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Posts from September 2013

Redemption Stories: Crissy Moran "In Her Own Words" - Video

We now have the video available from Sunday, September 22 when Crissy Moran shared her story of redemption with First Baptist Church of Orange Park. It's available on YouTube and below:

 

Cmoran


Redemption Stories: Christopher, Angela & Leon Yuan

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Redemption christopher family emailWhat many would consider their worst nightmare has become a reality for Christopher Yuan. While attending dental school, he began living promiscuously as a gay man and experimenting with illicit drugs. Within a few years, he was expelled from dental school, imprisoned for drug dealing and discovered that he was HIV positive.

But God has turned his nightmare into an exciting and inspiring story of redemption, grace and transformation. Christopher has an understanding heart for and a desire to minister to those working through issues of sexuality and to those living with HIV/AIDS. He speaks locally and internationally to youth, on college campuses, in churches and in prisons.

Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005 and Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007 with a Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis and is currently pursuing a doctorate of ministry at Bethel Seminary. He now teaches at Moody while continuing his speaking ministry which has reached four continents around the world. (biography information taken from www.christopheryuan.com)

Christopher, along with his parents Leon and Angela, shared their story with our church on Sunday, September 29. It's a powerfully, moving story. Click the audio link at the top of this post to listen to their account.

We also encourage you to read the Yuans' story in their book Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, A Broken Mother's Search for Hope.


When Your Child Comes Out of the Closet

"Pastor David. We need to come speak to you. Our teenager has just revealed something to us and we don't know what to do."

I've heard this statement, or cry for help, numerous times over the years from parents. I have encountered and counseled numerous parents who have had to face the reality of their child "coming out of the closet" as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.) In most cases, based on my role as a pastor, these parents have come seeking insight from the Scripture and hope for their situation. Simply put, they want a fix or a prayer that will change their child. They want me to "pray the gay away" and while I believe in the power of prayer, it really isn't that simple.

LGBT in the Church

Coming out of the closetThe gay lifestyle and gender confusion are no strangers to the church. Over the past twenty years, I have had numerous students in youth ministry come out of the closet, dads in the church caught soliciting male prostitutes, wives leaving husbands for their lesbian lovers, spouses and family members grieving of the death of their loved ones after years of suffering with AIDS.

I believe our church is not much different than others. The struggle of same-sex attraction is not relegated to a denominational affiliation, a political viewpoint, nationality, cultural heritage, family makeup or any other demographic. It is a human dilemma and in a culture that is shifting it's definition of normal, this lifestyle becomes even more prevalent and perhaps even trendy.

As one counselor shared with me regarding teenagers struggling in this area, "Parents are not only dealing with this issue in their homes, but are pushing against a seemingly insurmountable wall of cultural pressure and acceptance from all venues."

Three Words That Changed Everything

Leon Yuan states that it was May 17, 1993 when three little words caused so much upheaval in their family. Leon and his wife Angela's son, Christopher said to them, "I am gay." At that point, their story changed forever.

Leon continues that it couldn't have been a worse time for this revelation. Their marriage was on the rocks. Christopher was a college student. Stress in the family was at an all time high.

I have heard the same thing from numerous parents. It always seems "It couldn't have come at a worse time" is the common assessment for all. When is the best time, really?

Parents have different reactions to this type of statement. Those who embrace alternative lifestyle choices under the banner of "tolerance" may celebrate the "awakening." Those who hold to more traditional beliefs will feel greatly disturbed. Many who claim to know Christ will struggle with loving their child and not condoning what they consider to be sin. Some claim to know Christ, but view things differently and see nothing wrong with the declaration. Some will grow so angry and shamed that unfortunate and painfully wrong responses occur. There truly is no one, common response.

However, in my experience, and no doubt due to my role as a pastor as well as my doctrinal and theological beliefs, the vast majority of parents who have come to me echo the Yuans. The declaration becomes a crisis moment.

According to Christopher, the tumultuous "coming out" to parents event is common in the LGBT community. In fact, it's almost seen as a rite of passage. Christopher states. . .

"Telling my parents was the final hurdle in coming out. I knew they would be unwilling to let go of their set ways. It would have been awkward if my mother had said, 'You're gay? Great! Why don't I come down to Louisville and you can introduce me to some of your gay friends?' Nevertheless, their rejection showed me how closed minded they were. At the same time, I fully expected them not to understand me. Their reaction fit in with the other coming-out war stories I'd heard. There was a pretty standard script for gay folks, and the big blowup with the parents was the climactic scene that marked the end of act one and the beginning of act two."

Though expected, it left Christopher's parents feeling lost and hopeless. It is at these moments of crises, one's beliefs are tested and refined.

In many cases, parents want a fix for their son or daughter. As stated in numerous previous posts, only God can change a person's heart. It also should be noted that parents often go into crisis mode when this story unfolds, but when other personal sins are revealed, the reaction is muted. Perhaps the "grading" of sins leads to this? That's a posting for another day.

What should a parent do?

In my experience, I have seen moms and dads react and respond in numerous ways. In some cases, the marriage has been lost in the battle. Other couples unite together and actually grow stronger. Some blame God. Others turn to God. Most want a quick fix. None receive that. In some cases the child leaves the gay lifestyle. In other cases, there's no such change evident.

In all situations and human responses, God is still God.

