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Family Internet Safety

May 27, 2016
Family Internet Safety

Family Internet Safety

Family Internet Safety begins with living unselfishly. You might wonder how I put that together. Let me explain.

Several years ago, my husband and I took a trip with my oldest daughter. At the time, she was young enough that either my husband or I carried her a lot. During that journey, the weather was much cooler than I anticipated, and I didn’t pack warm outerwear. While out visiting the sites, and a lady walked up and said, “She needs to be wearing a sweater.”

I immediately rubbed my arms to generate some warmth and said, “Yes, it’s chilly today.”

But when I turned to look at the woman who spoke, she wasn’t staring at me. She had focused on my daughter who sat in my husband’s arms. How embarrassing! First, I’d made the mistake of leaving warm clothing behind. Secondly, a lady was worried about my daughter, and I assumed she was talking about me.

At that moment, I got an idea of how self-centered I was. I should have been thinking about how the cold might impact my daughter.

 

Scripture teaches us to be ‘other-centered.’ That is, God doesn’t want us to live to meet our own needs. Instead, he wants us to consider the other person, and as parents, we should be considering our children in every decision we make. I believe that’s one of the biggest benefits parents receive. If we go about our job the right way, we become more mature because our focus goes to our children. Other-centered thinking is healthy.

 Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example of unselfishness. Even though he was God, he came to lay down his life for us. The humility there still jars my thinking every time I ponder it. God chose to put aside all his prerogatives to allow himself to suffer and die. How much more should I be doing the same thing?

As parents, the internet and any device connected to the web offers our children a portal into pornography. Boys and girls can see images they are not old enough to view. Many become addicted, and that includes women. This practice is so damaging to marriages, families, and children.

Mike Genung has a ministry to families in this area, and he’s going to give us a few tips on Family Internet Safety.

Family Internet Safety

Mike Genung

You can learn about his ministry here.

Heart of the Matter, Marriage, Porn, Walking by Faith

Heart of the Matter: Vicki Tiede and the Heartbreak of Porn

June 10, 2015
Vickie Tiede

Cynthia interviews Vicki Tiede, author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography.

Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter podcast for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world. Pornography, it’s
so easy to find these days. And many men, and a few women, are actually getting very addicted. What steps can you take if your husband is one of those people?
Or what about a friend, a friend’s husband? I have invited today Vicki Tiede to share with us. Vicki has written a book called When Your Husband is Addicted to
Pornography. Welcome, Vicki!

Vicki: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Cynthia: Vicki, what is going on? Do you know what the statistics are for this?

Vicki: The numbers are staggering. The latest is that 60% of Christian homes are dealing with this issue. I’ve heard as high as 70% of
Christian men are struggling with pornography. And the crazy thing is 56% of all divorces, not just Christian divorces but all divorces, involve at least one of the partners being involved in pornography. So it is having a tremendous impact on marriages.

Cynthia: You had this experience yourself. Tell me what happened when you found out.

Vicki: It was very early in my first marriage when I discovered that my husband was struggling with pornography. I take that back. He was not struggling, he was just engaging in pornography. I actually tell women they can count themselves lucky if their husband is struggling with this because it’s an indication that the Holy Spirit’s at work. But in my case my husband was engaging in pornography, he wasn’t coming to bed at night. Many
nights I’d wake up and he would have gotten up and was on the computer in the middle of the night. Computer history was erased, and it was impacting our
relationship in huge ways.

At first I blamed myself. I thought there’s something wrong with me. I was a newlywed, he didn’t want to be intimate, and he was choosing
the computer over me. And I just felt so betrayed, and I tried to fix things myself. Fixing myself, what do I need to do. I went into counseling thinking there’s something terribly wrong with me. In the long run we persisted through this and the behavior escalated. There was never a turning from the behavior or even an acknowledgment that this was wrong or detrimental to our relationship. It escalated until he took a trip with someone else, he had a post office box and was getting correspondence with people he’d meet online. It became a dangerous situation.

In the end my pastor and my Christian counselor, in collaboration with me, we recognized that now it wasn’t just relationally, but we were going to be experiencing some physical ramifications if we didn’t end the marriage. And so that was the decision I had to make, and it was certainly the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do.

Cynthia: The interesting thing is that our society tolerates an awful lot of this, and they look at certain of these things, particularly the early stages of pornography,
as just a victimless crime. As an adult they can do what they want, right? But that doesn’t seem like what you’re saying. You’re saying that as a wife you really suffered.

Vicki: Oh, without question. You’re absolutely right. People will say oh, boys will be boys and they’re going to do this and everybody’s doing it. And certainly you can hardly watch prime time sitcoms without even seeing references to pornography. Without question there are victims of this. Women, wives, are significantly impacted beyond what their husband can even imagine.

