Being Single Through the Holidays

Being Single Through the Holidays

– Leslie Kalis

Leslie has been a faithful member of the Reconciliation Ministries leadership teams in Brighton and Troy for many years. It is a joy to see the Lord flow through her heart with strength and grace.

The holidays are a time for family, faith and fun. It’s a time for giving gifts and spending time with those we love. It's a time for planning and decorating, anticipation and expectation. A time when we reminisce past Christmases, when things were better or perhaps worse. Either way, they tend to bring out the deepest longing in us for love and family. For those of us who are single it can be a time that reminds us of the husband or the wife that we don't have, or loved ones we’ve lost through divorce or death, or the children we desire and never got. Apart from that, it can be a reminder that we are alone and this can often be a dreaded season.

When I first began to think on this subject, my mind went to the natural things to do that would help me enjoy the season… bake cookies for someone… volunteer your time at church, in a nursing home, or at a soup kitchen serving those less fortunate… do a Christmas puzzle… join a choir… have friends over to make wreaths and drink hot chocolate… start an exercise program or a Bible study. These are all good things, but I realized they are just diversions. They just stave off any loneliness or sadness we may be feeling for another time. Yet, at the end of the Holiday when all the gifts are given and the decorations are taken down and put away and families go back home, we are still the same inside only we are no longer reminded of it quite so blatantly. At least we made it through the holidays and life can be normal again. Right?

The world gives us a rosy picture of what Christmas is supposed to look like and what romance is supposed to look like. All of the “happily ever after’s”. I think all of us to some extent have bought into it. We watch the movies that give us warm emotions and stir longings in us for this dream life that promises to fulfill us, but many times they just create unrealistic expectations. If we look at the world today, we see empty promises and broken cisterns. It's no longer about giving ourselves to others and how we can serve them, but it becomes about how we can be served. It’s no longer about Jesus. It becomes about us. Jesus shows us what Christmas looks like in Himself. He shows us that love came to give. And that the greatest of all is servant of all. The life of Christ is our greatest example. Should we do no less? A friend of mine told me a story of a childhood friend who was very concerned about a birthday party she got invited to.

Was she going to have a good time there? She voiced her concern to her mother who wisely responded, “You just make sure everyone else is having a good time and you will too.” Jesus says, “When you do it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” Let's change our focus to Jesus, and look for ways to serve others this season. In so doing, we honor our Lord and are refreshed ourselves. It’s only in Christ that we are truly fulfilled and He sees even the smallest gesture of good and will reward us. “...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:1 I have known the frustration of unfulfilled desires and the deep pain of dashed hopes and lingering sadness. I grew up with a wonderful mother who was the only love and safe feeling I knew because I was scared of my father. Because she was a stay at home mom, my first day of school was my first separation from her.

We only lived a couple blocks from the school. Hand in hand, my friend and I walked to kindergarten in our new dresses with great anticipation and delight. It would become a day that changed my life. We were going out to recess and the teacher pulled me aside to tell me that my mother was in the hospital and would not be home when I got there. I don't remember what else took place in that conversation, only that my heart was gripped with fear. All I thought was that my mother died. I died on the inside that day. I found a whole in the fence and ran home to an empty house. I lost something that day. I shut down inside. Life was too painful. My heart lived with this expectation that my mom would die at any time and I never told anyone. I just suffered in silence. It would be 32 years before the Lord would miraculously drop that fear from my heart and set me free, but it still left me on a lifelong search for that love and safe feeling that I lost that day.

One day the Lord asked me to give Him my right to be loved. Was He serious? This is what I lived for. I didn't care about money, or fame, or position. I just wanted to be loved. How could He ask that of me? He gave us a desire to be loved as human beings and now He wanted me to give it to Him? I fought this for weeks, reasoning that if I gave this to Him I would never be loved again. It was my Isaac. Could I offer it up? Would I abandon this pursuit to be loved in life and put it on the altar? I finally said, “Yes, Lord, I will give You my right to be loved and I will never be loved again.” I truly left that at the cross to be His. To my amazement, about two weeks later that “drive” to be loved and feel safe inside had left me. What once consumed me was gone. He exchanged my greatest need in life for “resting” in Him. Now I feel truly loved, accepted and complete in Him beyond all I could ask or think. I am never alone because He is with me. What about you? Will you lay your very self at the foot of the cross this Christmas season and trust the One who left His Father’s side in glory to come and give His life for you, so that You could have it more abundantly? I pray that you will truly know the love of Jesus deep down in your soul. I pray that you will and that you experience Christmas with Christ, Himself, in a new way.

What RECMIN Stands For

Dear Friend,

So often when we see people discussing – or debating – controversial issues on social media, someone in the group will point out that the church is really good at presenting what they are against, but not so good at presenting what they are for. Sometimes I have to agree with them on that point. With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the things that we at Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan are for. Though this list is not conclusive, it is a good start. 

That people will have a life giving relationship with Jesus Christ so that they can be redeemed and spend eternity in Heaven with the Lord. For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  Helping people know their true identity in Christ. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Helping people overcome sinful, addictive behaviors so that they can live free from bondage, deepen their relationship with the Lord, and remain faithful to their calling as Christ-like men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9  Seeing hurting people become free from the traumatic effects of abuse, abandonment, and other devastating life events so that they can achieve their full potential in Christ. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Jesus in Luke 4:18-19

That people have their lives transformed through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to overcome the sin, trauma and temptations of this world. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 10:11

For the Biblical definition of marriage as a life-long commitment between one biologically born male and one biologically born female. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Matthew 19:4-5

For those struggling with sin, shame and condemnation to be set free. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

That people can truly know the love of God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:16 We hope this letter helps you to hear the hearts of the men and women who are a part of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan. We have all been touched by the redemptive heart of Jesus Christ in our own journeys out of sexual and relational brokenness. We continue to be completely dependent upon the Lord’s transforming work in our hearts.

If you or someone you love is struggling with sexual or relational sin, please call 586.739.5114 and see how Reconciliation Ministries can help.

You can also visit us on the internet at www.recmin.org. We could not do what we do without the many men and women who pray for us regularly and support us financially. Let us know if you would like to join our intercessory team by contacting us at info@recmin.org. Please consider supporting this ministry through a monthly tax-deductible donation or a one-time gift. You can donate online via PayPal. You can become a vital part of this ministry and touch the lives of others.

In Christ,

Dan Hitz
Director Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan

Dysfunctional Family Roles

Dysfunctional Family Roles

           
Last month’s newsletter article entitled “Home for the Holidays” talked about preparing for family gatherings which are often a source of stress and triggers of emotional wounds.  This month’s article explores various roles people play in the dysfunctional family. These roles serve as coping skills and defense mechanisms, but often tend to keep the dysfunction going.  Recognizing your role in the family system can help you make healthier choices to overcome the dysfunction and walk in better emotional health.  Most of the roles in this article are widely recognized and can be found by searching “dysfunctional family roles” on the internet.  This article is a compilation of the roles found through multiple internet resources.

The Person with the True Problem.

Simply put, this is the person with the addiction or other dysfunctional behavior.  It may be the alcoholic father, the vengeful mother, or the sibling with the substance abuse problem.  Rather than seeking the help he needs, the person with the true problem expects others to adjust to his dysfunctional behavior.  Others in the family learn to comply with his demands rather than facing the wrath and harshness of the broken system.

The Enabler/Codependent.

This is usually the spouse of the person with the true problem.  She is the family peacemaker who keeps the creator of the dysfunction in business by covering for him.  She tries to smooth over the waves caused by the true problem and the fallout from the emotional reactions to that problem.  Rather than trying to fix the root, the enabler seems to fertilize the bad fruit hoping for a good harvest.  She feels responsible for everyone’s emotional well being.  Strangely, the enabler’s behavior tends to get worse when the person with the true problem begins to get help.  She isn’t used to “normal” and seems to try to get everyone back to “broken” where she can feel “needed”.

The Hero.

This person adopts the values and dreams of others in an attempt to show the outside world that the family is actually okay.  Heroes are usually overachievers with poor self-esteem who intellectualize problems and disregard their own feelings.  Although they are forced to interact with others, they don’t allow others to get close enough to see their true emotional brokenness.  They view appropriate vulnerability as dangerous and work hard to put up a good front.  The oldest children in the family are usually the heroes.

The Scapegoat.  

The scapegoat is the opposite of the hero.  Rather than playing the game and pretending that things are okay, he tends to rebel against the dysfunctional system and begins acting out unspoken family conflict.  The scapegoat is the problem child who takes the focus off of the real problem and makes everyone else look good.  Scapegoats are often the second born.

The Lost Child/Loner.  

The lost child is usually a loner who becomes a chameleon to disappear into the background and not cause problems.  He brings relief because he has learned not to rock the boat and others don’t have to worry about him.  He has no opinions of his own and no expression of emotional needs.  This complies well with some of the unspoken rules of the broken family system including “don’t talk”, “don’t feel”, and “don’t have needs”.  He may also leave the family system as soon as he is able and maintain only minimal contact with them.  Middle children are often the ones in the role of the lost child. 

The Mascot/Class Clown.  

Mascots seek to be the comic relief of the dysfunctional family system and try to diffuse emotional pain through humor.  They can develop friendships easily and usually spend little time at home.  Mascots have a short attention span and are very poor with responsibility.  This serves to help them avoid the family dysfunction and puts their mind on fun things to fuel their escapism.  Mascots are usually one of the younger children in the family.

The Doer.  

The doer is similar to the hero. Doers may also be referred to as the “adult child”.  She is the overdeveloped, overstressed family member who often excels academically and takes care of the siblings for the dysfunction parents.  Although she may still be a child, herself, she has learned to act like an adult as a matter of emotional survival. This helps her cope with the adult who is acting like a child.  Doers live in the illusion that they exist to meet the needs of the dysfunctional adults.

The Manipulator.  

Manipulators use their skill to get others to do what they want them to do.  They have learned the unspoken message that needs and desires expressed directly clash with the family dysfunction and go unmet.  They play off the dysfunction of the person with the true problem and the attempts of the enabler to smooth the wake from the problems if the system.  Manipulators control others indirectly.  Manipulators are extremely intuitive and know what buttons to push in each family member to get their way.

The Critic.  

As the name implies, critics use negativity and fault finding to control others.

Daddy’s Little Princess.  

This role develops when the father uses the daughter to fulfill his broken emotional needs, and is a subtle form of emotional incest.  The father uses the child by drawing her into adult conversations and/or activities. For example he may tell the princess about sexual or emotional struggles that he may be having with her mother.  Rather than serving to protect and empower the daughter, the father uses his little princess to fulfill his own brokenness.  In her own emotional dysfunction, the princess learns to embrace her role for the perceived benefits she receives.  Benefits which are merely illusions and only wound her further.

Prince Charming.  

This role is similar to the little princess and occurs when the son is expected to fulfill the emotional needs of the dysfunctional mother.

The Saint/Martyr.  

The saint’s sense of worth is derived from fulfilling a predetermined occupation or course of action regardless of his own personal needs and wishes.  She may attempt to gain extra value by “informing” everyone of the many sacrifices she has made in order to “help” those in the dysfunctional system.  Although they often flaunt their own virtue and goodness, saints are internally sad and unfulfilled, hoping to gain a sense of inner acceptance and appreciation from people incapable of providing it.
 
If you’ve seen yourself as you read through the dysfunctional family roles, there is hope.  One of the main steps in your journey into relational wholeness is recognizing the things that need to be corrected.  Many of these roles are merely broken expressions of character strengths that are undeveloped.  The hero is able to play the hero because he does possess the intelligence and ability to succeed.  The lost child is able to become the chameleon because he is able to read people and situations and attempt to bring himself to a place of internal peace in the middle of the storm.  The mascot is able to be the mascot because he is personable and able to develop many friendships and make people feel comfortable with him.  Through counseling and a deeper walk with Christ, those in dysfunctional family roles can learn to shed the false uses of their personal gifts. They can learn to step out in the power of Christ to implement their gifts for the good that God intended.  The hero can learn to evaluate her own personal abilities and determine what is and is not her personal responsibility.  Accepting the personal responsibilities of walking in her gifts and allowing others to experience their own personal responsibilities offers both the opportunity for self improvement.  The mascot can learn to use her people skills to create a friendly work environment while receiving the satisfaction of meeting her personal responsibilities.  Walking into the good of our god-given design will help us to become all that God created us to be.
 
For others whose roles are deeper expressions of brokenness and sin there is repentance and the grace of God.  Through repentance, the scapegoat can learn to accept the responsibility for his own sinful choices and learn to overcome the emotional distress they formerly tried to escape through sin.
 
Help is available for those who are walking out of a dysfunctional family system.  Seek the assistance of the pastoral care department from your local church, a professional therapist, or a good support group.  Living Waters, Celebrate Recovery, and other life care groups offer support to those dealing with codependency, negative life patterns, and habitual sin.  There is help and hope for everyone through the power of Jesus Christ.
 
Reconciliation Ministries offers licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry.  If you or someone you know needs help, call 586.739.5114 to schedule an appointment.

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays                                                                                                

For many of us, the holidays are filled with anxiety that comes with revisiting the dysfunctional family dynamics of our youth.  Family get togethers sometimes place us in the presence of those who have offended us or have the potential to trigger our unresolved wounds – sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose.  The purpose of this article is to help you prepare for family gatherings so that you can walk through them with realistic expectations and minimal emotional stress.

Pray. 

This may seem cliché, but the most important preparation you can make for your family gathering is to pray.  It is important to communicate with the Lord prior to the event and share your hopes and fears.  This is the time to ask Him for help and protection in your specific areas of need, and to be reminded of who you are in Him.  You can also pray for the difficult people that you will be spending time with, and ask the Lord to put a guard on their hearts as well as yours.  Ask trusted others to pray for you.  Sometimes just knowing that others are praying for you will give you the extra boost of confidence you need.

