More Prayer Please

Hey Friends,

I'm getting ready to leave to speak at a Sex Addicts Anonymous Retreat tonight. I love these events, because I love these types of groups.

All too often, a real solid recovery group looks a whole lot more like the church than the church does. Full on acceptance regardless. It's truly remarkable, and it is incredibly inspiring - something corporate worship should aspire to, but our masks get in the way.

The challenge to these groups is to talk about God in the general sense. I'm a bit handcuffed by not really being able to hammer the Gospel, and if you've ever heard me speak, you know that's really difficult for me to do.

Pray that I will be sensitive, yet bold where necessary. Please also pray for protection and courage as I tell my story. It's always difficult and draining, and the accuser is often close behind. Pray that I will remember that all of that happened, "Before Love Came to Town." Pray that some of these men may be changed by the power of the Gospel tonight.

I'll be up at 7:30 CST.


Please Pray and Listen if You Can

Today, I will be on a local radio and television show hosted by Alabama State Senator, Hank Erwin. He is a conservative talk show host, who read my articles on pornography for a state denominational newspaper.

I am very nervous about this appearance as I am just not sure what to expect. He is dedicating the full hour program to interviewing me about pornography and sexual addiction, which I am happy to hear.

I was initially not going to accept this invitation, but some wise friends asked me the following questions - "Is there a chance that somebody could be helped by your appearance on the show?" I answered "Yes." Then they asked, "Is there a chance that anybody, other than you, could get hurt by your appearance on the show?" I answered, "No." They then each said, "Well isn't that the Gospel? That you get hurt so that others can be helped? Is it modeling Christ to avoid the show, or appear?" Ouch. So I called and said I would do it.

If you have the time and opportunity, please pray for me. Please pray that God is glorified and the Gospel will go forth. Please pray that people will be helped, and that I will be gracious and humble in my responses.

The show airs on 92.5 FM in Birmingham from 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM CST. You can listen online by clicking here and then clicking the listen online button in the upper right hand corner of the screen. If, like me, you use a mac, know that you'll have to download windows media player and use safari for this to work. (PC stands for piece of crap, by the way)

Thank you for praying!

Ok, so if you don't know, I love to visit Post Secret.
Every Sunday morning my newsreader delivers the most recent artistic confessional gems to me over a cup of coffee. A quick warning here - be careful, at times there can be some fairly explicit imagery there. It's not safe for everybody, so be careful, k?

Now, look at this one. Have you ever been like that? Are you like that now? I could identify with this postcard so well, but I would have had to add one for church - what about you?

For so much of my life, I wore masks, or different personalities, depending on where I was. Have you ever been that desperate for people to accept you? Have you ever taken on personality traits that weren't really yours just to fit in? It used to be my life.

I was so convinced that nobody would like the real me, that I tried different personalities in order to be accepted. The worst part about that was that when I got alone again, I knew the "me" people liked was not really me. Then I was trapped. Because if they found out I was lying - they would reject me. The very things I was doing in order to be accepted would, in fact, get me rejected.

Luther wrote that if we could keep the first two commandments, we would keep all the others by default. Those first two, for those of you scoring at home, are: You shall have no other gods before me, and You shall not bow down to idols. (the second is a loose paraphrase)

I think Luther was absolutely right. Idolatry is a powerful force in our culture, and we have more idols than we realize. Just because they are not carved or something tangible does not mean we are not guilty of idolatry.

My god for so long, was my own image. When I chose to wear masks in order to get others to accept me, I was putting myself before God. I was, in effect, worshipping myself instead of God. I was denying the reality of the gospel in my life because I was finding my significance in the opinions of others instead of in Christ.

I was not accepting the fact that Jesus Christ died on a cross knowing full well who I was. That God created me in His image, and was so consumed with the pursuit of His own glory that He sent His son to pay the penalty for my fallen nature and reestablish our relationship.

God did not save me because He has good taste. He saved me because He is incredibly gracious and merciful, and it says much more about His glory that He would choose me.

So often we wear masks in church and in our community in an effort to get others to love and accept us. What more love and acceptance could we ever receive than the Gospel? How could we possibly have more acceptance than knowing that Jesus died for us knowing full well who we were going to be?

