Not all of us carry a business card in a wallet or wear a nametag on our shirt. But every one of us carries one or more titles that shape our lives.
Some are clearly negative: Failure, Ugly, Coward, Fag, Unwanted, Unloved.
Others may sound pretty good: College Grad, Pastor, Leader, Successful, Sexy.
Whatever the titles you carry, they have power.
Just like other agreements we make, a title impacts your feelings, behavior, relationships, and ultimately your life. And this is true whether the titles you carry are displayed on your chest or hidden in your gut. When they’re from God, this is a good thing; when they’re not, it can be a problem.
This is why Scripture’s full of examples of God going after names and titles. (Think Abraham, Gideon, Peter, James and John, and Mary.) God knows titles have power.
I can’t stress how huge this is. Men and women arrive at Regeneration’s door wearing all manner of invisible titles: Pervert, Victim, Unloved, Abused, Gay, Gay Christian, Gay Celibate Christian, Sex Addict, Damaged Goods, Adulterer, Adulteress, and more.
We invite those who are willing to come as they are to Jesus, to give His Spirit room to reveal the titles He wants them to lay down, and to reveal to them who they really are.
At times, the Holy Spirit reveals that a seemingly benign or even honorable title is actually holding a person back from a better identity Jesus has for them (e.g. Philippians 3:4 – 11).
Take some time with Jesus and ask Him this question:
Do I carry any faulty title on my chest or in my gut?
Whatever arises in reply, let it come. Jesus exposes not to bind but to free us from all that hinders us.
Then in prayer see yourself taking whatever faulty title He’s exposed and nailing it to His Cross.
Then wait, and ask, and wait some more if you must. He has a new title for you. A new name.
Let Him tell it to you. When you hear it, do something daring: receive it.
I’d love to hear from you: There are several titles I’ve listed in this post (e.g. Sexy, Gay Christian, Gay Celibate Christian, Sex Addict) that many Christians in our culture accept and use. Over the years, our ministry team has found titles like these can hinder people. What do you think? I’d especially love to hear from any of you who have or do use any of these to describe yourself.
Think back over your life in the past three months. What were your most meaningful moments?
With the possible exception of a Skype or Face Time call with a far-away loved one, I’m guessing those moments weren’t in front of a screen.
And yet, as Americans we’re spending more and more time plugged into electronic media. So are our kids.
What are we looking for? Our eyes peer intently at screens as though looking through a window to another world where whatever it is can be found.
- Pictures of smiling loved ones.
- Articles that make us think or point us to Jesus.
- A message from a friend.
- Something that makes us laugh.
- Likes, shares, and comments.
- Answers to any question.
- And endless scenes that thrill or titillate.
These are just glimpses. What we’re really looking for, I’m convinced, is something to satisfy our deepest longings. And if we’re bringing our search to our screens, we’re searching in the wrong place.
Because we’re not digital. We’re real. Our kids are real.
A virtual world cannot satisfy the hunger of a real soul.
This Saturday, Regeneration presents our third [PG] Parental Guidance Needed conference for parents who want to get out in front of the challenges their kids are or will be facing in this digital age. [PG] isn’t about unplugging. It’s about giving our kids a bigger Story to plug into. And it’s about learning to live that story well in the world we live in.
If you resonate with what I’ve written, I want to challenge you to take a simple step: Sometime in the next week, take a Sabbath from all things digital. For a day or half a day or even an hour. Notice how you feel as you do. And notice how you feel when you’re through.
And if you’re a parent or if you have a heart for kids, I hope you’ll join us in Hunt Valley on Saturday. Click here for more information or to register.
Question: What do you think? Can our real needs and desires be satisfied in a digital landscape? Why or why not? Leave a comment below.
Adam and Eve didn’t know it was a lie, of course. It was spoken as truth. And the one who spoke it seemed to have their best interest in mind, seemed to know about such things.
