Did You Ever Have That Feeling...

It has been a wild week here in my world, what about you? I just have the feeling that things are about to happen, and that God is starting to open doors.

The articles that I wrote have started appearing in the Alabama Baptist, and to be honest, I am very surprised that they are actually running them. My hat is off to Dr. Bob Terry for having the courage to address this topic. He told me that he was scared to run them, but he knew that it needed to be done.

As a result of those running, I have been interviewed by a local news station, two men have contacted me about how we may work together in the fight to help people break free from sex and porn addiction, and an author came to interview me for a chapter in her upcoming book.

The TV interview was awkward, but what can you expect? Ken Lass, the reporter, does free lance work for the local NBC affiliate here in Birmingham. Because he's a freelancer, he doesn't have a videographer - why does that matter you ask? It means he doesn't have lighting and that means that we had to do it outside. Why does that matter you ask? Because it was 107 degrees outside and I was facing the sun. Nice.

He was very nice and apologized profuseley, and it was no picnic for him either. I laughed and said, "No this is great, really. A sweaty guy constantly squinting his eyes talking about porn - what could be better, right? Could you give me a trench coat to complete the picture?"

We had a nice time and the story aired last night, and it will run two more times tomorrow. Please pray that people learn that they can get help, and that God is glorified.

I am excited about the new contacts with others involved in the fight to free those in the grip of pornography. One is from Tuscaloosa, and the other is local. Please pray for discernment and for God's will to be clear in these meetings.

My favorite meeting of the week was actually with Denise George. She has written over thirty books and hundreds of articles, and is currently working on a new project for Zondervan on the topic of what pastors wish church members knew. She saw the article on porn and was surprised to see how many pastors secretly struggle. She then figured that she needed to include a chapter about it in this new book.

I know Denise, so at least it was not horribly awkward talking about porn with her. She's heard me speak on it before, so that made things much easier than they could have been, right? As we talked, she began to get very excited about the topic, and began to encourage me to write a book.

Here's how the conversation went, "Tal, you need to write a book on this. Have you put anything together on this?" "Ummm, I would love to write a book on this, but don't know how - so no I have not put anything together on this as of yet." She then asked, "Have you written a proposal yet?" "Ummm, no I don't know how to do that either." "Well," she said, "have you outlined the book yet?" "I haven't really gotten past the whole "I don't know how to thing" to have outlined anything."

Then she started asking questions, and before I knew it, we had outlined a project. Then she went beyond that to tell me that she knew of a couple of publishers that would probably take it in a minute, and if I would like, she would be happy to take my story and a proposal to her agent and ask him to shop it. Let's just say, I'm really excited about that.

So, I'll be working hard on that here shortly, and in October I'm doing two events with Ruth Graham. Cafe 1520 should open up soon, and Tapestry is in its' new home. What is God up to? I'm not real sure, but it is exciting!

Just pray that I'll keep my hands off of it.
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Now that, my friends, is comedy. It's also very true, isn't it? This has been an interesting week in my world - how about you?

I have visited a great deal of my past failures this week, and looking at how I constantly come back to repeat those same basic failures over and over again. The trail looks different now, and hopefully, a bit more like the Gospel than before, but failure is still a big part of my life. How about you?

I realized this week how much I still run from, and fear, conflict. Are you a consummate conflict avoider, too? It makes me physically sick to my stomach, which is another thing I hate. I'm vehemently opposed to puking - my streak now stands at 54 weeks. Before that, it had been years since I last drove the porcelain bus.

In the past, when conflict reared its' head, I would avoid it - strike that - run from it. The difference then, was that I ran into porn or sexual relationships. That always made me feel loved and worth something - and hey, realistically, who can think about a conflict in the middle of sex? Do you see how our addictions mask our pain, but don't treat it? I ran for sex or porn over and over again, but when I re-entered the real world, the conflict was still there, only it was bigger and hotter, which only scared me more. So what did I do? I ran back to porn or sex to mask my pain and fear. That, my friends, is the vicious cycle of addiction. That is why we laugh cynically when told, "Just stop doing that!" Trust me, we would if we could. We don't like it. We really don't. It just seems to be a much better idea than facing our imperfection.

This week, I realized that I still run from conflict. Thankfully, I don't run to porn or sex anymore, but I do still run from it. I know how stupid this sounds, trust me - it doesn't get any better. Thankfully, and by the grace of God, I don't run to porn or sex. Now I just run and hide from it. That really sucks, and I want that to change.

Again, I find myself in need of the help and hope of a Gospel driven community.

Teresa, my wife for those of you scoring at home, was simply trying to ask questions about some things regarding the cafe our church is opening. She was trying to help me as she could see me running from the conflict and potential of failure, and for her trouble, I snapped at her. Why? Because I would rather have avoided the situation than admit my need for help in solving it. Sadly, the old man lives on within me. The journey to sanctification marches on.

Now I must go back to the cross and surrender this to my Father.

