The Apostle Paul: His Secret to Fighting Sexual Sin

THE APOSTLE PAUL: HIS SECRET TO FIGHTING SEXUAL SIN

Luke Gilkerson

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent sexual sin. It is a problem that has been around since our ancestors walked east of Eden, and it will be around until the new Jerusalem descends upon us. The good news is that the Bible promises that we can experience foretastes of that coming freedom in the here and now. But how?

The Apostle Paul commands the Christians at Colossae, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how do we do this? If we rip this verse away from the letter, we’re likely to apply it the wrong way, so we need to look closely to understand what Paul is talking about.

1. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Not About “Do More, Try Harder”

A dangerous philosophy was circulating in the church at Colossae that was championing asceticism: if you want to remain pure, then separate yourself from the pleasures of the body that are so often a source of temptation. This philosophy said if you really want the fullness of divine life within you, then insulate your life.

But Paul delivers a crushing blow to this philosophy:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

No value. That is Paul’s verdict on asceticism. It simply doesn’t work. Yes, there is a grain of truth in the philosophy—all popular philosophies contain at least some wisdom in them. If you are tempted to sin sexually then it makes sense to get away from sexual temptations. This will keep sin at bay—but ultimately the flesh remains unsatiated.

This false philosophy is still circulating in the church today. When the best advice we can give people is better Internet filters, cold showers, more hours in prayer, and trying harder, we have given into this philosophy that Paul says is of no value.

This false philosophy either totally underestimates the power of sin, or it sets the benchmark of holiness too low. It either doesn’t get just how ingrained sexual sin is in us, or it thinks that merely getting rid of outward, blatant sexual sin is the goal. Neither is accurate.

2. Fighting Sexual Sin Starts with a New Identity

Paul offers his readers another approach to fighting sin, and it starts with these core identity statements:

  • “With Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world” (2:20)
  • “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (3:3)
  • “You have been raised with Christ” (3:1)
  • “You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (2:12)
  • “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9-10)
  • “The riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27)

This is where a lot of modern readers check out. “Don’t give me these abstract theological ideas. I need something practical,” they think. But for Paul, there was nothing more practical, nothing more life-changing, than these ideas.

We are united to the risen Christ by faith. His resurrection life flows in our veins now. The Spirit of the living Christ lives inside us, so we no longer belong to this world and the rules it plays by—we belong to Christ and the age to come. In order to have the power to fight lust, we first have to understand this: we no longer belong to sin. We belong to God who has accepted us and forgiven us, not because we purified ourselves first, but because we are united by faith to the Pure One, Jesus Christ.

In order to fight lust, we must understand that we no longer belong to lust.

3. Fighting Sexual Sin Continues by Kindling New Desires

Knowing we are united to the living Christ, Paul writes, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). The terms Paul uses here mean to center one’s interests, focus, and passions on something—to savor something. Now that God has united us to the risen Christ, we savor that reality, and this kindles new desires in us that displace a desire for sin.

What are these “things” above that we should savor?

  • First, we are to savor Christ himself. This is one of the reasons why Paul spills a lot of ink in this letter describing who Christ is. He is the beloved Son of God (1:13), the image of the invisible God (1:15), creator and sustainer of all things (1:16-17), the one whose blood reconciles us to the Father (1:20), the firstborn from the dead (1:18), and the one seated at God’s right hand (3:1). In him all the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3). The fullness of deity dwells in Him (1:19; 2:9).
  • Second, we are to savor our new position before God. Christ is seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6). To be seated at a ruler’s right hand meant to be in the position of greatest authority, honor, and delight. Because Christ is in us, we share in the favor He has with the Father.
  • Third, we are to savor the hope that someday we will see and experience these realities. Someday, Christ Himself will appear and we will appear with Him in glory (1:4). It is our destiny to be like the holy, pure Son of God. Someday our eyes will see the one who died for us and rose again, the one who is God in the flesh, and God will honor us as his royal children before every creature, every human soul, every angelic being in the universe.

How does this practically help us to fight sexual sin? The reason why sexual sin can have such a grip on us is because of its power to define us and what is most valuable, how sexual pleasure makes us feel about ourselves. Sexual fantasy, pornography, or pursuing illicit sex makes us feel desired; it makes us feel valued and validated; it gives us a refuge; it gives us connection; it can even make us feel powerful. This is why setting our affections on things above is so important: it gives us a new center to our lives and gives us a completely new sense of value—not based in our worthiness but based on the love God has for Christ that overflows to us.

4. Fighting Sexual Sin Is About Fighting For Our New Desires

Finally we come to Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Paul here is not endorsing asceticism—something he has already refuted. Asceticism is about fighting to get rid of something we think is unholy, but mortifying sin is about fighting for the new affections that God is giving to us.

We can construct helpful boundaries in our lives that keeps sexual sin out of reach, but we should do so standing on our identity as God’s beloved children, standing satisfied in Christ and God’s love. When sexual temptation comes knocking, we can say to it, “No, sin. That’s not who I am anymore. You do not define what life is to me anymore. You do not define me anymore. Christ is in me. I am a child of the king, and one day the whole world will know it.”

