Build or Rebuild – It is all about decisions men make.
My most recent Desperate Men small group “graduating class”. We used the book, All Men Are Desperate Whether They Admit It or Not. (I am the guy in the back row out of uniform.)
These desperate men are rebuilding their lives from the ground up. That begins with a relationship in Christ. It is easier to proactively build our lives in Christ in community with other like-minded desperate Christian men. If you are not in such a community, why not? Start a Desperate Men small group today and learn what a desperate man really looks like. You might be surprised. Contact me if you need help doing so. No charge!
“Secret Sins” – Things We (Think We) Hide from God
“For nothing is hidden…nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8: 17 NASB)
When our youngest son was a toddler if he could reach the cookies, left too low on a shelf, he would grab the bag and take off. He had two hiding places—in the curtains or under the comforter on our bed. It was comical to watch the covers shake and hear giggles coming out while he celebrated getting away with something because he “hid” himself from us.
As funny and silly as our son’s thought process sounds to us as adults (thinking he was getting away with something unseen), we do the same kinds of things when we attempt to hide our “secret sins” from others—especially the Lord. But, in our case, the Lord is not standing at the door smiling or trying to keep from laughing. He is not amused. His expectation of men who claim to be biblical Christians-devoted followers- is a continuous striving for perfection. (Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: 48)
Many sins readily fall into the category “secret sin.” As you may expect, and I am about to confirm in ways many may find startling, pornography has wormed its way to the top of the heap.
Pornography is the most well-known and popular “secret sin”—Satan’s most effective weapon against Christian men and pastors.
Consider these published sobering statistics that include only Christian men and pastors. If they do not get your undivided attention, check your pulse.
- 54% of pastors said they viewed pornography in the last year; 37% admit it is a current struggle.
- 95% of Christian men admit having looked at porn; 54% do so with some regularity.
- 18% of born-again Christian men admit to being addicted to pornography. (That is > 1 out of 6.)
Consider these stats on millennial men—the first generation raised in a large percentage of single-parent, absentee dad homes. They provide a scary glimpse into the future if we fail to act.
- 77% view pornography at least monthly; 36% do so daily; 32% admit having an addiction.
(FYI, the number of women, especially young ones, viewing and becoming addicted to pornography is increasing rapidly.)
This sexual sin, that leads readily to addiction, glides in low, like a stealth bomber, undetected until the problem is upon us. Such was the case with Pastor Thomas in the book where it snuck in through a misspelled URL during a web search. Most men are very visual—especially when it comes to sexuality. The first glance can be innocent (as it was for this pastor). But not so those second and third looks! They draw us in like a fly into a spider’s web. If you recall that poem, the fly went away initially but eventually returned for another look and got a little too close to the web. Once ensnared, getting free becomes a war.
The impact of issues with and addiction to pornography cannot be overstated. The fallout is widespread, affecting many areas of our lives. Closer to home, collateral damage creates casualties by inflicting deep wounds—beginning with our wives and children.
The apostle John listed “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2: 16) as two of three primary categories of sins in the world today. Both contribute to incredible numbers cited above. The third category, “pride of life,” keeps men enslaved—we are too proud and ashamed to confess it.
Secret sins are areas of our lives we deliberately hide from others and think we hide from God.
Only God knows the extent of the truth of this statement, but I believe it safe to say all men harbor secret sins. Pornography is only one of them. They include thoughts and behaviors that, if exposed, would create issues, some serious, for the man believing they are hidden.
Before searching the Scripture, I imagined having trouble finding a key verse that would speak directly to secret sins. I was shocked. I found specific verses spoken by Moses, David, Isaiah, and Jesus. The fact that these mighty men of God and our Lord Himself addressed it requires no further explanation.
(Moses) “You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” (Psalm 90: 8 NASB)
(David) “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away…groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32: 3 NASB)
(Isaiah) “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”” (Isaiah 29: 15
(Jesus) “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not…come to light.” (Luke 8: 17 NASB)
I chose to end the first part of this lesson here so you can reflect on the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to invade the most private areas of your heart regarding your secret sins, especially pornography— perhaps the most challenging sin affecting Christian men and pastors today.