I think for many Christian men there’s a tremendous amount of shame that they have for the behavior. They do sense and feel that conviction of the Holy Spirit, and know that it’s wrong. And where they feel shame the women turn that around and they feel rejected. So they’re dealing with that. And very often, a third of the men who are struggling with pornography, lose their jobs. So then you have financial ramifications that don’t just impact your wife or yourself, but your children as well. As soon as pornography is in the home you are subjecting your little ones to the possibility of encountering pornography, and also inheriting a lifelong struggle with this
issue.

Cynthia: Sin destroys everything it touches, and I think that’s what we have a hard time wrapping our arms around. Because sexual sins, people say well it’s no worse
than telling a lie, it’s no big deal, it is a big deal. Because the consequences are so much greater than other areas of your life. And you’re describing feeling badly about yourself, as perhaps you were not good enough, and that is so sad. Because we know from Scripture that we’re so valuable to Jesus Christ.

Vicki: Absolutely. And you know what? He chooses us and He sees us as beautiful. All of the things that we struggle with when our husband is addicted to pornography, the sense of betrayal, and we know that God will never leave us and He will never abandon us, and we feel like our husband is saying I’m not beautiful enough. I need to
be a smaller size, I need to be more available. And God doesn’t see us that way. And so it sends just a huge number of false messages to a woman.

And what’s interesting is it’s so critical that she take the time to heal herself. Because what happens is I talk to hundreds of women in this situation as a result of the book and sharing my experience, I often hear women tell me you know what? My husband did struggle with pornography, but he got help and he has an accountability group, he meets with the pastor, he has filtering software, we’re completely on the up and up now. I really know he is
porn free, and yet I still don’t want him to touch me and I don’t want to be intimate with him, and I certainly don’t want him to see me without clothes on.
I don’t trust him.

Very often it’s because all of the work has been done on his side of the relationship with this issue, but she hasn’t dealt with the damaged emotions that she’s experienced.

Cynthia: That was something else I was going to ask you, because I notice in your book you were talking about intimacy and how that’s supposed to be part of a marriage.
And yet you don’t want to do it, and then you feel guilty when you don’t because you feel like you’re causing the problem. And so you’re caught in kind of a lose-lose situation and you’re sort of stuck. And that’s a serious situation because marriage is so important to God. How did you get past that?
Because obviously you’ve done some healing.

Vicki: You know, I think I did what a lot of women do. I initially tried to fix the situation and I tried to alter circumstances. I lost weight, I did all sorts of things. But I didn’t feel better until I really understood that my healing was going to come at the foot of the cross and that I needed to know who God says
that I am and what He has to say about this situation

All of the damaged emotions that I had, I was angry, I was terribly afraid. Afraid that we would never have a time in our marriage where this wasn’t an issue. I had guilt for how I did handle the different circumstances. I didn’t do this all well. I was not very Christ-like many times. I had to deal with all of those things and deal with them at the foot of the cross, and understand what the wonderful Counselor has to say about those issues. Once I worked through that, through Scripture, I really did have
healing and I didn’t anymore carry this baggage and this need for vengeance with me.

Cynthia: I noticed at one point in the book you talked about the tendency to want to be the porn police. Can you talk about that a little?

Vicki:  Absolutely. And you know what? I’m sure you have listeners that as soon as they heard that they said yes, I know exactly what that is. Because you don’t trust, and you know that this pornography issue is always shrouded in lies. Typically there is a sense of guilt and shame on his part, and so he tries to cover it up. What
happens is once you are aware of the situation, as soon as your husband leaves the house or isn’t right there, you’re looking. You’re looking for evidence
that he is engaging in pornography. You’re checking the computer. If you’ve found things in the house, magazine or videotapes or whatever, you start digging, knowing that it’s going to be hidden.

And you’re constantly looking over his shoulder. And you know what? That’s a natural response, so I’m not here to shake my finger at anybody. But it’s not a healthy way to live for the long term. Especially if your desire and your hope is to have restoration in your relationship. But it takes time. It takes time and trust is not something that is recovered easily or quickly. It’s earned based on minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour choices that both you and your husband make.

Cynthia: Now that’s something that I think is important to really highlight, because forgiveness is one issue. Forgiveness means that I’m not going to hold that particular sin against him, I’m going to let the Lord take care of that. But trust is another one entirely because that you have to build a bridge, one brick at a time, and it takes a long time for that bridge to get finished. And that’s something if you try to trust him too quick it’s dangerous.

Vicki: It is. And you know what? I think when we get married we have these huge expectations and dreams of what our married life is going to be. We put 100% of our trust in this person, more than any human being really can handle. We’re all flawed. We all make mistakes. We all have our issues. And that will be another situation too, where we tend to think, oh my husband’s doing pornography and so we start to have black and white thinking that he’s all bad and I’m all good. And that is not the case. We have to address that issue as well.

