I Ain’t Into Making Love

 

I guess it’s no secret now that my life held a sexual past. Google my name and it’s out, mainly because I chose to lift the lid off shame from my past. I confess, the main reasons why I did what I did was because I justified my sexual desires with one tiny word – ‘love’. It became the backbone for every sexual intention I followed through on. I refused to buckle under the religious opinion that it was lust, lust was what other people felt, be it for a dashing someone in front of them, or for how they felt about a brand of dark roast coffee – but me? Well I made love. I had a ‘solid’ thesis for my actions, a reasoning for the ultimate in vulnerability. I didn’t do this with everyone – just the ones I loved. Few argued with me, mainly because I was accountable to no one. I did what I believed was right, living in a vacuum of me, my boyfriend and I.

Turns out that I wasn’t alone. And as I walk in a very different light today, this is the same argument why some frown when I mention that I hold out for the ‘entente’ of marriage. This is the reason why I’m labelled as ‘inflexible’ to being open to good men, when I talk about celibacy. This is why the world is getting more confused, because we are confusing ourselves. They frown because they think I can’t love fully. I frown because they’ve mistaken what love means.

But to be clear, before we go any further, I don’t want to be that pastor who spurts out the word lust like the many religious folk have before, alluding to a prude persona that doesn’t appreciate the need for sexual desire. It’s vital and we need it for the human race to function. I’m not some nun, now valiant to charge everyone with a vow of chastity. I want to revert back to where it’s powerful and more importantly, where it’s not.

 


The definition of lust is to have ‘a very strong sexual desire for someone’. That’s it.


 

That’s it. It’s not making love, it’s not fireworks that last the test of time. It’s not commitment, it’s not the fight to keep you, it’s not the foundation that will make you trust someone, it’s not the thing that will comfort your tears, or place needs above another’s needs. No.

Lust bolts, love stays. Lust forgets. Lust blanks out. Lust has no forethought. Lust lyricizes the glamour of one-night stands, love writes lyrics that says it’ll catch a grenade for you. Lust utters empty nothings, love has follows through on its promises. Lust defends without humility, love always says sorry. Love makes space to wonder, lust asks what time is it? Lust has double standards – ones that only work for the self. Love listens to the highest standard and fights for it. Lust sends a text to finish a romantic dalliance, love talks face-to-face.

How often we merge passion of lust and believe it’s love is too common an occurrence that something needs to be said. Lust is not love, it is a by-product of beauty, but so rarely is it followed through with the real depth, the real substance of love. For the first time I’m a supporter of 50 Cent when he said “I’m into having sex, I’m not in into making love.” I’m glad someone in the world of influence acknowledged that there’s a difference. Even if it doesn’t carry a responsibility of taking care of a girl’s heart.

And these days, amid the bikini shots on a beach, the provocative facial seflies – all subtle callings for men to check us out in lustful ways, I say there’s something far more powerful to be emblazoned on everyday expression. The deeper sway of tenderness, of listening, of conversing over cuddling, of grace over physically grabbing. Because none of that lasts and just like the amusing viral of a tiny hamster eating tiny burritos – it’s over.

We must be careful to not define the meaning of love on our own experiences, but on the solid truth of what love itself defines itself as: it is kind, it is patient, it is not self-seeking. The definition has been in our midst for thousands of years, inspired by the very inventor of love – time to go back to the drawing board, before more families break apart, before pansexuality becomes another ‘thing’, before we act in a space that says anything and everything goes. It can, of course it can, but that doesn’t mean you’re making love, if anything, sweetheart – you’re making it up.

 

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR:

– Seriously Single

– Coloring in your Colorful Past

– The Economics of Sex

 

CARRIE LLOYD IS AN AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST FROM THE UK, WRITING FOR GRAZIA, COMPANY MAGAZINE, HUFFINGTON POST, CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE, MAGNIFY, ALPHA LIFE, THE DAILY MAIL AND MORE. SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE VIRGIN MONOLOGUES (AUTHENTIC MEDIA). HER EXPERIENCES HAVE COVERED PREGNANCY CRISIS COUNSELLING, TO PASTORING YOUNG ADULTS AS AN INTERN AT BSSM IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA. HER PASSION IS FOR ABOLISHING SEX TRAFFICKING, HELPING UNLIKELY HEROES, AS WELL AS SPEAKING TO TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS ABOUT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. HER BLOG ON THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF CHRISTIAN DATING CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.HERGLASSSLIPPER.CO.UK

Coloring in Your Colorful Past

Whatever you’ve done, whatever interesting decision you made in the past, you might be like me: so far removed from the old you, so unfamiliar to your ‘old ways’ that when you recite stories of how you used to be, you talk in third person. You’re clean from self-sabotage activities, you don’t look back, you don’t repeat the same mistakes because you’ve had a enough epiphanies to see that your sexual past wasn’t working for you, for him, for the future ‘him’ or for the future you.

