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What to Say – or not – to Addicts in Church

Originally posted at: https://applyingmybeliefs.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/what-to-say-or-not-to-addicts-in-church/

by applyingmybeliefs

I’ve heard some interesting things said in church about those who are compulsively stuck in behaviors or addicted to something and/or their problems.  For those who would like to do a better job of addressing addiction and addicts that are in their churches I thought I would write this basic primer.

What not to say!

  1. Addiction is sinful.

An alternative to this I hear is, “Addiction is sin.”  When I hear this or its many variations I think so many things.  The biggest is, “Do you know that every person has an addiction?”  Even the most pious churchgoer is addicted to something, and a skilled addiction specialist might take just a few minutes to figure out what it is.  Examples of hidden addictions are; gossip, judgmentalism, perfectionism and religion.  How many of us think that because we don’t do cocaine we are not addicts?  This elevates this kind of declaration to a statement of condemnation; and the speaker of it is usually unaware that they condemning others.

Consider a person with colon cancer.  How many of us would tell them they have cancer because of their sin of eating too much red meat?  No, we wouldn’t do this.  Then why tell an addict their trouble is because of their sin?  Addiction is recognized by most experts as a disease.  If we assume this is true then just as we wouldn’t tell a person their cancer is due to their sin, why tell a food addict their disease is due to their sin?

I am not saying that sin is not involved is the development of addictions, I am saying be thoughtful about believing that sin and addiction are synonymous.  I am also saying to heed Jesus words about judging others and thereby being hypocritical.  (Mt 7:1-5)

  1. Addiction is from the devil.

Alternatives are, “Addiction is demon possession” and “Addicts are demon-possessed” or the more sophisticated, “Addiction is a disease stimulated through the influence of unseen powers.”  How about those?  As if addiction isn’t enough of a problem for those who struggle, now they have to add the burden of being accused of being demon-possessed or under the control of demons.

Addicts struggle with the problem of their (normally) unwanted compulsions and now some well-meaning Christian tells them that they have both the pressure of the addiction and that an unseen powerful force is controlling them.  Is it any wonder that addicts reject conventional churches?  This demon-possessed message introduces an extra layer of hopelessness to an addict’s life, the exact opposite of what Jesus did when he met addicts in his holy land wanderings.

On top of this foolish statement to the addict, what are their family members supposed to think?  What does it do to their hopes for recovery for the child, parent or cousin?

Having said that, I do want to acknowledge that some addicts may have indeed been influenced by negative supernatural forces.  BUT, this is rare!  When qualified people look at the details of most of the addict’s stories common and normal psychological factors are present such as childhood issues, major losses, medical trauma or unhealthy human influence.

  1. Addiction is God’s judgment.

Maybe you’ve heard the variant, “Addiction is God’s punishment.”  This is so wrong and when I hear it I cringe.  It reminds me of public statements visible Christian leaders made about AIDS being God’s judgment on homosexuals or the 9/11 attacks being God’s punishment on America because of its moral lapses.

Start with this:

Rom 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Heb 12:6 – For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

Here we see that God does not condemn His people and He does discipline them.  This is not semantics.  Punishment is meted out by one person or entity on its own behalf, for its own reasons or benefit.  For example, we punish criminals on behalf of society.  Discipline is exercised for the purpose of edification, training or correction of a person for their benefit; it may even hurt or possibly harm the disciplining individual.  An example here is that a parent may ground their child for not doing their homework; the parent gets no joy out of it, it is solely for their child.

Addiction strikes believers and non-believers alike.  As God’s word says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:45)  Therefore, speaking about addicts in terms of “God giving them what they deserve” is bad theology.  It impugns God’s character and says more about the speaker than the addict.

God is not interested in striking addicts down through their struggles.  God says this:

Lam 3:22-23 – The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

James 2:13 – Mercy triumphs over judgment.

God’s mercies never end and they are new each morning – mercy triumphs over judgment.

If we accept that we are challenged in scripture to be more Christlike then we will never speak words of judgment, and hopefully not think them.  Instead we are to continually offer mercy and compassion to the addict; both outwardly and inwardly.  The inclination of our hearts on this subject is under our own control, and does not have to be determined by the actions of the addict.

  1. Addiction doesn’t happen to real Christians.

Church people don’t get addicted!  Or, how about this, “How can this happen, don’t you have the Holy Spirit inside you?”  These kinds of statements seem ludicrous, but they are said.  Much like we discussed above there is judgment at the core of these words and a theological misunderstanding.  I won’t cover the judgment hidden in these words; instead I’ll focus only on the misunderstanding.

