Ben Hur and relapse

I went to see the latest version of Ben Hur at the theater down the street. It’s nice to have a theater within walking distance. I guess distance is relative when someone else is pushing your wheelchair. As an added bonus, tickets are $5 before 6 pm.

I really enjoyed the movie. I have never seen the classic 1959 version starring Charlton Heston, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. The friend I saw it with, who is a total movie buff, said it was good but not as good as the classic. I guess this version showed more of Jesus than the previous five versions combined.

WARNING FROM THE EDITOR: If you haven’t seen any of the movies yet, you may wish to see the movie first before going any farther.

If you don’t already know, the movie is basically about a well to do Jewish man, Judah Ben Hur, who becomes a slave for five years. He was made a slave because he took the blame for something he didn’t do in order to save his family from crucifixion. He blames his brother and after he escapes slavery he vows to get revenge. And of course,  his brother feels betrayed and is just as angry as Judah.

There are many things I could write about from the movie, but I’ll keep it to just a few. Some of my quotes might not be exact. At 41 my memory isn’t quite as sharp as it once was. I’m sure some of you can relate.

Judah was supposed to be a slave until he died. So there came a point where he resigned himself to his fate. He was a rower on a Roman warship. In one scene he was about to attack a guard who was beating a fellow slave but he stopped himself. He said to himself:

“Don’t care. Just survive”.

960Oh boy. How many times in my life have I thought or said the same? More times than I would like to remember. This could apply to any situation where we feel trapped or helpless to change our circumstances, being abused for example.

But for me, this reminds me of addiction and relapse. A lot of, if not all, addiction is a means of escape, a way to survive emotionally. That’s what my addiction provided for me. With relapse, a person begins to believe that their addiction is stronger than them. They feel trapped, so they basically say to themselves,  I don’t care or I can’t fight this, so I may as well go back to survival mode and back to my addiction.

A scene or two later the ship gets rammed, killing the guards in the process. The ship was quickly taking on water. All of the slaves were frantic except Judah, who managed to keep his head despite his fear. He was able to get the cooperation of enough of the slaves to keep the boat moving. He knew the best chance of survival was to get out of the heat of battle. He says to his fellow slaves:

“If we keep moving and don’t stay idle, we live”.

benhur2016movie-wideWhen dealing with addiction it’s smart to stay out of the heat of battle by avoiding the places and things that you know will trigger you. If you’re an alcoholic, stop going to bars. If you are sex or porn addict, stop going to strip clubs.

Also, don’t be idle. I don’t mean you should do things non-stop. That can lead to exhaustion which can lead to a relapse. But you should find healthy things to do instead of feeding your addiction. For me, I have to read the Bible or listen to a sermon or read something about addiction at least several times a week. I aim for every day, doesn’t end up that way most weeks.

The boat eventually sinks but Judah washes up on shore and is saved by a gambler who bets on the chariot races. In exchange for healing the man’s horse, Judah is allowed to race the man’s horse’s in the circus. Judah’s motivation is to beat his brother and kill him if he gets the chance. Judah tells the old man about what his brother did to him, in order to justify his anger. The old man replies,

“Your suffering isn’t unique. You aren’t unique”.

Gee. That sounds familiar.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

bekmambetov-benhur-s650This doesn’t only apply to addicts. People who want to justify their bad behavior, especially addicts, will whine about how hard they’ve had it and how nobody understands, wa wa wa. The bible says what we go through happens to everyone. If you’ve gone through something so has someone else. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. If anyone knows about suffering, He sure does.

There is a scene in the movie where Judah is carrying some sort of heavy yoke as he was being taken away to be a slave. Judah falls under the weight of it. Jesus comes over to him and gives him a drink of water. Jesus says to him:

“Judah get up”.

This is what we need to do when we fall or relapse. Get back up!

The fall isn’t what matters. What we do next does. We all will make mistakes and fall short but God still loves us.

Get back up!