It becomes an opportunity for greater intimacy with the Father. The hard questions are asked. Prayers move from "bless this and that" and "help the sick get well" to "HELP ME! CHANGE ME! FORGIVE ME!"

The hope of Scripture is sought. Many church-attenders become disciples. At least the opportunity is there.

The initial desire from mom and dad is "Help my kid!" and often it becomes a realization of "I need help." God does that. It's not that he minimizes the sin of the child. That child will have to respond and repent on his/her own, but in the midst of seeking holiness, one's own sin is revealed.

In the Yuans lives, God revealed Himself in amazing ways. This couple who did not know God were drawn to Him. Seemingly by "coincidence" Angela is introduced to Jesus Christ and surrenders her life to Him. Later on, after some very difficult months, Leon does as well.

All the while, their son, Christopher, remained far from God.

So they (Angela and Leon) prayed. I mean really prayed. For years. Often with no sign that God was even hearing them.

But He did.

In His time, He drew Christopher to Himself as well.

It wasn't a smooth transformation. It was painful. There were many struggles along the way. The immersion in the gay lifestyle left Christopher with many scars, not to mention HIV. The "good life" led to serious jail time. Yet, looking back, it's clear that God was active throughout the story, even when it was hard to see.

This Sunday (September 29) at First Baptist Church of Orange Park, the Yuans will be sharing at 9:15am and 10:45am the story briefly described above. There is much more to hear and God continues to write the chapters.

The Yuan's story is powerful, but not every family experiences the same result.

Does the Yuans story relate to people in church today? To people in a Baptist church in the South? Oh yeah, this story is every believer's story. It's the story of a prodigal son, and prodigal parents, coming home to the Father who was waiting patiently.

So, what should parents do?

Seek Christian counseling? Yes. There are good counselors, steeped in Scripture and God's Word who can help.

Seek a support group? Sure. There are many who have experienced this.

Love their child unconditionally? Yes. This may be hard because our culture deems love as the same as affirmation. That's not biblical. God loves us, but He doesn't affirm our sin, any sin. This one is very hard, but needed. Sometimes love will be tough.

Learn from others. Let Leon and Angela's and other believer's stories speak to you. They're not perfect and would probably do some things differently if they could, but one thing that would not change is prayer. Draw close to God. Trust Him. He loves your child more than you do. He's got this.

You are not alone.

You are not the first to face this.

Trust God.

Christopher and his mother, Angela, have written a book chronicling their journey. The book will be available at FBCOP on Sunday as well as on our website bookstore. Below is a brief trailer for the book Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God. A Broken Mother's Search for Hope.

 

 


Only the Church Calls It Homosexuality

In a video from "The Nines" by Leadership Network, Pastor John Burke of Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas is sharing about the church's call to minister to and love those in the homosexual community. This short video segment features Amy, one of the members of Gateway Church. The clip is featured under the subject "Too Hot To Handle."

As the clip begins, John says, "I'm going to talk about homosexuality in the church." At that point, Amy interrupts and says, "OK, hang on a minute. So, let's not use the word 'homosexuality.' 'Homosexuality' is a word that only the church uses. Let's stay with gay, lesbian. . ."

Hmmm, never thought of that. Now, while some will get all up in arms about the word, there is truth to that. The culture shift has been quick and defined, and the church does seem to be the only one using the term "homosexuality" when describing the issue. Is this a big deal? Not really, but it does give insight into the cultural understanding of same sex attraction and gender confusion.

Lgbt youth

LGBTQ

So, the correct term is LGBT or LGBTQ. Just in case, here's what it means (taken from a pamphlet by Kim Stanley, M.A.):

L stands for lesbians – women whose primary emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attractions are to other women. 

G stands for gay men – men whose primary emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attractions are to other men. 

B stands for bisexuals – men or women whose primary emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attractions are to both women and men. 

T stands for transgendered – a broad term that includes cross-dressers, transsexuals, and people who live substantial portions of their lives as other than their birth gender. A transgendered person is someone whose gender identity and/or expression differ from conventional expectations for their physical birth sex. Gender identity refers to the internal sense of being male or female, while gender expression refers to how someone presents his or her gender to the world through style of dress, mannerisms, and so on. A transitioning transgender person is one who is modifying her or his physical characteristics and manner of expression to – in effect –satisfy the standards for membership in another gender. Transgender people can be straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. 

Q stands for questioning – someone who is questioning their sexual and/or gender orientation. Sometimes, the Q stands for “queer,” a term reclaimed by some LGBTs for political reasons. 

Everyone Is Connected to the LGBTQ Story

Last Sunday we featured Crissy Moran as a guest. She shared her story of pain and hurt and of coming back to God who ultimately rescued her and led her out of a life in the porn and adult entertainment industry. Many attended to hear her story and since sin is sin, we all could connect with her story. However, this Sunday's guest steps a little closer to home.

While most people in our fellowship do not have family members and friends in the adult entertainment industry, everyone in the church and community has family or friends who identify as LGBTQ. So, clearly this week's guest and story hits close to home for all of us.

Christopher Yuan at First Orange Park this Sunday

Christopher Yuan will be sharing this weekend at our 9:15am and 10:45am services along with his parents Angela and Leon. He will be back at 6pm and 7pm to lead two teachings on homosexuality (child-care is provided through 6th grade during these sessions.) The first session is titled "Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture" and the second "A Christian Response to Homosexuality." These sessions, as well as the morning services, are open to all in the community. Even if you disagree with the premise, you are welcome to attend. 

