The stories are the same. Only the names change. It's Christmastime and little Danny (or Joe, or Bill) is bursting with anticipation at what might await him under the tree. A new bike? The action hero coloring book? Or, to hope against all hope, could it be a gaming system to top all gaming systems? Danny's heart could hardly take the waiting.
But in between Danny's hopeful dreams were other questions he didn't want to face, but knew they were more likely to happen. Would dad be drunk and angry again this Christmas? Would mom retreat into her "safe" shell and pretend everything was fine? Would older brother and sister bail as soon as possible to hang out with their friends? Would Danny feel as alone this Christmas as he did all the ones before?
Christmas is a message of hope and joy, but for many like Danny, it has been overshadowed by memories of disappointment, loneliness, and deep, deep sadness.
Do your memories of Christmas carry some of this kind of weight? If so, I want to offer you a message of hope that might help you fight what has become the seemingly inevitable holiday blues.
Here are three keys to fighting off (or enduring through) the holiday blues:
1. Connect with Healthy People
Alone is not good. God said so from the beginning. (Gen. 2:18)
When we get hurt, the natural response is either retreat or retaliation. In both instances, though, we begin to close ourselves off from others in order to prevent further pain. We isolate. We hide our true selves. This is normal. But it is not helpful or healthy in the long run.
You and I need connection. It's how God made us. While "alone" might help in the short term to prevent unhealthy people from hurting us further, it doesn't work for how God made us to thrive.
This Christmas, what if you took a bold step to connect with one or two healthy people? These are people who are humble and loving; they consider others more important than themselves. You need such connections if you are to fight off (or endure through) the holiday blues.
Take a moment to pray and ask God to lead you to such healthy connections this holiday. And trust that God is with you and loves you; He is the faithful connection your heart needs most.
2. Focus on Jesus
Jesus was called a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (Isa. 53:3) He knows what it feels like to be misunderstood, rejected, and abused. He was the greatest Christmas gift ever (the Original!), and yet He was ultimately discarded on a cross outside the city of His own people.
But Jesus didn't stay on that cross. He overcame sin and death. He rose from the grave in victory. God's Word says of His attitude:
"...for the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2)
Did you catch it? For the JOY! Jesus endured the greatest suffering of any man. He carried the weight of sin that was not His own. He died a brutal death that He didn't deserve. And He rose from the grave to offer eternal life to you and me -- for FREE! He went through it all for the joy that it would produce.
Will you spend some time this holiday focusing on Jesus and celebrating His voluntary sacrifice for you? Will you ponder what it was like for Jesus to hold on to joy in the midst of so much pain? Could you ask God to give you a sense of the hope and joy that is yours through Jesus?
"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Heb. 12:3)
3. Give till it Heals
I bet you thought I was going to say, "Give till it hurts." But there is deep healing that comes when we understand the gift we have received in Jesus Christ, and then begin to give as He gave to us. True generosity is not a burden, it is a delight and joy.
At first, learning to give when you have a history of pain connected to this season of Christmas can be very difficult. It can feel like a burden to give to others when others have been anything but worthy of such grace. But this is what makes Christmas come to life, for you and I were anything but worthy of God's amazing grace, and He chose to give --> all the way to death on the cross -- for our ultimate healing.
As you give, you will experience a connection with God that is rich and beautiful. You will understand the heart of God more fully and appreciate His love more deeply. And you might just uncover what you have always really wanted on Christmas: a place to belong. You belong with Jesus. And when you give, you look like Jesus.
May THIS Christmas be like none you have ever had before. May THIS Christmas you experience new hope and joy as you connect with healthy people, focus on Jesus, and give until it heals.
by Jonathan Daugherty
I have been listening to personal stories of sexual brokenness and pain for 20 years. Many such stories are filled with regret of choices the individuals consented to. This is why I am concerned with the cultural narrative that has been forming in recent years regarding consent as the only value that matters in sexual choices. I beg to differ.