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Garbage In, Garbage Out

There is an old computer saying that goes GIGO.  Garbage in, Garbage Out.  If you input nothing but garbage into a program, nothing will come out but garbage.

My friend, Bob,  had trouble sleeping the other night.  So, he ended up going on Hulu and started binge watching “Who the (BLEEP) did I Marry?”  According to imdb, this show tells the real stories of men and women who lived happy, seemingly normal lives with the people they loved — and who they thought they knew. When a clue or mishap causes them to dig further into the secret lives of their spouses, the shocking truths lead them to wonder who it is they really fell in love with. These stories include husbands with multiple families, spies working under cover, those who steal thousands of dollars, and others whose double lives include murder.  

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After watching all this garbage, not only was Bob sleep deprived, but he started thinking strange thoughts.  (Well, stranger than usual.) 

Untitled-1I was talking to Bob the next morning, and he started telling me about this show.  Then, he started joking, “Now I am thinking, how do I know you are what you say you are and aren’t going to kill me where I stand?  Maybe you are not disabled, but are waiting all these years being perfectly still waiting to pounce on me and slit my throat!!  And this whole time, you are sticking out your tongue at me.”

Before you attack Bob with pitchforks and torches, I KNOW he was kidding. However, it just goes to show you that whatever you put into the brain will come out.  Garbage In, Garbage Out.

God wants only good things to go into the brain.  That is why he said in Philippians 4:8:  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

I have to watch what I put in my mind.

I can put hateful thoughts in my brain, and all I will do is breed hatred.  I can put self pity in my garbagetoTheDumpsterbrain, and I will breed anger.  And yes, I can feed myself porn, and all I will do is have unreal expectations of women, and breed frustration and shame.

GIGO.

Confrontation

I have no idea what to blog about, so I figured I would just start typing and see what happened.

finales-seinfeld_0Any of you old enough will remember Seinfeld, a show about nothing. I think it did so well because the characters said and did things people thought but wouldn’t dare say. Obviously, the characters aren’t good examples for Christians.

But what would happen if we were a little more honest with each other? If we weren’t so concerned with being accepted that we actually told people how we felt, especially if they have hurt us or are doing something that isn’t good for them or something that is completely wrong or even sinful?

I know it can be a little scary sometimes. Or at least it can make us nervous, especially if it is a sensitive issue or you’re not sure how the person will react. But if our motive is love or caring for the person then we should discuss it regardless of how intimidated we are.

We must not just please ourselves.  We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. – Romans 15:1b-2

I almost didn’t use this verse because at first glance it seemed like I was using it completely out of context. The original context talks about not doing things that aren’t necessarily sinful in order to keep other believers from stumbling.

tapedemojiIf we should help each other do what is right when it comes to things that aren’t sinful in and of themselves then shouldn’t we do the same with larger issues like actual sin. Also, if we keep our mouth shut aren’t we pleasing ourselves at their expense. Sometimes we don’t say anything because it’s easier, but the other person doing wrong doesn’t get the opportunity to change and grow.

The apostle Paul surely wasn’t shy about confronting others when they were doing wrong.

But when Peter came to Antioch, I [Paul] had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.  When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.   As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? – Galatians 2:11-14

Under normal circumstances, the Bible says that confrontation should be in private, one on one, before confronting publicly.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. – Matthew 18:15

Imagine the scene. Everybody is sitting around talking, laughing and having a great time. Then the big wigs come in and the crowd gathered parts like the Red Sea. The gentiles are probably thinking “what the hell”. Paul sees all this and is appalled and knows he has to say something. But he had to say it to a whole room of people guilty of the same thing. I don’t know how long this was after he gained the trust of the Christians but I can imagine some still didn’t completely trust or like him. He did what had to be done, though. He did the right thing.

PaulconfrontingPeterI am trying to think of an example where I had to confront someone in this way. Nothing regarding sinful behavior comes to mind but I think more times than not we don’t find ourselves in this situation.

I can tell you I use to have trouble standing up for myself, still working on it sometimes. I use to bottle everything up until I exploded.