Your head is up, and you walk boldly once more; until you overhear a conversation or perhaps a casual confession from a girl or boy you might be interested in: “I’d like to hopefully marry a virgin.” You know this statement doesn’t represent the entire perspective of single people, but you hear it never the less.

How do you respond? Do you start jumping on table-tops preaching the themes of redemption that fill the gospel? Do you accept that this is their choice, but disregard their existence in church forevermore, because to you, their statement made you a second-class citizen? Do you chime a bell to all of your fellow ‘redeemed’ friends who took similar sexual paths and start a ‘born-again virgin’ club?

Or do you buy a one-way ticket to where many twenty-somethings appear to go: Shame-land.

Within minutes, upon hearing that some people might want to marry a virgin, you clothe yourself in degradation, your head lowers a little more, you can’t look anyone in the iris, and within the next few days, you’ve forgotten your name, never mind your history with the Lord. One person’s opinion, one person’s ability to hold to their purity, has somehow scuppered the recovery of the mistakes you made in your past.

After I decided to become abstinent again after sexual relationships in my twenties, I found myself dating men who had held onto their purity. Suddenly the question of ‘am I good enough for him?’ was a puzzle that needed solving. As conversations unveiled, I learned that neither men nor women usually care for your past as long as you carry no shame in the present.

Wishing to marry a virgin if you chose a life of purity yourself isn’t a bad thing, it’s an understandable request, no different perhaps to me wanting a man who is taller than me. I’ve equally noted some great potential I’ve missed because of the goal posts I set in those who were let’s say, more vertically challenged than I.


For me, I choose to embrace the decisions they make today in purity, not the mistakes they have overcome a long time ago.


This article therefore is not written to discuss the pros and cons of marrying a virgin, nor discredit your desire to do so. This is written for the man or woman who did have a colorful past – one that left their world feeling nothing more than monochrome. Because when facing a community of people who’ve led in purity all their days, the scoundrel that is shame will do everything to whisper bitter nothings into your ear, robbing you of hope, of your worth.

“Guilt says I’ve made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake,” Brené Brown once told her crowd in a Ted Talk. In many conversations with generation Y (the ones who feel they won’t be suitable for a man or woman who led a fairly spotless sexual history), I realized just how debilitating shame is. How erosive, how unproductive, how pitiful, how victim-like it makes the soul feel. Grace was introduced to take you to the dance floor and show you off, while shame was an entrapment tool to believe you didn’t deserve the best, welding you to the floor so you could not fly. But as the man or woman of your dreams tells you that they refuse to hold your past against you, there’s something within still refusing to let go.

Why? Because shame creates a comfort blanket. One that will never let you explore the feeling of vulnerability as it prevents you from sharing your past with someone who might just love you unconditionally. We carry it around because we feel we should, to show how remorseful we are.

Life is too short to make your past mistakes, the ones you’ve already conquered, be resurrected. Faith tells us to let it go, God says He’s got you covered. You never see snakes return to their old skin, so why hold onto yours?

Self-value doesn’t come from a place of ‘what have you done?’ but a place of ‘but look how far we’ve come!’ Shame will not enable you to repair them, it will only leave you hopeless. It will encourage you to settle for the same unhealthy, codependent relationships, constantly seeking for someone else to say, “you’re OK.”

As we ensure we don’t repeat the same destructive behaviors, we also must allow ourselves to see how much we have overcome. Let this be your backbone, let this be your standard. Purity attracts healthy thoughts, forgiveness seeks connection, humility invites love. The fear of the Lord is a vital and beautiful thing, but never confuse it with shame, never dilute it with misnomers that separate you from the intimacy that is waiting for you, dying for you, accepting you..

...for all you are.

For all you were.

For all you will become.

 

Carrie Lloyd is an author and journalist from the UK, writing for Grazia, Company Magazine, Huffington Post, Christianity Magazine, Magnify, Alpha Life, The Daily Mail and more. She is the author of ‘The Virgin Monologues (Authentic Media). Her experiences have covered pregnancy crisis counselling, to pastoring young adults as an intern at BSSM in Redding, California. Her passion is for abolishing sex trafficking, helping Unlikely Heroes, as well as speaking to teenagers and young adults about healthy relationships. Her blog on the trials and tribulations of Christian dating can be found at www.herglassslipper.co.uk

 

 


This Is My Yes

Ten years ago, I walked down the aisle in my white wedding dress toward the man who is now my husband, Ben. I stood across from him looking into his eyes and made a vow to honor him as my husband for the rest of my life. In that moment, when I said yes to him, I said no to every other man on earth. And trust me, there were a lot who wanted to date me (okay there were at least a few…wink). I didn’t stand there at the altar listing them off like, “Okay well I’m not marrying Edward or Henry…or Joe or Jerry…no to Sam and Will.” All I did was look Ben in the eyes and say, “I’m marrying you.” That meant any other man who came into my life from then on was an automatic no because Ben became my yes.

It’s the same thing with God. When we say yes to Him, we’re saying no to all the other things that might try to compromise our commitment to Him. You can’t say yes to God and then tell Him, “Actually, I’m not going to do what you want me to do.” You’re either surrendered or you’re not. Either He’s Lord of all or He’s not. When we say yes to God, our no becomes complete.