I think this picture about mistakes is hysterical and relevant to me. It's also relevant to you. We all have failures in our lives, and we do need to serve as warnings to others. We should not be afraid to expose our failures so that others can learn from them, and be encouraged by the hope of the Gospel.

Jesus is not surprised by our failures. Look at Luke 21:31-32, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." The sovereignty of God is overwhelming to me.

He knew that Peter was going to really blow it, but in these two sentences he explains that he has authority over Satan, and that he wants to use Peter's failure to build the kingdom. "He wants to sift you as wheat, Pete, but I have prayed for you. And, hey, when (not if) you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Amazing. Peter's failure was to be used as a warning to others - including you and me.

Our failures are to serve as warnings to others, too. Christ knows our failures before we do, and he wants to use them to build the kingdom and warn others. It is through this, that God is glorified in our failures. This is why we can boast in our weaknesses so that God can be magnified.

I think this is amazing. How about you?

Speaking of letting our failures serve as a warning to others, The Alabama Baptist asked me to write a series of articles on pornography for them. The first ran this week, and if you are interested, you can view that by clicking this handy-dandy link.

Have a great week, and hey - go expose a failure to someone this week to serve as a warning to others. It's the horizontal axis of the Gospel - engage it!

Tolstoy and Todd Agnew on a Friday Afternoon

Ok, so it's late on a Friday afternoon, and I am taking the opportunity to hang out in a coffee shop and read. Well, not anymore - I'm writing and up to this point, I have not discovered how to do those things simultaneously. Pray that I never do...I have trouble managing the hyenas of busyness as it is.

I stumbled across this quote from Tolstoy, and have not been able to get it out of my mind. Let's see if it has the same impact on you. Tolstoy wrote, "There are two Gods. There is the God that people generally believe in - A God who has to serve them (sometimes in very refined ways, say by merely giving them peace of mind). This God does not exist. But the God whom people forget - the God whom we all have to serve - exists, and is the prime cause of our existence and of all that we perceive."

What is your reaction to that? That one will kick you right square in the butt, won't it? It does remind me so much of where our current culture of Churchianity sits. God is our big 'ol buddy in the sky just waiting for us to place our order. Then we stiff Him out of the 10% tip each month, and scream bloody murder if our orders are not fulfilled in a timely manner, and exactly they way we want them.

In too much of our current culture, God exists to serve us. It is really not much different than "The Secret" is it? Purveyors of "The Secret" state that the universe is obligated to respond to our energy. That it has a virtual conveyor belt of presents it wants to give us if we will only put out "positive vibes." Our station in life is determined by our own thoughts. Again, culture has emasculated the Sovereign God and creator of the very universe they believe to be in control of the conveyor belt o' gifts.

This is nothing new - it's in Genesis 3, isn't it? The serpent tempts Adam and Eve by telling them that if they eat the fruit they would be like God. We still like to think that we are on at least the same level as God. We can make Him serve us - we don't have to bend our knees to His will at all.

It's very seductive isn't it? It seems like such a great idea that we could somehow control God, and make Him bend to our wills. The thought can be intoxicating at times, but we snap out of it when we think about it. My will has gotten me into much more trouble than God's has. The trouble my will has produced brought only pain to myself and to others. God's will has often produced pain, but only to make me more like Christ.

I know that to be the case, and so do many of you. So why do we still buck? Why do we still fight and try to bend Him to our finite will? Here's a quick test - If you got everything you prayed for this morning, how would the world be changed? Would it, or would you just have less inconvenience and more comfort and stuff?

If you have not listened to it yet, I highly recommend Todd Agnew's latest CD, "Better Questions." It is not for the faint of heart, but if you're reading this blog you are more than ready for it.

As a recovering addict, I can tell you these lyrics are like a soothing balm on open sores. It may sting a bit at first, but it brings comfort. It's gut honest which is something those of us in recovery appreciate.

In "If You Wanted Me," Todd writes these questions, "If you wanted me to walk on water, why did you make the solid ground seem so right?" "Your creation is a temptation for me. If you wanted me to love you only, why did you make the moonlight sparkle in her eyes?" "It's hard to trust that your dreams are so much better than mine. If you wanted me to die to myself, why did you make me fall so deeply in love with Life? If you wanted me to surrender, why did you make these hands able to hold on so tight? If you wanted me to be like you, why did you make me like me?"

Incredible. Two artists wrestling with the same concept. Art is a wonderful gift isn't it? It did not come from a mystical conveyor belt controlled by an inanimate, ambiguous "universe." Art comes from the ultimate creator - the Great I Am.

It never ceases to amaze me that He gives us free will - the one thing he does not control is our hearts. If we loved him out of duty, it would not be love. It is why our greatest gift to Him is our love and devotion. It is through them that we serve Him.

Are you serving, or demanding service?

Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...Forgive us for our past prayers and actions that are more about our kingdom and our wills. Cause us to be more like your son, and break our hearts for our communities. Use us any way you wish - you are our King.