We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
There is no magical formula for change. But there are some helpful principles.
First of all, change happens little by little. As this text puts it, our capacity for trust 'grows more and more' and our ability to love and to receive love 'increases'. These changes, like all of the most important changes in life, do not happen as a one-time event. An important change may require us to make a decision at a certain moment, it also requires a process that takes place over months and years.
Second, change is not a race. The change process can not be rushed. We often want to 'hurry it up', but we can't. Change that is real and long-lasting, requires patience and perseverance. When we have been practicing our dysfunctions for decades, we can expect that unlearning them will also take time.
Third, change requires that we practice the disciplines of honesty and fellowship. There is no recovery unless we find ways to move out of denial and isolation. What a wonderful gift it is to be able to share our struggles and victories with people who will 'always thank God for us' and who will encourage us, affirm us and hold us accountable.
Lord, I want my faith to grow.
I want my capacity for love to increase.
Little by little.
One day at a time.
That's what I need.
Help me to move out of denial,
And out of isolation.
Help me to do my part to make change possible in my life.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handled down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19
Change is not easy. It is a fierce battle. It can be difficult and discouraging.
Change often requires us to challenge the perspectives and rules which have sustained our family system for generations. The 'empty way of life' we are attempting to change was handed down from our parents and their parents before them and their parents before them. In a family committed to the 'don't talk' rule, for example, saying even a simple sentence may require overcoming distracting behaviors or other avoidance behaviors which have been refined over hundreds of years!. Talking honestly to a parent or sibling may be breaking family rules that have lasted for generations.
The Good News is that we have been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down by our forefathers. Jesus redeemed us so that we can be free from this kind of bondage. We can learn to talk honestly . We can learn to experience our emotions. We can learn to trust genuinely. We can engage in life. We can love and be loved.
We live in a battle between the empty way of life passed down to us and the new life that has been provided for us. Living in solidarity with our new life in Christ is a daily struggle, but as we practice this way of life we break the vicious cycle of family dysfunction.
Lord, it isn't just me that I am trying to change.
I am up against generations of dysfunction.
An empty way of life has dominated my family for a long time.
It has been passed down to me.
No wonder it seems so hard to change.
I need your help, Lord.
Help me to find hope in your understanding of my struggle.
Help me to find hope in your gift of redemption.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
Kylie Bisutti hit the big time at the tender age of 19 when she beat out 10,000 bikini beauties to win the 2009 Victoria’s Secret Model Search. So why was Bisutti nowhere to be seen during last year’s Victoria’s Secret runway extravaganza?
“Victoria's Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise. I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modeling lingerie, and lingerie isn't clothing, I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it because of my faith,” Bisutti told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I'm Christian, and reading the Bible more, I was becoming more convicted about it.”
The California native, now 21, said that in the wake of baring her body as an Angel, she was also hosting parties, posing for men’s magazines, and craving more and more attention.
But she was not feeling good about herself.
“My body should only be for my husband and it's just a sacred thing," said Bisutti, who had gotten married just before winning the 2009 modeling competition. "I didn't really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.
“It was pretty crazy because I finally achieved my biggest dream, the dream that I always wanted, but when I finally got it, it wasn't all that I thought it would be. Especially being married I just wanted to keep my marriage sacred because divorce rates now in America are pretty high, and I just want to do everything I can to keep my marriage special.”
However, Bisutti hasn't left the entertainment industry entirely, just the posing in underwear part. She appears with Jennifer Lopez in a new Kohl’s commercial, and she'll be working on a new show set to air on the CW channel in September. Bisutti says she's glad she made her career shift, before it was too late.
“It is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don't want to do," she said. "I've fallen into many things that I wouldn't have wanted to do, it's a very tempting industry.”
“My goal is just to be a better role model for the youth, I just want them to see me as somebody that they can look up to and somebody that's going to be dressing appropriately and I'm not going to get into things that I wouldn't want them to be getting into,” she added. “I want to go over the top because I don't think enough people go over the top about how serious all this is. I just want people to see something different about me because I have that faith and I think it's so important for everyone to have.”
