Due to flooding in and around the Katy area we are cancelling tonight’s meeting at Grace Fellowship UMC. The meeting will resume next week, September 26th.
SOURCE: John Piper
LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER
You may think I am ill-suited to counsel a young man on how to be faithful to his wife, because, in almost fifty years with my wife, I have never felt enticed to be romantic or to have sex with another woman. However, it might be worth probing whether this (perhaps unusual) fact has causes which are transferable to you.
Let me clarify. It’s not as good as it sounds. My eyes are as magnetized toward excessive female skin as most men’s. I am not designed for beach evangelism. I find airports to be problematic enough. I have zero tolerance for nudity in films — or even suggestiveness (which rules out almost all of them). One reason (among many) is that any sexually charged image lodges itself in my mind, with regrettable effects.
One more clarification: I have enjoyed a life of sexual intimacy with my wife, that is, I think, as intense as any can reasonably hope for. In other words, I don’t think my disinterest in sex with other women is owing to deficient hormones.
So, back to the point that needs some explanation: I am 71 years old and have been sexually attracted to Noël for 51 years. For 48 of those years (since we married), that attraction has been gratified with joy. During those 51 years, I have never been attracted to another woman romantically. I have never desired sexual relations with another woman. When I fell in love with Noël in the summer of 1966, a focused sexual longing exploded into being. That peculiar desire to be intimate with Noël has never shifted onto another woman.
Are there any discernible causes for this that might be shareable?
1. Plead with God to take away illicit desires.
“God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting.”
The first thing to say is that I consider this disinterest in sex with other women a pure gift of God’s sovereign grace. It does not feel like a reward for some virtuous discipline. It’s as if God said, “I have other sorrows you will have to deal with in your family. But I will spare you this one.” I have not felt like a valiant sailor lashed to the mast while the Siren voice of alien sex sang her seductive song. I didn’t need to be lashed, because the song was not attractive.
So, the first transferrable thing I would say is this: “Ask God for it.” Don’t just ask him to keep you from giving into temptation. Ask him to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.
2. Feel how revolting and disgusting adultery truly is.
The second thing I would say is probably going to sound strange, maybe even questionable. One way God protected me from adultery is by making it feel revolting to me. Ever since I fell in love with Noël and I knew we would spend a lifetime being intimate, the very thought of touching another woman sexually became disgusting, sickening. This may sound weird. I have not talked about it with many people. But I have said to myself often, with amazement, “The thought of having sex with any other woman besides Noël feels as nauseating to me as the prospect of having sex with a man.”
I mean this quite literally. I am not merely raising the moral stakes by using physically strong language. I mean God worked a miracle to make adulterous touching not just morally wrong, but physically revolting. That is one of the greatest works of divine grace I have ever experienced.
Now let me speculate about the origin of this gift. When Jesus wanted to help us deal with adultery and lust, he said,
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)
He might have said, innocuously, “If your eye causes you to sin, turn the other way, because giving in to temptation can only be harmful.”
Why did he gross us out with the revolting image of digging our eyeball out of our head and throwing it like a slimy egg yolk into the garbage? Maybe it was to awaken in us something more than mere moral disapproval — something visceral, something like a gag reflex in our throat.
“Ask God to take away any desire for any woman other than your wife. Plead for this.”
I have been reading and believing my Bible since I was a child. The realities of God, Christ, heaven, hell, faith, and holiness have been ever-present realities to me — sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible. They are not add-ons to who I am. They are baked in. They’re part of me, shaping what I love and what makes me want to throw up.
So, my speculation is that somewhere along the way in my life, God took the reality of his massive disapproval of lust and adultery, and the threat of indescribable suffering in hell (Matthew 5:29), and created a connection between the physical terror of eternal burning and the moral outrage of cheating on my wife. The form that this connection took was physical revulsion at marital unfaithfulness. It may be way more complicated than that. But that’s the best I can do for now.
However this happened, it seems biblically fitting to me, and I thank God for it. It has freed me wonderfully to focus on other things. Whether it is transferrable to you depends on God’s free grace. But my suggestion is that you saturate your life thoroughly with the realities of Scripture, and pray for their profoundest effects in transforming what you find desirable and what you find disgusting.