Unlike many in the church who speak about the gay lifestyle, Christopher speaks from personal experience. Just look at this portion of his bio from his website:

While attending dental school, he began living promiscuously as a gay man and experimenting with illicit drugs. Within a few years, he was expelled from dental school, imprisoned for drug dealing and discovered that he was HIV positive.

But God has turned his nightmare into an exciting and inspiring story of redemption, grace and transformation. Christopher has an understanding heart for and a desire to minister to those working through issues of sexuality and those living with HIV/AIDS.

Christopher and his mother co-authored the story of their journey in a book titled Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son's Journey to God, A Broken Mother's Search for Hope

Christopher and his family's story is incredible. It truly is a real life re-telling of the Prodigal Son story found in the Gospel of Luke. I know God is going to do great things this weekend.

Just to give you insight into the fullness of what God has done, watch the video below featuring Christopher and his family.

 

Pastor John Burke made a valid point in the video I referenced previously. He is speaking about the desire for pastors and believers to see others change. We desire to see transformation due to the transformation we have all experienced. Whether LGBTQ or straight, sin still infects humanity. We're all "born this way" so to speak. However, true change, real transformation cannot be forced or coerced. Only God changes people. It's a good reminder. This is not a statement that the church should ignore sin. Absolutely not. Sin is sin. Never affirmed. It is a statement about the call to love, show grace and mercy.

Amy, from Gateway, shares in the clip about coming to the church with her girlfriend with the preconceived idea, based on past experiences, that they would be hated, ostracized and kicked out. Therefore, they came in boldly to make a statement. They were open and didn't care and yet, over time, the message of story, identity and God's love broke through. She came to Christ. The relationship with her girlfriend dissolved. She was made new through the power of God. 

It's a good reminder that only God can save.


Redemption Stories: Crissy Moran - In Her Own Words

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Yesterday, we had the privilege of hosting Crissy Moran at our church. Her's is a story of redemption.

FBOP 915 Service-3Soon we will upload video of her testimony. Before we gathered yesterday, I had sent Crissy a list of some of the questions I would ask. Here are her responses:

Tell us about your childhood. . .

I grew up in Jacksonville and lived here until my early 20's when I entered the porn industry.  I was a very shy as child.  So shy that when I was a little girl and people would talk to me I would hide behind my mom. Even in high school I would rather take an "F" than stand in front of the class and speak!

I lived with my mom and dad until I was around 11 years old when they divorced.  It was very difficult for me, my mom and my brother because my dad was an abusive alcoholic.  I was actually happy they divorced because it was so chaotic at home.  However, while my parents were still together, and I was just 11 years old, I decided to follow Jesus and I was baptized shortly after.

My dad would drink and yet, still teach the Bible to us. It was very confusing to me.

I was sexually abused by a man in our neighborhood when I was just 4 years old.  Throughout my childhood it seemed I attracted older men who looked at me in perverted ways and boys who would try to have sex with me. My dad had an obsession with my sexuality and would always tell me I would stay a virgin until I got married. He would brag about that to all his drunk friends.

I was very confused about sex and religion but I think God gave me a strong sense of discernment so I when my dad would talk about things that seemed a little off I would know it.   

My mom was very protective of my brother and I during their marriage.  After my mom remarried I moved in with her and our family dynamic changed.

Tell us about your teenage years. . .

I was very introverted and didn't feel I got the attention I wanted or needed and felt very isolated, depressed and alone. I realized in high school that having a boyfriend gave me validation and filled the empty void in my heart. I became sexually active with my new boyfriend and became pregnant the summer before my senior year in high school. I was actually excited to start a family of my own. Though my boyfriend had always said he'd marry me if I became pregnant, when it happened, he decided not to marry me and took me to have an abortion.  That was one of the most traumatic things to ever happen in my life.

In high school I tried to fit in with others and had friends at different points but after I had the abortion it got around school and it seemed that during my senior year of high school, I had no friends. My dad disappeared for years at a time and I wouldn't hear from him. I didn't feel stable and spent a lot of time daydreaming, listening to music in my room and being rebellious towards my mom and stepdad.

What would you say to teenage girls today?

Don't put all of your value into what boys think about you.  You don't have to have a boyfriend to be worthy of love.

How did you end up in the porn industry?

Because I felt I needed a boyfriend to prove my worth I went to extreme measures like online dating and traveling to meet men in other states.  I put myself in a lot of danger and was taken advantage of more than once. From the online dating sites I was led to amateur modeling sites and I put my pictures up on one sites and received tons of emails offering to pay me to do porn.  After a really bad breakup I felt worthless and that is when I did my first photo shoot.

It seems it was like once you were drawn into the industry, it was a whirlwind.

 It WAS a whirlwind. The fact that people thought I was good enough that they would pay to shoot me filled the same empty place in my heart that the men did. I was an empty shell.

Porn is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. It’s growing. From your perspective, what has been the biggest reason for recent growth in the industry?

The internet and mobile devices make it so easily accessible.

These are called “Redemption Stories” and yours is still being written. What would you say to young women who are not having their heart question answered, maybe dealing with tough home lives, looking for love, etc?

