PORN–A WINNABLE WAR!

And a war worth winning. Some guys have been at it for years and are saying, “I doubt it.” I connect with men who have learned as I have that walking in the light liberates. My first experience of this came when I was traveling through Europe after two years of seminary. I connected with an Operation Mobilization Team. The director asked if I wanted to walk in the light with him. Good idea. I just didn’t know what he meant. He said that he gets tempted to take a second look or a third, to focus on body parts, to think about it as he crashes at night. He said, “That’s not what I want,” and I’ll let you know on a daily basis how I am doing. Sounded like a decent idea. I agreed to do the same, because I was facing similar battles. I was amazed at how well it worked–as long as I stayed in the light. When I chose to hide, I had little power to overcome.

Since then I found out why. Jesus said that some “loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). He later announced, “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Paul wrote, “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). And John proclaimed, “God is light, and in him is no darkness” (I John 1:5). We are commanded to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). Darkness is where things hide–and grow, like mold–and sin. We are told to “have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). We are fighting against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12).  For false teachers, the “gloom of utter darkness has been reserved” (2 P. 2:17; Jude 13). So if we choose the darkness, we are camping in Satan’s domain. He rules there. No wonder we can’t win in the dark. Good news–God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Paul gives us a statement of identity, that we “are not in darkness” (I Thess. 5:4,5). Peter reminds us that God called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 P. 2:9).

However, Satan lies to us and says that if we come into the light, we will receive shame and rejection. John promises just the opposite: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:17). Interesting. Instead of shame–forgiveness. Instead of rejection–fellowship, koinonia, the sharing of our lives with one another.

When we learn appropriate vulnerability by walking in the light and confessing our weakness, our struggles, our defeats, we receive just what we need. Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. In other words, lies are born out of connecting with him and walking in his territory. I am delighted to say that men I have been privileged to mentor have been discovering the glorious power of light, just as Scripture promised. Maybe you are next to experience this life-changing truth!

TIME–YOUR SERVANT OR MASTER?

Time is a gift. I thank God for it regularly. He gives us all the time we need today to accomplish what He assigns to us. The more we appreciate this treasure the better we will use it. Time is our servant, not our lord. We control time; it does not control us.

People who say, “I don’t have enough time,” may be wrong. They should say instead, “I have time to do what God wants me to do.” God would not give us tasks that are impossible to complete. If they are not doable, it is because we have taken on too much or are misusing the time allotted to us.

Time is like money; it makes a great servant and a terrible lord. When time rules over us, it abuses us, just like money. When we use money in appropriate ways, to pay the bills, to bless people in need, to give to our church, we are taking charge of our finances. When we make it our lord by worshiping it or hoarding it, we get imprisoned, manipulated, controlled by it. The same with time.

Interesting–the person who says, “I don’t have enough time” often ends up misusing time, wasting it, not getting the things done he had planned. He fulfills his own words, and he proves that he doesn’t have enough time by squandering some. The person who says, “I thank God for the time He has given me today,”  is at peace, and he discovers that God’s management of the universe is effective, because he too is ruling over his schedule rather than let it rule him. He takes charge of his day, his assignments, his finances. What is not finished is rolled over into a new day.

I think of the people in my former church whose lives were always on overload. They didn’t have good boundaries, so they took on more than they should have. They complained of having too much to do and not enough time to do it, which kept them from doing what they could do more effectively. Lack of peace also meant lack of concentration and efficiency. They might have learned it from their parents, who modeled for them, “This is the way life is. It is stressful–all the time. People expect too much from me, and I never have enough time to do what I want to do.” It is passed on “successfully” from generation to generation, an outlook foreign to the Scriptures but all too common.

Some even think that being overly busy shows spirituality. Wrong!  Picture God today ruling over His universe. Jesus said that He works daily because His Father does as well (John 5:17). He rules with peace and efficiency, not with stress. We are to take our queue from a restful Ruler and live the same way, using time and money to serve us well. We have what we need to get the job done. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin” (Matthew 6:28). “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

HOW WE RAISED OUR KIDS

We did a great job with our kids–except when we didn’t, which was too much of the time. I’d like to say that we had few glitches along the way, but our children would laugh.

