Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Go It Alone

Please welcome guest author Anonymous! He is a young Christian man who struggles with same-sex attraction, and desires to share his story to encourage, empower, and equip others in the fight. Be challenged, and share with those who need to hear it!
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At the end of the spring semester of 2011 I decided to leave school and head out west.  I had gotten tired of academic culture and was looking for something more personally fulfilling as well as an adventure. I always considered myself adaptable to any situation and could handle any situation on my own, so I wasn’t afraid.  After working at a camp during the summer I fell in love with the great state of Colorado and decided to move up to Denver, to start my new life.  On one hand it was a sense of adventure, stepping out into a brave new world, and on the other I was very much the prodigal son, running from his Father.  

“Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.” - Bane.

See, I was on a search for defining what I believed.  I knew Christ, but over the last year or so I had fallen into temptation big time when it came to sexual sin. I was testing my faith on purpose, and with no one close by to keep me truly accountable I was easy prey for the enemy.  At first it started with “small things” like drinking too much with my housemate, watching porn, and just entertaining thoughts longer than I should.  Then, everything took a turn for the worse farther than I could have ever imagined.  

“All men get what they want, they do not always like it.” - C.S. Lewis

I found out about these places called bath houses, which are places where gay men go to meet other men for sex.  How I ran across these I don’t remember.  All I know is I became addicted to going to them and went there more times than I care or can remember.  In order to protect myself I even came up with an “alter ego” when I went there.  I was a man of masks and sometimes I got confused who I was and what was a mask...

After a while the cost of going to these places added up on top of bills and other everyday costs, plus my hours at work getting cut put me in quite the financial pickle.  In fact, I really was starting to ration out pasta in order for me to pay for my gas to get to work.  I also started to notice myself getting physically sick more often, not to mention starting to feel very paranoid almost every other night.  My sin was taking a toll on me in almost every way.  Like the prodigal son it was time to somehow make it home and that is what I did. My illusion of being adaptable and being fine on my own had blown away by reality.  I had run out of options, I had nothing left, the only logical thing to do was go home.

“The father saw him from far away and had compassion for his son, ran and embraced him.” - Luke 15:20

If you have ever driven across country you know there is nothing to look at, so focusing on talking to God is an easy thing.  Our conversation involved reason, a lot of yelling, and many tears.  Once I got home though, it was nothing but blessings.  He opened His arms through the support of friends and mentors who discipled/disciple me and keep me accountable.  Having brothers there to just help you stay in the Word, pray for you, text you randomly to see what you are doing at the moment, and sometimes just listen to you vent are such a blessing.  Then, having wise men of God invest in your life is just as much of a blessing.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get home and was suddenly perfect.  It is still a huge struggle, a relentless fight, but with the help of brothers in Christ it is a totally different fight.  

I don’t write this to brag or say my sin is worse than yours, because there is no such thing as “worse” sin.  What I do want to say is BE AWARE!  There is an Oh Hellos lyric that goes, “There is no courage in flirting with fear”. We can’t do this ourselves, don’t fool yourself that you can.  I learned many things from my journey, but probably three of the main things are:
  1. Be Aware - 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  This isn’t a game and it definitely isn’t easy.  Satan is looking to destroy us, render us completely useless to the cause of spreading the Word. Stay strong, stand firm!  A wise man of God told me one time in a story, “There are no small dragons, they are all mighty.” Develop a wartime mentality
  2. Be Courageous - Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” It is a tough battle, but “the LORD YOUR GOD is with you wherever you go”. Just think about that statement and be in awe. God has our back in everything we do, we are never alone.
  3. Brothers in Arms - 1 Samuel 14:6-7 “Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, 'Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.  It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.' And his armor-bearer said to him, 'Do all that is in your heart.  Do as you wish.  Behold, I am with you heart and soul.'” Remember, you have allies in your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t go solo in this fight, it is a good way to fall quickly. Keep each other in prayer and accountable. It’s much harder to tear down a team than a solo act.
Don't go it alone,
Anonymous

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jesus Is Better

"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere..." - Psalm 84:10

Have you ever stood in line for a good deal on Black Friday? What about hours of driving to see your favorite band? Or ditched your friends to hang out with that special person of interest? ;) We always make sacrifices for the things we believe are better. But how does this apply with Jesus and our fight against sin?

The Sons of Korah were the authors of Psalm 84, and this psalm presents a shocking claim that gives us power to fight our sin in a new way. They boldly proclaim in verse 10, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Do you see that key word? BETTER. And the comparison is meant to be staggering. Just ONE day with God is BETTER than a THOUSAND days anywhere else. 

