Monday, August 31, 2015

Make Your Decision Now

Many of you have read my posts because you are struggling with the counter-cultural idea of forgiveness and restoration after you have been hurt and betrayed.

Some of you have read my posts because you are simply curious what a 'forgiven cheater' would have to say - understandably so. The world watched with salivating excitement, conditioned by a tabloid-journalism-infused culture, as the Ashley Madison hackers released the names of those who had created accounts. Tabloid so-called journalism has created an unquenchable hunger within us to deem lives filled with self-destructive choices and mistakes as 'entertainment.'

Then there are those of you who are either entertaining the thought, dabbling with, or even fully engaged in an extramarital affair, or multiple affairs.

Today, I write to the third group of individuals - the cheaters. To be even more specific, I am writing to the cheaters who claim to be Christians.

First, I'll define cheating with a Biblical worldview.

Cheating: To allow any lustful thought or action while married.

I understand lustful thoughts are sinful for anyone, but in this post, I am specifically addressing people who are married. This includes, but is not limited to: porn, physical relationships with someone other than your spouse, emotional relationships with someone other than your spouse, even fantasizing about having a relationship with someone other than your spouse. (Obviously I'm not talking about a good close friend of the same gender. But that kind of relationship should not take priority over the relationship you have with your spouse either.) Intimacy on any level, of any type or kind, should be reserved for your spouse alone, aside from the full surrender and abandon you give to the Lord Jesus.

So you've crossed the line. You've done the unthinkable. You've betrayed the person you once claimed to love the most. Now what? 

This video makes light of the concept, but the underlying principle is soberingly true.

When a woman, caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus, He forgave her and commanded, "now go and sin no more" (John 8:11).

Sinning 'no more' doesn't mean you won't ever struggle or face temptation again. It does mean that you need to turn from your sin (to repent) and choose not to continue down that path.

Don't over-rationalize or overthink all of the ins and outs of your decision. "It'll be hard." "I've struggled with this for so long." "I don't think I even love my spouse anymore." ...and on and on the excuses, worry, and rationalizations goes...

This isn't your path. Your path doesn't look like this at all. Your path is clear. Your path will be straight if you keep "your eyes...straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you" (Proverbs 4:25), "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

There are pragmatic steps that need to take place as I laid out in my post entitled, "Rebuilding Trust."

But the main point is, make your decision today. 

When I was in the midst of an affair, I felt darkness engulfing my life. I felt my heart hardening towards God. Somehow, I convinced myself that at the end of it all, after I was divorced, I could bask in the light of grace and forgiveness. I justified my terrible actions with a 'get out of jail free' card, just waiting to be handed out by a happy-go-lucky god I'd formed in my mind, loosely based on the Sovereign and Holy Lord of all creation revealed to humanity through the Bible. 

The Apostle Paul dealt with this same illogical issue, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).

You can't wait to make your decision. Who is to say how much time you have left? What if you drop dead in the next five minutes? What if you have some kind of catastrophic accident tonight? What if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and meet an untimely demise? 

Don't put off your repentance. Choose life. Choose freedom. "Choose this day whom you will for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15) Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2). "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near" (Isaiah 55:6).

Once you've made the decision, stand by it. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14).

The Bottom Line
You have two choices. The first choice is freedom, found only in Christ Jesus (John 10:10, John 8:32). The second choice is bondage and an ongoing cycle of self-destruction.

So ask yourself, "Do I want freedom, or bondage?" Once you've answered the question, move forward and commit to your decision without looking back.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

We Are Getting Divorced

The Text I Received From A Friend

Please pray for healing for us. We are getting divorced. We made a mistake getting married.

My Response Was This

I'm so sorry to hear that. We will continue to pray for you.

My Gut-Reaction

First of all dear friend, my prayer for you is that you will find the courage and grace to mend your marriage. I am sick on the inside. This epidemic of "WE MADE A MISTAKE GETTING MARRIED" has to come to an end. Remember, I said the exact same words to my wife - as I alluded to in my post, "I've Fallen Out Of Love." Our marriage has struggles, yes - but I am passionately in love with my wife. I never dreamed that I would ever be so completely satisfied and joyful in any relationship.