30146138-cartoon-Nuke-explosion-Stock-VectorI especially had trouble confronting my nurses. And I’m talking over small things. For example, telling them I want them to do something differently. I would get all nervous when there was no reason to be nervous. Other times they would be doing something that is driving me nuts and I wouldn’t say anything until I got to my boiling point. The explosion would never be pretty.

How did I get over this? I started saying what I wanted. It was hard for me at first but the more I did it the less anxiety I would feel each time. Now I don’t feel any anxiety over it, usually. I am not perfect about it and sometimes fall back into old behavior, but I’m human.

The only way to get over fear of confrontation is to have confrontation. It will be difficult at first but it will get easier.

Spiritual Warfare

I was talking about books with a friend when I realized most of the books I’ve been reading lately have dealt with spiritual warfare. The books have not been on what spiritual warfare is or how to wage it. Rather, they have been novels that feature spiritual warfare in one form or another and in varying degrees.

spiritualwarfare

Why is it that I have been subconsciously drawn to books like this? Probably because spiritual warfare is very real, especially in the life of a Christian. I saw this reality vividly when I finally took my porn addiction seriously. Why? The devil knows it was keeping me from God. He also knew if porn got out of the way I would be close to God which in turn would enable me to be an effective, if not powerful, tool in God’s hands. This may be a little off track but a good example of a situation where the devil wages war against us.

flip_wilsonBefore I go any further I want to clarify, not every problem in life is from the devil. Sometimes our problems are the consequences of bad choices. This should also not be a way to excuse bad behavior. “The devil made me do it.”

According to GreatBibleStudies.com “spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way.”

They have a good article on the subject at greatbiblestudy.com/spiritual_warfare.php

What does the bible say about the subject?

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:10-12

The schemes of the devil? So, Satan has a plan of attack! “Not against flesh and blood… but against the spiritual forces of evil.”? So the bible tells us that spiritual warfare is real and that our fight is not in the physical realm.

We are also told:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers[a] all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. – 1 Peter 5:8-9

lion on the prowlI don’t think it’s by accident Peter uses the word picture of a lion on the prowl. If you’ve ever seen a video of lions on the hunt then you know they always go for the weakest of the herd. That’s why Peter tells us to be strong in our faith. So we have the strength to withstand his attacks and fight.

This may seem a bit scary or intimidating to some. But the good news is that the devil loses in the end according to Revelation 20:10.
There will be a day when we never have to be bothered by him again.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. – Revelation 20:10

Also, God gives us both the power and the tools to fight the spiritual battles we face. I’m not going to get into the full armor of God listed in Ephesians 6. Otherwise this post would be twenty pages long. But I will give you three basic tools we have available to us.

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Before that we need to realize that the same power that rose Christ from the dead lives in us. So why should we fear the devil if we have that kind of power?

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power  that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 1:19-20

One of the weapons at our disposal is the bible, the word of God. The more we know of the scriptures, the easier it will be to counter the devil’s lies. If we know the truth we will recognize the lies.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Another tool or weapon is prayer. This can be used in the heat of battle so to speak. We can pray for protection or for deliverance from an attack. We can and should pray for protection even when we aren’t actively doing battle. Being in the habit of regular prayer will not only offer protection and help but will also give us peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

sayitoutloudThe last tool I want to share is speaking against whatever lie or spirit you are dealing with. Speaking out loud. I don’t recommend this during a psychological examination. When doing this would be inappropriate or might freak people out you can always speak under your breath or imagine saying it.

I know this sounds odd but it works. I do this quite often myself. Sometimes all it takes is saying Stop! Or Shut Up! Or Go away! If nothing else it changes your thought pattern.

The apostle Paul has used this.

This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. – Acts 16:18

Sometimes, I even swear depending on how long an attack has been going on. I’m sure some find this wrong but it helps me. I’ll do whatever it takes. Unfortunately, as a human I fall short and screw up sometimes. So I need to remind myself of these things too.

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