sin

Adventures in Faith

Why I'm Thanking God for My Sin

I sinned again recently, willingly even. 

As I processed how, yet again, I fell short of God's plan for my life, something strange happened, I started to thank God for my sin.

Why would I do that???

Because this time I am reminded how weak I am against sin.

And as I grieved the sin I became desperate for forgiveness. Pleaded to God even.

As I felt God's love again I was astonished that he forgave me so quickly.

My mind is blown as I consider that I am fully reconciled to God in all His holiness over and over again because of one man, Jesus. 

Going through this has made me more aware of my depravity. It reminds me that nobody is holy before God, nobody is good. Not your pastor, not your Mom, not your favorite Christian blogger.

I'm more inclined to look around at "sinful people," the sexual perverts, thieves and murderers, liars and cheats, and realize that I'm one of them.

As a beggar myself I'm less likely to try to tell them how to make something for themselves, and more likely to just point to the one who gives daily bread. 

As I stand in awe of the life of Jesus and the holiness of God, the fear that accepting my sin condition will make me calloused to sin is fading away. The pressure to perform to please God easing up.

I also have this growing sense that the more I stand in awe of God, worship, and fall in love, the less likely I am to sin as a secondary effect.

If it took sin to remind me of my condition, humble me, put me in my place before God, increase my reverence for Him, and out of that see greater obedience and shedding of sin in my life, well then, thank you Jesus for my sin.

Ryan

p.s. I've been having this image in my head the last couple days about the chasm between God and the rest of us, so much so I decided to draw it up for y'all. 

 

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Poetry

Shotgun Start: A Poem About Progress

When was the shotgun start
Who started the rat race
Where are we headed
When will it stop?

Observation.

Here at the
Tip of the spear
I question this faster ideal

Wheel to the hyperloop
Race to fill every niche
Tripping steam engines
With a side of quiche

Ingenuity fuel, or a
Desire to run away
Somewhere not here
Do not be still, I pray

Lean startup A/B test
Productivity or regress
Polyphasic sleep rest
UBI for all but the best

Matriculation downstream
Chasing that USA dream
I’ve been to their mecca
It’s not what it seems

Digital global infection
Tech company affection
Never been more dejection
Can’t discern text inflection

Corrupt system election
Home is now abroad
Hacking social webs
Subvert flows and ebbs

Modern stories we tell
Time lapse traffic b-roll
Crosswalk people scurry
That chopper rap flurry

News cycles spinning
Not sure who’s winning
Fact check for integrity
They are dead to me

Friends in the hundreds
Nobody here now though
Geospatial analysis
How am I missed?

Stomach this FB feed
A toxic baby formula
Science diet suicide
Bitten apple of pride

To go far go together
Go fast go alone
How are we so far from
That naked start in a garden

30,000 foot view here
Next time you jet set
See cities touch the sky
Wonder with me why
Babel didn’t fly?

Adventures in Faith

I'm Straight and Still Beg God to Reinvent My Sex Life

It started with Miss Piggy and her pretty pink curves at age three.

Then our baby sitter, then Debbie Gibson, a girl in my 4th grade class. I’ve got a list of crushes into the hundreds. From my earliest memories I was strongly attracted to many different women.

My first female obsession.

My first female obsession.

I was not born a "one woman man."

Maybe its genetic, I'm not sure, I just know my attractions, should I follow through on them, is not God's plan for me.

I was born in "original sin." 

In high school I wrote poems about women. In college, I took philosophy of art, beauty, and aesthetics courses and a figure drawing class where I'd sit for hours drawing naked women three years in a row. 

I waxed poetic about the lusts of my flesh as justified, natural, productive, a celebration of God's penultimate creation. 

Despite my parents stern warnings against sex before marriage, the allure of women was too much, my roots in the gospel too weak, and I not only succumbed to a life of sexual sin, I dove in proudly.

My world got ugly fast.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Deception in relationships, broken hearts, barely dodging pregnancy and disease, embarrassment and walks of shame, all as I slid into a pattern of companionship that left me ever lonelier. 

I often self medicated to enable myself to do what, in the depths of my heart, I knew was wrong. It was a raucous and wicked downward spiral. 

I had no idea that with each woman I slept with an imprint was being left on my soul that would not easily be washed away.

