The Importance of Community

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I’ve had the unfortunate experience of living life with this inescapable feeling of being alone. God in the beginning of the Bible recognized that, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Early on in my life, my mother and father divorced, and my father was my primary caretaker. And I know now that there was always something missing in my life by not having a motherly figure throughout my life.

This affected my friendships. I would sometimes connect very well because of my personality, but I had more friendships and less deep meaningful relationships.

One of the ways I self-medicated was by turning to pornography. It didn’t start out that way, and there is certainly more than one reason I chased after pornography. But in the ten years I spent in and out of addiction to pornography, I remember feeling extremely lonely before and after looking at porn.

And one key idea I’ve learned in the past year has proven to be true in so many ways. 

Addiction thrives in isolation.

For ten years, no one knew that I was struggling, let alone how much I was struggling with porn. And the enemy loved it. In isolation, I felt despair, disappointed, and unable to resists temptation in my life. I never really had any marked success to brag about.

And when my life fell apart in the form of divorce and losing custody of my son, I was faced with a very desperate need for something to change in my life.

What I was missing in my life, and also what I was missing in my marriage, was having something God was not just encouraging me to pursue but demanding me to take seriously. 

I needed a community. 

There is the age-old cliché that it takes a village to raise a child. That doesn’t stop because you leave home. I don’t think it ever stops. I believe that God gives us other people to help us grow through our hard times and struggles.

And after six months of success in my own battle against porn and the hard times life has thrown at me, I learned the hard way just how important having friends, mentors, and family in your life can truly be.

Now I know - when I stumble, my friends are there to help me get up. It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, but it does mean that I can do better. I can be better.

And as it goes, “A burden shared is a burden halved.” The Bible says in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This command is born out in community.

The biggest turnaround and change I’ve seen, was the day my close friend and mentor told me that he was praying for me daily.

I didn’t feel judged or ashamed. I felt motivated and encouraged. It was as if someone truly believed in me to become the man God intended me to be.

And if it weren’t for community, I would have never received such a major blessing.

Hebrews also puts it really well in chapter 10 verses 24 and 25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

If you are struggling with addiction, there is help; in the Word, at the church, and in a small group. You don’t have to be alone. Reach out to a loving, Bible-following community and watch how they will come alongside you in love and help you overcome.

#MyStory :: My Struggle and Jesus' Grace

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It’s easy to think that some people are “immune” to sin, or at least more resistant to it, based on outward appearances. Some people just seem to have it all together, and it feels like they couldn’t ever do anything wrong. The truth is that this is as far from the truth as it possibly could be. We all sin, even the people who don’t appear to on the outside. To show you what I mean, here’s my story…

I grew up in church. I was a Pastor’s Kid, and I spent a large portion of my childhood entrenched in everything Christian. I had loving parents who were devoted followers of Christ, and as I said, my dad was a pastor for many years. I remember playing in the church all the time as a kid. I went to Sunday school every week. I went to summer camps and VBS every year. I went to youth group at church. I did all the things that a “good Christian” should do. Life was perfect, right?

Wrong!

In many ways, I’m very thankful that I grew up the way I grew up. It definitely planted some seeds in my life that are integral to where I am right now, but the thing is, in my teenage years and early adulthood these seeds were dormant and never really grew into much of anything. In many ways, the seeds planted felt foreign to me. I knew everything I needed to know. I knew what the seeds were supposed to grow into, but I never cared to feed or water them of my own accord. Jesus was someone I knew of, but not someone that I walked with personally. I easily fell back into my old ways.

In 2006 I joined the military, got married, and moved to Germany. This is when my life really started to take a dark turn. Now that I was far away from almost everything I knew, I really had zero connection to a life that resembled anything touched by Jesus. I still knew what I knew, but it was distant and it barely had any effect on my thoughts and actions. The only thing that stuck with me through all the years was my conscious. There were many times where I did things that I knew were wrong; things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing, but I oftentimes did them anyways.