At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit comes into our heart, we then are assured of eternal life with Christ and the supernatural (or spiritual if you wish) unavoidable and final consequence of sin is prevented.  However we are not protected from the problem of our past sins, the power of sin in the world in the present, the still fallen nature we have or the lure of worldly pleasures.  We are instructed to continue to work, with God’s help on cleaning up our lives:

Phil 2:12-13 – Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Addicts fall into their troubles for many reasons, and it really doesn’t matter why in the context of this discussion of addicts in church.  Some people become Christians while they are addicts, and others become addicts after they have been saved.  Being saved or not doesn’t change this.  There are many example of addicts in scripture who believe in God and do their best to follow Him.  David is the primary example in my mind – he was clearly a sex addict.  (Solomon, his son who took over the kingdom might have been too.)

The reality is that the church is full of addicts, some we know about, most we don’t.  Our attitude could be to hide our head in the sand, or we could accept reality and work together to help addicts.  And, maybe we ought to hang a sign up outside the church saying “Addicts are welcome here.”  Whatever we choose to think about addiction in the church, let’s be sure to not be naïve and be in denial that church people can’t be or become addicted.

One big variation of this “real Christian” statement is this, and I suspect that God is not happy when we do it:

  • If you accept Christ, He will take away your addiction.

In our evangelistic fervor we can make promises like that.  As I’m sure is obvious, when a person is born-again as a result of a choice they make, believing that Christ will supernaturally take away their problem, and He doesn’t, their faith can fade to zero in no time.

  1. Addiction can be dealt with by prayer.

And its cousins, the equally damaging, “If you would pray harder………..” or, “Let’s look in the Word of God for answers.”  There are actually many variations of these kinds of statements made by well-meaning church members.

It is hard to argue in a church that prayer and bible study aren’t good recovery tools, and indeed they are.  But, most church going addicts have prayed for their problem to go away, and they have studied God’s word for answers and inspiration, and yet the issue persists.  So, has God failed them, or have they not prayed and studied hard enough?  Our statements about prayer and study can end up unintentionally hurting the addict’s faith.

If it was as simple to remove an addiction as praying and studying, then groups like AA (which incidentally had to be born outside the mainstream church) would not exist.  Also, addiction inside the church would be eradicated, which it has not.  On top of that, what about the consistent poll result that over 30% of US pastors view pornography on an almost daily basis?

Dealing with addiction is hard work, and there are many spiritual components to it, including prayer and study.  Let’s not discourage or hurt addicts by trivializing their situations and condensing solutions to cliché style statements, because they do not help the addict and they dishonor God.

Having discussed the big five faux pas statements above; let me list a few things that can be said.  Before they are listed though, a core mindset for church people to deal with addicts is to actually be like Jesus in the attributes of unconditional love, regard and acceptance.  We literally have to love the addict exactly where they are; drunk, full of shame, exposed as an adulterer, smelling like garbage are examples.  Every addict we meet is just as much made in the image of God as any clean and sober church member.

What we can say!

  1. Our addictions teach us lies; God has so much more for us than misery.

Irenaeus (130-202 AD) said ‘The glory of God is man fully alive.”  Irenaeus captured the meaning behind Jer 29:11 (I know the plans………) in saying this.  So if we choose to speak to addicts this way we are joining them by identifying with them in their addiction and stating that God has more for all of us.

  1. We want you here.

Say this only if it is sincerely true!  This kind of sincerely spoken statement made of out the belief that God wants all people to come to him in all situations can be a great boost to an addict.  Their family may not accept them, their co-workers have possibly rejected them, they have no friends (common for addicts), but the church wants them.  They can feel the love and acceptance of God through our warm and encouraging words.

  1. Tell me your story.

Again, say this only if you want to hear it.  Invite those weird addicts to share their story and listen to understand and learn, not to comment or offer spiritual platitudes.  For an addict who is seeking redemption, being able to tell their story in a safe place can become part of their healing experience.  If we listen, while suspending all judgment, the addict is helped.  This is part of a counseling technique called “narrative therapy” and most people can do this with a little practice.  Also, when an addict can tell their story and be received with unconditional love and acceptance, the story is given positive meaning, and this translates to the addict feeling better about themselves in the present moment and hopeful about the future.

  1. God’s love is yours.

This can be tricky, because we can’t be sure that an addict hasn’t been hurt by church members, God’s ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), somewhere else.  We can say we believe that God loves us all, with no conditions or qualifications.  If we can paraphrase this scripture it might be useful:

Rom 5:8 – God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Something like, “Before any of us got into our struggles, Christ came and died, that’s how I know God loves us all”, could be useful.  Follow this up with something like this, “How could I believe this and not share it?”  (If it seems to fit the conversation.)