By society's standards I was a stud, playboy, lady killer, the character many men aspire to be. I fed on the attention.

My sin was about to be exposed.

Then I found a Godly woman.

The high of meeting a good woman, one who seemed to emanate light and goodness, was quickly followed by dread. As I learned of her strong faith and remembered what I knew about the tenants of my own, I felt like a stained rag. 

"What was I thinking?!?" I lamented. The gravity of it all hit me at once.

A long road of pulling myself out of the pit of  doing sex my own way instead of God's way was before me. 

Hard conversations. Shock by her at how calloused I had become. The effects of so many tangled relationships constantly popping up in photos, old social media posts, phone calls and texts I didn't want to get. 

It was a terribly painful process.

I had trouble not resorting to deception or half truths. It was hard to discern what to reveal and when. I subconsciously wondered how I could let the depths of my depravity be known.

We worked through it--this Godly woman and I--as she showed me unending grace. 

Marriage = doing sex God's way! (or so I thought)

Once I entered into the freedom of the marriage covenant with a woman I was wildly attracted to, I finally had sexual freedom! But the twisted tentacles of sexual sin began to pull at my new marriage in unexpected ways.  

As I drove home from work one day, knowing my wife would want to be intimate, I dreaded that I would not respond appropriately.

How could this happen? Never in a million years! This is a curse!

I gripped the steering wheel and pleaded to God, "Lord, please reinvent my sexuality!" Right away I heard God whisper, "Ryan, be selfless and make this about her, not you." 

I was learning how to love in a very different way, my very sexuality being reprogrammed from that of a predator on an unending hunt to someone willing to love unconditionally and sacrificially. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Paying for my past.

My old life reared its head with certain triggers, like staying in hotel rooms while traveling, staying up late drinking, seeing old flames around town or online.

They were all major challenges that I've had to attack in repentance, prayer, talking with Whitney and other men who hold me accountable. 

A thousand times I've asked God to wipe clean my memory, to delete the images that are stored in the depths where I no longer want them. Over time, he seems to be hearing my plea. 

I've also found myself incredibly sad for the woman I was with. Many probably have deep wounds I can never fix. Even as I know I'm forgiven, it grieves me to know what I did to these young women who are made in God's image. 

Further, I've come to realize that in my sin my whole way of thinking about sex had become warped, self-centered, and in need of a complete overhaul. 

An awful nightmare woke me up.

The good news is that, as I battle to do sex God's way, the trajectory of my sex life has moved closer and closer to His plan. There was one instance, however, that resulted in a giant leap forward.

I had dabbled in sin, I can't remember what it was, probably looking at porn online.

One night I had an awful dream. I was being seduced by a woman and as I eagerly pursued her I was also aware of my wife calling out in search of me nearby.

I awoke terrified at what I was doing and in that moment God exposed my patterns of deceit, bitterness when I don't get what I want, bartering and manipulation for sex, game playing, all the effects of separation of sex from God's plan. 

I had a wave of fear hit me--fear of the coming wrath of God. So much so that confessing to my wife seemed like the easy thing to do!

The next day, while at work I texted my wife that we needed to talk so I couldn’t chicken out later.

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

I repented and asked for her forgiveness, and it led to a several week long conversation that was uncomfortable, and yet freeing.

Something changed in our marriage, I couldn't put my finger on it, something spiritual and good and necessary. This ugly sin that was confronted and lifted before God had somehow drawn us closer. 

It's a lesson I haven't forgotten. 

Stopping sexual sin in my family.

I take this sin seriously now, especially since as a society we openly invite sexual sin into our eyes and hearts, and we drift further from God's plan for sex and marriage. 

King David, a man after God's own heart, saw his sexual sin wreak havoc in his family. So I pray over my boys weekly, "Lord, please don't let my sins in this area affect them, please protect them."

I'm much more open about this issue now than ever before (this blog as a case in point). I talk regularly to other guys about this, a community that has bolstered my defenses.

My wife and I actively work to guard my heart, for example, we don't watch racy movies, and she thumbs through magazine's I get and tears out the soft porn that now comes in health, technology, even cooking publications. 

Regular immersion in God's word and in prayer is a hedge of protection. I also avoid the circumstances where I know I am weak and tempted, such as drinking too much, exhaustion, or mindless web surfing late at night.

