My eyes flutter open as my alarm softly begins to sound. I close my eyes, exhaling deeply as I reach for the snooze button. Another day is here. A jumble of scattered, attacking thoughts begin to crash my groggy brain.
"Stay in bed. You're sick. No need to go to work today."
"You're worthless. Stop trying. You've screwed up enough already."
"Just run off. Leave it all behind. You're better off alone."
"You still think you can amount to something? You still think God can use you. Ha. You fool."
"You know it'd be easier if you just gave in and gave up."
"You're not worthy."
I press the snooze button and attempt to shut out these these thoughts hoping I will drift back to sleep for another 7 minutes or so.
10 minutes later my feet hit the floor. I roll out of bed and slowly begin to get dressed.
I hate mornings.
I can't say that this synopsis describes every morning. I am tentative to even say that it describes most mornings. But it clearly defines a lot of my mornings.
Some may be quick to categorize this description as a struggle with depression. And, while that may be true of some people, I would argue that it's not the case in my situation.
The reality is this.
Faithfulness is hard.
Integrity is hard.
Honesty is hard.
Resisting the desires of my flesh... IS HARD.
I long to fulfill the wicked desires of my deceitful heart. And far too often my heart convinces me that those desires are good for me.
The flip side of this fact is that I hate who I am when I give in to those desires and follow the lies of my heart down towards the path of destruction.
It's a catch 22 if you will. What I seem to long for the most will make me absolutely miserable and eventually destroy me.
When I realize how destructive my longings are I begin to hate them with a passion.
It seems I’m not the first to struggle with this problem. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7 about this very thing.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:15-20
It truly is easy to accept that my sinful desires define who I actually am.
For years I accepted as truth the lie that I was my desires.
They were a part of who I was. I could not change.
This was my false reality.
Thankfully, God opened my eyes to the Truth of His Word.
My heart has been changed.
Now I realize that those fleshly desires of my deceitful heart, although super dangers, have no power over me. They are dead and I am alive in Christ.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” - Lamentations 3:19-24
The mercies of the Lord are never ending. They are new every morning.
I must cling to them.
The biggest threat to my walk with God over the last year hasn't been the desire to commit sexual sin.
Oh, that desire is still there. I fear it will never go away.
The biggest threat to my walk with God is the lie that I am not worthy to walk with Him.
That walking with Him is too hard.
That the path my deceitful heart has planned out for me is better than God's path.
So on the mornings when the lies roar louder than the truth.
When I am bombarded by the allure of this world and all the pleasures it claims to offer,
I must find a way to recognize the truth within the lie.
The truth within the lie is that I am not worthy to walk with God.
But the truth does not stop there.
I am not worthy to walk with God… but the good news is that I do not have to be worthy... because He is.
And because He is worthy and I am his Son, He views me as worthy.
All the power of the resurrection rests within me.
The allure of all of the false pleasures and promises of this world have NO dominion over me.
Whether it is the darkest moments of the night or the early sunrise in the mornings, when the lies begin to pull me down and threaten to drown out the beauty of God's grace I must speak truth.
I can speak it in song.
I can speak it in scripture
I can speak it in prayer.
I can speak it in fellowship with another believer in Christ.
The moment that we forsake speaking truths, our deceitful hearts have already began to lead us astray. There is no goodness within me. Without His truth I will head back towards my pit and devour the filth that I have previously vomited up.
The beauty of the Gospel is that my worth rest in Christ alone and nothing can ever change that.
Because of this fact, this incredible truth, there is nothing else that I can do but begin to cling to his Word and pour out my life as truth to others.
Like most people I hate the sound of an alarm clock. In fact, I hate it so much I refuse to wake up to one. Honestly, it's for the best interest of everyone else that interacts with me on a daily basis. That shrieking, atomic, blasted beeping noise that so rudely bursts into reality and disrupts me from my much needed beauty sleep sends me into a raging fury that is not a pleasant site to experience and probably even worse to behold.
So because of this reality, I wake up to music. I normally change the song once in a while. In fact, there a few good songs out there that have been ruined for me because I left them as my "alarm song" for too long. There's nothing like being in the middle of worship when one of those songs starts to play and my body automatically assumes I’m still in bed and that it is time to get up. I'm sure those around me think that I am raising my arms in an expression of worship when, in reality, it's just muscle memory causing me to do my morning stretch routine triggered by one of my former "alarm songs" being played.
Every now and then there is a benefit to having songs set as your alarm. I'm pretty picky as to what I wake up to. It can't be too upbeat. I want to wake up gently. I desire to exit the land of dreams as delicately as possibly.
Currently, my alarm song is "Calling on Fire" by Bellarive and this morning... it was exactly what I needed.
We are preparing to buy a house. As a man, a recovering addict, someone who hates large financial transactions and long term commitment it feels like the most daunting and terrifying experience of my life.
I'm normally not much of a worrier. I’m normally pretty even keel and seem to be able to remain calm when life gets crazy. (Okay, except when the Royals are playing.)
As I laid my head to rest upon my pillow last night and beckoned the land of dreams to come and blissfully carry me away; while I gazed at the darkness otherwise known as the back of my eyelids... I began to worry.
Here's the thing... when I start to worry, I talk... and talk... and talk.
I'd much rather listen to the sound of my own voice then be stuck inside the silence of my own head with all those terrifying thoughts bombarding my poor panicking soul.
The only problem with this whole talking thing is that as the clock starts to strike midnight, Cinderella loses her slipper and my wife would like to be able to sleep.
Apparently the sound of my voice isn't as soothing as I think it is.
My wife, in the most gentle and loving ways, basically told me to shut up.
Okay, she didn't say that at all. But I have a feeling the thought was definitely hiding somewhere inside her own head and justifiably so.
Of the two of us, she is probably the more experienced one when it comes to anxiety and worrying.
So as I struggled with the fact that I very well may never sleep again until we have found and moved into a new house, she began to give me some counsel.