But there’s a certain degree of trust that we have to withhold, a degree of trust that really can only be given to our heavenly Father. And then there’s this human level of trust that we hope to have in ourmarriages. They’re not the same. We can’t have that sold out 100%. We have to understand that there’s a level of trust and it is earned based on our choices.

Cynthia: Absolutely. And there are some thing that your husband cannot do. So while we want him to be THE knight in shining armor, we have to be careful that the only one that is completely the knight in shining armor is Jesus Christ. Because He can do it. I love your tone in this book, because you’re continually saying I’m sitting across from you and I want to just hold your hand right now because I don’t want you to do this and I want you to do this instead. Can you tell some of those thing that you encourage women to do?

Vicki: I think it’s important for women to know that they’re not alone. When this is happening in your life you feel incredibly alone. There’s a growing sense of safety for men to talk about this issue, especially in the church, and I’m excited about that. That is great news, something to be celebrated. But very often the church doesn’t know what to do with the wife. What do we do, and are they even aware of the fact that she’s been damaged by this?

And so the reasons why I talk about, and as a result women feel very isolated, very alone, if their husband hasn’t talked to anyone about the struggle, they especially feel like they have to protect his reputation so that he doesn’t lose his job or whatever. So as a result a woman feels very alone. So I want women to know that they are not alone. That there are support opportunities, that they need to find someone who is a godly, trustworthy, Christian woman who they can share their struggle with so that they have someone who will walk beside them. Ideally it’s going to be someone who has been in their shoes, who has experienced this. Because no one really understands unless you’ve been there.

I think that’s one of the most important things I want women to know. That this isn’t their dirty little secret that has to be kept. This isn’t something you want to broadcast to the world, nor is it something you should keep completely to yourself and just get over it.

And the other thing that I really want women to understand is this is not her fault. That in the end we’re all responsible for ourselves and how we walk in obedience to God’s word, or don’t. And she can’t control her husband’s choices, but she can control her own. I’m not talking about just how she responds to her husband, but also how she chooses to find healing. Even if it’s in the midst of an ongoing struggle that she can still have a whole heart. She can still find a joy and strength in the Lord, despite the fact that her husband’s currently making bad choices. That’s a beautiful thing. But for a woman to understand that this is nothing about her.

And you know what? Perhaps things have changed. Maybe you don’t have the same body you had when you got married because you’ve now had X number of children, and bodies change and you’re getting older, and a variety of things can contribute to that. But that does not give license for a husband to go look at pornography. If nothing else that’s a badge of honor that you wear because of this gift that you’ve given him in children. It should draw you closer and not further apart.

I talk mostly about that physical piece there because so often that’s what women think. If I looked like the women on the screen he wouldn’t be going there. We can’t compete with digitally-enhanced women.

Cynthia: Can you just give a second here. For women like me, I don’t have a husband involved in that. But I would like to be able to love
someone who has been there. What kind of things could I do?

Vicki: You know what? Listen. Listen. And I think especially if you’ve not walked in your friend’s shoes, to not feel like you need to have the answers. Because I think it’s so true. I don’t know what it’s like to be a widow. I have friends who are widows and I would never think that I could tell them how they should be feeling or respond, because I’m not a widow. I think it’s hard to know exactly what it’s like to have cancer unless you’ve had cancer. All these different things

I think it’s important for you to just be there for your friend, and listen. Encourage her with Scripture. Point her toward resources or toward support groups where there is a group of women. When I’m speaking I’ll have my book at the book table and no one will come up to the table. And I know it’s because they’re avoiding the book. The book. It’s a brown paper bag book. No one wants to go up because it’s admitting that my husband has an issue. And yet once I make the announcement that all of you know somebody who is dealing with this, whether you can name them or not, you all know people who have this happening in their life. So you buy the book for your friend, for your neighbor, for your sister, for whomever. And once that happens people start buying the book like crazy, because in fact we do all know somebody. And to
assume that we don’t is really wrong.

Even I, after writing the book and talking to hundreds of women, I’ll sit in a group of women who are perhaps, like for example I homeschool so I can sit in a small group of homeschool moms and I’ll think surely nobody in this room. Surely this is the room that breaks that percentage and is wrong. And then in a short amount of time God will reveal to me, these women talking to me or some other way, that in fact several of them are walking this path.

There are a lot of pastor’s wives who are struggling with this issue, because this is a huge problem for pastors in our country. You know somebody. So be a friend, listen, point them toward resources, don’t judge. And as often well-intended friends and family members who are telling women well maybe if you did lose a little weight, or maybe if you were intimate more often. You know what? That’s almost making her a victim again. Those are things not to say to your friend.

Cynthia: But I believe that you are starting an online support group, is that correct?

