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Posted by on Jul 13, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Love That Changes Lives

They were going to kill me.

Many years ago, a group of men caught me doing something terrible. As they dragged me away, sheer terror exploded through my body like lightning, because I knew they were going to kill me. More than that, I knew how men like these operated: they were going beat me and break bone after bone until I died. I begged for mercy, but there was just one problem: I was guilty.

Eventually, they led me to a man who said to him, “According to our rules, we have to kill this man. Do you agree?” My death was now part of some sick game. This new man didn’t say yes or no, but instead responded: “Let the one who has never sinned be the first to hit him.”

For a moment, no one moved. I braced myself for the strike — but somehow, it never came. In utter disbelief, I watched as the men stormed off one by one!

“Where’d they go? Does no one want to kill you?” this mysterious man then asked me. “No one, sir,” was all I could muster out of my mouth. And with a mercy that I’ll never forget, he said, “Neither do I. Go, and from now on sin no more.”

When you’ve experienced mercy like this, it changes your life.

Now I have to pause and come clean with you — the story above is someone else’s. You may be surprised to hear that this is a description (albeit dramatized) of how Jesus had mercy on a woman some 2,000 years ago. Check out the story for yourself at the beginning of John 8. Even so, I shared the story above as if it were my own because Jesus has shown me life-changing mercy, although in a very different circumstance.

From my youth, I was addicted to pornography and masturbation, and it was severe enough that I, too, felt like it was going to be the end of me. I had tried to stop more times than I could count, but I never got anywhere. Then one day, when I was 19, more than ten years ago now, the Lord unexpectedly set me on a path to freedom, marking the beginning of the mercy that has left me forever changed.

From my earliest days of freedom, my friends started thinking I was weird. “I don’t believe it,” said some. “You must have more willpower than any other guy in the world,” said others. My responses, however, would convey the following:

No, I’m just a guy like everyone else, but the Lord has been changing every part of me, even concerning porn and masturbation. And he can change you too.

It’s been over ten years, and I’ve gotten bolder in discussing what the Lord has done in me, even on these generally taboo subjects. I promise you, talking about pornography and masturbation in a public manner was never on my bucket list. But when Jesus has been this merciful to you, you can’t help but tell other people about him. I’m doing it right now.

Changed people change people.

In my case, I’m not sharing this post to try to get back at the pornography industry or anything, and I’m not verbalizing these thoughts as some self-healing process. No, it’s for all the people in the world who need some help, just as I did. It’s for the little girls and boys around the world who need to be protected, and it is my prayer that you and I would protect them in ways that we never were. It’s to say that there’s a better way. In God’s great mercy, I’ve been given a new life because of Jesus, and I want you to experience it.

And so it is with the rest here at XXXchurch. Just as “hurt people hurt people,” so too “changed people change people.” After all, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Maybe you needed a reminder of God’s mercy today, in which case I’m thrilled you came. If you think one of your friends or family members needs some reminding, join in the adventure by sharing this message with them. After all, that’s part of what XXXchurch is all about. We’re in this together.

If you’re interested in hearing the fuller version of my story, please check out my book Called Higher. I assure you that if God can be merciful with me, then he can be merciful with you as well.

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Posted by on Jul 6, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

How To Share Your Story to Help Others Through Theirs

Debilitating guilt. Difficult habits. Dehumanized marriage. You recognize the warning signs of sexual addiction because you have firsthand experience. While your story might not be something you’ve shared with everyone, you’ll notice that some people will need to hear it. You’ll find yourself wanting to guide them to the exit.

Am I worthy to share my story to help others?

One of the most significant rewards for overcoming addiction is the ability to show others the path to freedom. However, just as victory itself is a process, the ability to explain how you got there doesn’t happen overnight. So many insecurities can keep you silent. Will I be judged? Will I say something wrong? Will I hurt them instead of help? Is it hypocritical to protest sin when I have fallen to the temptation? Am I the right person to talk about this? Am I worthy?

Well, there’s good news: you are. You’re an expert on the subject because your experience has given you the unique ability to empathize. While others can only pity, or even criticize, you know what it’s like in the trenches, and that makes you a prime candidate to speak.

II Corinthians 1:3-7 explains that “we may be able to comfort those in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted,” and our suffering enables us to help others endure suffering (NKJV).

Here are four practical tips for sharing your story so that someone else might be comforted by it.

Analyze Your Old Mentors

When you become a mentor—whether as a long-term accountability partner or as a momentary encourager—consider people who’ve mentored you, were they so strict that you felt condemned? Were they too lax? In what ways was their compassion effective in your recovery? Consider the balance of sternness and gentleness shown to you or what you wish was shown to you. By remembering where you once were, you’ll better understand where your listeners are.

