A Moment of Realization

I think most Christians would say there was some kind of moment in their life that they realized there was so much more. The moment that the focus became more about Jesus than about themselves.

My moment was terrifying.

I grew up in a Christian home. I really do believe that I loved Jesus and had a childlike faith, but I wasn’t very outspoken or dedicated for the majority of my childhood and high school years.

It wasn’t until my junior or senior year that I really started to peruse God’s word and try to dissect what it meant for my life. I came across Matthew 25:31-46, what I have concluded to be one of the most eye-opening chapters in the Bible.

To sum up the passage, Jesus is sitting on his throne at the end and separating the people into “sheep and goats”. The sheep are the ones who fed, clothed, inviting in, and visited Jesus in prison. When the sheep ask Jesus when they did all these things he tells them that when they did this for the least, they did it for Him. The goats were the opposite. They refused to help the least and are sentenced to eternal punishment.

Many of us live our lives for ourselves and think we are fine. But according to Jesus in this passage, that is not even close to reality. So many of us are really goats, walking through this life thinking that we have our ticket to heaven and we are set for life. When the time comes, Jesus will look at us with no hint of recognition in his merciful eyes.

I began to really think about it. I wasn’t fearful for my own skin, but I was realizing that most of my brothers (family members) could be considered a goat. I know I have no right to judge, but based on the lack of fruit and lack of concern for the words of Jesus I couldn’t keep lying to myself. I was fearful for their souls. Family, people who you grew up with and hold dear, are the ones who can really open your eyes to reality. I feel like Jesus gave me a heart for the lost in that moment. And it was heart-breaking.

I found myself crying out for their souls and realizing the light that Jesus gave me was not really for me, but for those that I knew needed Him as well. That was the moment that I stopped hiding my light and began to find out how to shine it as brightly as I could. That was the moment that I started to heed the words of Jesus.

What are some of your moments? I would really like to hear them.

Feelings and Truth

Sometimes I can get pretty discouraged reading other Christian women’s thoughts and how they bash people like myself who are not interested in pursuing a life including masturbation. I sometimes wonder if perhaps I am wrong about the whole thing and should just give up writing my thoughts on the topic.

But then I remember that God specifically told me to start writing. So, I am going to write until he wants me stop. And I don’t think that day is here yet.

I have read about both Christian extremes and don’t necessarily agree with either. There is the one extreme that masturbation is evil and a horrible sin that women should never allow to ensnare them. Then there is the other side: that everyone should masturbate and there is nothing wrong with it and the church is just making women feel guilty for no reason.

I would like to address both of these opinions as what they are: extreme.

To say that masturbation is evil and disgusting and horrible for a Christian woman to do is very misguided. There is nothing in the Bible that clearly states that that is the case.

On the other hand, just because the Bible doesn’t say anything specifically about masturbation, doesn’t mean it is something that Christian women should do.

I believe that masturbation is unhelpful on many levels, and for me even a sin. If someone were to tell me that it isn’t a sin and I am being silly and should just masturbate to my heart’s content, I would be very hesitant to bring my thoughts to them in the future.

I was talking to a friend the other day concerning the topic. I wanted to know how she knew that masturbation was wrong for her. She explained to me that she had Christian friends in her first years of college who persuaded her that there was nothing wrong with it. These friends would openly talk about how masturbation was a good thing and advocated it whenever they could. My friend always wondered why they felt the need to push this idea on as many Christians as possible. She concluded that they were insecure about their position on the matter, and like any insecure person they hid it behind strong opinions and pushy tactics.

She went on to explain to me how feelings had a big part in helping her make her decision. She masturbated for a while telling herself that nothing was wrong with it and she could do what she wanted. But deep down she knew that it wasn’t what God wanted for her. Every time she would give in to her desires she knew that she had let herself down and let her Savior down. It was only a feeling, but sometimes God speaks to us through our feelings.

People say you can’t trust your heart. It’s true. In 1 John 3:20 it says, “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything”. Our heart is what condemned us in the first place so why would we trust it?