5. Fighting Sexual Sin Is Sustained by Relationships that Remind Us of Our New Identity

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This is the essence of real accountability in the body of Christ. Yes, accountability involves confessing our temptations, sins, and the state of our heart, but it also involves godly encouragement. Accountability is not just about someone calling you out on your sin, but someone calling you up to the person you already are in Christ. Accountability is about surrounding yourself with the kind of Christian friendships that teach and admonish you, that inspire thankfulness, and that help us unpack all the wisdom contained in the great mystery that Paul called “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (1:27).

Accountability is like stoking the embers of the fire. It does not add energy to the embers. It only exposes those embers to the air so new reactions can happen. When we engage in the disciplines of confession, encouragement, and mutual prayer we expose our souls again to the life-changing gospel, and God’s power is released again and again.

How to Change the Way You Feel (Without Changing Anything Else)

HOW TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL (WITHOUT CHANGING ANYTHING ELSE)

Marc Chernoff

Happiness does not start with a relationship, a degree, a job, or money.  It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.

“I had a date scheduled for last night with this guy I started talking to on a dating app.  I waited outside the diner where we agreed to meet for 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet.  He never showed up.  All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head.  I thought maybe he saw me from a distance, didn’t like what he saw, and then bailed.

Just as I was about to leave, one of my old college friends, Jared, who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Carly!  It’s great to see you!  You look fantastic!’  I almost blew him off because of how I felt inside at the moment.  But luckily I pulled myself together to engage in a conversation.

After we talked in that same spot for awhile, he said, ‘What are you doing for dinner?’  We ended up going into the diner I was supposed to eat at with the no-show date and having an amazing conversation filled with laughter.  After dinner he walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, and he asked me out on a formal date for this Friday night.”

Our Stories Make or Break Us

The story above comes from Carly, one of our recent Think Better, Live Better 2019 attendees (and of course, we’re sharing her story with permission).

Think about how her initial reaction was rooted so heavily in negativity.  Her date didn’t show up and she immediately crumbled inside.  Now think about the amazing opportunity she would have missed if she had let that negativity endure.  And think about how often your negativity gets the best of you.

How often do let your insecurities stop you?

Or, how often do you judge others for their imperfections?

What you need to realize right now is that you have a story about yourself and others (or perhaps a series of stories) that you recite to yourself daily.  This is your mental movie, and it’s a feature film that plays on repeat in your mind.  Your movie is about who you are and how the world is supposed to be: your tummy is too flabby, your skin is too dark or too pale, you aren’t smart, you aren’t lovable… you aren’t good enough.  And of course, you catch yourself picking out all sorts of imperfections in others, and the world at large, too.

Start to pay attention when your movie plays—when you feel anxiety about being who you are or facing the realities of life—because it affects everything you do.  Realize that this movie isn’t real, it isn’t true, and it isn’t you.  It’s just a train of thought that can be stopped—a script that can be rewritten.

Ready to rewrite the script?

Let’s start by being honest… Sometimes negativity absolutely dominates our better judgment!

So, how do we outsmart our own negative tendencies so we can feel better, behave better, and ultimately live better?  There are many ways, but Angel and I often recommend two simple (but not easy) practices:

1.  Practice questioning your stories.

You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read.  Don’t believe the gossip columns in every magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV… until you have verified it.

Well, the same concept applies to your inside world—your thoughts.

We all have stories about ourselves and others even if we don’t think of them as stories.  Case in point:  How often do you pause to logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges?  How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind—i.e., the pre-recorded movie script you’ve been holding on to—without even thinking straight?

Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic relationship problems.”  And if we were to dig deeper into your own personal version of these stories, I bet you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why the stories you’ve been holding onto are real.  Even though the aren’t.  They’re just stories.

So the key practice here is to question your stories.  For instance, let’s take the writer example.  Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer?  What would it look like to be a good writer?  Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?

You will be surprised by how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a clearer and more accurate version of your story.  Give it a try!

2.  Practice running your thoughts through three key filters.

Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot.  On days like this, there’s a mental conditioning exercise I recommend that’s super quick and can help keep your attitude in check…

I’ve been in arguments with my my wife, Angel, in the past and one of the things I certainly regretted was not filtering my words before saying them.  At the time of these arguments, I did not have the right tools, except for thinking “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you’re feeling the opposite of nice.  Some years later I found this simple tool that helped me shift my behavior.  Here’s how it works:

Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding “YES” responses:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it helpful?

For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested.  Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me?  Is it kind for me to say or think this?  Is it helpful for me to say or think this?

Remember you can’t take your words back.  What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road.  So make it a ritual in your life in the days and weeks ahead.

Now, it’s your turn…

Leverage the two practices above to gradually rewrite the script of your mental movie.  Learn to recognize the worn-out flicker of your old movie starting up, and then stop it.  Seriously!  Whenever you catch yourself reciting lines from your old script (“My arms are flabby…” or “My spouse deserves the silent treatment…”), flip the script and replace those lines with truer, kinder and more helpful ones.  This takes some practice, but it’s worth it.  Just keep practicing, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes along the way.

And keep in mind that various kinds of external negativity will attempt to distract you from your new script and your better judgment—comments from family, news anchors, social media posts… lots of things other people say and do.  When you sense negativity coming at you, learn to deflect it.  Give it a small push back with a thought like, “That remark is not really about me, it’s about you.”  Remember that all people have emotional issues they’re dealing with (just like you), and it makes them difficult and thoughtless sometimes.  They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues.  In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like an obnoxious little dog barking in the distance) that you can either respond to gracefully, or not respond to at all.