We have to be careful because one problem that addicts have often encountered before we meet them is the well-meaning church person that might try to encourage them by quoting scriptures.  To addicts this sometimes feels like an insincere pious lecture and they are “turned off” church and sometimes God by it.

If in doubt as to the situation, instead of telling the addict about God’s unconditional love, demonstrate it by actions such as befriending and getting to know the addict.

  1. You are dealing with something chronic.

An alternative could be, “Addiction is a chronic disease.”  Addicts in general know and understand that their problems are long-term and have deep roots; that they are chronic.  In saying something like this a church member would be acknowledging this, the addict would know the member has at least some level of understanding and that there is no condemnation present.  Addiction is chronic, that is a simple statement of truth.

Once this has been spoken in some form.  The next part of the conversation must be initiated by the member and center around the idea that because we know the disease is chronic; we also know that we must be there for them over time and in both good and bad situations.  If the addict is new to the church, we must offer to share information about our resources or the local parachurch resources we have available.  Whenever possible, we must connect the addict with a person in our congregation that can offer real and tangible help.  What we cannot know in the early part of a conversation with an addict is their internal condition or personal circumstances.  It is important to get them to help if they need it, or to at least get them connected with a caring person.  For example, if possible the addict shouldn’t leave that day without the phone number of someone at the church they could call to talk with.

Living with a chronic problem is often a life of chaos, confusion and craziness.  For this reason there is wisdom in trying to create a deliberate atmosphere of stability that the addict can tap into as an introduction to a better way of life.  Churches can plan to do this, if they choose to be a church that welcomes troubled people.

In summary – we in the church must be careful with how we think about addicts and very careful about what we say.  The biggest difference between churches that do well with this, or not, is their attitude toward addiction and addicts.  If members are open and teachable, they can become educated on the subject of compulsive behaviors and addictions.  This will lead to the church being able to help one of the marginalized groups in our church culture; addicts.

Suggested resource:   Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.

Sexual Purity Posts

Barbot de Villeneuve Was Right

 

 

For those who don’t know who Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve was, she was a French author who wrote La Bell et la Bête – Beauty and the Beast.

Sexual Purity Posts

What does the Bible say about unforgiveness?

Originally posted at: https://altruistico.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/what-does-the-bible-say-about-unforgiveness/

by altruistico

The Bible has quite a bit to say about forgiveness and unforgiveness. Perhaps the most well-known teaching on unforgiveness is Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant, recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. In the parable, a king forgives an enormously large debt (basically one that could never be repaid) of one of his servants. Later, however, that same servant refuses to forgive the small debt of another man. The king hears about this and rescinds his prior forgiveness. Jesus concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). Other passages tell us that we will be forgiven as we forgive (see Matthew 6:14; 7:2; and Luke 6:37, for example).

Do not be confused here; God’s forgiveness is not based on our works. Forgiveness and salvation are founded completely in the person of God and by Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross. However, our actions demonstrate our faith and the extent to which we understand God’s grace (see James 2:14-26 and Luke 7:47). We are completely unworthy, yet Jesus chose to pay the price for our sins and to give us forgiveness (Romans 5:8). When we truly grasp the greatness of God’s gift to us, we will pass the gift along. We have been given grace and should give grace to others in return. In the parable, we are appalled at the servant who would not forgive a minor debt after having been forgiven his unpayable debt. Yet, when we are unforgiving, we act just as the servant in the parable.

Unforgiveness also robs us of the full life God intends for us. Rather than promote justice, our unforgiveness festers into bitterness. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root rises up to cause trouble and defile many.” Similarly, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 warns that unforgiveness can be an opening for Satan to derail us.

We also know that those who have sinned against us – whom we may not want to forgive – are held accountable by God (see Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). It is important to recognize that to forgive is not to downplay a wrongdoing or necessarily to reconcile. When we choose to forgive, we release a person from his indebtedness to us. We relinquish the right to seek personal revenge. We choose to say we will not hold his wrongdoing against him. However, we do not necessarily allow that person back into our trust or even fully release that person from the consequences of his sin. We are told that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). While God’s forgiveness relieves us from eternal death, it does not always release us from the death-like consequences of sin (such as a broken relationship or the penalty provided by the justice system). Forgiveness does not mean we act as if no wrong has been done; it does mean we recognize that grace abundant has been given to us and that we have no right to hold someone else’s wrongdoing over his head.