For the original post go to: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/02/02/kylie-bisutti-left-lingerie-modeling-because-it-didnt-mesh-with-her-christian/#ixzz2U1fXrbSy
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
So often, a person only reveals a difficult period of his or her life after the event, while reflecting on the event. This is especially true of "testimonies" given at church. A person stands to thank the Lord for seeing her through a dark period of life; meanwhile, many people stare in wonder how most of the rest of us were unaware of her living through such an event. I, too, used to live a privatized life. If I was struggling through a rough patch in my life, I would keep it all to myself, unwilling to share my pain or difficulties. Part of the reason for my privacy was fear, part of it was shame, and another part was pride. I have decided not to live my life like that any longer. I intend on being transparent about my struggles. I think that in doing so I can honor the Lord, live a more honest and thus healthy life, as well as give comfort to anyone who may be experiencing the exact same feelings.Over the last month or so I have felt loneliness unparalleled -- never have I felt this lonely. This lonely period began when I discovered that the only friend I had (in my area) was not really a friend, in the true sense of the word. Our relationship, unbeknownst to me, has never been one of true friendship but of convenience. If this certain person could not find anyone else to spend time with, then I would do. I was unaware that our so-called friendship was in this sad state of affairs. Now, in other periods of my life, I would have responded differently to this tragic state. But at this vulnerable point in my life, when I most need a close friend (with whom I can spend time and confide and share my thoughts and feelings, as well as reciprocate), I am left all alone and very hurt. The friend I thought I had was not really my friend at all.I often picture loneliness as a chasm because that is how it feels -- like a space of emptiness that needs filling. "But the Lord should fill that chasm," some say. Well, that sounds nice; that sounds like the typical, Christian, spiritual-yet-superficial pat-answer to every situation. But I cannot see the Lord, nor can I audibly hear His voice, or hug or touch or punch and be playful with Him like I would a friend. The Lord gives us like-minded friends who can excite the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell (hopefully pleasant). "Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin" (Prov. 18:24 NRSV). In my present situation, little did I know that I had the former but not the latter. This present loneliness is also coupled with a deep sense of rejection. The one is as hard to bear as the other. What I am learning from this experience is how to choose a friend more wisely in the future. The saying is true: we cannot choose our family members, but we can choose our friends. Nor can we choose if or when loneliness will visit us: all of us, no matter our age or social status, are susceptible to a brief encounter with loneliness (or depression or rejection). Spouses and members of large families often sense loneliness as much as any single person; so the mere presence of people in our lives will not guard us from its grip.Some people, when experiencing loneliness or depression, merely endure it instead of praying or calling someone or watching a movie or going for a walk; they merely sit and endure the grief and pain, the emotional and mental torment. For some, enduring these times is all they can do; they feel paralyzed by their emotions or mental state.I know firsthand that there are many people in the world today, Christian and non-Christian, who are lonely and depressed. I know so because I receive their emails. None of us should deny the fact that at certain times in our lives we must drink the cup of loneliness. We do not like this cup. We try to avoid drinking the contents of this cup. But often we are forced to take this cup, press it to our lips, and drink.I think the aversion we sense to such an experience is natural. We should not feel guilty because we try to avoid feeling lonely or depressed. However, Henri Nouwen has some sound advice:Whenever you feel lonely, you must try to find the source of this feeling. You are inclined either to run away from your loneliness or to dwell in it. When you run away from it, your loneliness does not really diminish; you simply force it out of your mind temporarily. When you start dwelling in it, your feelings only become stronger, and you slip into depression. The spiritual task is not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source.1Why finding the source of your loneliness is so very important, he admits, is because "it leads you to discern something good about yourself."2 For me, that goodness is grounded in the fact that I consider myself worthy of friendship, with much to offer a friend. I despise this loneliness because it reminds me that I actually have been rejected, and it hurts. During Jesus' darkest hours in the garden at Gethsemane (lit. "the place of pressing"), He confessed to being deeply grieved, to the point of death, praying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39). Do we not pray the same prayer when we are facing some of the darkest hours of our lives? We all want our respective cups to pass from us. This cup of loneliness is mine to drink for now. No one else can drink from this particular cup. I must drink it, and I must drink it alone. A time will come when the contents of this cup will be depleted. I can then wash the cup, dry it, and place it back into the cupboard. I look forward to that day. 1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 36.
2 Ibid. This truly honest post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/the-cup-of-loneliness.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
A common problem that men have is how to handle it when a coworker has pornography at work. This is a very touchy issue.
What do you do when men are gathered around on the work site looking at pictures of naked women?
If a guy doesn't participate, he is "hen-pecked" or "gay" or.... The name calling starts and the accusations fly if a guy isn't "one of the guys." He's not a "team player." What's a man to do in these situations? After all, he has a reputation to protect.
