God is with Me

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17ESV

Have you ever had one of those mornings, or even days, where you’re brain is going non-stop? Unfortunately, this happens to me quite often. For me, it can usually be remedied by spending some time in prayer or doing a devotional. So that’s what I did the other day, a devotional on God’s presence based on Zephaniah 3:17 which is above.

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There are many things I could take away from this single verse but I will talk briefly on only two which are also interconnected.

The first point is the reality that God is in our midst, He’s in my midst. God is always with me. This thought used to creep me out. It used to make me quite nervous. Then I realized that He wasn’t there to see if I did something wrong. On the contrary, He is always present out of love.

God wants to be near us, He wants to be there for us. He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants a relationship with us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins in order to make us right with Him. Because of this sacrifice, we are able to have a relationship with Him and to experience His presence and love whenever we want.

0_0_0_0_250_250_csupload_29595563-1My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

When we are aware of God’s presence we can find rest. It is during these times when I feel His presence that I feel truly at rest. When my mind is racing and I then go into His presence I feel my focus start to return and my thoughts and emotions slow down.

This is exactly what is promised by Zephaniah 3:17 when it says, “He will quiet you with His love.” God promises to do this but we have to allow Him to do this. We need to get out of the way and make a conscious decision to take our attention off of ourselves and our worries and to put our attention on Him, what He has done for us and the fact that He loves us and is there for us every single moment of the day.

This makes me feel secure which allows me to rest and put down my worries. A lot of the things I worry about either will never really happen or if they do I can’t do anything about it. So why worry, especially when the all-powerful God of the universe is by my side. Who would be a better person to have my back? No one!

“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:26

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Going Through the Roof

Although I have Muscular Dystrophy, I feel that my most debilitating disability is my porn addiction. It is for that reason that the scripture Luke 5:17-20 really spoke to me.

The scripture starts out by saying: “One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.”

jesushealsblindDid you get that? THE POWER OF THE LORD WAS WITH JESUS TO HEAL THE SICK!! Even me. Even though I had given my life to Christ in 2008, I was still ashamed because I felt like a hypocrite for being addicted to porn. I felt like a pervert because I couldn’t stop. This is the illness that made me depressed. This was the illness that gave me low self-esteem. This was the illness that pushed me away from a relationship with God. (Not that God never stopped loving me. I just never felt worthy of his presence.)

Being disabled, it was hard to get closer to Jesus. I was trapped in my own body.

“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.”

0bcdc23f205742664f5166df15eb8ee4SOME MEN. If it wasn’t for “some men” who helped me get before Jesus, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. My friends loved me, prayed for me constantly, They knew where the power to heal me came from, and helped me get to him.

“When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.”

They maneuvered me through every obstacle no matter how messy. They made sure I was right in front of Jesus.

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’”

You notice that Luke said Jesus saw THEIR faith. My friends have faith even when mine runs low.

I pray that whatever your disability is, that you surround yourself with Christian brothers and sisters to hold you up when you are down.

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Renewal of our minds

My accountability partner suggested that I read my entire blog from start to finish so that I could see how far I have come in my growth. I took his advice and took an hour or two to read through it. It was interesting to see how my writing had improved, not only in style but in content also. I could see how I slowly got more comfortable in sharing my life and my thoughts.

reading-a-blogIn the beginning, my posts were fairly trivial but as I grew as a writer and through my recovery I started to share more and more meaningful things. Not every post is great but I can definitely see my growth.

Many people do the same thing with a journal at the end of the year. It turned out to be a great exercise and I plan on doing the same thing this coming year.

As I was reading through, I started to see one scripture appear numerous times. I thought there must be a reason for this. The scripture is Romans 12:2 which reads:

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.

transformedThis was the theme of the past year for me. Renewing My Mind. The funny thing is that a devotional I read the next day was all about the importance of renewing our minds. The devotional did use Romans 12:2 but it wasn’t the main verse that they focused on. They focused more on Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

I was doing some journaling while I did the devotional and had a question come into my head. If I’m a new creation and the old me is dead and gone, why are the commands in Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:2 necessary?

To me the answer would seem to be that nobody told my brain. My brain still has all it’s faulty programming. My heart and spirit are new (Ezekiel 36:26). I still have the same brain though. Some may ask why God doesn’t rewire my brain when I’m saved. Why? Because he will not force Himself on us. If he rewired our brains He would be taking away our choice.

