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Sex and Marriage Questions

By | Marriage, Relationships, Tough Questions | No Comments
married couple holding handsThis is a roundup of some of the most common questions on sex and marriage that we hear.  We’ve also linked some of our best marriage and sex teachings so that you can go back and listen to them.

Q: I’m not attracted to my spouse anymore.  How do I fall back in love with him or her?

A:  Chemistry is a chemical reaction in your brain that makes you fall in love.  It’s that feeling that you have where you can’t get enough of the person you love.  Compatibility is a whole different thing!  You need compatibility to go the distance in marriage.  And chemistry is automatic but compatibility takes work.  

We often counsel couples who are on the verge of divorce and want to end their marriage.  One of the things we’ll say is, “Let’s go back to the beginning – the memory where you knew they were the one.”  You knew something.  You felt something.  You were convinced that he or she was the one.  We urge couples to put their compatibility struggles out of their minds and remember the chemistry.  If you can’t see a future right now, go back to the beginning.  What made you fall in love?   

Check out this video for three ways to fix marriage and restore your chemistry and compatibility:

 

Q:  I’ve been married to my spouse for a while but I still think about a prior boyfriend/girlfriend.  How do I get free from these thoughts?  

If you are married but still thinking about another person you had a relationship with, you have an ungodly soul tie.  A soul tie is when your mind (intellect), will, and emotions become knit together with another person.  God has created soul ties for good, so that husbands and wives, family members, and close friends can form secure connections with one another.  

But whatever God creates, Satan counterfeits.  Soul ties can take something God created that is necessary and pervert it into something designed to keep you in bondage.  If you keep accepting a counterfeit, there’s no room for God to replace it with the real thing.  

God wants you relationship with your spouse to be the strongest earthly connection you have – He wants covenant relationships for you.  The scissors for cutting your soul ties are in your hands.  The scissors are the signs that the relationship is unhealthy and ungodly.   

In this video I give you a few steps for cutting ungodly soul ties: 

Q:  I’m still waiting for an apology from my spouse for something they did that really hurt me.  I know I’m not supposed to hold a grudge, but what do I do?

A:  You don’t have to wait for an apology in order to forgive your spouse.  But it’s your choice.  

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”   Kindness and compassion can dismantle and disarm in a way you never have before.   Forgiveness doesn’t have to wait until an apology is offered.  Christians can forgive when nobody says they are sorry.  That’s so liberating because that means you can be free even if the offending party never offers an apology!  But you choose!  

For more on forgiveness and how to rescue your relationships, check out this video: 

Q:  Things have gotten pretty dull in our marriage, intimacy-wise.  Can I bring pornography into my marriage?

A: Often times one of the spouses says, “Let’s spice things up, let’s take things to another level,” and introduces pornography into the marriage. I have done so many counseling sessions where couples have sat across from me in the privacy of my office and said pornography has decimated and absolutely destroyed their marriage.

Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

When you are in the loving covenant of marriage, the Bible says that the marriage bed should be undefiled, which means sex between a husband and a wife is never a cause for shame.  It should be honored, cherished, and enjoyed as the gift that it is from God.  However, wherever there is God’s designed pleasure, there is a carnal or demonic perversion of that pleasure. 

So let’s talk about pornography within marriage.  Under no circumstance can you ever bring pornography into your marriage, let alone your entire life.  There is never an appropriate context or place for pornography. Why? Because pornography is the digital version of the physical act. 

Pornography is digital fornication if you’re single, and it’s digital adultery if you’re married.   Why?  Because by Jesus’ standard, he said if you’ve even thought it and conceived it in your heart, it’s the same as doing it.  People will say watching pornography is healthy and normal , that everybody does it.  They will even go to the extent of saying that pornography helps with your libido. But I will tell you that it destroys your ability for intimacy.  Sex is more than the mechanics, it’s more than the motion. The greatest sex organ that you have is not between your legs, it’s between your ears – it’s your brain! Once your brain is affected and infected by pornography, you will experience sexual problems.  

Colossians 3:5

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Pornography is lust, it is definitely not love and it is definitely not covenantal marriage.  Marriage cannot and will not ever satisfy lust because lust cannot be satisfied.  Now hear this – sexual desire is not always lust. As a matter of fact, you were designed to partly be a sexual creation.  God gave you the gift of your sexuality.  So having sexual desires in and of themselves is not wrong. As a matter of fact, those desires point to your design. God designed you to have both pleasure and procreation within marriage, but when you take those desires and you begin to fulfill them through lust, lust will never be fulfilled. You cannot satisfy lust with marriage, pornography, or masturbation.  Lust cannot be satisfied, it only increases.  

For more information on this, check out this video:  

 

Q: Is it ok for my spouse and me to introduce sex toys into our times of intimacy?

A:  Honestly, I can’t tell you what the Bible says about sex toys, because the Bible was written before electricity. But, the Bible can give us principles and insight into what God views as acceptable in marriage. 

The greatest sex organ that you have is not between your legs, it’s between your ears – your brain.  If you use sex toys in your marriage and there becomes a reliance on the sex toy more than there is on your partner, then you have to ask yourself a question:  “Are we growing in intimacy together or are we bringing in a dependency?” 

There are some people that cannot be sexually satisfied by their partner because they have spent years and years and years being sexually satisfied by a machine or through a screen. They have wired their brain and have practiced and rehearsed sexual satisfaction with something else other than their spouse, so when it comes time to have intimacy with their spouse, they cannot find sexual satisfaction with their mate.  

You really have to ask yourself, “Am I growing in intimacy with my spouse?”  Or are you bringing a level of independence into your marriage and missing out on the fulness of growing in intimacy with your spouse?

To hear more about this topic, check out this blog.


Interested in reading more about marriage from Pastor Mike?  Check out these blogs:

My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God. If you are interested in learning more, consider becoming a part of the Breakthrough Community!

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What Kind of Sex is Allowed In Marriage?

By | Relationships, Tough Questions | One Comment

Do you struggle with trying to be sexually satisfied?   Today we’re going to talk about the types of sex that are allowed in marriage. Let me preface this discussion by saying that most of what we know we have not learned from scripture, we have actually learned from culture.  Unfortunately, culture is very toxic.  It’s either repressive or a false form of freedom which leads to more bondage. So the question that I have for you today is, Do you know what the bible actually says about the types of sex that are allowed in marriage? This is going to be a very sensitive subject matter and so I would encourage you to use discretion while reading.   

What Does the Bible Say About Sex in Marriage?  

Proverbs 5:18-19
Let your fountain be blessed,
   and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
   a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated always in her love.

This passage encourages people to physically appreciate their marriage partner.  What this basically says is that you should physically and sexually enjoy the wife of your youth.  Even though this might be awkward to talk about,and you may not hear it preached on Sunday mornings in the pulpit, this passage is giving us an idea that sex is not just for procreation, but it’s for pleasure.  I think this is important to emphasize because far too often, sex has only been communicated as for procreation by those in religious circles.  The book of Genesis says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” but Proversb 5:18-19 also says to enjoy and be filled with delight and intoxicated by your wife’s love.  

