Category Archives: Bible

Pain

By Angela Tooley

Pain – it’s an inescapable part of life, yet we do everything we can to escape it or numb it. There is physical pain in our bodies – temporary or chronic. Then there is pain from our own choices and pain that comes from the choices of others.

The current opioid crisis demonstrates how far we have come in our culture in our inability to deal with pain. This crisis born of misguided notions of pain management with highly addictive forms of synthetic heroin

kills 91 people per day.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not unsympathetic to being in pain. I’m not unsympathetic to those who are addicted. I would like us to understand that there is something to be gained from pain. We must be willing to pay attention whether that pain is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.

CS Lewis called pain “God’s megaphone.” Pain gets our attention so that we may know God is present. We see this in Job’s suffering, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

Priscilla Shirer describes pain as a mysterious blessing, “it compels us to more accurately assess the wisdom or foolishness of our choices. Pain is ironically the key to being spared even worse discomfort.”

The reality of pain is that it should be confronted. The good news is that we do not have to do this alone. Our pain was never meant to be ours alone. Whether our pain is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we have help through Christ and through each other.

This is part of our mission at Noble Choices – to come alongside others who need recovery (and we all need it). We lead Celebrate Recovery in Richardson, TX and recommend it if you live in other areas. We offer life coaching and counseling to those struggling with sexual sin in their life or the life of a loved one.

We have had to face our own pain and by God’s grace we are here to help and offer hope. There is always hope!

“we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”  —  Romans 5:3,4

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, August 30). Understanding the Epidemic. Retrieved from Opioid Overdose: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

Lewis, C. (1940). The Problem of Pain. United Kingdom: The Centenary Press.

Shirer, P. (2017). Awaken. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group.

Eight Factors Common in Childhoods of Sex Addicts

I am a huge baseball fan and the postseason is great. Last year in the 10th inning of the decisive game of the World Series, Chicago Cub Ben Zobrist drove in the winning run.

Was this just about an opportunity? Or was this path set much earlier: the Houston Astros who first drafted him? His high school coach who convinced him to try out? His whiffle ball games with his friends at age 8?

It was the opportunity AND the path.

What about a person struggling with pornography? Is it just about an opportunity? Or is it about a path that had been set many years before? Again, the answer is both.

Patrick Carnes lists eight factors common in families of sex addicts.

  1. Addiction.

This can be alcohol, gambling, nicotine, eating, drugs, sex, or pornography. Often it is a combination.

  1. Secrets.

This “elephant in the living room” is having a huge impact on life but everyone pretends it is not there.

  1. Rigid and authoritarian.

There is only one way to do things. There is no give and take.

  1. Sex-negativity.

Sex is always negative, dirty, bad, sinful, or nasty.

  1. Sexual duplicity.

Parents do not live up to their standards about sex. There are affairs, pornography, sexting, etc.

  1. Little intimacy.

Family members are disengaged. There is little sharing of feelings or vulnerability.

  1. Neglect.

This could be capital N neglect: sexual, physical, emotional abuse or a lack of food, shelter, clothes, or safety. It could be little n neglect: lack of attention, empathy, or love.

  1. Compartmentalization.

People act one way in one situation and something totally different in another. There is an overreaction or under-response to life’s problems.

Are any of these factors present in your home? King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Apparently, that is true negatively and positively.

Carnes, P. (2015). Facing the Shadow: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery (Third ed.). Carefree, AZ: Gentle Path Press.

Topkin, M. (2009, July 13). Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist has taken a surprising path to today’s All-Star Game. Retrieved from Tampa Bay Times: http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/tampa-bay-rays-ben-zobrist-has-taken-a-surprising-path-to-todays-all-star/1018198

Your Escape Room

Have you heard the latest craze? Escape rooms.

People pay $30 to be locked in a room. They have sixty to ninety minutes to solve a series of puzzles to find their way out. An escape room in Dallas should clear a million dollars just this year. You can find them all over the world even in Iraq and Iran.

Escapes have always been popular: movies, reality shows, books and songs. What are we escaping from though? Actor Nicolas Cage gives us a clue,

“As a child, superheroes provided an escape for me from my mundane existence, from my lack of friends or my inability to communicate well with people.”

We all have something from which we want to escape.

What is your escape room?

Some of us have socially acceptable escape rooms:

  • television/movies
  • video games
  • exercise
  • Facebook
  • workaholism/success/wealth

Some of us have addiction escape rooms:

  • pornography
  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • gambling
  • eating
  • sex

Our escape rooms become the very thing from which we cannot escape.

1 Peter 4:1-2 beautifully expressed in The Message gives us our true escape room:

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. (MSG)

We try to escape our suffering instead of going through it like Jesus did. Yet it is that very suffering that brings us our freedom.