She kindly reminded me of the sermon this past Sunday, which, just so happened to be on Proverbs 3:5-6.
TRUST in the Lord.
Honestly, that's far enough. Already guilty. Already failing. Frustrated.
I didn’t feel like being preached at and I definitely didn’t want to remember that sermon.
Besides, GOD DOESN'T CARE WHAT HOUSE WE BUY. HE'S NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE MUNDANE DETAILS OF MY LIFE. HE HAS AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE TO KEEP IN MOTION. THIS HOUSE BUYING STUFF IS ALL UP TO ME.
I’ve got to.
TRUST in the Lord.
Thankfully, my wife interrupted the battle going on within my mind and proceeded to move on to her next step of council. When I worry or am anxious, I pray, she said.
Then she went on to emphasize that she prays SILENTLY. IN HER HEAD. So she doesn't disturb anyone that may happen to be in the same room trying to sleep.
Still not sure why she felt the need to throw that random tidbit in there.
So I began to follow her advice.
It wasn't the prettiest prayer I've ever prayed.
It went something like this:
God, I'm never going to sleep. Why did you make us so we had to sleep? Can you just drop a house from the sky and place it somewhere for us and magically have the deed show up on our doorstep? If you don't I'm probably just going to end up digging a hole somewhere and living inside of it for the rest of my life.
God, I don't know what I'm doing.
God, what if you don't what us here in KC? What if we buy a house and then you ask us to move?
What if we buy the WRONG house?
What if I hate them all?
And then I found the phrase I should have started with...
God, help me. I can't handle this. I can't control this. I hate that both of those things are true. I need you. I want to trust you. I need to trust you. But I need your help in order to do that.
The prayers slowly began to fade into the blackness of the night. Dreamland arrive. Sleep came.
The hours passed. Then the sun began to rise and a voice began to sing, interrupting the silence of the new morning and ever so kindly pulling me away from dreamland,
"I'm born with a restless heart,
In the darkness
I'm born with a desperate need,
I failed you a thousand times,
Still you're faithful
Teach me to fix my eyes,
Burn away my rebellious,
Ever wandering heart
Lift me out from the ashes
Keep me where you are"
“Calling on Fire” - Bellarive
I let it keep playing as I brushed my teeth. Awestruck at the irony of the moment.
It’s incredible how God seems to give us just what we need in the most unique ways. He wasn’t finished though. He knew my heart needed something more.
I climbed into my car and immediately notice that the Christian radio station that the dial was tuned to was doing some lame gimmick to entertain their audience instead of doing what they should be doing, playing music.
If I hear talking on the radio instead of music I normally immediately change the station. I didn't this morning.
They were doing a "Sword drill."
Over the radio? Are you kidding me? That is literally the dumbest idea ever.
Whoever thought of that needs to be fired. And while we are at it... The producer that approved that idea needs to go as well.
I hate radio gimmicks and this one seem like the worst one I had ever heard.
So of course I had to listen to the disaster unfold.
They had 2 pastors in the studio who were competing against each other.
They gave 3 verses. Only one was found and read on the air, the other they forgot the verse and didn’t find it and the third, in another lame attempt to be gimmicky and funny, was not a real passage.
But the one verse that they did read on the radio?
The Lord says, "Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever."
I have no idea how to go about trusting God during the unknown and uncertainties of life.
I honestly have no idea what true faith looks like.
How do I trust and yet make my own decisions. Where is the balance in this whole thing?
I looked up Hosea chapter 14 and read the rest of the chapter.
Starting in verse 7 this is how the passage concludes:
My people will again live under my shade.
They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.
“O Israel, stay away from idols!
I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
all your fruit comes from me.”
Let those who are wise understand these things.
Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
and righteous people live by walking in them.
But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.
Sometimes, when life is spinning so fast around us, we feel like feel like faith is an impossibility. Often, we don't even consider faith as an option. Faith isn't tangible. I can't grab on to faith and visibly watch it solve my problem immediately. Faith is blind. So, naturally, faith is hard.
But when it comes to having faith in our God, blind is good. In fact, it's what we are commanded to do.
Trust in the Lord.
A familiar passage. An incredible truth.
A command that I must continue to learn to obey no matter the circumstances.
I’m thankful for a wife that councils and prods me to do that.
And sometimes, I can’t even find the ability to have faith on my own, so I have to ask.
Sometimes, when you ask, you receive.
Our God is awesome like that.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Over the last few days I have been wrestling with the feeling that something is missing from my life.
I just finished reading the book, "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream" by David Platt, and I found myself in an emotional and spiritual funk.
I had a feeling that something was off, missing or incorrect in my life. I couldn't shake it but at the same time, I couldn't put my finger on it.
I was growing frustrated.
Finally, I decided that I had figured it out.
"I just need to do more," I thought to myself. That's it. This is what God wants me to learn.
I began to try to imagine what "more" looked like. What was the more that I needed to be doing?
I've been blogging, speaking to different groups, involved in outreach ministries, preparing to teach a Sunday school class, volunteering to be a part of a documentary, networking and partnering with different ministries... I'm in a discipleship group & an accountability group, I regularly meet with men to share my story and try to help them find the hope I have found in Christ, I go to counseling, I strive to love my wife and son and lead them the way that Christ would want me to. I share my story with anyone and everyone who will listen... I've basically become a walking, talking pro-Jesus, anti-porn billboard.
Yet, I felt empty.
I need to do more, I kept thinking.
What could more possibly look like?
I still couldn't place my finger on what "more" specifically could be, so I sat down to place my thoughts on paper.
Writing is therapeutic for me.
Blue pen. White paper.
Just let my thoughts appear.
The words that flowed from pen to page were vastly different than I expected.
With Denny Matthew's smooth radio voice broadcasting the Royals - Red Sox game in the background, God began to reveal to me exactly what "more" meant.
I wrote the following:
"Anyone can be mediocre. Mediocrity is normal. It is human.