Maintain realistic expectations. 

It is important to maintain realistic expectations through the holidays.  People will not change just because it’s Christmas.  You may have taken the time to get healthy, but others may not.  They will most likely do what they have always done.  If they were overbearing and critical before the Christmas tree went up, they will most likely be overbearing and critical after the tree goes up – and even during the process.  Reminding yourself of realistic expectations will help you avoid getting your hopes dashed by reality.  This is far different from telling yourself to expect a catastrophe so that you won’t be disappointed if one happens.  This is simply reminding yourself of your difficult relative’s character so you can make proper emotional preparations.

Some people do not do well during the holidays because it reminds them of their past abuse.  If you were abused during the holiday season by a visiting relative or during a sleepover while on Christmas vacation, this time of year may automatically trigger anxiety and depression.  Make plans to have safe others to confide in if you feel your emotional pressure rising.  This will help you get the support you need before you reach a breaking point.  Recognizing your own vulnerability and making preparations for assistance is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of healthy personal insight and good coping skills.

Establish appropriate boundaries.  

Decide prior to your gathering what behavior you will and will not accept.  Choose not to allow your family members to treat you disrespectfully, or try to bring you into the middle of their conflict.  Decide your course of action ahead of time if a family member violates your boundaries.  For example, if someone begins to call you disrespectful names you can calmly state that you won’t allow the person to treat you in a disrespectful manner.  If he continues to do so you can remove yourself from that conversation and try to join another conversation, ask him to leave your house, or decide to leave the gathering yourself.  When establishing boundaries with others, it is best to keep yourself calm and speak matter of factly.  Follow through on your boundaries without yelling.  Yelling actually tends to decrease your influence and often plays into the other person’s plan of trying to stir up your emotions.  Don’t be surprised when those who are used to violating your boundaries continue trying to do so after you have informed them of your boundaries.  They are used to doing so and may not take you seriously.  Sometimes their negative behavior may actually get worse for aseason while they try to figure out how serious you are about your boundaries.  They may try to get you to give up.  Calmly stand firm and hold your ground.  The other person will have to decide how they will respond to your boundaries.  It is great if they change and learn to respect you.  In this case your relationship with that person may improve.  If they decide not to respect your boundaries you may have to distance yourself from them and keep yourself in a position where they are unable to offend you.

Recognize that your family members are broken.  

Pray, pray, pray… but remember that it is not your job to fix them.  Broken people do broken people things.  This is not an excuse for poor treatment, but it may help you to put the issue into proper perspective.  Remember to implement you boundaries, and resist the urge to walk on eggshells trying to guess what to avoid or do to keep the other person happy.  Do what is right before the Lord and walk in obedience to Him.

Recognize that the issue usually isn’t about you. 

Don’t let another person’s dysfunction become your dysfunction.  Are they reacting to their own deeper emotional issues?  Are they merely angry people who take out their anger on anyone who happens to get in the way?  Dysfunctional people are operating out of their own brokenness.  Even if you do make a mistake, they are the ones choosing to react in a healthy or unhealthy manner.  Some dysfunctional people try to pull you into their problems and blame them on you.  In situations like this it is helpful to remind yourself that this isn’t your problem and choose not to take it from them.  This doesn’t mean that you are heartless and uncaring.  It simply means that you are choosing to become healthy and allow others to experience the consequences of their own poor decisions.

Don’t bite the bait. 

Many dysfunctional people are addicted to drama and try to pull others into their own internal hurricanes.  They may try to provoke you or highlight your imperfections to justify themselves.  Others may try to blame their own inappropriate behavior on you.  Resist the urge to respond in anger and calmly state your thoughts while maintaining your boundaries.  You may have to allow yourself time to express your frustration later in a safe setting, but resisting the urge to bite the bait keeps you from entering into their emotional turmoil.  You can choose to enjoy the holiday gathering even if they choose to be miserable.

Give yourself extra grace if you are

grieving the loss of a loved one.  

If you are walking through the grief process after loosing someone you love, recognize that the first few holidays without them may bring up a wide variety of emotions.  That is normal.  It is okay if you don’t have the emotional energy to decorate your house and get the same level of gifts that you usually do.  Some people will understand while others won’t.  Do what you feel comfortable doing.  In time, you will be able to carry on some of the old traditions or you may decide to adjust and develop some new ones.  The main thing is that you honor the memory of your loved one, and simply do what you are able to do.

 

Nurture relationships with healthy family members and friends. 

Identify the healthy people in your life and proactively spend time developing those relationships.  Learn to overcome the dysfunctional family dynamics in an appropriate manner with those who have walked through similar situations and are on the road to recovery.  Discussing personal reactions to issues in an appropriate manner helps build relationships and lets you know that you are not alone.

Recognize the progress that you have made. 

Give yourself credit for what the Lord has done in your life and grace for the things He has yet to do.  Nobody is perfect.  It is really okay to celebrate the small victories while you’re looking forward to the larger ones.

Allow yourself time to recuperate after the event.  

Dealing with difficult people can be exhausting.  Prior to the event, discuss your need to relax afterwards with safe others.  You may even want to schedule extra personal quiet time afterwards or make plans to have fun in appropriate leisure activities with those who are able.  It is amazing how beneficial these types of plans can be, and how much easier it will be for you to adjust back into your regular routine once you have take the time to decompress.

Taking the time to pray and read through this list prior to your holiday event can help you navigate through some difficult situations with more peace.  Remember to have realistic expectations and trust the Lord to lead you.  Don’t condemn yourself if you don’t walk through an awkward situation like you think you should.  Give yourself grace to learn and grow more every day.

 

A Gift for Yourself this Christmas

A Gift for Yourself this Christmas

– Kent Darcie


Kent Darcie is the founder and presenter for Adult Children of Divorce Ministries. He has reached out to adults with divorced parents for ten years. A variety of resources for adult children of divorce are available at his website, http://www.childrenofdivorce.net.

An estimated 50% of US adults who will celebrate Christmas this year have divorced parents. For them this season can be particularly tough. Even those who manage to create the “Hallmark” holiday for their own family must often contend with gatherings which include a hodgepodge of parents, ex-parents, steps, step-siblings, grand-steps, and other combinations too numerous to list here.

While few adults with divorced parents would deny hassles are standard equipment with divorce, fewer still understand just how much their parent’s divorce affects them the other 11½ months. My case was no exception.

I was 13 when the divorce occurred. Until then my father, mother, two younger sisters and I lived a comfortable middle class life. Dad worked. Mom stayed home with us. Though I loved them both, my relationship with my dad felt like joy on steroids. Where he was, I wanted to be; whether under a car as he changed the oil, or exploring on a long bike ride. The occasional punishment or spanking did come, but my glasses couldn’t be any rosier thinking about those early years.

After the divorce, I stayed with my mom and sisters. Visits with my dad were painfully infrequent. Sporadic happiness replaced the joy as life wandered on. Junior and senior high school, college, marriage, and kids rounded out the next 30 years. So did anger, anxiety, feeling unworthy, struggling with inadequacy, fears, and bouts with mild depression every Christmas season. It’s almost sinister how abnormal can seem normal when you live it long enough.

 But at a marriage retreat God shined blinding light into my eyes with this truth: even though I was on my first marriage, I was traveling down the same emotional path as my dad who was approaching his third marriage. I swore never to put my kids through a divorce, but it didn’t matter. Apparently that was the path I was on.

We hear how marriages are failing at a 50% rate. What’s not communicated is the disproportionate impact adult children with divorced parents have on the percentage. Simply put, if a person from an intact family marries someone from a broken home, the odds the marriage will fail increase 50%. If both are from broken homes, the chance of the marriage ending in divorce increase 200% (as compared with two people from intact homes.)1 Divorce produces divorce! More frightening is the root causes for these marital collapses are mostly unknown by millions of adults with divorced parents.  

Research indicates adult children of divorce (ACD) have issues with anger and trusting people directly due their parent’s divorce. They also suffer from a list of fears including the fear of inadequacy, of inferiority, of conflict, and the fear of doom—which lives life always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Additionally, children from broken homes have far higher addiction rates including drugs, alcohol, and sex. Depression, attempts at suicide, teen pregnancy, and brushes with the law are also side effects from a parent’s divorce. These can create deep cracks in the foundation an adult life is built upon.   

Combined or in part, these issues form a concoction proven as toxic to relationships and marriages. But, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2

 I've received great comfort from God. Shortly after the marriage retreat, God uncovered resources which helped explain the impact my parent’s divorce had. With these issues exposed, my prayers, research, and actions were more focused on the goal of overcoming the issues. God’s gifts of love, peace, and joy slowly washed away the fears, anger, and other issues that grew like poison mushrooms in a beautiful garden.

This Christmas why not accept this wonderful gift too? You are reading this at God’s leading, but as an ACD you have a choice. Wait 30 years before admitting your parent’s divorce still negatively affects you. Continue limiting yourself and hurting your loved ones. Or bring yourself healing and renewed relationships by applying this new information.

Adult Children of Divorce Ministries provides resources so adults with divorced parents can overcome the unseen tentacles that trip up their relationships with others and God as well. Books, articles, videos, and more are accessible on the website. Seminars, workshops, teachings, and other presentations are available for groups—both small and large. Get information today and jump-start your healing journey.

More important, seek a deeper comprehension of God’s love for you. The holiday season makes revisiting or learning about Christmas’ true meaning easy. Read Luke Chapters 1 and 2.  For a more basic approach you can watch A  Charlie Brown Christmas. 3 For nearly 50 years Linus has been telling Charlie Brown and the world what Christmas is really all about. Afterward, contact Dan Hitz or myself and learn more about how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Christ’s love is for you. 4 Healing begins with God. Accept His wonderful gift and make this a very Merry Christmas.

Kent Darcie founded Adult Children of Divorce Ministries. Resources are available at www.acdministries.com. Check out his blog at www.childrenofdivorce.net.
 1 Paul Amato. www.smartmarriages.com/before.breakup.html accessed 11/6/12
2 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. [ESV]
3 A Charlie Brown Christmas.  http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2011/12/25/linus-tells-charlie-brown-true-meaning-christmas  Accessed 12/5/2013
4 Ephesians 3:18b [NLT]

A Biblical Response to the Gay Affirming Church

A Biblical Response to the

Gay Affirming Church

As we look at the issue of homosexuality and Christianity, we must realize that not all people who identify themselves as Christians see the Bible as the divinely inspired writing of God’s unchanging Word which is our final authority on all matters of faith and conduct.  Many see it as good principles which have evolved over time, and may not have taken into account certain new understandings about cultural issues including homosexuality or homosexual orientation.  Others will attempt to interpret it in a way that still gives the Bible authority as God’s Word, but also allows them to embrace homosexuality.  We as Christians must have a specific, unchanging standard to base our beliefs on and hold fast to the true meaning of Scripture.

Many in the gay community will say that homosexuality is acceptable because Jesus said nothing to condemn homosexuality in the Bible.  However, Jesus also said nothing about pedophilia or bestiality, which most non-Christians would strongly condemn.  Jesus did specifically outline God’s intent for marriage from the beginning of creation.  When the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus with their questions about divorce, Jesus replied in Mark 10:6-9 [NIV]   "But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  Jesus gave a direct reference to the creation account in Genesis 2:18-24 when God formed Eve out of Adam as a helper suitable for him.

Many Christians will point out that God specifically condemned homosexual behavior in the Old Testament in Leviticus Chapters 18 and 20.  Those in the gay affirming churches will ask them why they are holding to the Old Testament laws against homosexuality when they stop at McDonalds and eat a ham, egg, and cheese McMuffin.  As many of us are responding with a blank stare, they will go on to reference Acts 10:9-48 where the Lord commissioned Peter to speak to Cornelius by showing him the sheet of animals and commanding him to eat.  In Acts 10:15 the Lord tells Peter, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."   They will draw a parallel between God calling the Gentiles –  a formerly rejected people group –  clean with God also calling those in the homosexual community clean.  Our response to this can be to cite the decisions of the counsel in Jerusalem as detailed in Acts 15:1-31.  At this counsel, the church leaders gathered in Jerusalem to determine if the new Gentile believers were required to keep the law of Moses.  There was no question that the offer of salvation was opened to all who accepted it.  The question was one of law and behavior.  The counsel reached the decision that the Gentiles were responsible to keep only four behavioral laws, one of them was specifically to refrain from sexual immorality.  Many of these laws are clearly stated both in the old and new testaments.  Those who struggle with homosexuality are welcomed into the Kingdom of God, however they are expected to refrain from sexual immorality and repent of their sin of homosexuality just as we would also expect those struggling with heterosexual sin to repent of their sin as well.

Many well meaning Christians have used Romans 1:25-29 to thunder their opposition to homosexuality loudly to those who embrace it.  Unfortunately, they have also triggered many defenses to this section of Scripture.  When we’re talking to someone who believes that homosexuality is acceptable, we must remember to speak the truth graciously and realize that this passage may very well bring up some strong emotions.  Those who accept homosexuality often say that same sex encounters are natural for persons who are born homosexual, and that this section of scripture refers to persons who are born heterosexual who have abandoned their heterosexuality for homosexuality.  We can respond that our sinful desires always feel natural to us.  When I embraced my homosexual feelings and attractions, it felt very natural to me to act upon them.  When I embraced bulimia, it felt natural to me to eat five times the amount of food that would make a non-bulimic feel stuffed.  The truth is, bulimia is not an acceptable behavior in God’s sight.  As natural as it felt, I was not born a bulimic.  In the same way, homosexuality is not an acceptable behavior in God’s sight.  Both are damaging and self destructive.  There are many secular studies that indicate increased rates of illness,

depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence among homosexuals compared to heterosexuals.  These increased risks also occur in countries and cultures that are more accepting of homosexuality than the US.  [Secular studies will be addressed in a future newsletter, and some references will be given at the end of this newsletter.]

