When a Woman Struggles with “A man’s problem”

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On Sunday as part of our You & Me series, I talked about porn and sexual addiction and how it breaks intimacy in our relationships and ultimately harms us. Following the sermon, Katie and I did a live Q&A, which you can watch here as part of the sermon.

I love the willingness of our church to ask hard questions and I love that we get to be a part of helping people find freedom from sin.

One of the questions that came in asked: What if you’re a woman struggling with a sex addiction?…all the support seems to be for men struggling with sex addiction – who helps you if every time you hear about men’s struggles w/ sex you know you have the same problem? It’s incredibly isolating to be a woman struggling with “a man’s problem.”

While we responded to that question in the Q&A, I asked one of our leaders, Ciara Hull, if she could speak to that struggle from her story and she has graciously said yes. Below is her answer and story, which I hope, if you are a woman struggling with this, you will find this as a first step towards freedom.

When I heard these words from a live Q & A in Sunday’s sermon at our church, they echoed in my heart. I heard the plea, the pain, the shame, the desire for freedom behind those words. I don’t know this woman, but I share her secret. My earliest memory is of finding my dad’s Playboy magazine. That day changed the course of my life, it started a 22 year addiction to porn. It opened the door for early abuse, for wrong ideas about sex, intimacy and general confusion about how to relate to others. Sex became something that was a secret obsession. No one knew. But then it wasn’t enough and I had to push the boundaries. The term the industry uses is “experimenting”. Our culture calls it curiosity and encourages us to “explore”. But what happens when that’s not enough? How far do you go? How do you stop? Who do you go to for help? What are other people going to think? Ok, really what are other women going to think?

This shouldn’t be a problem for a woman. After all we are the ones being used as objects in porn. You begin to wonder does anyone else have this problem? Do they feel this embarrassed? Can I ever find freedom? These are all the questions I could feel unspoken in this one woman’s question. These are the fears that haunted me everyday.

But I’m here to say there is freedom! There is healing. There is change. There is redemption. Galatians 5:1 says “For freedom Christ has set you free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

I remember the day those words struck a chord in my heart. The day God got a hold of me. We are set free in order to have freedom! Seems like a no-brainer, but if you are a slave do you know what freedom feels like? Having a sex addiction is slavery. You are bound to your next fix and the high is always short lived. So how does freedom come? How do you go on to have a healthy sex life with your spouse?

Here are some of the things that have helped on my journey to freedom:

  1. Recognize the truth that Christ paid the price to free you. Develop this relationship with Him. Dive into His Word daily to see what He says about Himself, about you and about living free.

  2. Know you aren’t alone. There is an increase in women acknowledging they are addicted and are seeking professional help. It isn’t just a man’s problem anymore. You may feel you are the only woman on the planet that is like this, but you aren’t.

  3. Identify when the most likely times are for your addiction to happen. When you are bored? Stressed? Suppose to be studying? What is your pattern? Once I figured out mine I could create systems to change the pattern. For example I could study at Starbucks instead of my living room.

  4. Reach out to a trusted female mentor. If she hasn’t had the same struggle she may know someone who has that she can connect you with. At the very least she is probably willing to help with accountability. This could be a leader in your church, it could be a professional counselor, it could even be an addiction group.

  5. Figure out your triggers and work to avoid them. For me this means there are a lot of movies I don’t choose to watch anymore. There are high filters set on our home firewall to not allow access to certain sites on the internet. There are also clothing magazines I had to call and request them to stop sending me – if they still come in junk mail I put them in the recycle bin before I go back inside. Just like a man I had to train my eyes for purity.

  6. If you are married, you need to share it with your spouse. In order to work towards unity this is not a burden you can carry on your own, you can navigate it together. If you are single, you should prepare one day to share with a potential finance what your struggles have been and how it may affect your intimacy.

  7. Pray constantly. Just like any other addict I have to choose to fight everyday. I’m constantly talking to God to help me not recall a certain memory and to help me find healing.

My hope is that the one woman from Sunday reads this and is encouraged to fight. Please know I’m praying for you.

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You & Me: Questions on Love, Dating & Marriage

On Sunday after the sermon (you can see the other questions and sermon here), Katie and I answered questions that were texted in from our church. We had so many and ran out of time, so we answered some more during the week.

You & Me wk3 Q&A Follow Up from Tucson Revolution on Vimeo.