3. Don’t trade permanent pleasures for temporary trysts.
I’ll mention one other thing that seems to me to be part of the explanation for why adultery has felt not just wrong to me, but also nauseating. When I was a junior in high school, something awakened in me that I could call poetic, or spiritual, or aesthetic, or otherworldly. It was a sense that there is something stupendously wonderful and joyful to be experienced beyond the sensuous pleasures of the body.
If I weren’t a Christian, I would call it the “numinous” or the “Other” or “Beauty.” In other words, many people have this sort of awakening, not just Christians. But for me, it was distinctively Christian. The wonder and beauty and greatness were in God, through Jesus. Since those days, I have experienced a kind of ache for a Pleasure beyond the pleasures of the body.
But here’s the link with nauseous adultery. At the same time as this longing for the ultimate heavenly Pleasure was awakened, I discovered that sexual sin (like lust and its mistress, masturbation) caused my soul to plummet from any heights of joy they attained. It seemed to me that I was faced with the choice of wallowing in the mire of brief physical sensations (called pleasures) or soaring in my heart where something much more substantial and lasting and satisfying was offered.
“Sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.”
This built into me the visceral conviction: Sexual sin and spectacular satisfaction are utterly at odds. As Jesus put it, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
I now see this as God’s existential gift of Colossians 3:1–5:
Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above. . . . Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality . . .
In other words, sexual immorality cuts off the wings that lift us toward the highest, richest, most durable Joy.
But I wanted this Joy with a vengeance. And as this desire grew, so did my opposition to anything in me that stood in the way. And Colossians 3:5 put sexual sin at the head of the list. I believe God turned this opposition into physical revulsion in proportion as the desire for real Pleasure in God grew stronger.
Keep Asking God for Help
Well, that’s my effort to interpret my experience in the light of Scripture. I hope there are lessons to be learned here that are transferrable to you:
- Ask God that he would make sin sickening to you, not just morally wrong.
- Ask him to make biblical realities, like hell and heaven, terribly and wonderfully real to you — real enough to taste and feel.
- Ask him to open your eyes to the glory of the spiritual world “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
- Ask him to give you a massive desire for ultimate Pleasure in God that is so strong that it makes sinful pleasures nauseous.
- Ask him to transpose the pleasures of intimacy with your wife into foretastes of the unending ecstasies of heaven.
When you have prayed, lift up your eyes. Lift them up to the deep, blue sky. Lift them up to the brilliant whiteness of the billowing clouds. Lift them up to the unfathomable star-filled darkness of the night. Lift them up to misty mountain ranges, and to the rivers that have run for a thousand years, and to the mighty trees that took their time to become strong imperceptibly, and to the orange day-lilies and purple vines and the yellow-souled daisies, and to the ripple-free lakes at dusk, and the great bow of the ocean horizon.
Take your eyes off your computer, off your mirror, off your pain, off your dead dream, off your self-pitying lust. God is speaking to you. He is waving a thousand flags to get your attention. He has more to give you than you have ever tasted or felt or dreamed. The price he paid to satisfy his people, with never-dying joy and ever-new beauties, was great. Don’t push him away.
A clinical psychologist suggests a three-pronged plan for tackling anxiety and approaching each day logically and positively
Let us start by considering why some people catastrophize – that is, on hearing uncertain news, they imagine the worst possible outcome. After all, it is not uncommon and those who catastrophize seem to do it a lot.
Catastrophizers tend to be fairly anxious people. Whether this characteristic is principally genetic or more the result of learning is unknown. High levels of anxiety are extremely unpleasant, so we look for ways to discharge those unpleasant feelings as quickly as possible. If a catastrophizer is told something inconclusive – for example, if they go to a GP and are asked to have tests – they look for a way to feel in control again immediately. They learn to choose the worst possible outcome because it allows for the greatest sense of relief when they are reassured.
Considering all possibilities is not a bad strategy if you examine them logically. However, unable to bear their distress, catastrophisers rush to external sources to calm themselves down: checking whether anyone else has “come through” the same problem; matching symptoms online to obtain a diagnosis and treatment options; asking a professional to tell them that they will survive. Once they are reassured, they feel better – in psychological jargon, they have “rewarded” this seeking behaviour. The next time they feel uncertain or threatened, they will ratchet up their anxiety with a catastrophic thought, then look outwards for reassurance even faster than before. In this way, catastrophising soon becomes a well-entrenched habit. The greatest problem with seeking others to alleviate anxiety is that it offers only temporary relief. There is always another source to check or another opinion to be had; as a result, catastrophisers feel anxious again increasingly quickly. The only way to break this cycle is to tame anxiety. After this, you can still seek advice. So, if you are a catastrophiser and you would rather not be, how do you go about making changes?