Reputation is the key word in this story. Reputation is the answer. Jesus took His reputation and laid it all on the line for us so that we could have strength in times like this. Jesus could have been satisfied to leave things the way they were and stayed in heaven. However, He put aside His reputation, His Deity, to become like us. He risked, knowing that His Father would take care of His reputation.
Like yesterday's post, honesty is needed. Asking God for strength to be vulnerable and transparent is how you handle porn at work. Have the gumption to step up and tell your coworkers why looking at porn is not healthy. Let them know that there is much more to a woman than just what she does to make a man feel sexual.
You know what will happen if you take this step? Like Jesus, you may be crucified. I don't mean that these guys will string you up and kill you but they will belittle you. They will tell you that you are not a real man. They will tease you because they want you to participate in their sinfulness.
You know what else will happen? There will always be at least one guy who agrees with you. He may not publicly, but he will at least come to you privately or at least not join in when the teasing starts.
If you stick to your integrity and respect women, you will make a statement. You will only have to say it once. Your statement will have an impact. If you never participate with them in objectifying women from that point on, God's Holy Spirit will work on these men. They will watch you. So, if you have integrity in everything you do at work, they will see it and they will change.
Your reputation? Don't worry about it. God will protect your reputation if you are doing what He wants. A real man respects and honors women. A real man stands up for what is right, even if it means standing alone.
BE A MAN.
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
There are three common but unhelpful ways of dealing with our failures and sins. First, there is denial. We tell ourselves that everybody has problems, so it doesn't really matter. Nothing of any value comes from this effort to cover-up. A second unhelpful strategy is to blame others for what has happened. This can range from different versions of 'the-devil-made-me-do-it' to 'I'm just a product of my environment'. Nothing of any value comes from this effort to cover-up. Thirdly, instead of turning the emotional energy outwards in blame we can turn it against ourselves as self-loathing. We see ourselves as monsters and what we have done as unforgivable. Nothing of value comes from this effort to atone for our own sins.
God invites us to another path. God invites us to be transformed. God invites us to stop denying, blaming and catastrophisizing about our lives. In order to change and grow we need to face the reality of our actions and attitudes. We need to understand that our sins are like scarlet, like crimson. They are life-draining. Destructive. But we are forgivable. We are invited to receive forgiveness. And we are invited to change. The life-draining behaviors that we have pursued can be changed. Changed from bright red to snow white. We do not have to let denial, blame and shame lock us into destructive, hurtful patterns. We can be clean and sober. White as snow. Forgiven.
Lord, free me from denial.
The pretense is choking me to death.
Lord, free me from blame.
It's not working for me anymore.
Lord, free me from self-loathing
The shame is killing me.
Help me to face the truth.
Help me to accept your offer of forgiveness and change.
Make me white as snow.
Make me as clean and pure as new wool.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
My therapist told me that shame -- while a proper emotion when I've committed a shameful act -- carries the potential to confuse me into thinking that there is something wrong with me as a human being. For many people, guilt means "I've done
something wrong." But shame means "I am
something wrong." If shame is not properly assessed, it can potentially hold me captive, and hinder my progress both spiritually and socially.
In a different therapy session I learned about cognitive distortions. Alcoholics Anonymous grants the same concept a different name: stinkin' thinkin'. Cognitive distortions are thoughts that have been corrupted, distorted, or skewed in such a way as to produce error of reality.
An example of a cognitive distortion would be thinking that someone did not like me because when the person saw me in a public context he or she did not interact with me. The reality of the situation, however, could have had various potentials, none of which had anything to do with how the person felt
about me as a human being.
The danger with cognitive distortions is that they can manifest in a manner in which affects my feelings or emotions. In the above situation, I may have felt rejected because the person did not acknowledge me. This, in turn, could have led me to a desperate need for affection, whereby I looked for intimate and immediate gratification, either sexual or non-sexual, whether with another person or even through pornography. If acted upon, shame is but one result.
Such could have been avoided, though, by considering other options as to why the individual did not acknowledge me. For example, perhaps the person did not see me. Perhaps the person did not recognize me from a distance. Perhaps the person was distracted, being in a hurry, or preoccupied with thoughts of his or her own. But by allowing distorted, presumptuous thoughts to consume my mind, I allowed them to affect my emotions, which then led to wrong behavior, producing feelings of shame.
