Midolescence

Judges 12.2-3 NIV

“Jephthah answered, ‘I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldnt help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them.’”

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I’ve known some 50 year old adolescents. I call them midolescents, people who never quite grew up. They still depend on others for their safety, happiness, and success. When they don’t get what they need, adult-children blame others. Aging parents are favorite targets of 40, 50, or 60 year old children. Presumably, if their parents had been more (or less) attentive or indulgent; stricter or more permissive; kinder, nicer, and more qualified, the child, who is now an adult, would be a well-rounded human being. The adult-child’s stressors, conflicts, traumas, disappointments, and failures are mom and dad’s fault (or anyone besides his or her own). Character flaws are not an occasion for the hard work of personal growth, but rather an opportunity to point fingers.

Jephthah was the 10th judge in Israel (according to the biblical record if you count Barak and Abimelech, but not Eli). He ruled Israel for 6 years about 1,100 years before the birth of Christ. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His father’s wife and other sons kicked Jephthah out of the home despising him as “the son of another woman” (Judges 11.2). Jephthah hung out with the wrong crowd, “worthless fellows” (Judges 11.3) and, having good reason to blame his family of origin, could have remained a child for the remainder of his life. Instead, this man of God (as imperfect as he was) took hold of one important truth… 

No one was going to help Jephthah. If he was to better himself, he better do it himself.

This attitude gave Jephthah fierce confidence to lead Israel in a successful rebellion against the Ammonites and their 18 year reign of tyranny. His unhappy childhood became an asset. It taught Jephthah self-reliance, a character trait that catapulted him to the top rung of Israel’s political ladder.

Jephthah asked for help in his war against the Ammonites, but when help was not forthcoming, he refused to whine or blame others. The judge of Israel simply took charge: “When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands… and the Lord gave me the victory.”

Sexual addiction in all it’s horrible forms (using pornography, frequenting strip clubs, engaging in one night stands, coveting your neighbor's wife, having sex outside of marriage, committing adultery, etc.) is a convenient way to keep from growing up. You don’t need to depend on your addiction, or anyone or anything for your safety, happiness, and success. Stop pointing the finger of blame and, taking full control of your life, affirm with Jephthah:

“I took my life in my hands... and the Lord gave me the victory.”

423 Men, 423 Women, 423 Young Men, and 423 Betrayal & Beyond are all loving communities of faith helping people to recover from the devastation caused by bad sexual choices. True recovery only happens, if it does, in community, but the the decision to get better is an individual decision, belonging to you alone. You need your brothers and sisters in recovery. They relentlessly remind you that you are fully loved (as you are) and have everything it takes (within yourself) to win the battle against porneia.

The decision to grow up and deal with your addiction starts with you and Jesus, and a loving community of faith and recovery, like 423 Communities. 


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Weary Yet Pursuing

Judges 8.4-5 NASB

“Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. And he said to the men of Succoth, ‘Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’”

Gideon was a man with a mission. He was fully intent on the capture of “Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” Nothing could deter him. With total abandon, the judge of Israel would not rest until the leaders of Midian were brought to justice.

Yet rest he must. His energy had limits. Even if he could go on, Gideon had 300 troops to think of. These men were absolutely exhausted. They had the vision. They were invested in the mission. They shared the dream. Gideon’s warriors wanted Zebah and Zalmunna as badly as Gideon did. But they were tired and spent. Gideon and his soldiers were driven by a mission embedded in their corporate soul, but they were also at the end of their physical strength.  

The Bible describes Gideon’s experience as “weary yet pursuing.” Did you ever fall into bed entirely exhausted? You couldn’t even brush your teeth or put on your pajamas. You were so utterly fatigued you fell asleep before your fully clothed body hit the bed. You ran out of strength and were forced to quit by the sheer absence of energy. Your mission was too far out of reach, your resources long-since depleted, and the pursuit of your dream beyond your capacity to perform.  

Gideon and his band of 300 were drained and done, but they would not quit. They could rest later. But for now they had a job to do, a mission to complete. 