Imagine if we went into Starbucks and when the barista asked us what we wanted, we listed all the things we didn’t want: “Well I don’t want a latte or a frappuccino. Do you guys have those little egg sandwiches? Good, I don’t want one of those either.” When we reach the front of the line, we simply say, “I would like a soy latte at 130 degrees.” (This may be my actual order. I’m a little bit of a chicken with the heat.)

When your yes is set, your no is easy. You don’t have to mull over every decision anymore thinking, “Well maybe this is okay as long as I don’t do it all the time” or “If this only happens on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s okay, I can just clean it up at church on Sunday” or even, “Well, just this once.” When you say yes to Jesus, you are saying no to all of the things that He asks you not to do. He cares about His connection with you. He knows what’s not good for it, and He loves you too much to stand by and say you can do whatever you feel like. We have to have a “yes” to Him that’s so strong, our “no” to everything else comes without hesitation.

In the story of Joseph in Genesis, Joseph was working in the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife took notice. She approached Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” She must have been cold or something… No, I’m joking, she wanted something else.  So there was Joseph, a single, good-looking young man in his master’s house with this woman asking him to come to bed with him, and she was probably gorgeous. I doubt the wife of this wealthy officer of Pharaoh was ugly. But Joseph tells her, “My master has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Potiphar’s wife approached him over and over but he never did anything, in fact, the bible says he actually fled and got out of there.

There are things vying for our time and attention today, just like Joseph had. When the computer screen looks at you as if to say, “Just turn it on and look…”; when the girl texts you and says “I could be right over…”; when the guy says, “just one more time…” there’s got to be something within us as a generation, that says


“How could I when I belong to Him?”


How could I date this guy who doesn’t respect my values when I belong to Him?

How could I marry this girl who’s wrong for me when I belong to Him?

How could I look at those images on my laptop when I belong to Him?

This isn’t to trivialize the struggle when we get addicted to something or when there are things we are strongly attracted to. I understand this is a real fight. The thing is, we can’t get free until we admit that we belong to Him. Some of you might be thinking, “Well this is how I’ve always been.” If you don’t believe you can change because of this, then you’re saying that how you’ve always been is stronger than who He is. Believe that you belong to Him and that He can get you free.

There’s got to be something in us that says how could I when I belong to Him? I said “Yes” to Him, so I’m sorry, but I can’t do that anymore.

Choose to say yes to God, and choose to say yes to the beautiful things He’s placed in your hands to steward. Choose to say yes to your family, your friends, your health, the dreams He’s put in your heart, and every good gift He’s given you. Don’t you think it’s worth it? Twenty years from now when you look back on your life, don’t you think you’ll say the “no” you had in the significant moments was worth everything you co-labored with God to build? God wants more good things for you than you can ever imagine, and you can trust Him. You don’t have to focus on saying “no” to all the correct things. Focus on your “yes”, solidify it in Him, and your “no” will not only be easy, it will be more than worth it.

 

Want to find out more about what having a strong yes looks like?

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9 Steps To A New Life

 

Countless people are imprisoned by life-controlling sin and mind-numbing fear. Here are nine strategies on how to escape the grasp of the enemy and win the battle against hopelessness. If you are held hostage by the fear of failure, despair and depression, these steps will help you break free from the chains that hold you captive and win the victory against sin. Get ready to unlock divine opportunities and be released into your destiny!

1. Admit that you’re wrong and that it was no one else’s fault but yours.

2. Ask yourself what the real root cause of your failure is – what’s really wrong?

3. Repent; be truly sorry and change your mind about the core reason why you failed.

4. Clean up your mess; ask forgiveness of everyone and anyone that your failure affected. It doesn’t matter that they failed also. That’s not your business when you are trying to change your own life.

5. Find somebody who’s really strong in the place that you failed and ask them to mentor and disciple you.

6. Ask God to give you strength every day to turn your life around. When you fall down get right back up and don’t feel sorry for yourself.

7. Refuse to give up; don’t make excuses for your failures or defend yourself when you’re corrected. Receive wise people’s input into your life.

8. Forgive yourself because God has forgiven you. Refuse to live in regret of the past.

9. Have a big YES in your life; find a reason to live for Jesus, a purpose that you are willing to die for.

Have these steps spoken to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

KRIS VALLOTTON IS THE AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS, CO-AUTHOR OF THE BEST SELLING SUPERNATURAL WAYS OF ROYALTY, AND IS A WELL-KNOWN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SPEAKER. KRIS IS THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF MORAL REVOLUTION, THE SENIOR ASSOCIATE LEADER OF BETHEL CHURCH, AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY.  HE AND HIS WIFE, KATHY, HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 36 YEARS AND RESIDE IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA.  THEY HAVE FOUR GROWN CHILDREN AND EIGHT GRAND CHILDREN.
WEBSITE: KRISVALLOTTON.COM
FACEBOOK: FACEBOOK.COM/KVMINISTRIES
TWITTER: TWITTER.COM/KVMINISTRIES
INSTAGRAM: INSTAGRAM.COM/KVMINISTRIES

4 Ways to Subdue the Strongholds of Shame

 

As discussed in previous blogs (Silencing Shame and Disconnecting Shame), shame is feeling unworthy. Guilt says, “I did a bad thing,” while shame says, “I am bad.