Well, for me, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Don't do what I did. Keep your dignity. The reason I share my story is in hopes that it will help steer others away from these things. That empty places in your heart was intended to be filled by Jesus and nothing else will satisfy you more. It says in the Bible that you will find HIM when you seek HIM with ALL of you heart.  Trust me nothing is better.

What would you say to men?

Porn is a fantasy. Even the women doing porn don't necessarily enjoy it. A lot of times they are being abused and abusing their own bodies just  to sell the lie. I hope that my story will make you see the girl, not as an object, but as a real woman with a heartbeat just like me.

The video of our extended interview will be available soon. Check back for updates.

Crissy Moran Online

Just as a reminder, there are numerous websites, Twitter & Facebook accounts on the web. She does not own most of these. They continue to sell and take advantage of the former Crissy Moran.

She has the following official sites. These are the only official "new" Crissy sites (and safe for the family)


Redemption Stories: Rescuing Your Marriage from Porn

It seems that the number of couples needing marriage counseling is increasing. More often than not, a similar issue comes to the forefront - pornography. While lack of communication, fighting, unequal spiritual stories, extramarital affairs, sexual issues, etc. continue to be the common problems with couples struggling to keep their marriage together (yes - there really is nothing new under the sun) I have discovered that a very high percentange of couples in crisis have a common denominator. This has become clear in private counseling sessions, revelations at men's conferences, discussions in coffee shops and in public testimony times here at the church. The common denominator is pornography.

Just as with any other item, porn is not really the issue. It is the issue behind the issue that is the real problem.

Porn marriageSatan hates marriage. A biblical marriage is a picture of Christ and His church. Therefore, every time Satan sees a couple united in holy matrimony (even if the couple doesn't understand what this fully means) he is then intent on ending that relationship and will throw everything in his arsenal toward that end. It's a systematic strategy that has been underway for centuries.

Our culture has mainstreamed and normalized one of his greatest weapons. Something created to pervert a God-created, beautiful thing (sex between a husband and wife) is seen as okay by many, all the while working to dissolve that "which God has joined together."

When a couple comes to see me and is then referred to a Christian marriage counselor or coach, there is a desire, at least on the part of one spouse, to see the marriage survive. I must say, there are numerous situations where I thought the marriages were beyond repair and God intervened and saved them. It's a beautiful thing.

I wish I could say that every couple pulls through, but that's just not the case. 

A Hardcore Strategy

This secret sin that infects our churches has been a battle zone. The Enemy, due to the fact most churches refuse to acknowledge this strategy and issue, has been victorious time and again. It's time that Christ-followers address the issue and recognize this for what it is.

Recently, Baptist Press and the Florida Baptist Witness ran a story about Cathy and Greg Dyer. The Dyers are members of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida. Seven years into their marriage, Greg's secret porn addiction came to light. It just about ended the marriage. Cathy's statements echo many wives comments said to me when meeting with couples. Yet, through the grace of God and the strategic and intentional decision to fight this and gain victory, the Dyers are still married (19 years now) and are sharing their story with others.

Cathy is the author of Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War Against Pornography which is available in our bookstore here.

In her interview with Baptist Press, she shares how she and Greg have overcome the enemy's attacks of shame.

Honestly, shame was a minor issue as I worked on this material. My husband and I have been involved in some capacity of ministry in this area since about 2003, so I'm fairly used to putting my story "out there" and sharing openly. However, when we first started sharing with groups of people, it was nerve-wracking. Until you get used to it, telling people that your husband was unfaithful and a porn addict is an awkward topic to broach; but Greg and I realized -- from our own situation -- that this is a topic that sorely needs to be addressed. Someone has to be bold and have those awkward conversations. Why not us?

Shame, guilt and fear are tools the enemy has used over and again, with everyone, to keep healing and forgiveness from occurring. 

Marriages do not have to end. There is hope. Even marriages racked with unfaithfulness and lies. It won't be easy, but it is possible. All things are possible with Christ, right?

Luke and Trisha

Luke and Trisha met on eHarmony, are now married and raising four children. He blogs for Coventant Eyes and she blogs about healthy living and parenting. Just your typical young adult couple. Their story is not unlike many (except that they met online and blog for a living.)

On a guest blog at www.fulfillingyourvows.com, they share their story of overcoming past sins.

Luke on his porn habit

In my single days, I consumed a lot of porn. I loved it, and I hated that I loved it…and I hated myself for it.

Experience has taught me that I’m not an anomaly among Christian guys. Quite a few of us plunged headlong into the trap of pornography. Fueled by both a burning lust and a yearning for intimacy, I turned again and again to the dry well of porn to quench my thirst. My journey out of that pit is another story for another day.

When I started dating Trisha—who would become my wife seven months after we met—my great fear was that my old porn habit would resurface after I was married. Dealing with porn as a single man was devastating enough. I hated the though of dragging another person through the mire with me.

Trisha on dealing with his past

While we were dating, Luke was honest from the get-go about his struggles. I appreciated that. He not only disclosed that it was just a past struggle, but an ongoing struggle and temptation. He was transparent and honest. I appreciated that he was actively involved in an accountability and discipleship relationship with an older, trustworthy, godly man.

At times it hurt to know how easily he was tempted, especially as we moved closer to marriage. It is easy for a woman to feel like there must be something wrong with her if her boyfriend, fiancé, or husband has an urge to look at (or talk to) other women online. But what spoke volumes to me was how diligent Luke was to guard his heart.