So, what was your biggest takeaway from this short article?

Anything else to share?

The Lies of Lust: Promises That Never Deliver

THE LIES OF LUST: PROMISES THAT NEVER DELIVER

Noah Filipiak

The “Lust Trap” can reel you in anytime, anywhere. Its strong pull brings you in like a sci-fi tractor beam. The graphic imagery of Proverbs 7 describes it like an ox going to slaughter, a deer walking into a noose, or a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

Most of us can relate to these metaphors. One moment you are minding your own business, the next you are caught up in an insidious trap, too late to be able to do anything about it.

The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver.

Lie: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable.

The biggest lie that men and women fall into with the Lust Trap is thinking they will find wholeness and a lasting feeling of value from their lust. We typically think of full-blown affairs as the end result of chasing this lie. You think this person will make you feel whole and valuable, so you leave everything else and make your dream a reality.

But upon closer inspection, the dream, the pornography, lustful gazes, and mental fantasies all spring from the same breeding ground.

Try to zoom out from yourself for a moment. Picture the last situation you were in when you got sucked in by lust and observe yourself from an out-of-body sort of perspective. What is going on in your soul? What is going on in your deepest desires?

Some will argue that there are no deeper desires. They just desire the body parts and the physical feeling that lust brings. But I can almost guarantee that your lust, whether it was pornography or just a mental thought, was related to seduction. He or she had a seductive look, a suggestive pose or manner about them. Or, that’s what you were wishing for or picturing when you gazed upon this person.

If body parts are the engine of lust, then seduction and suggestion are the gas and oil.

The driving desire behind almost all fantasies is the desire to be desired—the want to be wanted.

We have a gaping hole in our soul that spews out feelings of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and so on. This hole was put there by our dads, our moms, the guys and girls we liked who rejected us, abusers, ex-husbands or wives, and any litany of harsh words and messages throughout life.

Some of this hole is there as the automatic byproduct of living in a culture that constantly exposes us to the top .01% of “beautiful” people in advertisements, movies, music, and television, and then tells us that we are failures if we don’t look exactly like them (and of course, if you buy the product they’re advertising, you will become just like them).

The hole in every person’s soul is unique from the next, but we all have it. And we all seek to fill it up. There are many ways to try to fill up this hole that are not sexual, but they all share a common characteristic: we need to prove our value.

Money, your job, your reputation, your popularity, your accomplishments, your family, your possessions, your physiological feeling of comfort, and your latest three posts on Facebook all make excellent attempts to fill the value-void we carry around.

I am valuable!

I am important!

I matter!

None of it is ever enough.

Life becomes a constant sprint on the hamster wheel of trying to prove these things.

While drugs give a high feeling that numbs the pain, sex gives a high feeling that includes human embrace and acceptance, something no drug can offer. It’s no wonder we chase sex with such abandon. But we all know the harsh reality: the brief feeling of value and acceptance that sex gives us quickly fades away, just like the high from a drug.

There are two options at this point. You can either do more and stronger drugs, or you can reject the lie and embrace the truth. I beg you to choose the latter.

Truth: I am whole and valuable as God’s beloved son or daughter.

When you feel the Lust Trap pulling you in, identify what it is you are really after. It’s not the temporary hit of endorphins, it’s the deeper state of wholeness, acceptance, approval, value, comfort, etc. (add your own words that fit you best).

Saying “no” to lust isn’t enough; we have to say “yes” to something else. We can’t just stop the tractor beam. We have to turn and run into the arms of someone else.

That someone else is Jesus. And I don’t mean the Sunday school, pixie dust Jesus, or even the Jesus that merely gets you into heaven. Not that’s a small thing, but it really only scratches the surface of all we have in Jesus and the healing he longs to bring to our day-to-day aching, lonely, distracted souls.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, Romans 8:15-17 tells you that you are a child, a son or daughter, of God.  It also tells you that you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What Jesus gets from the Father, you get. Romans 8:4 and Colossians 1:22 tell you that when God sees you, he sees perfection, because of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf.

He doesn’t say, “You don’t measure up.” He says, “I love you so much, and I am so pleased with you.” The Father spoke to Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 and said, “This is my son, whom I love, whom I am so pleased with.”

Because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross, making you a new creation, you are now a co-heir with Jesus. You get these same words from our same Father. You are my son. You are my daughter. Who I love. Who I am so pleased with.

This is what the Father thinks of you. Any other voices you hear are lies.

This is our healing truth. This is the embrace we run to when the Lust Trap comes knocking. This is real, compared to what the Lust Trap can only cheaply imitate.

Your healing wholeness is found in knowing these truths and reminding yourself of them over and over again. Write them down over and over again. Pray them over and over again. Read them in Scripture over and over again. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak them into your heart over and over again.

This wholeness is also found in being in community with others who affirm this truth about who you are.  People who accept you and love you as a beloved son or daughter, the way the Father sees you. Not as someone mired by shame who doesn’t measure up. God designed the Church to be his hands and feet, his very body on earth (1 Corinthians 12).

I’m not going to tell you that church small groups are perfect, but they are a starting point. Look at the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put into your life and pray and ask God which ones you can go deeper with. Then take the risk and go deeper.