Questions we answered in the video:

  1. Is there truth to the teaching that a wife should not turn down her husband’s advances?
  2. How does a couple communicate a mutual need for sexual preparation?
  3. What resources are available to protect my family on the internet?
  4. Although love is a choice, how do you continually choose to love after your spouse hurts you or insults you?
  5. How do you remain closeness or oneness when one spouse can only see their way or their wants?
  6. How do you deal with unruly in-laws when they treat their son or daughter well, but ignore their spouse or that they are married?
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Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game

Mark Miller’s new book Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game is easily the best book to read if you are a pastor that is facing a growth plateau, can’t break through the next growth barrier or find yourself breaking through say, 500 people but always drop back down.

I read this book and so many things about my leadership and the church I lead became so obvious to me I was annoyed I didn’t see it.

For instance, it helped me see that as Revolution is on its way to becoming a church of 500, I and our team act like and lead like we are still a church of 200.

Many churches do this without knowing it and the reason as Miller points out is, the game has changed.

I love the picture of this book. Chess and checkers use the same board, but have different pieces and different rules. The game board flips but no one seems to notice.

Here’s how Miller describes it:

Most small businesses can be successful with a checkers mindset. That’s actually the game you play when an organization is in start-up mode. The leader does virtually everything in the beginning. That’s checkers. Then, if you grow, you begin to add staff. Many leaders see these additional people as interchangeable pieces, nothing more than hired hands, no need for specialists. Each piece is capable of the same limited moves. That’s checkers. In the beginning the game is simple. That’s checkers. You react, you make decisions, the pace is frenetic—you’re playing checkers. And, it works … for a while. “You can win in business by playing checkers until someone sneaks in one night after you’ve closed for the day and flips the board. The game changes, and you don’t even know it.

So how do you know if the game has switched? Here are a few:

  1. You always find yourself responding to something. Your leadership and job become reactive instead of proactive.
  2. You don’t feel like you have time to do your job.
  3. Here’s another question to help reveal which game you’re playing: Have you asked your employees to think deeply about the business? Have you asked them to prevent problems and solve the ones that do surface?
  4. If you, and the others on your leadership team, probably like coming to the rescue. You think that is your job. You like checkers. The pace and the excitement can be exhilarating. Your employees are following your lead. They are playing checkers because you are.
  5. Problems that reoccur; problems that should have been anticipated and avoided, problems that catch us totally by surprise and we should have seen coming, and problems that are created by lack of focus or a failure to execute.

This is a book that every time we get close to a growth barrier, I am returning too. Get it today.

Some Killer Kindle Deals for Pastors

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Here are some great books on sale for pastors and leaders today on kindle:

Advice to an Engaged Couple

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Here is some sage advice to an engaged (and married) couple from Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage:

You see, in the midst of the power of premarital romance, it is very hard to get yourself to want to take a hard and honest look at reality, that is, those things that every couple will face someday, somehow, someway. You are scared that under the heat of the light of truth, your affection may evaporate. You fear that something is going to mess up the delight of what you are experiencing at the moment. What you are experiencing is one of the most powerful things a human being can experience. Love is compelling. It is motivating. It is intoxicating. It can command your mind and control your emotions. You sit with the one you love, considering your marriage to come, and you want what you are now feeling and experiencing to last forever. And you’re not about to do anything that will mess it up.

Here’s how it tends to work: you’re in love and convinced that the love you are now feeling will get you through anything you might face. You simply don’t want to dig up potential difficulty. You don’t want to consider what could be. You don’t want to let the future get in the way of what you are experiencing in the moment. Your attention span is short. You are in love, and you like it, and you are not about to let anything get in the way. You look at one another with glazed eyes, and you are sure that the powerful love you are feeling will get you through anything. You don’t feel that you have much to fear. You are sure that few people have felt the love that you feel for one another. You know that other couples have problems, but you are convinced you are not like them. You are sure they must not have felt what you are feeling. You are in love, and you are sure that everything will work out right. You are simply not interested in being realistic.

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It Doesn’t Matter What People Think of You

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In his book The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the Ride, Darren Hardy says

Someone explained “getting a grip” to me another way, calling it the 18-40-65 rule.

When we’re eighteen, we worry endlessly about what people think of us. Does he or she think I’m cute? Do they like me? Is so-and-so made at me? Am I being gossiped about? Then by age forty, we stop worrying about gossip and opinion. We finally stop caring what people think about us.