My wife and I had our first child in 2008. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together before Ava arrived, so it was a bit of a shock to me once she was in our lives. We were happy, but things were very different. My wife, Rachel, changed. She used to be very lovey and attached to me. She used to be very physical, which I loved because one of my love languages is physical touch. But after our child, things were very much different. She didn’t like to be touched as much, and we certainly lost a lot of our intimacy. While I loved her and our daughter very much, this change was hard on me. And being that I was still growing as a man, I didn’t really know how to handle this change productively. I turned to pornography to fill the void in my heart. Of course, it never filled the emptiness in my heart, but it continued to be a problem for me for many years.

I also engaged in some very inappropriate behaviors at work. I would swear all the time, and I would not act in any way that a Christian should. I poured a lot of junk into my mind, and all these things just made it worse. It got so bad that at one point when my wife was gone on a trip back home, I spent some personal time with a friend’s wife and her friend, and I essentially cheated on my wife with my neighbor’s friend. Fortunately, I did not make the worst mistake I could have made, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wanted to. Needless to say, it was a close call, but ultimately I had committed adultery no matter how far it had gone. And this wasn’t the last time either.

In 2010 we moved to Guam. We got pregnant with our second child, which wasn’t planned, so this one was really strenuous on our marriage. Neither of us were in good places, and the tension almost ruined us. I was working nights for a long time, and was using pornography as an outlet even more. I also had someone I worked with there who I started chatting online with and developed a relationship. I eventually got to the point where I went on a date with this girl, and intended to be intimate with her. I remember being at home after I had gone out with her, and I was chatting with her. She gave me the option to come over to her place. Again, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wanted to, but something inside me wouldn’t let me go. I knew that it was wrong. As much tension as there was in our marriage, I knew that I couldn’t do this to my wife. I’m pretty sure that God was watching over me that night, even though I had completely turned my back on him. I thank him to this day that I did not go over to that girl’s apartment.

However, I was still in a really bad place. Luckily, I cut off relations with that girl, but my heart was still very hard. There were a few other occasions where I almost made some really bad decisions, but each time my conscious (aka, God) kept me from doing it. I attribute that to the seeds that had been planted in my life so long ago, even though I was still neglecting them.

In 2013, I changed jobs in the military, and had to go to school in Monterey, California. This was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. We found a church there that reminded me who Jesus was, and it brought me back from the depths and breathed new life into my soul. I probably would not be where I am today if we had not gone there.

It took some time, but slowly my heart softened as I found forgiveness for my illicit convictions and stopped pouring darkness into my heart. I even ended up telling my wife all the things I had done, which was an incredibly hard thing to do. I knew it needed to be done, but I struggled with actually doing it for several months. Finally, I did, and by the grace of God she forgave me. I certainly didn’t deserve it, but I suppose that’s how grace works isn’t it?

I’m still not perfect. I still struggle with keeping my eyes focused on God and not on beautiful women. Of course, I still struggle with temptations, but I’m very proud of the fact that it’s been many years since I’ve searched for pornography or given a woman other than my wife more attention than she deserves. Our marriage is better for it, and my relationship with Jesus is stronger than it’s ever been. I still have a lot to learn, and I still have many ways in which I can grow, but for once in my life my faith is real, and it really makes all the difference.

 


We’re supposed to pick one woman and that’s the one that God meant for us to be intimate with. When we play with the idea of intimacy with any other woman, even a virtual one, that’s when the devil can get a foothold in our lives that will easily tear us down if not removed. It’s very common for men to struggle with this temptation. If that’s you, know that you are not alone, and you can overcome it with help from the Father. Allow his healing in your life, and you will find that EVERYTHING will be all the better for it.

If you struggle with addiction to pornography, please use these resources to get the help you need.

 

A change of attitude is a change of life!