The Lust Trap is a never-ending spigot of lies, and thankfully our God is a never-ending fountain of truth. Reorient your whole life around running toward him and his truth.

His love never fails.

Being a Woman of Grace

BEING A WOMAN OF GRACE

I’ve been growing intently for years now in trying to become what I would call a ‘woman of grace.’  It’s probably been the most difficult journey for me personally, even though I’m naturally kind and loving, being a true woman of grace means exhibiting maturity even during the hardest of circumstances.

Maturity.  I love this word and it’s meaning.  I love that this is what Jesus meant when He said that He desired for us to be “perfect” (Greek meaning = mature, complete in growth), like He was.

Complete in growth.  Stable, mature, peaceful… uneasily shaken by others and what they may say about you or do to you.

When people are being human, with their flaws, or even sometimes difficult personalities, I’m able to exhibit grace fairly easily.  I’m blessed to be easy going and optimistic in nature, but when I’m confronted with extremely rude or even evil people, I tend to throw grace out the window and can become like a mamma bear in all her anger in setting my boundaries or telling them off.

While I’ve come a long way in spiritual growth in this area, I still want to work to become more mature, more able to understand a difficult situation so that I’m no longer sucked into sinful drama.  Its critical to understand the motive behind our own behavior that can end up leading us to being ungraceful in how we deal with others.

A few years ago now, I read one of the most interesting books on anger and dealing with people or situations that bring out bad characteristics in us.  The book is called Overcoming Emotions that Destroy, written by Chip Ingram, and helps one to identify what kind of person they are (a Stuffer or Exploder… I’m a Stuffer that can endure for years before I finally Explode), what kinds of things hurt or anger them, and how they spiritually need to go about dealing with toxic emotions (or people) in order to have joy and peace in their life.

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Being a woman of grace means having composure, finding and being grounded.  It carries over into the realm of crisis situations, and into confrontations with catty or gossipy females.

Carrying oneself with grace means having patience when a difficult person needs time to mature, but grace also means having the wisdom to know when to move on away from a person who refuses God’s assistance to grow beyond their immaturity.

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Being a graceful woman is finding maturity through allowing God to develop in you the traits of the Fruit of the Spirit (more below), but let’s take a look at why it is so important to cultivate Grace. Let’s take a look at the ungraceful woman.

The Ungraceful Woman

To be an ungraceful woman (not disgraceful as that implies shameful), but merely a woman who lacks real grace in dealing with others, is a very painful existence for that woman, and is why I truly feel sorry for people who live their lives in such a unhealthy manner.  She constantly feels the need to control others, to criticize or “punish” them, without trusting that God sees everything and has taken vengeance into His own hands, and commanded her not to herself!

Meddling in others’ lives, watching them in order to jump on their mistakes, gossiping to her audience of relatives or friends about their mistakes or perceived lack of character… all these things are actions that prevent these women from growing in true maturity, and it always makes me very sad when I come across someone with this defect.  A woman like this is shirking her calling, ignoring her God-given talents, and being consumed with the faults of others while her own creativity withers away.  Once you understand the depravity of her actions, you no longer feel any other emotion toward her except for deep sadness at the life she’s chosen for herself.  She knows deep down that she’s wrong, that she’s behaving immaturely, that she’s deliberately confronting someone (or going behind their back to gossip) in something that is not her place and not bringing glory to God, however, she believes she is doing what is right, even beneficial to her target.  She is driven by this feeling, even though she has a nagging horrible anxiety about it.

The Ungraceful Woman Is Addicted to Attacking Others (you know… like a hobby)

Why do people attack others?  Why would someone focus so much on another’s life, devoting their words or actions to criticizing their every move?  Why would someone go into a church, sit there for an hour listening to a Bible study, and then carry out their plans to murder the people in that church because they hated members of a different race so intensely?

Even though these are situations where a person gives in to evil in lesser or greater degrees, I want people to understand that these all have one major motive in common: 

The desire to shame or punish others

When Dylann Roof, the recent aggressor in a mass shooting in an African American church in South Carolina, carried out his actions they were based on the desire to punish the blacks in that church for perceived crimes others of their race had done (or even not done) in our country.  He felt like he was carrying out a righteous duty in harming them, in exterminating them.  His words were that he had to do it because he would be benefiting society.  This is the basis of all racial crimes and genocide that has been prevalent all over the world, but it is always motivated by more than mere hatred, but by the desire to punish, shame or exterminate someone (or people)…

because they “deserve it.”

To a lesser degree, this is the same motive that takes place when a woman (or man) decides that harming someone through gossip (ruining their reputation or hurting their feelings), or punishing them by using harsh language, dismissing them or ignoring, or shaming them, is beneficial to that person or even a “righteous act.”  The can even justify that harming them is beneficial to others or a certain group.

Be it someone like Dylann Roof or a woman who punishes and shames others, the evil is shown when the aggressor thinks they are justified to treat another human being this way.  In Patricia Evans book, Controlling People, she discusses the scenarios of a person spanking a baby to get it to stop crying, and the event of a terrorist act,

While I am not in any way equating hitting a child with the quite different act of terrorism, I am pointing to the fact that they both arise from a terrifying unawareness on the part of the aggressor.  And that in most cases, when people act against other people, they feel justified.  They feel sensible.

