by Gerard Terry
Our reality is composed of what we do in a day, what we think about and who we interact with (including who we care for and who cares for us). For a week, our reality is what we did, what we thought about and who we interacted with for seven days. The same goes for a month and a year. Cumulatively, these form our life.
Today, I went to a couple’s house after church, where I found several other people I knew. I brought ingredients for nachos, while others brought meat, potatoes, beans, drink and desert. We spent nearly five hours watching football in one room and talking in the kitchen. I left there thinking I experienced love and fellowship. I was so glad I went and so glad I did not stay home and isolate with my computer and TV. At my decision point on whether to go, it was uncomfortable to step out of my comfort zone.
Tonight, I am thinking of what I would have done if I had stayed home. TV and a computer are not healthy companions. Through them, my fantasy life takes root and I search for media which will further it along. I predictably give in to lustful thoughts and a craving for pornography. Then follows the guilt. Then follows the shame. I am embarrassed to say this occurs way too often, and forms a substantial part of my reality.
Defining Our Own Reality
Did you know that our experiences shape who we are? Fortunately, in most cases, if we exercise discipline and spend our time thoughtfully, we get to decide what we will be thinking about later as we reflect on our day. Through fellowship, we can have memories of laughter, love, and encouragement as we interacted with others. The opposite of fellowship is isolation. Through isolation, we can have feelings of loneliness, emptiness and regret which accompany isolation, guilt and shame.
One of the most common characteristics of sex addicts is that we have few friends. If we are not intentional about how we spend our time, our drift is toward decisions of isolation. Isolation is easier and appears more restful. Unfortunately, isolation is where sin thrives. When was the last time you openly sinned in the presence of a group of friends?
Your Reality Costs Something Either Way
Just like the consequences of time spent looking at porn (broken relationships, guilt, and shame), building relationships has a price. The cost always includes energy to step outside our comfort zone to interact with others. It is work to ask good questions, give genuine compliments and meet the needs of others. I also risk embarrassment that I won’t measure up, or that I may encounter conflict. Yet interacting with others has an upside: we become fully alive as we live the way God intended. People are good for us.
God Values Fellowship
Time spent with others is usually God honoring. We are made to have fellowship with others. In that time, we can encourage and be encouraged. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) In the end, fellowship is designed to result in greater connection to God for all involved.
Interacting With Others in Relationship is Guilt Free
The most wonderful emotions I feel tonight are the joy of connecting with others and the lack of guilt from what I did today. My day was spent in valuable experiences building great memories. I laughed. I listened to others and what they had to say. They valued me too. Someone even told me they loved me. That is the reality I want to purposefully build for myself.
Be Intentional, Don’t Drift
With something as valuable as building your reality, don’t just let it happen. Don’t lay around the house waiting to see who will call or watching TV. Call someone to come over. Get out of the house. Attend God honoring events where like-minded people will be found. With intentional planning, you can have purpose in your day and control what memories of your day, week, month and year will look like. You can build a positive reality as you live the way God planned for you, in fellowship with other believers.
by Jonathan Daugherty
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake: "What are the benefits of togetherness?" In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a LOT in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage the process of doing life together with others. The following are just five such benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationship that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life. Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
Stand up and fight -- together!
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to grow.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
The point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) This is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
I have met hundreds of individuals with similar beliefs. They grew up to understand God as angry. And who could blame them? There is, after all, a lot of blood in the Bible. Reading through the Old Testament you will soon find one instance after another where God exacts justice on rebellious people; often in the form of war and death. So, one is left to draw conclusions about this God, and angry seems to fit the bill. I mean, why else would God act in such ways if it isn’t out of anger?
First, God is not like us. The Bible tells us that His ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts too (Isaiah 55:9). He is perfect, flawless, sinless, not bound by time or space. He is Creator, Judge, Redeemer. He chose to make humans in His image, bearing a sense of His character and creativity. He did not create out of need, but rather out of His desire to share; He is a giver, lover, friend. He does feel anger, but He doesn’t process it like we do. When one begins to understand just how “other” God is, the perspective through which we understand His actions can change.
For instance, when we see human beings get angry, we see all sorts of resulting behaviors that are unhealthy and unhelpful. This is because human anger drives us toward self-pity; our desires were blocked, so we feel angry and then behave in ways that hurt others to try and regain our power and achieve our agenda. And most of our anger is unjustified, meaning it isn’t based on moral law or the greater good of humanity. It’s more like a 2-year-old throwing a tantrum because someone took their toy away.
When God feels angry, His perspective is perfect, just, and always with mankind’s best in mind. He is a good Father, but even more than that — He is the definition of Life. When God made Adam, He breathed into his nostrils and the man became a living being. Apart from God, we cannot exist. Since He is the central element to life, He is the absolute authority on its best function. When human beings look to anything or anyone else for life, this is offensive to God. But God’s anger isn’t like someone pouting because they didn’t get picked for the team. His anger is righteous, justified. But His actions when angry might surprise you; they are borne of love, leading us to fullness of life.