The following are three reasons why I believe consent is an inadequate measurement of whether a sexual decision is right.
Consent is not always equally valued or applied
Are all "yeses" equal? The moral revolutionaries would have us believe that consent is an empirical, static metric. As long as there is "mutual consent" then any and all sexual behaviors between all parties involved is acceptable. But is there "wiggle room" within the definition of consent?
Consent is defined as "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something." What if what I think I'm agreeing to isn't the same as what the other person thinks they are agreeing to? How do you measure consent at that point? This is where the seemingly clear waters of consent get really murky.
"But she (or he) said Yes!"
This is likely to become a regular "defense" in the consent culture. Both parties initially agree to whatever the behavior is and then one party later "redefines" their yes into a maybe, or no. How are such cases to be determined? How does one prove that consent was actually established? That's the problem, because consent is subjective.
Consent doesn't eliminate regret
Another fallacy of the consent ideology is that it assumes that if one gives consent they must stand by their decision in perpetuity. But can't one consent and then later regret their decision?
I have many regrets of decisions I have consented to. One time in high school I 'consented' to eat a bowl of hot menudo just hours before an all afternoon track meet under the blazing sun. I later very much regretted having consented to eat that bowl of cow intestine soup. Imagine how much higher the stakes are for regret involving sexual choices!
How will the advocates of consent respond to people who admit they said yes to certain sexual behaviors with certain someones and then later deeply regretted that yes? Is that allowed? Are there repercussions for the "offending" party, even if consent was granted by the regretful party?
Also, decisions about sexual behavior are rarely made with one's full mental faculties. When adrenaline and dopamine start flooding the brain as a result of sexual arousal, the frontal lobe is less active (this is the part of our brain that helps us reason and be logical; like brakes on a car). So, it is conceivable that some "consent" can be borne of "in-the-heat-of-the-moment" thinking that doesn't exhibit the full use of one's own brain. (This is no excuse for poor decisions, just one more factor to consider in light of the consent fallacy.)
Consent doesn't really care about the other person
Anytime we look to man made constructs for moral or civil frameworks, we end up with systems that ultimately harm more lives than they help. Such is the current "consent construct" that is sure to leave countless broken lives in its wake of ambiguity and regret.
The Bible says that "the whole law" hinges on one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) In other words, the moral and civic framework that God established is not focused on my consent (what one allows to be done to them), but rather on the ultimate good for my neighbor. Are my actions going to help them thrive as a person? Will it lead to ultimate good in their lives?
The secular consent model of sexual choices keeps me focused on me; my consent. Even if it is framed in the vernacular "mutual consent," that is a misnomer. The focus is still on each individual's self-consent that goes something like this (although with likely more subtleties and 'romance'):
Person A: "I want to have sex with you. Do you consent?"
Person B: "Yes. I want to have sex with you, too."
Sounds mutual, right? But each individual is still focused on what they want. Person A wants to have sex with Person B. Person B wants to have sex with Person A. Neither are really thinking about the ultimate good of the other. In this case, "mutual consent" is overshadowed by "I want" thinking.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that God's framework of "love your neighbor" eliminates personal desire. But it does reorder the emphasis of focus from ME to YOU. Something the current consent ideology cannot do.
To Christians it should come as no surprise that God's ways are best; for us individually and as a society. Let us not be swayed by "cleverly devised myths" that lead us away from the good and loving Law of God. His guidance leads us to make choices that are truly beneficial to others and to ourselves. And God's Word applies to every choice, including sexual choices, with or without our consent...
God invented sex and marriage. Christians know this, but often don't understand why such inventions are important, or how to live in them well. There is much confusion surrounding God, sex, and marriage.
Here are just a few recent headlines that indicate the confused state of our culture (and even the Church) on matters of sexuality:
Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Pastors Grapple with Methodist Church's LGBTQ Stance
Human Sexuality Tops List of Subjects US Clergy Struggle to Address
Is there any clear picture of what sex and marriage are all about? Or are we doomed to continue fumbling around in the dark halls of moral relativism and pass the buck to the next generation to try and figure it out?