If you have ever encountered a person who acted against you by harassing you, defining you, discriminating against you, or physically assaulting you, you may have noticed that the act was perpetrated against you as if you were deserving of it.

Whether they are experienced as horrifying, hurtful, or simply nonsensical, acts against others have certain commonalities:

1) Perpetrators usually believe that their oppressive actions are necessary, even right.  Their behavior is actually the opposite: unnecessary and wrong

2) Generally acts against others, that is, attempts to control others, eventually bring the perpetrators just the opposite of what they want.

3) Acts against others originate with a distortion or lack of awareness.  Perpetrators almost universally believe that they see clearly and are aware: the opposite of reality.

Instead of growing in maturity, an ungraceful woman develops a toxic character of constantly feeling like it is her “duty” to “call out” the sins, failures, and shortcomings of others.  She feels like her oppressive and ungraceful behavior is necessary to bring about some kind of desired change.  She attempts to control another to try to get what she wants from them (compliance), but ends up getting the opposite (a broken relationship, or being ignored, or facing the other’s indifference).

In acting in an ungraceful manner of attacking, shaming, or gossiping about another person, she is pursuing the opposite of growing in maturity.  Maturity in our actions with others is found in the Fruits of the Spirit,

Maturity through the Fruits of the Spirit:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

An aggressor or ungraceful woman at times, will break every single one of these beautiful tenants of the Fruit of the Spirit, characteristics that should be growing in someone that is becoming more and more mature or Christ like, in order to criticize or punish another.

Being a woman of grace means actively pursuing each of these characteristics whole-heartedly, allowing God to change her more and more into a complete woman  – a woman who is mature.

Hope for a Future of Grace, Even in Our Failings

If you’ve failed in this way, if you’ve been the ungraceful woman, let me just tell you that I’ve been there… I’ve hit rock bottom.  Don’t let shame that you’ve failed in this area prevent you from embracing the hope and joy that God can change and heal everything, giving you that maturity and peace to help you understand how to better deal with others.

Here are some scriptures that are for those who feel like they’ve failed being a woman of grace:

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion (maturity) until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace….”  Philippians 1:3-7

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“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.  Hold firmly the message of life.”  Philippians 2:13-14

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“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore all who are mature should think this way.  And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also.  In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.”  Philippians 3:12-16

*

“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.  Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:12-17

5 Regrets You Do Not Want to Have in 5 Years

5 REGRETS YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE IN 5 YEARS

Angel Chernoff

Let me re-share a quick story and some important life lessons with you…

This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.”

As you can imagine, his words touched a nerve in me. I almost immediately started thinking about everything and everyone I care about, and what I don’t want to regret down the road. It almost felt like every aspect of my life was flashing before my eyes. And as soon as I got home, I started jotting down some key things that had come to mind. When I was done, I read the list to Marc. He nodded his head all the way through to the end, and then said, “I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone wants to regret any of those things when they’re older.” Perhaps you will also agree…

1.  Spending too little time with the right people

Sooner or later, you just want to be around the people who make you smile. So today, spend time with those who help you love yourself more. And remember, the people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.

2.  Not taking action on meaningful goals

Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Most of the time, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.  When it’s all said and done, be sure you haven’t said more than you’ve done.

3.  Settling for less than you are capable of

Remember, growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.

4.  Collecting more excuses than you can count

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

5.  Letting impatience dominate your decisions and actions

Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of headaches and heartache.

Of course, making these shifts—thinking and living better—takes guidance and practice.

How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps

HOW TO QUIT PORN: 6 ESSENTIAL STEPS

Douglas Weiss

If you’re wondering how to quit porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the comments below and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be so complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you want to quit watching porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to get real familiar with these six steps.

Step 1: You need to want to quit watching porn.

The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting untl the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop.

Step 2: You have to be willing to try a different way.

Secondly, you have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep quitting the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To quit, you have to give up what you’ve  been doing and do what you have to do. Have you tried using Screen Accountability yet?

Step 3: You need to be brutally honest with another person.

Thirdly, you have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person.  Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free.

Step 4: You need to get rid of all your porn.

Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start, some you have to clean house regularly.

Step 5: You also need to block porn from coming in.

The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute.

Step 6: You need a friend to help you stay on track.

Finally, get accountable to a man on a daily basis about your porn usage. Make a call a day and a commitment to call this person before you even consider looking at porn. People who set consequences for porn relapse do better. Seriously, if you look at porn, set a consequence. Some guys run laps, give money to the political party they don’t vote for, do leg lunges for a half mile, give up some privilege or just pick up trash on the highway for a few hours.

A porn-free life is a better life.

You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn free.

One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability™. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only can it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a weekly report of your internet use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction.

Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. She is in pain because of your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve the best man you can be. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you.

Family Time Means Quality Time

FAMILY TIME MEANS QUALITY TIME

Intentional Living

Whether it’s at the dinner table, in church or watching a movie together, families form strong bonds when they connect on a personal level.

There was a time when parents would read to their children every day. It could be a beloved fairy tale, a favorite Bible story or a library book, but it helped build intimacy, comfort and trust. Mothers and fathers had an opportunity to build morals and principles for living.