Many in the homosexual community also believe that David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi were homosexual partners.  They may quote 1 Samuel 18:1-3 [KJV] which reads, And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.  Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”  It is easy for me to see how broken people can confuse love with a sexual relationship.  They are not the same.  You can have a deep love for someone without having a sexual relationship.  You can also have a sexual relationship with someone without love.  David and Jonathan truly had a deep love for each other, but it was not a sexualized love.  God is not bashful about sex.  There are many details of sexual relationships in Scripture including The Song of Solomon and David’s sin with Bathsheba.  If David and Jonathan would have had a sexual relationship, and that relationship was acceptable in God’s sight, he most likely would have included at least one reference to their union in Scripture.  Yes, David and Jonathan made a covenant, but so did Abraham and the Lord in Genesis 15.  According to Thayer’s Bible Dictionary, the same Hebrew word is used for both covenants.  God’s covenant with Abraham was not sexual.  Neither was David and Jonathan’s.

Those who believe that Ruth and Naomi had a homosexual partnership will quote Ruth’s response to Naomi when Naomi told Ruth to stay in her homeland and with her people when Naomi returned to Israel.  This familiar section of Scripture is even quoted at weddings as couples exchange their vows.  “…Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back.  I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  I will die where you die and will be buried there.  May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”  Ruth 1:16-17 [NLT]  This obviously shows a deep committed love between Ruth and Naomi, but it does not imply a sexual or lesbian bond.  In fact, Naomi helps Ruth get married to a man named Boaz in Chapter 3 of Ruth and tells Ruth how to win Boaz’ heart.

This newsletter is intended to introduce you to some of the doctrinal positions held by members of the gay affirming church.  Future newsletters will explore some of the secular research that shows the pain and destruction involved in a homosexual life.  I encourage you to share your heart in mercy, and not in anger.  As a former homosexual, I can understand the immense power of same sex attraction and the deep inner battle to reconcile such feelings within the context of a God who has a strong moral code.  Inside, guilt dwells with passion.  Our own desires are confronted by God.  I remember hearing about one of the few gay affirming churches in the 1980’s.  Even though I was far from God, something deep within me hoped that I could have both God and homosexuality.  I never did make the connection.  I knew deep inside that the two were irreconcilable.  Now, some twenty years later, I am glad that they are.  I came to the Lord broken and bruised, yearning for acceptance.  It has been a long journey, but I continue walking in the emotional and spiritual healing that Jesus Christ has to offer.  I no longer try to fill the deep voids inside my heart with fantasy or unions with other men.  I can now live as an emotionally healthy heterosexual man, husband, and father.  Only Jesus Christ can heal the wounds and fill the voids.  It took being confronted with the truth by loving Christians and a loving God to bring the healing that I needed.  When you meet those who believe that embracing homosexuality and following Christ are compatible, remember to speak to them in mercy.  You are Christ’s ambassador for healing and reconciliation. 

If you would like more information on this subject…

A Strong Delusion, Joe Dallas.  Harvest House Publishers, 1996
Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.  Baker Books, 1996.
Exodus International has many resources available at www.exodus.to/library.shtml
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality at www.narth.com
Focus on the Family at www.family.org
Homosexuality Statement, Christian Medical and Dental Associations at
  http://www.cmdahome.org/index.cgi?BISKIT=2302340612&CONTEXT=art&art=2554

Speaking the Truth in Love, The Dangers of Homosexuality

Speaking the Truth in Love,

The Dangers of Homosexuality

Dan Hitz, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan

 In the October 2004 newsletter article entitled, “A Biblical Response to the Gay Affirming Church”, I presented an introductory Scriptural response to many of the arguments presented by the gay affirming church.  This article is intended to be a follow up to the October article and presents some of the secular research that shows that homosexual activity is a harmful behavior with physical, emotional, and relational consequences.  Both articles are intended to merely scratch the surface of these issues and present a brief overview.  References will be presented throughout the article and at the conclusion for those who would like more information.

When God ordained sexuality specifically within the context of the heterosexual marriage bed between one man and one woman, he did so because He created us as heterosexual, monogamous beings.  He knows how we function best – body, soul, and spirit.  Secular research on sexuality in general shows that sexually active teenagers are significantly more likely to feel depressed and to attempt suicide than non-sexual active teens.1According to one study, teen females who were sexually active felt “depressed all, most, or a lot of the time” compared to 7.7 percent of the non-sexually active girls.  For teen boys, the percentages were 8.3% for sexually active, compared to 3.4% for non-sexually active boys.2These and other studies back up the message that it is better to wait until marriage to have sex.  Further studies show that there are significant health risks associated with homosexual activities.

According to the Center for Disease Control, smokers can expect to live approximately 7 years less than non-smokers.  This has caused the government to order strict warning labels on cigarette packages and advertisement.  However, the decrease in life expectancy for gay and bisexual men is much higher.  “Life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.3In a household survey of unmarried men 18 through 29 years of age, 328 homosexual men, 20.1% tested positive for HIV 4, yet many men continue to practice unprotected sex with multiple partners.  In addition to HIV/AIDS, there are many extreme health risks associated with homosexual activities including hepatitis A, B, and C; increased risk of anal cancer (4000%), HPV, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, and a multitude of other sexual transmitted diseases.  (For a more complete explanation of the physical risks of male homosexual behavior, see the Christian Medical and Dental Associations’ Homosexuality Statement.  This is an excellent compilation of data from many published secular studies complete with references. 5 )

Embracing the homosexual lifestyle also takes a heavy emotional toll.  According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (December 2003), there are higher incidences of illegal drug usage, alcoholism, psychological problems, and violence in the gay community than in the general population.  “Gay men and lesbians reported more psychological distress than heterosexual women, despite similar levels of social support and quality of physical health”.  (p.556) 6The pro-gay community would be quick to reply that these situations are caused by harassment, intolerance, and homophobia; however, these figures are also reflected in studies conducted in the Netherlands where homosexuality is much more accepted than in the US. 7“A Dutch study of 5998 heterosexual and homosexual men and women showed that ‘psychiatric disorders were more prevalent among homosexually active people compared with heterosexually active people… On a lifetime basis, homosexual women had a significantly higher prevalence of general mood disorders and major depression than did heterosexual women… Lifetime prevalence of both alcohol and other drug dependence was also significantly higher in homosexual women than in heterosexual women.” 5

What about committed relationships between two individuals of the same sex?  Wouldn’t they have less risk factors than promiscuous individuals?  The reality is that even among same-sex couples that say that they are in a committed relationship, there are very few truly monogamous relationships.  In Male and Female Homosexuality, the authors found that the average live-in relationship lasts between two and three years.8In Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Jeffrey Satinover writes “a study conducted by a homosexual couple found that out of 156 same-sex couples 'only seven had maintained sexual fidelity; of the hundred couples that had been together for more than five years, none had been able to maintain sexual fidelity. The authors noted that the expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals.'" 5Many in the homosexual community will point out the high divorce rate in the heterosexual community and claim that the infidelity rate is also bad for heterosexual marriage.  I agree that many heterosexual marriages are also in need of repair, but the statistics of monogamy are still much higher.  “In Sex in America, called by the New York Times ‘the most important study of American sexual behavior since the Kinsey reports,’ Robert T. Michael et al. report that 90 percent of wives and 75 percent of husbands claim never to have had extramarital sex.” 9

There is hope for men and women struggling with homosexuality.  Thousands of men and women have found help in dealing with their unwanted same sex attractions through therapy, and/or faith based groups like Exodus.  Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, “surveyed 850 individuals and 200 therapists and counselors – specifically seeking out individuals who claim to have made a degree of change in sexual orientation. Before counseling or therapy, 68% of respondents perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, with another 22% stating they were more homosexual than heterosexual. After treatment only 13% perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, while 33% described themselves as either exclusively or almost entirely heterosexual, 99% of respondents said they now believe treatment to change homosexuality can be effective and valuable.” 5Other research also shows that individuals have changed their sexual orientation.  Dr. Robert Spitzer, a historic champion of gay activism, played a major role in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Associations manual of mental disorders.10In Spitzer’s 2001 study of 200 men and women, 29% of the male subjects and 63% of the female subjects reported “no or only minimal homosexual indicators”.11The majority of those in the study reported a significant change in their orientation from “predominantly or exclusively homosexual before therapy, to predominantly or exclusively heterosexual after therapy.  Also interesting to note, many pro-gay groups will report that people who attempt to change their sexual orientation will become depressed.  Spitzer found the opposite to be true.  Twelve months prior to their effort to change, 43% of the males and 47% of the females reported suffering from depression.  After their effort to change, and in the twelve months prior to being interviewed, the percentage of people reporting depression dropped to 1% for men and 4% for women.11  As with walking out of any sinful behavior, the temptation may return on occasion.  For example, a former alcoholic may desire a drink after ten years of sobriety.  We would certainly not encourage the alcoholic to “embrace his true self and live out his alcoholism”.  We would instead encourage him to resist the temptation and offer to walk alongside him to help him past the season of temptation.  This is the function of the church, and the work of God’s grace for all in the body of Christ.

This article has only begun to scratch the surface of this topic and to provide additional resources for further research.  Remember, when talking with someone who embraces homosexuality, we must always speak the truth in love.  Knowledge will do nothing to reach someone for Jesus Christ if it is not spoken with love.  If you would like more information on this subject, please check out the following resources:

A Strong Delusion, Joe Dallas.  Harvest House Publishers, 1996

Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.  Baker Books, 1996.

Exodus International has many resources available at www.exodus.to/library.shtml  

National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality at www.narth.com   

Focus on the Family at www.family.org  

  

References
1      Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to Be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide, Rector, Johnson, and Noyes.  Center for Data Analysis Report #03—4 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/cda0304.cfm
2      National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, Wave II, 1996
3      Modeling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men.  International Journal of Epidemiology. 26 (3): 657-661.  Hogg, R.S. et al.
4      Osmond, D., Page, K., Wiley, J., Garrett, K., Sheppard, H., Moss, A., Schrager, K., Winkelstein, W., (1994) HIV infection in homosexual and bisexual men 18 to 29 years of age: The San Francisco young men’s health study. American Journal of Public Health. 84, 12: 1933-1937.
5      Homosexuality Statement, Christian Medical and Dental Associations http://www.cmdahome.org/index.cgi?BISKIT=2302340612&CONTEXT=art&art=2554
6         Waller, Roy.  New Study Indicates Gays and Lesbians Prone to Psychological Symptoms and Substance Abuse.  NARTH.  December 2003. http://www.narth.com/docs/symptoms.html
7      Sandfort, T.G., de Graaf, R., Bijl, R.V., Schnabel, P. (2001, January). Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders: findings from the Netherlands mental health survey and incidence study. (NEMESIS). Archives of General Psychiatry. 58: 85-91.
8      M. Saghir and E. Robins, Male and Female Homosexuality (Baltimore”:  Williams & Wilkins, 1973), p. 225;  Dailey, T. Homosexual Parenting:  Placing Children at Risk.  (OthodoxyToday.orgSeptember 29, 2004)  p. 8.
9      Dailey, T. Homosexual Parenting:  Placing Children at Risk.  (OthodoxyToday.orgSeptember 29, 2004)  p. 8. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articlesprint/DaileyGayAdoptP.htm  
10    Waller R. and Nicolosi, L.  Spitzer Study Published:  Evidence Found for Effectiveness of Reorientation Therapy.  September 21, 2004. http://www.narth.com/docs/evidencefound.html   
11    Research Summary:  Robert L. Spitzer, Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation.  New Directions for Life 2003. http://www.newdirection.ca/research/spitzer.htm   

Ex-Gays – A Scientific Study

Ex-Gays – A Scientific Study

Dan is the executive director to Reconciliation Ministries.  This is a composite of some press releases published in September, 2007, about a three-year study of the effects of programs like Living Waters on persons interested in changing their sexual orientation.

A study that I have been anticipating for a few years has now been made public.  The excerpts from press releases from Exodus International and InterVarsity Press say it best.  I love it when scientific research validates what thousands of us have already experienced and what God has been saying all along… change IS possible!

Researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse released the results of a three-year study during an address at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. Their findings indicate that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm to the patient, on average. These conclusions directly contradict the claims of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association that state that change in sexual orientation is impossible and attempting to pursue this alternative is likely to cause depression, anxiety or self-destructive behavior. The major findings of this study are reported in full in the book Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (InterVarsity Press). – From Exodus Press Office Release, September 14, 2007

Stanton Jones is provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and served on the Council of Representatives, the central governing body of the APA, representing the Psychology of Religion division from 1999-2001. He has published many other professional and popular articles and books, including Modern Psychotherapies, coauthored with Richard E. Butman.

Mark Yarhouse is professor of psychology and director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (www.sexualidentityinstitute.org) at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he has taught since 1998. He has written extensively for professional publications and has authored several books, including Modern Psychopathologies, coauthored with Richard E. Butman and Barrett W. McRay, and Sexual Identity Synthesis, coauthored with Erica S. N. Tan.