I believe God has spoken on this subject. And he is not ambiguous.
God is pro-sex
Because God invented sex, he is for it. In fact, the first command God gave to the first man and woman was "have sex." (Gen. 1:28) God is not some cosmic killjoy against pleasure. He made sex. He made it pleasurable. But he also made it to symbolize something far more than it has come to mean in much of our culture.
Sex is the most intimate, powerful, pleasurable union that a man and woman can experience. It creates a bond like nothing else. Chemicals are released in the brain that magnify pleasure and fortify the "imprint" of the other person. The two truly do "become one" in this intimate act.
God created this powerful connection of sex to give us a picture of the kind of powerful connection he desires with us; a oneness with our Creator. But because sex is so powerful, God made it to be a protected activity within the boundary of covenant. In other words, sex isn't casual from God's perspective. It is covenantal. That's why God also created marriage. (Gen. 2:18-24, Matt. 19:3-9)
God is pro-marriage
Marriage is the lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. God instituted this to be the context in which two become one. And sex is the consummation of this oneness. But why is marriage the exclusive relationship for sex?
The simple answer is "because God said so." (Exodus 20:14, Deut. 5:18; and God's Word is more than a sufficient answer -- it is the final authority on all matters.) But we can also see in God's design some good reasons why sexual activity is reserved only for marriage.
Health -- A single sexual partner over a lifetime virtually eliminates the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. The exclusivity of sex in marriage protects from potential disease.
Intimacy -- Marriage is designed for a man and woman to grow together: sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Infidelity (including porn) hinders intimacy.
Oneness -- "The two shall become one." God's design for marriage is for two to become one, not three or four or twenty. Exclusive 1-man-with-1-woman sex in marriage strengthens and deepens the bond of oneness.
Faithfulness -- Sex outside of marriage (in any form, including pornography) erodes trust. The exclusive nature of sex in marriage helps build faithfulness by each spouse "forsaking all others" in favor of unity with each other.
God is pro-love
The design of sex in marriage is deeply rooted in love. This is the heart of the metaphor God gives us in the picture of marriage: covenant love. Thus, sex is meant to be the physical expression of covenant love. And it's beautiful. It's giving. It's sacrificial. It's sacred.
But we must not mistake all sexual feelings as being love, nor think that "love" is always to be expressed in sex. We can love without being sexual. And we can certainly be sexual without loving (although, this is not God's design!). God calls his followers to love all people, but not to have sex with all people. Sex is exclusively reserved for marriage.
Love is doing good for another at your own expense. God is love. He did the ultimate good for us at the expense of his own Son dying on the cross for our sins. Through faith in Christ we are called to live in the same way toward all our neighbors; to love them sacrificially. But just because I love my neighbor, maybe even have strong, deep affection for them, does not mean I am to be sexual with them.
Because God is love, and God is also holy, love adheres to a standard. It is not subjective.
God is pro-truth
Sex and marriage and love, oh my! These are big topics with big ramifications. This is why they must be rooted in truth. And all truth finds its source in the Creator. God is the standard. Therefore, when examining sex and marriage and love, we must look to God and His Word as the final authority. This is where we all get uncomfortable.
Truth, by definition, is exclusive. If A is true, then non-A cannot also be true. For example, if Sally is pregnant, she cannot also not be pregnant. Pregnancy is either true or false. Truth is exclusive.
When God makes declarations about sex, marriage, and love, we do not have the luxury of claiming opposite views as simultaneously true. Either God's Word is true or it is false. If it is true, it cuts us all to the bone: "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20) Truth is the great equalizer. We have all sinned. (Rom. 3:23)
Therefore, the question we must all answer is, "Do I believe God's Word?"
