate “forgiveness” or dismissal of the magnitude of the experience without properly grieving sometimes circumvents or undermines the healing process. You need a safe space for processing and unpacking your experience. Choose very carefully who that will be. Secondly, there is hope! People can get better! Relationships can be restored. Third, have hope – but also have boundaries. You will need to set clear boundaries around what is okay and what is not okay in the relationship. Therapists can help you with this. And while we’re talking about that – Fourth, most likely, you both need your own therapist. If you have questions about where to find a qualified therapist in your area, you can reach out to our team at GROW and we’ll try to help connect you with someone or find some referrals in your area. Fifth, there is a story underneath your partner’s porn use. We encourage you to cultivate curiosity about what is behind these behaviors. This will take time, careful conversations, and the support of a great therapeutic team. There is much to understand about what has been driving your partner’s porn use.

signs of a porn problem

If you’re interested in connecting with GROW Counseling, what can you do?

If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can schedule an appointment. Whether you are struggling to address your own porn usage, or would like support as you walk with a partner or child who struggles with porn use, you can call the GROW office to schedule an appointment (GROWCounseling.com). If you’re not local, we will try to help you find community resources. If you are tired of feeling alone in the difficulty you face, but we’re too far, we would still be happy to help. The team at GROW Counseling intentionally builds professional partnerships locally and nationally. We enjoy collaborating to help you find community resources that will work for you, at whatever your stage of this journey.

 What does “good” counseling look like?

Much like a builder needs a blueprint in order to build a house, you need a tailored therapeutic plan for each person. We recommend a strengths-based, hope-filled, team approach that is very collaborative. With couples, we like to see each person participating in their own individual therapy, as well as couple’s therapy. We sometimes recommend group therapy or a recovery group, and we encourage nutrition, exercise, and building healthy community. Many people fear that a counselor will “require” them to take medication. We recognize that some people benefit from medication, so your counselor may make a referral for that if needed. But a “good” therapist would also work creatively and collaboratively with clients and would respect their values.

 If you’re looking for some questions your loved one can ask him-(or herself), here you go:

 Is it really a problem for me to look at porn?

Here are some questions we often ask clients who are evaluating whether porn is neutral or problematic in their lives.

1.    Who do you desire to be? What kind of person?

2.    What are your goals – your expectations for yourself and your life?

3.    What version of you are you when you’re looking at porn regularly?

4.    After viewing porn, how do you view yourself, your partner, others you interact with?

5.    The presence of secrets diminishes our ability to experience connection with others. How does porn use require you to hide? How is it impacting your ability to accomplish your goals, feel connected, feel known?

6.    Do you worry about being caught?

7.    Are you setting yourself up for consequences that have a potentially devastating impact?

 How do I know if I am addicted?
The obvious answer is that a therapist specializing in sexual addiction is needed to help with the assessment and recovery process (Visit GROWCounseling.com for help with this process). That said, we’ve included below a list of questions to ask yourself about pornography (adapted from Breaking Chains). These are the type of questions that would be asked from a medical or psychological professional to assess pornography addiction. Answering yes to 2 or more of these questions indicates risk for pornography abuse. Answering yes to 4 or more indicates risk of pornography addiction.

1.    Do you at times feel powerless to resist the urge to view pornography?

2.    Do you frequently spend more time or money on pornography than you initially intended?

3.    Have you tried without success to limit or stop viewing pornography?

4.    Do you spend a significant portion of your time viewing pornography, thinking about pornography or engaging in activities that will enable you to access pornography?

5.    Do you neglect family, social or work/school obligations to view pornography?

6.    Do you continue to use pornography despite the potential for negative consequences?

7.    Have you had a reduction in satisfaction from pornography, or the need to increase the riskiness or frequency of pornography use over time?

8.    Have you passed up social opportunities, or considered passing up social opportunities, so that you have more time to use or view pornography?

9.    Do you become anxious, stressed or irritable if you are unable to access pornography?

10.   Do you keep all or part of your pornography use secret from loved ones?

11.    Do you feel as though you live a double or secret life because of your pornography use?

12.   Have you lost track of large chunks of time because you've been absorbed in pornography use?

 Discovering your partner’s or child’s porn use can flip your world upside down. We want you to know that you are not alone, and there is hope!

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

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.

Written by Anne Kerr, Founder of TrueNorth Freedom Project

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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

 

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"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?” 

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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.

Written by Toni Turner

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.

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