Luke on his new job as a blogger

God’s care for me entering marriage is nothing short of amazing. I’d like to say moving to Michigan to get married was a leap of faith. It really wasn’t. It was a leap of love: I wanted to start a new life with my bride.

God had placed it on my heart to speak to other men about the harms of pornography, but I had no idea how this desire would be fulfilled. Moving to Michigan, I found out that a large number of people who attended my wife’s church were employees at Covenant Eyes, a Christian-owned software company that has helped many people find accountability for their Internet use.

Long story short: I applied; I got the job. It’s been five years now, and I’ve had the opportunity to live my dream: I write and speak about the dangers of pornography and the importance of accountability to Christian readers all over the globe.

Trisha on her fears

I was so thankful Luke got a great job right before we got married. I was also thankful he was going to be working for a great company with a great cause.

I was nervous, however, about him being online all day long for his work. Would he be facing more temptation? I would hate it if his job became just one constant opportunity to fall back into his old sins.

I knew there needed to be some accountability measures, but not just the Covenant Eyes software itself. There needed to be someone, other than me, with whom he could speak frankly about his struggles without fear of hurting their feelings. Someone who would hold him accountable, ask him tough questions, and mentor him through struggles. We discussed all of this and were in agreement before he went in for his first meeting after being hired at Covenant Eyes. We just weren’t sure how it would all work out.

Accountability is powerful - the need for a "Band of Brothers" for men

I was frank with my bosses the day I was hired at Covenant Eyes: I told them about my past and how I did not want to slip into my old habits.

First, they asked me to be counseled and mentored by the Covenant Eyes chaplain—a man who is also one of the elders at my church. Second, I was told to put Covenant Eyes Accountability Software on my computer. Both one of my bosses and the chaplain started receiving weekly reports of everything I did online.

Five years later I still meet, week in and week out, with my mentor. We have become good friends; he knows me better than nearly anyone. We talk about the temptations I face (both sexual and non-sexual), my sins, and the state of my heart. I have come to love these weekly conversations.

Luke's recommendation - 3 critical steps for men

My advice to men who have been entrenched in porn—speaking as a man who’s been in the trenches—is this:

  1. Walk with the wise (Proverbs 13:20) – Choose to get closest to those who are truly wise. Find a man in your church who both knows his Bible and how to read human souls. This is one of the reasons God has given us elders: for healing (James 5:14), restoration (Galatians 6:1), and guidance (1 Peter 5:1-5).
  2. Walk in the light (1 John 1:7) – Don’t hide your sin or your weaknesses in the dark corners of life. Don’t keep secrets. Don’t let your computer be a haven for sin to thrive. Choose to have a kind of fellowship with other men who can hear your raw and honest confessions. Meet often. Confess often. Encourage often (Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16).
  3. Walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4) – The ability to live a new life is one of the many benefits of being united to the risen Christ. Dive deeply into theology and learn about what your union with Christ means. Learn to practice daily what it means to reckon yourself already dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11). Learn the joy of walking in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

These are just tools, weapons for the battle. All marriages are attacked at the core. It's the enemy's strategy. We would be wise to acknowledge this. Safeguards, accountability, bands of brothers, covenant groups of women, online checks, protective software. . .all are good, but will not work apart from repentance and total surrender to Christ. 

Marriages do not have to dissolve. They do not have to end. It's not easy, but then. . .who said it would be easy?

Do the hard things.

Fight for your marriage.

Recognize your enemy and know his tactics.

Get help. You cannot do this alone.

It's exciting to hear redemption stories from couples who have been through the pit and come out on the other side. My prayer is that these stories become more of the norm rather than the exception.


Redemption Stories: Erica Campbell's Journey Home from Porn

While the numbers of young women involved in the adult entertainment industry are immense, there are some who have left. A good number of these women have entered into the most intimate relationship they could ever imagine. They have responded and surrendered to Jesus Christ.

Christ changes everything.

Life is not easy for them, especially with the hundreds of images and videos still floating around on the internet as a reminder of a past life. Yet, there is hope. There is meaning and purpose. Ultimately, there is love. . .real love.

I've shared Brittni's story and Crissy's in previous posts. We're glad to host Crissy next Sunday at First Orange Park in our morning services as well so she can personal share her story. 

Another young lady who drifted into the world of erotica and pornography only to realize there was more to life is Erica Campbell. Erica was a top model in the adult industry, posing for Playboy, Penthouse and a host of other online sites and magazines.

Erica has been pretty silent on the web since her public statement of faith back in 2008. However, her posting online dated May 25, 2008 speaks of her journey to life.

Erica_campbell_pictureI love you guys!

The Only Way Out

This message is to ALL of my friends and fans. I wasn't sure how exactly to start this...but I trusted that God would help me write this and maybe through me I could speak His word and make His will be done.....

For a long time I have been very lost. So lost in myself and in the world that I didn't even REALIZE that I was lost. I have always thought of myself as a pretty good person. I love helping people, I love befriending people, I love animal rescue and rehab. I care a GREAT deal for my friends and family and ALWAYS do whatever I can to care for them and make sure that they are ok. For a long time I THOUGHT that I was doing the right thing.....and doing my personal best......well...I was wrong...dead wrong.