We tend to think of all anger as leading to punishment. For instance, if you’re angry you have a right to hurt someone. Anger justifies malicious behavior. Now, a lot of us would quickly deny this out of our desire to not be perceived as cruel. But it’s still true. Human anger seeks to destroy. But God’s anger isn’t destructive, it is corrective, like a father training his son to live rightly. And God’s anger isn’t seething, ever present under a guise of good will and kindness. He feels it, He deals with it, and He reminds us of His love. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
You might be thinking, “But your title of this article says God isn’t mad at me. How is He not mad at me if He is capable of all this anger?” God’s attributes are not weighed on a scale. He is fully 100% of all His attributes at all times. So, His justice isn’t greater or lesser than His love or mercy or grace. His omnipresence isn’t greater or lesser than His omnipotence. So when He feels angry, it doesn’t overpower any of His other attributes. This is why His expressions of anger are not destructive, rather they are corrective. His entire motivation for ALL His interactions with humanity is LOVE! (John 3:16)
My understanding of this concept of God’s love overshadowing all His decisions really grew when I had children. Certainly, no human analogy could ever fully encompass the infinite expanse of God’s love for us, but parenthood does give a dim shadow of this phenomenon. I love my children. I want the best for them. I would give my life to protect them and provide for them. Love is the guiding principle of my decision-making when it comes to training up my children, even when it is necessary to discipline them for disobedience. The discipline isn’t for the sake of punishing them or withdrawing my love. Quite the opposite. It is because I love them that I correct them in their error or rebellion.
God loves you — more than you could comprehend. No matter how far you have wandered away from Him, or how vehemently you have denied Him, He has never wavered in His love for you. He is faithful, both to remind you of His affection for you and to correct you when you stray. But He never wags His finger at you in shame or with malicious intent. His goal is that you experience the fullness of life, to know Him (the Author of life) intimately. He is the perfect Dad, always desiring closeness with His children and the best He has to offer. Maybe it is time you stopped hiding from the false angry god of your own making, and instead crawl up into the lap of your heavenly Father whose caring eye is ever on you. If you do, you might just discover that perfect Love casts out fear, and that the real God is better than you ever imagined…
by Jonathan Daugherty
“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 1:6
How often do you link love and obedience? I know for me it seems like an odd combination. And yet, that is precisely what God does (repeatedly) when He talks about our love of Him. Jesus stated it clearly when he said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)
I don’t always see obedience as the primary indicator, or barometer, of my love for God. I usually prefer to count on my emotions. How do I feel toward God? After all, love is an emotion, right? We often think of love in terms of how we feel about someone or something. I love my wife, I love my mother, I love my children, I love my sports team, I love chocolate (okay, this is starting to hit too close to home…). Oh, and tack on, I love God… Huh?
What happens, though, when your emotions shift or dull? What happens when life kicks you in the teeth and you are scratching your head wondering, Where is God? In these moments, or seasons, we won’t necessarily feel like loving God, even if we believe in our minds and hearts it is true. Therefore, our love for God must be expressed through obedience.
This makes sense if you think about it from a parent’s perspective. Do we think our children truly understand love if it is only about a feeling, or do we give them opportunities to express their love by “obeying our commands?”
“Ethan, it is time for you to clean up your room.”
“Dad, I love you, but I don’t really feel like cleaning it up right now. See ya.”
Does Ethan really love me (or even understand the true meaning of love) or is he simply using words to appeal to my emotions, in hopes that the command will just go away? Unfortunately, I think this is how we often engage God.
“Jonathan, do not lie.”
“God, I love you, but I could get a bigger tax return if I just don’t report half my income. And, of course, I’ll give a tenth of it back to you!”
Is that really loving God? Not so much.
What are the commands that God has given that you are unwilling to obey? In each case, you are essentially displaying hatred for God, not love. Let us become those willing to “practice what we preach.” If we say we love God, let’s do what He says…
by Jonathan Daugherty
Dinner time at my house almost always produces memorable moments. It is a time when our whole family gathers around the table to eat, pray, and talk about our day. I like to ask my kids about school and anything else they want to share about their day. I have had many enjoyable interactions at the dinner table, not to mention many hilarious moments as well. Recently, we were eating boneless chicken for dinner (this will have significance in a minute) when such a memorable, hilarious moment occurred.
My kids and I decided to eat our chicken in a different sort of way. Rather than cutting it into bite sized pieces and then eating it like civilized human beings, we just stabbed it with our forks and ate it like cavemen (please don't email me chastising me for my poor parenting techniques...).
During our conversation, I set down my chicken on my plate with the fork sticking straight up out of it. My son, Ethan, sneezed or did something that caused him to bump into the table. When the table moved, my fork toppled over and fell off my plate and tumbled to the floor, with the chicken still attached. Splat! Chicken and fork landed right beside my chair leg. I leaned over and picked up the fork and then examined the chicken. It was covered with dirt and hair. (Let me remind you, I have three very active children under the age of nine in my house, so the dirt and hair combo is common on our floors.)
As I picked up the fork and chicken, I jokingly commented to my wife Elaine, "Honey, I know that typically your floors are clean enough to eat off of, but this one particular spot on which this chicken fell just so happened to contain some dirt and hair."
My wife, without missing a beat, replied with a wink, "But you still love me, right?"
Before I could respond with more than a smile, Megan (my youngest), chimed in as she leaned over the table toward my wife, "Mommy, I love you, even though you are sloppy."
Elaine burst out laughing (which cued the rest of us it was fine to join in with our own gut-busting laughter). Again, a memorable moment was created around my dinner table. But this time I didn't just let the laughter fade into nothing, as I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to share a biblical truth that we so often don't embrace in our daily lives. I decided to encourage my kids with the truth that God too loves us, even though we are... (fill in the blank). Elaine even brought up Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
As the days have passed since that wonderful dinner time reminder, I have thought more about this truth that God's love is complete and eternal for us, His children. To illustrate this point, let's look at just a few examples from Scripture of those who God said He loved, even though...
As you move forward in your life, even with all its challenges and obstacles, remember that you have a God who loves you, even though...