I don't want to live a normal life. I don't want to live a life that any human is capable of living. I want my life to be defined by the Divine. I want to accomplish things that are only possible with Christ."
A good start, I guess. Definitely clear that I desire to do "more" than I am doing. But how?
"I want to love people the way Jesus did. I want His love to be seen through my life. I want people to say, 'I found Jesus because of the way Travis loved me.'
The love I have for myself must die. If I am to love others the way that Jesus did, there is no room in my life to love myself.
I must fill my heart with love for Him. When my heart becomes full of His love, only then will I be able to love others like He commanded."
I sat back and looked at the words I had written.
This was not what I had expected. This couldn't be what "more" meant.
Yet, as I reread the words on the page before me, I knew this is exactly what "more" meant.
A peace came over my troubled soul.
Sometimes, we become so focus on everything that we are doing for Christ that we lose sight of loving Him.
The famous words from the book of Matthew came rushing to the forefront of my mind, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Life is full of distractions. I have bills to pay, a child to parent, a career to attempt to succeed in, a house to buy, a wife to love and on and on the list could go...
Those things are all important, but my first priority MUST be to love my God with my heart, my soul and my mind.
To fall in love with my Savior. To trust Him for everything. To believe that ALL He does is good, just and best for my life.
To follow and obey Him in faith.
To give everything that I hold dear over to Him and know that He has it all under control.
To love my family. To love my church. To love my friends.
To love my enemies.
To fall in love with my God again and again and more and more each and every day.
Ironically, David Platt wrote about this very scenario in his book that I just finished. (Emphasis my own.)
“If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations… But Jesus is so different from us. With the task of taking the gospel to the world, he wandered through the streets and byways… All He wanted was a few men who would think as He did, love as He did, see as He did, teach as He did and serve as He did. All He needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.”
― David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
If I desire to do more, if I desire to see God save souls and change the world, then the love that I have for myself MUST die. That is only possible by filling my heart with love for my Savior.
I truly believe that if we begin to fall in love with Christ as Jesus commanded us, not only will our lives begin to drastically change but the lives of those around us will be impacted in an eternal manner as well.
God isn't trying to tell me that I need to DO more.
He is telling me that I need to LOVE more.
Watch God’s love change the world.
I was 16 years old. It was a hot summer day. Just a month or so before, my dad had been arrested for his perverted crimes. I was sexually abused by my father throughout my childhood. I was totally oblivious to what was happening to me until a month before my 16th birthday.
The man that was supposed to be my hero, my mentor, my protector... betrayed me. He used me to fulfill his selfish, perverse desires.
I was left to deal with life without him. Attempting to learn how to navigate the vast amount of emotions his sins left behind.
"I HATE YOU!" I cried out. My hands raised to the afternoon sky, curled up in fists as if I were about to go twelve rounds in a ring with my worst enemy. I was running around the side of our house into our backyard. Anyone watching or listening probably thought I having a complete meltdown.
"Do you hear me? I hate you. Stay out of my life. Stay away from me."
The tears streamed down my face as my angry rant towards a clear blue sky ended.
So much for the promises of God being a loving father, I thought to myself.
Where was he when my dad began to abuse me? Forcing me to do the things I had to do?
Where was he when things were done to me? WHY DIDN'T HE INTERVENE?
Ha. Good father? What a joke.
Sounds like a pretty deadbeat dad to me.
Where was he now, in the aftermath?
Why does my heart hurt like this?
If you love me, then why?
What did I do to deserve this?
"I hate my earthly father and I hate you, whatever it is you claim to be."
That afternoon took place almost 14 years ago. During that time, my life has drastically changed. But one thing that hasn't changed is the pain.
My heart still aches... it still hurts. Bad.
But before I dive into how my heart can still hurt & yet also have healing, hope and joy at the same time, I want to make a couple points regarding my earthly father.
If you are reading this, I want you to understand that these words are geared towards those who are fatherless or, as in my case, those whose fathers are so evil that you have often wished that you had been fatherless.
I want you to know that I sympathize with your pain. The role of a father is a vital, precious role that is far too often forsaken by men that love themselves more than they love their own families. My heart breaks for you and I hope that you can find the healing that God has graciously allowed me to begin to discover. The healing that God longs to provide for you.
1. Don't feel guilty about being angry.
Listen to me very carefully. Or, more accurately, slow down and read the next sentence for understanding.
IT'S OKAY TO BE MAD.
When I reflect back on what my father did to me, what he did to others, It makes my blood boil. It's a natural reaction to the evil and perverse actions that he took.
If your father hurt you, abused you or betrayed you in some way then it’s okay to be angry.
In fact, it would be unnatural if you didn't feel a sense of anger.
Far too often, I feel that forgiveness is misunderstood.
Forgiveness does not mean, "You cannot feel anger."
Forgiveness does not mean, “Forget what happened to you and never be angry or upset about it ever again.”
Forgiveness means, “I will not seek revenge. I will not direct my hurt or my anger towards the individual that harmed me in a manner that would intentionally bring them pain. I will pray that my enemy finds grace and forgiveness in Christ.”
So if you find yourself reflecting over the pain you have experienced in your life because of your dad this holiday weekend, go pick up some boxing gloves, head over to your local gym and beat the crap out of a heavy bag.
Then leave that anger there, inside that gym, directed towards the crimes that were committed against you. Walk out with your head high, knowing that those wrongs do not define you, your anger does not control you and Christ can heal your heartache.
2. Understand the difference between anger and bitterness.
Anger CAN be healthy. Bitterness, WILL be deadly.
Bitterness is always harmful. It is a poison that will seep into every area of your life and slowly destroy you.
Bitterness allows hate to become the sole motivation behind your actions. Bitterness sets out to destroy the life of the one that wronged you. But along the way, you will hurt those that you love dearly and you will ultimately suffer far greater than the one you are attempting to hurt.
I lived like this for years. I would think, "If I did this, how much would it hurt my dad?"