I will follow up soon with the last two parts:
- Part Two: Secret Sins – Finding Forgiveness
- Part Three: The Key to Successfully Staying Out of the Web
From one desperate brother in Christ to another,
Review of previous lessons:
Thus far we drilled deeper into the lives of three of the five desperate men whose stories begin my most recent book, All Men Are Desperate Whether They Admit It or Not. One key takeaway from each is this:
All of us have more in common with each man and his issues than we would like to admit.
Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
(From the Don’t Let Disappointment Turn Into Disaster Series)
Now that we have appropriately dealt with our first priority—our relationship with God (Disappointment with God), let’s turn our attention to one of the most important areas of dealing with disappointment—disappointment with ourselves.
Self-inflicted wounds from critical attitudes, low self-esteem, and failure to love ourselves cripple believers and render us impotent for kingdom work—exactly what Satan wants.
My dear brothers and sisters, read carefully what I have to say to you on this subject of vital importance in the body of Christ. Three things:
♦ Stop listening to the lies! Satan is what? The father of lies, prince of darkness, and deceiver.
(Jesus speaking)…there is no truth in (the devil). When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 ESV)
“that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth…” (Revelation 12: 9 ESV)
If you are in Christ, get out of that trap and away from those people who speak these lies and hold you captive. I frequently hear from men I teach at the missions and prison that is the world they came from—people telling them they are no good or will never amount to anything. Some of you heard those same lies and, very sadly, you began to believe them. Jesus came to “set the captives free”, and that includes you if you have allowed yourself to be imprisoned behind bars made of lies.
♦ Start listening to the Lord. We have to change the source of the information we listen to and believe. Listen as you read what God thinks of you. It is life-changing. On the very first page of the Bible, God gave us our identity.
“God created man in His own image…male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1: 27 NASB)
God is for us not against us because He created us to enjoy and fellowship with Him. Everything He created in the visible realm was for us and our good. He put us in charge of everything under the heavens. He trusted us with His creation.
Here is another amazing thing to wrap your mind around. Holy God, our Creator, knows each one of us intimately—meaning He knew what He had in mind for us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb. Wow!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1: 5a ESV)
Yes, we blew it and broke the trust. But even then, God would not give up on us. He sent Jesus to fix everything we messed up through our sin by His blood sacrifice on the Cross. He loves us that much! Why would God make such a sacrifice if He wanted to give up on us and move on? He will not.
If God never gives up on you, please don’t give up on yourself!
♦ Love yourself. This concept bothers too many people, even Christians. It does sound a little odd to say that you love yourself. Some think it could be prideful or self-centered to think in these terms. But it is completely biblical. From the Levitical law to the Gospels, we read the same phrase:
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19: 18, 34 NASB)
(Jesus speaking on the greatest commandments) “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31 ESV)
How do we “love ourselves” in the way God intended when He created us? I close this lesson by answering that question in the same way I did for our three kids as they were growing up and learning to deal with all the ‘stuff’ the world would have them believe about themselves.
Remember it is not who you are that matters…it is Whose you are!
My dear brothers and sisters, when we love our Lord God first and best and have a healthy love for ourselves because of Whose we are in Christ, then we are able to love our neighbors as ourselves and even our enemies as Christ commanded.
Do not let disappointment with yourself cripple you and put you on the sidelines of life. You are a child of the King—a son or daughter of the Most High God and brother or sister to our Lord Jesus Christ. Wallow in those thoughts and dance before the Lord in gladness just as King David did. This side of Heaven, it does not get any better than that.
Disappointment with God
In our second year of marriage, Gigi and I were tested to what most young couples would consider the limit, and, perhaps, beyond. If ever we felt we had reason to shake our fists at God and walk away, that would have been the time. Gigi endured three consecutive early-term miscarriages, and I fumbled my way alongside having no idea what she was going through. I just knew she could not stay pregnant and was going through a kind of hell. And to compound matters, most of our friends were having babies. Mother’s Day became for her like salt-water poured on an open wound.