Song of Songs 7:7-10
Your stature is like a palm tree,
    and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
    and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
    and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine

Here we see more of this language in the Bible, so it’s not just isolated to Proverbs.  

Pornography in Marriage

Hebrews 13:4
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

When you are in the loving covenant of marriage, the Bible says that the marriage bed should be undefiled, which means sex between a husband and a wife is never a cause for shame.  It should be honored, cherished, and enjoyed as the gift that it is from God.  However, wherever there is God’s designed pleasure, there is a carnal or demonic perversion of that pleasure. 

So let’s talk about pornography within marriage.  Under no circumstance can you ever bring pornography into your marriage, let alone your entire life.  There is never an appropriate context or place for pornography. Why? Because pornography is the digital version of the physical act. Pornography is digital fornication if you’re single, and it’s digital adultery if you’re married.   Why?  Because by Jesus’ standard, he said if you’ve even thought it and conceived it in your heart, it’s the same as doing it.  People will say watching pornography is healthy and normal , that everybody does it.  They will even go to the extent of saying that pornography helps with your libido. But I will tell you that it destroys your ability for intimacy.  Sex is more than the mechanics, it’s more than the motion. The greatest sex organ that you have is not between your legs, it’s between your ears – it’s your brain! Once your brain is affected and infected by pornography, you will experience sexual problems.  

Colossians 3:5
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Pornography is lust, it is definitely not love and it is definitely not covenantal marriage.  Marriage cannot and will not ever satisfy lust because lust cannot be satisfied.  Now hear this – sexual desire is not always lust. As a matter of fact, you were designed to partly be a sexual creation.  God gave you the gift of your sexuality.  So having sexual desires in and of themselves is not wrong. As a matter of fact, those desires point to your design. God designed you to have both pleasure and procreation within marriage, but when you take those desires and you begin to fulfill them through lust, lust will never be fulfilled. You cannot satisfy lust with marriage, pornography, or masturbation.  Lust cannot be satisfied, it only increases.  

I’ve heard many many stories of marriages being decimated by the introduction of pornography.  Often times one of the spouses says, “Let’s spice things up, let’s take things to another level,” and introduce pornography into the marriage. I have done hundreds and hundreds of counseling sessions where couples have sat across from me in the privacy of my office and said pornography has decimated and absolutely destroyed their marriage.

Forced Sex In Marriage 

1 Corinthians 7:3-4
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

This passage was revolutionary when the apostle penned it. In a patriarchal society, it was believed that women had no right over their own bodies.  So to say a wife actually has rights over the husband’s body and the husband has rights over the wife’s body was unheard of.  At the time this was written, over 2000 years ago, it was believed that the husband had rights over the woman’s body, but the woman did not have rights over the husband’s body.  So there was a context 2000 years ago for forced sex, which is rape.  I say that because again my wife and I have counseled many couples over the years that believe that just because they’re married forcing sex is ok and justifiable.  But the truth of the matter is this is not the case. 

1 Corinthians 7:5
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

So there’s this instruction that it’s okay to not mutually come together for sex for a time perhaps to devote yourselves to prayer, but then you better come together again so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  So what is the lack of self-control? It just simply means that we are sexual beings, given those desires by God both for pleasure and procreation.  But if we do not righteously fulfill those desires within marriage, then we are going to be led into temptation. 

Sex Toys In Marriage

Oftentimes people are asking me, “Pastor Mike, what does the Bible say about sex toys.”  Truthfully, the scripture was written 2,000 or more years ago.  There was no modern electricity the way we have it.  So the Bible is not going to say anything about them per se, but it will give us some insight into what is acceptable. 

I’ve studied a lot of the biology of sex, and there are some pitfalls and some traps. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest sex organ that you have is not between your legs, it’s between your ears, which is your brain.  If  you’re bringing sex toys into your marriage bed and there becomes more of a reliance on the sex toy than there is on your partner, then you have to ask yourself a question:  “Are we growing in intimacy together or are we bringing a dependency?” 

There are some people that cannot be sexually satisfied by their partner because they have spent years and years and years being sexually satisfied by a machine or through a screen. They have wired their brain and have practiced and rehearsed sexual satisfaction with something else other than their spouse, so when it comes time to have intimacy with their spouse, they cannot find sexual satisfaction with their mate.  

You really have to ask yourself: Have you grown in intimacy with your spouse?  Or are you bringing a level of independence into your marriage and as the result of that, missing out on the fullness that you could be experiencing.  

Oral Sex In Marriage 

I believe as you grow in your intimacy and love and communication with your partner there are times where that open communication will give you access to the next level. My wife and I have taken many couples through pre-marital counseling.  One of the portions is a sexual inventory. We have a list of many different sexual positions and many different sex acts, and we ask each person in the couple (separately) to go through them and identify which ones that you would like to do within marriage.  Then, we bring both of them together for the session and have them compare their notes.  Oftentimes these couples have never openly communicated about some of those most personal and intimate physical acts that you can do together. 

You would be surprised how many couples, even after years of marriage, have never communicated openly about what they want how they want it.  Communication is a form of intimacy, and sex is not just the physical mechanics, but it is the mental, emotional, and spiritual intimacy converging. One time in particular, somebody had expressed that they were forced to do one particular sex act in a previous relationship and I hated doing it. Therefore now it’s not about that particular act, it’s actually about the rejection, pain, and emotional trauma that i encountered while being forced to do that act.  Had we not opened up the communication, that husband could have gone years and years either wondering why she didn’t want to do it and didn’t enjoy it, not knowing there’s trauma and abuse connected to it.  As that woman begin to weep bitterly in that meeting, I turned to the husband and said, “You see, it’s not really about the act, it’s really not about the mechanics, it’s about trauma.”   

Many people have been molested, raped, or traumatized and as a result of that, there needs to be healing.  If you’re a husband, understand that your role as a husband is to produce safety.  That’s why when people come to me and ask what the Bible says about oral sex or sex toys or different positions, I take a step back. As a husband, your obligation is to produce safety. Safety produces true intimacy.  Communication produces explosive sexual experiences.   

Sexual Positions In Marriage – Anal Sex

In Genesis 19, we read the account of how a large group of men sought to gang rape two angels who had taken on the form of men.  The term “sodomy” actually comes from the root word sodom which is the location where these men tried to gang rape angels who were in the form of men. We can only assume that sodomy includes anal sex because that’s the only penetration that would have been possible for these men trying to actually sleep with angels in the form of men. 