Just like Gideon, 423 Communities International has a job to do, a mission to complete, and an enemy to slay. Our enemy is a spirit, a demon bearing the name 'porneia.' Together we must rise up with fierce indignation to drive our stones through the forehead of this detestable giant, then cut off its ugly head. If David can kill Goliath, you and I can kill porn and the industry supporting it, no matter how colossal the task or improbable our success may seem. Pornography, in all its many forms, is an addictive, world-wide epidemic. It destroys countless numbers of lives, marriages, and families. Porn fuels the sex industry, including illegal activities such as prostitution, child pornography, and human trafficking. It's time to gather every ounce of our remaining energy to "save others, snatching them out of the fire" (Jude 23) of porneia.

You can rest later. Embody the spirit of Gideon. Capture his motivation and find the strength… “weary yet pursuing.”


423 Communities International Needs Your Help

We cannot fight porn and reach the world with the gospel of healthy sexuality alone! Would you consider a monthly recurring donation? Thank you.


Photographer Salbjörg Rita Jónsdóttir (Dalla) from Iceland captured the cute shot shot of a child sleeping at the top of this post, and called it "Exhausted." She graciously gave me permission to place this image on my blog. You may view her work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dallaportfolio/ and http://www.dalla.is/

The Sticky Beast Within

Deuteronomy 13.17 NASU

Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,…” 

God banned the treasures of plundered nations from the victorious Israelite warriors. They were to gather all the pillage and publicly burn it in the town square of a conquered city. The people of God were warned never to touch it.

“Nothing… under the ban shall cling to your hand.”

I am also warned not to touch certain things… another man’s wife, too much dessert, money not belonging to me, certain television shows, evil thoughts, the clamor for significance, gossip groups, credit belonging to another, self-serving activities, a false self-image, undeserved recognition, so-called soft-core pornography, and, of course, any other form of wrong sexual behavior. Certain people, places, and activities are “under the ban” for me.

“Nothing… under the ban shall cling to your hand.”

It’s funny how sticky my human hands can be. “The Message” Bible puts it this way…

“And don’t let any of the plunder devoted to holy destruction stick to your fingers. Get rid of it…”

My private lust is a wild beast within me. I call it the “sticky beast.” Only the power of Jesus Christ can kill my animal instincts, and death to the “sticky beast within” can only happen in a loving community of believers. If I dare to touch that which is not mine, I give the beast its power. He oozes through the pores of my hands and sticks to the object of my sinful desires. It’s hard to shake it off. Like the slime of a slug, the sticky beast does not easily wash away from my grasping fingers. If, by the grace of God and the support of my friends in recovery, I refuse to touch what I cannot have, then the sticky beast cannot harm me or anyone else I touch.

“Nothing… under the ban shall cling to your hand.”

I can overcome the sticky beast within, but I cannot do it alone. I need Jesus and my recovery family. Thank God for the body of Christ who gives me the power to “Flee porneia” (1st Corinthians 6.18) and touch “nothing… under the ban” for me. 

“Nothing… under the ban shall cling to your hand.”


HELP FOR WOMEN: 

HEALING AWAITS YOU. STEP INTO LIGHT. STEP INTO FREEDOM.

423 Women was born from the scripture Proverbs 4.23 and is designed to help women pursue healing from the bondage of sexual addiction. We do this by stepping into the light through confession and repentance in the context of community. We believe true healing is able to flourish when it is pursued together. 423 Women is committed to renewal and restoration by inviting and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform the way we think. Our small groups meet once a week for nine months, where members work through a two-part curriculum and keep one another accountable. Find out more and contact us at www.423women.com.


423 Communities International Needs Your Help

We cannot fight porn and reach the world with the gospel of healthy sexuality alone! Would you consider a monthly recurring donation? Thank you.

A Time to be Carried and a Time to Carry

For a Special 423 YOUNG MEN Announcement,

please scroll to the bottom of this post. 


Deuteronomy 1.31 NKJV

“…and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place."