There is wonderful news though! We can trust Jesus’ heart and he has given us the ability to access his heart on matters of this world through His spirit. If you are filling your life with Jesus and with His word and his Holy Spirit your feelings can be spot on. And my friends feelings were telling her what she was doing was wrong. So she stopped. As a single woman she hasn’t masturbated for at least a year and she has no regrets. She is obeying the voice of her Father in heaven. There is nothing to regret.

I began masturbating when I was 10 years old. Up until I was in college, I never had a single person in the church, my family, or my friends tell me that masturbation was evil. I just felt that it was wrong. No one planted those ideas and feelings in my head. And when I started to ask Jesus where His heart stood on this subject in my life, I still came to the same conclusion: masturbation should not be allowed to have a place in my life.

Feelings: that is the root of this post, but not just any feelings. What are God’s true feelings on this subject in your life? Have you even asked him about it or are you just doing whatever you want to do because you can. Does God want masturbation to be a part of your single or married life? I can’t answer that question for you, but He can.

If you haven’t ever done this, I would recommend you do one thing. Forget about all the things you have read on it. Forget about the different extreme opinions Christians have on this topic and how the majority of people (whether Christian or not) masturbate at some point in their lives. Forget about your own desires and your own opinions. Focus on Jesus, and ask him to reveal His true feelings on this matter in your life. Ask that He would help your own desires to line up with His desires. I promise, you will not regret it.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. – Proverbs 28:26

Your Heart Is a Storage Unit

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:11 ESV)

Sometimes I think we forget the importance of storing up God’s word in our hearts. Growing up in the church I think a lot of Christians become tired of memorizing scripture. They have been told to do it all their lives and it is impossible for most normal people to memorize and retain the entire Bible.

Not to mention the fact that there are so many different versions and if you don’t choose the version you will stick with for the rest of your life you will just have to re-memorize it in another one.

But there lies the problem. Memorizing and storing up are not necessarily equivalent. Just because you have an entire chapter of Philippians memorized, doesn’t mean you have actually stored it up. You could know it perfectly word for word, and it still means absolutely nothing in your life.

Other versions of this particular verse in Psalm 119 say “hidden” instead of stored. Either way it is something that is thought to be of value. There is no value in memorizing the entire Bible. The value lies in how it transforms us.

I still like to memorize. I am a perfectionist, what can I say. But I have to continually remind myself of the purpose behind it. I want to pray scripture over myself. I want to have God’s word readily available to speak truth into the lives of those around me. I don’t want to show off how much I know. In an instant, I could lose my memory or become disabled in some way preventing me from retaining information. I am constantly praying that God would really help me to store it in my heart and not just my brain.

I see the way this storing up affects others lives. My grandmother is getting old and losing her short term memory. She gets confused easily and doesn’t even remember what happened just a few hours before. But she still knows her Savior and she knows how to tell people about Him. She is the sweetest person and makes friends out of perfect strangers wherever she goes. She may even still have Scripture memorized, but her impact is not due to what her brain can retain.

It is due to her sweet spirit; her gentleness and her way of listening to those who need to unload their sorrows. She is unselfish in every way, and always wants to do everything she can to further God’s Kingdom. Only the Word of God can do that in a person’s heart.

The most important part of this verse is that storing up God’s Word gives us the ability to not sin against Him. That should be our desire. We were made to bring Him glory. And if we sin, we cannot accomplish this. Jesus is good and our Savior regardless, but while on this earth our desire should be to become people who are continually glorifying Him!

The only way to do that is to not sin against Him. And the only way to stop sinning is by storing up His Word.

John Piper – Porn

I was pleasantly surprised to hear John Piper in this voice clip acknowledge that women do often struggle with pornography. He focused on it even longer than I would have expected, and hopefully opened the doors in the Christian community for women to realize that this is not just a male issue.

I agreed with the majority of what he had to say on the issue of being addicted to pornography. The main point he made was that “getting right with God precedes getting our pornography issues fixed.” I completely agree with that.

What I don’t completely agree with is his solution to getting to know God: to read a book on theology and increase your knowledge of God. I agree with him that there is so much more than our “Sunday school knowledge of God.” And I get that he is trying to give you practical ways to do that, but no book (other than the Bible) is going to increase your knowledge of God in the ways that you really need.