•Accept yourself. Anxiety is energy: if you are an anxious person, celebrate! However, why waste that energy feeling uncomfortable and preparing yourself for circumstances that will almost certainly never occur? Look for enjoyable ways to challenge yourself and use your energy more positively: taking regular aerobic exercise; learning something new; taking up a creative passion.
•Take control. Establish a regular “worry time”. Start by setting aside half an hour every day. Write down all your concerns in specific terms. For example: “I felt nauseated this morning. Do I have stomach cancer?” Assign a score on a scale of 0 to 100% to estimate how distressed this possibility makes you feel. Next, list all the possible explanations for your concern, then rank each one according to how likely it is to be correct. Make use of external sources if necessary, but stick with reputable websites and professionals. Finally, score your worry for the level of distress it is causing you now. Gradually, you will be able to reduce the amount and frequency of worry time.
•Use the “best friend test”. Ask yourself what you would advise your best friend to do about each concern, and take that action.
•Learn to self-soothe. Whenever you are overwhelmed by anxiety and feel you must seek reassurance, give yourself permission to do so – but not straight away. Establish an interval before you are allowed to act. Even two minutes is enough at first, because you are still exerting self-control. Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, or taking some gentle exercise, will help. Gradually, you will find you can wait longer. When you get to the point where you can wait more than 20 minutes, most people find they no longer need to be reassured by others.
This three-pronged approach – using your “worry energy” to carry out new and enjoyable challenges, approaching your tendency to catastrophize logically and systematically, and learning to wait through discomfort – takes time. But if you invest the necessary time, you will start looking forward to each day knowing you can deal with uncertainty in a more positive, balanced way.
The retreat committee met last week and decided to open up a few more spots for those who wish to attend. That being said, we now only have 1 spot remaining as of this morning! Please sign up ASAP if you are interested in attending.
Date(s) – 11/08/2019 – 11/10/2019
4:30 pm – 12:00 pm
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Castimonia’s Paratus Retreat is a retreat for any man who struggles with any type of sexual purity. Paratus, Latin for “equipped”.
If you are wondering about whether to attend this retreat, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know the meaning of intimacy?
- Do you struggle with being intimate with your spouse or others?
- Are you fully equipped for the spiritual battle that is raging around us right now?
- Are you a man who strives for biblical sexual purity and intimacy with other men?
- Are you a man who struggles with maintaining that sexual purity or being intimate?
- Do you want a circle of brothers helping you in your sexual purity and intimacy journey?
Join us for a weekend dedicated to equipping adult men of all ages, all walks of life, and various levels of struggle with the tools necessary to wage this spiritual battle and emerge on the other side as the sexually pure men that God intended us to be.
At the Paratus Retreat, we will discuss strategies for equipping ourselves with tactics necessary for battling the enemy. We will discover the true meaning of brotherhood, fellowship, and intimacy. The leaders of the Paratus Retreat will set the example of vulnerability and accountability. We hope to pave the way for all men to be fully equipped to wage war against Satan’s tempting assaults and emerge VICTORIOUS.
The ultimate affirmation for all men is to hear at the end of days, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power. For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Start: November 8 – 04:30 pm
End: November 10 – 12:00 pm
Organizer: Castimonia Restoration Ministry, Inc.
Cat Spring Retreat Center
14852 Hall Road
Cat Spring, TX, US, 78933
To view information on the Cat Spring Retreat Center, please visit this website:
*Refunds are as follows:
Full refund minus fees up to September 15th.
50% refund minus fees after September 15th and up to November 1st.
No refunds after November 1st (retreat credit only).
Retreat fee includes meals and lodging at the retreat center from Friday evening to Sunday morning. You will be required to bring bedding and toiletries for the beds and bathrooms at the retreat center.
If you need a scholarship or are coming from out of state, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info on a reduced or free admission to the retreat!