You’re not going to find any scriptures that strictly prohibit anal sex within marriage. But I do want to give you five reasons why I think it’s probably not a good idea.  I believe that God’s design points to God’s purpose.  Male and female anatomy is incredibly and intricately made to co-exist.  With anal sex, there is no self-lubrication, there is no conception that births life, and there is nothing about the design that points to compatibility.  Here are five reasons anal sex is not a good idea:

  1. For many people, it can create tearing
  2. Anal sex carries the highest risk of sexually transmitted infections 
  3. Anal sex is linked to a higher risk of anal cancer
  4. Infections generally are more prevalent with anal sex
  5. In a 2016 study, The Journal of Gastroenterology found that anall sex may lead to fecal incontinence

I believe that wherever there’s design, there’s destiny, purpose and godly pleasure.

I don’t have scriptures that specifically speak to oral sex, sex toys, or anal sex.  However, I do believe that godly wisdom can direct us.   

I believe in the Genesis account of creation, that in the beginning God created a man.  Then when that man communicated loneliness, God’s response to man’s loneliness was not, “Well let’s hang out more!” No, out of his rib he made a wife and gave him the gift of woman.  That is God’s original design. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

What does that mean? It simply means that with you, your spouse, and God together, there can be sexual freedom, satisfaction, and explosive intimacy. 

When I was in college, I went to the Kinsey Institute, which is the largest sex research institute in the United States. In one of their biggest longitudinal studies across decades, they concluded that the most sexually satisfied people on the planet were married couples. Science continues to prove it over and over and over again – God’s design of monogamous married couples, male and female, works. God has designed your sexuality and has a plan and a path for you to righteously fulfill it. 


My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God. If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!

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Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

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What does the Bible say about alcohol? If you were to read every single scripture that talks about alcohol in the Bible, you may end up more confused than you were before reading this blog.  The Bible seems to give contradictory messages about alcohol. I’m going to give you many scriptures that point to both positive and negative aspects of alcohol, and then share with you what I feel God is saying to His people on this subject.  

Man with bottle of whiskeyPositive Biblical Perspectives on Alcohol

I’m going to start by giving you some scriptures that give a positive perspective on alcohol:  

Ecclesiastes 9:7 (ESV)
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

 

Psalm 104:14-15 (ESV)
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
    and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
    and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

 

Amos 9:14
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
    and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
    and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

 

Isaiah 55:1
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.”

Biblical Warnings About Alcohol

Now, I’m going to give you warnings from the Bible.  

Isaiah 5:11 (ESV)
Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
    that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
    as wine inflames them!

 

Provers 20:1 (ESV)
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
    and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

 

Deuteronomy 29:6 (ESV)
You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.

 

Numbers 6:3 (ESV)
he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried.

 

Leviticus 10:9 (ESV)
Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.

 

Proverbs 23:29-35 (ESV)
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
    those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup
    and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
    and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
    like one who lies on the top of a mast
“They struck me,” you will say] “but I was not hurt;
    they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
    I must have another drink.”

So What Is It?

We have both types of scriptures – those that seem to encourage or confirm a decision to drink, and those that forbid drinking among certain groups of people within the nation of Israel.  Then we have scriptures that give major warnings against drunkenness.  I want to break these scriptures into a few categories.  It seems they fall into two sets of instructions:

  1. Drink but don’t get drunk
  2. Certain people should not drink at all

There are people who have a genetic and biological predisposition to alcoholism.   Does that mean that they have a demon?  Does that mean that they need deliverance? Many times, yes! Generational curses are real!  Demons are real. Many times people will deceive themselves for years and say, “I can drink and not get drunk.”  But that’s a lie.  People drink to forget.  They drink to lower anxiety or fears.  They can’t sleep without a buzz.  As somebody who was in addiction counseling, many people will say they are not addicts, but meet every single descriptor of an addict.  

Wine in Biblical Times Vs. Now

The Bible is clear that it is possible to drink and not get drunk.  I want to give you the historical context. In New Testament times, the water was not very clean.  Two thousand years ago, sanitation was poor and water was filled with bacteria and contaminants and considered dangerous to drink. People two thousand years ago would often drink wine because it was far less likely to be contaminated. 

1 Timothy 5:23
(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

Paul instructed Timothy to stop drinking the water exclusively, which was probably causing him stomach problems.  He instructed Timothy to drink wine!  Now in that day, wine was fermented.  It contained alcohol, but not necessarily to the degree it does today.  I have done historical studies on the fermentation process for wine going back to Jesus’ times.  It is very difficult to know for sure, but many historians agree that the wine that Jesus drank and the wine that Paul was instructing Timothy to drink would have taken 22 to 23 glasses to equal the alcohol content of one current-day glass of wine.  

Christian Liberty

I used to be an alcoholic.  I was also a pastor, prophet, Christian, and worship leader. I used to do “Theology on Tap” and go to friends’ houses to drink and read the Bible.  We used to say that we had Christian liberties, but we were getting drunk while we said it.  We used to tell people we could drink and not get drunk, but we were drunk while we said it!   If you are one of the two percent of people that can drink without getting drunk, praise God for your Christian liberty. 

If you can drink and not get drunk, God bless you!  There is a very small percentage of the population who can!  But I have met very few people like that in life. Many more of them drink to get drunk or a buzz. The Holy Spirit examines our motives and we cannot lie to Him.  Paul told Timothy to drink, but he was telling him to drink something that would have taken 22 to 23 glasses to add up to one of what we have today. So, I caution you against convincing yourself that you can drink without getting drunk or using your Christian liberty as an excuse to sin.  

Everything In Its Place

Everything has its rightful place.  If you have a fireplace in your living room and you put the wood in the fireplace, it will warm and comfort you through the winter. But if you take that same wood and fire and move it two feet forward into your living room, out of the fireplace, it will burn your entire house down. This is what drinking is like.  In its proper context, man, it tastes great. It maybe even has some medicinal benefits. But if bring it just one or two feet outside of the jurisdiction it should be in, and it will burn your house down.  Sexuality is the same way.   Sexuality and the boundaries of marriage are amazing, incredibly powerful forces that produce life, intimacy, and bonding.  But if you take sexuality and put it outside the bounds of marriage, it will destroy you. Yes all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.

1 Corinthians 6:12
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Some of you are such control freaks you don’t want to be dominated by anybody or anything.   You don’t want your boss to control you, you don’t want your spouse to control you, and you don’t want the government to control you. But yet you let alcohol control you.  You need it to calm your nerves. You can’t live without it.  God wants you to be free from all control and domination!

My Testimony

Over 14 years ago, my wife left me and took our newborn daughter with her because I couldn’t get my alcoholism under control. It was dominating me. At the height of my alcoholism I would lay down in my bed all alone at night and I would hear demonic voices calling out my name.  It was very dark.  In every country I’ve been to, they call hard alcohol spirits.   Why? Because demonic activity is connected to the consumption of alcohol that leads to drunkenness.  