The book he recommended is called “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine” by Wayne Grudem. It is a 1,100 page book about theology and doctrine. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this book. In fact, it could help someone have a better grasp of what Christianity looks like in the church, but it doesn’t solve the issue of getting to know God better.

John Piper spouted off a list of books, all of which are probably amazing books that I would even recommend if I had read them, but that as a solution to knowing God and ending your addiction to pornography is not good enough. It will fail.

I have known atheists who know more about God and theology than most people do in a lifetime, but they still don’t know God the way I know him.

Is there anything wrong with theology and reading books to know more and grow? Absolutely not!

But the way I have gotten to know who God really is didn’t come from books. It comes from living life with Him. Telling him about every sorrow and every joy. Asking him for advice with every problem I encounter. Taking time to listen, pray, and read His Word. Receiving my daily bread from the only one who can sustain me.

I could just leave it at that, but I have one more point to make.

What about all of the people who don’t enjoy reading or who can’t? What about the woman or man who struggles with pornography and was never taught how to read and will never get the opportunity. If John Piper is right, they have no chance of getting to know God better and will probably never overcome their addictions because of it.

John Piper is a teacher, so it makes sense that his automatic answer would be read and grow in knowledge. But for those people that I just mentioned, hope dies.

Books and teachings may assist in the pursuit of knowing God, but until we are truly living life with God we will never know Him.

How do we live life with God? I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think it means.

What’s in a testimony?

What is your testimony?

As a Christian, you may have had several people ask you this. But what does it really mean to share your testimony?

I could tell you something along these lines, “Well, I don’t have much of a testimony. I grew up in church and never got into too much trouble. I did struggle with porn and masturbation throughout the majority of my childhood, but God has set me free from that.”

I would have a pretty boring testimony, and there is something about it that bothers me.

It bothers me because there are others who have gone through much more in their lives; involved in drugs, alcohol, sex, and just living a life of destruction. Their testimony seems a whole lot more interesting. They have had all kinds of horrible things happen and look at how far they have come.

In comparison, my own testimony is bland and uninteresting. In the past I have almost been embarrassed to share with anyone how pleasant my life had been thus far.

This mindset is wrong. The only reason I or anyone else might be thinking that our testimony isn’t worthy is because we are focused on the wrong person. Instead of focusing on Jesus and sharing what He has done, we are focusing on ourselves. We want to impress people with how messed up our lives used to be and if we don’t have a terrible story to tell we are embarrassed or even embellish our own stories to make them more interesting.

What is the true purpose of a testimony? To bear witness to something. Something greater than all of our own stories and messy lives. To bear witness to the beauty of a God who would send his Son to live among us and die for us. A savior who would take on our sin, conquer death, and rise again to be with us for eternity.

The Bible makes it clear to me what I should focus on concerning my own testimony.

“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:10-11

Everyone may have a different story, but we all have the same testimony to share. None of us have a boring or unimportant testimony. If Jesus has touched our lives, what we have to share is just as important as the rest.

I shouldn’t try to make my past worse than it was and neither should someone else dumb theirs down. If we are giving Jesus all the glory and pointing to Him as the one who saved us from it all, each of us will have something to offer.

Talk to kids about porn

I was 10 years old. My dad wasn’t home from work yet and I was on the family computer by the door. Curiosity isn’t always such a good thing. I typed in the word sex. I scrolled through some pictures and clicked on one. My dad came home and saw what was on the screen. I don’t remember anything else about that moment in my life.

It is kind of crazy that my memories of being caught viewing pornography at such a young age don’t involve any kind of punishment or conversations with my parents. I don’t think it was ever brought up again until I decided to tell my mom what I was going through in college.

I don’t have kids yet, but if you are a parent that is reading this please just understand that your words and actions could make such a difference in your children’s lives.

Things could have been different as I was growing up if my parents had talked to me about sex at a very early age. It isn’t just Christians that are guilty of this. I have talked to people at work who are scared that their kids are going to start asking them questions about where babies come from. Why would you be scared? What a great opportunity!

As children, we learn about sex. Whether it is from parents or friends, classmates, or the internet, sex is going to be something we know about. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be best coming from the people that are most involved in our lives?