Shame has many faces, conveying varying messages of ill being, coaxing its victims into secrecy, silence, and blame – condemning them to eek out a seemingly inescapable existence in the dark rooms of depression, anxiety, and detachment.

Some people tend to be drawn towards shame (always feel bad about themselves), while others attempt to avert shame (avoid shame whenever possible). Many people vacillate between the two. Whatever side of the shame spectrum they may choose, shame always demands a prescription to numb the pain. When our identity and destiny are in question, coping with life’s challenges and the devil’s demands become more difficult.

We were made to feel O.K. about ourselves. When we don’t feel O.K., we often look for ways to comfort our pain, and compensate for our inadequacies. Shame lures us into dysfunctional behaviors, oftentimes resulting in addictions – becoming strongholds, seeking to choke out our lives, and the lives of those around us.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, approximately 23 million people are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Not to mention those who are addicted to:

• Pornography, promiscuity, adultery

• Gambling

• Overeating, binging, anorexia

• Shopping

• Exercise

• Recreation

• Busyness

• Work

• People (Co-dependency)

When we experience shame, we look for countermeasures to compensate for the comfort we need. Until we face the realities of shame, we will never subdue the strongholds keeping us from walking in, and fulfilling, our true identity and destiny.

 

THE SHAME SYNDROME

Shame places us on a merry-go-round of never ending promises of change, propelling us into poor choices. When we don’t feel O.K., we feel powerless to end the shame syndrome driving us into dysfunctional decisions that destroy our sense of well-being even further.

Have you ever found yourself having this revolving conversation in your head?

 

“God, I’m sorry”

“That was the last time I’ll do that”

“I did it again”

 

 “God, I’m sorry”

“That was the last time I’ll do that”

“I don’t know if I can stop”

“I want to stop”

“I did it again”

 

 “God, I’m sorry”

“That was the last time I’ll do that”

“I did it again”

“I can’t tell anyone”

“What will they think?”

“I’m alone”

 

 “God, I’m sorry”

“That was the last time I’ll do that”

“God, please set me free”

“I did it again”

“I feel so bad – I am bad”

“I can’t change”

 

And the cycle of repentance, resolve, and resignation continues to pull us into the depths of despair and dysfunction. Finally, our futile attempts for freedom lead to a fatalistic view of our future, and hope for freedom.

The problem is that we are often fighting the symptoms of the problem instead of the source of the problem.

 

SUBDUING THE SOURCE OF THE STRONGHOLD

The fact is that we can be free. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

In order to be free from the dysfunctional addictive behavior cycle, we must know the truth about what is at the root of the bondage that has taken us captive.

Oftentimes, we are waging war against the wrong enemy.

While addictions are enemies of the life God has promised us, it is shame that is the 5 Star General over the addiction armies. Shame is the source of strongholds in our lives. In order to subdue the stronghold of addictions, we must subdue shame.

Moreover, we must identify the triggers that compel us to act out in destructive, dysfunctional behaviors.

 

4 SUGGESTIONS FOR SUBDUING STRONGHOLDS OF SHAME

1. What am I feeling?

Identifying our feelings, and the accompanying shame messages that trigger dysfunctional, addictive, behavior is essential in becoming free.

When someone says something derogatory towards us; when a circumstance doesn’t work out the way we had hoped; when we fail at something important to us, we can often sense a wide variety of demeaning messages of shame. It is important to discern the specific feelings associated with those messages.

I would recommend developing a list of feelings, and memorize them, so that you can recognize them when they present themselves.

Then, don’t judge the feeling; remember feelings are not right or wrong – they just are. Stuffing, ignoring, and condemning our feelings will not ease the pain, or erase the messages of shame. Acknowledging and even accepting our feelings is the beginning to finding out what we really need for our well-being.

2. What do I need?

Acknowledging our needs is not a selfish pursuit. Feelings are indicators of needs.

Feeling sad may indicate that we need comfort

Feeling disappointed may indicate that we need assurance

Feeling irritated may indicate that we need understanding

Feeling guilty may indicate that we need forgiveness

Feeling hopeless means that we may need a fulfilling vision

Feeling depressed may indicate that we need passion

Feeling lonely may indicate that we need intimacy

Feeling rejected may indicate that we need connection

We were created to have our needs fulfilled by God and others. When we deny or downplay our emotions – our feelings, we are choosing to fly through the storms of life without the instruments designed to assist in navigating us towards the runway of well-being.

It is important to identify our feelings and what are they indicating.

For example, you may discern that you are feeling lonely. At that point, it is important to ask: “What are my feelings indicating?” “What do I need?”