When I got free from alcohol, everything else in my life changed. Every other sin decreased dramatically.  As a matter of fact, when I was drinking, there were so many sins that I would have never committed in my sober mind, so I would wait until I was drunk to do them. My conscience was so strong.  I knew the Word.  I knew God’s will and ways.  But I would have to get drunk because I knew I could never commit those sins sober. I never cheated on my wife sober – I always did it drunk.  And we talk about our story openly today.. When I sinned, alcohol was the gateway.   

Trading Good For Great

Many are called but few are chosen.  If you are a chosen one, act like it. If you are a chosen one, there are things that you will have to give up. Oftentimes the road to greatness is giving up what is good for what is great.  The Bible says there’s nothing wrong with wine.  As a matter of fact, it’s us that’s the problem.  We come from backgrounds of trauma, abuse and multigenerational curses. Is wine evil? No, we are evil. We’re full of wounds, hurt, pain, and rejection.  But when you pour wine into a wound, it doesn’t heal it.  It creates an infestation of other sins.  The Lord wants to heal you of your wounds, rejection, and trauma.  God is trying to give you wisdom. The Holy Spirit may be telling you that it’s time to let it go.  

I believe that all you’ve got to do is to make up your mind and say I’m giving up something good for something greater.  When you read Acts chapter 2, these common every day men were not ivy-league educated. They didn’t know hundred-dollar words, they only knew five-dollar words.  These men were filled with the Holy Spirit and it was like being filled with new wine. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit would begin to fill believers and they would speak in new tongues. They would begin to speak with wisdom and profound knowledge beyond their own education. 

God never removes without replacing. He isn’t trying to take anything away from you that he’s not going to give you something better.  I gave up being drunk off of miller light, craft beer, and whiskey and traded it for being drunk in the holy spirit.  I gave up Jack Daniels so I can hang out with Jesus Christ. It is so much better! You never wake up with a hangover or regrets.  When I used to get drunk on alcohol, I would wake up and my marriage was worse. But now, when I get drunk on the new wine of the Holy Spirit, I wake up and my marriage is better.  

Should You Stop Drinking?

Here’s the best gauge to determine whether you should stop drinking alcohol or not.  Stop for a pre-determined amount of time and then see how much better your life gets. Do a comparison of life with alcohol and life without.  If life is better without it, then consider abstaining permanently.  Here’s another gauge – ask your family whether or not you should stop drinking.  Ask your children, “Should I stop drinking?”  Ask your wife. See what she says.  If your family says yes, consider abstaining permanently.    

God wants to give you something better than alcohol. He wants to trade what’s good for what is great, and he wants to give you something so much better than you can imagine.  He wants to give you his Holy Spirit.  

 


If you have been involved in the occult or witchcraft, I encourage you to check out my blog “How to Cleanse Your House from Evil Spirits.” 

My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God. If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!

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How to Overcome Anxiety

By | Deliverance, Tough Questions, Uncategorized | No Comments

The infrastructure to diagnose, treat, and medicate anxiety and depression, including pharmaceuticals and medications, is valued at 42 billion dollars.  Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States and are considered the most common mental illness in the U.S.  If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, I have good news for you: you don’t have to live trapped by anxiety.  

Two Types of Anxiety

There are two types of anxiety: normal anxiety and anxiety disorder.  Normal anxiety is a system installed in your physical being by God to help keep you alive. For example, if you are in the woods and a predator jumps out at you, you have a system built into your body that tells you you need to decide within milliseconds. Do you run, or do you stand your ground and fight? If you are in college and you have a paper due, it is normal to feel a bit of anxiety and pressure.  Normal anxiety regulates your life and helps you to become successful. 

When we talk about anxiety in this blog, we are not talking about normal anxiety.  We aren’t talking about the minor anxiety you may feel if you wake up at 8:59 am and have to be at work by 9:00 am. We are speaking about anxiety disorders in this blog.  Normal anxiety elevates to the realm of anxiety disorder when it becomes out of order (dis-order).  God himself says He is not a God of disorder but peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).  The peace of God, or His shalom, brings order.  When the order, or the peace of God, enters your life, it begins to set things straight. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, God has freedom in mind.  

Normalizing Anxiety

We live in a culture that normalizes anxiety because it is all around us.  The more prevalent a problem is, the more acceptable it becomes. The message of our culture is that anxiety levels are exponentially rising around the world.  We have adapted our theology to anxiety and accepted that it is a part of life rather than pursuing freedom.  God gave you a fight-or-flight system, but He did not give you the spirit of fear.  

1 Timothy 1:17 (ESV)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

As a culture, we have begun to use the personal pronoun “my” when referring to anxiety: “My anxiety.”  God did not give you panic attacks, so don’t take ownership of anxiety anymore!  Your anxiety doesn’t come from God. Instead, he gives good gifts to His children. 

Acts 2:17 (ESV)
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;

I want to highlight the portion of this scripture that says, “your sons and your daughters will prophesy.”  Prophecy requires speaking using your words.  If Satan knows that God will cause sons and daughters to prophesy, then strategically, to stop the prophecy, he has to pervert the speech of the sons and daughters.  The devil has had to counter the word of God that says, “I have not given them a spirit of fear.” Instead, his strategy is for them to start taking possession and ownership of that spirit of anxiety and calling it “my anxiety.”

Don’t Take My Anxiety

Nobody likes to have something taken from them. One of the first lessons we learn as children is to share because sharing doesn’t come naturally. We lock our car, house, and possessions because they belong to us. If the enemy can get you to take possession of anxiety and say, “This is my anxiety,” you’ll treat it like the rest of your possessions as something to protect and secure so that it doesn’t get taken.  

If you would like freedom from anxiety, you need to determine that you will NOT refer to the spirit of anxiety as yours.   The first thing that has to happen is to change your words.  You have to take captive every thought that exalts itself against the Word of God.  So the Word of God becomes your standard (2 Cor 10:3-6). So if the Word of God has something to say about how you ought to think, talk, and live, and then a thought comes that starts to elevate itself above the standards, you have to take it captive and tear it down.  These thoughts can come from culture, the medical community, the self-help community, the self-esteem community, secular humanism, or any kind of source.  Tear these thoughts down and say, “No, this is what I choose to believe and stand on instead.”  

The Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus, in the moments before the cross, was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying. During this time, the Bible says that his sweat turned to blood, is a medical condition that happens when you are under severe mental duress.  He was starting the process of facing fear. So not only would Jesus’ body be given for our sins, but His mind also had to go through a preparation process in the Garden of Gethsemane.  

No physical torture or pain had happened yet when he was in the garden.  However, Jesus knew what lay ahead and was instead experiencing the pain of imagining what was ahead of him.  He had to win the battle in His mind in the garden first so that when He said, “It is finished,” on the cross, you could have the victory in your mind. He wasn’t only whipped and beaten so that we could be healed from our sicknesses and infirmities and disease. It started in the garden, where His imagination began to conjure up the thoughts of being attacked, ridiculed, and brutalized in such a great way that his sweat turned to blood.  

