By Harry Flanagan of Pure Desire Ministries
But what is grace? As a young Christian, I remember hearing the oft-quoted Joseph Henry Thayer who published a monumental lexicon in 1885. He defined the Greek word that has been translated to “grace” as “unmerited favor.” This remains a popular definition of grace. But the word truly means so much more than me and you receiving unmerited favor.
Several years into my journey of healing, I ran across Larry Crabb’s view of grace. It remains one of my favorite quotes. Crabb is a Christian counselor who has published over 40 books and also holds a PhD in Psychology. Here is the quote that rocked my world and started me down a path of embracing His grace for me.
Neither does God tinker with our old nature, the tangled system of God-doubting, self-protective, pain-denying passions within us that the Bible calls our flesh. Rather than entering the dark places of our souls with a flashlight and a scalpel, intent on repairing what’s wrong, he enters with a flashlight and a smile, eager to let us see how he feels about us even when we stand exposed in his presence. …He looks at us with eyes of delight, with eyes that see a goodness beneath the mess, with a heart that beats wildly with excitement over who we are and who we will become. And sometimes he exposes what we are convinced would make him turn away in disgust in order to amaze us with his grace.
Larry Crabb, Connecting: healing for ourselves and our relationships.
I read this over several times. It was like he was reading my mail. It exposed my fears and preoccupations; but mostly, it presented God’s love in a proactive way. He was intent on loving me. I saw God in a new light.
Brene’ Brown defines generosity as extending the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. This is a great view of God’s love for us and what His grace looks like between humans. God certainly has been generous to me in extending His grace in the midst of my brokenness.
Then, in my research, I came across Phillip Yancey’s book, What’s so amazing about Grace. Again, God took me deeper in my understanding of grace. The book was so amazing, I started taking quotes that spoke to me from the book and writing them in my journal. It was over four pages of thoughtful and awesome quotes.
Here are a couple of quotes that spoke to me:
Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition everyone has in the face of injustice, some price must be paid. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. A murderer cannot simply go free. A child abuser cannot shrug and say, “I just felt like doing it.” Anticipating these objections, Paul stressed that a price had been paid by God Himself. God gave his own son rather than give up on humanity.
I observed people who followed the rules and missed God, and people who broke the rules and missed God. What burdens me, though, is that group of people who still believe that they missed God because they broke the rules.
This was huge for me because I believed my relationship with God was based on my performance. True, He knows my struggles; but it was my belief that He didn’t want to interact with me based on my performance. I expected God wanted me to be moving toward perfection and when I failed, I thought He would reject me. Ouch. So when I read Yancey’s book and saw it was talking about my belief system—because I broke the rules—God would distance Himself from me. But this is not the God I have come to know. Instead of God distancing Himself from me when I broke the rules, it was me, in my shame, distancing myself from God!
So practically speaking, how do we experience God’s grace? Paul leads us to the answer. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 (TPT), it says:
But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.
Wow, what a verse on grace! His grace is proactive and He is telling us that in the weak and broken moments of our lives, His grace is enough for us. He literally makes us adequate where we feel inadequate. What a great God we serve! This is why the verse ends with Paul stating, he would even celebrate his weakness because God will make him sufficient.
When I was young, one of my favorite mentors said God’s love would be revealed through acceptance and forgiveness. We can’t feel loved or forgiven if we don’t feel accepted. The whole point of grace is that He accepts us where we are instead of where He wants us to be. Even when we make dumb decisions (and I have made plenty of them). His love and, therefore, His grace interacts with us through His acceptance. This is God’s cry for intimacy with us.
His acceptance paves the way for us to experience the depths of His love and the power of His forgiveness for our sin and destructive choices. His grace is enough. His acceptance of us, where we are at, is enough. He actually rejoices in giving us His power in our weakness.
So, 28 years ago, I identified myself as the classic and worst kind of hypocrite. I called myself a pastor, but used the position to fulfill my addiction. I hurt everyone who loved or trusted in me. Then on September 20, 1993, God exposed my sin. I was toast. I swam in a sea of shame and guilt. I knew I deserved all of the pain and rejection I was experiencing. I just wanted the pain to go away. I wanted God to take me home. But instead, He used the pain and the struggle as a furnace of transformation (see Daniel 3).