FIRST,  OUR FAILURES

  1. We had people living in our home from the get-go. Hey, we don’t recommend it. We should have concentrated more on our children, but we were a community, and until we moved to Minnesota, the extended family ate with us. Kids need focus. The extra crowd deflected the attention that could have been on our children.
  2. We did not mentor them. Wish I knew then what I walk in now. Everyone needs a coach, someone to look after them, encourage them, ask questions, guide them along the way. Of course, we did this, but not nearly enough. I take that job seriously now, both with our adult children and with the men I mentor.
  3. We did not do home-school well. We needed to have helped them more. They were too much on their own. We failed in some ways with their education.
  4. We did not learn vulnerability soon enough, not until they had all started their own families, and it came first through Andrew our firstborn, not me. Now I am vulnerable, and it serves me well in mentoring.

SOME SUCCESSES

  1. We disciplined them in love. Some exceptions, but I don’t remember ever disciplining them with my voice or in anger. Spankings were sometimes tender moments.
  2. We ate and prayed together. Attendance was required. They took turns at dinner picking the subject for discussion out of the jar. Erikka told me recently, “The reasons we all like to get together now is that you made us eat together and read the Bible together.” Devotions at 7 AM. Everyone came. We sang together. That carried over into singing together at the Holy Spirit Conference occasionally and sometimes at other places where I was speaking. Several continue to share in worship leadership.
  3. We had high-powered vacations. Much fun, great unity, trips to an island in Canada (thanks to generous friends), a camp in Montana, DC, California, the North Shore. We still go there together and spend three days hiking, playing games, & riding four-wheelers with grandchildren.
  4. We laughed a lot. When the kids were young, Karis and Mom listened to the Moody Bible Institute every morning, but we howled at what Karis at age five incorrectly called it: Moody Instanta Bible Toot. Karen listened to radio programs with most of them, some daily like Elizabeth Elliot, others like Odyssey weekly, concluding with the Saturday morning march with pots and pans.
  5. Church was a non-negotiable. It stuck. They not only share in leadership but are all part of a small group (I think).
  6. We told them they were here to serve, not to be served. They tended to be popular, and I said, “Hang with the kids who are rejects, and you’ll have God on your side. He is near the brokenhearted.”
  7. We didn’t always solve their problems. Sometimes we asked them how they were going to solve them.

All our kids are doing better than how we did at their age. We are thankful that they have not adopted our failures but have learned from them.

 

HERE YOU STAND!

We’re in a war, not on a picnic. Sometimes I forget that. These Scriptures help me remember.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” (Eph. 6:11,13,14). The call is to a posture of war, of resistance. Armor is defensive. Some might think that we are to attack.  We are called to stand, used 4 times. Then we pray, the offensive side of war.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15:58). What could move you?  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love” (I Corinthians 16:13). Being on your guard means staying alert, not falling asleep. Love and courage are siblings. If you want to grow in courage, grow in love.

“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering” (Hebrews 10:32). Standing is hardest when suffering is greatest. Suffering builds endurance—or it takes us out. Suffering refines us and frees us from sin (I Peter 1:7; I Peter 4:1) or it brings discouragement and despair. Discouragement is a luxury we dare not entertain if we’re here for others.

“You too be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-11). Hope enables us to stand. We can endure the present if we know the future is good. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). God gives rewards to those who endure in the face of trials. When you suffer, look forward, not backward. It will enable you to pass the test. Lot’s wife looked back—and lost big.

“It is by faith you stand” (2 Cor. 1:24). We need faith, not just will-power and guts. “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you” (2 Thess. 2:15). Truth helps us to stand. When we abandon truth, we lose our position. What we believe is more important than what we feel. We are looking for truth, not for experience.That will come–with truth!

“He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). It is good to pray that our friends will stand. Some will not. We stand firm in prayer so others stand firm in life. “I have written to you briefly…that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (I Peter 5:12). We stand in the truth, by faith and through grace, which empowers us to obey.