But it isn’t until age sixty-five that we realize the truth: All this time, nobody has really been thinking about us at all. 

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Leadership is Playing Well with Others

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Often, I’ll talk with younger leaders who want to be further along in their career than they are. They want to be leading a church, on the front lines of making decisions, but they aren’t.

I’ll hear from older leaders who wish they had more influence, that people would listen to their ideas.

Recently, I was talking with someone who told me, “It’s frustrating that my talents are being wasted. Why doesn’t anyone let me do what I know I can do?”

What would you say? Have you ever felt this way?

Now to be clear and fair, sometimes churches and companies fail to see talent. The people in leadership are so concerned about keeping their post that they don’t let anyone rise up and have a shot. They keep new ideas at bay so as to not look bad themselves. This does happen and it breaks my heart when it does.

When I was this leader, feeling overlooked, not appreciated. When I would look at the lead pastor that I worked for and thought, “I could do his job. Why don’t they listen to my ideas? When am I going to get my shot?”

What I never asked myself was, why am I not getting my shot?

At least not in a way to discover an answer. I asked out of frustration, not for the goal of discovery.

A few years ago there was a person in our church who wanted badly to be a leader. This person had a lot of qualities that made for a good leader: hard worker, creative, talented. Yet, they couldn’t play well with others. Everywhere this person went, bodies would be left on the ground (not literally). No one wanted to be on a team with this person.

I could relate because I was that person when I was 22. I was pushy, demanding, sometimes demeaning. People were there for my vision, my goals.

It wasn’t until I sat down and dove into, why am I being overlooked that I realized, I wasn’t nice. I wasn’t fun. I wasn’t someone that others wanted to work with and be with.

This is a hard truth to see in the mirror.

As one mentor told me, “People who bite don’t make good leaders.”

Often, the reason someone never realizes their full potential or gets their ideas heard on a team is because they don’t get along with others. People will go out of their way for those who play well with others, but will hinder the potential of those who don’t.

Right or wrong. That’s the way people work.

If you want to be all that God has called you to be, you must get along with others.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Tuesday Edition]

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  • What a day at Revolution on Sunday.
  • We started the Song of Solomon.
  • So much fun.
  • The number one comment I heard yesterday: I’ve never heard about this stuff in a church before.
  • Which to me is so sad as questions about relationships, identity, communication in relationships, how to have a great sex life in marriage are questions everyone is asking.
  • Everyone.
  • Heard someone call the book biblical porn.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • I was also pleasantly surprised by the turnout for the week after Easter.
  • In most churches, there is a big dropoff, but was awesome to see so many returning and new guests.
  • This Sunday Katie is going to join me on stage for a live Q&A.
  • You’ll be able to text in questions during the service.
  • Always a blast when we’ve done it in the past.
  • This week is Judah’s 6th birthday.
  • Hard to believe he is 6 and how much bigger he is than we brought him 18 months ago.
  • He got a new bike, which he is loving and never wants to get off of.
  • Love seeing his huge smile as he flies down the street on it.
  • Our church co-hosted The Empowered to Connect simulcast in Tucson over the weekend.
  • Katie and I have gone through most of the material before, but it’s always helpful to refresh yourself.
  • Easily the best parenting material out there.
  • It’s marketed terribly, but it’s better than any other parenting book or seminar.
  • Got a super busy week this week as we are in the midst of our busy spring season of ministry.
  • I love it but I’m definitely in a new stage where I’m having to learn how to juggle things as our church has grown.
  • Good stretching for me as a leader.
  • Katie has her ACL surgery next week, so we’d appreciate your prayers for that and her recovery which is supposed to be 5ish months.
  • Changes our year a bit.
  • Just finished reading The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See.
  • Really fascinating.
  • Similar to Malcolm Gladwell but more applicable to life and leadership.
  • Definitely something leaders and pastors should check out as Christians are good at missing things, sticking their heads in the sand and many leaders struggle to make decisions.
  • Decision making is my 2015 area of leadership I’m trying to grow in so this book was right up that alley.
  • Time to get back at it…

Stop Pretending Your Marriage is Great

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Whenever I preach on marriage or any topic, the responses vary but are often the same regardless of the topic. Money tends to bring out the same in people.

Some are excited about the possibility of change. Seeing marriage, money or pace in a new light. What would it look like if a couple started to serve and pursue each other. I love this response.