Now, 27 years later, I see how His grace was enough for me. He gave me more life and joy than I deserved. His grace led me to the glorious place I am today. I have friends and family who love me with my strengths and my weaknesses. I have the privilege of being the first full-time clinician at Pure Desire. I get to serve people and help them find healing! I don’t deserve this blessing.
But here is the greatest gift: He is teaching me how to be gracious. To give acceptance, love, and forgiveness. I am learning to accept people where they are, with all of their shortcomings and faults—and have the wonderful job of helping others experience His grace through me—even in my imperfections.
His grace really is amazing.
Recently my stand on different sexual issues and Biblical truths were challenged. I am taking a stand for myself and the ministry God has entrusted me with, Restored Warriors, once and for all, letting it be known where Restored Warriors and I stands on certain issues. If this challenges your conscience, your biblical beliefs, your personal moral standards, compass or boundaries, I do not apologize. On these facts Restored Warriors was built and on these facts Restored Warriors will remain. Before you attack me or Restored Warriors, attack God, it’s his word, we just stand on it and hold it to be true, lets remember, you are in a battle for recovery from sexual issues. Some things might be hard to accept, but they are there for direction and as a blueprint of our battle plan.
Daniel Glasco, Director
Among Christians, there is much confusion regarding sexual sin. The explanations below lists those “grey areas” that we hope will bring clarity to what is and is not biblically permissible.
If you are masturbating in secret or substituting it for sex with your wife, then it is a sin and goes against biblical principles because:
- You become carnally minded. Masturbation is about self-gratification—it gratifies the flesh (Romans 8:5 (NIV) and 2 Corinthians 3:1–5 (NIV)).
- It creates shame in your life, which leads to intimacy problems in your relationship with God and others.
- You become enslaved:The neurochemicals released during masturbation have the same addictive effect as drugs. Single men, who think that masturbation will help relieve their sexual desire before marriage, set themselves up for addiction that will continue in their marriage. Don’t be deceived. If God is not enough for you when you’re single, your wife will not be enough for you when you’re married.
- You fantasize; it’s almost impossible to masturbate without fantasizing, which creates strongholds in the mind.
- You violate God’s purpose for sex, which is for procreation and pleasure by putting the other person’s sexual needs and desires above your own. Masturbation eliminates both.
- You open the door to other sexual sins, such as pornography, premarital sex, adultery, and more.
Permissible within the covenant of marriage, but is considered fornication outside of marriage because it is a sexual act. Oral sex should only be with mutual consent and enjoyment— never a demand. In the Song of Solomon, God encourages married people to enjoy His gift of sex to the full. Some who have studied the Bible, such as Joseph Dillow (Solomon on Sex), think that “fruit” and “garden” references may be meant as metaphors for oral sex.
No scriptures specifically mention anal sex, but this doesn’t mean that it is not a sin. Scripture is clear that your body belongs to God and is the temple of the Holy Spirit; as an act of worship, your body is to be presented to God as holy and acceptable
1 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV): Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Romans 12:1 (NIV): Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
The act of anal sex is referred to as sodomy, which the Bible condemns as an unnatural way to have intercourse. Hence, anal sex is defiling the marriage bed. Whenever you intentionally put your body at risk for harm and disease, you are dishonoring God’s “temple.”
Here are a few health reasons explaining the harmful effects of anal sex:
- The anus is full of bacteria. Penetration can tear the tissue inside the anus, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter the bloodstream. Having vaginal sex after anal sex can also lead to vaginal, bladder, and kidney infections.
- The anus was designed to hold in feces. Because the sphincter muscle was not designed to dilate continuously like the vagina, forced dilation can lead to future incontinence, which means repetitive anal sex can lead to a weakening of the anal sphincter, making it difficult to hold your bowels.
- Studies show that the person receiving anal sex often experiences shame and embarrassment which can lead to depression.
Whether you are married or single, sexual fantasy is sin. Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 (NIV)) . When you fantasize sexually you “look” at a woman through the eye-gate of your mind and lust for her within your heart.
The Apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 (NIV)). Fantasies are what Satan often uses to highjack and defile our minds. Furthermore, sexual fantasy often leads to masturbation and opens the door to premarital sex and adultery.