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (I Peter 5:9). We take a posture of resistance. We have determined that we will stand. God is not picking on us; everyone goes through all kinds of suffering. No one is exempt, not even the Son of God. You are not a victim. Stand!

SUPREME COURT JUDGE

I have appointments each week. Sometimes I put them off when not ready. One will not be postponed, and I won’t be late for it. “It is appointed to men once to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrew 9:27). The next appointment after death is to stand before the court of heaven. No one can cancel out. Everyone who has ever drawn breath will be there.

The Basis of judgment. God “will give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). “The dead were judged…according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12). Our lives give ample evidence to our choices. The sheep and goats are separated for eternity on the basis of what they have done or not done (Matthew 25.40,45). It will be righteous, fair, and just. “And I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the  books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:11-14).

The Judge. “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). The Father honors His Son, the man Christ Jesus, by delegating to Him the responsibility for judging every person in the human race. You will be there. So will Socrates, Hitler, President Trump, Queen Elizabeth, and Lebron James. Greatness is dwarfed in the presence of the Son of Man. The date has been fixed from eternity. Knowing this reality, Peter asks, “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…? (2 Peter 3:11).

The Finality of the Decision. Court scenes are dramatic. Destinies are announced in one declared statement. A guilty verdict could mean a life in prison. On the last day a guilty verdict means an eternity–a really long time. No higher court can overturn the decision once the Supreme Court of the universe has spoken. Christ’s decision will be uncontested and not overruled–forever!

Any other judgments? Jesus will hold a separate judgment for Christians, called “the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). This is will be more like an awards banquet than a courtroom scene. Some make it by the skin of their teeth (“as through fire”–I Cor. 3:15), while others will have awards awaiting them (14).

I am deeply grateful that Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Aren’t you?! Being judged righteous by the blood of Christ means that “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (I John 2:26). Maranatha–Come, Lord, Jesus!

WELCOME HOME!

After my second year of seminary, I took a year off to travel overseas. I taught for two months at a Bible College in Kenya, then studied for eight months in Israel. Travel came next through Europe. Then I joined a team with Operation Mobilization in Eastern Europe. I decided to finish up in England. I was on my way to the most famous archeological museum in the world, but I said, “I’ve seen enough museums. I want to go home,” and I headed for the airport with my open ticket. I arrived at LAX two days later and went through customs. The customs officer looked at my passport with multiple pages stamped and said, “Welcome home.” I got so choked up I could barely eke out a quiet, “Thanks.” Moments later I was met by family and thirty friends who sang the doxology in the terminal.

Our son Gabriel served in Iraq in the Air Force. He returned to American soil on his mother’s birthday.  He came home to Minnesota two weeks later. There was no little emotion when we met him at the airport. People knew what was happening.   When we drove into the driveway, he could read the huge sign spread across the garage, “Welcome home, soldier.” His grandfather, who had served in Iwo Jima, got choked up when he read it. When we had an open house, three WWII veterans were on hand, and they said, ‘Thank you, soldier. Welcome home.”

My wife grew up as a missionary kid in Japan. Sociologists call her a “third culture kid.” When her parents returned to the States on furlough, they told the kids they were going home. But third culture kids don’t quite know where home is. When she was asked in college, “Where’s home?” she wasn’t sure how to answer. “Do you mean ‘home home’ or where I grew up or where I sort of live now?” They thought she was weird. But home was more Japan than the States, and furlough was leaving home, not going home. Some missionary kids or children of diplomats struggle with this lack of definition all their lives. They feel like vagabonds. They literally don’t have a place they can call home. But this is true of us all. Peter calls us “aliens and strangers in the world” (I Peter 2:11). And he says, “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (I Peter 1:17). When we are truly home, there will be no more painful goodbyes.

Much of life is waiting. We wait to be born, to walk, to go to school, to graduate. Then we wait to get a job, then to retire. Then we wait to die. In heaven–no more waiting. Missionaries were returning on a boat that included some famous people. When the ship docked on the east coast, the explosion began, with people shouting their praises to the celebrities. The missionaries, who had given their lives overseas, were saddened that they had no one to receive them, to applaud their work. When they asked the Lord why not, they heard Him quietly answer, “You’re not home yet.” When we pass through death to endless life and walk through heaven’s door, the words will be more wonderful than ever: “Welcome home!