What’s more, every other tree they’d eaten from was good. Surely you won’t die did seem to resonate with their experience, limited though it was.
In our day, new ideas swirl about us like autumn leaves when the wind blows, and masses grab hold, believing. A few in the swirl that seem to go unquestioned:
- More money means improved quality of life.
- Fame is worth seeking.
- Faster, portable technology means more time to do what we love.
I’m not saying these are all false, but ideas, once agreed with, have power to shape our lives, our relationships, and our world for good or for ill. So we do well to examine the ideas floating through our minds before we agree with them, or to re-examine those that have already found harbor within us.
Because giving your assent to something false binds you to it in subtle but sometimes profoundly destructive ways. It’s known as an unholy agreement, and it can affect (or infect) what you think, how you feel, and what you do or don’t do.
Here are a few more common to people who come to Regeneration:
- I can’t take this marriage any longer.
- I was born gay and I’ll always be gay.
- If anyone really knew me, they’d reject me.
- If given the opportunity, I’ll always fall.
- I can’t stand being alone.
- I’ll never be able to change.
Thoughts like these resonate with people’s experience. But the cross of Christ has power to break these agreements. And to undo their destructive influence in a person’s life.
If we’ll let Him, God will expose the subtle lies we’ve been harboring in our hearts. He’ll do so in order that we would come into agreement with Him once more. He’ll do so that we might live free!
What untrue idea have you harbored in your heart about God, others, or yourself?
Would you be willing to stand before the cross of Christ and renounce that agreement?
If so, try this:
- Find one or two others to pray with you.
- Confess the lie you’ve believed.
- Pray, “In the authority of Jesus Christ, I renounce this agreement and break all ties with it.
- Don’t be surprised if you experience resistance and need to repeat this, especially with lies you’ve lived under for a long time.
I’ve found this incredibly freeing in my own life. I think you will, too.
Question: What are some other common ‘unholy agreements’ floating around in our culture today? Leave a comment below.
Your domain is any ground over which you have God-given authority. It can be property, possessions, resources, or even a family, business, or church you lead.
Whatever else is in your domain, your first and primary domain is your body.
And so, you’re meant to be at peace with your body, able to rule what you do with your hands, brain, eyes, etc. And this is true whether talking about sex, words, food, money, or relationships.
When the serpent came to tempt Adam and Eve, he wasn’t after a piece of fruit. He was after their domain. Including their bodies.
Likewise, the story of Jesus’ birth, his teachings and miracles, his death and resurrection, and his ascension–these are all about a very real cosmic war between God and that same enemy. A war over a domain.
For many years of my life, when temptation would come, I’d do the same things I swore a thousand times I’d never do again. One moment I’d decide ‘no,’ the next minute I’d choose ‘yes.’
I was in a battle for my domain. I wanted Jesus to have dominion in my body again.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion . . .” (1 Thes. 4:3 – 5a).
Thinking about what I was going through as an issue of domain was a shift in perspective.
- I stopped fighting against my body, and started fighting for my body.
- Though sexual sin felt natural, I practiced believing my mind and my body were designed for God and made for purity.
- And I worked to remember that every member of my body and my mind were allies (some parts like POW’s needing rescue, but allies nonetheless) to me, to purity, and to God.
“[Your] body is not for immorality, but for the Lord” (1 Cor. 6:13).
Our Savior King has come to this dark domain to rescue us, to bring us from the kingdom of darkness and back to His domain, His Kingdom. Now, that’s worth fighting for.
“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Leave a comment below.
There’s no ‘if’ about it. Temptations come.
Wouldn’t we fare better in our responses if we knew when temptations were on the way?
We can know—at least a lot more frequently than most people typically think.
Usually, temptations come when we’re experiencing some kind of pain or discomfort, whether emotional or physical, intense or subtle.
Why? Because temptation offers to medicate pain or help you avoid it.
Tempted to lust?
Tempted to criticize your spouse?