Vicki: I am. I’m going to be doing this for small groups, eight to ten women that we will actually meet weekly for six weeks. We’ll work our way through the book and study together, study God’s Word, what is He saying about this, and support each other for six weeks at a time. And women can get information about that on my website, which is www.vickitiede.com If a group is full then we’ll start up another group, or there will be another one that will follow subsequently. But it will be a little video online group so we’ll see each other and meet weekly. But it’s private, because it’s not you going to a group of women who know you in your church, and I think that makes it a safe thing for a lot of women.

Cynthia: Vicki, I am so thankful that you shared your pain and were willing to reach out to other people.

Vicki: I wish I could say it’s my pleasure, but I will tell you that God does use broken experiences in our lives to expand our capacity for Him. I’m so thankful to be able to walk alongside sisters who are walking this path as well.

Cynthia: Thank you for doing that. I’m just really thrilled that you’re sharing your heart. I know it hurt, but you’re using that for God’s glory, and I just want to just really thank you and thank you for your time, and we’ll send people to you.

Vicki: Thank you so much. It was a blessing to be here.

Abortion, Bible, Church, Commitment to Christ, Communication, Emotions, Family, Fellowship with believers, Finding Meaning, Forgiveness, Freedom, Guilt, Heart of the Matter, Hope, Love, Marriage, Parenting, Porn, Romance, Sex, Surrender to Christ, Walking by Faith

True Freedom

May 22, 2015

We all want true freedom, but what is it? Francis Schaeffer used to ask, “When is a fish really free?” Garry Ingraham of Love and Truth Network shares how he found freedom and offers hope for others. Click here to learn more about his ministry.

 

CS: What is freedom, and why does it matter? Stay tuned.

This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter Radio, for women seeking the elegance of God’s wisdom. Scripture has a lot to say about freedom. Isaiah 61 says that Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. John 8:32 says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. That is a powerful statement. Galatians 5:1 says it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. And then 1 Peter says we are to live as people who are free.

And I think in all of us, as Americans, we have that desire for freedom, and yet what is freedom? I love what Francis Schaeffer used to say, when is a fish really free? That is a very good question, because you know the fish is not free when he is flopping around on the sand. Because he can’t breathe. He’s going to be free when he’s doing what he was designed to do.

Today I have Gary Ingram with me, and he is a former homosexual who is part of Restored Hope Network and of Love And Truth Network, and they are just about to have a conference for those people who would like to leave the lifestyle. He is reaching out to homosexuals who want to be free.

I want to welcome you, Gary.

GI: Thank you very much, Cynthia. Great to be here.

CS: Tell me just a little bit about your story, Gary.

GI: Sure. My story really is that I grew up in going to church, in a Christian home, the youngest of five, one sister and three older brothers. My story is similar to many many many stories that I’ve heard. There’s common themes in my story to a lot of the stories that I’ve heard. And then there are times that people have stories that are quite different. It’s never a cookie cutter situation, but for many of us there are common themes.

In my case there was a real lack of my dad initiating a relationship with me and bonding with me. I was very different from his other three sons. And so I wound up spending more time with my mom and my sister. The other three older boys, the next one in line would be five years older than me, and so they’re kind of hanging out with their friends and they don’t want their little brother tagging around with them.

In school, similar experiences. I was small and very shy, so easily picked on, beaten up often, and not good at sports so chosen last for the team, offered by the team at the end to the other team, that kind of thing. There was just a real sense that I grew up day after day, layer upon layer, that somehow I didn’t fit in the world of boys or men.

And that message really sank in. The only other place to go to have any kind of connection or relationship is with women. So I really soaked and marinated in everything that had to do with the women around me.

CS: Tell me a little bit about what the gay lifestyle is like.

GI: My original desire was to find a man. After I gave myself over to it, I really battled it for many years inwardly because I didn’t have anyone to go to to talk with about it. I tried to talk to a couple of pastors, my pastor and then other pastors, who didn’t have a clue of what to do and were very uncomfortable, one in particular, with even talking about it. It set in shame even deeper, drove me deeper into isolation.

When I finally, a number of years later, just embraced it and gave myself over to it, rejecting the church, hating God because I knew what his word said and I’d prayed and prayed and prayed for him to help me and take this away. And from my perspective at the time, I just felt like God didn’t give a rip about me. He cared about what I was doing and hated what I was doing, in my mind, but didn’t care about me and wasn’t helping me. So I just abandoned God and the church.

But I still had a desire to be with one person, one guy. But that usually, it’s very rare that that does not get turned on its head and you get dumped and then you start to learn to dump others. Before long, you wind up having a sexual connection relationship with huge numbers of men.