Another response is one of anger. Often when something new is presented, it pushes up against what is expected or what is known. This is the response when people say, “I’ll never give, I don’t see the need.” “I won’t slow down, because that’s how I’ve always done it.” “I won’t be in community because I don’t need people.” Underneath this response is always hurt, disappointment, letdown, broken promises, but ultimately sin and fear.

Another response to me is the saddest response, although the previous paragraph is equally heart breaking. It is the response of resignation or excuses.

This mostly comes up in marriage topics, but easily shows itself in other places. It is the person who longs to see something change but for whatever reason feels like nothing could be different. It is the, “I wish my spouse did ___, but because they don’t I’ll start to talk about why that is okay or ‘just the way it is.'” So heartbreaking.

I remember talking with a couple and they had all kinds of reasons why they weren’t pursuing each other, why they didn’t spend time together, and I tried to push on it and nothing. The next day the husband was on Facebook talking about why their marriage didn’t need that, almost like a badge of honor that they didn’t date each other anymore. The comments were astounding. Person after person affirming him. “You don’t need a date night. I know all kinds of couples with great marriages who don’t have a date night.” What all those people on Facebook didn’t know was how his wife was dying. The sin no one knew about because of the spiritual facade they put on.

Do couples have great marriages without a date night or yearly getaway?

Sure.

I’ve yet to meet a couple who did that religiously get a divorce though or say they wished they had less date nights or less getaways.

I’ve met lots of couples who excused why they didn’t have a date night or getaway spend years in a mediocre marriage or get divorced.

Great things do not just happen, they happen through intentionality and through good, godly advice.

When Katie and I first started Revolution, we knew a couple who was a leader at another church in another state, a couple many people looked up to. She could not handle money at all. In fact, the husband kept a separate account so that his marriage did not go bankrupt financially (again). Yet, they would always talk their marriage up in classes, online. And every time I thought, “if people only knew.”

So, why do couples do this?

There is a sense of failure if your marriage is not as great as you make it sound online.

There is a fear we have of being found out, of admitting we don’t have it all together.

Yet, in that fear is misery because until we admit our need for help, we can’t ever move forward.

I remember the first time I said out loud that Katie and I went to see a Christian counselor when we first got married. The person gave me a weird look for a second and then I said, “What? We want to make sure our marriage is as great as possible and we’re not faking it anymore.”

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How to Protect Your Heart as a Pastor

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Every week when a pastor preaches, they talk about the sin that binds the people in their church, the idols they battle, the lies they easily fall into and the truth of Jesus that frees them and destroys sin and death.

Pastors by and large, struggle to apply this same medicine to their own sin.

Much of the identity and idols that pastor’s fall into reside in what happens on a Sunday morning at church. High attendance, strong giving, loud singing and it was a good day. A pastor will float through Sunday night, post about all that God did on twitter and wake up ready to charge hell on Monday morning.

Low attendance, a down week in giving, few laughs and no one sings and the pastor will go home, look at twitter and get jealous of the megachurch down the road and wake up Monday morning ready to resign and get another job.

The difference between the two examples?

The heart of the pastor.

When we started Revolution, I rode this roller coaster (and still do many weeks if I’m not careful). I was so concerned about these metrics of our church: how many people came, what did people give. Some of that is a necessity because when you are a church plant, there are weeks that if no one gives you may close down. It got so bad at one point that I would help with the offering count so I would know how much was given right after church and then I could go home knowing if it would be a good night or a bad one.

This feels silly to write, but it is the ride many pastors go on each weekend.

Here are a couple of things I’ve done to protect my heart:

  1. Stay off social media until Monday. Twitter and Facebook are great, but on Sunday it is pastor after pastor talking about the triumph of the day. I get it and love to celebrate it, but it can create a resentful spirit if you aren’t careful. Like all temptations, if you don’t engage, you are able to fight it. Also, many pastors want to see how many people tweeted their stuff, if anyone said anything about church and this can easily stroke a pastors ego.
  2. Find out the attendance and giving on Monday. If you find a lot of identity in what the attendance and giving was, wait until Monday to find out what they were. Yes, these are helpful metrics to the health of your church (along with how many people serve, are in community, become Christians and invite someone), but it doesn’t make a difference in the life of your church if you find them out on Sunday or Monday. It only matters to a pastor who finds identity in them.

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