Admit Your Faults

It’s alright to talk about how your past influenced your decisions. Sharing what traumas prompted self-medicating can give insight to your listeners. However, make sure you don’t blame your parents, abusers, circumstances, or desires. Don’t downplay the seriousness of addiction, either. Vulnerability might incline you to say your shortcomings were “irresistible,” “inevitable,” or even “permissible,” but that can endorse not taking responsibility.
Be intentional about owning up to your mistakes. If you make excuses to water down your addictions, then you teach listeners also to make excuses. The last thing you want is for someone to interpret your confession as a green light to sin.

Share Your “Why”

In narrative stories, heroes have goals, and the stakes are high. Describe why pornography was worth quitting. Did you crave clean thoughts or a relationship with meaningful intimacy? Describe what was on the line. Did pornography put your marriage at risk, or distract you from your life dreams? What about your rock-bottom moments? Maybe you realized pornography left you empty. Pleasure is a cheap knockoff of genuine peace. How would things be different now if you’d continued indulging in sexual addiction? As you recount your narrative, consider asking your listeners to do the same. Discussing the benefits of quitting pornography might get your listeners self-analyzing.

Leave Your Story Unfinished

Addictions don’t always end with a brilliant moment of epiphany, where all desires and traumas instantly vanish. While testimonies like that do exist, most people’s victories are gradual. There’s no distinct line between “addicted” and “free,” but rather a transition from darker shades into lighter ones. Our story is ever a work in progress. We’ll be imperfect as long we’re humans here on earth—so we shouldn’t believe we must wait until we’re perfect before we can impact others.

Rather than trying to define the moment when you became “free,” define the moment when you decided you wanted to be free. Recount your journey since then; how have you fallen despite your decision, and how did you get back up? Now that you’re out of your struggles, what are you doing today to avoid going back? It’s not uncommon for former addicts to continue attending therapy programs, meeting with counselors, or engaging organizations like XXXchurch, even after years of sobriety. This isn’t a sign of weakness or bondage; it’s proof that freedom is too good ever to risk losing again.

Even if you haven’t fully overcome your addiction, you don’t have to wait until you have all the answers before you help others. Maybe you fall short in your struggle, but your battle proves your opposition to temptation. Striving for your purity and promoting it to others speaks volumes of your heart, even if your body is still catching up. Just as you were honest to admit your missteps in the first place, be humble enough to share what steps you’re taking today.

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Posted by on Jun 29, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Why You Need To Forgive To Get Free

Did you know that unforgiveness could be stopping you from overcoming pornography?

I’ve worked with a lot of men over the years to help them get free of porn. I’ve worked with young and old, rich and poor, students, doctors, and everything in between. And I’m always amazed at how no one has taught them how to forgive properly.

In Matthew 6:14-16, Jesus said: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

I always assumed the forgiveness that Chris afforded us was unconditional. A done deal. This scripture suggests otherwise. There is one stipulation to experience God’s forgiveness: You and I must forgive those who offend us.

While most men don’t realize it when they first start my program, by the time we’re about halfway through, it suddenly becomes clear that there is significant unforgiveness at play in their struggle with pornography.

How could that be?

Unforgiveness callouses the heart.

A calloused heart is like a plant covered in plastic wrap. No matter how much you water it, eventually, it will die. You can live in a loving environment and serve at church, but God’s love (and the love of those around you) will never touch the areas where your heart is calloused.

And that leads to unmet needs. The needs do not go away when the heart is calloused. They just can’t be dealt with because of the unforgiveness. It might seem insignificant, but in reality, unmet needs are the primary driving force of all pornography-related issues. Porn is not tempting when your needs are fully met.

So you and I must ruthlessly guard against unforgiveness if we want to obtain and maintain freedom. Period.

Joyce Meyer famously said that unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and expecting the other person to drop dead. We are the ones who suffer when we harbor bitterness and resentment, even when there’s good reason to do so.

Before I explain how to forgive correctly (because most methods taught today are incomplete), let me clarify that forgiving someone is a self-serving (not selfish) act. It does not justify what the other person has done. It’s not letting them off the hook or saying what they did is okay.

Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook. It is a conscious decision to move forward with your life and not make what happened in the past to hold you back anymore.

If you need to forgive someone today, here are four steps to ensure you do it properly:

1. Identify

You have to identify the people involved. It seems obvious, but you must name them. There are three basic categories of people you may need to forgive in any given situation: Others, Yourself, and God. 

Wait a minute… God?

Yes. Sometimes we need to forgive God. Remember that unforgiveness is not based on whether someone behaved rightly or wrongly. Unforgiveness is when we refuse to release someone for the pain they’ve caused us. 