Victory is possible.

I wish I could tell you God wiped away my whole past, but He hasn't. The pictures in my mind and perversions in my thinking have regularly eaten away at our intimacy.

I have a daily battle to take captive every thought and hold it up against God's plan for my life. Often after months of victory the ugly sin of lust will rear up from out of the darkness to try to devour me. I've had to learn to be vigilant and ready to do battle at any moment.

And yet, I feel increasingly that I'm no longer a slave to my physical urges. I've become mostly rewired to recognize that sex, even in marriage, is not about me, but is as is described in 1 Corinthians 7, where we learn that our bodies are not our own, but are given to each other. 

I yearn for the day when I have complete victory, when the thought of sex outside of God's plan repulses me, and when I see women not as objects for my own pleasure but as wonderfully made daughters worthy of love and respect. 

Even the fact that I can write that last sentence as a goal for myself, and not be so blind to the err of my ways, is a testament to what God has done in my life, and what he can do in yours too. 

And wildly, as God is apt to do, he's taken this weakness of mine and redeemed it as men now seek me out for counsel for sexual sin. Sadly there are so many who are lost. 


A quick guide + a sermon packed with truth.

After talking to lots of men about this very issue I created this short guide on what's worked for me to overcome sexual sin. 

If you want a biblically sound eloquent dive into this topic, watch this sermon by my pastor, Paul Anderson, of Grace Valley Fellowship, framed by his conversations with a gay Texas millionaire.

In closing.

When I first started to get serious about my faith, I remember hearing that some of the guys at church didn’t even masturbate, and I remember thinking, “I don’t think that’s even healthy!”

I never imagined that one day I would earnestly seek to save all sexual energy for my wife alone. And if someone had told me I needed to do that to be a Christian, I might have turned and run.

The point is, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Start by reading the Bible, and pray and ask God to reshape your thinking. Ask him to put people in your life you can talk to about this, someone with a Godly perspective. He answers when we knock.

Over time, through Christ alone, victory over sexual sin is possible.

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6

Other posts on sex...

Adventures in Faith

#metoo - Here is how we combat sexual harassment

Let me join the chorus of those who've been harassed. 

The owner of a fine dining restaurant, and my boss, would often get drunk and grab at me from all angles. She'd say vulgar things to me and the rest of the crew.

When I bartended in Key West more than a few times I'd have wealthy gay men come in and proposition me or otherwise put me in an uncomfortable environment. 

Another time a married woman gave me her room key and kissed my neck as she walked away. 

As a part-time model and actor, I've often had extra sensitivity to my environment to ensure I don't get caught in a bad situation by someone with ill intent. Fortunately, my agents do a good job screening out shady people, and I've never been abused like some of the stories we're reading about in the news now.

Why do I share this now? What's my point? It's this...why is anyone surprised?

I thought everyone knew Hollywood was full of aggressive sexual behavior and abuse? I mean, even if ya don't know the industry gossip, just look at the product they're creating.

I thought everyone knew that as a society we have been fighting for our freedom to express ourselves sexually, even at the expense of what others see as morally right and wrong?

I thought everyone knew that we flat out accept overt sexual references, derogatory language, and uncomfortable displays of nudity in the public sphere? Whitney and I can hardly find a sitcom or live comedy show to attend anymore.

If we are foolish enough to think that throwing out modesty and traditional marriage as a society has nothing to do with the abuse we're seeing, then we're in for a very difficult shock to reality in the years ahead. 

This behavior is not going to get better, it will get worse, and our country needs Jesus and God's plan for sex more now than ever. 

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
— Galatians 6:7-8

Adventures in Faith

Look at the Porn on Mainstream Media Now [warning: graphic]

As a Christian man, I subscribe to the whole "to look at a woman lustfully is adultery." (Matthew 5:28)  It's a high bar, impossible really, but we believe that with Jesus all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Thankfully, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, a "helper" (John 14:15-18) who helps us to take these thoughts captive. It's regular warfare. 

All that being said, I am continually shocked at the warfare being waged against our eyes now on a regular basis.

Not sure what I mean, here are a few screenshots from mainstream news and social media sites:

How did we get to this place where was what porn just a couple decades ago is now accepted out in the open?