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There is a time to be carried and a time to carry. In the wilderness, the Lord carried His people “as a man carries his son.” Forty years later, on the border of the promised land, God commanded the people to carry themselves. They were ordered to occupy and take possession of their inheritance. God would go before them into the promised land. He would fight on their behalf (Deuteronomy 3.22), but the Israelites must now muster faith, carry themselves into the battle, and possess the land “flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 6.3).

Fourteen hundred years later, a paralytic was carried on a stretcher by his friends and lowered through a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was preaching. When Jesus saw their faith, He forgave the crippled man’s sins and healed him. “Immediately he... picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God” (Luke 5.25). For the paralytic, there was a time to be carried, and then a time to carry himself.

The crippled guy needed his stretcher until he didn’t need it any more. But he did not leave his mat behind. Rather, the paralytic “picked up what he had been lying on.” Why would a former cripple pick up a stretcher he no longer needed? Perhaps he did need it... to carry other cripples. There is a time to be carried and a time to carry. 

Early in my recovery from sexual addiction, I was carried to Jesus by people who cared enough to get me there. I was brought to the only One who could heal my crippled soul. I found sexual sobriety in a loving community of faith. Today, I must gather the strength to carry others to the feet of Jesus. So must you. This is the reason 423 Communities exists... to help men, women, and young people find healing in the aftermath and devastation of bad sexual choices.

There is hope. 


A Special Announcement:

423 Young Men is starting next Sunday, March 19th, 7:00 p.m. at Westside A Jesus Church in Tigard, Oregon. This one hour, weekly group is for guys between the ages of 14 to 18 years old who struggle with pornography and sexual habits they would like to overcome. If you are a young man or a parent and want more information, please fill out and submit the confidential form below. Thank you. 

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We need your help to fight porn and reach the world with the message of healthy sexuality! Thank you... 

The Place of Pain

Numbers 11.11a, 14-15 “The Message”

“Moses said to God, ‘Why are you treating me this way? What did I ever do to you to deserve this?’ ‘I can’t do this by myself — it’s too much, all these people. 

If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here.’

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Sometimes you come to the end of your rope and the end of yourself. “I can’t do this by myself.” It’s a place of pain. Like Moses, your soul screams at God, “What did I ever do to you to deserve this? It’s too much.” Dark thoughts of personal demise float through your mind... Why doesn’t God just “do me a favor and kill me?”

“I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here.”

God called Moses to perform a task. Then He made it impossible for Moses to succeed, or so Moses thought. The man of God cried out from his personal place of pain, “I can’t do this myself.” He was stuck between the absolute awareness of God’s calling and utter impossibility of its fulfillment. That’s a rough place to be. It’s the place of hopelessness, loneliness, and despair. It seems worse than death. Some people rather die than to suffer more pain. Others choose to commit slow suicide by engaging in their addiction as a way to medicate the pain. But God’s plan of redemptive suffering includes no such ‘easy way out.’ Moses was stuck. He felt betrayed by God.

“I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here.”

Are you in the place of pain? Hang on. God reveals His purpose in time. Don't run to your addiction. Rather, hold steady. Sit with the pain. Embrace the darkness and the suffering. Feel the loss, betrayal, brokenness, and disillusionment. It’s in this place of pain that one develops the depth of character necessary to carry out His will. You may not want to perform the will of the Lord at this price. You may not want to pay for this depth of character. But it was never really your choice. It’s God’s choice for you. Moses, Job, David, Elijah, Paul and many others survived the place of pain. So can you.

Jesus also hit His personal bottom at the place of pain. He literally sweat blood there (Luke 22.44). Christ discovered His absolute alone-ness in the place of pain (John 16.32). He suffered the betrayal of His Heavenly Father and even died in this dark and forlorn place.

“…Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’”

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”

Matthew 27.46, 50 NKJV

Pain does not last forever. It ends well. Though not immediately visible, there is a redemptive purpose for your suffering in the place of pain. Jesus embraced the pain and rose from the dead. So can you. 

There is hope. 

A Dog's Life

Exodus 21.5-6 NIV

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” 

I have a single friend who compares marriage and family life to the plight of a domesticated dog. He thinks of himself as a wolf, free to roam the woods, chase game, and be accountable to no one. He feels pity for his canine friends who are chained to their master’s house and confined to a fenced yard. He takes great pride in his freedom. No leash for this guy. He’s wild and free and proud of it. 