Jesus Understands Anxiety

Jesus understands your anxiety, worry, and torment because there was a time that His sweat turned to blood.  He said, “God, if there’s any other way, let it pass.”  That goes to show you how powerful the mind is. The enemy knows Jesus was almost broken in His mind in the garden, so when he is trying to bring you down, where do you think he will fight you the hardest? He’s going to fight you in your mind. 

Steps to Reduce Anxiety

A study by Cambridge showed that women from wealthier areas reported lower anxiety levels than women from poorer regions.  This indicated that those who have the resources to cope with and manage anxiety can lower it to normal levels.  I want to help give you some tools to learn how to cope with anxiety when it comes into your life. The Cambridge study indicates that you can bring the levels into a normal range if you know what to do when you feel anxiety rise.  

Step 1: Know God’s Word

G.K. Chesterton, a famous theologian, said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly the first time.”  The anxiety we have in life is often from the fear of being judged by others.  We wonder what people will think about how we speak and look, which increases anxiety.  When we face increased anxiety, we need to draw on the best tool for dealing with anxiety – God’s word.  We remember that, “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world,” (1 John 4:4) and, “If God be for me who could be against me” (Romans 8:31), and we begin to take back control.  We don’t live and die by the criticism OR praise of people.  We live in response to the voice of God.  

When I speak in front of a large group of people, I can feel so much fear and anxiety in my flesh.  “What are they going to think?”  “Are they going to judge me?”  “Are they going to receive this word?”  But the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Spirit of God dwells inside of me.  He never leaves me or forsakes me and will be with me even to the ends of the earth. Furthermore, he reminds me that I am loved, approved of, and loved even at my darkest. And this causes my anxiety to reduce.  

Step Two: Forgive Yourself

This Cambridge study said that people’s anxiety directly correlates with how much they forgive themselves. If you constantly beat yourself up, you produce anxiety levels that go from average to disordered. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorder constantly think about what they’re doing wrong.  Thoughts like, “Today I didn’t parent as I should,” and “I didn’t get the best grades in my classes,” and “I didn’t read the Bible” plague them. The Bible says, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It is so essential for you to learn how to forgive yourself.  Science from just a few years ago says if you know how to forgive yourself, you’ll be free from anxiety, which reinforces what the Bible said thousands of years ago! 

Step Three: Do Something For Someone Else

Proverbs 11:25
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

The study from Cambridge says doing something with someone else in mind will diminish anxiety.  My brother, a nurse, once shared the acronym PAIN with me.  When a patient feels pain, it’s an indicator that they need to Pay Attention Inside Now.  If your heart begins to feel physical pain, no matter where you are, you will pay attention to your insides and get the help you need because you could be having a heart attack.  Some of the most selfish people are the people in the most pain.  Because of their internal woundedness, they can only think of their hurt.  They aren’t able to think of anyone or anything else.  They want to be generous and help other people, but they can’t take the focus off themselves.  

Put on the Oxygen Mask

When you are on an airplane, the flight attendants instruct you that if the oxygen mask descends out of the top compartment, put your mask on first before you place it on your children. Now that’s counterintuitive because a loving parent wants to help their child first, as the child is their most precious thing.  The problem with that way of thinking is that if you don’t put the mask on yourself first, you will probably pass out by the time you even think about getting it on your kid.  When you study your Bible, spend time in prayer, and go to counseling to address your trauma and wounds, you are, in a sense, putting the oxygen mask on first so that you can go out and help other people. 

If you want to lower anxiety, do something with someone else in mind.  I’m going through my struggles right now, as many of us are, but I am refreshed as I pray for others, preach, and reach out to people who feel alone and forgotten.  

 

God asked Abraham to give Him his son, Isaac.  Isaac was Abraham’s most precious thing in life, a long-awaited gift of God.  Abraham could have been selfish.  But because he was a man of faith, he moved forward with the sacrifice of His son.  And as he did, the angel grabbed his hand, and he knew it was a test.  As you pour out your life, God will refresh you and free you from your anxiety.  

A New Song

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord.

Scripture reprograms your mind scripts re-broke programs your mind.  If you’ve got an old script of anxiety running through your mind, allow God put a new song in your mouth.  When you look back at your life, there is no doubt you can see the faithful hand of God written on every page of your life story. To see your anxiety reduced, stop taking ownership of it.  Know God’s word.  Forgive yourself.  And do something for someone else.  

 


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Pastor sitting on altar

Why Do Pastors Keep Cheating?

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Why do pastors keep cheating?  We have seen it all over the news recently – affair after affair by high-profile mega-church pastors.  I myself am a local church pastor of a multi-site church with locations in Brooklyn, Long Island, and Northwest Indiana/Chicago area, named one of America’s fastest-growing churches. When I see these stories unfold in the news, it breaks my heart, so I want to speak about it from the heart and perspective of a fellow pastor.  

Man being photographedIn my perspective, there are two conditions that create the context for infidelity among lead pastors, especially those who pastor large churches:  

1. An Extreme Need for Comfort  

When you’re a pastor, every single thing you do and say is scrutinized, judged, criticized, and gossiped about. Then when you go home, you talk about church and church people with your wife and family. There’s no relief from the pressures of church life.  Therefore you create a situation where 100% of your life is the work of ministry.  This causes depletion.  Therefore you are in extreme need of comfort. The high demands can mean don’t ever have an off day because you don’t ever “clock out.”  Now hear me – this does not excuse sin.  It only explains explain the context for how sin happens.  

2. The First Class Experience

First ClassThe second factor is what I like to call “the first-class experience.” Pastors who are in celebrity positions can create a false reality where eventually they start to think that the world is afirst-class experience. If you’ve ever flown first class before, you know that it’s a high-level experience.  The seats are larger and more comfortable, and the section is in the front for quick on and off access. In the back, everybody eats peanuts, but in first class you get a full hot meal.  There are two different sets of rules – a set for first-class and a set for everybody else.  

Many churches have a deeply ingrained honor culture. In trying to honor the pastor, they give him a preferred parking spot, seat him and his family in front, they feed him between services, and all manner of “first class” experiences.  It can all be a good thing, because their pastor’s life is more difficult and the honor culture seeks to alleviate some of the pressure and pain. Conversely, this first-class treatment can be blown out of proportion.  This preferred experience can plant a seed of exemption where a pastor begins to believe that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to him.  

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  When a pastor does not guard his or her heart and there’s an extreme need for comfort, it is an explosive combination. Then, combine it with the first-class mentality that exempts you from normal life.  Eventually, you feel exempt not just from normal life, but from the commands of God.