“I need:”

“A hug”

“A friend”

“A community”

“Someone who will listen”

“Sexual intimacy”

“To encounter God’s presence”

3. Manage behavior

While we may accurately assess our feelings, and the needs they are demanding to be met, it is equally important to seek sources of fulfillment that will lead us into well-being.

Ask yourself, “What would be the best way to fulfill that need?”

Seeking sound solutions for the fulfillment of our needs is crucial in subduing strongholds that shame seduces us into dis-ease.

Making good choices based on the consequences of cause and affect is key to healthy problem solving.

Ask yourself:

“What will this behavior cost me?”

“How will this option affect my family, friends, and community?”

“How will this choice create permanent well-being?”

“How will this decision impact my future destiny?

4. Reach out for help

No one is an island. We cannot subdue the strongholds of shame on our own. If we could, we would have already done it! We need God’s help; we need the help of others.

I want to encourage you to begin to:

1. Take risk to reach out

2. Be vulnerable in sharing shame strongholds, remembering that true strength is found in weakness.

3. Find a support system that can help you can grow in faith, authenticity, accountability, and a deeper sense of love and belonging.

4. Surround yourself with people will encourage you to walk in your true identity and destiny.

You were made to thrive in life, experiencing a sense of well-being in increasing measure.

I want to encourage you:

Don’t settle for anything less

You deserve the best

You are worth it!

I would love to hear feedback on how this blog impacted you. If it encouraged you, remember to share it with your friends, and look for more blogs coming on this topic of Shame.


Date A Man Long Enough

In the book Song of Songs, the woman says to her lover, “Your name is like purified oil.” In the Hebrew language, the word for name is best translated to be etched. In this day, a name was much more than what people would call you. A name was your character, your virtue; your hidden life with God. Proverbs says, “A good name is better than silver and gold.” A name spoke of a person’s core, the kind of person they are when no one is looking. She is saying to Solomon, “Your character is holy.” This Song of Songs woman is both physically and sexually attracted to this man, yet she affirms something much deeper. She affirms his character, his secret life, his inner strength, and the name of God etched deep within him. This man has a name beneath his skin.


Single women, you must date a man long enough to know his name.


Not just the name he tells you, but the name he shows you. Too many men in today’s culture are fakers. Ladies, many dudes out there will do anything and everything to get your pants down. They will tell you what you want to hear, attend your church and even join your small group. Don’t be easily fooled. The writer Paul warns us about men who will sneak their way into the church to take advantage of young women. Over the years, I have noticed two kinds of men in the church today: Men who pray and men who prey.  Watch out for men who prey; chances are you’ve already dated one of them. I’m sure you’re getting the point, but just in case, I’ll say it once more.  Before you date any man, make sure you know his name.  It’ll save you a lot of pain, and you’ll thank us years later.

So the question becomes: Does he have a name?

Ask yourself, “Does the man I’m pursuing have a name?” Is his name faithful? Integrity? Does he have a secret life of prayer? Does he know God’s voice? Does he follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? Is the character of God etched deep within him? If not, chances are he’s the wrong guy. If you’re already dating him, you might want to consider ending that relationship. Either for a season, or for good. This may be the most painful thing you have ever done, but it will save you much pain in the dating season.

Let’s get brutally honest for a moment. If your boyfriend or fiancé doesn’t love God before marriage, he won’t love God in marriage. If he doesn’t fear God before marriage, he won’t fear God in marriage. Marriage rarely changes us, but always exposes us. Ladies, if he’s pressuring you to have sex before marriage, he’s already showing you what kind of man he truly is and what kind of husband he will be. Marriage will not fix his fascination with sex-outside-of-marriage. He’s already shouting a message loud and clear that he has no problem having sex with women outside of marriage. After you’re married, chances are it won’t be with you.

Date a man long enough to know his true name, no matter how long it takes. Slow down and get to know the real him, far beyond the first date. This may take time, so don’t go too deep too fast. Ask the Holy Spirit to strip away the layers, and cut through the façades to show you the true heart of this man. Listen to your friends. Love is blind, really blind. The people God has placed in your life have the wisdom and insight you need to pursue the right guy, if you will be courageous enough to actually listen to them. As you seek after God together, allow God to shape in him the character he needs to become the man of God you need. Don’t settle for a man without a name. He will always disappoint.

Men, now it’s your turn.

Do you have a name? Not simply a name before man, but a name before God? Do you have a name worth trusting? Is your name humility? Love? Warrior? Have you invited God to etch His character deep within you? Muscles, bodies, money, success, and yep, sweet Nikes, are only good for skin-deep beauty. You must allow God to etch deep within you a man-of-God name beneath your skin. As you learn to cultivate a secret life of prayer, worship, and study God will shape in you His life, and His character. As you get to know Him deeper, he will etch His name into you.

Men, you can only fake it for so long. At some point, she will discover the real you; your real name. Perhaps not today, but somewhere along the way the real you will surface. It always does. So be honest with yourself. Stop running, stop hiding, and stop pretending. God is waiting for you in the secret place. He wants to lead you into manhood, call you into greatness, to etch deep within you His very name. Just remember, people will eventually forget your name, but God never forgets a name.