That’s the typical situation. I even bar-tended at a gay bar. I got so into the life that’s where I found myself. I certainly have seen the inside picture of that. I do think that there are men and women who are apart from Christ and are gay identified, and they settle down with someone and I think that there can be a loving relationship between them for whatever period of time, whether it’s a year or two or longer, maybe many years. Oftentimes for men, there’s an open relationship where they’re involved sexually with other people.

But I certainly think that there are those relationships where there is a lot expressed and there’s sort of a feel of a family dynamic. But for the most part, my experience with it and so many people that I’ve talked to, there’s so much depression associated with it, there is so much dissatisfaction surrounding really living outside of God’s design for us as male and female and what does it mean to bear his image as a man, what does it mean to bear his image as a woman. I think those are really critical questions that aren’t being asked often enough.

CS: So you are indicating, from what you say, that while there are exceptions, there are a lot of people in the lifestyle that are not truly happy. What are the consequences of that?

GI: Well, again, I think that part of where all the sexual promiscuity comes from is this unrealistic expectation that my same gender is in some way going to be able to meet my needs. They’re going to be able to fulfill me in a certain way. And we make an idol out of that other person, and we really bow down and worship and demand them to meet internal needs and longings that ultimately only God can meet. And in many ways that he meant the other, the other opposite sex, to meet in us.

In meeting those needs, from the opposite sex, for me it called me into a greater sense of masculinity. And that’s really what we were created for, is to mature and to grow up in our masculinity and our femininity.

But no. My experience is there’s a lot of dissatisfaction, a lot of loneliness, a lot of depression, within the gay lifestyle.

CS: And therefore that leads to suicide and alcoholism and that sort of thing, correct?

GI: Yes. I certainly believe that, and I’ve dealt with a great deal of depression. And from my vantage point, and what I realized, is it wasn’t societal pressures, it wasn’t pressures from the church or from Scripture or the Bible that was causing it. It’s that I was living contrary to God’s design for me. I was living in rebellion toward him, and living in sin. Really, that’s what it is. There are other contributors to it, but living in a way that’s contrary to God’s created order for us does produce real dissatisfaction and can lead to things like depression, and ultimately suicidal ideation and that sort of thing too.

CS: The things that I have read indicate that even countries that accept homosexuals and allow them freedom, there still is a very high suicide rate.

GI: Absolutely, yes. There is such a longing—and this is where the church oftentimes misses it—there’s such brokenness and such wounding that men and women are experiencing. We’re trying to satisfy our needs, we’re operating on all that we know, many of us, and we’re trying to get those needs met. But we’re getting legitimate needs that God gave us, and we’re meeting them in illegitimate ways and not realizing it, not knowing that there’s an alternative.

And the church could be so powerful in its redemptive message. I think more are becoming that way, but it could be so powerful in its redemptive message if it really, rather than simply saying stop this or this behavior is sin and then just putting a period there and not doing much else, really as a church what are we inviting people into?

And this is true for heterosexual sexual addiction. Our ministry is more about the broader sexual brokenness within our churches. The 50-70% of guys that are looking at pornography on a regular basis, for example, or the increasing number of women. Really, it goes back to issues of, again, what does it mean to be a man made in God’s image.

It’s not just that I have an opposite sex attraction. It’s that I honor women, and I honor my brothers, and I learn what it means to grow up and to become one that offers safety and protection and really releasing others to become all that God created them to be. And we’re missing that, largely, through the heterosexual community in our churches too.

CS: Yeah. And I think the impression that we’re getting from the media is that you get your needs met through another person, in some fashion, and that’s not right for anybody.

GI: That’s so true. So many marriages, even Christian couples, go into marriage expecting that the other person, I want to be completed. And certainly there’s a component of that. But when that is the most important thing, the I really want to be completed with someone, I want to have a companion, rather than I have this overflow, I’ve become a good gift through the power of God and through working out some of my own brokenness and things, I become a good gift and I want to overflow and pour into somebody else, that really is more of God’s call on us as husbands and wives toward one another.

Usually we’re just seeking to get our needs met, largely. And that sets up for entering into this idolatrous relationship and, as you said, sort of the Hollywood perspective of romantic love. And when that’s gone then what do we have to fall back on? So we get divorced and we move on to the next person.

So really, where we’re at as a society with all the LGBT issues, that really has to be traced back many generations to where we did not really honor the image of God in male and female, and in the context of marriage between husbands and wives, even. It really began to disintegrate back there with divorce and all of that within the church.

CS: I’ve heard some actually say that they think it started with birth control, when sex became a recreational activity that had nothing to do with marriage. Because that separation too, I think, did some damage.

GI: You know, Cynthia, I totally agree with that. And I have some dear dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are within the Catholic church and they certainly have, I think, a much more accurate perspective on what you just said. That that has caused profound damage in our lives.

The option that we have of still having sex and it being recreational and preventing birth from happening as a result of that, yeah. It was part of the original demise that we’re seeing ourselves in now.