It would have benefited me greatly to hear a biblical view on what sex is before I turned 10 years old. In fact, it would have benefited me to know that there was such a thing as pornography and if I ever happened to stumble across it (which is statistically likely) I could talk to my parents without fear. The problem was that I had fear and shame and embarrassment and it didn’t seem like they really wanted to hear about it. If instead of ignoring what had obviously occurred, my parents had sat down with me and discussed what I had just seen and how I felt about it and what my thoughts were, things might have turned out differently. But they didn’t.

Let me get one thing straight. I love my parents and I know they love me. They didn’t ruin my life because of this, but it sure didn’t make it any easier for me. I thought I was alone for the better half of my childhood and couldn’t talk to anyone about it, not even my parents!

When I have children, I plan to answer their questions and not make them feel weird for asking them. I plan to let them know that there is a world out there that talks about sex, and that we are parents that talk about sex. I want them to know what the Bible says about it, that it’s a good thing. And that one day they might have to make a decision on what they are going to do with what the world has to offer them.

Some people believe that children are too innocent to have such discussions and we should wait until they are older or just let them figure it out on their own. That is terrible advice.

Sex should no longer be a hush hush kind of topic. Why do you think there are so many secrets and things hidden in the dark in Christian circles, typically having to do with sexual immorality?

Not many of my generation’s parents were willing to make this a topic that is no longer taboo. I am praying that our future generation won’t experience the same thing.

Viewing Porn Today

As I was searching through my wordpress reader the other day, I came across something I wasn’t expecting.

The title of my blog is somewhat blunt. It is pretty easy to find on wordpress if you type in masturbation. When I first started writing this blog, I could search that term and find a couple things here and there. There were some disturbing entries that I skipped over, but for the most part nothing that was too inappropriate. Things have changed.

I probably should have known better. This is the world we live in. Sex and porn creeps into all of our social networking systems one way or another. I was searching through my reader trying to find a blog to read, when photos began to show up. With a search term like masturbation you can easily guess the kinds of images I was exposed to.

With my past struggles with pornography, what I saw would be considered mild. But it has been so long since I have viewed any kind of sexual material, that I knew if I kept trying to search in that category I would be in trouble. I immediately typed in “Christian”, and switched to looking for wisdom from fellow believers. My mind shifted, and I was no longer focusing solely on those images. But it was still in the corner of my mind just waiting for the right opportunity. I could sense it and knew I needed prayer.

Just then my husband called me to tell me he was on his way home from work. I immediately told him about the images, that I was fine, but I needed him to pray for me. He prayed, I felt peace, I told him I loved him, and I continued on with life.

There are many reasons as to why I didn’t fall to temptation. Jesus is at the center of them all. He is my rock and my refuge. The more I dwell on him, the easier it is to tear my thoughts away from something that would have once held me captive. It is moments like this that remind me of what He has done for me. I was tempted just enough to know that without him I would have ended that experience the same way I had before I began to lean on Him.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17  

Ways to resist temptation

I have already shared my thoughts on whether or not masturbation is a sin. I want to focus on what can help those who view it as something that is unhelpful or even sinful. There are several things that I have found to be extremely helpful in resisting the temptation to masturbate.

1. Marriage really does help. At least, in my case it has. With a husband who is willing to make time for you and meet your needs, things will become much less difficult. However, not everyone is in this situation. If you are single, this point probably frustrates you to no end. And not all married women have husbands that are willing to meet their needs.

2. Have someone that you confess to! You can tell yourself all day long that you won’t do it again and no one needs to know you messed up. If you do slip up, it isn’t like you telling yourself will really embarrass you all that much. But if you have to tell someone else it changes things drastically. You think twice about what you are about to do, because you know if you go through with it you are going to have to tell that person. You could always lie to them, but that would only increase your frustration and guilt.

3. Know your cycle. Have you ever noticed that you typically have the desire to masturbate around the same times of the month? I definitely experienced that but never really took the time to figure out why until recently. I have found theories (no facts) that women have a higher sex drive during the week before ovulation due to the higher levels of testosterone. Either way, if you notice you tend to be tempted more during a certain time of the month, start taking note of that so you can be more prepared mentally and have people praying with you about it.