Look, I get it, some people don't think this is any harm, they're all for it, and dive right in. But I still believe that most people don't think this is best, and don't want to see it. 

News flash!!! 

This porn everywhere, it's like land mines.

Guys are getting sucked in and blown up over this stuff, their relationships, their marriages are suffering for it.

Women, why are you shocked that men think they can grab you by the pu**y when this is what we accept everyday?

Kids are seeing this from childhood, their perception of women and sex is perverted by it.

This is vitally serious. Does anybody care?

 

 

Adventures in Faith

Avoiding Racism Starts on the Playground

You are racist, it's true. So are your kids, I see them at the park!

We all pretend like we don't have this evil in us, don't have the potential to exclude, to hate, to be violent. But we do.

I see clearly that my kids and your kids, as early as 2 years old, they are on the playground delighting in the fact that they can exclude others, despite how it makes them feel.

This Christian faith that I subscribe to holds the Apostle Paul, a racist serial killer, as a hero...because he fell off his high horse, met Jesus, and became one of the greatest advocates for justice and mercy to ever live. Like Paul, we need a savior for our own hearts and the heart of our country to change.

Let's pray for mercy and ask God to forgive those who have no idea what they are doing and are blinded with hate and focused on the wrong enemy. If God can change a racist serial killers heart to spend the rest of his life loving people I think anything is possible. (thanks for lots of this post Steve Soars).

Adventures in Faith

Why I Got Baptized Again As An Adult

On this day in 2011 I was baptized again.

I say again, because like many people, I was baptized by my parents when I was little. I'm really thankful that my parents took that step to make the public statement that they were going to raise me as a Christian.

I also felt it absolutely essential that, as a thinking adult, I chose Jesus for myself. 

I literally got to a point in my journey to know Jesus where I felt like I needed to get baptized as soon as I possibly could. I literally had come to see my life as a filthy rag, stained with the effects of my rebellion against God. And I needed to be washed clean, which I knew I could not do on my own but only through Jesus the Christ.

Then, one day while attending church, the pastor got up to make an announcement, he said, "some of you have reached a point where you need to get baptized, and we're going to do that on July 3rd." And he looked right at me.

That was it, I was getting baptized. And in so doing, here's what I wanted to say:

  1. My faith is in Jesus as my personal Savior.
  2. However crazy it is, I believe that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead.
  3. I am sincerely and totally repentant of my old sinful life—this is my "burial" of that sinful life.
  4. And baptism pictures my rising up to a new life of spiritual obedience to God.

It is an outward acknowledgment of the realization that the old self must die in order that the new self might rise again to live—this time really live—by God’s laws and commandments as made possible through His Holy Spirit.

And, as I hope this blog gives some credence to, it is indeed a new life surrendered to the will and authority of God, albeit imperfectly most of the time. I could never have imagined then what a different life it is when you walk with Jesus. 

I'm so glad I did this, it's been so important in my "walk with Jesus" and if you have not done so, I would strongly encourage you to consider making such a statement yourself.

Adventures in Faith

A Word for Those in College Facing Temptation

Galatians Chapter 5

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Adventures in Faith

I Had to Repent for Theft

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

This is a really hard post to write. 

But I realize that I'm not the only thief in town, and that maybe some good will come out of writing this. The truth is that about a year ago, while in prayer, God showed me a number of people I had wronged. In some cases, I had flat out stolen from a few people. 

An old employer, the boyfriend of a friends roommate in college, a neighbor, a random person in school.

In most of my past I would have justified it our sugar coated that fact in some way. I would have told you that I was wronged and this was taking restitution. Or that I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing. Or that I didn't actually take it, that it was a friend who did it and I was just there. 

Well, God laid it on me heavy, and I started to squirm right there in prayer.

"Oh God, what can I do?" 

It was clear right away what I had to do, I had to confess and ask forgiveness. And I had to pay for what I had done.

I listed the people God had brought to mind on a post-it note. I hid the note, it was such a shameful piece of paper. I didn't have the money to cough up so I did nothing. It stewed in my conscious. Eventually, I relented, there would never be a good time, I would pay the cost no matter what.

I had to research to find the people I had offended, the victims. It wasn't easy, but once I did, I prayed again, "Lord, let their hearts be tender to receive my sincere apology. Please."  I offered to repay whatever was due, let me know the cost. I wrote to a couple on the list, then I anxiously awaited for days. What would happen?