Meanwhile, he sat in a prison cell hundreds of miles away from me, totally unaware & unaffected by the choices I was making.
I was destroying my own life and causing immense pain to the friends and family that cared about my well-being.
It's okay to be angry over the sinful actions of your father but don't let bitterness get a hold of your heart. No healing comes from seeking revenge. No void can ever be filled by hate.
3. It's okay to grieve.
It’s more than okay. It’s healthy.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were watching a TV show together. A rather sad scene was unfolding before us. One of the main character's dad had cancer and was on his deathbed. It was obvious that this was their last conversation. His father's final breath was near.
Something inside me was triggered by the scene and before the father passed away I began sobbing uncontrollably.
Watching a man be able to treasure the final conversation with his father broke my heart. It hurt to know that I may never grieve the loss of my father. I may never be that close to him. I might not want to be at his bedside when he takes his final breath. Everything in me wishes that things were different.
I wish that he was different. I wish that he had been a godly, selfless father whom I could look up to and long to follow in his footsteps.
But that is not my reality and I can grieve over the absence of a father in my life
I will admit, breaking down like I did while watching a tv show is pretty rare for me. My wife said afterwards that she had never seen me cry like that.
In reality, I wasn't crying due to anything that was happening in the show. I was weeping because my heart still hurts over the loss of my father in my life. The wrongs that he committed against me and my family hurt deeply.
Those wounds will not be fully healed this side of heaven.
I don't know your situation. I don't know the wrongs that have been committed against you. But I do know that sometimes the healthiest thing in the world is to put your head against your pillow, or on the shoulder of your spouse or closest friend and just weep.
Let the tears roll. Let your shoulders shake.
Let the hurt out.
Only then can the healing start to begin.
4. It's okay to miss him.
Long before my father was arrested, his selfishness created a massive void in my life.
God wired us to long to have a relationship with our father. This is why people will spend years searching the earth to find their biological parents. They want closure. They want to fill the void that exists within them.
The reality is, that even after all the evil that I experienced at the hand of my father, no amount of anger can fill that void. The hate I was filled with for so long did nothing to erase the hole in my heart.
The absence of a father in one’s life creates a longing that can often result in extremely confusing emotions.
How can I miss someone who did such terrible things to me?
Why do I find myself longing for his presence in my life?
Why do I still care about him?
At the same time, I wish that he had never been a part of my life.
I wish that I had never known him.
I wish that he had never hurt me or anyone else.
These are questions that don't always have answers. But it is okay to feel those things.
My dad may never be an active participant in my life.
He may never have access to who I am or what I'm doing.
But that doesn't mean that every now and then some part of me might wish that things could be normal between him and I. Sadly, he blew that opportunity, not me.
While it is okay to miss your father, no matter how evil of a man he is or was, it is vital to remember that you must set boundaries in order to protect your wellbeing. Stand up for yourself.
5. The sins of your father do not define you.
Sometimes, the most frustrating part about my dad being my dad is the fact that I’m his son.
I can’t escape that fact. I’m even named after him. My middle name is his first name.
Obviously, I have his last name. There were times where I considered changing both of them to escape the reminder of who he is… of who I am.
Ezekiel 18 has been a great comfort to me. Verse 20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
No matter how much that I hate that I am his son. No matter how much I wish I could change the reality that he is my father. I can take refuge in the fact that I am my own person.
I will be judged for my own actions. There is no free pass and I believe that generational sins are a very real thing.
I must be diligent and live a life that is completely above reproach.
My father’s crimes do not define who I am.
My legacy is my own.
There is another Father that will never fail you.
Be mad, but don't get bitter.
I'm not crazy if I miss him.
So what, Travis? None of that makes this holiday any easier.
None of this heals my heart.
Where is this hope you talked about?
Several months ago, I came across a passage in Isaiah that changed my life.
"I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3
The reality is that in the darkest moment of your life, God was present.
The reality is that darkness does not exist in God’s presence.
Your darkness was light to Him.
He could see the big picture. He allowed those evil things to occur for a reason.
Treasures of Darkness.
I've grown to love that phrase. What an incredible promise.
My God loves me so much that he can turn the most perverse actions committed on the darkest of nights by the very man who was supposed to raise and protect me and turn them into a treasure more valuable than any earthly possession.
"...it is I, the LORD, the GOD of Israel, who call you by name."
He knows my name.
He calls me out by name.
He longs to heal my broken heart.
He can handle listening to me rant and rave about the wrongs committed against me.
He longs to help me move forward to a place where I can I forgive my father.
He catches my tears in a bottle.
He values justice.
He longs to be the father that I find myself longing for.
How have I found hope?
By running into the arms of the very one who I cried out against so many years ago.
That's the beauty of this Father. He can take those rants.
He saw my anger and in his grace and mercy did not strike me dead. He listened. He heard the cry of my angry, broken heart.
He had something far greater planned than I could ever have created for myself.
He let me run for a while.
He stood watching, waiting to save me from complete destruction.
There were plenty of other hateful rants against him along the way.
I cursed his name in word and deed. I betrayed him in every way possible.
I took everything He had ever done for me and I threw it in His face in disgust.
Then, in the moment when my heart was at its lowest point, when I was about to succumb to the darkness that had been enveloping me for all those years, He showed up.
Along with all my angry rants, there were plenty of times where I had begged Him to show up.
I had pleaded for Him to take away my pain. To heal my heart. To remove my addiction. To fix me.
I was always met with silence.
Until it was His time.
In His moment, He showed up.
He revealed himself to me as the loving, gracious, forgiving and perfect Father that He is.
Virtually overnight, He transformed my life.
The healing process is still ongoing. The hurt, oh, the hurt, is still so very real.
It may never go away.
But I have hope.
I have hope in knowing that the darkest moments of my life were light to God.
I have hope in knowing that in every one of those moments, He was there with me. His Light was present. He was weeping as I suffered, holding back His righteous wrath while I was wronged all because He knew what I did not. He knew what was best for me.