The InterVarsity Press book, scheduled to be published in September 2007, is the most scientifically rigorous study of its kind to date, and uses multiple measures regarded as "industry standards." Knowing their results would generate controversy, Jones and Yarhouse have thoroughly described the rationale for their procedures. George A. Rekers, Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science Emeritus at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, states that the study "meets the high research standards set by the American Psychological Association that individuals be validly assessed, followed and reported over time with a prospective, longitudinal outcome research design." The study will set the standard for all future work in this field and demands a serious reading from social scientists. Publisher Bob Fryling comments, "In a highly politicized environment, this book is another 'inconvenient truth' of scientific research data countering prejudice and ignorance." – From InterVarsity Press release

Why Some Adults Are Sexually Attracted To Children

Why Some Adults Are Sexually Attracted To Children

This article was written by Dan Hitz, Director of Reconciliation Ministries.  If you or someone you know needs help, please call 586.739.5114.  Help is available through Jesus Christ.

Jesus… asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.
“Go now and leave your life of sin.”  
John 8:10-11 NIV

Perhaps no temptation or sin strikes more fear and shame into the heart of an individual than sexual attractions toward children.  People who are attracted to children are often afraid to get the help they need because of the anger in society toward those who have abused and the fear of being reported.  It is important to understand that no one is hopeless, and that Jesus Christ loves those who are attracted to children and wants to set them free.  It is important to understand that suspected acts of child abuse must be reported in order to obtain help for those who are affected by the abuse as well as the individual who has abused another.  It is also important to understand that temptation alone is neither a sin nor a crime, and is not reportable.  The intent of this article is to explain pedophilia, and what may be occurring in the hearts of those who are attracted to children.  Although this article looks at some of the emotional issues that a pedophile may be facing, it is in no way intended to excuse his/her behavior or attractions.  It is intended to encourage those with such attractions to seek help so that they may be set free from the shame and temptations that are keeping them in bondage.  If you or someone you know is struggling with this sin, please call 586.739.5114.  Come and meet Jesus Christ at the foot of the cross and let Him set you free from the temptations that have kept you emotionally imprisoned.

Pedophilia is a recurrent sexual disorder in which a person has frequent, intense sexual urges toward children who have not entered puberty.1 Persons with pedophilia may or may not act upon those urges. Ephebophilia is similar to pedophilia, but involves a sexual attraction to minors who have begun to experience some of the physiological changes of puberty but have not yet reached adulthood.2 Because the characteristics of pedophilia and ephebophilia are similar, the term pedophilia will apply to both disorders throughout this article.

The American Psychiatric Association classifies those attracted to children as “exclusive”, only attracted to children; or “nonexclusive”, attracted to both adults and children.3 Ward identifies “situational offenders” as those who experience a later onset of attractions to children, tend to abuse family members, experience increased attraction to children during seasons of stress, and prefer sex with adults.4 Ward identifies “preferential offenders” as those who experience an earlier onset of attractions to children, are more compulsive in their offending, abuse children outside of their family, and engage in a belief system that fuels predatory behavior.4 Pedophilia usually begins in adolescence,1 however cases of prepubescent offenders have been reported.5 Up to 94 percent of pedophiles are male and may prefer girls, boys, or both.5, 6  In a study of 678 male pedophiles, 47 percent preferred females, 27 percent preferred males, and 25 percent reported attraction to both sexes.6Most prefer children in a specific age range, and limit their activity to incest, step-family incest, or non family members.

Pedophiles report feeling inadequate when relating to peers and have difficulty functioning in appropriate heterosexual relationships.6 They may also experience additional difficulties including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and personality or mood disorders.1 Sabatino reports that approximately one-half of his clients who are attracted to children are themselves victims of childhood sexual abuse and many of those who were not sexually abused have suffered from emotional abuse.7 Their own abuse results in a sense of powerlessness which leads to feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Because of an overwhelming sense of shame, the abuse victims find it extremely difficult to relate to healthy adults in their own peer groups and prefer the vulnerability and acceptance that they gain from those who are weaker. Van Domelen explains that as a child, the pedophile was in some way isolated from himself. He grew into a physical adult yet remained trapped in a perceived need to connect with children and his own lost childhood. Pedophiles are trying to avoid their painful feelings of inadequacy and create a sense of acceptance and value.2 Fearing adult relationships, they try to establish intimate relationships with children with whom they feel accepted and in control.7

Sexual offenders often seek situations where they have influence over children such as teaching, coaching, or developing relationships with the mothers of children to whom they are attracted. Approximately 60 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls who are victims of pedophilia are victimized by someone the child or the child’s family is familiar with.5 Many offenders are drawn to children who have characteristics that the offender desires within himself.8 The offender who unconsciously believes that his innocence and childhood playfulness have been stolen from him by his abuser may be drawn to children who have a childlike, carefree behavior. The abuser has to balance the desired characteristics with the vulnerability that will allow him to groom the victim. He may have to substitute the ideal child with a vulnerable child that he can connect with. Putnam cites several factors that increase a child’s vulnerability to sexual abuse.9 Approximately 75 percent of all victims of childhood sexual abuse are girls. The risk of sexual abuse for girls begins at an earlier age and lasts longer than the risk for boys with the exception of boys with disabilities. Putnam states that boys suffering from a mental or physical handicap are at a substantially increased risk compared to boys that do not suffer from these conditions. He found no socioeconomic, race, or ethnic influences on the frequency of sexual abuse. Putnam reports that the risk of sexual abuse also increases substantially for children living in single parent homes, or in homes where both parents are absent. Girls with a step-father in the home face twice the risk of being sexually abused by the step-father or by another adult prior to the step-father’s arrival. Children who are socially isolated and whose parents are impaired are also at increased risk.

Whether you are an adult who is sexually attracted to children, or you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Jesus Christ can heal the hurts of the past, present, and future.  Don’t let shame or fear stand in the way of the help that you need.  Call 586.739.5114 and ask how Reconciliation Ministries can help you.  There are many men and women who have walked down a path very similar to yours and have found healing.  There is hope for you too.

References:
1.  Comer, R. J. (2005). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology (4th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.
2.  Van Domelen, B. (n.d.). Help for adults attracted to children. Orlando, FL: Exodus International-North America.
3.  American Psychiatric Association. (2000). DSM-IV text revision. Washington D. C.: Author.
4.  Ward, T. (1999). Competency and deficit models in the understanding and treatment of sexual offenders. The Journal of Sex Research, 36(3), 298-305.
5.  Freeman-Longo, R., & Reback, D. (2000). Myths and facts about sex offenders. Silver Spring, MD: Center for Sex Offender Management.
6.  Hyde, J. S., & DeLamater, J. D. (2006). Understanding Human Sexuality (9th ed., pp. 424-428). New York: McGraw Hill.
7.  Sabatino, C. J. (1999). Men facing their vulnerabilities: Group process for men who have sexually offended. Journal of Men's Studies, 8(1), 83-90.
8.  Payne, B. (1996). Healing homosexuality. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
9.  Putnam, F. W. (2003). Ten-year research update review: Child sexual abuse. Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(3), 269-278.

Holy Listening

Holy Listening

– Deborah Tourville

Deborah is on the Reconciliation Ministries Board of Directors.  She has served in the inner healing ministries since 2001.  Deborah is a certified Theophostic minister and has completed year one of herinternship in Ignatinian Spirituality as a spiritual director and retreat director.

Many of us go through our day bombarded with noise.  We begin by waking up to an alarm clock/radio that begins with a buzz and then delivers the news and traffic report.  We go through our day with sounds of all kinds.  When we arrive home, we find more noise with TV’s, appliances, phones ringing, lawn mowers mowing … you name it. 

With all the artificial noise it’s no wonder we have a hard time listening to each other.  When was the last time you felt listened to?  I mean heard for not just the words you are saying, but with the emotion behind your words.   Turn the question around and ask yourself when the last time you listened to someone else like that was.  For most of us, the answer would be “I can’t remember”. 

Our early ancestors were storytellers, passing on traditions from one generation to the next.  The people listening were blessed by the stories and lessons shared as much as the one telling the story.  It’s much the same for us today.  We all have stories and histories we need to share and know another will listen and hold our stories sacred and confidential.   This is what I have come to term holy listening.  The Lord began to teach me the fruits of group sharing that went beyond the individual.  I saw a dynamic where the Lord not only touched each person’s heart in a specific way as each shared, but also touched the hearts of those listening.  He showed me a back and forth continuum that included blessings of love, acceptance, humility, and service.

As a facilitator of inner healing groups since 2001, I have learned that being listened to is one of our most basic desires.  We need to know that someone stands with us in our hurts, wounds, pains, and unfulfilled desires.   An emptying and filling happens in each person as they share their story.  We learn love and acceptance through this process.  This is important, as we need the support of close family and friends to reassure us that no matter what has happened in our lives we can move forward into healing and wholeness.  As we realize the love of others, we in turn can begin to love and forgive ourselves. 

The group setting is a sacred space where we learn to reverence each other as temples of the Lord (2 Cor. 6:16) even though some may not yet see the temple within themselves.  For many this is the first time they have listened to another’s story or have shared their own.  We inwardly cry out, see me, hear me, do you know who I am; longing to know God knows my struggles.  As we listen to each other and with the Holy Spirit, we hear beyond the words, to the root, the unspoken, and into the pain, they may not yet know how to articulate.

 For the listener it is hearing (listening) as God says, “I’m here, my cross is here in their pain and I know”.  It is hearing (listening) to God say to me “love this person here, in this pain, heartache.”  In holy listening, we forget our self, focus on another, and help them as they walk with the Lord in a personal relationship.

As groups such as this grow together, listening to one another, they become “circles of care” where judgment, bitterness and anger are released and healing/reconciliation begins.  We see ourselves accepted by others and realize our self-rejection diminishing.   We become hopeful.  John 10:10 says “I have come so that you may have life and have it to its full.”  Hope brings us into the light of openness and replaces the darkness of fear and shame.  People with hope imagine a God who is approachable and loving.  They believe God’s mercy and love is for them too.  Hope and acceptance are powerful to those who have lived in shame most of their lives.  The listener(s) find their own hearts are changing and opening to a new empathy and compassion for the others.  We begin to learn the meaning of “blessed are they who show mercy, mercy shall be theirs”. 

The group bonds in Christian love and unity as we watch each other grow in confidence and positive self-image.  Everyone rejoices in being a part of this “circle of care”.  I watch as friendships and “community” forms.  Individuals now begin to see themselves not as being all alone but as belonging.  The group ‘bursts forth’ with wanting to share with each other while respecting the parameters and guidelines of the group. 

Individuals healed to this point naturally want to give to others what they have received –  healing and forgiveness.  They see themselves humbly as loved sinners.  With a deep repentance, they move into a new self-awareness and a deeper awareness of God’s mercy.  This always brings about a deeper conversion.  We experience the freedom conversion brings and want to express the joy to others.  Love experienced must be expressed – it is our human nature.  We become empowered by the Holy Spirit – the Love of God to move forward and proclaim the Good News. 

I have found as a minister no one is in a group by accident.  Isaiah 65:24 reads, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”.  God knows what we need before we ask.  Inner healing groups have helped people become the persons they are created to be.  It brings people into relationship with God, and just as importantly, with each other.  It is bringing about the Kingdom of God one person at a time, one group at a time.  It is the fulfillment of what it means to be Christian, to realize Christ’s love for and within me that can reach and touch you; and Christ’s love with-in you that transforms if I let it….me.

The Union of Spirituality and Therapy

The Union of Spirituality and Therapy

Written by Dan Hitz, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries

Previous issues of the Reconciliation Ministries newsletter have looked at and defined various models of healing prayer including Living Waters, Theophostic ministry, Restoring the Foundations, and Leanne Payne. This article examines the union of spirituality and traditional therapy. It also takes a look at the scientific validity of healing prayer. Although relatively little scientific research has been conducted in the realm of prayer, the results are very encouraging.

The relationship between theology and traditional therapy has been tumultuous since Freud’s era (Zinnbauer & Pargament, 2000). This author has personally heard numerous fundamentalist and Pentecostal preachers condemn the “evils” of psychology and cite such Scriptures as, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:13b-14 (New King James Version), and “Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he] [is] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” 
2 Corinthians 5:17 (New King James Version). These Scriptures are erroneously used to support the preacher’s idea that Christians should not spend their time dealing with past wounds, but simply “put them under the blood and follow Jesus”. This author was surprised to hear a nationally known Christian speaker on pornography addiction boldly proclaim during his seminar, “Don’t worry about your past wounds or triggers, just find out what the Bible says and do it!” (Gallager, 2001). Although it is critical that believers “find out what the Bible says and do it”, this limited understanding of God’s healing power reinforces the false belief in many Christians that there is something spiritually wrong with them because they are still struggling with wounds from the past.

Many secular therapists have been equally closed minded about the benefits of spirituality upon emotional health and frequently view religious expression as “more closely related to pathology than to health” (Wolf & Stevens, 2001, p. 68). Additionally, psychology has viewed itself as a scientific entity with the focus being on the “empirical and observable” (p.68). Researchers have historically been unwilling to consider the benefits or effects of components that cannot be scientifically measured, calculated, or documented. Many therapists experience operational barriers to the inclusion of spirituality within therapy. Wolf and Stevens note that many have the perception that spiritual issues should only be discussed with religious leaders and others have personal biases against religion. Hall, et al. cite research indicating that although 70 percent of counselors queried were willing to include spirituality in their sessions, 78 percent attended educational facilities that did not offer courses addressing spiritual issues and many believed themselves to lack the necessary training for such matters.