DO CHRISTIANS IN HEAVEN CONNECT WITH EARTH?

Do they know what is happening with loved ones? Do they pray for us in the presence of the King? If they do, would their prayers be more powerful than ours? If we have great victories–or defeats, do they know about them?

Paul said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). I have always felt that meant no more contact with earth, no more praying, no more awareness. After all, wouldn’t hearing bad news impact an otherwise pain-free experience? On a car trip up to San Francisco, I read from Hebrews 12:1 about how “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” My wife and Steve and Betty Luttio said, “Sounds like they can see what’s going on.” I disagreed and looked at commentaries. They confirmed my outlook that death brings a separation from earth and from knowledge of what takes place.

Then I looked at what Randy Alcorn , who wrote an excellent book called Heaven, had to say. He disagrees with me and opened my eyes to the possibility that people on the other side can see us. He said, “The key to heaven’s joy is not ignorance but perspective.” I could buy that. He brought up several good arguments:

1) After Moses and Elijah died, they met with Jesus on the mountain and talked about His impending death like they knew what was going on.

2) Revelation 6:9-11 speaks about martyrs asking God when He is going to avenge their blood. To ask they would have to know that it had not happened yet, so they were aware of what was taking place. They also remembered that they were martyred. One big difference between being on earth and in heaven is that on the other side we are “the righteous made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).

3) Christ said that there is “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7). Alcorn points out that these folks are not the angels as we might expect, because three verses later Jesus says that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (10). if it is not God and not the angels, that leaves the folks who have gone before us. Looks like they are aware of those coming to faith and it brings much joy. (Hey, they were already exuberant).

4) Now back to what we started with, who does the “cloud of witnesses” refer to? It is those who have preceded us in death and have conquered the grave. What are they witnessing? The contest suggests that they are viewing our race and are somehow cheering us on. Though we can’t see them, they can see us. Thank you, Mr. Alcorn, for a new perspective of the thin veil that separates earth from heaven.

So what does it do for me? Picturing my father and mother before the throne cheering me on gives me incentive to run a good race. I know they will meet me on the other side and congratulate me if I succeed. Saying “goodbye” was difficult, but the reunion will be glorious, and even more so believing they are rooting for me. Let this truth cause your hope to swell today!

GARBAGE MAKES GOOD COMPOST!

As a student at UCLA I worked with a guy named Hal Lindsey. Through his influence I went to Dallas Seminary two years, then finished at Luther Seminary. At Dallas I was given the answers; at Luther I got the questions, but they didn’t match, and I struggled emotionally. Fears replaced confidence. At times I thought I was going crazy.

I attempted to get close to fellow students, but they rode on a different track. While at a reception, I was introduced to a young pastor they all considered cool. He said to me in front of them, “I know you. You’re the good basketball player—and a little weird.” They laughed–I died inside. Someone had just exposed me. Had I not been operating at such a fragile level, I might have responded, “Hey Pardner, I am weirder than you think.” But because I heard what I thought might be truth, I couldn’t manage a response.

Garbage is waste material. People don’t store smelly garbage, they toss it. But even garbage can be used productively. Think compost.Some people enjoy collecting garbage, then dumping it on others. I had a load dumped on me that night. So have you. It doesn’t feel good, but the good news is that garbage can serve a good purpose.

The apostle Paul had a compost pile. He wrote the strangest thing: “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). I don’t know many people who enjoy insults. But Paul found that when insults came his way, it made him go low. And grace is found in the lowlands. I lacked the maturity as a seminary student to know how to handle garbage. I just internalized it.  Years later I realized that I needed to extract the smelly stuff through forgiveness.