*If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love this one! 

*Check out our latest resources here.

Nathan Edwardson is the lead pastor of the Stirring church, a young and growing church plant in Redding, California.  Nathan’s passion is to see a generation of God’s people standing face to face with God, moving with God’s voice, and living out the dreams God has placed in their hearts.  A creative visionary, he integrates his love of music and film with his passion for shaping disciples who will shape the world.  Nathan and his wife Erica enjoy life with their four children – Ava, Adiah, Asher, and Alicia.
Website: thestirring.org
Twitter: @nathanedwardson
Instagram: @nedwardson

10 Warning Signs You Might Cross The Line

Staying faithful to my wife was a solemn promise I made to her before God.

I utterly intended to keep that promise to the end of our days. I lived without doubt that nothing could ever tempt me to do otherwise.  I never went looking for ‘trouble’ and thought I was aware when ‘trouble’ was looking for me…and believed I was always avoiding it.

The vast majority of good people who betray their marriages never see it coming. Many establish clear, healthy boundaries and have no desire to stray, in fact, their marriage is one of the highest priorities of their lives.

That was my story. Totally. 

I enlisted trusted friends to ask hard questions to help me stay accountable. And, over the years, my wife, Caron, and I often talked openly about our marriage being a prime target (actually every marriage is a target) because we believed there is an enemy seeking to kill, steal and destroy our relationship with God, our witness for Christ, and out to rob us of the true joy God designed for us to experience in our marriages.


So what happened?


Actually, a whole slew of things contributed, and at a future time we’ll talk about: how to know your own state of vulnerability to tempting conditions, how we often contribute to our own emotional burdens making ourselves more susceptible, lies we believe that contribute to our deception, unhealthy personality patterns that diminish our marital and relational capacities, and entitlement. Entitlement is a subtle driver with a powerful engine for certain personality types. It’s the “I deserve a break today” mentality that seems to play a major role for people who experience moral failure. 

In this blog we want to talk about how to catch yourself before a random encounter, casual acquaintance, innocent friendship or working relationship even comes close to crossing the line. 

Here are some warning signs you should NEVER EVER ignore: 

1. When you start to notice you are not telling your spouse about certain conversations you are having with another person.

 

2. When you notice the other person avoids your spouse, makes no effort to include your spouse in a friendship with you or you avoid bringing your spouse into your interactions with the other person.

 

3.  When you begin to feel this other person may be paying attention or listening to you with more empathy than your spouse has lately.  They may say certain things to you that stroke your ego, things like:

“I’ve never met someone with such wisdom and insight as you. I so admire and respect the work you do. You really are one amazing person.”

OR

“Wow! You look especially good today. Have you been losing weight? And what’s that great perfume you’re wearing?” 

OR

“Hey, you doing okay? I’ve really been worried about you. You’ve been working so hard lately. Anything I can do to help?”

OR

“Do you think we could be better friends?” 

 4.  When you begin discussing marital problems with this other person, either theirs or yours.

OR

5.  You avoid discussing your marriage with the other person (as if it doesn’t exist) or, if they are married, you notice they avoid talking about their spouse.

 

6.  When you begin making excuses to yourself like: “Nothing to worry about here. There’s no harm in just talking.” Or, “I’m really strong. Nothing about this person is going to feel attractive to me. I have this totally under control.” Or, “We have a lot of work to discuss. No big deal if we grab a bit of lunch first.”

 

7.  When you do begin to feel some type of attraction toward this person.

 

8.  When you begin to confide in this person in areas normally reserved for your spouse.

 

9.  When it feels easier to spend time with this other person than with your spouse.

 

10.  When you start to notice this person positioning themself to be near you, making excuses to see you privately, appealing to your compassion by “keeping you in the loop” of some troubling personal issue or they “over-serve” or keep seeking to help or assist you in demonstrative or ingratiating ways.

If ANY of the above situations are currently playing with your head, then ADMIT that those mysterious brain chemicals are starting to get overwhelming and GET OUT of there immediately.

If you have friendships with members of the opposite sex OR same sex … and you want to avoid situations that could lead in an unhealthy direction make sure you include your spouse in the relationship (in some form or another) from the get-go.  This is probably your safest deterrent.


NOTE: Any time a person is uninterested or unwilling to be a “friend of your marriage” they are no friend of yours! 


And when we do not involve our spouse or even begin to keep the slightest “secret” from them we’re already in trouble.

If you want to put your spouse at ease, able to trust you with the other people in your life, make sure your spouse is a part of those relationships. 

It may sound outdated but, when we are married, all our friendships should be open and shared. They should involve both you and your spouse on some healthy level. 

If, for some reason, you don’t feel a need to make your spouse a part of a “friendship” you have with someone you need to deeply question what your true objective is for maintaining that relationship and make a beeline to talk with a counselor or trusted, accountable friend.

