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Friday, November 20, 2009

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 17: Intimate Issues

When I was a youth pastor in Watertown I would take my kids on trips to Darien Lake or Water Safari in Old Forge, NY.  We would go over the rules: no drugs, alcohol, weapons and then I would have 'the talk' with them.  They would laugh about it, those who heard it previously would recite it word for word with me.  But honestly, I think they appreciated that I was up front about it and made my expectations clear.

I would say, "... and no sexual relations.  No heterosexual relations.  No homosexual relations.  No solo sexual relations.  If you're here with your gf/bf I officially declare you broken up for the weekend and you're not here to date someone else.  Keep your hands to yourselves. No pairing off. No kissing, handholding, etc. No sexual relations."

I did this because I knew we could have a lot of mistakes or accidents or incidents happen on a youth group retreat and recover from them.  Incidents of the sexual nature were different.  There were serious and could jeopardize a ministry's existence.  And I knew it would jeopardize them.

Sexual sin is serious though no more so than some others.  Christians are tormented by their sexual brokenness.  Despite the fact they know they are forgiven and even when they are walking in freedom but especially when they are not, sexual sin just destroys us.  The guilt remains.  We have such a difficult time of letting them go.

For some, they have been sinned against sexually -- abuse or rape -- and we live in continued shame and guilt because of what happened to us.

It could have happened decades ago.  It could have been an addictive behavior or a single solitary incident.  But our minds hold onto it, magnify it's significance, magnify it's consequences and results in our being paralyzed spiritually.  We end up living with a black mark on our soul that only we see and we project onto God that He somehow remembers it.  We silently proclaim ourselves unfit and unworthy of forgiveness or for any future ministry assignment.  We live captive to the lies of Satan.

We struggle with (or lack the struggle against) inappropriate desires, lust, porn or we're involved in sexual sin outside of the bonds of marriage.  If we were truthful, some of us have really done some heinous, jaw dropping sinful acts.  There is grace for you.

Many of us have no place to go to fix the problem.  We know we need help but our churches aren't safe places.  We feel we will face condemnation there, be removed from our ministry and the gossip mill will churn.  For many of you, you are rightly fearful of seeking help at church.  Sadly, many of our churches aren't equipped to care for us and our issues related to sexual brokenness.

I want you to grow spiritually.  For so many of you to be able to do so you absolutely must deal with your sexual brokenness.  You need to be set free from the condemnation that burdens you.  Sometimes we think or often we have been told that if we just pray more fervently, read more Scripture so it really takes hold of our hearts or if we just try harder that we'll be set free from the guilt, shame, lust, addiction, adultery, etc.  That's probably not the answer.  You likely need help and I urge you to make a commitment to find it.

I don't have all the answers for you right here in this blog post.  But it is important you believe truth over lies.  You have not committed the unpardonable sin.  You are not unforgivable.  There is no stain on your soul that was some how over looked by Jesus -- all your sins were nailed to the Cross.  You can be set free from shame, guilt and addiction.  There is a future for you where you walk in serenity and hope.

If nothing else, as an act of worship to God: make the sign of the cross over yourself committing your head, your heart and your whole being to God for His kingdom purposes. Admit you need help beyond more prayer and Scripture.  Commit yourself right in this moment to finding the help you need and that God desires you to have: a 12 step or Celebrate Recovery group, a professional counselor, a priest who is sworn to secrecy, a web ministry like xxxchurch.com, your physician, a pastor or trusted friend, etc.  Begin praying for God to give you guidance to the safe place you can begin talking about your issues and be set free.

Do not lose hope my friend.  God is love.  He loves you.

This is part 16 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow, the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over, 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.

Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.

Previous Installments:
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 12: Start Journaling
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 13: Time For Fasting
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 14: Forgive Yourself
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 15: Participate in an Alpha Class 
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 16: The Examen

Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.

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