Follow Paul’s yearnings in Philippians 3:10:

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life. (GNT)

So when you feel that temptation to go to your escape room, ask yourself:

  • What suffering am I trying to avoid?
  • How is God wanting me to be like Him in this suffering?

Then remember His promise:

 Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. 

 

R.E.S.T. to Avoid Pornography

Young Couple at Beach at Dusk --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisMy battle with pornography began in the third grade. It is a battle I still fight every day.

Every day? The rest of my life? It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

My Lord Jesus Christ gives me hope.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Sounds great, but how does that work?

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” – Mark 14:38

Notice that first word? Watch. It wasn’t just prayer. I am also to watch so that I will not fall into temptation.

Now every day in prayer, I watch for temptation. Since my desire is for Jesus’ REST, I use the word “R.E.S.T” as an acronym to help me watch.

R is for relationships. Is there anything in any of my relationships that is a problem? Wife, daughter, mother, boss, co-workers, friends, customers, etc. Any strife that disturbs my REST? The strife doesn’t have the slightest connection to pornography. However, I may turn to porn to feel better (temporarily!) instead of turning to God.

E is for emotions. Do I have any strong emotions disturbing my REST? Depression, anger, disappointment, disillusionment, anxiety, hurt, nervousness can motivate a turn to porn. I have also learned that strong positive feelings of accomplishment, excitement, and even happiness can lead me to porn as a “reward.”

S is for spiritually. How am I doing with God? Am I surrendering the battle to Him? Am I having my daily prayer time? Am I in the place of servant and He in the place of Lord? If not, I will fail in the battle against porn. He doesn’t fail.

T is for tired. Am I getting enough sleep? How am I doing physically? Hungry? Sick? Hurting? Nervous Jitters? Physical ailments disturb my REST and can take my focus off of God and allow me to turn to pornography.

Fighting pornography every day is a weary and burdensome task. Watch and pray to Jesus. He gives REST.

What Accountability Looks Like

Men discussionAccountability partners are a great help in the fight against pornography.

James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

However, many people are surprised that their confessing to and praying for each other is not always bringing the healing. Well, confessing is a bit more than just saying “I looked at porn last Tuesday.”

When I managed a staff of employees and something went wrong, I led them through an examination of the process that led to the mistake. We then determined if we needed a new way of doing things to avoid the mistake in the future.

Accountability is the same way. Identify the series of steps that led to the sin. James 1:14-15 explains this process. I’ll number the steps so you see them clearly.

“Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own
1. evil desire and
2. enticed. Then, after
3. desire has conceived, it gives birth to
4. sin; and sin, when it is
5. full-grown, gives birth to
6. death.”

Covenant Eyes has produced a wonderful resource called “Christian Accountability: A Discussion Guide.” This list of over thirty questions includes the following.

1. On a scale of 1 (HELP!) to 9 (Stable), rate the following:

  • I have actively avoided known triggers of sexual temptation or titillation.
  • My time with technology or media has not displaced time with God, family, friends, work, or my neighbors.
  • I am resting completely in what Christ has done for me-not obsessing about my own failures nor putting stock in my own performance.

2. When it comes to my habitual sins, is there a time of day, a place, a person, or a mood that tends to open the door to more tempting situations?

Covenant Eyes. (2013, April 5). Christian Accountability: A Discussion Guide. Retrieved from Accountability Questions: Discussion Guide For Accountability Partners : http://www.covenanteyes.com/lemonade/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Christian-Accountability-Discussion-Guide.pdf

Expectation Problems

Ranger GameI love Texas Rangers baseball. I love TobyMac’s Christian music.

A couple of years ago, TobyMac did a concert after the Texas Rangers game. It just couldn’t get any better, right?

After the game, we’re told we have to move to the lower bowl for the concert. We struggle through the crowds to get to the elevator. The elevator is broken! I hear the concert begin just as the elevator becomes operational.

On the lower level, we can only find obstructed-view seats from behind the stage. At times we can’t hear because the Rangers’ ground crew is using a tractor on the outfield grass!

As my anger builds, I look up at our original seats on the top deck and there are lots of people seated there! I am furious!

What happened? I saw a Rangers victory. I am at a TobyMac concert. I have a chance to worship God with thousands of people in Rangers Ballpark led by TobyMac. AND. I. AM. MISERABLE!

The problem was expectations. My expectations were so high that all I could see were my expectations failing to be met.

As we work with young people, be aware of expectations. Music, novels, television, and movies set lofty expectations for romance, marriage, and sex.

Even Bible classes, sermons, and sex education set lofty expectations.

  • “Save sex for marriage to have the best sex.”
  • “Marry a Christian to avoid divorce.”
  • “God has chosen the perfect person for you to marry.”
  • “My spouse will be my best friend and soul mate.