Intentionally spending time as a family is extremely important. How a family interacts will have great influence on the development of a child’s personality.  As an Intentional Parent, you will help your children feel secure in your love for them.

Dr. Randy Carlson explains how “Ten Commandments for the Family” might be a good guide for living in your family.

Families that emphasize organization and sets of rules, for example, will likely produce children who highly value organization themselves and rely on regulations to help them know boundaries in life.

Families that place an emphasis on freedom of expression are more likely to have free-spirited children, who may have trouble setting or distinguishing boundaries without help.

Prevailing attitudes often stem from the family atmosphere present in homes where the parents were raised. For example, strict, repressive homes may produce children who grow up to be legalistic, overbearing parents.

Children raised in that atmosphere, depending upon their individual makeup, will either likely rebel against it, or become overly cautious in adulthood themselves. Moreover, family crises and problems can have effects on a child. Parents who are tense and worried about finances may find themselves parenting a child overly interested in making money.

While families, like individuals, take on unique personalities, there is one contributing factor that will help produce happy, well-rounded children: the home should provide an atmosphere of love and attention.

This is one thing you should strive to be very intentional about.

Intentional ONE THING Challenge

If you could do ONE THING and know that it would make a significant, lasting, possibly life-changing difference in your life, would you do it? Dr. Carlson shares the power of ONE THING and why you should get started doing your ONE THING today.

Tell Us

How do you spend time as a family? Do you read the Bible regularly? We’d love to hear your success stories. Post your comments below.

Have the Courage to Change – Part 1

HAVE THE COURAGE TO CHANGE – PART 1

Dr. Randy Carlson

When I was a kid growing up, I remember a saying that hung over my dad’s desk. It’s often referred to as the serenity prayer: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The law of change says nothing stays the same.  Everything either grows stronger or weaker. In physics, there’s entropy which is the tendency for things to go from strength to weakness. We often can see this in our own lives.

You’re not the same as you were yesterday. We all experience little changes each day of life, and we often can’t perceive them until we see a photograph, or a health report, and we go back and take a checkup. Then we realize how much change has occurred.

The reason we focus on the things in our life that we can’t change, like the mess in Washington, DC, or a spouse’s bad attitude, the jerky person that we work with, or the stock market is because in that moment, we are no longer responsible. But ask yourself this question: What is it in my own life that I need to change or should change?  It’s at that moment we become intentional.

Change starts by first taking 100 percent responsibility for our thoughts, actions and attitudes.  It requires changing our thinking, our attitudes, and our behaviors.  This theme of the failure that many of us have – and let’s face it – many of us do – is we fail to take personal responsibilities for our lives.

When you think about it, we grew up in a time where it’s hard for us to take personal responsibility.  In fact, our culture does anything but take responsibility.  Every group in our culture points to another, saying it’s their fault. We need to have the courage to change, and until we accept the reality of this law of personal responsibility, we cannot fully mature into a spiritual and relational point of being an adult.

Christianity is not a passive religion; it’s an act of faith. The Bible uses words like choose, defend, fight, forgive, love, plant, seek, teach, train, visit, worn, work, and worship.  The Bible is full of verbs that demonstrate a very active faith. God’s design for us is to be intentional in taking these verbs and living them out:

  • When we’re obedient to know what the scripture teaches about how we’re to treat our spouses, there’s a payoff for that.
  • When we’re obedient to be intentional, to take the verb, and we use the verb, and we act on that verb in our lives, when it comes to how we live, with our finances or with our faith or our health, there’s going to be a payoff for that.
  • There’s always a positive return on investment for being intentional.

Accepting personal responsibility should cause us to have the courage to change by facing the reality as it is today, resulting in actions that will glorify God and bring benefit to ourselves.

25 Lessons You Will Appreciate When You’re Ready for a Simpler Life

25 LESSONS YOU WILL APPRECIATE WHEN YOU’RE READY FOR A SIMPLER LIFE

Angel Chernoff

When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated.

It’s time to focus on what matters, and let go of what does not.

For almost a decade now, Marc and I have been learning to do just that—live a simpler life.

Not simpler as in “meager.” Simpler as in “meaningful.”

We’ve been working on eliminating many of life’s complexities so we’re able to spend more time with people we love and do more activities we love. This means we’ve been gradually getting rid of mental and physical clutter, and eliminating all but the essential, so we’re left with only that which gives us value.

Our overarching goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving us with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing and stress, but instead contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects we love.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we have zero clutter and complications. We’re human and living in the real world with everyone else. We have a home, possessions, computers, gadgets, distractions and occasional busyness. But we have reduced it to make space.

Today, after finishing up a call with a new course student who’s working diligently to simplify various aspects of her life and business, I’ve been reflecting on this simpler life Marc and I have created for ourselves, and I thought I’d share some of these reflections with you.