A change of attitude is a change of life

Over and over in my life, I have looked at what I have and was mad that I didn't have more. We look around at what other people have, and in all of that comparison there is this basic foundational accusation, "God, you are not good. You didn't give me a winning hand, therefore I can't win, so why even try?" Then what happens in our addictions, in our marriages, in our divorces, in our affairs, and in our sinning is we throw our hands down and we walk away mad and we're not even gonna try! It's an incredible, incredible sin! Misinterpreting God's good heart results in a hard heart and a wasted life. I want to help you understand where you are and how God can change where you are and bring you into an amazing new place. Where you and I don't have to live resenting life, resenting God, quitting on life, and simply believing that we can't win! 

If we're honest, many of us resent what God has given us or what He has not given us. We feel like we're on a journey that we can't complete. We look around and see what everybody else got and we're mad at the giver! Then we make this foundational shift that changes everything. When we decide God isn't good, our hearts begin to harden, our world begins to go light-less, we begin to die and passions begin to drain and pretty soon we're in a place where we can't win! When you feel like you're overwhelmed, when you feel like you've been dealt a bad hand, and when you feel like there's no way you can win, you don't even try! 

Instead of living our lives up as God would intend, we're quitting in life, overwhelmed, because we haven't been given enough. Because we have hurt and people have betrayed us and because we have faced times where we have had to struggle and because God has allowed 'hard' to happen in our lives, we look at Him without faith and we accuse Him of being evil! But the scriptures say in Psalm119:68 that "You are good and what You do is good." Guys, I'm telling you that this is the foundation of everything. The foundation of life is that God is good and endlessly generous. The whole experience of your every day life is going to be determined by what your heart decides about this one simple truth: Is God good or is God bad?

Jesus knew that in a world that was broken and separated from Him, that everything would be crazy and that nothing would ever be right until our souls would be eternally connected with His heart! He knew that we would misinterpret God. He knew that we would be in competition with one another. He knew that community would be broken and that relationship would be fractured in a 360 degree kind of way. And so "God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son..." (John 3:16) to enter into all of our brokenness and all of our insanity and all of our losing, our hating, our lying and despair; to bring salvation and hope! God brought His kingdom into this broken world to make things right again! Accept your gifting, however you are gifted, it is the handiwork of God and play to win with the hand you're dealt. A change of attitude is a change of life! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Love can't stay small.

Matthew 22:37 

The reason that so many of us settle for less than Gods best is because we don’t love God! I’m just telling you, that is the biggest mistake that any of us could ever make in our lives. When our hearts are ignited by Jesus, and we love well, we will live bigger than our circumstances, bigger than our problems, bigger than life around us! God is infinitely bigger than all of our problems, but our biggest problem is that we have a view of God that’s just too stinking small. The reality is that "LOVE CAN’T STAY SMALL!" But the only way that this is possible, is if you let God love you! 

If you let love do its work in your life, you will grow spiritually. You will commit to following Jesus in a way that will take over your life and bless you and everyone around you for generations to come! Jesus made it simple, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul and all of your mind.” (Matthew 22:37

If you have opened your heart and dared to believe that there is a God who knows you and loves you and delights in you. If the joy of that has seeped inside of you, it will continue to grow and take over. It is a fire that will ignite your heart and your life and it will grow and you will give your life away to Jesus! It’s not about acting and being religious. It’s about being a new person with a new freedom and accepting the love of God and accepting who you are in this world! 

Guys, remember that love can’t stay small. If you love God, your life will change and it will change for good; this is called “growth”. What I want you to do is to commit to growth by becoming spiritually mature. God’s love was never small for us. Remember the scope and the scale of this "God story" that we are in? For God so loved the world…in all of its brokenness...that He left Heaven and He came down to earth and He gave His one and only son and now, in response to love, if anyone of us would believe in Him, we are not going to perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Our lives aren’t going to be hopeless and chained to addiction or caught in a generational curse and unhappiness. Our lives aren’t going to be utterly broken and drowning in self pity. Our lives aren’t going to be circling the toilet. No, on the opposite, we are going to have life of an everlasting quality and quantity that we can't even imagine! That’s the “God story” that we live in, and it’s not a story of legalism, it’s a story of love. It’s the Jesus Story! –Dr. Drew Shofner

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