There’s no shortage of unrealistic expectations about marriage. Which we can pick up from our families, from friends, from fairy tales, from television and movies, from magazine articles. And these supposedly true beliefs can sabotage our relationships, creating a whole lot of misunderstanding and chipping away at our connection.
Unrealistic expectations “set up couples to fail,” said Clinton Power, a clinical relationship counsellor. “When you expect that your relationship is meant to be a certain way, and that expectation doesn’t happen, this can create feelings of anxiety, sadness, and despair.” It can spark resentment, which can ruin relationships.
Below are three unrealistic expectations—and the truths behind each one.
Unrealistic expectation: Happy couples continue to feel the same intense feelings of love. “Falling in love is often called a ‘temporary psychosis’ for the very reason that when you are ‘head over heels’ in love with another person, you are often blinded to some of their differences and quirks,” said Power, founder of Clinton Power + Associates in Sydney, Australia. You love everything about your partner, and want to be with them. All. The. Time.
There are physiological reasons for this. According to psychotherapist and relationship expert Melissa Ferrari, “Oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin dance with the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, fueling our desire and keeping us on a ‘happy high’ of love and lust.”
But eventually, these electric effects dissipate. And what’s left are two people dealing with the reality of day-to-day life, Ferrari said. “And this is where the hard work starts.”
After the honeymoon period is over, it’s totally normal to enter a period of conflict, Power said. For instance, the quirks you once found adorable, like your partner regularly running late and losing things, are now like nails on a chalkboard. Now it’s a significant source of tension. After all, you take pride in your punctuality, and you have a penchant for organization. Which your partner keeps messing with.
The good news is that conflict isn’t inherently a problem. In fact, it’s actually an opportunity, Power said. When you’re experiencing conflict, you “learn to negotiate and manage your differences” and “how to successfully soothe one another when one or both of you are upset.”
Unrealistic expectation: Happy relationships remain the same. We assume that the person we married will remain exactly as they are, and thereby so will our relationship. This expectation might even be subconscious, but it rises to the surface in the form of surprise: Your spouse starts exploring a new career path or passion or moving away from something they used to love (and you still do), and you’re taken aback.
Maybe you even think, this isn’t the person I married. And maybe they’re not.
“[P]eople grow and change over time, and this means that the relationship changes,” Power said. He shared this example: A couple starts dating when one partner is only 19 years old. This younger partner receives a big promotion—and begins traveling more and more and spending more time at the office, building their dream career. The other partner, who’s at home, misses them and becomes increasingly bored. So they start going out more. Both partners are upset at their new reality because they feel disconnected from each other, drifting further and further apart.
“The issue is they haven’t accounted for some of the individual changes they are each going through. The relationship can’t be like it used to be, because they are different people now than they were when they first met.”
Unrealistic expectation: Partners are responsible for each other’s happiness. We tend to have expectations about what we’ll “get” from our partners, Ferrari said. And when our partner doesn’t give us what we think we should be getting, resentment emerges, and starts settling in. (“Over time, resentment can evolve into contempt, which is coined ‘the sulfuric acid of love’ because it will erode a marriage.”)
Ferrari works with many, many couples who expect their partner to meet their happiness quota. For instance, they expect their partner to earn enough money to give them anything they want. “That places pressure on your partner to make you happy about something that you could be aspiring to yourself.”
Plus, it’s very different from trying to understand your spouse in a profound, meaningful, vulnerable way, and fulfill their unmet needs. This might look like giving your partner a big, long hug every time you come home because you know that physical touch helps them to feel loved. This might look like making it a point to thank them for their kind gestures, because you know that as a child, they regularly felt unappreciated. This might look like talking calmly through conflict because they grew up in a volatile home.
The above is about being considerate and getting to know your partner. It isn’t about doing something for them that they can do themselves. It isn’t about taking responsibility for satisfying their needs. It is about supporting them.
It is about helping them to heal past hurts, Ferrari said. Which can “help them greatly psychologically, particularly in terms of confidence, feeling loved, safe and secure…” And that is incredibly powerful.
Explore the expectations you have about relationships—about what healthy, connected marriages look like, about how you and your partner should behave, about what you should “get.” Then explore where these beliefs stem from—and whether they’re genuinely true. Because many of our expectations are not, and many of them can interfere with our relationship.