4. Don’t make it easy to fail. If there are certain places (bedroom, bathroom, etc.) that you tend to masturbate in, don’t be in those places unless it is necessary. If you like to study or read in your bedroom, but find that your mind will wander and you give in to temptation even though your intentions were sincere, start studying or reading somewhere that that won’t be an issue. If you struggle more reading certain books or watching certain movies, stop making it harder on yourself and acquire different tastes. Those books and movies may not be bad in and of themselves, but for you they are.  In a nutshell, you will have to make some sacrifices.

5. Memorize scripture. If the Holy Spirit has convicted you about masturbating, the enemy will do everything he can to make sure you fail. Nothing works better than prayer and quoting the Word of God. There are three verses in particular that I find to be the most helpful and they just happen to all be in books of the Bible that start with C!

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Most importantly, and probably the only one that really needs to be remembered is this: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” The more you dwell on your heavenly Father, the less you will desire the things that you once did. The other things may help for a time, but without this one thing you will eventually fall back into your old desires.

I hope this helped somebody, and I would appreciate any feedback that anyone has to offer. If there is anything you would like to see discussed feel free to let me know!

Walking in Freedom – Part II

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;” – Romans 8:5-6

As I said in a previous entry, I believe that if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are free. And that freedom is complete regardless of where you stand in life. You don’t have to clean up your life first to become free. If you did, it wouldn’t be called grace.

But then we get into the more complicated area of freedom. I think there may be two different freedoms that we try to lump into one. We are freed from death and our sins are covered by the greatness of Jesus, but are we free from sin? I think that depends on what your mindset is.

Too often, we end up focusing solely on our own issues; on our own problems and how messed up we are. We are free, so why are we still sinning? Instead of focusing on the one who set us free and seeking His wisdom and the things above, we focus on ourselves and the things we are doing wrong.

We will not live in accordance with the Spirit until we set our minds on Jesus. So, if we are focusing on our own fleshly desires, we will never be set free in the way we are hoping for. But if, even while we are sinners, we choose to set our minds on Jesus, things will start to change for us. We will begin to only desire the things we are choosing to set our minds on. We will no longer desire the things that our sinful nature will always desire.

We cannot clean ourselves up first. We cannot stop living in our sinful ways before we decide to focus our minds on the Word and the things of Jesus. It is impossible. But through Him, everything is possible.

Perhaps if we all chose to focus on the goodness of our creator more often than the wretchedness of ourselves, we would find ourselves in a place of righteousness and holiness that we never dreamed to achieve.

Why I Told My Boyfriend

In my last entry, I shared the story of how my husband ended up finding out about my past addiction to pornography and struggles with masturbation.

I really think that for anyone who is currently single or dating there are a lot of important things to glean from that particular story.

First of all, I really don’t believe it is something that you should keep to yourself until after you are married. Sharing it will even help you discern whether or not you can live your life with that person.

If your boyfriend’s reaction to you sharing your past is negative in any way, there is something wrong. Either you aren’t as close as you thought, or he doesn’t love you the way Jesus does.

The idea that you should keep something this important from the man that could one day be your husband is somewhat deceptive. If, for some reason, he were to take issue with you having been addicted to porn or struggling with masturbation, it really isn’t fair to surprise him with this information after he has committed to you. Should he get over it and love you anyways? Absolutely! But starting a marriage based on deception is never a good idea.

Being able to communicate your fears, struggles, tendencies, and issues when it comes to sex is not always such a bad thing before marriage. A lot of churches tend to make you believe that sex is a topic that should never be discussed before marriage. It’s true, it can be harmful, but it can also be very beneficial for the first year of your marriage. There were things that I knew I wouldn’t want to do right away when I got married because of what I was exposed to in pornography. Instead of my husband being confused on our honeymoon and wondering why I wasn’t enjoying something or why I suddenly got upset, we were able to discuss it beforehand and have an understanding of what we were comfortable with.

Communication in general makes for a much better sex life, but communication before you even get married can make for a great sex life starting on day one!

Of course, you will have to use discernment and only share what is necessary for both of you to hear at this stage in the relationship. But I really do believe that not sharing it at all could be a recipe for disaster.