 

David Loveless is a mentor/coach, pastor to pastors and strategic, spiritual advisor to churches and businesses in over 50 countries. He served as founding pastor of Discovery Church, Orlando, Fl for 29 years. During that time Discovery was identified in Dr. John Vaughn’s book as one of “America’s Most Influential Churches” and was named as one of the Fastest Growing U.S. Churches in the 21st Century by Outreach Magazine. David and his wife Caron are parents of three sons and are the grandparents of their seven delightfully energized children. For more from David and Caron Loveless, visit www.youlivetrue.com.


Who’s Your Daddy?

Babies have been on my brain lately, but not in the typical way for women my age. I’m not at the mercy of my “ticking, biological clock,” at least not quite yet. I’m not oohing and ahhing over every tiny pink and blue article of clothing, picking out crib-liners and chewing on names (though I must admit I seem to have an uncanny attraction to teeny, tiny footwear). What I have been feeling, however, is the weight of responsibility that will one day come with being a parent.

It is one of life’s greatest marvels to me that God Almighty would choose to trust me, trust all parents, with the little ones He loves so much. How much does He love them? Well, for starters, He takes the time to form each one together uniquely in the womb and knows all the details of their lives before they ever take a breath (see Psalm 139). We also see in scripture that in His heart of hearts, He is willing to take extreme (even violent) measures to protect them (see Mark 9:42).

You see, one day it struck me: I’ll not just be responsible for diaper changes, feedings and making sure this child gets through his school years un-maimed; I’ll be responsible for representing the ultimate Parent, the Father, to him.

My behaviors, my choices and my values will shape a world around this little one, and begin to explain the nature of the universe, and all that it is in it. It will be my responsibility to train and to discipline, to raise him up in the way he should go, so that when he gets old, he will not depart from it. It will be my responsibility to show him how to be kind, generous, loving, faithful, loyal and hopefully, show him the reality of our Living God in a way that will point him to Jesus, not myself.

That’s quite the responsibility!

And at the same time, I am humbly aware of the fact that I will have no control, whatsoever.

I will not be able to dictate whether he will be born healthy, if he will like me, or if he will like himself. I won’t be able to control how he understands or responds to the other influences in his life. Though I will be able to train my child to be obedient, to have good attitudes, good behaviors and good choices, ultimately, I cannot control these things in his life, and I certainly will not be able to control the heart behind his choices. I will not be able to choose Christ for him. I will not be able to make him even want God in his life. Talk about weighty!

And yet, this dynamic is freeing.

You see, as I decrease, Christ will increase (John 3:30) and in my weakness, His strength will show itself strong (2 Cor 12:9). There is sufficient grace to be obedient to the call of a parent and to be successful. If I can get out of my own way, and let go of the things I can’t control, I’ll have everything I need to be the parent my child needs on earth. That is all God asks of us. God does not demand our version of perfection from us; He simply asks for our obedience. And our trust.

If I can remember who my Daddy is, if I can let Him do His job, I’ll be more than able to do my job. I suppose that’s really all we can do. Daddy will take care of the rest.


How Self Awareness Can Interrupt the Porn Cycle

One of the bigger challenges of pornography is being able to disrupt the cycle that leads to “messing up”. If you’ve ever struggled, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You have a genuine desire to move beyond the addiction, but keep finding yourself back in familiar cycles. You wake up in the morning crying out to God, “I’m so sorry! I’ll never do this again!” in a prayer that is heartfelt and real. So, what keeps you stuck then?

1 Corinthians 6:18 says, Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

What is it about porn that keeps drawing us back even though it’s destructive not only to others but also ourself?

Surprisingly, it’s less about porn than you think. I’m not saying the sexual ramifications aren’t real, but we can almost always identify the events that lead up to the moment we regret.

A different question may be, “How do I catch myself early enough and keep from making self destructive decisions?”

 

Self-awareness is key.

Learning how to become self-aware is essential for feeling empowered. When you don’t understand the “why”, it is easy to feel hopeless and out of control. On the other hand, you begin to feel more in control of your life when you understand what’s causing the the internal reactions.

The problem is this: Most of us didn’t grow up in an environment that taught us how to be self-aware.

We didn’t hear questions like:

“What are you feeling right now?”

“Why are you feeling that way?”

“What caused you to react so aggressively?”

“Why do you feel out of control?”

 


Learning self-awareness is like working out a muscle. It will feel a bit awkward at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will get.


 

1. Identify your needs. We all have them. The challenge is to find out what yours are and get them met in a healthy way. If we neglect our legitimate needs, we become reactionary.

2. When you feel a strong emotion, stop yourself and ask, “why am I feeling this way?”

3. Allow your heart to feel emotions. This may sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many people choose to stuff their emotions. It’s not hard to find distractions in today’s world. Social media, fast food, games, smoking, or porn… they’re all escapes in one form or another.  You have to consciously choose to block out temporary distractions to engage your emotions. Even the “negative” ones are there for a reason, helping to alert you of something else. Don’t be afraid to work through them.