I may love God with my entire being but because of my old programming I will still struggle with my thoughts. This was even true for the apostle Paul who wrote

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. – Romans 7:21-23

Paul loved God whole heartedly but even he would still mess up. If we still have to fight our sinful nature then we have to be smart about it and diligent. The only way we are going to win the fight against our sinful nature and thoughts is by renewing our minds. We have to continually replace the sinful thoughts with the truth of God’s word.

If it’s a problem with lust then every time you have a lustful thought say Job 31:1 or Matthew 5:28. If it’s a problem with low self-esteem or not feeling good enough, especially because of our past, say 2 Corinthians 5:17 or John 3:16.

It is also good to put yourself into the verse by using I or your name. For example with 2 Corinthians 5:17 you could say “I am in Christ and a new creation. The old, sinful me has passed away, and the new me in Christ has come.”

I also want to say that just because a sinful thought pops into your head doesn’t mean you sinned. If you act on it and commit the sin then that’s a different story. A lot of times the thought isn’t even your own. The devil loves to whisper in our ear and turn around and try to make us feel bad for a thought.

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 6:12

new-creature

I’m not suggesting that this is a magic bullet to magically take away all sinful and negative thoughts. It takes time and repetition. On this side of eternity we will always struggle with our thoughts to some degree but by renewing our minds with the Bible we will make the fight a lot easier.

 

A brief overview of my recovery

I want to share with you an assignment that I did in my recovery group. We were supposed to draw our road to addiction or the path we took in life that brought us to addiction. Then we were supposed to do the same thing with our road to recovery. We then explained our drawing to the group.

The purpose was to get our right brain involved in the recovery process. The right side of the brain is the creative side. Doing this causes the whole brain to be involved. Very short explanation but I don’t want it to take up the whole post.

aoldialup I am old enough that I remember computers without the Internet. When you had to dial in with a phone number to different servers if you wanted to chat and message with people or find information.

cardI was around 14 to 15 years old so I quickly discovered the one’s with nude and pornographic pictures. If the pictures were any good you’d have to wait twenty to thirty minutes to download one file. A pretty good early sign of a problem starting.

My family wasn’t always christian so pornography wasn’t something we were discouraged from using. At one point it was actually encouraged. My parents bought my brothers and I a strip poker program, signified by the cards. I was probably about 16.

videotapeOf course, as with any addiction, I needed something more. At some point after this, I talked one of my brothers into getting one of the x-rated videos from my parents bedroom. I was probably still about 16. I was hooked after that.

strip-clubsWhen I turned 18 or 21. I went to my first strip club. When I did this assignment a memory sparked that was painful. I remember afterwards crying myself to sleep and wondering if paying someone is the only way I can get a woman to notice me.

Even though I know it was a lie, it’s still painful to remember.

nearly-40-percent-of-the-internet-is-pornThen about this time or shortly after, the Internet became accessible to most people. This easy access really made my addiction worse. At one point I was using stolen credit card numbers to access pay sites for porn.

suzzywilliamsThen things escalated even more, when I was about 30 I hired an escort a few times. If you find yourself involved in illegal and dangerous activities to feed your addiction then you probably don’t need to wonder if you’re an addict. You are!

line_graphThen a year or two later I became a Christian but still struggled off and on with porn and sex. My porn use went up and down over about 8 years or so. The problem was that I was trying harder and trying to do it alone. Both of these don’t work. I needed to be in a program with others who have been through it and still are fighting. I needed tools to fight.

inloveThen I fell in love with a nice christian girl. When we met I hadn’t looked at porn in close to a year. I told her I had a problem with porn in the past. And I had really convinced myself that it was a thing of the past. I wasn’t struggling at first. But eventually I started struggling again. red-broken-crystal-heart-pictureTo make a long story short we had an argument of sorts and I acted like a jackass. She broke up with me. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the first time I had been an ass so I don’t blame her.

I pretty much went full circle. I went on about a 10 day binge. Then I was finally ready to ask for help.

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helpI asked a good friend that I trusted to be my accountability partner. I started with Covenant eyes accountability software and talking to him daily.

stressedmanatlaptop_largeMy accountability partner wasn’t familiar with porn addiction specifically but did have his own history with addiction. So we started going through some books on porn addiction and sexual addiction. Some were very helpful but others weren’t helpful at all. I struggled with fantasies and masturbation about once a month. Then it was every two months. I was improving but needed something more.

depressionitsbettertogether I started going to recovery at my church and found the something more I needed. It was then that I started really feeling different, especially how I feel about myself. I haven’t masturbated in about four months. And as of January 1st I will have not looked at porn for an entire year.

And my growth continues.

 

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