Tempted to eat too much pizza?
Tempted to have an affair?
My guess is somewhere inside you’re hurting in some way.
The difficult part is learning to live attuned enough to your mind, heart, and body that you’re aware when you’re hurting.
It’s difficult because . . .
- Emotions can be disruptive. It seems easier to ignore our feelings and get things done.
- We have a skewed belief that being hurt reveals a lack of strength, togetherness, or faith.
- We don’t realize some common emotions are in fact painful, or at least uncomfortable (a low grade form of pain): anxiety, frustration, and disappointment, to name a few.
- Some pain has been a part of our lives for so long, we no longer notice it’s there. But it is.
- We’ve unconsciously blocked some pain out, fearful it will overwhelm us if we “go there”.
In truth, God created us to feel, and when wounded, to feel pain. Not because God likes it when we’re hurt, but because pain is meant to urge us toward healing.
Or maybe better said, to draw us to the Healer.
So next time you notice pain or discomfort, duck. Temptation’s coming.
And next time you’re tempted, take a deep breath, and then take some time to figure out where you’re feeling pain or discomfort.
You’re in good company. Jesus Himself felt physical, emotional, and relational pain. (A thorough reading through the New Testament will cure us of any ideas to the contrary.) And He is near to you in your pain.
This strategy changes our battle with temptation completely. Without it, we’re more likely to find ourselves stuck in a pattern of getting hit “out of the blue” with strong temptations that threaten to overwhelm us.
Question: What are some healthy ways you deal with pain or discomfort that might help someone else? Leave a comment below.
Usually, when a husband and wife work at strengthening their marriage, it’s a good thing.
But for couples who have experienced marital unfaithfulness, they must first deal with the breach of trust. If they don’t, their hard work on areas like communication and sexual intimacy is going to be in vain.
If you’re a couple recovering from romantic or sexual infidelity or if you’re helping a couple in recovery, you can’t begin on improving the relationship like other couples might. You have to begin with the hard work of restoring a baseline of trust.
Here are four things you can do to that end, two for each spouse:
For the one who has harbored a secret sin:
1. Bring everything into the light. It’s tempting to admit to only what’s been discovered. But in the long run, this will destroy any progress you make. As painful as adultery is, ongoing deception exponentially cripples a betrayed spouse’s ability to trust again.
2. Aim to become trustworthy. It’s tempting to try to get your spouse to trust you again. A better goal is to do what you need to do to become a trustworthy person. Cultivate a habit of being open and honest, even when it’s scary or painful.
And for the husband or wife who’s healing from a spouse’s infidelity:
3. Get help for you. It’s not just your spouse who needs help. You need people around you who hold no pie in the sky notions that you should just get over it, but who also whole-heartedly believe marriages can be restored. Find two or three friends who can walk with you.
4. Practice self-care. Resist putting all your focus on your spouse’s recovery (If she’ll get her act together, everything will be fine.). Instead, focus on your healing. Getting solid ground beneath your feet will help you, whatever progress or lack thereof your spouse is making.
None of this is easy. Both husband and wife will need lots of help along the way. Jesus knows this and promises to walk with you, come what may. If you’re lacking hope, borrow His.
And borrow some of ours, too. Regeneration was started 35 years ago by a couple who survived infidelity. Their marriage eventually thrived. And they were just the beginning.
If your marriage has been impacted by infidelity (whether physical adultery, an emotional affair, or habitual pornography use), I want to invite you to join my wife and me for Restoring Trust on September 19 and 20 in Marriottsville, MD. We’ll dive deeply into these topics and much more.
When temptation comes, it usually doesn’t come alone.
It comes with an entourage of lies, recruited to accomplish two things: First, to exalt temptation; and second, to belittle you.
Here are three of these lies:
- This temptation won’t go away unless you give in.
- It’s too much for you to resist.
- It’s here to help. It wants to remove your pain.