4. Find healthy outlets. When do you feel “alive” or “refreshed”? Is it when you’re outside? Spending time with friends? Painting? Journaling? Begin to notice when you feel engaged and present. That’s an indicator that you’ve found a healthy outlet.

When we begin to identify our needs, our pinpoint triggers, give our emotions room to express themselves, and find healthy outlets, we are able to identify what’s causing the tendencies for self-harming decisions.

It’s how we can “Flee from sexual sin….”

The good news is learning self-awareness will not only help you with porn, but in every other area of your life!

Like anything else in life, it takes time to create habits. Give yourself grace as you learn how to identify areas of your life you may have been neglecting for a long time.

Are there other things you do to maintain self-awareness? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

Josh Cearbaugh is a life consultant with a unique ability to lead people through transformation. Through a combination of consulting techniques, he helps individuals to identify, and then dismantle, the crippling cycles where the majority of us find ourselves stuck. He has a passion for connecting people to their heart and helping them create practical strategies to change their lives. Most recently, Josh’s consulting practice has been located in Redding, CA
He met Danielle, his wife of eight years, in Mozambique while attending Iris Harvest School. They currently have two boys and one beautiful baby girl. 
Facebook: facebook.com/joshcearbaugh
 

A Secret to Beating Temptation

 

My life is full. Very full. This isn’t a bad thing – my life is full of the things I love. I am pastoring, speaking, writing, making podcasts, and doing life with my family. Sometimes this can be bad, though. My attention span isn’t infinite and my capacities are limited. My emotional and spiritual fuel tank can get low, and if I don’t pay attention, I can find myself unexpectedly driving on empty.

We all have moments like these where we realize we’re running a little empty. The concern with driving on empty is that temptation likes to hang out there. My tired moments of life must be tended to because without that personal attention and sensitivity, my guard is down and my chances of making a wrong turn are a little higher.

Let’s look at Jesus for a moment. Jesus was a man on a mission. Talk about a full life. The Gospels portray Him as walking, speaking, eating, rebuking, healing, raising the dead, and, at times, withdrawing. Yes, you heard me. Luke 5 tells us that Jesus would often withdraw by Himself to pray.

Think about it: this is a man full of power; an agent of forgiveness, able to heal any sickness, and right any wrong. And yet, Jesus would remove himself from the context of where His gift thrived, quieting the voices of the needy, in order to take time for Himself. Not only that, unapologetically so and in some of the most ‘inconvenient’ times.

Besides praying, we don’t exactly know what Jesus would do during these times. Personally, I’m glad we don’t know — we would most likely make it a to-do list to achieve godliness. But it’s not about what He did, but why He did it.

What does this have to do with sexuality? Well, Jesus was a man who experienced every form of temptation, but was still without sin. He gave us a model, an operating system to function in. There was something He did that allowed Him to push past any and all temptation. I believe an essential part of this was His ability to withdraw.


When we are constantly giving ourselves away and we stay in the context of our gifting, we can lose awareness of our inner world. 


The rush of our call can drive us to do more for others and spend less time refueling.

Your gift or job can make you feel important and rightfully so, you’re doing great things! After all, the opportunities are from God. However, there’s a cliff here to avoid. You hit the cliff when you don’t see God calling you away. You find yourself in murky waters when the job defines you and the work dictates your identity.

When it comes to sexual temptation, I needn’t explain how exhaustion can affect our decision making. Any guy will tell you that they’re most tempted to watch pornography when they’re tired and disconnected from their real needs. It’s usually after they’ve exhausted themselves that the enemy tempts them. Exhaustion is the bad fruit of never leaving the crowd.

If we never withdraw from the crowd, we prepare ourselves for failure. We don’t get our energy from them – we get our energy from Him. It’s an important distinction. We have to defeat the lie telling us that if we stop, opportunities stop; that if we leave, the anointing goes with it. But if the savior of the world can put His calling on hold to follow what the Father was doing, we can find a way too.

Withdrawing is a reset, a refuel, and a solidifying our identity in God. If we remain in the crowds for the fame and notoriety, we trade the life God wants to give us in the withdrawing for the temporary pleasures of the people. We sacrifice our needs for the needs of everyone else, leaving us dried out like an old fish on a hot summer’s day, unable to help anyone.

The reality is this: we can only minister to people as much as we can withdraw from them. Unplugging and keeping track of our emotion and spiritual needs is the starting point – know your inner levels and withdraw when you’re feeling low. Or even before that. It never hurts to keep the tank full. I’m certain this was one of the reason’s why Jesus was a healthy man and leader, and I’m convinced that if we take the time to do this right, we’ll all look a little more like Him.

 

Chris Cruz is currently a full time Pastor at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in Redding, CA. It’s a school of over 1800 students that’s dedicated to equipping revivalists to pursue worldwide transformation in their God given sphere of influence. Along with BSSM, He speaks at Bethel Redding on Friday nights and helps lead Tribe Young Adults.
 
Website: chrisjosephcruz.com
Facebook: facebook.com/chriscruzpage
Twitter: @chrisjosephcruz
Instagram: @chriscruz