Thursday, April 27, 2017

Can Grace Increase?

Here's a funny story for you from when I was a young man. The year is 1995, I am 19 years old and recently out of high school and working full time. I moved out of my Mom's house and was living on my own for the first time.
I had recently started attending church and had gotten baptized. I wanted to get my life back on track with God.

Sarah and I weren't officially living together but she was staying with me at my apartment more than she was staying home. I was in love with her and enjoyed her staying with me but I knew it was wrong and my conscience was starting to really bug me.
We continued like that for a while until I could take it no longer. Convicted and in emotional turmoil I prayed and asked God he would give me permission to keep sleeping with my girlfriend (even though I knew the answer). I heard nothing.

A friend had recently told me about something he had done in a similar situation where he was wanting to hear from God, he put his bible on the table, spine down while he held it closed with both hands. He then pulled his hands away and let the bible fall open to whatever page it fell to and that was what he was supposed to read. I had a new bible I had never read and didn't know where to read anyways so this seemed like a good option for me so I did it. Here is the where it fell open to:

Romans 6
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

I was blown away. It was like God was talking directly to me and my situation. To say I was scared and intimidated would be an understatement.

When I think back on it now I laugh, what a cool thing God did for me that day.

I wish I could have understood what I was reading that day because there was a lot more to Romans 6 than I understood at the time. I've never done that bible falling open thing since and I'm not suggesting you try it. There are better ways to hear from God.
Did we continue sleeping together? Yes we did, my desire for sexual intimacy was stronger than my desire for holiness. Which opened up a Pandora's box of problems later in life but that's a story for another time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Getting To Know Me: The Early Years

I became a Christian sometime when I was a kid, I didn't really understand much at that time. But I wanted to be good, because I thought that was what God wanted from me. Nobody taught me any different and I grew up under this idea that the better I was the more I was loved and accepted by God.

At 15 my sand foundation finally fell apart and I realized I couldn't be the good guy anymore. So I turned from Him and went to find my happiness in the world. Sex and pornography was always a lure for me and so I turned to find my acceptance in woman.

I had a number of relationships many of which I ended because of my own guilt and shame in the way I was living. This lead to meeting my wife Sarah, who at the time was another Christian who wasn't living for the Lord. 

Sarah had addictions issues that I knew nothing about at the time, nor how to deal with them. Our romance was fast and exciting, and we both talked about getting our lives back on track with God. Although she was clean and sober at the time we met, after 3 months of dating she was back into the partying and drugs. 

I was far too scared of drugs and alcohol so I didn't join her but did everything I could to try and rescue her. I nearly lost my mind during that time as I did everything in my power to protect her from herself, but it was a losing battle.

Near to a breakdown I reached out for help and found it in room of older ladies in an Al Anon meeting, a 12 step support group for those with loved ones tangled in addictions. After a couple meetings I found strength and reached out to my "higher power", the God I knew as a kid.

I broke up with Sarah because I knew that's what was best for me and I also realized I couldn't help her. Knowing she needed to make a choice between the partying and me she decided to clean up in the hopes she could get me back. It worked, we got back together but I wasn't the same, I had met God.

I had a hunger for God for the first time in my life and I believe this is when I started to own my faith. I was no longer living the faith that my Mom had passed down to me.

The people who lived on the main floor of the house I was living in invited me to their church and within a week I was baptized. I had a huge conflict within me now, I wanted to live for Christ but I really enjoyed living with my girlfriend (Sarah) and really enjoyed sex.

At 9 months of dating we found out Sarah was pregnant. Now my sin was obvious for all to see. After breaking up and getting back together we decided we would get married, after all it was the right thing to do.

We started regularly attending the church I was baptized in and we were married there in 1996. Life was not easy as we were both extremely immature, in life and spiritually. Our first son came only 3 months later and he had very severe health problems.

I was going from one dead end job to another, really feeling the need to find a career. My self esteem was crushed as I got fired over and over again. I kept looking for jobs in trades I was not skilled in and I really didn't fit in with "the guys".

Life at home was became mundane. Now that we were married sex was no longer a sin and it lost it's excitement. We decided we wanted more kids and sex became a tool for procreation. Sarah was now a Mom and her priorities were in making a home and looking after a baby and not me.

The internet was this new cool thing that everybody was talking about. I knew it had a lot of good uses but I had also heard it had a lot of porn which intrigued me. I wasn't getting much at home and had never dealt with my sex addiction. It had been kept at bay by my wife who had been willing to serve my sexual needs until her desires and energy were affected by having a baby.

I got accepted into school in 1998 and also got a grant to buy my first computer. This is also around when I started viewing porn online but with dial up internet you were limited with what you could get access to. Things got much worse in 2000 when we got high speed internet...

7.5 Years (2752 days) Later

On whim I decided to check out my old blog. I honestly forgot how much I used it. Spanning four years I posted 155 times and some of those were in my darkest times.

I think I wanted to forget this blog, pretend like it didn't happen because much of it felt like I was going through the motions. I didn't get honest with myself until late 2008 so much of what I posted previous to then feels like a counterfeit me.

But really, that was life. I didn't know what it meant to live in freedom, life was just one bondage to another with spurts of freedom in between.

I had so many questions about myself and what it meant to be a man. I was very confused for a very long time. And I was trying to find God in that and me in God....but until I got honest how could I?

I rated my ability to be loved by God by how free I was from my sin, which never seemed very far.

But I was still seeking Him in the midst of it. And that makes me very proud of the old Joe.

"What does it mean to be a man?" that question haunted me for years. When my first son was born in 1997 and I HAD to be a responsible adult that question hit me like a freight train. I am so happy to say that question no longer haunts me and I don't measure my ability to be loved by God by the distance from my sin.

Hence the name change of this blog from "Healing the masculine soul" to "Jesus's Disciple". My focus was on healing my broken masculine, now it's time to concentrate on being more like Jesus. Welcome along on my new chapter in this blog.

Unqualified To Drive\Live

Were you driving today? Try and think of your drive to work or wherever you were going and ask yourself how aware were you of your driv...