Early in the second year, she became pregnant a fourth time, and with the help of a specialist, a lot of prayer, and bed rest, she carried our first daughter to full term. On October 4,1985, she went to the hospital, and I was called to meet her there. But something did not feel right to her or me. Some ten to twelve hours later, she delivered a lifeless, baby girl. We were whatever word comes on the list after “devastated”. (For more details of the story see Chapter Three of my book, http://bit.ly/AMADWTAION)
That was the most critical intersection of raw emotions challenging faith we have experienced, and perhaps ever will, in terms of disappointment with God. Four babies withheld in two years and the emotional and physical toll it took on Gigi. I remember holding my daughter – already Home with the Lord – and crying out to the Him for help and hope. Help for my wife. Hope for both of us.
From minor setbacks to crushing defeats, our challenge is to keep disappointments from turning into disasters—that moment when faith fails and men walk away from God, angry, bitter, and defeated.
Forgiving God is one of the hardest things the human heart must do.
That statement sounds theologically off-base when you first read it because it is. Of course, the thought of us “forgiving God” for something He did is both theologically inaccurate and presumptuous. BUT it does reflect real, gut-level feelings for those of us honest enough to admit them when disappointments, beyond our control, burrow deep into our spirits.
When faith fails and circumstances leave us crippled or full of contempt, most of us direct our disappointment toward God. Two things invariably follow. The “Why” questions and the “blame game.” We see it every day from unbelievers and believers.
“Why did You let our child die? Why did ______ get cancer and die before his/her time? Why did You take away my job? Why did You let my husband/wife leave me? Why have you abandoned me?”
“Why” questions are only natural—our need for answers evokes great emotion and passion. The problem is God does not answer many of them to our satisfaction, if at all. What will you do? Blame the One Who does not defend Himself, and, in His providence, allowed Satan or someone to inflict something terrible on you or your family. So where are the answers we seek, some demand, to our compelling “why” questions?
God provided just two answers. The first, to the believer, is FAITH—the only cord that binds true believers to God through the singular, atoning work of Christ—His death on the Cross (blood) and His physical resurrection (life). Our faith, no matter how small at times or severely tested, is the glue. Faith is the victory!
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5: 4 ESV)
When Christians understand even a small amount about God—Who He is, His love, and what He did for us in Christ, we can begin to view disappointments, regardless of the source, as opportunities to stretch our faith in God and take Him at His word. The words Jesus prayed in the Garden become our words. “Not my will, but Thine be done.” We will defer to the sovereignty of almighty, all-loving God and “lean not on our own understanding. And that requires FAITH!
The second answer is for those who blame God for everything that goes bad in their lives, yet, up to this point, have refused His every overture or call to know Him and receive His love Gift. In His unfathomable love, overcoming grace, and unfailing mercy, God sent His only Son as the answer to our terminal condition—sin. (John 3: 16)
My dear friend, can I invite you again to stop blaming God and consider His precious Gift of Life, Jesus, the only One Who can save you from yourself. No one suffered more or paid a greater price than Jesus—His life for yours. While it cost Him everything, it costs you nothing. Realize your great need, receive Jesus Christ, and be saved today.
The disappointments of life will not go away this side of Heaven. But, in Christ, you will have a Savior and Lord Who alone can comfort us in and through all circumstances and wipe away every tear. What are you waiting for?
PS – The picture in the lesson blog and FB post is one of Gigi, me, and our son, Trey, the fifth pregnancy fulfilled when we were told we would never have children. God had other plans!
Your desperate brother in Christ,
While I am leading this men’s small group at the mission through my book, All Men Are Desperate Whether They Admit It or Not, I always find myself praying I will have as much impact on these men as they do on me.
Tonight it was just Eddie and me. This is his second time through the life-recovery program. His desperate man story is powerful, and the evidence of what the Holy Spirit is doing in his life is just what we would expect−amazing.
I would love to hear your desperate man story as we all have one…whether we admit it or not!
“Not all prisons have bars. Some people suffer needlessly in the Prison of Religion.”