Shame can act as a cognitive distortion when it is perceived as though something is wrong with me as a human being. Even in my context, when I sinned against my roommate last year, there was nothing wrong me as a human being. What was wrong within me were cognitive distortions. My corrupt thoughts regarding my roommate affected my feelings toward him, which, in turn, led me to behave in such a way that was sinful and disrespectful of him as both a human being and as a brother in Christ.
The public humiliation of my exposed sin only compounded my shame. I remember, however, a Southern Baptist pastor coming to me in private and encouraging me to find a way past the shame. He shared with me a time in his own life when he had to force himself to move past his own shame for a sin he had committed. He told me that I would be no use for the kingdom until I found a way past the shame.
From therapy I learned that the shame I felt was due to genuine contrition and repentance. I was able, upon months of reflection, to honestly and objectively view my actions as shameful without thinking of myself -- my very existence -- as shameful. I realized that my actions were triggered by my feelings, which were triggered by my cognitive distortions. Had I been thinking properly, or not entertaining distorted thoughts, I, and so many others, could avoided that nightmare I created.
From Scripture I learned that Jesus took the shameful behavior I committed against my roommate upon Himself, though He despised and scorned that shame, and then sat down next to His Father in glory (Heb. 12:2
). My sinful, shameful behavior has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and I will never be held accountable for it by God. He accounts me as righteous (Rom. 3:21
), justified (Rom. 5:1
), sanctified (Acts 26:18
), and glorified (Rom. 8:30
) in Christ, though I have sinned.
By God's grace and mercy to me in Christ, I am forbidden to accept shame as my identity. I am allowed to feel ashamed of my sinful behavior; but in Christ, having received His forgiveness, I am not permitted to view my existence as one of utter, hopeless shame. Only the gospel of grace grants such overwhelming accomplishment over failure, grief, and shame. I hope that you, in and through union with Christ by the grace of God, will internalize these truths for yourself. This honest post was written by William W Birch. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/02/saturday-devotion-shame-and-identity.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
"We haven't shared our bed for over 20 years,"
the man told me. This man came to see me for counseling as he was at the end of himself. He was running out of faith. Faith in his marriage, faith in his wife, and ultimately faith that God could fix his situation. He was on the verge of suicide.
He told me an interesting story. The problem started rather simply as many young marriages do. "We were having a fight one evening. I don't even remember what it was about. But we were really steamed at each other and I decided I was going to "punish" my wife. I told her that if she was going to act that way, I would just sleep on the couch." Over time, this couple learned to handle their conflicts in this distorted, disrespectful and damaging way. God says that this type of behavior is sinful.
Sometimes, his wife would take the initiative and "punish" him by sleeping on the couch. Over time, there was less forgiveness, less tolerance and less sleeping together. After a while, they stopped sleeping with each other altogether. His wife decided that she didn't want to share their bed with a man who was so unforgiving. So, she decided to move into the spare bedroom. God has stated that this type of behavior is unacceptable.
By all outward appearances, this couple was envied by their friends. This couple had a terrific facade. They both led very active lives. He would spend time with the boys watching sports and hanging out. Her friends became more important to her than her husband. People were so observant of their ability "to let each other enjoy themselves without tying the other down."
There were problems that were creeping in unaware to this couple. Their children noticed that at home, dad & mom would hardly speak to each other. They noticed that there parents would each go to their respective bedrooms in the evening and watch TV. They noticed that, at home, there was a lack of love and joy. However, the children also noticed that when they would go to church as a family, that all seemed good. At first the children enjoyed going to church because it felt like then they were a family that really loved and cared for each other. However, as the children became teenagers, they noticed the hypocrisy that their parents displayed. Their parents were one way at home, one way with their friends, and another way at church. When the children would talk to their friends, they came to realize that their parents really didn't love each other. It was all an act.
It was his son that awakened this man to what was really happening. His son casually said, sarcastically, "when I get married I want to have a wife that I don't love too, Dad." This man was so floored by his son's hurtful statement, that he didn't even know what to say or do. He just broke down and started crying. He asked himself, "what have I taught my children about love and marriage?" He realized that the last 20 years of his life have been a sham. That's when the feelings of despair and hopelessness set in. That's when he first started contemplating ending his life. Fortunately, this man sought help for his situation, deciding to get counseling for himself.
Now, the recovery from 20 years of denial and lovelessness is a long and arduous journey and I won't get into the issues that this man needed to face in counseling. However, I share his story to stop you and make you think...