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (ESV).  A lot of pastors who are in sin have learned how to confess their sin but never repent of it.  Even though they may have the honor of the crowds, a special parking spot, a special seat, and first-class plane tickets, they’re not exempt from Jesus’ commandments.  

Pastor sitting on altarJohn 14:16-17 (ESV)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

God has promised a helper, the Holy Spirit, to abide with us forever.  You can have an accountability partner and still sin.  It is possible to be in the same hotel, even the same hotel room, as your accountability partner and still sin. But you can’t deceive the Spirit of Truth or lie to the Holy Spirit.  

A lot of pastors in sin are ministering out of a gift and not out of a relationship with Jesus.  Preaching is a gift.  Teaching is a gift.  But a relationship with God will cause you to not want to grieve the Holy Spirit.  Because even if an accountability partner doesn’t find out about your sin, the Holy Spirit knows and will be grieved.  

As I think about all of the recent pastors in the news, my heart is heavy. As a pastor myself, I want to walk in humility.  I have to worship.  I have get before God and depend on the Holy Spirit. I have to feed the poor (without taking a photo of it for Instagram).  All of that plays a part in humility. The higher you go, the more you have to decrease.  


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Is Masturbating a Sin?

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The topic of masturbation is a pretty popular one among single and married Christians alike.  Many people want to know, can I do it?  Is it sin? Is it wrong? Let’s take a look at what the Bible actually says (or doesn’t say) about masturbation.  

Man on PhoneThe Story of Onan

One passage people point to in this discussion is Genesis 38, which tells the story about a man named Onan.  There is a description of him spilling his seed on the floor, and then being judged by God.  Some people say he was judged by God because he spilled his seed on the floor, which in other words means he masturbated and he shouldn’t have. The true context of Genesis 38 is that Onan was in rebellion against God.  That’s why judgment came upon him. Most biblical scholars believe that this passage is not an explicit condemnation of masturbation.  

Cut Off Your Right Hand

A second passage that people quote in this discussion is Matthew 5:27-30:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (ESV).

Disconnecting Lust and Masturbation

While there is clearly a connection here between lustful thoughts and masturbation, biblical scholars agree that this has a broader implication of lust than only masturbation.  Nowhere in the Bible will you find a scripture that clearly denounces masturbation.  But I do want to say this: It is very difficult to disconnect the act of masturbation with sin because lust often accompanies the action of masturbating. 

You Already Have the Answer

So is masturbation a sin or not?  While the Bible does not clearly answer this question, I believe if you feel convicted by the Holy Spirit and are asking the question, you already have the answer.  

Preparation for Marriage?  

Now there are people who will say, “Well, masturbation is safe sex – it’s sex with myself.  It’s a way to remain celibate until marriage.”  I want you to have a greater understanding of God’s heart on this matter.  If you become accustomed to satisfying yourself on demand and you think it is good preparation for marriage, where you have to interact with another human being and sexually satisfy each other, you’re sadly mistaken.  Masturbation is self-centered, while intimacy in marriage is other-centered.  

Married coupleAdditionally, there is a direct correlation between porn consumption and masturbation. I personally counsel many church leaders around the world who have erectile dysfunction, but not from a hormone imbalance or from any physical or biological reason.  Their erectile dysfunction is porn- and masturbation-induced.  These people are so used to having sex with a screen that once they are married, they have extreme difficulty having sex with their spouse.  

The Reward Pathway 

The human brain works with impulses, stimuli, and reward pathways, similar to the famous Pavlov’s dog experiment.  If you provide a treat for a dog every time you ring a bell, eventually the dog will salivate every time they hear a bell because a reward pathway has been established in the brain.  If your version of sex is always connected to a screen, and then you get married, you may experience intimacy issues within your marriage because of the way you’ve trained your brain to respond to sexual arousal.  

NeuronsRomans 14:23 (ESV)

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

If you feel trapped in masturbation, ask the Lord, “God is this Your best for me, or am I settling for less than Your best?” If you don’t have the gift of singleness, God wants you to be in a loving, covenantal, committed relationship with someone.  Stop settling for something that is not God’s best.  

Brain

Don’t be Mastered By Masturbation

Galatians 5:22 says “The fruit of the Spirit is… self-control.”  If masturbation is mastering you, then you have two masters, God, and your sexual impulses.  The Bible says you can’t serve two masters – you’ll love one and despise the other.  If you’re being mastered by masturbation, then you need freedom.  You can find it today through the power of Jesus Christ. 


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How To Defeat the Jezebel Spirit

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Today we are talking about how to defeat the spirit of Jezebel.  In the Old Testament, Queen Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, the king of Israel. Ahab “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:30, ESV).  The two of them were responsible for promoting the worship of false gods and creating a culture that was completely anti-God, where evil was celebrated and righteousness was abhorred.

ControlThe Fight Against Jezebel

The Bible does not give us permission to fight people – not your spouse, your boss, your siblings, or your mama.  But it does say, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-11, ESV).

The Open Door

We’ve been given battle-ready armor so that we can fight principalities, powers, and spirits.  Now, there are behaviors and attitudes that are sometimes just flesh, not a demon.  But unrepentant sin can turn into the demonic.  Unrepented sin opens a door.  If I leave the front door open to my house for a little bit, a squirrel or a dog might come in.  But if I leave the door open for a long enough period of time, something even worse will come in.  

Generational Curses

If you persist in sinful, prideful, narcissistic, controlling, haughty behavior, you will open a door to the demonic.  Some have generational curses and have inherited a Jezebel spirit.  If you’ve always been domineering and controlling, perhaps it is due to a generational curse.  And this spirit is not relegated to a male or a female – anyone can have a Jezebel spirit.  

Regardless of how the Jezebel spirit arrived, we have the authority to defeat it.  This is a spiritual battle.  Based on 1 Kings 18, here are three ways to defeat Jezebel.  

1. Come out of hiding.  

The spirit of Jezebel will cause you to go into hiding.  Those who are under the influence of someone with a Jezebel spirit will often feel like they can’t tell anyone what is happening to them.  They are in abusive, toxic, narcissistic relationships and yet keep it secret.  

hiding1 Kings 18:13 

Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water?

Expose the Jezebel Spirit

In this verse, we hear how the prophet Obadiah tells Elijah how he began to hide other prophets because they were scared of Jezebel.  The spirit Jezebel will cause even people who know God’s ways to go into hiding.  This applies to people under the influence of spiritual leaders who have Jezebel spirits, as well as those in abusive marriages.  Most people who suffer under a Jezebel spirit refuse to believe that their suffering is even real because they hide behind an illusion that all is well.  A Jezebel spirit can turn someone’s good intentions into accusations.  Wrongdoing needs to be exposed, and a Jezebel spirit does not take kindly to exposure.  

A common tactic of someone operating under a Jezebel spirit is to turn the wrongdoing back onto the person who is trying to expose it.  This person will make the innocent party feel dirty, guilty, or as if they were the offending party.  When the enemy is exposed, he tries to silence you and make you go into hiding.  The only way to find freedom is to come out of hiding.  