Attitudes toward spirituality within the secular therapeutic community do appear to be changing. Hall, et al. (2004) call for additional research on the benefits of spirituality on mental heath and conclude that “scientific evidence clearly indicates that involvement in religion or religious activities may be of benefit to both mental and physical health” (p. 507). Wolf and Stevens (2001) note that religious institutions can provide support to clients, their partners, and their families while providing an opportunity to experience bonding through participation inspiritual activities. Zinnbauer and Pargament (2000) write that the potential is high that the therapist and client may experience conflict in the realm of spirituality, religion, and therapy. They point out that therapists who work with religious clients must include an assessment of the client’s spirituality during the intake process. They also advise counselors to avoid functioning outside of their area of competence, and to seek additional education regarding the specific religion of their clients when they are unfamiliar with them. Therapists must be cognizant of their own value systems and seek appropriate supervision and accountability to avoid potential value conflicts. It is important for the counselor to maintain an open communication with his/her clients in order for the client to consent to the prescribed method of treatment.

It is also important for Christians to remember the exhortation of Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners” (NIV). Christians should seek a Christian therapist whenever possible.  When this is not possible due to financial constraints or other restrictions, it is important to seek a therapist who will honor one’s value system and work within his/her Christian worldview. It is important for pastors and conservative Christians to remember that Jesus came to heal the broken hearted. He is extremely interested in the believer’s emotional health.  Scripture exhorts them to put off their old man and to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in their minds (Eph 4:20-24).  This is not a one-time event, but a life-long process.  Isaiah writes, “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isa 1:18 NIV) Reasoning implies a conversation and a learned understanding.  With that understanding comes an increased ability to live a life where one’s struggles with sin are no longer debilitating, but are now under his/her feet through the power of Jesus Christ.  Believers must keep their feet firmly planted upon the Rock.

Several pioneers of healing prayer, or prayer for the healing of the emotions, have successfully integrated psychology and spirituality. Among them are John and Paula Sanford, Francis MacNutt, David Seamonds, Leanne Payne (Garzon & Burkett, 2002), and Andy Comiskey (1996). Many other healing prayer ministers use models that are almost identical to recognized therapeutic techniques. Ed Smith (1996/2005), who developed Theophostic Prayer Ministry; and Chester and Betsy Kylstra (2001), creators of Restoring the Foundations prayer ministry, both use prayer models mirroring Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Comiskey’s Living Waters program uses a technique similar to the psychodynamic model whereby the client’s family structure, personal perceptions, and responses to his/her environment while growing up are all examined in order to bring about emotional and sexual healing. These and other ministries are specifically grounded in Scripture, while recognizing the value of psychology as the scientific study of how humans think, react, and develop. They also recognize that humans were created by God as body, soul, and spirit beings. Although the spirit man is made new immediately upon salvation, the mind (a part of the soul, along with the will and emotions) is renewed throughout the believer’s life through the process of sanctification. It is in the soul that the wounds and voids requiring emotional healing reside (Smith, 1996/2005). This more balanced approach to emotional and spiritual healing allows Christians to understand why they may continue to struggle with past trauma and resulting symptoms even after professing a deep belief in Jesus Christ and following Biblical teachings faithfully. False guilt and increased shame suffered by so many Christian survivors are effectively reduced.

Studies have confirmed the positive benefits of including spirituality in both physical and mental health. Ball (1999) cites research by Benor who reviewed 131 studies on “the effects of prayer on enzymes, cells, yeasts, bacteria, plants, animals, and humans” (p. 5) and found that 77 studies indicated positive results. Ball also cites a double-blind study by Christian cardiologist Byrd who researched the effects of prayer on 192 cardiac patients compared to the control group of 201 patients who did not receive prayer. Neither the patients, nor the medical staff knew which group the participants were in. Byrd reported that those who received prayer experienced significantly better recovery. They were five times less likely to require antibiotics, three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema, and none required the insertion of an artificial airway. Twelve patients in the control group required the airway.

Although Theophostic prayer ministry (TPM) has simultaneously drawn much praise and criticism Garzon and Poloma (2005) have noted much success. They evaluated 111 responses to a survey distributed at an advanced training seminar presented by Ed Smith and found that a wide variety of people are utilizing TPM including pastors, lay ministers, and psychologists. They write, “Overall, the respondents believe this technique is very effective and have used the prayer ministry in treating a wide variety of disorders including some quite complex” (p. 387). The Christian Research Institute (CRI) (2005) has done an in-depth study of TPM spending many hours in conversation with Smith about his methods and observing TPM sessions. After reviewing the procedure, they have released a 31 page position paper on TPM stating that CRI “detects nothing unbiblical about the core theory and practice of TPM” (p. 1). However, they maintain that they do have some reservations on “Smith’s past teachings on the sin nature, sanctification, and satanic ritual abuse” (p. 1). CRI also states that they do not endorse Smith’s teaching on spiritual warfare.

Garzon (2006) summarized research findings by Teske, a doctorate student at Argosy University/Twin Cities in Minnesota, who performed 13 outcomes-based case studies of individuals who received Theophostic Ministry (TPM) for symptoms including anxiety, depression, and adjustment problems. Ten of the recipients received TPM from licensed therapists, and three received TPM from lay ministers. Recipients were tested prior to receiving TPM, after every ten hours of ministry, at the end of their TPM, and three months following the prayer ministry. Tests given to the participants included the Symptom Checklist 90-R, the Spiritual Well-Being Scale, and the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale. Clients were asked to complete a satisfaction inventory at the close of TPM. Additionally, the progress of each client was assessed by a licensed mental health professional who did not utilize TPM, nor were they aware of the treatment model used on the participants. These therapists spoke with each client for one-half hour and examined their clinical record. The results of the Symptom Checklist 90-R identified nine participants as recovered, two as improved, one as no change, and one as deteriorated. The scores on the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale dropped indicating that the “depression-causing beliefs” (p.3) of the participants had been reduced, while the scores on the Spiritual Well-Being Scale improved. All 13 of the participants reported that they had benefited from TPM, and 11 reported improved spiritually through the experience. The independent mental health professionals reported that nine showed “very much improvement” while two showed “mild improvement” (p. 4). Garzon states that the results remained consistent during the three month period following TPM, and calls for more research “using true experimental designs” (p. 4).

It is encouraging that scientific research has confirmed what many of us who have benefited from prayer ministry have experienced firsthand – that healing prayer works.  If you or someone you know needs help, call Reconciliation Ministries at 586.739.5114 and schedule an appointment for prayer ministry.  There is no charge for the initial appointment, and rates are reasonable for subsequent appointments.  Don’t stay isolated in your pain any longer; there are Christian brothers and sisters who are ready to walk with you.

References
Ball, T. M. (1999). Prayer for inner healing of memories and deliverance: A primer for churches. Coldwater, MI: Free Methodist Church.
Comiskey, A. (1996). Living waters: Sexual and relational wholeness through Christ. Kansas City, KS: Desert Stream Press.
Garzon, F. (2006). Research findings. Retrieved from http://www.theophostic.com/displaycommon.cfm?an=5: New Creation Publishing, Inc.
Garzon, F., & Burkett, L. (2002). Healing of memories: Models, research, future directions. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 21(4), 42-49.
Garzon, F., & Poloma, M. (2005). Theophostic ministry: Preliminary practitioner survey. Pastoral Psychology, 53(5), 387-396.
Hall, C. R., Dixon, W. A., & Mauzey, E. D. (2004). Spirituality and religion: Implications for counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development, 82(4).
Kylstra, C., & Kylstra, B. (2001). Restoring the foundations: An integrated approach to healing ministry (2nd ed.). Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Proclaiming His Word Publications.
Miller, E. (2005). Position paper PST001: An evaluation of Theophostic prayer ministry. Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/store/topical.asp?Div=Topics&TopID=1193&AS=: Christian Research Institute
Smith, E. M. (2005). Theophostic prayer ministry: Basic seminar manual (3rd ed.). Cambellsville, KY: New Creation Publishing. (Original work published 1996)
Wolf, C. T., & Stevens, P. (2001). Integrating religion and spirituality in marriage and family counseling. Counseling and Values, 46(1), 66-75.
Zinnbauer, B. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2000). Working with the sacred: Four approaches to religious and spiritual issues in counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78(2), 162-171.

Ministry Victories and Challenges 2008

Ministry Victories and Challenges 2008

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:16-21

We at Reconciliation Ministries would like to take a few minutes to thank Jesus Christ for all He has done in our lives – and all that He will do for us in the future.  The thought of the King of the Universe taking on human form, living among us, and dying for us is beyond comprehension.  Even more staggering is His offer to live inside of us and transform our sinful nature into His pure, holy nature.  In 1984, Reconciliation Ministries was founded to help men and women who were struggling with homosexuality find freedom through Jesus Christ.  Through the years we have expanded to help others who were struggling with heterosexual addiction, pornography addiction, codependency, childhood sexual abuse, transgender issues, and sexual offenders.  God has truly helped this ministry stand through tough times to reach thousands of people with his redemption and mercy.  We are looking forward to celebrating our twenty-fifth year of ministry during 2009. 

In 1987, Marshall Kirk and Erastes Pill published an article in the gay publication, Guide Magazine, called “The Overhauling of Straight America”.  (This article can be read athttp://defendthefamily.com/_docs/resources/8142838.pdf.)  In it was a very well thought out plan by gay advocates for the “desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights”.  The article went on to say “…we would have straights register differences in sexual preference the way they register different tastes for ice cream or sports games… No big deal.”  Unfortunately, the gay advocacy groups have also expanded their message and have implemented many of the ideas in this plan.  One need only to look at the popular culture and the battles that have ensued after the passage of several state marriage amendments to realize that the kingdom of darkness is advancing.  The cover story in the December 15, 2008 edition of Newsweek magazine reads “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage”.  This article uses inaccuracies and human opinions in an attempt to justify same-sex marriage in the eyes of a holy God.  The cover story of the December 16th issue of The Advocate, another gay publication, reads, “Gay is the New Black: The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle”.  The ideas in “The Overhauling of Straight America” are alive and well over 20 years after the article first appeared. 

The homosexual agenda continues to advance and gain ground.  Fortunately, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”  (Romans 5:20).  By God’s grace, Reconciliation Ministries continues to grow 25 years after it was formed.  In spite of the growing cultural acceptance of homosexuality and heterosexual sin, there are countless men, women, and teens who want to walk in godliness and true Biblical sexuality.  The Lord has increase our ministry during 2008 and I would like to share with you some of the services that we offer.

Individual Counseling, Pastoral Care, and Prayer Ministry

Some who contact the ministry need more individualized help than we can provide them in our group settings.  Some are in immediate crisis.  Others wish to continue the healing they’ve received through our groups by receiving individualized ministry.  The director, Dan Hitz, is both an Ordained Minister and a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor.  He is able to integrate clinical counseling with prayer ministry to help those in need of deep emotional healing.  We are also able to provide Internet and phone counseling to missionaries on the field and others who are unable to find counseling in their local areas.  Dan is also a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Specialist.

Living Waters and Other Discipleship Programs.

Our intense 20-week discipleship program, Living Waters, helps men and women overcome a wide variety of sexual sin and relationship difficulties.  Our Walking Free support group is open to anyone interested in sexual and relational wholeness whether they are alumni from our programs or they are just considering walking into freedom.  In February, we will be starting our first Escaping the Dungeon of Porn program for men struggling with pornography and sexual addiction.  Another new program, The Placefor men and women overcoming childhood wounds was a big success and we are looking forward to starting our next session in Lapeer in February.

Consultation and Support

We frequently get phone calls from parents who just found out that their son or daughter is gay and don’t know how to respond, from spouses who have been devastated by the revelation of their partner’s sexual sin, and from pastors who are reaching out to help someone in their congregation.  Other people call hoping there is a way out of their unwanted homosexual bondage in spite of what the pro-gay media tells them.  Reconciliation Ministries is available for phone consultation and face to face consultation for those who are seeking direction and options.  We seek to be a resource for the local church and the community and connect those in need to a variety of healing programs within Reconciliation Ministries and beyond, including Celebrate Recovery, Healing Hearts, residence programs, and individual licensed mental health practitioners.

Newsletter and Website

We have recently updated our website to include the many articles and testimonies that have been published in the monthly newsletters.  We frequently hear comments from pastors and Bible study leaders that they have used our newsletter articles as resource materials and teaching aides for their sermons and study groups.  Please feel free to copy any of the resources posted at www.recmin.org and distribute them to others free of charge.

Seminars and Leadership Trainings

We have received an increase in requests for our classes and seminars on sexual addiction and homosexuality.  A new class is in the works on childhood sexual abuse recovery.  Dan has taught on sexual addiction recovery at a clinic specializing in helping pastors and missionaries, and at numerous churches.  Men and women from Reconciliation Ministries are available to speak to your church, Sunday school class, or Bible study groups.  Members of our leadership team have all received healing from sexual and relational brokenness and share from their own experience.  Team members are also available for instructional seminars specifically designed to meet the needs of your church leadership team.  Reconciliation Ministries has also participated in overseas trainings to help equip Christians in other countries to minister to those in need of sexual and relational healing.

We at Reconciliation Ministries are thankful for all that the Lord has done to help set men, women, and teens free from sexual and relationship sins, bondages, and wounds.  We value your prayers and financial support and could not do all that we do without people like you partnering with us.  Please take some time in the weeks ahead to pray for the ministry participants, team members, and board of directors.  The Lord is truly opening doors for effective ministry; however, this has been a particularly challenging year for us financially.  The suggested donations and tuition for the ministry services covers only a fraction of the cost of operating the ministry.  Many of our services are offered at no charge including our Walking Free support group, overseas missionary counseling, phone consultation, the monthly newsletter, website resources, and more.  Your tax deductible donation will help many in need find hope and healing through Christ.  We would like to hear your prayerful thoughts and suggestions.  You may contact us at info@recmin.org or by phone at586.739.5114. 