Garbage in the soul festers. Most people don’t possess compost piles, but those who do also have beautiful flowers and fruit growing out of their lives. Rather than being victimized by garbage, they know where to put it.  Those who own compost piles know that

  • God doesn’t waste anything
  • God uses even criticism to accomplish His purposes
  • Maturity means overcoming evil with good

Reacting to people who dump garbage on us means that the garbage makes its way into our souls rather than onto the compost pile. Responding to God enables us to put the garbage where it belongs. The difference between reacting and responding is about ten seconds, long enough to offer up a quick prayer and take deliberate action.

Here are two scriptures to help dispose of garbage:

“Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col. 3:8). “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

Forgiveness does not mean that people didn’t dump on us. It does not mean that we let them off the hook by saying that they didn’t hurt us. It does mean that we turn them over to the love and justice of God rather than trying to punish them by staying angry. Do you have a compost pile?  If so, you are a good gardener, and the fertilizer is developing fruit in your life. Garbage in the heart poisons us. Garbage properly used brings forth a rich garden.

IS TITHING TAUGHT IN THE BIBLE?

Yes, but only in the Old Testament. The word “tithe(s)” is used thirty-nine times, including three times in the gospels and four times in Hebrews 7. The Hebrew and Greek words for “tithe” mean “a tenth.”. It is used of a Pharisee who is bragging about his spirituality–in his prayer! Jesus used the word only once (recorded in two gospels) in a hard-hitting rebuke of religious teachers for ignoring heart issues of the law. They proved meticulous about the details (obeying the command to tithe their “crops”) but blind to ethical ramifications. Hardly a mandate to tithe.

Paul does not use the word. Not once. The only other place in the New Testament the word is found is in Hebrews, where the writer is addressing the issue of the excellency of Christ. To the natural children of Abraham, struggling over two different covenants, the giving of tithes showed the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham. The author then went on to say that Jesus is like Melchizedek, and the Melchizedek priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood. He was not giving a teaching on tithing, and he didn’t use the word anywhere else in his thirteen-chapter message, although he was writing to Jews schooled in the practice. If he was teaching on tithing, he did a poor job, because Abraham tithed only this one time, and it wasn’t produce as was commanded in the law but the spoils of battle. So Jews who were well acquainted with the practice would not have considered Abraham’s singular tithe as reflecting their custom.

The rest of the thirty-nine references come from the Old Testament. Here is a representation:

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord…The entire tithe of the herd and flock–every tenth animal…will be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30,32). So if people didn’t own property (land or herds), were they required to tithe? Doesn’t sound like it. Call it an income tax!

“When you [the Levites] receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering” (Nu. 18:26). So even those who received a tithe tithed.

“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year…And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns…” (Deut. 14:22,27). If they didn’t tithe, the priestly system, which undergirded the whole culture, collapsed, which did happen too often in Israel.

“Bring the whole tithe [they were commanded to give three different ones] into the storehouse [a literal room in the temple to store food for the priests, the poor, and the sacrificial system], that there may be food in my house [they tithed what they possessed–crops and animals]” (Mal. 3:10). If the crops failed or the animals died, they had no tithe to give. This verse is often used in a coercive way to urge people to give so they don’t come under a curse (v. 9). The New Covenant does not reflect the strict, linear blessing-cursing outlook given in the Deuteronomic Law. The tithe was given for the sake of the poor, and the poor end up the biggest casualties of financial finagling with relation to the tithe. They are hoping to get out of debt or pay their rent, and when the preacher promises financial reaping for financial sowing, they buy in!

So what does the Old Testament teach about the tithe?  It was done for the care of the priests, who were not property owners.  Tithes were also given and stipulations made (such as gleaning) for the care of the poor.  Offerings (not tithes) were received for other projects, like the building of the tabernacle and temple. (Normal length–this one is longer).

What does Jesus say about finances, if He doesn‘t ever talk about tithing? Have you heard it said, “They’re always talking about money?” Well, Jesus did!  He said that when it comes to money matters, money matters. Put your money where your heart is, not your mouth.