God is perfect; He makes no mistakes. But sometimes His actions (or lack thereof) cause us offense. And when this is the case, we need to forgive Him, not for His sake, but ours. 

Forgiveness always starts by identifying the people involved. 

Once you’ve done that, move to step 2. 

2. Specify

We’re often taught as kids that when someone hurts you, you have to say the words “I forgive you.” I know some parents who make their child look their sibling or friend in the eye and say, “I forgive you.” And then they can go and play again. 

This kind of forgiveness lacks specificity, and that’s a problem. We want to be clear and equally specific when we are forgiving. Vague forgiveness is like throwing money at a credit card bill hoping that it covers everything, but not knowing the amount owed.

We want to clearly articulate the pain and offense caused so that we can completely release it without any loose ends. 

It’s one thing to acknowledge that you need to forgive your Dad for not being there when you were young. That’s a good start. But the more specific you can get, the better. 

Two specific examples that will make the forgiveness process more meaningful are forgiving your Dad for not loving you unconditionally or being emotionally present. 

3. Release

Most people start at this step as it is the actual act of forgiveness, but trust me; this aspect goes a lot smoother when you do Step 1 & 2 first.

There are two keys to releasing properly:

  1. Saying the words “I forgive you <Name from Step 1> for <Acts from Step 2>
  2. Saying something to the effect of “I release you now, you owe me nothing.”

You must say out loud, “You owe me nothing.” That is the essence of forgiveness. It is clearing the debts, balancing the books, and cleaning the slate—an absolute must.

Usually, at this step, I pause and let it sink in. I don’t want to just say the words; I want to ensure the work goes deep into my heart. 

4. Restore

The purpose of forgiveness is restoration. At the very least, it is the restoration of the forgiver. And at the most, it could be the restoration of a relationship. The latter is harder to determine, but when I forgive someone, I always ensure that, in the end, I declare scripture-based words over them.

“You are caring, loving, and compassionate. I pray that you will prosper body, soul, and spirit”… that sort of thing. You can modify this as you please, but I find it useful to wrap everything up.

If you string all four steps together, you get an excellent forgiveness script that looks like this:

I forgive you <NAME> for <CAUSE OF OFFENSE>

I release you, and you owe me absolutely nothing.

You are worthy of love, and I pray that you prosper: body, soul, and spirit.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself and the loved ones. I’ve seen grown men break down as they go through this little three-line prayer and forgive people for wounds that they’ve been carrying for years. When you apply this and put your heart into it, you will be amazed at what happens. 

If you’re struggling with porn, there is an excellent chance that unforgiveness is playing a role. To get entirely free, find someone who can help you work through these areas of your life with a proven system. It takes a bit of work, but it’s worth every single step.

Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.

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Posted by on Jun 22, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Tangible Steps to Freedom

“Motivation is what gets you to start, and habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun

These words summarize the path I’ve taken to healing from my addictions: alcohol, promiscuity, and living a generally hedonistic lifestyle. I remember what first led me to my addictions–pain, boredom, sometimes just an empty feeling that brings you to a place of wanting to seek out any type of stimulation. Wanting a distraction from whatever you’re feeling. The reality is after you’ve attained that high, the drop to reality often leaves you feeling worse than before.

Learning to draw strength from God is what eventually led me to overcome my addictions. In my strength, I couldn’t find lasting freedom from any of the troubles that tormented me. Co-dependent relationships always crashed and burned. Counseling and Psychiatric medication did little to provide real healing. I remembered reading what the Bible says about healing, peace, forgiveness, and I decided to take that first step of faith by believing God would do what His word says He will do. These are some of the steps I took to become free from the power of sin.

1. Dwell on good things.

Think about what you’re thinking about. Our thoughts dictate the course our lives go, so it’s crucial to gain mastery of our minds. With prayer and earnest effort, we can start to think and live differently. In Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer says: “One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind.”

2. Refuse to stay in a place of defeat.

Be determined to get healed. When you hear the testimonies of other overcomers, determine in your heart that this will be your testimony. My kryptonite was alcohol, and I struggled with really giving it up for a few years after I was saved. I think we can truly love to some extent, something that’s not good for us. We can associate a lousy habit with feelings of joy, and that clouds our judgment. I was saved at a church that was made up of addicts, founded by an ex-addict. For a lot of us, Jesus was the only way we could find freedom from what felt like a life-sentence of addiction. Just know that overcoming your addiction is possible, and God will encourage you every step of the way.