Is God's Word true regarding sex? Is God's Word true regarding marriage? Is God's Word true regarding love and truth? The answer to these questions determines the consequences we must face. Not that our belief determines what is true (remember, truth is exclusive), but that the consequences we face are determined by what we believe about the truth. If our lives do not line up with the truth, it is not the truth that suffers.
Where do you take your confusion or frustration about sex and marriage and love? Might you spend some time searching God's Word, engaging other Christians, or fervently praying? God is the Creator of sex and marriage, and he is the source of love and truth. And he promises to respond to those who humbly seek him will all their heart.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." --Matthew 7:7-8
If you're in the San Antonio area, please register for the God, Sex, and Your Marriage conference on March 23, 2019 at Community Bible Church.
Click here to register
It seems like everyone these days wants to be part of a "cause"; something that moves people to reach beyond themselves and see good multiplied. Yet, at the same time, we have a huge problem. It's called addiction and it isn't going away. Compulsions of every kind can be found throughout our society. But there is hope.
I'm thankful for the many group leaders, counselors, pastors, and others who are passionate and committed to helping addicted people enter recovery. But sometimes when an issue (like addiction) saturates a community it can be easy to lose zeal and effectiveness in addressing it.
If this loss of zeal and effectiveness in recovery ministry is occurring, how can we bring about a "recovery revival" throughout a society that is increasingly growing numb to the effects of addiction. Here are 3 keys to launching and sustaining such a revival.
3 Keys to Recovery Revival
The foundation of true recovery is God's Word. We were made by God to reflect His image -- His character of holiness, truth, and love. But sin in us disfigures this image and draws us to the very things that enslave us in addiction (lust, greed, power, fame, etc.). We need rescue from our sin. Enter Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God's Son and entered humanity to live the life we couldn't, died the death we should've, and rose from the grave to give us what we don't deserve: reconciliation with our heavenly Father. Jesus is the source of true recovery.
Jesus was said to be "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14b) He was God in human form. He had no sin, no imperfections, no addictions. His "cause" in life was to set captives free:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound...
Jesus declared the above verse was fulfilled in Him. (Luke 4:16-21) He was the hope for the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captive prisoner. He was our "recovery"; the One who could break the chains of sin that separated us from God.
If we are to see a recovery revival it must be grace-based and truth-directed. We must extend compassion to the addicted as we lead them to the truth of God's Word. In other words, we must introduce them to Jesus.
The longer I live and the more years I am in ministry to sexually broken people I am convinced that every movement (for good or bad) boils down to leadership. Therefore, it is essential that recovery leaders are transparent and "real."
When I first started in ministry as a vocation I remember thinking, "Man, no one is going to listen to me. I don't have a Master's degree or any kind of formal education in addiction recovery or therapy." And every time I tried to go after such degrees, God closed all the doors. And I didn't know why until years later.
I'm not anti-education. I'm very much for learning and growing. But what I discovered along the journey of ministering to addicted people is that the most powerful thing leaders have to offer to others in recovery is themselves. It is your story, not your knowledge, that will inspire others to join you on this wonderful adventure of recovery.
So, if you want to see a recovery revival sweep through your community, be courageous and share your story with those who need the courage to share theirs. When leaders get real, it opens the door for true recovery.
Everybody is broken. Sin has infected us all and affected us all. No one can claim they have been unharmed by sin. Some might claim they haven't crossed the line into addiction, but I don't think that is necessarily relevant when it comes to birthing a recovery revival. See, if everyone is broken, then everyone can benefit from recovery.
Sometimes we complicate the "intake" process for people coming into recovery. We want to explore their history, their frequency of acting out, their specific compulsions, and much more. And this can have value to a person's recovery, but not for their entrance into recovery. Everybody must be welcome to enter a grace-based recovery environment. The only qualifier is a desire to get better.
Imagine if we didn't prejudge people entering into recovery. If we drew no lines around gender or race or religion or behaviors. Instead, we smiled, put our arms around their shoulder, and said the best words any broken sinner could hear, "Welcome. We're glad you're here. What's your name?"