He knew that I could survive even when survival seemed impossible.
He knew that one day I would stand and share my story of hope, healing and restoration.
He knew that one day my life would change and that I would raise my hands to the sky again.
They are no longer curled up in fists, they are wide open in worship declaring Him as a good, good Father.
Shift your focus from your earthly, pile of crap dad, to your heavenly Father.
Run to him with all your hurt, hate and baggage.
He can take the darkness and turn into treasures of light.
Imagine that an extremely valuable treasure is in the middle of a massive fire, buried deep within the coals. We watch as a man continues to try and creep closer, dodging the flames and attempting to avoid the heat. His shoes begin to melt; his hair begins to burn and his clothes begin to smolder.
We try to shout to him. To warn him from the painful death he is most assuredly about to experience. But he responds with his own shouts, "Don't worry” He cries, “I won't get burned. If I can just get to the treasure, I'll be okay."
Now imagine a wild, hungry lion roaring loudly from within a nearby cage. It is evident by the temperament of the lion that he is on the verge of starving and will devour anything he can sink his teeth into. We watch as a young man approaches the lion holding a giant slab of meat. We look on in horror as he begins to open the door of the cage. He proceeds to hold out the meat in front of the lion. We cry out, “Get out. Run. He’ll kill you.” But just like our friend in the fire, he responds, "Don't worry. I won't get bit. I'll be okay. I’m just going to feed him once."
There is a cancer that has crept into our Churches and infected more men, women and children than we could possibly imagine.
This cancer is eating the Church alive from the inside. The most terrifying part? Many of us are welcoming this cancer into our lives with open arms.
If we can just get to the treasure with minimal burns than it will be worth it.
If we just feed the lion once...
Ridiculous, you say, no one would take either of those risks.
I wish you were right.
Sadly, the opposite seems to be true when it comes to sexual sin.
We must stop making elaborate excuses for ourselves and for each other.
I've witnessed men lament over their porn habit one moment and then proceed to discuss how excited they are to go home and watch the next episode of Game of Thrones the next. In fact, I used to do this very thing.
I've listened to men express their desire to reach out and get help. They want to get serious about fighting their sexual addiction. But a spouse, friend or pastor tells them they aren’t addicted. "It’s just a sin problem. Keep reading your Bible, going to church and asking for forgiveness. You will be okay. You got this.”
The men end up choosing the easy route. They continue to do what they’ve been doing, fighting their sin in isolation, failing to see any change. They accept the mentality that they will always struggle with sexual sin. They believe that true victory isn’t possible and that obedience to God’s commands cannot be achieved.
For years I had a list of "do's and don'ts" for myself. I thought that, if I followed them, I would be able to control my addiction. I would minimize the hurt that I would cause to those around me. I would minimize the damage my addiction would cause to myself. I was in control.
I won’t get burned.
I’ll just feed him when he’s hungry.
Everything was okay.
Except it wasn't.
In the end...
Cancer kills. Fires burn. Lion's bite.
Sexual sin is no different.
Once you give in and take a bite it will burn you... and if that burn is left untreated... it will consume you.
And once it consumes you…
It will kill you.
This is the reality of sin.
James 1:15 says, “Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.”
If sexual sin is a killer than the following statistics should have the Church extremely concerned. (Sources listed below)
My personnel experience with sexual sin.
When I was stuck in my pit, I believed every lie ever told in regards to sexual sin.
It was my escape, my comfort, my closest friend that was always there for me. I felt that it never failed me. It was a safety net that provided an escape from the world around me. But in the end, it almost cost me my life and, in all honesty, it should have cost me my marriage.
The perversion of God's amazing and wonderful gift of sex is one of Satan's greatest weapons. Due to the hyper-sexuality of our culture there is an increasing stigma of shame associated with sexual sin within our Churches.
Kids within the church grow up thinking that "Sex is bad" before they have any idea what sex actually is.
Men & women within the church are terrified to come forth and admit they struggle with pornography, immorality or adultery because they fear the amount of shame, humiliation and punishment they will experience from the Church.
We cannot continue to do nothing.
I refuse to remain silent.
As a young child, my innocence was stolen from me. I was robbed of it as I sat upon my father’s lap and he "accidentally" navigated to a website with pornographic images. I was too young to understand what I had just seen but I would never be the same. My curiosity was ignited. My innocence was gone.
That moment, and the abuse that came with it, forever altered who I am.
But I refuse to let that moment define me.
What my earthly father stole from me, my heavenly Father can give back.
The wounds of my heart can be healed. The longings of my soul can be satisfied. I serve a God that spoke this world into existence from nothing. I serve a God who defeated death and rose victorious over the grave.
I serve a God who can provide the power to defeat pornography and sexual sin.
A Call For Action
Church, this a call to arms. This is a rally cry.
A battle has been raging since the Garden of Eden and I fear that we have become far too complacent in the fight.
We must take action. We must stand together as one unified body of believers. With the power granted to us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we must decide to fight back against sexual sin.
The failure to do so will continue to result in the destruction of our churches, families, marriages, and the lives of our children.
So what can we do? Where do we go from here?
It’s time to stop believing the lie that complete victory over sexual sin is not possible.
Pornography, or any form of sexual sin, has NO place in the life of a Christian.
The battle is raging.
We are not called to live defeated and ashamed.
It’s time to fight.
The Tech-Wise Family
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds
The Porn Phenomenon Book & E-Book
The Porn Phenomenon
Several weeks ago, my family and I were walking out of a local grocery store towards our car. As we approached our vehicle, I noticed an elderly women sitting in the driver’s side of her car with her head in her hands and tears streaming down her face. Emily walked to the passenger’s side of our vehicle while I began loading our groceries into the car. My first thought was, "Emily is going to want to find out what's wrong and see if she can help."