Being in the world of adult modeling I see A LOT of pain....A LOT of heart break. SO many lost girls get into this business just for some extra money....to help pay for school....to help support themselves or even their children as single moms. "It's just temporary". They are only going to do this for a while...just a few shoots. I too started out to make some extra money to help me finish school. Almost ALL of the time. It doesn't end where you think it will.....the path goes on......the hole gets deeper....and the road gets darker. MOST of the time the girls don't even realize it. One day you see this bright beautiful girl shooting tame nudes...the next they are signing on the dotted line of a hard-core porn company. Lost. Broken. Alone.

Being on the other side of these pictures you don't see the pain these girls are in. The struggle....the drugs that they take so they can get themselves through these sets. Sometimes it's just a show....you pretend to be someone else..become someone you never thought you could be...and the hole gets deeper.

I never thought of myself as one of these girls. What I have been doing "wasn't porn". I connect to well and so close with so many of my fans. I didn't realize what I was doing or why.

The past few years have been very difficult for me. That is no secret to anyone that knows anything about me. I have been working my tail off to support myself, my farm, my rescues, my family, and the list goes on. No matter how hard I worked.....no matter how many people or creatures I helped I STILL had that void inside of my heart and my soul. Connecting with person after person through my site as REAL FRIENDS. I understood the loneliness of the people that I would talk to...because I myself was so lonely. The more I shot...the deeper my darkness got.....the more I understood the pain of others. My friends and my fans. There is ONE common thread to so many of us online here.....the need to be loved, accepted, cared for, the need to have SOMEONE understand you and connect with you. At the end of so many of these emails was that loneliness. SO many men have asked me what they were doing wrong, how to find a special girl like me for THEM. How to fill that "void" in their hearts...in their souls. For a long time I thought I was helping to fill that void in the lives of so many, and in a way I was. But it was all a lie. I could never fill that void for anyone...only be a sinful Band-Aid for it. Only cause the loneliness to deepen....only cause my own soul to ache more.

I have been looking so long and so hard for someone to love me. Love ME for ME. Fill that hole in my soul. Complete me. All this time the only thing standing in my way was me. I have been blind and wrong. On so many levels for so long.

I have decided to leave the world of adult and porn behind me....and follow the Lord. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and am devoting my life to HIS WILL. I have found the one thing that can, will and DOES fill that void...and that's GOD.

I have been trapped in sin and destruction for so long. Disappointment after disappointment......painful venture after painful venture. I have been my own worst enemy. Holding the key all along that could set me free from the darkness that had slowly enveloped me....that was eating away piece by piece my soul. Burning the light out of my eyes so slowly that I didn't even see it....didn't know it.....

It is will a new clarity and a new purpose that I will continue my life. I WANT TO HELP THESE GIRLS! These lost souls.....these girls that are ABUSING THEMSELVES. Selling themselves for NOTHING. I want to help them STOP THIS PAIN. I want to show them the light.....and the love of Jesus. ONLY HE CAN FILL THIS VOID IN THEIR LIFE! HE IS THE WAY....THE ONLY WAY.

I also want to help my fans...my friends......This void in your life and heart. You seek pornography to fill it....it's only a bandage. Sin isn't ugly....it's beautiful. It can't fill the voids in your life. ONLY GOD CAN FILL THEM!

I love my fans, and I love YOU. I want YOU to feel this peace. I want YOU to get out of the darkness that is all around you. You can not live with one foot in Christ and one in the world. Our time here is so short....today could be your last day here. And what will you have lived for? Died for? There is only one way to heaven and eternal life....and that is through Jesus.

I will not and can not desert my friends and fans. The models.....the world. I can't and I won't. I am hoping that the Lord will work through me and guide me to do HIS will and help those that I can. Those that will stop and listen....those that will allow the Holy Spirit to fill them and speak to them as it has me.

I know that there are going to be a lot of people that will think this is a big joke ... laugh ... wonder if I have lost my mind ... well ... I have news for you ... FOOLS MOCK THE TRUTH. There is ONE WAY. And only one way. I have found that way. I have FILLED THE HOLE IN MY SOUL! Filled that void that I couldn't fill with anything else. My life isn't about ME anymore.....My life is about God and HIS will. I want to spread HIS love. Tell people about Him......lead people home to Him. I don't care what you have done.....how lost you think you are....how hopeless you think things are......I HAVE GREAT NEWS FOR YOU! It's NOT TOO LATE. God LOVES YOU! He wants YOU. All you have to do is accept His gift. IT'S RIGHT THERE FOR YOU! Jesus died on the cross for OUR SINS. The price for us has already been PAID IN FULL.

I will not be attending glamourcon or shooting anything else. The next and last person that will see and enjoy my body will be a husband AS GOD INTENDED! I have asked for forgiveness for what I have done AND HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! I will spend the rest of my life doing the Lords will and the Lords work. I AM HIS!

I want you ALL to know that I love you very much.....you ARE MY FRIENDS! I want you to know God.....I want you to get out of this darkness...this saddness and follow the word of God. There is ONLY ONE WAY OUT!

I will not abandon you......

My life is beginning NOW. From this day on I will live HIS will and HIS way. My heart is HIS.

Serving Christ,

Erica

The stories are similar, yet unique. Similar in that there is an empty vacuum in the heart and soul of each person that can only be filled with the love and person of Jesus Christ. Unique in that God didn't create us as carbon copies and clones. We are uniquely created as His image-bearers. Jesus' death on the cross was the needed element of grace and mercy allowing us to know God. 