True recovery is an invitation to everybody. We cannot control how people will respond to the invitation, but we can choose to treat all who enter with respect and love and truth.
Is God stirring you to bring a recovery revival to your community? Then get busy doing whatever He is calling you to do. May many more captives be set free!
Click here to learn more about Grace-Based Recovery
by Jonathan Daugherty
Do you ever wonder if we live in a country (USA) that is so blessed with "creature comforts" that we have become "flabby" when it comes to our spiritual fitness? We have so much, yet everywhere I turn I see increased dissatisfaction and misery as people clamor for more and more and more. When will it ever be enough? Is there ever an end to the discontent and anxiety of those believing the lies of entitlement thinking? (let's chew on that one for a few seconds...)
I actually believe there is an end to such discontentment and anxiety, but to pursue it requires incredible strength and resolve because it goes against all that our culture promotes and worships. The answer to ungratefulness and dissatisfaction (and addiction!) is found in God's grace.
I realize that many of my writings, whether in a blog, a newsletter, or a book, tend to come off as a rehash of the same old theme: grace! For any of you who have read many of my writings, you might be thinking, "Geesh, here he goes again on the 'grace thing.' Doesn't he know how to write on any other topic?!" I apologize, but only for the fact that the message seems not to be getting through on a larger scale to believers throughout our culture. Grace is the theme of true life for the believer, and until we understand (and embrace) this truth, we too will fall victim to the whining and moaning of the increased throng of the dissatisfied.
So, what is it that makes grace so amazing? Why is it so essential to true life and real contentment? What makes God's grace indispensable, not merely a side issue that we can take or leave on this journey of faith?
What makes God's grace so paramount, so essential in this thing called life is that without it there would be no life at all. It was by God's grace that he even considered creating us to enjoy him. His grace is woven throughout all of creation, offering us breathtaking examples of his beauty and majesty. His grace consistently and persistently pursues mankind, even going so far as to lay down the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order that we wouldn't perish but instead enjoy life forever with him. Grace is fundamentally essential to life, in all its layers!
But is grace really enough? This is the question our culture is so accustomed to asking, isn't it? "What is enough?" And we ask it about everything, don't we?
And the list goes on. We as believers should be the first to notice the fallacy in such thinking, but often we ourselves are swept away in the rush of discontent and we find ourselves believing the subtle lie of the enemy (which hasn't changed from the beginning), "What you've been given by the grace of God -- it isn't enough." As we swallow the hook of that lie, we (just like the unbeliever) become pawns of the devil, twisting and turning in whatever direction he desires.
I'm not saying we shouldn't want to improve and even take risks in following Christ (in fact, to follow the Lord is a great risk Jesus himself told us to weigh carefully). But we need to remember that we are promised discomfort in this life if we follow Jesus. We are promised trouble, hardships, suffering, and even hatred from the world if we take this Christianity message seriously. And this makes sense if you understand that this world is not our home. But in the discomfort, in the trials, in the illnesses, in the losses, is grace really enough?
I believe that until we come to a place where we say with authenticity and conviction, "God, your grace is enough," we will never know true life and never experience real peace and contentment. Believer, God's grace IS enough! If he were to provide nothing else for us in our entire existence, save his grace, it would be enough - MORE THAN ENOUGH! Do you believe this? Then cling to it in all of life's seasons.
God's grace is powerful for transforming lives, for in it we find something of the essence of God, the truth that he really does love us with an everlasting love. His compassion is overflowing, His salvation is permanent, His mercy is great and His faithfulness reaches beyond the heavens. When you come to the place of understanding and appreciating the limitless grace of God, you finally reach a place in your life that transcends circumstance, that is beyond the physical, material world that appeals to the rottenness of our sinful flesh. You enter a place of peace, untouched and unmarred by anything this life can throw at you in hopes that you fall. And even when you do stumble, God's grace is there to pick you up.
I pray you will embrace God's grace today and every day. It really is enough...