And what does Paul say about money?  Our giving encourages others to give (2 Cor. 8:1-4).  Our giving blesses God (5-7). It is godly to give because it is like God to give. Giving is an investment–for spiritual dividends, not for greater material wealth (2 Cor. 9:9). We don’t give to get riches; we give to get righteous. That’s a far cry from telling people to sow generously so they can reap financial gain. Paul was not manipulating people, but some leaders today are.

And what does Paul not say about money. He gives two whole chapters on finances (2 Corinthians 8 & 9), and yet he never mentions tithing. He doesn’t ask them how many tithers the Corinthians have in their church, but he urges them toward generosity.

A simple guide for giving from the apostle: Care for your family, give to meet the needs of the saints, especially in the local church, give to what God is blessing, and don’t forget the poor.

So should we teach on the tithe? I regard it as an Old Covenant carry-over that does not apply to New Covenant Christians but can provide a positive example for giving. At worst, it could become a standard of performance or an occasion for pressuring to give. We are not properly dividing between the Old and New Covenants when we teach tithing. If tithing still applies, so do a lot of other laws that we are not practicing.

However, if I were a part of a church that taught on the tithe, I wouldn’t make a big deal over it unless I felt that they were using it for religious manipulation. We can derive principles from the Old Covenant that apply in the New, like supporting spiritual leaders (I Tim. 5:17) and caring for the poor.

I don’t think it is wrong if people want to use the tithe as a place to begin or as a personal discipline. But if we followed the tithe in a strict Old Testament way, we would give about 23%, since Jews gave three different tithes, one to the priesthood, one to cover the festivals, and one that came up every three years for the poor.  Most evangelicals give 2 to 3%, so, as I said to my kids, “We’re not there yet.” I told the young adults in our community that God is not happier with them if they tithe than if they don’t. He, however, wants His children to imitate Him, and He is extravagantly generous. If we take our cue from Jesus and Paul, we will encourage some kind of deliberate, proportionate, generous pattern of giving, first to the local church, then to other ministries.

WALKING IN VULNERABILITY

A young man called to tell me he was being tempted to give in to porn. I said, “I have told many young men to do what you are now doing. You are the first to call before giving in. Others get prayer when they yield to temptation and need forgiveness to lift the shame. But you are ahead of the game; you are calling for strength to resist. Way to go. That is what it means to walk in the light, to share your weakness, to acknowledge that you need support. You’ll get it, and you will resist the devil.” I was proud of my young friend.

He was surprised. When I encouraged him to do this a few months before, he had assumed that because I had been mentoring young men for decades many would have called to solicit prayer at the front end. He was the first. We need to walk in the light together, to confess our weakness, and ask for help. How easily we pretend that we are strong when we are weak. We would see a thousand more victories among young men battling sexual temptation if they were willing to check in when they faced temptation, not only after they had given in. I hope that the victory my friend experienced by walking in the light encourages others to do the same.

One of my sons came to me and Karen as a young man. He was crying. He said, “I have felt like the flawed son in a flawless family.” I asked, “Didn’t I ever share with you my defeats? Haven’t your brothers talked with you?” No on both counts. How critical it is to walk in honesty, beginning in our families and continuing in the Christian community. Too many are trying to make it alone and failing. They need parents and leaders who model vulnerability, so they can share their weakness and need for support.

My favorite professor at seminary said, “The first thing I do when I mentor someone is to share my weaknesses.” Why does he do that? Because we are not used to sharing our dark side. We hide it even from friends. When we begin to meet with a mature brother or sister for mentoring, we don’t want to do what we most need to do–confess our struggles, our weaknesses, our failures. We want this person to think well of us, not to think that we are wimping out. So we shine the bright side. But if he or she starts with a weakness, then those being mentored are a bit more comfortable sharing the dark side. What a humble thing to do. In our pride, we prefer sharing our victories. But James urges us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). We would see more healing if we practiced more transparency.

One reason so many pastors are failing is that they have not practiced walking in the light. Some have been taught not to share personal matters with members, and they often lack close friends. They desperately need to learn to be vulnerable with other pastors and leaders. Otherwise, the epidemic will only continue. May God give you grace to walk in appropriate transparency–and see much victory!