God writes redemption stories every day.


Redemption Stories: Rescuing Men & Women from Porn Addiction

It's the dirty little secret that has infected our culture and the church. Pornography has moved from the "adult" video stores and magazine racks behind the counter to the office computers, bedrooms and pockets (smart phones) of thousands of Americans and others worldwide.

Man-watching-pornRarely is this topic broached in the church. It's the "secret sin" no one talks about. When spoken of from the pulpit, there are always some in the congregation that deem the subject "taboo" or inappropriate. All the while, men and women fall into this trap.

Fortunately, there are numerous churches, ministries and pastors who refuse to ignore this marriage and intimacy killer that is running rampant in our communities and churches. It is a spiritual battle ultimately and must be fought as such. Whether we want to believe it or not, this issue impacts everyone.

Just look at the numbers: (From www.thepinkcross.org)

In June of this year, Pastor Jay Dennis of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida, launched "Join One Million Men." This movement to address the issue of pornography and addiction among our people has taken off. From Dennis' website www.join1millionmen.org, many have signed "The Wall" to stop ignoring the issue, take a stand and move forward in life free from the draw of pornography. Now, it's obvious that it will take more than a click on a website, but this is a significant move among Baptist churches. To see the issue for what it is and step forward in such a way is vital.

Dennis gives ten reasons why the church must step forward in this story.

Ten Reasons We Must Address the Porn Issue

  1. We are past time in addressing the issue of pornography in the church. There must be an urgency about doing everything possible to start the discussion in every church. No church and Christian home is unaffected by pornography. 
  2. Pastors must understand that this issue is destroying the men in their church along with their marriages, and that every young man is in danger of believing that the images in Internet pornography are normal. God's standard of sexual health must be promoted from the pulpit. 
  3. Internet pornography is the perfect trap for men. With its accessibility, anonymity, affordability and addictive nature, one look can hook. Then men struggle in shameful silence feeling they are alone in the struggle. A pastor's silence on the subject underscores that shame.
  4. Pastors are fearful. They are fearful of confessing their own struggles and fearful of the response from the congregation if they dare to broach the subject of pornography. The fear of God must replace the fear of man. 
  5. Evangelism and revival are integrally connected to personal purity. Jesus told us, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). If we want to see God work in our churches we must address the issue of pornography's attack on purity. 
  6. Women in the church, specifically wives and moms, are the key factor in bringing this issue of porn among Christian to the forefront of discussion in churches. When women pray about and discuss issues, eternal things can happen. We need for the women to declare, "Not in our church."
  7. The stories are heartbreaking, shocking and clear examples of how effective Satan is in using this tool against Christian men. I thought I had heard most everything, but what we heard in our discussions at the booth has burdened me even more that we must do something now. A pastor would have to put his head in the sand not to know that this is one of the most devastating attacks ever on the very souls of men. 
  8. Increasingly Christian women are struggling with viewing pornography. This will continue to escalate and have detrimental effects on marriages and motherhood. Resources are desperately needed.
  9. Materials addressing a Christian's pornography struggle are needed in Spanish. We heard this over and again of this need. We are committed to making this happen with our key resources -- "Our Hardcore Battle Plan," "Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives" and "Our Hardcore Battle Plan DVD" -- to reach out to our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters. 
  10. On a Christian university and seminary classroom setting, we absolutely must train our young men and women going into ministry to address the plague of pornography that is affecting every home of the people they will lead. Curriculum and resources dealing with how pastors can address those church members struggling with viewing pornography need to be a top priority for ministry training.

Porn addiction is a growing problem, but not lost to the power of God. God alone rescues men and women from themselves. He is not surprised and gives healing and hope to those who are trapped. It may be a marathon, rather than a sprint, but rest assured. . .He can handle this.

A plan is needed. I have shared stories of despair and hopelessness from those on the other side of porn, and Crissy Moran (former adult actress and model) will be here Sunday to share her story of redemption. It should be noted that there are millions on this side of the computer screen and telephone viewing images, one click after another. . . wondering if they can ever stop, or should.

Apart from God, the answer is "No, you cannot stop." However, living "in Christ" the power to leave the old life behind is there. 

Resources that can help

For more information on resources for men and women dealing with porn addiction and accountability, check out these sites:

  • Join One Million Men - Jay Dennis' ministry initiative.
  • Defender Ministries - co-founded by my good friend David Staples.
  • XXXChurch - A church reaching those in the adult industry. Take the "Are You Addicted" test on their site.
  • X3Watch - A free internet accountability software program. (X3Pro available for a fee.)
  • X3Pure - An online sex and porn addiction study.
  • Covenant Eyes - An internet accountability software program.
  • Faithful & True - A Jacksonville ministry focused on ministering to and helping those with sexual addictions.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars - "Brittni's Rescue"

As a part of our "Redemption Stories" series, I'll be highlighting some pretty incredible stories over the next few days. 

Over the past couple of decades porn has become normalized and mainstream in our culture. The advent of the internet has perhaps been the greatest element in this surge. The adult industry annually rakes in billions of dollars. The math is fuzzy and totals vary based upon the group reporting, but it is universally agreed that the adult industry is a lucrative one. 

The glamour, money, parties and all that is promoted as "good" in the porn industry tend to be straw houses that dissolve over time. 