How are you treating your wife? Have you two gone so far as to not share the marriage bed anymore? Maybe you haven't done that physically but emotionally. Do you sleep together, side-by-side, each nite and wonder why you're married, not feeling as if this person to whom you are married is even worth staying with? Have you given up on your love internally and just live a sham marriage?
Let me encourage you today. A pastor of mine used to say this frequently in his sermons, "it's never to late to do the right thing."
So, if you've gone a long time (or even a short time) and haven't been cultivating the love and romance in your marriage, be a man and take the first step. Swallow your pride. Apologize to your wife for discarding her. Work on valuing her. Let your kids see you two in love. Get help and talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor.Tomorrow, we are going to continue our discussion of marriage...BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
Addictions and compulsions are a kind of bondage. Painful memories are also like chains that bind us. We try harder and harder to change. But sometimes the harder we try, the tighter the chains become. Recovery begins when we recognize that our bondage is too great for us. We are not powerful enough to break these chains. Either we will find a power greater than ourselves to help us, or we will stay in bondage.
Many people find the idea of powerlessness to be very troubling. We want to be competent and self-reliant. And, many of us have had people attempt to 'rescue' us in ways that have increased our shame and self-contempt. So, why should we welcome the God-who-rescues? Won't he also shame us?
First, notice in this text that God's intervention is in response to a request. We do not serve a codependent God. God is not entangled in our compulsions. God will not rescue in ways that are shame-full. God knows that we need to be ready to be helped and that we need to cry out for help.
Notice also in this text that it is the God-of-unfailing-love who is our higher power. Because so many of us are convinced that God is vindictive, punitive and abusive, it can be terrifying in our powerlessness to focus on the power of God. We are sure that all of that power will be used against us. But the God-of-unfailing-love is not a vindictive, punitive or abusive God. God is a God-of-tough-love. That's the only kind of love that can be 'unfailing.' But God is not 'against' us. God is 'for' us.
Recovery is being set free by God's powerful love.
I was powerless, Lord.
I expected you to increase my shame and self-contempt.
But you are a God of unfailing love.
I expected you to use your power against me.
But when I called, you came.
You crashed the gates.
You cut the bars.
You broke the chains.
You are leading me out of this darkness and deepest gloom
into the light of day.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
A teenage actor from a popular CBS sitcom has denounced the broadcast that he has starred in for many years, stating that “a true God-fearing person” cannot be on such programs, and is urging viewers to stop watching “filth” on television.
Nineteen-year-old Angus T. Jones from “Two and a Half Men”
says that his newly-found beliefs are at conflict with the sitcom. Jones has played the young Jake Harper on the show since he was nine years old, but now states that he sees the material in a whole new light.
Jones explained that in his senior year of high school, he began feeling that he needed to get serious with God, and is now uncomfortable with the broadcast. “If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’ please stop watching it and filling your head with filth."
“I’m on ‘Two and a Half Men’ and I don’t want to be on it,” Jones added. “I’m not okay with what I’m learning and what the Bible says, and being on that television show.”
Jones continued to explain that the enemy of man’s soul works through various means, including through what some may believe is mere entertainment.
“People don’t like to think about how deceptive the enemy is,” he said. “He’s been doing this for a lot longer than any of us have been around. So, there’s no playing around. There’s no playing around when it comes to eternity.”
“Please do some research on the effects of television and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to the television,” Jones advised. “It’s bad news.”
He outlined that he did not want to be used as an instrument of the devil.
“If I am doing any harm, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan,” he said. “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that.”
The sitcom, produced by Chuck Lorre, centers around a man who was kicked out of the house after a divorce, and moved in with his friend. It originally featured Charlie Sheen, who was fired from the show after producers became concerned about his personal lifestyle, which they stated was “dangerously self-destructive.”
Sheen was then replaced by actor Ashton Kutcher after the writers wrote Sheen out of the broadcast through an episode that claimed that he was pushed in front of a subway by a girlfriend who believed that he had been cheating on her.
The sitcom is often filled with off-color jokes about sexual matters, such as an episode in which Kutcher states that he would willingly have sexual relations with any woman that would like to keep him company. Goes to show you. God is actively at work in this world.
It's never too late to do the right thing.
I'm watching this guy and praying for him that he will continue to seek God's guidance. Will you join me?
This blog post came from the Christian News Network. For the original post, go to: http://christiannews.net/2012/11/26/two-and-half-men-star-struck-by-fear-of-god-pleads-with-viewers-to-stop-watching-the-filth/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.