Within seconds, Emily walked up behind me and let me know she had noticed the same thing that I had noticed and she was going to go find out if she could help. She had overheard parts of a phone conversation and it seemed that they elderly woman was distraught over not being able to purchase groceries for herself or her granddaughter.
Emily approached the woman, attempting to comfort her and discover the reason behind her tears. The woman explained that she was supposed to meet someone from her church at the grocery store and they were going to help her buy some groceries. For one reason or another they had contacted her and said they would be unable to make it.
Emily walked over to update me on the situation. At this point, I already knew what was about to happen. If there is anything that is always true about my wife it is the fact that she will always go out of her way to help others in a time of need.
Emily took the credit card and went back to help the elderly lady out of her car. I watched as my wife walked through the parking lot with the woman and eventually disappeared into the store. The elderly woman was using a walker, so I had plenty of time to soak in the entire scene.
A few moments before, she was a stranger in complete distress. Now, her countenance had completely changed. She wore a smile on her face and joy was radiating from her every step. A need, that she had no ability to meet herself, had been met by a complete stranger.
I wish that I had taken a picture of them as they walked in. I was so busy soaking in the moment, extremely proud of the action my wife had taken, that taking a picture never even crossed my mind.
In the end, my wife helped the woman purchase several things that were a necessity. She helped load the groceries into the elderly ladies car and watched as she drove off.
This world needs more of it.
When my son continues to jump off the furniture, climb the fence in the backyard or continues to do some other activity that he has been repeatedly told not do, he seems to always ending up injuring himself. More often than not, my first response is to lecture him.
"Well if you would have just obeyed…" or "I told you that was going to happen…"
But my wife? She comes running at the sound of his pain. She picks him up in her arms and loves him. Normally, the pain from the scrape, bump or bruise is gone within seconds. Even when a warning or command has been ignored, she is there to comfort him in his distress.
She shows compassion.
I admit, my strategy of lecturing while comforting is not the most effective… or comforting for that matter. I have much to learn from my wife in this area of compassion. I am always amazed at how well my son listens to my wife when she explain to him how he could have avoided getting hurt if he would have obeyed.
Ironically, I have a vast amount of similar stories that I could share about my own life. Sadly, most of my "wounds" have been much grander than simply a bump or a bruise. The warnings that I have ignored have often had much more drastic consequences. Yet, my mother has continued to love and comfort amidst my foolish ignorance.
This past August, as I walked with my wife answering one question after another about the affairs, lies and secrets regarding my hidden life, I expected the result of that conversation to be the beginning of the end of our marriage.
The reality is that the opposite was true. That moment was the beginning of our marriage. She looked me in the eye and said that she wasn't going anywhere. That she was going to fight for our marriage and she wanted me to join her in that fight.
She looked at me at my worst, amidst a plethora of lies, adultery and seemingly unforgivable sins, and she chose to love me.
She was showing me a deeper form of compassion than most refuse to ever show...
Since that moment, my life has been drastically transformed. While that transformation has been an incredible work by Almighty God, I do not believe that transformation would have taken place without the unfathomable love, mercy and forgiveness of two incredible women in my life.
They both have wept & prayed for me more than anyone else I know.
The words you are reading right now would never have been written if not for them.
Those women? My Mother and, the closest friend I have in the entire world, my Wife.
Thank you both for never giving up on me. Even when I had given up on myself.
When others wrote me off as someone who was spirally out of control and would never change,.. you never stopped praying.
When other's said love and forgiveness have their limits,.. you dug deeper and continued to love and forgive.
Your lives are truly a testimony of the love that Christ has shown to us all.
You are lights of hope and love in an incredibly dark and dreary world.
I am truly blessed.
Happy Mother's Day
I can remember exactly where I was last Easter.
Something started occurring in my heart that day. The Spirit started working. I remember being overwhelmed with a new reality during the worship time, a reality that I was hoping would immediately change my life. I begin to realize what the resurrection actually meant for me.
I begin to understand that, if I’m a Christian and the resurrection is true, then there is no limit to what I can overcome in my life.
The one thing that the entire human race has continually sought a cure for was realized by Jesus Christ. He looked death in the eye and overcame it. He became immortal.
I wish I could say that I left that day and began to apply the realization that I had. Sadly, at this point, I was still fully immersed in my secret life. My addiction was running wild and I was overwhelmed by feelings of shame and guilt. But looking back I can see how God was beginning to soften my heart. Little did I know that several months later, the realization that I had in April of 2016 would be a critical part of my moment of repentance and the outpouring of God’s grace that began to completely change my life in August.
I’ve always loved Easter. Great food. TONS OF CANDY!!! And normally, with Easter comes WARM WEATHER!!
This year… Things are different.
Over the last several weeks there has been a stirring within my soul. As different sermons, articles and conversations have focused on preparing our hearts for Easter, I have found myself trying to pinpoint what exactly it is that I am feeling.
As a recovering addict, I now value and cling to the truth of the resurrection more than anything else. This event is the source of power for my entire recovery journey.
Without the resurrection, I am still stumbling about life completely overwhelmed by my sexual sin, I have NO hope, no chance of recovery.
Without the resurrection, darkness would be my permanent reality.
Without the resurrection, I would be damned to hell.
Without the resurrection, death wins.
If the grave is not empty, I am forever a slave to my fleshly desires.
If the grave is not empty then there is no source of power for me to tap into to deny the lusts of my flesh.
Oh, if the grave is not empty then my heart is still stone, my life is still hopeless and my marriage would be over.
Without the resurrection, without an empty tomb, all hope is lost, all joy is unfounded and life has no purpose...
As Jesus hung on the cross, the spirit of darkness thought that the final pieces of his battle plan were concluding. His army gathered to watch their greatest enemy take His last breath. Victory was near.
I can only imagine that Satan, the leader of this dark army, watched this moment unfold with cautious optimism. He was fully aware of the teachings of Jesus and the prophecies made in the Old Testament. He thought that this was his master plan, that his manipulation of the religious leaders of that day was brilliant. He chuckled to himself at how easy it had been to turn the crowds cries of “hosanna” into cries of hatred and death.