References
Guide Magazine, “The Overhauling of Straight America”, 1987, Marshall Kirk and Erastes Pill.  Retrieved from http://defendthefamily.com/_docs/resources/8142838.pdf on December 11, 2008.
Newsweek, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage”, December 15, 2008. Cover retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/id/172737 on 12/12/2008.
The Advocate, “Gay is the New Black: The Last Great Civil Rights Struggle”, December 16, 2008.  Cover retrieved from http://advocate.com/current_cover_ektid66071.asp on 12/11/2008.  Please note: This is an overtly pro-gay website.

Secular Therapy's Pro-Gay Bias

Secular Therapy's Pro-Gay Bias

This article, written by Dan Hitz, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries, was first published in August, 2009. 

The events during August in the secular therapeutic world, and culture in general, underscore the importance of ministries like Reconciliation Ministries which provide answers and hope to those unwilling to embrace their unwanted homosexual feelings.  In the beginning of August, the American Psychological Association’s governing counsel of representatives “passed a resolution… urging mental health professionals not to recommend to their clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or any other methods.” 1 This came after a six-member APA task force released a review of studies on sexual orientation at the group’s annual convention in Toronto.

The APA’s response came in direct contradiction to a study released in 2007 by Stanton Jones, Ph.D. and Mark Yarhouse, Psy.D. and supported by former APA president, Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D., which found that “religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm to the patient, on average.”2  This year, Jones and Yahouse presented updated results for their study at a symposium during the same APA convention showing that “sexual orientation change is not only possible, but sustainable… The findings directly contradict commonly expressed views of the mental health establishment that say this option is impossible and that the attempt to change is likely to produce harm.”3

Exodus Internaitonal issued a press release in response to the APA’s resolution.  “While Exodus does not fully agree with the APA's criticisms of clinical techniques such as reparative therapy and its view of sexual orientation change, the report does recognize that some choose to live their lives in congruence with religious values. The report also encourages therapists to avoid imposing a specific outcome on clients.”4

There are many of us who have successfully undergone a transformation in our sexual orientation and are now living a more emotionally healthy and fulfilling life in congruence with our religious faith.  I for one am glad that I have had to opportunity to deal with my unwanted same-sex attraction and have found healing and hope through Christ.  If I would have followed the APA’s recommendations, and the recommendations of many in the secular mental health community, I would have devastated my wife and children by leaving them and embracing what many secular therapists would perceive to be my true identity –  that of a gay-identified man.  Instead, I followed the advice of the Lord Jesus Christ and found healing and freedom from my unwanted attractions and have become a much better husband to my wife and a better father to my children.

Now, more than ever, it is important to uphold Scriptural values as we face opposition from those who choose man’s ways over God’s ways.  Please pray for this ministry and the participants that we will be strengthen to answer God’s calling, and to continue to walk in obedience to Him with Biblical sexual and relational integrity.

1 http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/05/gay.to.straight/index.html

2 http://www.ivpress.com/media/exgays-pr-09042007.php

3 http://exodusinternational.org/content/view/996/37/

4 http://exodusinternational.org/content/view/992/37/ 

Sexual Brokenness in South East Asia

Sexual Brokenness in SE Asia

Dan Hitz is the Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, and has been taking short-term missions trips to SE Asia for over ten years.  This article is a compilation of observations and experiences during those trips and insights gained from ministry friends.  Those who contributed to this article include Frank Worthen, Benji Cruz, Shirley Baskett, Nick Kuiper, Peter Lane, and many others that have contributed through Living Waters Asia.  

In looking at sexual brokenness in Southeast Asia it is easy to recognize some common threads that we can also see in the US. There are the familiar stories of boy meets girl… boy wants to marry girl… boy struggles with an addiction to pornography that messes up their relationship…  Another familiar story is the lack of parental guidance in the areas of emotional and sexual development.  Benji Cruz, Director of Living Waters Philippines1, points out in his presentation on sexuality among Filipino teens2; the youth of today listen to celebrities through media and the internet because the celebrities don’t shy away from the topics that are important to them.  Sexuality is huge for teenagers and these people talk about it.  Teens want honesty and these people get to the point and say what they think about relationships and sexuality.  Cruz goes on to say that “they may be honest and funny and speaking to our children but what they’re telling them can lead to destruction”.  Sound familiar?  One need only to reflect on the 2014 Grammy’s to realize how deeply this is also entrenched into American culture.3

Along with the similarities, there are also deeper cultural wounds and nuances that are far more common to SE Asia than in the States.  Although men and women throughout the world have struggled to grow up in poor families where father and mother were either absent or not involved in their lives, poverty and fatherlessness is even more prevalent in SE Asia than it is in the US.  There exists a matriarchal society where mothers themselves may be deeply wounded and/or absent like the father.  This leaves the youth vulnerable to feelings of abandonment and abuse.  It inflicts heavy damage to their souls.

Poverty is a harsh reality for many underdeveloped countries.  Nick Kuiper4 of Exodus Asia Pacific5 who ministers frequently in Davao, Philippines, estimates that 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty with little food, 40% may have a small amount of resources yet still struggle, and 20% are professionals who are actually doing okay.  For this reason many Asian parents leave their families to find employment in another city or country to provide for their kids.  Although some of the children left behind are cared for by grandparents, it is common to have a young child below the age of ten left to care for the younger siblings.

A 2012 study on overseas Filipino workers estimates that there were over 2.2 million Filipinos working overseas from April to September 20126.  The study reports an almost even proportion of male to female workers when all age ranges are considered (51.7% male), but shows that females significantly outnumber males in the younger age ranges.  This means that younger children are left without the influence of their mothers early in life, and then are left without their fathers later on.  Even in the families where one parent remains present, there are heavy effects on the family from the parent working away from the hometown.  During one of my layovers in SE Asia, I talked to a Filipino man who was traveling to the States for work. He shared some of his challenges as a husband and father working overseas and only seeing his family for a short time.  He was frustrated that his wife had to lead the family while he was gone, and that she has a difficult time allowing him to lead the family during his short stays back home.  I could sense the conflict in his heart as he recounted some of the heavy challenges that his family was facing while he was away.  Nevertheless, he was drawn by the financial need to gain employment wherever he could find it.

Many in SE Asia turn to prostitution as a means to earn a living.  It can be seen as respectable for young women to enter into prostitution to support the rest of the family.  Sometimes young girls are sold into prostitution by their parents who see a way to make money.  Shirley Baskett7 of Exodus Asia Pacific explains that it is a sign of great wounding and hardness when parents can overlook the welfare of their own children in these situations. Unfortunately the families make that decision because they are desperate to stay alive.  I remember reading an article years ago that told of a ministry in Thailand that rescued girls from their sex traffickers, and realized that they could not release the girls back to their parents lest the parents sell the girls right back to the traffickers.  Whether prostitution was entered into willingly or unwillingly, it inflicts a heavy price on the human soul.

Less obvious than prostitution are the Westerners who are sought by Asian males and females because of the perception of financial stability.  Wealthy Westerners often take advantage of the vulnerability of those seeking father figures and financial security.  Desperate Asian men and women take advantage of the Westerners trying to find a young man or woman to fill the void in their own heart.  Both use the other.  Both remain empty.

In addition to the wounds inflicted by parents working away from home, many in SE Asia suffer from wounds inflicted by the absence of commitment to the family unit itself.  In some countries, it is socially acceptable for a married man to visit a prostitute as long as it is kept quiet.  Frank Worthen8, founder of Bagong Pagasa9 in the Philippines, points out that fathers may have three or four families.  They get married and overwhelmed with the children of that marriage, and then move on to start another family.  This leaves sons and daughters in Thailand and the Philippines to wrestle with the reality that their fathers liked their other family better than them.  Children learn the devaluation of family relationships through the poor role models of their parents and popular culture.  Benji Cruz cites a 2009 study by de Irala, et. Al. of BioMed Central10 indicating that over half of Filipino teens believe that it is acceptable to visit a prostitute or commit adultery. 

Perhaps another result of the matriarchal society is the devaluation of masculinity and the rise of transgender issues.  It is very common to see “ladyboys” working in department stores, hotels, and many other venues in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.  Ladyboys go beyond transvestites who are men wearing women’s attire for sexual and emotional arousal, and strive to adopt feminine behavior and appearance.  Many receive hormonal injections or undergo surgical procedures to enhance their feminine appearance.  Gender reassignment surgery, a step further than the ladyboy, is readily available in Thailand and much less expensive than in the West.  SE Asian society in general seems to be much more accepting of transgender issues than the US.

As in the United States, childhood sexual abuse is a common problem in SE Asia.  Father wounds are a significant issue that make both males and females vulnerable to a pre-abuse set up.  Whether the parents are absent due to employment, abandonment, or any other reason; the children suffer from the effects of a mother and father wound. Child abuse is common among vulnerable boys and girls who are desperate for the attention of a father figure and in deep financial need.  Absent parents allow the children to be placed with relatives who may not care for the children as dearly as their own parents.  The financial need leaves tender hearts open to the gifts the predators have to offer during the grooming process.

Peter Lane11 of On Eagles Wings to Asia12 has spent over ten years researching Asian sexuality in seven different countries and notes that most Christian churches and parents are silent when it comes to discussing sexuality with their children.  Of the 10,000 people he has spoken to, only 4% received sex education.  This often leaves them with the idea that sexuality in general is sinful and with no place to go when they struggle.  He writes that the average Asian Christian waits five years before seeking help for a sexual problem, that approximately half don’t find the level of care they need, and that it took an average of four years before most realized any significant change.  The fields are indeed ripe for the harvest, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37).

In light of all the sexual and relational brokenness in SE Asia and the depth of the father wounds, one of the most important steps in recovery is connecting those who are broken to the Father heart of God.  Hope comes alive as they see their value and worth in the heart of their Heavenly Father.  One of my favorite Scriptures is Psalm 27:10 which reads, “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me” [NKJV].  As we allow the Father to fill up the voids in our hearts we realize that we have a Heavenly Father who truly does care for us and will not reject us, no matter how far we have fallen.  We can experience the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and cleanses us from our sin.  We can experience healing for our broken hearts and restoration of the years that were destroyed by the enemy and our own sinful choices.

Through the years that I have been involved with Living Waters13 trainings and retreats in SE Asia14, some of the most powerful ministry sessions have been on the healing of the mother and father wound.  Other powerful ministry times include healing for the true masculine and the true feminine.  Hearts become more open to the love of God as the years of pain from abandonment and abuse are cleansed by the Holy Spirit.  Men and women are strengthened as they learn to accept the good of their God-given gender and stand as the men and women of God they were created to be.  They become empowered to accept the other gender as a good and holy gift.  Thick emotional walls of detachment and self-protection begin to melt away as they allow the Holy Spirit to be their healer and protector.

Such acceptance of the father heart of God allows us all to become more open to the forgiveness of God and His call to lay down our idols of illicit sexuality, and learn to walk in sexual purity.  It helps us to open the vaults in our hearts where years of pain from sexual abuse, physical abuse, and rejection have been suppressed.  Cleansing and restoration comes as we offer our pain up to a loving Savior who gladly receives our wounds as His own and pours out His comfort and healing on us.  In this way the differences in cultural wounds meets the consistency of the Father’s love for all of us, no matter what nation, tribe, and tongue is ours.  We see the Father’s provision for healing and deliverance for all who call out to Him.

The enemy of our souls will continue to use the trials, challenges, and temptations of this life to afflict all of us and try to capture us with sexual and relational sin.  Fortunately we have hope and healing through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ and the power of His love.  The Lord has raised up an army of wounded healers who are equipped to comfort others with the same comfort with which He has comforted them (1 Corinthians 2:4).  Jesus Christ has the power to heal the brokenhearted and set the captive free.  It is for that reason that we must bring the message of hope and healing in Christ to the far corners of this world.

References and Footnotes

1  Living Waters Philippines. http://livingwatersphilippines.org/
2  Cruz, Benji. (2013)  Living Waters Philippines. Sermon presented in Philippines on sexual mindset of Filipino teens.
3  Phull, Hardeep. (2013)  Grammys wedding ceremony will go down as a tearjerker.  New York Post.  Retrieved on 2/1/2014 from http://nypost.com/2014/01/27/grammys-wedding-ceremony-will-go-down-as-a-tearjerker/
4  Kuiper, Nick. Exodus Asia Pacific.  http://www.exodusglobalalliance.org/eastasiap1040.php
5  Exodus Asia Pacific and Exodus Global Alliance are separate organizations from Exodus International North American.  EAP and EGA continue to uphold Biblical views of homosexuality and transformation through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.
6  Ericta, Carmelita N. Administrator. (2013) Republic of the Philippines: National Statistics Office. Total number of OFWs is estimated at 2.2 million (Results from the 2012 survey on overseas Filipinos). Retrieved on 1/31/2014 from http://www.census.gov.ph/content/total-number-ofws-estimated-22-million-results-2012-survey-overseas-filipinos
7  Baskett, Shirley. Exodus Global Alliance. http://www.exodusglobalalliance.org/contactuss226.php 
8  Worthen, Frank.  Frank Worthen is a well-respected pioneer of ex-gay ministry.  He is one of the founders of Exodus International North America and the Restored Hope Network in the US and Bagong Pagas in the Philippines.  You can watch a video of his testimony at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX4AvGRmzSU
9    Bagong Pagasa. http://www.bagongpagasa.org/
10 de Irala, Jokin, et. Al. (2009) BioMed Central. Relationships, love and sexuality: What the Filipino teens think and feel. Retrieved on 1/31/2014 from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/9/282/
11 Lane, Peter. (2013) Personal correspondence concerning his article entitled “Sexual strugglers and the Asian church”.  Additional articles from Peter Lane are available athttp://www.oneagleswings2asia.com/articlearchives.htm
12 On Eagles Wings to Asia. http://www.oneagleswings2asia.com/index.htm
13 Information about the Living Waters program is available at http://www.desertstream.org/Groups/1000040091/Desert_Stream_Ministries/Living_Waters/Living_Waters.aspx
14 Information on Living Waters groups in SE Asia is available at http://www.desertstream.org/Groups/1000040458/Desert_Stream_Ministries/Looking_For_Help/International_Groups/International_Groups.aspx
15   Additional information on understanding God the Father’s love is available through Robert Hartzell Ministries. http://www.roberthartzell.com/

Thoughts Along The Way

Thoughts Along the Way – Reflections from Thailand and Indonesia       

Dan Hitz is the director of Reconciliation Ministries.  This article is a reflection of things the Lord spoke to his heart during a 2013 missions trip to Thailand and Indonesia.  The lessons learned can be applied to many aspects of our journey through this life.