If you find yourself giving in to a certain area of temptation repeatedly, chances are these lies are at work.
They’re an entourage of little worshipers, lifting temptation up like it’s God himself: eternal, omnipotent, and benevolent.
But temptation is nothing of the sort. And its lies can be broken.
Temptations do go away. The only way the intensity and frequency of a temptation will continue is if you continue to feed it when it comes around.
Much of temptation’s power actually comes from its entourage of allies (lies) looking to destroy you. Go get some allies of your own—brothers and sisters ready to fight with and for you. Just watch the difference it makes.
Temptation is not here to help or to heal. It’s looking to be your drug dealer. In fact, far from wanting to remove your pain, it helps your pain to continue so you’ll keep coming back for more of its “medicine.” And each time you give in, its grip on you will only become stronger.
Does temptation hold out something alluring? Yes. But exposing its lies reveals how malicious its intent truly is. Temptation is no friend.
Jesus comes in stark contrast to temptation.
He comes with no puffed up entourage, but humbly, as a servant with a basin to cleanse your filthy feet. Though he does not force himself on you, he promises never to leave nor forsake you. Though stronger than you, he does not control or overpower you, but comes to set you free from all that holds you captive. Though he may not immediately relieve your pain, he willingly bears it with you on the hard road toward real healing.
He has been tempted, too. He has felt its allure. And He has defeated it.
Question: Which of temptation’s lies has been hardest for you to deal with? And what’s one truth from Scripture that challenges that lie? Share a comment below.
Tempted too ,
Loneliness is rampant.
And people both outside and inside the church are pointing to this loneliness as reason to challenge, reject, or rewrite Christianity’s teachings on marriage, sex, and gender.
“How can a loving God give such strong desire for deep, intimate, and physical connection, and then command us to refrain from sex unless we’re married to someone of the opposite sex?”
Many of us know people who have left orthodox Christianity over this, or others who, without leaving, are certainly disregarding Christian morality because it seems unbearable.
Singles, especially, can be vulnerable to these temptations: “Why am I alone when it seems everyone else has somebody?”
Whether single or married, you are meant to be a part of God’s answer for the lonely. To hold men and women to a biblical sexual ethic is to uphold God’s Law. To do so while lovingly walking with them is to fulfill the Law (Gal. 5:14, 6:2).
So ask God what He has for you to do.
Below are four thoughts to help:
- Marrieds, adopt a single around you. Invite an elderly neighbor to your kids’ dance recital, a college kid for a home-cooked meal, or a single in his 40’s over after church. You might be surprised how God can use your family as-is.
- Singles, adopt a family. Practice seeing singleness as the incredibly powerful relational ministry opportunity it is. Paul revered singleness as better than marriage for this very reason (1 Cor. 7:32-38).
You’ll likely need to plan ahead more than you do with single friends, but look for ways to serve a family. You might be surprised at how many moms and dads struggle to make ends meet, care for their own souls, or resolve feelings of exhaustion, boredom, and internal loneliness.
- Accept that sex is not a need. Despite what our culture teaches, and despite the benefits of a healthy sex life within marriage, you do not need sex to be healthy, holy, and happy. Are you missing out on something by abstaining? Yes, but nothing you can’t live without.
- Relatedly, embrace that your longing is for more than another person. It’s for God. Yes, even your physical longing is a longing for God. If God who is Spirit created all that is physical, can He not then also meet every physical need? David knew He could, so did Isaiah, Jesus, and Paul (see Ps. 84:2, Isaiah 58:11, Jeremiah Jn. 4:31-34, Phil. 4:12-13). And so have so many saints throughout history, including many who endured the unmet hunger for sexual union for years on end.
(For more ideas on dealing with loneliness, check out the comments following last week’s blog, or add your own below.)
To belong to God is to become a part of His family. Come to His table, bring others, and scoot down to make room for another.
Care to join me?
From my perspective, it’s a tough era for singles.