That is the intimacy of the Gospel! That is intimacy! True acceptance. Jesus knows the real you and the real me. Jesus loves the real you and the real me. He died for the real you and the real me.

This is why Paul instructs us to boast in our weaknesses - so that the Gospel can be magnified and God can be glorified. We are all imperfect. We are all broken. There is no point scale for sin, and none of us is better - or worse - than anyone else.

The freedom in the Gospel means we can drop all of the fake personalities. We can drop the masks and stop worshipping ourselves. How can we worship ourselves when we can not save ourselves? How can we not worship the true God who died for us, and rose from the dead to give us the gift of eternal life?

Drop the masks, and let them fall. Life gets much easier when we live out the Gospel.

Communion, Union, and You

There is a book coming out shortly by the puritan theologian John Owen entitled Communion With the Triune God. These paragraphs are from Kelly Kapic's forward. Thanks to my friend, Matt Adair for posting this on his fine blog.

"...note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion. Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin to see the light, and those who were enslaved to sin are set free to be loved and to love. When one speaks of “union,” it must be clear that the human person is merely receptive, being the object of God’s gracious action. This is the state and condition of all true saints. Communion with God, however, is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God’s loving embrace. While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate. This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the biblical truth that we are saved by radical and free divine grace. Furthermore, this distinction also protects the biblical truth that the children of God have a relationship with their Lord, and that there are things they can do that either help or hinder it. When a believer grows comfortable with sin (whether sins of commission or sins of omission) this invariably affects the level of intimacy this person feels with God. It is not that the Father’s love grows and diminishes for his children in accordance with their actions, for his love is unflinching. It is not that God turns from us, but that we run from him. Sin tends to isolate the believer, making him feel distant from God. Then come the accusations—both from Satan and self—which can make the believer worry that he is under God’s wrath. In truth, however, saints stand not under wrath but in the safe shadow of the cross.

While a saint’s consistency in prayer, corporate worship, and biblical meditation are not things that make God love him more or less, such activities tend to foster the beautiful experience of communion with God. Giving in to temptations and neglecting devotion to God threaten the communion but not the union.And it is this union which encourages the believer to turn from sin and to the God who is quick to forgive, abounding in compassion, and faithful in his unending love. Let there be no misunderstanding—for Owen, Christian obedience was of utmost importance, but it was always understood to flow out of this union and never seen as the ground for it. In harmony with Bunyan and other dissenters like him, Owen “insisted upon a very personal and emotional experience of union with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” and out of this union naturally flowed active communion."

This is such a key distinction, and I am grateful for the reminder of this truth. It is helpful for all of us who daily battle the flesh and the idolotry of addictions.

One of the key factors of addiction is isolation. We never act out in community, but we isolate ourselves from those that truly love us, and get alone, or with other addicts so that we can worship an unworthy god that is unable to save us or fix us. A god that wants to destroy and kill us. Remember the prodigal - he left the loving relationship with his Father in order to do what he wanted to do. He left unconditional, undying, eternal love for the temporary, conditional and powerless love of the world.

How many times have you acted out with your little g god, and then felt immediately that the true God was now so upset with you that you were now surely bound for hell? Or maybe you have felt that He was so mad at you that he would want nothing to do with you. You're already in the pig-sty, you already stink, so no way you can go home - your Father wants nothing to do with you now, so you may as well stay, right?

So often while I was in active addiction, I thought that God would have nothing to do with me. I also convinced myself that he hated me as a result of my actions and that I no longer deserved salvation. Do you ever feel like that?

My raging narcissism as an addict drove me to actually believe that my salvation was determined by me and what I did or didn't do. It's easy for us to forget God's sovereignty isn't it? We don't even realize we are doing it - it's a very subtle shift that the accuser uses to undermine good theology. "Oh, God can't love you for that. It's all over for you because you just looked at porn. So, you may as well keep looking at it since you're already damned."

Kapic's summary of John Owens' book should provide immense comfort to you! Remember that your salvation is based on the grace of God, not you. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, your redemption is the work of Christ, not you. That's a great truth, isn't it?

Eugene Peterson's translation of John 10:25-30 reminds us, "
Jesus answered, "I told you, but you don't believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don't believe because you're not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind."