Let's look at a few other parts of Psalm 84 to get some context. Look at the passionate desire that the song writers have for the Lord in verse 12, "My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God." Woah! That's some serious desire! Look also at verse 4, "Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!" Another translation of that word blessed is "happy", it's the same idea that Jesus uses in Matthew 5, commonly known as the Beatitudes. So they're saying, "HAPPY are those who hang out at your place Lord!" 

Why are these folks SO happy in God? How can WE be this happy in God? Let's consider some real-life comparisons of how Jesus really is better:
  • Jesus is better... than a spouse, in any comparison possible: love, commitment, beauty, soul-satisfaction, power, gentleness, provision, protection, intimacy. Marriage itself is just a parable of the deeper intimacy and commitment of Christ to His bride (Ephesians 5:32).
  • Jesus is better... than the pleasures of sex. An orgasm lasts for a few seconds, but in the Lord's presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures FOREVER (Psalm 16:11)
  • Jesus is better... than the comfort of food. Chocolate cake cannot minister grace to our souls (Hebrews 13:9), a bag of Cheetos cannot comfort our loneliness, and a beer cannot relieve the worry in our hearts. And yet Jesus is FULL of grace (John 1:14), draws near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18), and guards your heart with peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • Jesus is better... than the relief of cutting. Jesus brings a better comfort to your soul (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and HE has already bled FOR you, to purchase justification before God (Romans 5:9) and redemption (Ephesians 1:7) as a new creation in Christ. 
  • Jesus is better... than the approval of performance. Honestly your performance SUCKS (Isaiah 64:6), and Jesus' performance is PERFECT (Romans 10:4), so in Christ you can REST (Romans 4:5). 
Whatever your favorite sin is offering, Jesus offers BETTER. Give up the tin, to get the gold! Give up the toilet water, to enjoy the fine wine! The last verses of Psalm 84 are a key part to understanding how Jesus can be better than all the other things that vie for our affections; verses 11-12 say, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!" When we put Jesus in the place of highest affection, and trust Him to provide for us in the way that He lovingly and wisely decides, then we are BLESSED, and He doesn't withhold ANY GOOD THING from us!  Jesus is NOT a kill-joy, who calls us to just give up on all our dreams and pleasures. Rather, He would have us ENJOY these things in their proper place. See, if you try to go after these pleasures WITHOUT Jesus you won't get them. But if you go after Jesus as your treasure? He graciously gives us all the other things we need, and with them He gives the enjoyment of not being owned by them or devastated when they don't satisfy you. 

In closing, here are three practical applications to live out "Jesus Is Better":
  1. See the Hook Behind the Bait: Realize that you are ALWAYS sacrificing for SOME deal that you believe will make you happy. The question is, will that deal satisfy? Is it a good deal? We can never NOT sacrifice for a deal, we always are believing something and giving ourselves to it. The problem is that any deal other than Jesus is going to fail us, and end up enslaving us. That's the hook behind the bait, something that Thomas Brooks knew well. Consider what it would actually be like to have a thousand days of your particular favorite sin, or even a good thing that you enjoy... A thousand days? Do you really want that? One of Satan's happiest tricks is to fill a box with guilt, shame, slavery, and despair... and wrap it up in pleasure and promises of freedom. See the hook behind the bait. 
  2. Remember the Happy Gospel: The gospel is one of the greatest displays of how Jesus is better, and will MAKE you happy as you remember it and spend time meditating on it. David said in Psalm 32:1, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." Blessed! Happy! The gospel is the GOOD NEWS about forgiveness in Jesus for all the ways that we have failed to love Him better than other things. And in the Gospel, we are given a NEW heart (Ezekiel 36:26)  that has new affections for Christ! 
  3. Fight for a Superior Joy in Jesus: Don't fight your pleasure with self-discipline and harsh asceticism! Colossians 2:23 says that that doesn't work against fleshly lusts. You have to fight pleasure with pleasure. In this case, fight for a GREATER and superior pleasure in Jesus. Fight! Work hard! When you have a new love interest, you naturally cultivate your affection by meditating on their character, looking at pictures of them, spending large chunks of time with them. Do the same with Christ! DATE Him! Pursue Him! Look at "pictures" of Him in the Word, spend large chunks of time with Him in prayer! This will NOT come naturally and passively. You must be active to fight for this joy in Jesus. And it will be worth it. 
Fighting to believe that Jesus is better,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Here's an iPhone 4 wallpaper of Jesus is Better, and iPhone 5-size too!