CS: Because now we’re expecting to be able to have sex and not have children so that abortion comes through that. It just keeps expanding. We want this right, when it wasn’t really a right to start with.

GI: Yes. If you trace it back to the beginning, I think that’s what happened is from the very beginning of the foundation of the earth, is that when God put his image in us as male and female, there’s a way that he lived himself out differently in you as a woman than me as a man. And it’s not about roles or being left out of any of that total equality, but there’s a way that he reflects himself differently in us. And we as a society, that’s been under attack from the very beginning.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s about homosexuality, about transgenderism, about all of these various gender forms that are taking place out there. I think those things, what we’re facing and what we’re going to be facing going forward, isn’t just homosexuality and transgenderism, it’s going to be the complete unraveling of gender. And if God’s image is in us as male and female then that is going to only further shroud and veil the image of God on the earth.

CS: Yeah. And if you don’t understand how he made us male and female then you don’t even know where to start.

GI: Exactly.

CS: They threw out the pattern and said anything goes. Well, it doesn’t work because there is a design.

GI: Exactly.

CS: So where can the church step in here? Because obviously the society’s not going to straighten it out. At this point they’re saying truth is inside of you. That verse that I read was indicating there is an objective truth outside of us, that when you violate it you’re injured.

GI: Yes. Well, I really feel like the church, and the nature of Love And Truth Network, our ministry, is to come alongside of Christian leaders and help equip them to create both safe and transformational environments for the majority of us that are dealing with sexual and relational brokenness within the church. That may be someone who’s addicted to pornography or whatever else, but it also include the person who was abused, either physically, sexually, routinely, when they were growing up and it’s never been resolved. They’ve just “moved on” with life, and yet all of their reactions toward others, the way they live their life, is really lived in this handicap. Their reactions, the way that they perceive life, themselves, God, and others, is really through this lens of brokenness that has never been healed.

My experience with the church, and I’ve lived all over the country and gone to many different churches, I pastored my pastoral team for 12 years as well, up until about two years ago, is that the church is not addressing those issues in a way that really brings freedom and release to men and women in the church.

So I think we have to start there. It’s easy to look at gay marriage and say oh, it’s going to have major societal impact, or to say it’s not going to have any impact whatsoever, which is inaccurate too, but really we have to, as men and women in the church, allow and invite God into that place of wounded and brokenness, get the equipping we need as Christian leaders, and allow God to really shape the environment of our churches and our Christian organizations in such a way that people are getting transformed.

I have friends at Bible colleges that are getting prepared for ministry and they are in a full blown pornography addiction. And they don’t want to be there, but they keep thinking when I get married, afterward it’s going to get better. It doesn’t. It gets worse. And ministry doesn’t help that. The church has to start getting really real about its own deep areas of brokenness. And out of that realness and out of that healing, we can begin to really extend open hands to those that are outside of the church and invite them into this journey with us.

It’s not just you that are broken. We are broken, but we’re moving toward Christ. Come and join us in that process.

CS: Right. And freedom and healing, there’s beauty there. And you’re not bound anymore.

GI: Yes. Exactly.

One of the things I always try to be clear about, and my wife also comes out of…we have a couple of boys, five and three years old, but we’re always clear that we still experience some level of same sex attraction. I’ve known a couple people in my entire life, in talking to hundreds of people that dealt with homosexuality, I know a couple of people they had really an instantaneous deliverance. That is not the story for most of us.

But freedom isn’t the absence of attraction. It’s the ability to choose what we know God is leading us into, and what we desire in agreement with him above our inclinations and attractions and fleshly cravings or whatever. And in that process, it’s become less of an issue for us. But we still experience some of those things and we don’t want anyone to think coming to Christ and turning to him out of homosexuality, poof, now you become a heterosexual and have all of those desires. That’s not usually the way it happens, but it’s a journey that is beautiful, as you just said.

It’s hard, but it is so worth the journey.

CS: Right. If you talk about an animal, like a cat, they have to scratch, they have to meow. They don’t have any choice. But I see in Scripture that calling for us to take those urges and submit them to God so that he is going to be the way in which we express all those things we can’t express, but in the right format and at the right time and in the right way.

GI: Absolutely. And again, sex is a beautiful thing that God created and he designed, and it’s a powerful thing. The reality that it can create life, the reality that it is one of the most powerful opportunities, one of the most powerful things that God has given us the ability to live into, is it any wonder that if it’s misused it can be so damaging as well?

We’re experiencing a lot of the damage. But in God’s way and God’s design, it is a beautiful thing that also reveals his image on the earth.

CS: And the interesting thing about the sexual problems is that a lot of times you’ll have somebody in the church who grew up in it or they understand it, but it’s the desire for sensuality that will pull them away. And they’ll start well, you know, I’m not as sure about Christianity as I used to be, and they’re starting to move away. Not because they don’t know the apologetics or that kind of thing. A lot of the time it is because they are drawn away by some sexual addiction or attraction or, as you’re describing, it could be pornography. But they move away because of their passions.

