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This is an interview I did at Word of Life Island last week. Perhaps it might encourage you to devote your life to meeting with God daily and meditating on His Word.

0:03 secs – 1: 59  (“When did you first fall in love with God’s Word?”)

2:00 –  3:49  (“Do you believe the Bible is relevant for today and not just a history book?”)

3:50 – 6:50 (“How do you personally study God’s Word?”)

6: 52 – 8:42  (“On fun side, what character in the Bible is your personal favorite?”)

8:45 – 12:38 (“What advice would you give on being more consistent in God’s word; that it would be more than routine and a ‘check-off’?”)

Rethinking Pain

August 4, 2014

pain1There’s the story of a Rabbi who told his students that if they studied the Torah it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The Rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your hearts, and then when your hearts break, the holy words fall inside.” *

This I know: Truth doesn’t crack my heart. Pain does. Truth doesn’t bring wisdom. Pain that awakens me to Truth, does. I once believed a great sermon, a Christian best-seller, and a study on “Humility” would make me more humble, more forgiving, and more loving. It was never enough. It has taken pain to break my heart so God’s Truth would fall inside.

Celebrity actor Rob Lowe wrote, “You stop growing emotionally the very moment you become famous.” ** How so? Many celebrities spend millions to shield themselves from pain. They surround themselves with “yes” people. Yet, when the emptiness of celebrity sets in, or when they reach the point of near self-destruction, they take off to the Near East to sit at the feet of a Guru. They hope for a fast-track to wisdom, meaning, “truth,” or maturity.  But it never works. At least not for long….

This I’ve learned: Wisdom is not about avoiding or numbing pain. Wisdom is learning from it, growing in it, becoming stronger for it, and more dependent on Jesus because of it. Wisdom is using pain to build more wisdom into my life and make Jesus more glorious through my life. In many ways it still takes pain not only to break my heart so that the Truth would fall inside, but more so that Jesus would forever reign there. 

 

* As shared by Anne Lamott in her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

** Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe

 

Of Porn & Marriage

July 22, 2014

Bride and groom on beachrear viewA previous post, “An open letter to girlfriends whose boyfriends ‘struggle’ with porn” got quite the responses publicly and privately (Read HERE. The comments are well worth your time as well). The majority of responses I received privately were from wives requesting I speak toward pornography in marriage.

Admittedly, porn is not just an issue for men. The percentage of women who battle with porn is significant and increasing. But that’s a post for another day. Context for now is girlfriends and wives seeking counsel, relief, and hope about their boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands.

I wrote an article titled, “Of Porn & Marriage” for a little magazine back in the Spring of 2008. I’ve since forgotten the name of the magazine. But I googled for the article to see if it might pop up. Boom! Interestingly, a website picked it up and posted it in 2012. My bio information on the site is outdated, but the content still resonates, I think.

The only part of the article I would state differently six years later is the “Pray for Power” section. My tune has definitely changed in thinking that prayer for victory over sexual sin should be one’s focus, especially a daily focus. That’s not healthy. One’s focus should be on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-4), our freedom from sin’s slavery (Romans 6), and on”things above not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-3). Can I blame it on being six years younger and dumber?

Finally, as I stated above, the article is directed toward married men with encouragement to their wives. But whether the battle with porn is the man’s or woman’s—single or married—I trust you can adjust and apply the content as needed.

Read “Of Porn & Marriage” HERE.

After reading the article, what else would you add?

(Please return here upon reading and leave your comments below. If you received this post in your email inbox, please go HERE and leave comments below the post on my site. Thanks!

refinersfire1aThere was a little figurine on a pedestal in a shop. A spotlight shined upon it. It was a glorious figurine. It was the centerpiece of the shop. People would come by all day and marvel at its beauty.

One night a lonely young boy going through great hardship was the last to leave the shop. He paused on the way out to wonder at the figurine. The boy began to cry. The figurine came to life! It said, “What’s wrong my young friend?” The boy replied: “I’d give anything to be like you. I’m a mess-up. I feel broken. I can’t take it anymore. I wish I could be just like you.”

The figurine shook his head and said, “You don’t understand. If up to me, I would be like everything else in this shop. Or, I’d still be a lump of metal in a pile of rubble. You see, my maker found me. He chose me from all the other metal and rubble. He said, “Hello, little one. I love you. You’re mine.”

I was so thrilled! Until… he put me in a furnace!   It hurt so badly! I cried out, “What are you doing? I thought you loved me! This hurts! Stop it!” He whispered, “Shhhhh, little one. Trust Me. I’m not done with you yet.”

Then He started hammering on me this way and that! I said, “I can’t take it! Please stop. How could you love me?! This hurts!” He said, “Trust Me. I’m not done with you yet.”

Then, he put me in the furnace, again! I could see through the flames and the window on the furnace door all the other rubble and metals. They did not have a care in the world. And here I am… IN THE FIRE? I shouted through the flames, “How could you? I thought you were going to take care of me? What kind of maker are you? You are cruel! This is unbearable.” He spoke to me again: “I know you doubt me right now, little one. You doubt my heart for you. Trust me. I’m not done with you yet.”