Actually, my friend is lonely, cold, and hungry. He doesn’t even know what he’s missing. I imagine he looks down from the mountainside on cold wintry nights and yearns to curl up in front of the fire at the feet of the master. With the leash comes the good life… the security of regular food, a warm home, companionship, and love. 

Not every master is a good one and not every marriage was made in heaven. There are certainly times when freedom is better than servitude, and the single life than marital disharmony. “A quarrelsome wife [or husband] is like a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27.15a). However if your master is Jesus, you’d be a fool to “want to go free.” Let Him nail your ear to the door and become His “servant for life.”

Nearly 2,000 years ago, in an eternal act of selfless role-reversal, our owner willingly laid his body on the wooden frame of a cross. He “was pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53.5 NIV). He voluntarily gave up His freedom for you and me. Christ “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NKJV). Jesus proved His love by becoming the servant of the humanity He created. He earned the right to own me. He bought me with His blood. Yet, the choice remains mine. I can be a wolf or a dog. A man of God who trusts his Master and loves his family will gladly follow the example of Jesus and remain faithful to his wife and children, church and community.   

The life of a wolf may seem glamorous and sexy. The pursuit of porneia in all its seductive forms offers everything, but delivers nothing but brokenness, pain, and regret. The leash in the hands of a trustworthy master is a good life. I’ll take a dog’s life.

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"Eyes of the Medicine Wolf" is a painting by Native American wildlife artist, Marguerite Fields who seeks to "capture images of a land that once was," and was first posted on my blog http://www.wordtraveler.org/ years ago with the artist's gracious permission. Sadly, Ms. Fields passed away in May 2013. 

Felt Darkness

Exodus 10.7, 21 NIV

“Pharaoh’s officials said to him, ‘How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people goso that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?’ 

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt — darkness that can be felt.’”  

Have you ever argued from a position that you knew was wrong? You dug a conversational hole and a superior debater pushed you in. To ‘save face,’ you became committed to the defense of your premise no matter how foolish it sounded, even to you. It’s not a pleasant place, but it can be a learning place; a place of change and growth, if you're willing. 

The ninth plague of Egypt, “darkness that can be felt,” describes the spiritual condition of people who, like Pharaoh, defend themselves at all costs, even when they know they are wrong. These proud and misguided souls confuse stubbornness with conviction. ‘Felt darkness’ surrounds them.

Change, for a stubborn man is painful, especially when it requires him to sacrifice his sacred viewpoints, treasured opinions, and sense of self on the altar of the greater good of family, church, community, or nation. But to do otherwise guarantees a “darkness that can be felt” by him and others.       

People caught in the web of sexual addiction cannot easily face the truth. Denial is accompanied by an endless stream of pointless self-rhetoric, pathetic excuses, empty apologies, meaningless promises, and false repentance. Addicts become adept at lying, first to themselves, and then to others. They are blinded by the lengthening shadow of sin and soon engulfed by a “darkness that can be felt.”  

Pharaoh should have relented when Moses first said, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5.1). After eight serious plagues Pharaoh knew better, but pride kept him from bowing before his Maker and his Maker’s spokesman. Like the leader of Egypt, the typical addict would rather destroy his home than submit to the God of Moses.

God requires of us exactly what He required of Pharaoh...

“...humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…” 1st Peter 5.6

Are you losing the battle of sexual temptation? Have you failed more times than you can count? Can you feel the impending darkness? Humble yourself before God. Run to the light Jesus offers.

423 Communities is here for you. Reply to this email and ask for help. It's that easy. You can overcome sexual sin, but you cannot do it alone. Your request will remain confidential and you will find the support and healing you need in 423 Men, 423 Women, or 423 Youth.  

There is help and there is hope. 

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The image "Dark mind, hands of light !" is used here by permission of Italian born photographer Felice de Sena Micheli who re-composed the original by photographer, Alessandro Villa.