A Message To The Voices In Our Culture

All of you placaters and politically correct water-downers who have some kind of fear of speaking the truth - STOP. Stop placating. Stop watering down situations and helping to further the destruction of marriages, while turning your backs on the beauty of forgiveness. Stop encouraging people that there's somebody better out there. Stop telling people that they deserve better. Stop fostering the idea that a mistake had been made in the marriage.

Learn to speak the TRUTH in love, so that we can grow and mature in Christ (Eph 4:13).

We need to take collective responsibility for the epidemic of divorce and broken homes in our country.

Here Are The Three Sections Of My Friend's Text

Please Pray For Healing For Us.

Absolutely. Will do. Already on it. I prayed this morning before I even asked him how things were going. I prayed after I received his text. I am praying as I type. I will continue to pray as the hours and days pass in the future.

What am I praying for? Healing that looks like this: Forgiveness, Grace, Humility, Brokenness spilling into new life, RESTORATION.

Why am I praying for these things? Because it is what I am called to do. Because it is the WILL OF GOD. Because it is the right thing to do. MOST IMPORTANTLY - because it is feasible, plausible, and unarguably possible through Christ Jesus. My marriage is a living testament to that claim.

We Are Getting Divorced.

This is the popular track to follow. This seems easiest. End it all. Chalk this one up to experience. Live and learn. Cool. Let's throw a divorce party and move onward & upward!! (Yes, there is a growing trend of divorce parties, much like bachelor and bachelorette parties with people/businesses turning quite a profit.)

Things WILL NOT get better. Psychology Today reports, "67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce." TIME devoted an entire article to the subject, noting, "the replacement...doesn't actually restore the family."

So I ask you why. Why are you getting divorced? You can't take the heat? That's what up-close and personal relationships are like. Things get heated. Situations get uncomfortable. Sometimes people seem unbearable with their annoying traits and nagging voices and all the other things that drive you up the wall...wait...what about when the camera is flipped around? What does your spouse see in you? All of your flaws/annoying traits/blemishes.... BECAUSE WE ARE ALL FLAWED. Remember this, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). The only perfect person is the Lord Jesus Christ. That's because He is God in the flesh. We can never measure up to that level of perfection.

Marriages are a direct reflection of the relationship between Christ Jesus and the church. "We all, like sheep have gone astray" (Isa 53:6). We all have been unfaithful to our God, over and over and over again. And yet, God demonstrated His love for us "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Do you see that? When we were busy offending and snubbing God, Jesus DIED for us, in our place - He took our sin on Himself and gave us the opportunity to be made righteous and sinless in His sight. What does that mean? It means, He enabled forgiveness and restoration.

The three basic ideas of a marriage are this: 

1. Two separate people become one (Mk 10:8, Gen 2:24, Eph 5:31, Matt 19:5). Get it? Two sinful, selfish people with their own flawed egos enter into a relationship that was designed to last a lifetime.

2. A wife is supposed to submit to her husband (Eph 5:22-23). That means all of her hopes, dreams, and desires are to be submitted to her husband.

3. A husband is supposed to love his wife in the same way that Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). That means, a husband is supposed to sacrificially lay down his life for his wife.

If those three basic idea were truly followed, there would never be divorce. There would be no abuse. There would be no infidelity. There would be no conflict. There would be no issue. There would be no epidemic. Why? Because there would be equal submission. There would be equal sacrifice.

We Made A Mistake Getting Married

No you didn't. You were madly in love with each other. You couldn't stand to be apart. You constantly thought about one another. Your heart raced when you first met. You wrote songs about your love. You spent time writing to each other, expressing your heartfelt passionate words of love.

You made mistakes along the way. Some of those mistakes hurt deeply.

You're making a mistake by getting divorced.

Stay the course, even when it feels difficult. Remember the vows you so freely spoke? Through good times, and bad...till death do us part... These aren't the best of times. But you vowed to stand together. You made great efforts to express your love. It's time to do that again. It's time to look into each other's eyes and see what Christ Jesus saw when He willingly laid down His life for you.

Put all selfish desires and ambitions to death. Put your spouse's needs first. Love unconditionally. Love without fail. Persist and pursue your love with relentless ambition.

I will continue to pray for you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Renewed Vows of a Forgiven Cheater and His Wife

I forsook my vows. I ignored my vows. I desecrated the covenant of holy matrimony.

Now that my wife and I have taken the journey of restoration, we have also expressed our love for each other with an informal renewal of our vows. We each took the time to write new affirmations of love and vows for each other.