3. Worship your way out.

At the beginning of my walk with God, I absorbed as much of the Bible as possible; I downloaded Bible apps, signed up for daily devotional emails, and found pastors I admired to follow on social media. The reminders throughout the day helped sustain me when I was still vulnerable and not yet accustomed to living differently. I listened to Christian music, though initially, it wasn’t the type of music I enjoyed. But experiencing the presence of God that comes through listening to Praise/Worship music is life-changing, and you’ll be hard-pressed to get that experience from any other genre. In the same way, secular music, TV shows, and movies can draw you away from God. I had to let go of a lot of my old viewing habits after scenes with substance abuse, and sex left me craving things I had already been delivered from. Media can be a strong influence, and we should consider that when attempting to walk purely.

4. Don’t let anyone condemn or shame you.

If God does not condemn you, do not freely take that weight upon yourself. Try to be kind to yourself too. Practicing self-love might be foreign to you like it was for me, but with time and practice, it becomes your new normal. Tupac Shakur said it correctly, “Only God can judge me.”

Sin leads to ruin; I waited until hitting a rock-bottom low before finally trying to live God’s way. For me, rock-bottom was in a jail cell facing Felony charges; I pray that you would seek Him before coming to a place of needing a wake-up call. God delights in giving mercy, and there is great joy in heaven when a sinner repents. Seek Him in the moments you feel weak. Just the way mistakes can lead to further spiraling down, moments of progress and overcoming can give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
Isaiah 55:7

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Posted by on Jun 1, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Help! My Spouse Just Told Me They Watch Porn.

You can see in your spouse’s eyes that something is wrong. His eyes shift nervously to different things in the room but never meet yours. She opens her mouth to speak, but no words come out. Whether you are the wife or the husband waiting for your spouse to tell you what’s worrying them, you become concerned. And then they hit you sideways with a mumbled statement,
“I have something to tell you…I watch porn.”
They could have run you through with a knife—emotions you can’t verbalize pulse through your head – disbelief, betrayal, hurt, anger.
Let’s freeze the moment right here. You are faced with a choice. The choice is how you respond to the information that you’ve just heard. The decision you make could either help your marriage or harm it.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

And, if I’m guessing right, there are a lot! At this point, I would encourage you not to speak them out loud to your spouse. Believe me, if you open the floodgates of your emotions, they will pour out in a torrent. Determine to sit down at a later stage without your spouse present, journaling them, praying, and processing them.

2. Do not get visibly angry or shame your spouse

It took your spouse real guts to bring up this topic because they’re ashamed. They knew it would upset you. But, they chose to tell you. It is a cry for help! It is an admittance of offense. It would have been much easier to keep this in the dark. Although knowing you would not approve, they came to you! If you respond in anger or disgust, they will slink back into porn on the sly and retreat from you.

3. Ask how you can help

If you calmly respond with an offer to help, it will be a huge burden lifted from your spouse knowing that they are not in this alone. It will be much easier for them to open up when they transgress if your spouse knows they won’t get a biting remark each time they tell you. They are more likely to be open and honest with you about lots of things in the future if they know you have their back! Tell your spouse that you are on their side and stand beside them in war, not against them.

4. Ask what methods they plan to put in place

There are several accountabilities and filtering software available. Accountability software sends a list of websites visited to your chosen accountability partner’s email address. Filtering software sieves through websites and blocks access to sketchy ones. It’s a good idea to have both. Encourage them to find someone who will hold them accountable, check up on them regularly and ask the hard questions – preferably not you. (This does not mean, however, that they should hide things from you.) Encourage them to physically remove themselves from the device if they are tempted and do something else. Get them to identify trigger points and times of the day they are prone to give in.

5. Provide for your spouse’s sexual needs

This is important. If you are “too busy” or “too tired” to make sex a regular part of your week, they may look elsewhere to fulfill that need. Make sure you are giving them everything they need from your side. If you leave it until late at night or delay it because you “don’t feel like it today,” it won’t happen! If you have to schedule it into your week. Choose times each week where you both prioritize it and push everything else off the agenda.

6. Find someone (only one person) you can talk to

You might get to the end of this post and say, “Well, what about me?!? I feel so hurt, so betrayed and so angry!” I don’t blame you! I’ve been there. It hurts! It’s incredibly hard not to blurt out everything you’re feeling! And your spouse does need to know that you are hurting and upset. But it is important not to tell them until you have had time to process, pray, and vent. Get all the hard-core feelings out and then speak to them when you are in control! Find someone you trust who will not tell others or fuel your anger and hurt but rather be a kind and listening ear.

This is not an easy thing to handle. Not for you or your spouse. But finding a strength that you can only get from God and constructively dealing with this can save your marriage if you fight alongside each other. It will be a long, hard road with hurdles and mistakes along the way. But it can be overcome if you both give it your all!

Resources found at https://x3watch.com/ and https://www.break-free.co.za/resources

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