GI: Yeah. And I think that what you’re describing, what tends to happen in that situation, is we become self-defeat and what was once clear becomes fuzzy. That can be a reaction.

Another thing can be like my response was as a teenager and in my young adulthood, was to actually hate God and to feel like he had abandoned me, and the church has no answers. But the truth is, God lives himself out through his people, and he means for the church to be a place that does have answers and a place that not only has answers for our mind and our intellect to understand, but also it’s a family for us.

Psalm 68 talks about the idea that God takes the lonely and puts them in families. His heart is for people to be in relationship, deep, strong relationship. And I think that the church in general, we really miss the breadth and the depth of what God has for us as a family within his body and how we can really soothe and meet the needs that have become sexualized in a lot of people because they didn’t know where to go with these hungers necessarily. They know it’s wrong, but they don’t know where to go.

But the church can be such a salve and such a balm, as God intends, for those deeper relational and legitimate needs to be met in the right way.

CS: Yeah. And there’s a rub there. Because if somebody comes in to your congregation and starts to talk about his urges going the wrong direction, we’re all immediately afraid. I don’t know what to do, I know what Scripture says, but I don’t know how to move them away from that.

So what kind of things should we putting in place so that we can minister to these people?

GI: Well, that’s a great point. And I think that’s where Christian leaders really need to become more educated. They’ve gone through seminary, most of them, and most within seminary haven’t had a single class on human sexuality. They haven’t had a single class on what are some of the most defining issues of our day. They don’t know what to do with that.

Christian leaders really do need to, we believe, and again that’s why we’re doing the ministry we’re doing, really need to sit down with some people that can help them walk through how do we navigate these issues, how do we help train the people in our church so that rather than feeling uncomfortable—there’s a level of feeling uncomfortable that’s understandable—but rather than feeling paralyzed, like I just don’t know what to do with this person, there’s a way in which the community comes around and loves that person towards freedom. Loves them toward Christ.

When I got involved in the last church that I actually worked at for 12 years, I came there from Chicago to upstate New York because I kept hearing about this church that was dealing with people that most churches I knew of wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot-pole. I got there, I got into counseling right away, I got into a small group right away, and eventually got into a men’s group. Which is, frankly, the last place I wanted to be with a men’s group and a bunch of Christian guys.

But I knew that the Lord was poking at me to do that, I knew that it was a healthy thing. But God used the men, even though they didn’t know exactly what to do, those men loved me. And they knew that they were broken men also. They didn’t deal with same-sex attraction most of them, but they knew their own propensity.

And for the first time in my whole life, I felt like there was a community of men. Not just a couple of guys, and God gave me those, but a community of men where I was in my 30’s for the first time being drawn into, you’re wanted. In your brokenness, you’re wanted in our community of men.

God used them to re-father me and to really call out the essence of the masculinity that was always in me but was just latent and dormant that I had rejected.

It isn’t’ that people have to have tons of schooling or any of that. I think when a community will come around really broken people and just love them toward Christ, help them walk with them, and abide with them in some of their brokenness and help them move forward, that’s a beautiful thing.

That’s different than someone who comes in and says look, I have an agenda, I want you guys to perform gay marriage, that’s a whole other thing. The church has to be aware of that and be clear about those things. They’re not going to put you in leadership, or whatever, but we want you to be part of our community. And by being in this community in a healthy environment, we believe that God is going to touch your life.

CS: You’ve got sort of a dichotomy here, because it sounds like when you went to that church you were wanting out. So what do you do with someone who might come through who says I’m in it, I love it, I want to be left alone. Because that’s a little different situation.

GI: That’s an entirely different situation. I think the church, in that case, for me, I would love for a church to be able to say welcome. Be amongst us, we’re glad that you’re here and we’re going to be praying for you. This is where we are as a church and we love you and we care about you and we’d love for you to be a part of taking in the Sunday services, maybe getting into a small group. We actually believe that God is clear in his word on same-sex attraction, but you know what? We’re broken people too and we’re on this journey. God has brought a lot of healing into our lives and we believe he wants to use us, our community, to help move you forward too. Moving forward in Christ is that we understand who we are as male and female and what he created us for in that arena.

What that means is that that person may not stay around. Or, there will be something about the way that they’re loved, like we disagree and we think that these are the things that God has made very clear, but you are welcome. We don’t want you to leave, we want you to be a part of us. They may stay because they recognize, even though they don’t like what they’re hearing, that there’s truth in it, that they’re experiencing love.

CS: Yeah.

GI: And more often than not, people have experienced truth without much love.