My recent missions trip to SE Asia was a tremendous blessing.  Both the participants and the ministry team members were strengthened and encouraged during the recent leadership retreat for the Indonesian Living Waters teams in Jakarta and the Living Waters national training in Bangkok, Thailand.  A team of nine foreigners from the US, UK, Canada and the Philippines ministered to 26 Living Waters leaders from various parts of Indonesia.  The theme of the conference was “Connection, Reflection, and Integration”.  The participants were blessed by teachings to heal, equip, and help them connect at a deeper level with the Lord and with each other.  Team members also received personal prayer ministry focused on removing obstacles between them and the Lord.  From Jakarta, we flew to Bangkok for the Thai National Living Waters training where we were joined by other team members from Canada, the Philippines, and Thailand.  There were over 50 participants at the training from Thailand, Southeast Asia, and beyond.  The Lord moved deeply in their hearts for personal healing and at least 22 leaders were released to leadership positions on Living Waters teams or to coordinate their own programs.  Those who were not released to leadership positions may have attended the training for their own personal healing, or may need additional healing before being ready to lead their own groups.  The participants were taken through the main points of the 23-week Living Waters program in a single week.  They received deep healing through the large group ministry times and through their eight small group sessions.  The work that the Lord did during this intense week of training will continue to bear fruit not only in the lives of the participants, but also in the lives of their families and those they minister to in the future.

I kept in touch with the Reconciliation Ministries intercessors via email throughout my time in SE Asia.  One of the intercessors posted that it seems like this trip has impacted me more than my past trips. While every missions trip is different with its own impact, blessings, and challenges; I have noticed some significant differences on this trip. I initially shared my thoughts with our intercessors group so they could see on a deeper level how the Lord answered their prayers.  I also wanted to share my thoughts in this newsletter so you can see an example of the deeper issues the Lord works in our hearts beyond the obvious tasks during missions trips.  I would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider going on a missions trip at least once in their lives.

More than any other trip, I knew that the Lord was specifically sending me on this one. Unlike the other trips, my heart was not burning with an intense passion for the people or the mission. Contrary to how that sounds, it is actually a good change as I'll explain. I do have a love for Thailand, and the Thai people have a special place in my heart. I realize my Heavenly Father is calling me to step into a deeper level of maturity to do what I do out of a deeper relationship with Him and because it is the correct action to take in light of eternity, rather than being led by good, godly passion, emotions, or excitement. He is calling me into a season of deeper learning from Him as my Dad who loves me, and He desires to teach me from His heart as a loving father teaches his son.

In light of that, I can look back on this trip and see some wonderful things He has done. It was a blessing to reconnect with some old ministry friends from Thailand and meet many new ones in both Thailand and Indonesia. It was a blessing to minister in each country and see the Lord touch many hearts. I did many things well. I also made a few minor mistakes which were an opportunity for learning more about the culture, ministry, and more importantly, myself. I was corrected with love and compassion which provided the opportunity to grow. I have a deeper appreciation for the men and women who have poured out their lives in a foreign field and have learned many valuable lessons through the years.

I also noticed another deep personal change during this trip. Most of my life I’ve wondered – maybe even focused – on the future. What is the next step God has for me? During this trip I found myself enjoying the present. It was a joy to simply “be” during my days in SE Asia. The Lord is calling me to quiet my heart, observe Him in the present, and lean on Him for the next step of my journey.

It has been a joy to share this journey with you. Thank you for your faithful prayers and financial support that made this trip possible. I wish I could say that I will be posting many pictures on Facebook like I usually do. That was another change this time around. Some members of the team minister in restricted countries and need to be careful about their pictures and information becoming too public. I hope that this letter gives you a glimpse beyond the visual to see how the Lord has answered your prayers and touched the hearts of many. I am thankful in how He has touched mine.

 

The Ministry Need in Bangkok Thailand

The Ministry Need in Bangkok Thailand               

Dan Hitz, Executive Director of Reconciliation Ministries, went on a short-term missions trip to Bangkok Thailand in September 2010 and presented this vision and need for ministry to the sexually and relationally broken in Thailand and Metro-Detroit, Michigan.

Dan Hitz went on a short-term missions trip to Bangkok Thailand from September 22nd to October 5th, and joined the Desert Stream Ministries leadership team as they conducted leadership training for Living Waters Thailand.  Leaders from Thailand and other SE Asian countries received personal healing and were equipped to bring the Living Waters program to others throughout SE Asia.  After the conference, Dan met with Chris from The MST Project, an outreach ministry to the customers of women in the sex trade industry, and Iven and Kashmira Hauptman who have formerly run a ministry to male sex industry workers.  They now run a neighborhood outreach which includes men and women in the sex industry.  You can read more about the MST Project in this newsletter, and on their website.  Iven and Kashmira’s blog is here.

Thailand is primarily a Buddhist nation and in great need of the healing power of Christ.  Leela Tangnararak, Director ofLiving Waters Thailand, explains:

Thailand is not land of the free as its name means because of the spiritual bondages.  People are bound to various types of idolatry and sexual immorality, educated or uneducated are alike.  About 85% are Buddhists despite the 175 years of protestant history in Thailand.  There is only 1% of Christians in the country.  Many people live in darkness by their sins.  Different forms of sexual perversion are obviously increasing and more accepted in the society than ever before; gender confusion, gays, lesbians, sexual addictions, prostitutions, etc.  It is the thirsty and dry land that needs Living Water from Jesus.  Pray that the Thai souls will thirst and long for the One who can truly quench their thirst and hunger.

Although we can rejoice that there are those in Thailand who do know Jesus Christ and are gaining victory over sexual sin, there are still the 99% of Thais who remain in darkness.  Many of those are trapped in the sex industry.  Kashmira Hauptman writes:

On outreach we walk the streets where men are selling sexual services and present ourselves as Jesus-following friends who care about the guys as people, and who know that their true worth is so much greater than any customer could ever pay.  We pray with the men, hear their stories, gain trust over time and ask about their dreams for their future (one man wants to be a social worker so he can help people, another told us he wants to someday own his own duck farm).

Most of the men we meet are between the ages of 17-28, and come from all sorts of backgrounds and education levels – some have college degrees but many others only made it through sixth grade.  Though about 95% of the clients are men, only about 50% of the male sex workers we meet would consider themselves “gay” – many have told us that they hate what they do but don’t see any comparable options for themselves: minimum wage is $6 a day, but customers are often willing to pay $15 or more per sexual encounter.

Isolation is a big part of these men’s lives – while spending the day with one guy in his 20’s we asked him what he likes to do with his friends in his off time. He looked at us blankly and said, “I don’t have any friends. The only people I know are clients and co-workers.” Because of the late-night hours these men keep and the neighborhoods that they work and often live in, it is common for many of them to have few significant relationships with anyone outside of the sex industry.

I am thankful to be a part of what the Lord is doing to bring sexual redemption to Thailand, and am well aware of the great need in the Metro-Detroit area.  One reason I have met with ministries like The MST Project and the Hauptman’s is to learn skills from them that will be useful in our future ministerial outreach in Metro-Detroit.  Please remember to keep Thailand and Reconciliation Ministries in your prayers.  We can do nothing without the power of God – but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  We need His leading and His empowering.

Men and The Sex Trade

The MST Project: Men and Sex Trade

              
The MST Project seeks to reach out to the men who frequent the red-light districts of Bangkok looking for intimacy and fulfillment.  Unfortunately, this type of intimacy only leaves one more aware of the emptiness.  This article shares the vision of the MST Project and shares two blog entries which highlight their work.  You can find out more about the MST Project, on theirwebsite.  These articles were used by permission.
 

THE VISION

Some of these men who go to red-light districts looking for sex are hurting and in need and are trying to fill that need and hurt with love and intimacy.  Yet, the love and intimacy that they seek in a red-light district is not the answer.  When the MST Project first started there were a few people who said that there was no hope for these men, that they were better left alone or ignored.  But where is the compassion of God in that?  We do not look at these men for where they currently are but rather for where they can be with a transformed heart.  How many of us grew up in a broken home, have looked for love and intimacy in all the wrong places, or have struggled with issues that are common to men; yet God has brought about redemption in our lives.  The MST Project wants to reach out to these men and be an example of restoration and redemption.

It is our responsibility to go to these men, when very few will, and bring the love of God to them in an area where they least expect it, by those whom they least expect if from.  These men are like us, and it is our hope that these men will experience the love and the hope that is found in a relationship with Him.  The Father’s love is available to all, in all places and at all times.  The hope we have in Him will cause a man to return to his wife and become a husband.  Will cause him to return to his children and become a father.  Will cause him to return to his community and become an example, not a statistic.

God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  This includes men in red-light districts.  Therefore, choose to be one of the few who will stand on the street corner and offer them HOPE.

A BROKEN MARRIAGE

When we met David (not his real name) late on a Wednesday night in Bangkok’s red light district; he was quietly making his way through the crowds of people.  We politely asked him if he would be interested in taking our survey to which he quickly answered, “Are you the guys with the black packets?”  This was a perfect lead into our second-encounter survey!  This began a 20-minute conversation between our group and this wounded man.  David is married to a woman back in Europe and the father of a young girl.  He has a troubled and distant marriage.  This broken marriage has led him to the place where he would rather seek intimacy and affection in all the wrong places; through a vast array of girlfriends all over the world and many brief purchased sexual encounters.

Our conversation with David was mainly focused on him; his needs, desires and disappointments.  David seemed to have nothing good to say about his relationship with his wife.  He painted a picture of a wife who was over-weight, depressed and rather hard to get along with.  In view of these comments and complaints I asked him, “What do you believe are your wife needs from you?”  I sought to draw his attention off of the ways in which his wife wasn’t meeting his needs and focus it on her needs as a woman and wife.  His reply was short and not very sweet, “sex”.  As a man I can hardly believe this is what his lonely and emotionally neglected wife could be longing for.

At the close of our 20-minute conversation we were delighted to find out that David would be open to making an appointment with us.  This was nothing short of awesome!  Our prayer is that he would pick up his phone and follow through on that desire.  It would be a chance for us to listen in greater detail to his story, desires and brokenness.  To these words we could answer with “the words of eternal life”.  There is such a need in this man’s life and marriage for restoration and redemption.  Our goal and driving force is seeing those desires of Christ being formed in his life.

Written by Will S.  The above conversation took place on May 5, 2010.

 

A BROKEN MARRIAGE – FOLLOW UP

Here we were, at least two hours late, waiting to meet a man who seemed persistent to meet us again.  Months before he had met us in front of Nana Plaza, and just last week he saw us again.  Both times he wanted to stop and talk, and both times he took our survey.  Now, he was calling us to arrange a meeting as soon as he could, and with the way things were going that sooner was becoming later.

We started walking down the street; two others and myself.  When I called him to tell him that we were on the way, he informed me that he had already returned to his hotel; the good news being he still wanted to meet.  We jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed off… to an unkempt and poorly lit hotel.  We had a problem.  We could not remember his name and had some trouble remembering his appearance.  Now, sitting in the lobby of a sketchy hotel, we were beginning to wonder and perhaps even to worry.  We called him again, and told him that we were waiting.  “I’ll meet you on the eleventh floor,” was the response.  His room?  We were not going to do that.  But then it dawned on us we were at the wrong hotel.

Being late even more we jumped into a taxi, to get us there on the double.  This hotel had class, and taking the elevator up we saw that the eleventh floor was a veranda overlooking the Bangkok skyline.  If only we could remember who we were supposed to meet.  We scanned the populace of the room and saw a man meeting the approximate stature of who we thought we would meet.  Looking straight at him we announced a loud, “Hello.”  This was our man

We went outside to a candlelit table, and of all the things for a group of guys to talk about in a romantic ambience we talked about love.  What is love, how can one have it, would we want to receive it, and what does it look like.  It can be said that our group did most of the talking, sharing our testimonies, and explaining Biblical concepts on relationship and love, but there was no bore in the conversation, only attentiveness coupled with much thought.  And while our man, David, may not have said much, I think he absorbed a lot, as did his friend who was with him.

Of the men that I have met after taking the survey, I would have to say that his meeting was special.  It was heart felt, and it was personal.  All of us were on an even playing field, not talking about theory or philosophy, but talking about life and the heart.  We prayed deeply that God would protect, water, and grow the seed that He had planted.

And at midnight, after being late, after going to the wrong hotel, after not remembering whom we were meeting, we left after a two-hour conversation on love.  If anything is a testimony of the Holy Spirit and His work, this night was.  As for David and his friend, I pray that this story not be over, or kept on a dusty shelf, but be a continuation in his life.

Written by Tyler E.  This blog post is dated May 18, 2010 and was shortened for this newsletter.

Why Am I Still Tempted?

Why Am I Still Tempted?              