As it turns out, so far, nothing. I literally have not received a single response. One person seems just about impossible to track down short of hiring an investigator. I have resolved that I cannot become stalkerish over something that happened 10 and 20 years ago. And if I get a response or anything else I can act on, any claim of restitution, I will gladly pay it as much as is required, because even though its hard its what I was called to do. 

The God of the Bible calls us to repent of our sins. Zacchaeus-like repentance doesn't mean just saying I'm sorry to God. Or even to your mentor. It means making every effort to pay for the wrongs you have made, and to set up systems to ensure you never do it again.

In my case, I had long ago abandoned the lifestyle that led to these actions and just addressing them head-on again after all this time gave a sense of healing. Though, I do hold out hope that I will be able to pay out to each person that which is due, because I know God works in repentance.  

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

I Was Healed Over A Gin & Tonic

By His wounds, we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5

Maybe like me you've wondered why you don't hear about or even see people getting healed. Jesus did it, so did his disciples, so what's going on these days that's preventing it from happening around us?

I'm here to report that people are still being healed, and I know this because I am one of them!

I was surveying the room while sipping a gin and tonic at the 2013 New Canaan Society Washington Weekend. I was looking for a familiar face when a young Naval Academy Cadet stepped up to say hello. We got to talking and soon an older man walked up to say hello to the cadet. Then another cadet joined our little circle of four. 

After the cadet and the older man exchanged greetings, the man looked at me and introduced himself as a healing pastor. To this I jokingly replied, "really, that's interesting, any chance God told you to heal my neck?" 

The man with the cane looked at my inquisitively, and he asked me if there was something in my life that was a pain to me, maybe a soured relationship. At the time, I had been struggling to see eye to eye with a someone and so I mentioned that, feeling slightly foolish that I had made a joke. 

He asked if we could pray together, right there. Sure, I said, so the man, who was now known to me as Reverand Nigel Mumford, put his hand on my shoulder and told the cadets to do the same and he began to pray.

While he prayed, he asked me a few questions, specifically about an area of sin in my life, and he asked me if I realized it was forgiven. I said yes, and he asked me to really believe that and repeat it with him. I did.

Then he asked me if I had taken a train into town, and if I was struggling with lust. I said that didn't resonate with me. He concluded his prayers, asking for healing. When he was finished, as we stood around, one of the cadets had a sheepish look on his face, and he piped up that he had taken a train to the conference, and that on the way he was talking to a woman on the train, and he had been tempted to leave to meet up with her. 

While this cadet talked I quietly rolled my head around to see if there was any chance my neck was healed. For several years it was such a constant low pain that I just became used to it. And whenever I rolled my head in circles as my ear touched my right shoulder there was a crunching popping sound at the same spot where I felt a deep strain. I'd had it worked on by massage therapists, tried chiropractors, bought and hung on an inversion table, and more--nothing worked. 

I couldn't believe it at first, by my head rolled smooth as if it was on a new set of ball bearings. I snuck off and made my way into the next room to grab a seat for dinner, rolling my head the whole way. Could it be possible? But how?

All dinner long I kept trying my neck out, in quiet disbelief. Smooth as could be. Still, like many miracles in the early days of my walk with God, I didn't see it right away as a miracle. I realize that sounds dumb to write, but I was just skeptical. And, in fact, a day or two later, the crunching came back ever so slightly. At that point, I thought that maybe I just needed to believe in God more, and I prayed and fasted to tell God that I really did believe. And the problem went away, and it has stayed away ever since.

Once it sunk in that I'd been healed, it changed me and the way I read Scripture, the way I pray, the way I believe in God. Stories of healing were received by me not with skepticism but rather an internal praise to God that it was likely true and even if it wasn't I know He is healing people all the time. 

Like all things in God's Kingdom, there are no formulas, so we will never be able to go out and heal people en masse, not until Christ returns that is. But we do have the option to believe and to listen to God for promptings about how and who to heal. That alone has since led me to many other encounters with healing, which is just an incredible way to live life. 

By the way, I later looked up Reverand Nigel Mumford, and sent him a note to thank him for what he did with my neck. You can follow him and his work online here: By His Wounds Ministry.