Yet, as he watched Jesus die, I imagine there was a tepidness to his excitement.
This was supposed to be his greatest achievement. He was about to dethrone the Creator of the world. He was about to murder the very Son of God.
But Satan knew he could not truly celebrate until 3 days had past. He knew his victory was not yet assured.
Meanwhile, the disciples had all fled the scene. They were broken, scattered and defeated.
Everything that they had dreamed of accomplishing was over.
All hope was lost.
For three days, the eternal fate of all mankind hung in the balance. For three days, darkness began to believe it had won. The light was extinguished. Evil had prevailed. Satan was king.
Can you imagine if the story ended there? I shudder at the thought.
On the third day, (and yes, a smile creeps onto my face as I type that phrase... I know what's coming next!)
The Son of God arose out of the darkness and restored light unto all the world!
The victory that Satan thought was assured was nullified the moment the stone began to move.
The mission of Jesus was complete!
The grave IS empty. The tomb is wide open and the body is gone!
HE IS ALIVE and now “my soul can boast of Christ for He reigns now in me!”
As a Child of the King, my life is different now...
When the temptress of darkness takes on a form of beauty so alluring…
When she attempts to seduce me with thoughts of pleasure…
When the evils of this world seem so satisfying…
I can raise my Sword to defend my heart and shout from the depths of my forgiven soul,
I AM NO LONGER YOURS. I have been bought with a price. The blood of Christ has paid for my sins. I am free from your spell. You have no power here. My savior, whom you once killed, now lives!!! DEATH HAS BEEN DEFEATED. You have been dethroned. The very power which allowed him to defy the claws of death has been given to me. It is with that power that I can stand here and tell you to flee from my presence. It is with that power that I can demand you to leave.
I AM NO LONGER A SLAVE.
I AM NO LONGER BLIND.
I AM NO LONGER DEAD.
I AM NOW FREE!
I CAN NOW SEE!
I NOW HAVE LIFE!
What does the resurrection mean to me?
It means, that for the first time in my life,..
I can now live.
I have NOTHING to fear.
Death, which once condemned me, is now dead.
SIN HAS NO POWER HERE.
All that was dark has been made Light.
Life now reigns supreme.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Luke 24:1-7 NIV
Time for a #LetsBeReal Moment. Authenticity is healthy.
The past two weeks have sucked. The combination of the chaos of the holiday season and my lack of discipline led to me straying from my healthy routine and all the things that have helped me during my recovery process. I slipped up. I gave in to temptation.
I was open and honest about my slip up. I had no desire to fall back into the pit. I was miserable and disgusted by my actions. To some, in comparison to past behaviors, this would seem like a minor hiccup. But to me, I felt like I had just given the middle finger to the face of Almighty God.
The hardest part has not been resisting the temporary pleasures that sexual sin promises. The hardest part has been the heavy weight of shame threatening to drag me down into the very pit that I had been miraculously delivered from.
Shame said to me that my recent actions had rendered me worthless.
That all God had done was now erased.
Shame said that all hope is lost.
Shame whispered to my heart...
"You’re a failure. Just quit now. There's no point in fighting. You'll always end up back here. This is who you are. The pit is where you belong."
The argument from Shame seemed legitimate. It was logical.
Shame looked at how my sin had crushed my wife and told me that causing her pain was what I was best at.
Shame said, "All you ever do is hurt those that you love."
My heart began to listen. My hope began to fade.
I was paralyzed by the fear that Shame would win. Depression began to set in.
I began to pray. To beg for God to intervene. I needed something to counteract the lies of Shame. My heart was weak. I was beginning to believe lies. I was approaching a critical crossroad and I had no hope that I was capable of choosing the correct path.
As Shame began to shout out lies...
As I begin to listen...
As hope began to fade and the darkness began to grow and threatened to chase away the Light...
Grace arose and said to shame, “HELL NO.”
With authority that can only come from the Creator, Grace said to me that I am loved.
Grace reminded me that I am valuable. So valuable, in fact, that God sent his only Son to DIE in my place. To pay my debt. To set me free.
Grace says that HOPE ABOUNDS.
Grace says that the war is won. That deliverance is here. The Light will win.
Grace says victory is assured.
Grace said, “COME HOME!”
I cannot accurately describe what occurs in one’s heart the moment when you begin to cherish & cling to the incredible, miraculous, undeserving gift of Grace.
The weight of shame rolled off my shoulders and right back into the gates of Hell where it belongs.
Complete brokenness occurred. Hope was restored. The Light would not be put out.
God's love will always win.
My hatred towards this sin and the lies of the devil regarding it continues to grow in ways I never thought possible.
My awe & love for my wife and her incredible strength and ability to choose to love and forgive me continues to grow more and more every day.
I will never understand why God chose to love me. To forgive me. To save me. I will always stand in awe of his mercy and grace. I am so unworthy. I have no choice but to fall on my face and worship Him. My life is not mine. My life is His and through His power He will provide me the Grace that I need to live a life that glorifies Him.
There is hope. There is freedom. I must continue to choose love.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Titus 2:11-15 NIV
All throughout the day today social media will be flooded with posts regarding how blessed everyone is and how they are thankful for this or that.
In truth, there is nothing wrong with this. Unless our words are mere words. Focusing on thankfulness is a wonderful thing. It brings people together, draws kindness out of our hearts and often can bring glory to God. But if thankfulness ends with the words that we use to make a nice social media post, we will remain empty and unfulfilled. Thankfulness should grow and sprout up gratitude.
But I guess 'Gratsgiving' doesn't quite have the ring to it that ‘Thanksgiving’ has.
Gratitude is the desire to go beyond expressing thankfulness with words. Gratitude is the action that flows forth from a heart full of thanksgiving.
Stay with me for a minute if you would. Let me invite you into the corner of my heart and share with you something that God has been doing.