This article was originally published in a 1985 Reconciliation Ministries newsletter and is part of our vintage newsletter series – a series of newsletter articles that were published in the early days of Reconciliation Ministries which are still relevant for today.  This article applies to those who are struggling with any sin, not just homosexuality.  It was written by the ministry founder and then director, Jack Hickey, who continues to celebrate over 35 years of walking in sexual and relational wholeness.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

If I were to give one question that comes up most in our counseling, it would be about temptation.  Many feel that they have never been fully delivered from their sin, because they still face temptations.  “How can I be free from homosexuality,” I am often asked, “when I still have homosexual temptations?”  Much of this type of questioning is due to a misunderstanding of what temptation is.

To start, Jesus never said He would take temptation away.  He said He would help us overcome it and deliver us out of it.  Second Peter tells us that, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation.”  He is not taking temptation away, but getting us through it.

The enemy, Satan, is a dirty fighter.  He is not going to tempt us in an area that we do not care about.  He will hit the weakest spot, in an area that is familiar.  Take, for example, a person who has been in a homosexual lifestyle for most of his life.  He comes to Christ and turns from his sins.  He is at that moment made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and a child of God (1 John 3:2).  There are still areas in need of healing and ministry, but the deliverance is now.  When Satan tempts him – as he will do – it would be useless to do so with heterosexual lust.  There would be no battle because there is no desire.  Satan will use the area that is most familiar, the homosexual lust.  Let me add here, lust is sin, no matter what form it is in.  There is no such thing as “normal” lust.  [Editor’s note 2010:  As the issues fueling the homosexual lust are healed and/or repented of in the individual’s heart, men and women who formerly embraced homosexuality can, and do, develop appropriate sexual attractions to members of the opposite sex.  As is the case with every sin, it takes time for old sinful patterns to be broken and for new healthy patterns to be established.  As new temptations develop, old temptations may still remain.]

Furthermore, we are not identified by our temptations.  Just because we are tempted in an area of our past does not mean we are still in bondage to it.  The best example of this is in Hebrews 4:15,“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  I believe that Jesus was faced with homosexual temptations, too.  He had to have been, if He can sympathize with my weakness.  Yet, He was without sin.  Those temptations did not make Him a homosexual, an adulterer, or a drunkard.  He was still the Christ, without sin.

If Jesus, who was as much man as any of us, was not identified with His temptations, why should we be?  He did that so He could be a help and an example to us.  “He himself has suffered, being tempted; He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  (Hebrews 2:18)

Hebrews 4:15 gives us another very important key:  temptation is not sin!  Many feel that whenever they are tempted they have sinned.  Remember, Jesus was tempted and was without sin.  Sin comes in when one does not handle the lust, or one even carries it into action.  When temptation comes we are to turn from it.  One escapes by the route Jesus made for us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Once we see that temptations are part of the spiritual warfare we are in, we can start dealing with them as such.  We have victory over temptation through Jesus Christ.  He has gone before us to make a way.  He is our Great High priest before the throne of God.

One of the best passages of Scripture that deals with temptation is James 1:12-16:

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn by his own desires and enticed.  Then when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

In closing, let me say this:  If we do not understand temptation, and have given into it, there is still hope.  God, knowing our weaknesses, has made provision for us.  First John 1:9 says:  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  This is not an open door to sin, but a way that even the weakest can still live in victory with Jesus.

If you need help with sexual and/or relationship sins, call 586.739.5114 and found out how Reconciliation Ministries can help you walk in sexual and relational wholeness.

An Honest Look at Temptation

An Honest Look at Temptation

This article was originally published in a 1989 Reconciliation Ministries newsletter and is part of our new vintage newsletter series – a series of newsletter articles that were published in the early days of Reconciliation Ministries which are still relevant for today.  It was written by then director, Jack Hickey, who continues to celebrate over 30 years of walking in sexual and relational wholeness.

 For no temptation – no trial regarded as enticing to sin (no matter how it comes or where it leads) – has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man – that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear.  But God is faithful (to His Word and to His compassionate nature), and He (can be trusted) not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength or resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will (always) also provide the way out – that means to escape to a landing place – that you may be capable and strong and powerful patiently to bear up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13, Amplified Bible

 “Will I always have to face temptation?  Won’t God just take it away?”  I am often asked this by the people I counsel.  The answer is yes, you will always face temptation.  No, God won’t take it away.  Temptation is a reality of life.

“Well then,” the person will continue, “there is no real victory.  There is no true freedom from sin.  Why do I have to fight for something I’ll never get?”  The problem is not in being tempted, it is understanding temptation.  Jesus never said he would take temptation away.  He only said we can have victory over temptation.  Temptation will not over take us.

It is this lack of understanding temptation that gets so many believers confused and out of sorts.  They begin to feel (and sad to say, are often told) that their faith is not enough.  If they were a good Christian or a spiritual person, they would not face temptation.  Look at Hebrews 4:15.  Who is that passage talking about being tempted?  Is it some weak believer with no faith to see them through?  No, it’s Jesus, our High Priest, our Victor.

We need to clear up some of these misconceptions before we can see God intervene on our behalf.  Jesus is our example of how a believer should and can live.  Hebrews 2:18 reads, “For since He, Himself, was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”  It is best that we look at His life to find out who we, as believers in Christ, should approach temptation.  To do this we need to look at Hebrews 4:15 again.

“For we do not have a high Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Temptation is not sin. 

One way that Satan makes us break under temptation is by telling us that we are sinning.  I have known people who spend a good part of their day asking forgiveness for their temptation.  This verse tells us that Jesus faced the same temptations and yet did not sin.  That is because the temptations themselves are not sinful.  It is what we do with the temptations that brings sin into the picture.

“Oh, but Jesus was divine and it was different for Him.”  Yes, He was divine, but He was also as human as you and I.  Look at the verse, “…as we are…”  He must have faced sin as we do if He was to give us victory over it.  Jesus came to earth as a baby not because babies are cute.  He had to be born – like us – and grow up – like us – in order to die for us.  It wasn’t just God on the cross; He was one of us up there.

If He, being one of us, did not sin by begin tempted, then we are not sinning either.  Scripture teaches us that Satan will tempt us.  We are not told (anywhere) not to be tempted.  We are told to resist – turn away from – flee – stand against temptation.

Temptation is not our identity. 

I see this so often in dealing with people coming out of homosexuality.  They are set free and believe they are new creatures in Christ.  But when a temptation comes they think, “I must still be gay.  If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be tempted with these feelings.”

 Remember that Satan has come to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).  He did not come to be an annoyance.  He knows that our sexual appetite is a strong force.  We are told to resist and stand against every kind of temptation except sexual temptation.  We are told to run form sexual temptation.  Satan knows our weakest point and there he will hit us.

The fact we are tempted by something from our past does not give us that identity.  These are familiar to us.  Jesus washed away your sin not your memory.  We are now in Christ.  I once lived in Vermont, I now live in Michigan.  I often remember Vermont and how it was to live there, but I now am in Michigan.  That is fact.  We are now in Christ and no matter how we remember our past, it is our past.  That too is fact.

Temptation is not a sign of a poor spiritual walk. 

Revelation 12:10 gives Satan an interesting name.  It rears to him as “the accuser of our brethren.”  Jesus told us that Satan was a liar and there was no truth in him. (John 8:44).  So why are we so quick to believe Satan?

 So often I have had people tell me that they feel they are spiritually falling apart because they are facing temptation.  As I said earlier, temptation is a reality of the Christian life.  It can defeat us and discourage us, or we can be strengthened by it.  James said we should count it all joy when we face trials (James 1:2).  Paul said he rejoices in affliction because he has learned when he is weak; God is strong
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The fact we go through rough times, or that we face temptation – no matter what the temptation is – does not mean we are weak spiritually.  As you look through Scriptures you see men and women of faith facing great temptation.  Even Jesus faced them and He always had a good spiritual walk.

As we resist temptation, we become spiritually strong.  We then see that we are dependent on Jesus to get us through.  He is faithful when we face temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Temptation is more a sign of a spirit who is growing than a weak one.

All temptation is common. 

Did you ever feel you were the only person dealing with your problems? I have.

I know many have felt this way.  What is almost funny about that is how untrue it is.  We may put a different face on it, or give it a different name, but we all face the same battle.  First Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”

 As a counselor, I will often paint out areas that a person is struggling with that they had not told me about.  They always look shocked, as if I had read their mind.  The truth is I have dealt with enough people over the years I know how sin works in a person’s life.  I can pick it out because it is a common problem.

One we take the specialty out of our sin, we can address it.  We can then see that others have not only faced it, but have gotten victory over it.  Satan loves to make us feel we are all alone, and that no one understands or can help us.  That is a lie.  We may have our own perspective of sin, but it’s all the same dynamics and all the same answer.

Once we understand these basic facts, we can deal more effectively with temptation.  It is God’s will that you be free from all bondage.  He has provided victory, healing and wholeness for you.  That does not mean, however, that you’ll never face temptation.

Be ready for the enemy by knowing the truth to battle his lies.  When you face temptation – no matter what the temptation is – remember the following: 1) you are not sinning, 2) that is not your identity, 3) it doesn’t mean you are spiritually weak, and 4) others face it as well.  Speak those truths and turn away from Satan and his deceptions.

 

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

 

 

Is “Ex-Gay” Really “Anti-Gay”

This article was originally published in a 1987 Reconciliation Ministries newsletter and is part of our new Vintage newsletter series – a series of newsletter articles that were published in the early days of Reconciliation Ministries which are still relevant for today.  It was written by the founder, Jack Hickey, who continues to celebrate over 30 years of walking in sexual and relational wholeness.

 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. 1 Ephesians 5:11

 Recently our staff has had the opportunity to serve on a committee studying homosexuality for a major denomination.  One of the questions raised is whether we are to be called “ex-gay” or “anti-gay”.

An article entitled “homophobia” by Dr. George Weinberg, distributed by the National Gay Task Force, refers to those who would oppose the stand of gay rights advocates as, “The conservatives, adhering to a literal interpretation of the bible that condemns homosexual acts as evil, conceive of homosexuals as sinners and demand that they be punished.”

In a tract distributed by Evangelicals concerned, a pro-gay organization, Dr. Ralph Blair states, “Some Fundamentalists say it’s un-American and their solution is to fire ‘em and lock ‘em up and maybe even kill ‘em.  People are swallowing this baloney. Some Evangelicals and Charismatics say it’s un-Christian and that homosexual should get delivered and if that doesn’t work, they should just sit and be quiet and forget about romance and sex for the rest of their lives.”

Are Christians who hold to the moral statues set down in Scripture really bigots at heart?  Is to oppose homosexuality to hate homosexuals?  Do we believe gays should be punished and locked up?  Is sitting quiet and forgetting personalities our only advice?  No, this is in no way true at all.

I will be the first to agree that some, who call themselves Christians, do preach a message of hate against gays.  They see no hope for change and have no desire to help them find change.  There are others who preach a message of acceptance and compromise.  They also see no hope for change and have no desire to ever want to change.

For those who do hold to the Bible as the Word of God, we can only come up with one conclusion.  Homosexuality is contrary to God’s standard for sexual expression.  Christians have always held this position and always will.  God’s Word does not change.  But the message doesn’t stop there.  Scripture is also clear about a way out of homosexuality.

When we see sin as sin, we can see hope.  Jesus died not only to forgive our sin, but to cleanse us and free us from it.  “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.  The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:5-8).  Sin here means to practice sin as an on-going sinful behavior.  This does not mean the sins we see in our lives daily or when we stumble or fall.  It is because of not being able to practice sin and be in Christ, that I believe one cannot be a Christian and practice homosexuality at the same time.

This call to repentance is not only directed to the gay community.  All people have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.  God is calling us out of all sin.  We focus on the gay community because that is our burden and our calling.  We do not believe homosexuality is any different than other sins.  Any sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage is sin according to God’s Word.

Please understand that I may deal with difficult issues and make tough statements.  That is not because I am bitter or hateful toward homosexuals.  I have a deep love and concern for those in the gay life style.  I was in that life myself for 10 years and I know the pain and confusion.  My anger is to those who would lie and manipulate others to stay in that bondage.

True love does not sugar-coat poison.  I do not want people to think for a minute that homosexuality is OK.  It is sin, and as all sin, it is deadly.  Nowhere in Scripture will you see God calling someone to preach an inoffensive message to repentance.  Sin is a very serious problem and must be dealt with accordingly.

It is the first and main purpose of this and other “ex-gay” ministries to bring hope and healing to those dealing with homosexuality.  Wholeness is not a dream but a reality in Jesus.  Yet, there are those who do not wish to leave their homosexuality.  I cannot do anything about them any more than I can for anyone who rejects the Gospel.  But there are many who do wish freedom, and for those we are here.

We are not the answer to homosexuality.  It is not a case that one must agree with us.  I am not the mouthpiece of God (no one knows that better than me).  Only Jesus can set the sinner free.  He and He alone is the answer to the homosexual.  And He is the mouthpiece of God.

Throughout this series of messages, I will be addressing many issues.  I do believe we as Christians must take a firm stand on these things and stop compromising the standards of God.  Yet, we want to be sure to offer the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.  Throughout Scripture you will see Jesus dealing head on with sin.  He used hard words and never tried to cover sin up with some emotional reasoning.  Yet, all that Jesus did (and does) was in the spirit of redemption.  He gave His life for the same people He rebuked.

We are not against homosexuals.  It is not our purpose to lock them up or put them down.  It is our deep burden to get the truth of freedom in Jesus out to all who are in bondage.  “Once gay, always gay” is a lie.  Jesus can and will make you new.

We are all faced with making the choice that Joshua confronted Israel with.  Think about it, and choose.  The time is over for walking the fence.

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt; and serve the Lord.  And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:14-15