Out of the fire, and into more hammering, more grinding, more scouring, more bending. I nearly hated him for it. And as I looked at him speechless now, too far gone for words, He smiled at me, but it was a pained smile; a smile with tears running down his face. He whispered: “I know it hurts. But I promise you it is going to be worth it. I’m not done with you yet.”

And then one day… it was over. It was dark. Suddenly, the lights blazed on. And all the lights were fixed on… me.  My maker gazed at me in awe. Then he laughed out. Tears filled his eyes, but this time tears of joy. Then he danced. He clapped. He clapped as he danced. He stood still again and just marveled at me. It was then I saw my reflection in His eyes. I could not believe it. That was… me? Now, I understood.

He saw his reflection in my eyes. He laughed out. He said, “Little one, did I not promise you it was going to be worth it?” And he placed me on this pedestal in the center of his shop for all to see.

So don’t wonder at me. My maker is the wonder. He is the marvel. My maker loved me so much that he did whatever it took to bring me to this place of glory and joy.

My young friend, your Maker is doing the same with you. What you are going through is going to be worth it. So trust Him…

He’s not done with you yet.

 

 

*  I heard a version of this parable back in the 90’s in a college chapel by a speaker whose name I have since forgotten. His version involved a “tea cup.”  I took the parable and reworked it to share in my sermon “Fire” in the “Going through the motions series” at Grace Community Church. You can listen to the sermon, HERE

** Malachi 3:3; Romans 8:28-29

Personal Letter

I received a long email from a precious twenty-something young woman pouring her broken heart out about her Christian boyfriend’s struggle with pornography. I responded to her email at length. But alas, it returned to me undeliverable. So, I decided to make it an open letter (with modifications, of course) to all the girlfriends just like her….

 


__________,

 

Thank you for sharing your heart. I grieve for you. By your very words I can tell you are weary, drained, discouraged, afraid, and torn.  I’ll cut right to the chase….  Bear with me, as I speak not only as your pastor, but like a big brother to my little sister. Or, being that I’m 42 and you’re [twenty-something] I guess I could speak to you like a father. Geesh! NO! Let’s keep it big brother and little sister!

It is disturbing to me that he has met with men and continues to meet with men weekly about the pornography, very open about his struggle even with them and you, yet there is no lasting repentance.  Where is the real “accountability” in that? Very disturbing and troubling.  This is what I’ve seen in so many Christian men for so long regarding the sin of pornography–the mantra of “I’m [still] struggling”…as if that makes it okay. And it does not. It is not genuine repentance.

_________, you already know in your heart what you must do. In fact, you could be an enabler for him, sadly. In other words, he’s told you his sin (as well as other men including [a family member]) with no real consequences. And he continues to struggle in his sin with no real repentance. And he gets you not only in a relationship but also physically when together.  His sin is not costing him anything. Why would he be serious about repenting from it?

Here’s the thing, ________. I speak confidently with over a decade of ministry experience with this kind of thing with men and marriages (and a lifetime as a male with male friends). Not only will his porn addiction not stop, it will intensify in your marriage. That’s a guarantee. And it will not end with porn. It will grow into other extreme forms of sexual sin. Bank on it. You think you are in pain now? You can’t fathom what’s coming. And what about when you have children? Now you have to worry about them being exposed and generational sin being passed on if he is not genuinely repentant.

Repentance is proven by time… not tries. Make sense?  In my personal understanding of Scripture, pornography is adultery, and yes, even a warrant for divorce. However, why even consider that potential for your future marriage? Listen to yourself, ________. That’s not even natural. You are not married to him. You are not responsible for him. He is not your ministry. You are not his messiah. There is no call upon you to “stick it out” with his porn problem. You are not his wife. So get a grip on your thinking here.

All my heart wants you to be spared from the pain that is coming. Trust me, _________, I am not being melodramatic. I am spending much time on this email because I’ve seen this scenario played out SO many times over decades. My sincere hope, and goal is to bring truth to where you are emotionally cloudy, if not deceived. Sadly, this young man will eventually lose his ministry if real repentance does not happen. I’m not talking about him being perfect.  No-one is perfect. We all stumble at times. But repentance means those stumblings are the exceptions, and not the norm labled—“I’m struggling.”

My sister, you are not his messiah. Accountability is overrated too. His heart must be shattered before God. His heart needs to break because he is breaking the heart of God. But that must be a work of God.  You just need to make sure that you are not in the way of that work. Don’t get in the way of the Messiah thinking you’re his messiah. Until his heart is broken, repentance will elude him. He needs to be broken before God long before he is broken before you.

__________, you know what you should do. I don’t have to tell you. But sadly, my heart is burdened for you. I have given this counsel many, many, many times to young women in your situation. And almost every time, if not every single time, my counsel was ultimately dismissed. Emotions ruled. I pray you might be the exception.

Praying for you, my sister in Christ….

Jarrod

Is there anything you would add?

* Updated July 19, 2014, 4:50pm:  We tracked down the correct email address for the young lady to whom the personal form of this letter was written and delivered it.