Many of you have read my story. You are aware of the journey that I am on. A transformation has occurred in almost every area of my life over the last 3 months. And I feel that today it is appropriate for me to share an example of thankfulness & gratitude.
As a boy, I was sexually abused by my father. Because of that fact many of the memories from my childhood are gone.
Completely vanished. It's like someone cut them out of my memory.
I sat in a counseling session a couple months ago, I shook my head in frustration as my therapist asked me a simple question, "What's your first childhood memory."
I tried to give him an honest answer. I thought for a bit and tried to come up with something that would truly be my first "memory." I failed. I finally said I don't know. I have no idea. So much seems to be missing.
Apparently, this is a common thing among abuse victims. Our minds are powerful enough to know that some memories are traumatic and so it submerges them deep within our consciousness. But as powerful as the mind is, it has trouble in determining exactly which memories would be traumatic and which ones wouldn't be. So, instead of just erasing this one and that one, Boom, the 'CTRL-A + Delete' function occurs. For the non-techy individuals out there, pressing CTRL-A is a shortcut for selecting all the files in a folder, all the text on a page or all the e-mails within your inbox, allowing you to delete everything with a click of a button or the stroke of a single key.
One of the frustrations I have had over the years is that there are certain memories that, for whatever reason, seem to always come to the forefront of my mind. A scene from a movie, a statement made by a friend during a conversation or a story within a book can all trigger an almost overwhelming emotional experience for me. Most of the time, these moments cause an unpleasant memory to be recalled to the forefront of my mind.
I remember sitting in the theater watching the movie "Inglorious Bastards." There is an extremely graphic scene were the American soldiers capture an enemy Nazi soldier and bash his head in repeatedly with a baseball bat. For some reason, this scene connected with the hatred that I felt in my heart towards my dad. In one moment, I was sitting in the theater enjoying a comical retelling of World War II. The next, I was a kid again. My dad was present with me. I knew exactly where I was and what was about to happen to me. The same thing that had happened before. But this time, in my memory, I held a baseball bat. My mind was taking the images I had seen on the screen and using them to defend myself in a past memory. The memory had taken over my reality to the extent that the person I was with nudged me. I had been squeezing her hand so tightly that it had started to hurt her. My hand was shaking. I was sweating. I was filled with a rage that I’m not sure I had experienced before.
I share all that to provide some background of what I am about to divulge. In that moment, I realized that I would rather have my father dead than endure the things that he did to me. For many years, I allowed that hate to control my life.
Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, I’m back in my therapist office. We are discussing a topic that has become a common theme during our sessions, my father, the abuse and the fallout from it all.
“I can’t believe I’m about to say this,” I mutter. “But, well… While I would never in a million years ever wish what happened to me to happen to someone else. And while I would never want to go back in time and experience all the things that happened to me again….”
At this moment, there is a long pause. I realized the magnitude of the words that are about to come out of my mouth.
I continued slowly, choosing each word carefully and speaking from the depths of my heart. I was getting emotional then and I’m getting emotional now retelling the events.
“I can’t believe I’m about to say this. But I’m thankful, truly thankful, for what happened to me.”
My therapist looks up, still silent, seemingly waiting for me to finish my thoughts before interjecting.
“Again, I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it. I wouldn’t want to go through it again. But without all that hurt, pain and betrayal. Without all the tears, heartbreak, anger & hatred. Without all the terrible choices that I made as a result of the darkness, without any of that, who I am? What story do I have?”
Tears are starting to slowly make their way down my cheeks. These are not tears of pain or regret. These are tears of joy. Tears of victory.
Thankfulness. Even for the darkest of nights. For without the darkness I would have no story.
For one to be able to cherish the light, they must first have experienced the vast nothingness of darkness.
The conversation wasn’t over. I wasn’t finished.
Thankfulness is never enough. Gratitude must follow.
But how do you express true thankfulness for something so tragic?
“I want my dad to know that I’ve forgiven him. But I want to do more than that. I want to sit across from him, to look him in the eye and tell him there is no anger, hate or spite left inside my heart towards him for what he has done.”
“I want to look him in the eye and tell him I love him. I want him to know that what he did to me, as disgusting and revolting as it was, has no power over me anymore.”
I know. Some of you are thinking I’m insane. But this is gratitude. I’m commanded to love my enemies and I feel I can honestly say that my father fits that description well. I chose to be thankful. I chose to love him. I chose gratitude.
Choosing to love my father will not change much from his perspective. I’m still not going to allow him into my life. He won’t be able to communicate with me unless I initiate it. I am not sure that he understands the magnitude of his actions. I have no interest in letting him into my life. But I’m not commanded to do those things. I’m only commanded to love.
It’s Thanksgiving. It’s a day for us to look back at our lives and express thanks to others and to God for the blessings that we have. But I challenge you to look back at the dark moments in your life. The moments of pain, heartbreak and loss. Can we begin to be thankful for them?
Because of the pain that I experienced I can be grateful for healing.
Because of the addiction that controlled me I can be grateful for sobriety, recovery and transformation.
Because of the darkness that I experienced I can be grateful for the Light.
I have no idea who I would be or what my story would consist of without the darkness. I do know that because of the darkness I have an opportunity to share what God has done in my life with others. I can share about how he provided hope when all hope was lost, how He provided healing when my heart was broken, how he provided Light when everything went dark.
We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18 - ESV)
So… when you go to write that fluffy social media post (and it’s completely okay to do that), take a moment and decide how you can go beyond thankfulness and express gratitude this thanksgiving.
If I can learn to be grateful for the darkness, I know I can begin to do the same for all the good...
And I believe that you can too.
Happy Gratsgiving everybody!
I've celebrated 4 anniversaries of my 25th birthday. I have an amazing wife & an incredible son. God is transforming my life and I love to write. Here you will find my ramblings about what God has done, is doing and my dreams of what I hope He will do in the future. Thanks for coming along for the ride!