Some lessons I’ve learned about living a simpler life:

  1. A simpler life is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. Thus, you are wealthy in proportion to the number of unnecessary things you can afford to live without.
  2. Simplifying is not merely seeing how little you can get by with, but how efficiently you can put first things first, and use your time accordingly to pursue the things that make a difference and mean the most to you.
  3. Besides the art of getting things done, there is the often-forgotten art of leaving things undone. The simplicity and efficiency of life relies heavily on the elimination of non-essentials.
  4. Overcommitting is the biggest mistake most people make against living a simpler life. It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with to-do list tasks or distractions. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space.
  5. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are so many activities that sound fun and exciting. We check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat and see what others are doing and immediately want to add these things to our lives. But before you let these new ideas get the best of you, remember that by adding too many things to your life, you are subtracting space. And that space is vital to focusing on what matters most.
  6. Distractions are both more tempting and more damaging than we realize. When we fill our lives with distractions, its often because we’re scared of what life might be like without constant social media, TV, video games, snacks, chats, music, etc. Don’t numb yourself with noise. Don’t let distractions hold you back. Control your distractions before your distractions control you.
  7. You can’t live a simpler life if you’re unwilling to change and let go of what you’re used to.
  8. Priorities don’t get done automatically. You have to make time for what’s important to you: time with your significant other, time with your kids, time for creating, time for learning, time for exercise, etc. Push everything else aside to make time. By saying no to more things that sound really exciting, you get to say yes to more of what’s truly important.
  9. Rising earlier helps. A quiet, unrushed morning routine is a gift to treasure. (I awake early so that I have quiet time to read, write, and practice a gratitude meditation.)
  10. Letting go of old routines and habits and building new ones can be hard, but it’s easier if you do a 30-day challenge. Let go of something for 30 days and see how it affects your life. (Letting go of cable TV was one of the best decisions Marc and I made a few years back—no more continuous, distracting noise in our home, and no more advertisements for stuff we don’t need.)
  11. Buying more stuff doesn’t solve our problems. Neither does more snack food or another TV program.
  12. Shopping isn’t a hobby, and it certainly isn’t therapy. It’s a waste of time and money, and inevitably leads to a cluttered life.
  13. When we travel lightly, we’re freer, less burdened, and less stressed. This applies to traveling through life too, not just traveling through an airport.
  14. It’s not how many, or how few, things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count. Thus, it’s better to have three good books on your bookshelf that you’re actually going to read rather than 300 you never get around to.
  15. Decluttering your physical space can lead to a less cluttered mental space. These visual distractions pull on us and distract us in more ways than we often realize. 
  16. Overthinking is one of the most rampant sources of stress and mental clutter. The key is to realize that the problem is not the problem. The problem is the incredible amount of overthinking you’re doing with the problem. Let it go and be free.
  17. Positivity always pays off in simplifying outcomes. So before you waste it on anger, resentment, spite or envy, think of how precious and irreplaceable your time is.
  18. Stay out of other people’s drama. And don’t needlessly create your own.
  19. A simpler, more positive mindset can be created anytime and anyplace with a change in thinking. Because frustration and stress come from the way you react, not the way things are. Adjust your attitude, and the frustration and stress evaporates.
  20. The simplest secret to happiness and peace in the present is letting every circumstance be what it is, instead of what you think it should be, and making the best of it.
  21. Gratitude always makes life easier to deal with. Because happiness comes easier when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.
  22. Make mistakes, learn from them, laugh about them, and move along. Waste not a minute on outcomes you can’t control.
  23. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. 
  24. The truth—your truth—is always the simplest path forward. If you listen closely to your intuition you will always know what is best for you, because what is best for you is what is true for you.
  25. The feeling you get from doing something important (and true) is far better and less stressful than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were doing it.

Afterthoughts

For the cynics out there who might say the list of lessons above is too long to be “simpler,” there are really only two steps to simplifying:

  • Identify what’s most important to you.
  • Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.

Of course, that advice is not terribly useful unless you understand how to apply it to various areas of your life… which is why I gave you the lessons above.

Can’t Shed Pounds? Here Are 8 Reasons Why!

CAN’T SHED POUNDS? HERE ARE 8 REASONS WHY!

Charley Reid

Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how badly we wish it would. If you keep trying and failing, here are some reasons why.

It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight before a vacation, before your wedding, because you gained a few pounds over the holidays or if you simply just want to live a healthier lifestyle, losing weight is a challenge, and it’s one that you really have to be up for.

Sure, there are different things out there like diet pills, wraps, and whatever else you might see on a commercial that promise quick results, but the fact is that losing weight does not happen overnight.

There is no “magic pill” that automatically makes you drop down 2 pants sizes, and the reality is it’s about making healthy decisions and being active. A body in motion stays in motion.

Why you can’t seem to shed those pounds

If you have been trying to lose weight, but aren’t seeing any results, here’s some insight into why. Some of these reasons are probably things you don’t want to hear, but they are definitely things you need to hear.

#1 You’re not educated about weight loss. If you think going to the gym, and doing a light walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes or less, and then going home and eating chips, cookies, and other fatty foods is going to help you successfully lose weight, you’re very wrong. Just because you are going to the gym and working out, doesn’t mean you should then go home and eat every fatty food in sight.

The key to losing weight is being educated about what food you should be putting into your body, and also knowing how many calories you should be burning, in order to meet your desired goal. If you aren’t sure, do some research on the internet, go to the library and check out some books, or start with a simple plan like making sure to have more green items on your plate than white.

#2 You’re not determined. Although you might think you are motivated and really pumped up to lose weight, you’re probably not, at least not enough. The only way you will truly ever see results, is when you actually want something bad enough that you work harder than you’ve ever worked before.