Key Verse: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5: 1 NASB)
This is perhaps the saddest of all prisons—built by men, sometimes well-meaning, living as the Pharisees in the old covenants, all the while claiming to have accepted Christ and His blood of the new covenant. These people heap burdens and rules on others that they do not and cannot keep. (See Matthew 23:13-36)
Jesus said He came to “set the prisoners free”. First, freedom from the prison of sin. And, freedom from religion. Christianity is not about religion. It is about relationship! Through salvation in Christ, we do not have to be “religious”. We get to have a personal relationship with almighty, loving God as our Father.
Takeaway: Today there are men on death row experiencing more freedom than some Christians. Break free from the chains of religion. Exchange: Guilt for Grace. Condemnation for Forgiveness. Helplessness for Hope. Only then can you experience the “joy of the Lord” waiting for you on the other side of the Cross.
“Not all prisons have bars. Some people are held captive in the Prison of What Others Think.”
Key Verse: “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe.” (Proverbs 29: 25 GNT)
Social media has a bright side and a very dark one. Some use it as a means of encouraging people. Others criticize, condemn, even bully. Learning to receive feedback, positive and negative, is very important. In all cases, we must consider the source. People who take to personally everything others say about them voluntarily lock themselves in prison and sit there as their cell gets darker and smaller.
Keys for breaking out of your prison:
1) Stop listening to the lies. Satan is the chief liar and accuser of men. Don’t let him tell you who you are or are not. For Christians, that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. Satan and fellow assassins exist to bring destruction and death. Jesus came to bring life—abundant and eternal. (John 10: 10)
2) Start listening to (and believing) the Truth. When the world reminds us of our failures, remember this: if you are in Christ, you are a son of God Most High—a joint heir with Jesus—worth dying for. No matter how far we fall, God never stops loving us. Jesus is the friend Who sticks closer than a brother.
3) Start reading the Word of God and own every word of His promises. Too many people do not spend time daily in the Word of God. They spend more time reading the WSJ or sports page. Start studying your Bible and own the words. Make them personal. Stand on the promises of God and bring them up to Him every time you think He needs reminding. As you leave your prison, remember this:
“It is not who others say you are, but who God says you are that matters.”
“Not all prisons have bars. Some people live in the Prison that is their PAST.”
Key Verse: “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.” (Isaiah 43: 14 NASB)
Talk about over-crowding in our prisons! This “prison” is SRO with a line out the door waiting to get in.
The saddest thing about this prison is we sentenced ourselves to do time there.
Stop looking in the rearview mirror of your life. Only bad things happen when we drive while looking in the rearview mirror. We run off the road into another one of life’s ditches. Don’t we have enough problems avoiding the ones we can see? Or we rear-end someone in front of us causing more pain for both.
All of us have things (sins) in our pasts we do NOT want to show up posted on Facebook. I have great news for you. Jesus wants you to lay your past behind you, no matter how good or bad, fix your eyes on Him, and walk straight ahead following Him every step of the way.
Takeaway. For all who are in Christ, His blood covered our sins so our loving Father God said, “their sins I will remember no more”. If God can forgive and forget our pasts, so must we. If you still do not know Jesus as your Savior, why not? He is waiting for you to choose Him right now. Then He will forgive and forget your past and usher you into the amazing life that awaits you on the other side of His Cross.
“Not So” Social Media & Addiction
Key Verse: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25: 28 ESV)
No walls or boundaries describes social media. Addiction to SM is on the rise in staggering numbers. Consider these survey stats. 60% keep cell phones on—next to them in bed; 50+% check emails during the night, and the “average” person spends two hours on SM daily. That equates to more than five years of your life.
Can you imagine what your life and the church would be like if Christians spent even half that time in communion with our God through prayer or reading His Word? Talk about life-altering and world-changing! Too many people, addicted to this cultural phenomenon, allow others to overly influence or control their lives—often destructively.
An Encouraging Word. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, given freely to those who seek it. If you find yourself among these dreadful statistics, get out now. Turn off the phone or computer and stop letting other people define you. If you are in Christ, He has clearly done so. You are a son of the most-high God, fully loved, and precious in His sight no matter where you are right now. Your Father cares for you and wants to see you become the man He designed and accomplish all He purposed for you.