When our actual romance, marriage, and sex happen, it doesn’t meet expectations. It must be wrong then. So we break up or divorce to continue the quest to meet those expectations. We cannot see how good we have it because we are too focused on the unmet expectations.

You see blessing is not the absence of struggles. It is because of the struggles.

“Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4.

Pride and Pornography

empty-heart-squareI had a high school sweetheart for two and a half years. I proposed to her after graduation. She would later break up with me but this article is not about that break up.

I had previously broken up with her the summer after my junior year. I went on a church mission trip to another state. I was quite smitten with a girl there, and we had a one-week summer romance.

On the drive home, I remember being very confused. I concluded that I must not love my girlfriend back home after all. If I did, I wouldn’t have acted the way I did on this trip. My reasoning was that my behavior on the trip did not meet my value that I loved my girlfriend.

I was left with two choices:
(1) Change my behavior to match my values.
(2) Change my values to match my behavior.
I chose option two. The right thing for me to do was to end that relationship so I broke up with her.

After about a month, I realized I was even more unhappy. I did indeed love my girlfriend and I was not with her. I went back to option one and we got back together.

Was this just the ways of an immature teenager? Possibly. However, I see a lot of adults doing the same thing.

There is a fundamental human principle at work: pride. Option one involves admitting wrong, asking for forgiveness, and working to do better. I had too much pride for that option. I had so much pride that option never even occurred to me. I was miserable trying to live according inauthentic values. I finally turned back to option one.

No one is perfect. We will all get out of synch with our values. Admit your mistakes. Don’t let pride force you to discard your values. Otherwise you may start looking to fill that void with pornography or sex before marriage or other behavior that you not only don’t value but actually hate. Trust me. I know.

Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Isaiah 32:8: But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

My Recovery Celebration

CR Summit(The Celebrate Recovery group that I attend held a special ceremony for my step study group at the completion of our nine-month study of the twelve steps. The following is the mini-testimony I shared.)

Two years ago, I wanted to do a step study for 3 reasons:

  • start a Celebrate Recovery at my church
  • enhance my non-profit ministry
  • gain experience in counseling

I would use my previous struggles of pornography and over-eating for my “issues.”

The ministry leader said, “Perfect timing because we have some step studies starting soon.” Well “starting soon” evidently meant seven months. Then a conflict with one of my graduate degree classes pushed it out a full 14 months!

However, now I was starting for three new reasons:

  • My porn issue had returned
  • My over-eating had returned
  • I was depressed

I see now that those delays were about God preparing my heart.

As we began our work on step four which is our personal inventories, my church sent my wife and I to California to attend the Celebrate Recovery Summit to prepare to start a Celebrate Recovery at our church.

At the final worship service, it all hit home. In tears I wrote the following words on a 3X5 card:

“I hurt from a father who made fun of me and expected perfection. He belittled me and my calling to be a minister. I have lived my life trying to prove him wrong. I have cared more about what others think of me instead of what God thinks of me. I have tried to stay in control of all aspects of my life to minimize my risk of being belittled. I have craved earthly titles to justify my worthiness instead of wearing the name of Jesus Christ.”

I took a nail and hammered this card to a cross.

My wife said, “You just completed step five. I am so proud of you.” I was shocked. This wasn’t about pornography, over eating, or depression. Apparently God was more interested in the deeper issues of my heart.

God used my step study brothers to drive me even deeper. Their sharing reflected an honesty and vulnerability I had never experienced with other men. I love you guys.

Let me close with my favorite scripture from the Step Study:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”  –  Isaiah 43:18-19

The Purpose of Sex

Happy coupleI had a conversation with a friend about redefining marriage to include homosexuals. Her reasoning was that we raise our kids saying, “I just want you to be happy.” If they are happy, let them be.
I replied that was not true.

Our kids are not happy cleaning their room, doing homework, or eating vegetables, yet we raise them to do those things anyway.

When our kids start dating, they are not happy when we keep them chaperoned, teach them to save sex for marriage, or set a curfew, yet we raise them to do those things anyway.

As they choose a mate, we are concerned for their welfare, safety, and security in addition to their happiness.

As I reflected on this conversation later, it hit me that the purpose of sex in our culture is “I just want to be happy.” When we are no longer happy, we divorce or go to someone else, turn to pornography or homosexuality.

Is the purpose of sex our own pleasure or happiness?

1 Corinthians 13:5 says “Love … is not self-seeking.”

Ephesians 5:2 says “Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”

A few verses later in Ephesians 5:25-31, we are told “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. … For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The Biblical purpose of sex is about giving ourselves up for our spouse. It is an attitude of “I just want you to be happy.”