2. Reclaim your identity. 

1 Kings 18:17

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

There’s a battle over identity.  Ahab tried to call Elijah a troubler.  Elijah had to respond back and say, “Wait a second, I’m not the troubler, you’re the troubler.”  If you’ve been under the influence of a Jezebel spirit for very long, you will forget who you really are.  Has your spouse in your abusive marriage called you stupid when you’re not stupid?  Have you gone to a church that said you couldn’t sing even though you can sing? Have they said you couldn’t preach even though you can preach? Have they said you couldn’t prophesy even though you can prophesy? 

Your True Identity

Jezebel will try to tell you you’re nothing, you’re no one. You have to respond back to that spirit with a firm knowledge of who you are in Christ:

  • No longer a slave, but God’s child and an heir (Galatians 4:7) 
  • God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9-10) 
  • Seated with God in heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6) 
  • A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) 
  • Set apart (Hebrews 10:10) 
  • Set apart and appointed (Jeremiah 1:5) 
  • More than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) 

These are just a few of the things God has called us that define our identity.  You need to write down your true identity and put it on your mirror so every morning when you go to the bathroom you’re reminded of who you are.  

Don’t Forget Who You Are 

Controlling, narcissistic people will make you forget who you truly are.  Their influence will distract you from the things you love, the things that make you uniquely you, and the gifts and talents that God has placed inside you to be shared with the world for His glory.  Jezebel is a seductress and will try to make you forget who you really are.  A Jezebel spirit is so manipulative and controlling, that it will even affect the way a person dresses, the way they wear their makeup, and style their hair.   

3. Stick with your choice no matter the consequence.  

1 Kings 19:20

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Stick with your choice.  People will begin to come to my church and tell me they go to their old church for one service and then my church for another service.  Why is that?  Because they have been made to feel guilty for leaving.  This is an example of a Jezebel spirit at work.  They are stuck between two choices.  

Someone under the influence of a Jezebel spirit fears the opinions of that person.  They are afraid of the consequences and what will happen when Jezebel finds out.  A toxic, controlling, narcissistic person can make the life of the people under their control a living nightmare.  So it’s natural that the person being controlled would fear the repercussions of their choice.  You’ve got to be willing to stick with your choice, no matter what happens. A Jezebel will be critical of your choice and even discredit it. Jezebel’s criticism of your choice is a confirmation that you made the right choice! 

In Conclusion

Defeat Jezebel by coming out of hiding, reclaiming your true identity, and sticking with your choice.  You cannot serve two masters – you have to serve the Lord. 


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Are Catholics Christians?

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Are Catholics going to heaven? Are Catholics even real Christians?  There are an estimated 1.1 billion Catholics in the world.  There are more Catholics than all denominations of Christianity combined.  Therefore, the question of whether Catholics are considered Christians is a vastly consequential one.  Let me preface this blog by saying I hope that you can hear my heart as we discuss this subject.  My goal is that you, whether Catholic or protestant, would know the Word of God and respond to the life-giving conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians and Catholics alike have gone to church for years and not even read their own Bibles. Today we will reference scripture to answer this question, and I urge you to read the scriptures for yourself.

There are several major points in which Catholics and Christians differ.  

Salvation

Let’s start with salvation.  The most crucial difference between Catholicism and Christianity is how you know that you’re saved.  How do you know that you’re going to heaven?  The Bible says we are saved through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10).  Scripture tells us that we cannot earn our salvation by doing anything.  In Christianity, we simply put our faith in Christ and receive His grace.  Anything we could ever try to do to earn salvation is like filthy rags before God.  In salvation, I acknowledge that I need a Savior.  

However, that is different in the Catholic church. In Catholicism, you confess your sins to a person, usually a priest, who then gives you a formula for absolution, whether through repeating words and phrases or otherwise. Then, as a result of that you are absolved of your sin.  The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that a person must believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized and receive the eucharist along with other sacraments and obey the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church and perform meritorious works.  Look at the number of “ands” in that last sentence.  When we go to the scriptures and see how many things have been added to the list of what must be done to be saved, it’s clear that we are getting away from the gospel message.  

Prayer

Next, let’s address prayer.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but to petition Mary and the saints in prayers on behalf of themselves.  Contrary to this, Christians are taught in scripture to only pray to God (see Matthew 6:9 and Luke 18:1-7).  As a matter of fact, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil that separated the holy of holies from the inner court in the old covenant temple was torn in half, allowing us access to God.  Now we don’t need a priest to go to God, because the veil is torn by Jesus, our mediator and Great High Priest.  

For Christians, prayer does not need to go through another person.  We can go straight to God in confidence that He hears us.  That may sound foreign to many.  Perhaps you grew up thinking that you needed to hold a certain title or religious status, like as a priest or a nun, in order to have access to God.  If you are saved, when God sees you, He sees the blood of Jesus covering you.  He sees the perfection of Jesus, so you are approved to go directly to Him without fear (Hebrews 4:16). The Bible says to come boldly before the throne of grace.  

Priesthood

The Roman Catholic Church teaches us that there is a distinction between the clergy and the laypeople. The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers in 1 Peter 2:9.  It doesn’t mean we don’t appoint leaders in Christianity, it simply means we are all called to minister to God and to receive ministry from God. We do not have to go through another person or mediator.

Confession

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that unless a believer is hindered, the only way to receive forgiveness of sins is by confessing them to a priest, and then penance is made by saying certain phrases.  Contrary to this, scripture teaches that confession of sins is to be made directly to God (1 John 1:9).

In Christianity, when we confess our sins to God, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just address the sinful behavior, but He deals with the trauma that produces the triggers that produce the behavior. Religion only ever deals with the visible surface, which never causes long-lasting change.  A relationship with the Holy Spirit deals with the reasons you do it.  What is the trauma in your past that produces the triggers that produce that behavior?  When you go directly to the Holy Spirit to minister to you, He says, “I know why you go to that drug, I know why you go to pornography. These are counterfeit comforts. But I want to comfort you through my Holy Spirit.”  Then when you’re free, you are free indeed.

Mary

The Roman Catholic Church teaches among other things that Mary is basically the queen of heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven.  In scripture, she’s portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God who became the mother of Jesus.  Christians and Catholics can agree on that. But none of the other teachings on Mary mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible. 

The idea of Mary being a co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical, which means found outside of scripture, but it’s also unbiblical, which is contrary to scripture.  Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer.  1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. 