If you go to the gym 2-3 days a week, but then eat pasta for dinner every night, or wake up and make waffles for breakfast, then you’re basically throwing away every hard workout session you’ve done. If you find yourself making up excuses like “I’m too tired” or “my leg hurts” as reasons you can’t work out, you don’t want it bad enough.

The next time you find yourself making up excuses, do a quick Google search of Bethany Hamilton and Jason Lester. These 2 athletes certainly didn’t use excuses and let having a hurt leg or injury get in the way of them reaching their dreams and goals. So honestly, what’s your excuse?

#3 You want instant results. No matter how badly you want to see instant results, you need to accept the harsh reality that it just isn’t going to happen. No matter how many times those infomercials make you a believer, and you continue to order whatever product, pill, or wrap they are selling, you will not see results, at least not the real results you want.

Working out and losing weight takes time, dedication, effort and motivation. You have to want it bad enough, but the good news is that you can do it, once you accept the fact that it takes time. So instead of falling for products making false promises, start by making small goals that are within your reach, and you will slowly but surely start to actually see the results you have been dreaming about.

#4 You might have a thyroid problem. One reason you might not be losing weight is because you might have thyroid problems and not even know it. Women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid problem than men. Let me also mention that having a thyroid problem is by no means something you should blame yourself for.

In fact, at least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half—15 million—are silent sufferers who are undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. There are signs and symptoms you can be aware of to know if you should consult your doctor.

If you find yourself feeling anxious often, your appetite has changed, your brain feels foggy, your sex drive is down, your skin is dry and your bowel movements are all over the place, a thyroid problem might be to blame. In addition to this, you may also notice that your menstrual cycle has changed, you have high blood pressure, you feel cold all the time, your sleep is irregular, you’ve gained weight or you start to notice your hair is thinning or falling out, you should definitely get your thyroid tested.

Having a thyroid issue is not the end of the world, and it is something that can be fixed, but again, probably not overnight. Testing and treating thyroid disorders take time, but are worth it for your health and happiness. And, if you do have a thyroid disorder, then it will be nice to know why you haven’t been seeing the weight loss results you’ve been working so hard to achieve!

#5 You do the same thing over and over again. If you are doing the same workout routine over and over again, and not seeing results, the answer should be pretty obvious. It’s because you’re not progressing to the next level! Just like your skin can get used to a certain cream that no longer works on your face, your body can get used to the same workout and it no may no longer work.

The best way to lose weight is to change it up: run one day, do interval training the next, or take a workout class 2 days out of the week, instead of doing your everyday routine of walking and weightlifting.

You can even change it up simply by running on the treadmill a few days a week, and on other days, running outside around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, just make sure that you make this change to give your workout some variety. You’ll start seeing the results you’ve wanted to see for a while!

#6 You’ve fallen victim of relationship weight. When you first started dating your boyfriend or girlfriend, you were probably very active about working out, and you wanted to, because you wanted your partner to see the sexiest you possible—and they did! But now that you’ve been dating for a while, you find yourself cuddling on the couch and being much lazier when it comes to working out than you used to. It doesn’t help if your partner isn’t motivated either, never wanting to do active things with you.

So, if you can relate to being a victim of relationship weight, it’s time you stop being this victim. Stop being lazy! Start working out, and start taking care of yourself. You don’t want to look back a year from now and wonder what the heck happened. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Stop with your lazy ways right now, and start getting back to the most amazing version of yourself.

I have a funny feeling that once your lover starts seeing you getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle, they’ll want to start coming with you on your gym dates.

#7 Can’t give up alcohol. If you are one of those people who always has to have a glass of wine after work, or loves going to happy hour and letting go of all the stress from your workday, that’s all good and everything. But it’s not good when you do these things all the time.

Having a glass of wine after work is relaxing, and it’s okay to go to happy hour from time to time. But you shouldn’t be doing these things every single day of your life, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. I know there are studies out there that show wine is good for you, but there are also studies out there that says having one glass of wine is equivalent to having a piece of cake.

The next time you want that glass of wine, ask yourself if you want wine or if you would rather have cake. Then, ask yourself if you would rather have cake, or if you would rather lose weight. I’m sure your answer will be the one about losing weight. And hopefully this will motivate you to get your butt in the gym!

#8 You obsess too much. It is very possible to get in the way of yourself, especially when it comes to weight loss. There is a reason that counting calories or obsessing over the number on the scale actually backfires on you when trying to lose weight. When you start becoming obsessed with every number and calorie, you mess yourself up from achieving your goals.

The saying “everything in moderation” is so very true, especially when it comes to losing weight, and it’s so important to remember this. A great way to keep track of your progress is to keep a journal. Write down your workouts, what food you eat, and whatever else you want to keep track of. Once you’ve logged your information for the day, let it go. Don’t sit there and obsess over the numbers and calories you burned or consumed. Remember, losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint.

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to lose weight. If you are trying to lose weight, about to start, or have been for a while, it’s exciting to know what the future will bring, and you should be excited! You are about to become the very best version of you possible.

It’s also important to be aware of these 8 reasons that seriously can keep you from achieving your goals. Remember that losing weight takes a lot of hard work. It wouldn’t be called a workout if it didn’t.

Remember above all else, you can do this! You are fully capable of achieving your weight loss goals. It starts from within. You have to want it for yourself, and be okay with doing it all by yourself.

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