A relatively common refrain from men and women who are single—especially those who find themselves single long after they expected or wanted to be—goes something like this:
“Year after year, I watch friends get engaged, marry and have kids. I’m happy for them, but I’m still going home alone, still longing for that someone special, for a family of my own.”
And too many singles in the church are leaving, or suspending their faith, or attempting to rewrite it because, “After a while, I just couldn’t believe in a God who would give me these deep desires for connection and intimacy (including physical intimacy) and then ask me to live without them for the rest of my life.”
Singleness isn’t new, but singleness as we know it today is something new.
As we hold to traditional biblical teaching on marriage, sex, and singleness, we do well to also recognize that in some very significant ways, singleness is harder than ever.
Although over 40% of the adult population in the U.S. is single, and although singleness doesn’t carry the same stigma it did 50 or 60 years ago, still the relational framework in our culture (including in our churches) is not conducive to relationally healthy singleness.
- Relationships have become transient. The norm for marriage, home, work, and church used to be that they were life-long. Not so anymore.
- Same-gender friendships, perhaps especially among men, have become optional. These relationships used to be a primary source of information, community, reputation, and dignity for both marrieds and singles.
- Touch has become oddly taboo. Because of concerns about abuse, “sending the wrong message”, or spreading germs touch is viewed with a level of suspicion unprecedented in history.
- Physicality has become over-sexualized. Perhaps as a result of the touch taboo, or perhaps the cause of it, physicality is for many a slippery slope to something sexual.
- Face-to-face interaction is less. The quick go-to for connection has fast become Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, while research suggests these can actually increase unhappiness and discontent.
- We’re extremely busy. With work, ministry, fitness, family. We live with nearly zero margin in our lives.
As these and other realities have combined, they’ve sucked relational oxygen from around us, leaving especially our single brothers and sisters gasping, desperate for air. (And subsequently, it’s a more challenging environment for single Christians to live out a Christian sexual ethic.)
What can be done? I’ll give some thoughts next week, but for now I’d love to hear from you:
How do you think we, as Christians, married and single, can be a part of the solution to loneliness in the lives of singles?
When an unfaithful husband’s* betrayal comes to light, and both he and his wife begin the process of recovery, it’s not uncommon to hear something along these lines:
“I’ll do whatever is necessary to get things back to the way they were.”
“I’m through with the other relationship. I don’t want to lose my wife and family.”
“If my wife will forgive me, I know we can be happy again like we used to be.”
To a hurting wife who herself doesn’t want to lose what she had and desperately wants things to go back to the way they were, this can be encouraging.
But in a certain light, it shouldn’t be.
The reason why is this: The way things were isn’t what they remember. Those times may have felt better, but the truth is, they weren’t better.
Sure, in some cases she may have been blissfully unaware, but back then, something was stirring under the surface that eventually led to where the marriage is today. For example, perhaps . . .
- He was keeping secrets from her and others.
- She was ignoring her own concerns.
- He wasn’t maintaining honest relationships with godly men committed to his spiritual health and the health of his marriage.
- His relationship with Christ was more rules than relationship, was lukewarm or was non-existent.
- She liked the reputation (or income, or lifestyle) they had more than the truth of their life.
- He was unaccountable, no one could touch him.
- She didn’t know one of his most daunting areas of struggle, and so in one sense she didn’t really know him.
If you’re in recovery from marital infidelity, you don’t want to go back. Backwards is where the problem was cultivated, took root, and grew.
This doesn’t mean everything in the past is lost, but it does mean that in order to have a healthy, godly marriage in the future, you both will have to get help to face reality, develop new patterns, and practice new ways of relating with each other as well as other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
The way of healing and reconciliation can only be accomplished by moving forward.
Leave a comment or question below.
* Although both husbands and wives can be guilty of marital infidelity, I write here from the perspective that the husband has been unfaithful so as to avoid confusion and the cumbersomeness of using “he/she” and “him or her.”)