One day in the near future, we will have an official renewal of vows ceremony. Until that day comes, I would like to share with you what we've expressed to each other. This expression of love was the final 'dare' in a year-long couple's devotional called, "The Love Dare Day by Day."

Several references in our letters are personal and probably won't make sense, but the point of sharing this is to give hope and to inspire those who wonder if their love can ever be rekindled and healed.

 My Letter To Her

My Love,

I want to boldly proclaim my love for you. I want you to hear me, my heart, my mind, my soul, and my lips say that I am joyfully committed to you for the rest of my life. I have suffered throughout my life with burdens from the past that crippled me and stunted my growth and potential as a man. This was a result of my own immaturity. Thankfully, you have stayed the course. You have graciously received me back after the darkest hour of our lives. You have me now. You have my undying love for you, as well as a love that would be willing to die for you. You are everything I could ever hope or pray for in a wife. I truly thank God for you. In that, I want to make my vows clear to you. These vows will not be broken. I value this covenant commitment with my life. I believe that these words are a binding proclamation of my life, joined in union with your life.

I, [Forgiven Cheater], take you, [My Wife] as a life-long best friend, companion, lover, prayer partner, soul-mate, spouse, teammate, roommate, and number one fan – to have, to hold, to cherish, to admire, to support (in all aspects of that word), to cry with, to pray with, to laugh with, to sing with, to dance with, to cuddle with, to be an intimate ally with, to eat with, to live with, to suffer with, to endure with, to bless with, to freely play with, to absolutely and irrevocably become one with in body, mind, and spirit – no longer two individuals living life side-by-side, but rather as one unified whole person – completed by this fusion of two flawed individuals, living life as one flesh, one desire, and as one purpose, together, even when temporarily physically apart; through sickness and in good health, through good times and in bad times, for rich or for poor, while always holding Christ Jesus as our Lord and Ruler, until death do us part.

Love always and forever,
[Forgiven Cheater]

Her Letter to Me

Dear [Husband],

When you are a little girl you dream about being swept off of your feet.
You dream of the true Cinderella story.
However, as life unfolds you quickly learn that Cinderella is just a fairly tale.
That you are not Cinderella and the chances of meeting a prince were not possible.

I realize that my story is much deeper and much more complicated.
It seems to relate more to the tale of Finding Nemo.
It started with a human who was attempting to be funny by making fish lips.
From that moment I desired to be near you!
From that moment I knew that you were someone that I wanted to spend my life with.
I was swept away and fell in love in that instant connection.
Little did I know that I would love you so deeply, so intensely, so quickly.
I never expected to have my heart consumed.

The more I got to know you, it became clear that you were not just a normal guy.
You were much more.
You were complicated and raw.
You displayed compassion and love for others.
You had a real relationship with God and you made me want something more.
It wasn’t until I met you, that I realized that kind of relationship was even possible.
You made me dig deeper.
You made me strive to be a better person, one with integrity and love.
I lived in such a dark place as a child and you opened it up and shined light on it.
You gave me hope.
You gave me something to strive for.
You helped me see beyond myself and realize that so much more was possible.
That dreams do come true.
They just aren’t always the way you envision them.

Life has not been a fairy tale.
It has been an adventure.
One with daring twists and complicated plots.
I have had some of the most joyous moments in my life with you.
Many of my first were with you.
My most precious memories include you.
I would not trade anything for my experiences with you.
You allowed me to be a mother.
Something that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world!
The joy of unconditional love- a love like no other.
That is one of my most prized memories in this life.
That experience alone has made me grow and I couldn’t have done that without you.

Even cartoons experience heartache and loss.
They go through experiences that tear them apart, leave them hopeless, and heart broken.
I often wish that life didn’t need to include pain or suffering.
That we could learn valuable lessons a different way.
I can’t change those experiences.
I only hope to grow through them.

I promise, just like I did 21 years ago… To take you for better, or for worse; for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, as long as we both live.

I promise to be your love, your best friend, your accomplice, your soul mate, your partner, your intimate ally, your side kick, your number one fan, your amigo, your secret admirer, your confidant, your secretary, your girl- forever…

I am yours and always have been yours. You have my heart, my life, my soul. You make my life complete. I am no longer in this life alone. I have you by my side. Just as God said, “the two shall become one.” This is my promise and covenant with you.

I am one with you!

I love you,