Time and again, Scripture calls us to forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32, for example, says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We have been given much in the way of forgiveness, and much is expected from us in response (see Luke 12:48). Though forgiveness is often difficult, to be unforgiving is to disobey God and to depreciate the greatness of His gift.

Sexual Purity Posts

Porn Rapes The Mind

Originally posted at: https://refugenortheast.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/porn-rapes-the-mind-2/

by Steven

The other day I was asked to pray for a young child who came across some pornography on the internet. The curiosity lasted about two hours, but that was enough time for the enemy to set the hook. The good thing is the child did tell his parents what he did and so hopefully he will be able to get some help. Porn rapes the mind and will destroy not only an adult but the emotional and mental well being of a child. An addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction. Let that sink in for a little while. A porn addiction is chemically identical to a heroin addiction. The human brain was not designed to handle the major dose of chemicals the brain unleashes when one is viewing pornography. Our biggest sexual organ is our brain, and studies have shown there is damage done to the brain and the brain’s chemistry is altered when one is exposed to pornography. Over time, one will become addicted to their own brain chemistry. Each time the brain receives a major dose of chemicals over time this will lead to future cravings. Dr. Norman Doidge writes in The Brain That Changes Itself, (From the Porn Circuit, by Sam Black) “human beings exhibit an extraordinary degree of sexual plasticity compared with other creatures. By “plasticity” he means that our brains and our sexuality are molded by our experiences, interactions, and other means of learning, which is why people vary in what they say, is attractive or what turns them on. The brain actually creates neural pathways that label a specific type of person or activity as arousing.” Addictions are learned, Sam Black writes, “With porn people have taught their brains that it is arousing.” So what are some of the chemicals that are released when one is viewing pornography? Dopamine, Testosterone, Norepinephrine, and Oxytocin are released.

Dopamine is the “I want it” neurotransmitter. Dopamine helps us to focus our attention on a certain task when this chemical is released it makes us feel good. It is also a major player with our memory; it helps us to recall what is important in our environment and it helps us to remember the appropriate response to a certain stimulus. Testosterone is the “male hormone,” and is dramatically increases during sexual arousal and desire. When the brain picks up on sexual cues, it increases testosterone. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter normally associated with stress and the fight-or-flight response. However, it also works as a hormone for sexual arousal and sexual memory, in which it helps brand emotional experiences in our minds. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone and is released during physical touch and at a climax. For those who struggle with porn, this hormone is binding a person to an image, video or situation and not their spouse. Over time, the brain will start to rewire itself for the addiction and will start to create new neuropath ways in the brain. What the brain is doing is creating a super highway for these chemicals, and the body will start to crave these chemicals. So over time, the body will need more and more to get high, so one normally will have to start looking for more extreme porn, or sex acts to get the high they are looking for. This is why the internet is so dangerous; you can never run out of images. For those who struggle with drugs, they are going to eventually run out of their drug of choice and start to come off the high, not the one struggling with porn. They have an unlimited supply of images to keep the high going. Porn will rape one’s mind, and this is why it is so dangerous for children to get hooked at an early age. Parents have to take precautions to protect their children and remember filters cannot block everything out. When parents don’t train their children or protect their children, their little brains are raped and an addiction has started.

 

Sexual Purity Posts

New 3-Day Intensive Program in San Antonio

I’m pleased to announce the opening of our new San Antonio office. Take 2 Counseling (https://www.take2counseling.com) has just opened and is offering the same treatment model that we offer in Houston and in the Canadian Rockies.

Dr. Chris Gulde and Karen Gulde are two outstanding therapists who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to this new practice. Both left very successful careers (as a physician and an attorney, respectively) to devote the rest of their lives to helping sex addicts get free, partners heal, and relationships be restored.
Dr. Chris Gulde is a CSAT. Karen Gulde is an ATPBS (Advanced Training in Problematic Sexual Behaviors). Additionally, Karen has received certification in treating partner trauma by APSATS.
Both Chris and Karen are certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and have developed a trademarked couples treatment model called R.E.A.L. (Reconnecting with Empathy,
Awareness, and Love) that has been used with couples who have addressed other issues such as addiction and still find it difficult to connect and reestablish intimacy.
Congratulations Chris and Karen on your new practice.
For more information, please visit them at www.https://www.take2counseling.com.
Dr. Magness
   
 Hope & Freedom specializes in Three-Day Intensives for Couples to lead toward the restoration of the relationship. Each Intensive is custom tailored to the needs of the couple. Only one couple will be present and I will personally conduct your Intensive.
For more information and to apply for acceptance in this program…