PETTING (TOUCHING YOUR PARTNER’S PRIVATE PARTS)
Permitted within marriage by mutual consent, but is a sin outside of marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7:1 (KJV), Scripture says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” One of the meanings for the Greek word for “touch” means “to press against in such a way as to kindle or catch on fire.” So another way to translate this verse would be, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman so that they become sexually aroused.”
Note: Some of the above information is adapted and/or summarized from the Marriage, Sexuality and Personal Development section from Probe Ministries:probe.org
Yesterday I may have sworn that there was no way I was ever going to fall again. Things were getting better, but what happened? Now I’m sitting here, aching inside, and cursing myself. I allowed temptation to lure me into looking at something on my phone that I promised that I never would return to. I thought I was strong enough to handle it, but I couldn’t, or at least I didn’t, and now I’m miserable.
Peter had his own morning after experience. He had sworn to Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, Peter-this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “ Even if I have to die with you, I will never betray you!” (Matthew 26:33-35). Jesus had been right, as always! Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and beaten. It was more than Peter could bear; but he couldn’t walk away. So he followed. He was suspected of being a collaborator. Each time he lied to protect himself. The third time, “Peter swore, A curse on me if I’m lying-I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “ Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “And he went away, weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 74-75).
Jesus knew Peter was going to fall in advance; and his love didn’t skip a beat! God doesn’t hate us the morning after. He loves us every bit as much today as he did before we fell.
We may accept God’s forgiveness, but feel that our fall has disqualified us from serving God or aspiring to great things. We may conclude that we naught as well go back to the old lifestyle we had before we began to hope and work for something better.
The apostle Peter started out as a fisherman named Simon. That was all he was qualified for, at least before Jesus came along. “One day as Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers-Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew-throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people! And they left their nets at once and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20). For the next three years, Jesus trained him to “fish for souls,” and during that time Peter witnessed many miracles. But then he blew it! In the end he denied Jesus. He went through three days of utter hell, and then the greatest miracle of all happened. Jesus was alive again!” But Peter still thought of himself as disqualified. He started up his fishing business again. That’s where Jesus found him, back in his old life. It was on that same shore that Jesus reaffirmed his call. Again he said to Peter, “Follow me”.
We may consider ourselves disqualified after a fall, but God doesn’t. The apostle Paul said, “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29). Just because we’ve blown it doesn’t mean that we should give up and go back to our old lives. God still has a wonderful future for us. We only really fail when we refuse to get up and start again.
Jesus, the Good Samaritan will find us, beaten down and feeling broken because of our choice to give in. He will dust us off, bandage our wounds, and once again tell us to follow him.
Taken from “The Life Recovery Devotional” by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop, page 374 & 375
Written by a Restored Warriors Brother.
I was once able to ask a former MLB pitcher his secret to his success. I asked him how he was able to throw complete games and dominate. He told me that a game is made up of around 150 pitches, but each pitch is its own game. He told me he never focused on the game, but just this pitch.
In Exodus, the Bible talks about manna. Manna was a bread like substance provided to the Israelites to sustain them in the wilderness. It miraculously showed up every morning for them to eat. They were to collect as much as they needed for that day and nothing more, because if they took extra, the next morning it would be rotten. The Israelites had all they needed, just for today.
I think we must look at not only our life the same way, but our fight for purity. Now we don’t walk outside every morning to find manna on the ground, but when we do wake up, the Bible says Gods mercies are new every morning. Paul writes about the Grace of God sustaining him through his trials. We have that same grace. We all have access to that sustaining grace, just for today.
If there has been one thing that has allowed me to understand this process or this journey its that today’s grace, won’t get me a lifetime of freedom, it won’t get me a year sober, it wont get me through this week, but it will get me through just today.
We can fight the fight, if only for today. If it takes everything in your tank to get through today, use it all. For tomorrow will bring its own set of trails, and it will also have enough grace for you then. Don’t let today’s grace grow rotten and save it for tomorrow. You will never throw a no-hitter if you are worried about the 9th inning while still in the 1st. As we walk this journey and as we all desire those big milestones of 1, 2 , 5 weeks/months/years pure, clean, and sober. I pray we can step out from under that pressure and remember we have all the grace that we need, just for today.
· Exodus 16
· Lamentations 3
· 2 Corinthians 12
· Matthew 6