The Bible clearly states that Mary had children after Jesus.  Some of them even co-labored with Jesus in ministry as technically his step-brothers. What does that mean?  It means she is not a perpetual virgin.  Rather, she was a willing vessel who found favor among women.  Her womb was blessed by God so that she could carry the Savior.  The truth is, Mary needed the cross just as much as the rest of humanity.  She was sinful.  She was flawed.  She was not perfect.  She needed salvation. Yes she was the mother of Jesus, but she also must have at one point needed to become a daughter of God through receiving the sacrifice of Jesus.  That can be a shocking thing to hear if you’re Catholic because Mary has been built up to such a level. 

Mary was a willing vessel who found favor.  She had other children, she lived her life, she died, and I believe that she did go to heaven, but only because she received Christ’s forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, she had to decide, “Is he my Lord and Savior as well?”  

You Can Have a Personal Relationship With God

People who grow up in Catholicism often report an overwhelming sense of always being inadequate.  The truth is, we are inadequate and undeserving of the grace of God, BUT for the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, when God sees you, He doesn’t see your inadequacies, your failures, your shortcomings, or flaws.  He sees His Son, Jesus.  And Jesus is enough!  We don’t need to add another layer of mediator like saints, Mary, or a priest between us and God – Jesus is enough!    

You can have a personal relationship with God without any mediator.  Through the Holy Spirit, you can begin to develop that relationship. Call on Jesus, receive forgiveness of sins, and enjoy a relationship with your Savior today!


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Why Can’t I Hear God?

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God can always hear you.  But there are hindrances to us hearing God.  First, I want to start by saying that the best way to hear God is to read His Word.  There are a lot of people who want to replace reading and studying the Bible to show themselves approved by getting prophetic words from God.  They want to get a new, fresh word.  Don’t be mistaken – there is no shortcut to hearing God’s voice.  If you want to hear God, read your Bible.  If you want to hear God out loud, read your Bible out loud.  Instead of getting a “new Word”, get a fresh revelation on an old one! 

Here are several reasons why you may not be able to hear God clearly. 

Unconfessed Sin  

Isaiah 59:1-3 (ESV)
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood
    and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
    your tongue mutters wickedness

Unconfessed sin is a barrier to hearing God.  Jesus is faithful and just to forgive when you confess your sins (1 John 1:9).  But you can’t say, “Oh I confessed my sins once,” and then continue to live in sin the rest of your life.  A good habit to get into in your prayer time is confession.  Take a moment in prayer to quiet your heart and allow the Holy Spirit bring to light any sin in your heart that you might be unaware of.  Then, bring it before the Lord and confess it.  When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he said, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4).  Make confession a part of your daily discipline.  

Rebellion

Rebellion is another barrier to hearing God.  God has placed spiritual authority in our lives.  I say this in love: if we are rebellious and disobedient toward the delegated spiritual authority of our pastors and leadership, how can we promise God that we will be obedient to His authority?  Rebellion is a major blockage to prayer.  If you feel as if your prayers are not being heard, ask yourself, am I in rebellion to God’s delegated authority?  Every believer should be under spiritual authority, no matter what ministry position or office they hold.  If you’re not currently under authority, you should not be in authority.  For those who desire to move in the prophetic gift, you cannot be prophetic without a pastor.  Get under authority and submit yourself to leadership, and you’ll be able to hear the voice of God clearly again.

Busyness and Distraction

The God of the universe wants to spend intimate time with us, but busyness and distraction are barriers to hearing Him.  The Lord will meet us wherever and whenever we choose to spend time in His presence, but we often neglect to show up due to our overcrowded schedules and busy lives. 

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The story of Mary and Martha is a perfect example of the way we can be so busy, even while in His presence.  Jesus is beckoning us to choose what is better over what is good.  His presence is better than our full schedules and busy lives.  Sitting at his feet is better than checking everything off our to-do list.  This applies to people in ministry too.  We can be so busy working for God that we forget to spend time with God.  Set aside time every day to be with God.  Put your phone away – your phone is robbing you of your destiny – and focus on Him.  

Are You Listening?

These three things – unconfessed sin, rebellion, and busyness and distraction – are three things that might be obscuring you from hearing the voice of the Lord.  If you find yourself identifying any of these three issues in your own life, confess them to the Lord, repent, and make a change so that you can hear Him speak.  He is talking – are you listening?


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What Version of the Bible Should You Read?

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One of the best ways to hear from God is to read His Word, the Bible.  For those just getting started with Bible reading, it can be confusing to know where to start. Others have been told there is only one version of the Bible that is the right one, even though that particular version might be challenging to read or hard to understand. Where do you start?  Which version of the Bible should you read?  

Translations and Versions

The Bible is composed of 66 total books: 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament.  It was inspired by God and written by over 40 authors.  Originally, it was written in several languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  Over time, it has been translated into over 3,000 languages!  Of those translations, there are many different versions.  In English, we have over 50 main versions of the Bible to choose from.  

Why So Many Versions?

My wife was raised in a denomination where the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was the only acceptable translation to use.  As I mentioned above, the King James Version can be difficult to understand because it was written in the language used at the time it was written. Old English is dramatically different than modern English.  Over time, the meanings of words have changed.  New versions of the Bible have been developed to keep up with the changes in language while not compromising the truth of the passages. 

Is the King James the Only “Approved” Version?

If you come from a denomination that only approves of the KJV Bible (or some other specific version), you might struggle to understand the text because of all of the “thees,” “thous,” and uncommon words that muddle the language.  That could discourage you from getting into God’s word, and then you could potentially feel guilt for not reading the Bible.  I want to free you from that guilt right now.  The King James Version is not the only “God-approved” version of the Bible.  Many versions are translated well and hold true to the original meaning of the text.  Read a version of the Bible that you can understand! 

Bible reading

Here are my suggestions for which version of the Bible you should read. 

The English Standard Version (ESV)

If you want a solid Bible that’s easy to understand in the English language, I highly recommend the ESV.  It balances the different types of translations very well.  The translators used a word-for-word method and sought to be as literal as possible as they worked.  

The Message (MSG)

If you want to read the Bible for understanding, I highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message.  If you find the Bible hard to comprehend, try starting with the Message.  As a pastor and preacher, I don’t use The Message as a text for study because it wasn’t written as a word-for-word translation.  It is more of a paraphrase.  However, I do endorse it for reading for understanding.  

Dake’s Annotated Study Bible

If you are looking to dig deeper into the study of the word, I recommend Dake’s Annotated Study Bible.  This is a great resource for those who are preachers and teachers.  The version that Dake uses is the King James, and it includes 35,000 commentary notes, 500,000 cross/chain references, and 9,000 outline headings. 

Which Translation of the Bible Should You Use?

These are just three versions of the Bible that I enjoy, but many are good, solid versions.  Therefore, I recommend visiting an online Bible site and comparing passages across different versions so that you can get a feel for what each is like before you purchase a Bible.  

So, which translation of the Bible should you use?  The one you’ll read!  God cannot transform you and you can’t hear His voice unless you’re consuming His Word, so choose a version at a reading level and understanding level that works for you!  


My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God.  If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!

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