Churches and ministries developed over the years focusing on reaching and ministering to those in the industry. For many, mostly women, feeling trapped in the industry left them hopeless and helpless. Rest assured, God is not blind and His love never changes. He has been drawing these individuals to Himself (just like He's done for me and others.)

What happens when a porn star comes to Jesus?

This is happening. For years, the two-dimensional images of beautiful women in magazines and film were objectified to such a degree that the concept of eternity and personal salvation were far (very far) from the minds of those viewing such images. Since the objectifying of women (and men) is ultimately a practice in self-love and narcissism, eternal matters seem foreign to the subject.

But. . .Jesus loves porn stars and He is drawing many to Himself.

Jesus loves porn stars just like he loves every other depraved and sinful human being on the planet. 

Our friend Crissy Moran will be at First Baptist next Sunday morning to share her personal story of redemption and rescue. I've blogged about her journey previously and we will get to hear from her directly this weekend.

However, Crissy is not the only person to leave the adult industry behind after meeting Christ. Recently, Brittni's story made headlines.

This is what happens when a porn star finds God. . .

Brittni Ruiz was 18 when she started working in porn. She was going to college and working as a dancer when producers from a porn company approached her and asked if she wanted to do “romance movies.” She knew exactly what they were referring to, but wanted to find out more.

“The next day, they put me in hair and makeup,” she says. “They had me do a scene. They were telling me how much money I’d make … I didn’t even think about the consequences.”

She became Jenna Presley. She performed in hundreds of films, was named one of Maxim magazine’s top 12 female performers in porn, and placed second in Jenna Jameson’s American Sex Star on Playboy TV. She once raked in $13,000 for an eight-hour gig in Tokyo.

Ruiz had been working in the adult industry for four years when she first saw people passing out Bibles at an adult convention, the Exxxotica Expo, in New Jersey. She described the convention as a trade show that’s “like Comic-Con, but a different crowd.”

She’d spend hours in heels signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who’d often ask her to pose provocatively. It was tiring and draining, and fans could be “too comfortable” with her, she explained, but ultimately, “we would sell our product.”

The people passing out Bibles were from the XXXchurch, sometimes known at the expos as the “Jesus loves porn stars” people because of the banners, Bibles, and T-shirts at their booth with the slogan written across the front.

The gimmick factor certainly caught peoples’ attention, but adult conventions aren’t the easiest place to save souls. Still, Ruiz was impressed. “There’s just something about them. It sets them apart from every person,” she says.

Their Bibles aren’t like typical Bibles. One of their latest editions doesn’t have the word “Bible” anywhere on the front and is a New English Translation of the Book of John with a mustached man in aviators on the cover.

“Does Jesus really love porn stars?” the opening page asks. “Absolutely. Now, that may go against what you thought about Jesus, but it’s true. You see Jesus loves porn stars as much as he loves pastors, soccer moms, liars, thieves and prostitutes. In his eyes, we are all the same.”

“It’s fun; it’s provocative,” says Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch. “You stop in your tracks … and then you have all these Bibles in front of you.”

Several years after encountering XXXchurch, things changed for Ruiz when a friend invited her to a church in San Diego. “I was invited to church and I felt the love of God,” she says. She brought a Bible with her on a flight from San Diego to Las Vegas, where she was going to shoot another film, started reading, and she knew it was time to leave. “I knew it was my last scene,” she says.

When she told the director in Las Vegas she was done, “He didn’t believe me,” she says, but, “here I am seven months later with a completely turned heart and have not looked back.”

Ruiz changed her phone number, deleted her Twitter account with more than 80,000 followers, and didn’t tell anyone where she was going. Not a single person from the industry ever called her or reached out to see what happened, she says. “Funny thing is, a lot of those men and women knew my real name and could have sought me out on Facebook, but they didn’t.”

From Hunter Schwarz of BuzzFeed. Read the rest of the article here.

Porn star brittni copy
What a great reminder that everyone. . .EVERYONE. . .stands on level ground at the foot of the cross. In other words, no one is too far gone. 

Brittni's story, Crissy's story, others XXXChurch has reached, my story and your story are the same at this point. We all need the rescue. 

Interesting isn't it how the industry gave Brittni a new name. When she came to Christ, she reclaimed her true name. 

The name matters.

Here's Brittni's story from an interview with XXXChurch:

 


Redemption Stories: He Calls Me Son

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I was reminded last Tuesday while sitting in a hotel room in Toronto about my name. As I think of redemption stories and the messages that are being shared this month, God reminded me of my prodigal heart. 

I was sitting in the hotel room searching YouTube for an old song I had first heard in the early 1990s. The song "When God Ran" is a narrative of the prodigal son account in Scripture (Luke 15) from the perspective of the son who ran away. I remember Benny Hester's version of this song years ago being played over and again on a Christian radio station in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (KLTY). 

I found a few versions on YouTube, but it was this live recording by Phillips, Craig and Dean that really hit me hard. When Dan Dean sang the phrase "He called me son" I lost it. At that moment, God reminded me of my name. As a child of his, my sins were placed upon His Son, Jesus Christ. When Christ died on the cross, he took my place, he took all the false labels and lies that that I owned, as well as the sin I had and would ever commit. He took it and gave me a name - child of God. Son.

Here's the song I reference. I still tear up when I think of the immense power of the name.