Our salvation is never in danger, once God has transformed our hearts. Our relationship with God, however, is affected by our actions. We can't do anything to make God love us any more, or any less, but we can affect our communion with God. That's why abiding in the vine is so important.

It is in that abiding communion with God that we are made more like Christ. That's not work we can do on our own. That's why Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." If we choose to isolate ourselves from God, and not engage in our relationship with our own creator, then the relationship is damaged. But we are the ones who damaged it.

And we come back to the conspiracy of grace - Our Father is waiting at the gate for us to come back home from the pig-sty.

How many times have you asked God to take the desire away from you? We then subtly blame God for our addiction because He is not taking the desire away. Just like the Father was waiting for his son to want to come home, to want relationship with him, Our Father waits for us to desire Him above our own pig-stys. I am firmly convinced, my friends, that God does not take our sinful desires away from us - He waits for us to desire Him and His Glory above all else. When we do that, He sweeps in with His astounding and empowering Grace. The prodigal desired his relationship with his Father, and the Father ran to meet, embrace and clothe him.

Come home, prodigal. Come home.

The Upside of Karma Sucks, Too

All of our world religions have a concept of Karma. Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and others, including "The Secret" have this idea that what goes around comes around. "The Secret" takes this idea and puts it on steroids, doesn't it?

The concept that "The Universe" is obligated to respond to your energy, be it positive of negative is just a new way of saying what goes around comes around. It just has a splash of prosperity gospel thrown in to make it extra appealing, and to remind us that it's really all about our satisfaction and joy.

We love this upside of Karma, don't we? Who doesn't understand the downside, right? Hey, if you are mean, people will be mean to you and there is a nice neat little package o' justice. So, the flip side is that if we are good, good things will happen to us and that, too, is justice. Our actions determine everything - it's all up to us and we're much more comfortable there.

So what could be the problem with that? Well, in a word, Jesus. He doesn't allow for the downside, or the upside, of Karma. As Bono says so brilliantly in Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas, "Karma is at the very center of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap so will you sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff."

Karma can not save us. Karma will not save us. Jesus can, and will save us. Karma is a harsh taskmaster, my friend. Jesus, by contrast, says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

So those of us who follow Christ then settle in to the idea that our sins have been paid for. We like that part, because the downside of Karma has now been abolished. That, is a great day! We love the security of knowing that our bad choices and all of the crap we have put into the world is paid for. We drop that burden quickly.

So why do we not take it full circle? Why do we hold on for the upside of Karma? We want to believe that in the work of Jesus on the cross that the downside of Karma is gone, but we still want that upside. We want to be rewarded and recognized for the good stuff we do. To be honest, that's why a lot of us go to church. We go to check the box, and wait for our gold star, goldfish crackers, stickers, or whatever other device our parents used to bribe us with.

Many of us have turned the gospel into this equation, haven't we? There's no downside, right? All the rewards with none of the risks. God rewards our good behavior and won't punish us for bad choices. Woo-Hoo!

Then to show our true selfish nature, the reward of Heaven is not enough for us. We want more. We want and need the recognition of man. We hire PR agents, or manipulate our friends into doing that work for us, to make sure that none of our good deeds go unnoticed.

But Jesus says in Matthew 6 that we are to do things in secret. We are not to look for reward here, our reward is salvation! Our reward is the Kingdom! Our reward is the very heart of God Himself! And we strive for a pat on the back.

Our pride destroys the beauty of our actions. Pride destroys beauty my friends.

If you know me, you know that I'm a reality TV whore. I'll watch almost anything...except for the ones that are fronts for soft-core porn. I can't handle those things, so I stay away from them.

Anyway, I saw an episode of Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List this year where she wanted to go and give away money to struggling working mothers downtown L.A. And that would have been a beautiful thing. Here's the problem - for her, it was a publicity stunt. Her whole motivation for giving the money was to get press. Her assistants called the newspapers, networks, and paparazzi to document the good deeds.

When we wish to be rewarded for "good deeds" the true motivation is exposed - our ego. We want the stroke, and we deny God the glory of revealing His heart to a broken and hurting world.

It's our own little blend of capitalism and Christianity, isn't it?