CS: The fear would be in the church that you’re going to bring someone in and make it grow and have people just start to say well, they’re a homosexual and they’re okay. But that’s not what you want to communicate to them. You want to communicate you’ve got to change and we’d like to help you do that.

GI: Yes.

CS: And so there needs to be some tension there for the individual. We care, but this has got to change.

GI: Yeah. I think it’s a travesty. I’m so thankful that when I was really wrestling with these issues and I’m trying to get my parents to accept me and my boyfriend and trying to see if there’s any way that I could marry this idea of being gay and Christian, and wanting those things, I’m so thankful that I was not in a church… well, I was in a church that didn’t know what to do and they didn’t do a very good job. But, I wasn’t in a church at the time that was affirming same-sex attraction or affirming homosexuality.

It’s a travesty to me. My life would have just gone downhill from there if I’d embraced homosexuality and the church had affirmed that. And unfortunately, whole denominations, of course, across the country, are caving under the weight of what’s politically correct and all of that.

No. We really need to stand for what is truth. Because it is not best for individuals to just cave and give in and tell them whatever it is they want to hear that’s contrary to Scripture. So we need to really walk in that balance of love and truth.

CS: There’s another issue that I’m noticing with young people, especially those kids maybe 12-13, as they’re moving into adolescence. Large numbers of those in middle schools here in Georgia are saying I am gay, 60-70%. What do you see as causing that?

GI: Well, it’s not at all unusual for children, boys and girls, to go through a period in their developmental years, about those ages you’re mentioning and even earlier, where a sense of identity in terms of gender isn’t as clear to them. It’s something that they are discovering. And I think in healthy enough homes and healthy enough environments, the discovery process happens very naturally and there’s not even necessarily an awareness that they’re going through the discovery process. It’s just something that’s happening.

In those times, though, studies have been shown that kids can even be a little bit questioning. It’s normal at that age to have some sense of not being really solidified in their attractions. The attraction that I have for this other boy, what does that mean? Is it a sexual attraction or is it just an aberration?

As they’re sorting those things out, there’s one study that I read about that indicated that there was a large percentage that would have that question if they were asked on a survey about it, hadn’t mentally formed for them yet, but then when they hit 17, 18, 19-years-old, that percentage dropped to almost nothing on those that are wondering about same-sex attraction or are they attracted to the same sex. The vast majority are clearly opposite-sex attracted.

So my point of that is it’s not unusual for kids to experience some levels of uncertainty for a period of time about that as they’re maturing and growing and developing. And so with society, though, if we hear that in school, or we’re hearing that in any sort of a public arena, we’re immediately grabbing that kid and stamping them with a label of gay.

They don’t even have to process the opportunity or process things at all. They’re just immediately put in this. They’re labeled. And I think that’s a huge travesty and will bring about a lot more disintegration of our understanding of gender and male and female and opposite-sex attractions.

CS: So what can the individual do? Is there a way for people to get involved with Restored Hope Network and with your network, which is Love And Truth Network?

GI: Yes. Restores Hope Network is really a large national umbrella ministry that has a number of member ministries and is growing, of churches and counselors, as well as member ministries. Individuals can contact RestoredHopeNetwork.org.

Restored Hope Network is doing a national conference in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area at the end of next month, June 26th and 27th. It’s all day Friday, all day Saturday. We have phenomenal speakers lined up for this, and I think 23 or 24 workshops as well, lined up for this, in four different workshop segments. So people will have a chance, four different opportunities, to take the workshops they want, and also experience the general sessions, the ministry time.

It’s a great place for individuals to come to, but it’s also a phenomenal place for Christian leaders to come to, pastors, counselors, parents of somebody who’s gay-identified, or friends or family. Really anyone listening to you, if they’re asking huh, I wonder if that’s for me, my response is oh my goodness yes it is.

Because this issue is not going away. Whether it’s in our workplace or in our families, in our churches, we are going to be confronted with this issue. And if we’re not equipped, we’re going to handle it the wrong way. We’re not going to be Jesus to the woman at the well. We’re going to be something else that’s not redemptive or that’s affirming something that’s actually damaging for the individual.

So individuals can contact Restored Hope Network, and if they have a member ministry in their area, can refer them. That’s a great thing to do.

Our ministry, Love And Truth Network, is mostly focused on equipping leaders. So pastors or counselors, or lay leaders or whatever, that have a desire to get more equipped, they can contact us at www.loveandtruthnetwork.com and find out more about our ministry that way.

We do some individual work, but mostly it’s with Christian leaders trying to equip them to do individual work and create safe communities that are transformational.

CS: Gary, I want to thank you. I just love your ministry, because you’re offering hope and you’re offering freedom.

GI: Thank you so much, Cynthia. It was wonderful talking to you. Thank you for your interest as well.

CS: Blessings to you.

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