What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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Jul 272015
 

Recently, I had the opportunity to stay a couple of nights at a hotel. The hotel was older, needed some repairs, and the WiFi didn’t work very well. But other than these minor issues, we had an enjoyable stay.

The fellow who ran the front desk’s name was Henry for our purposes. At first, while checking in, Henry seemed a little snappy. But after further interactions with him, he proved to be rather friendly.

Toward the end of our stay, I had the chance to sit down with Henry and to chat with him for a little while.

love

The following is Henry’s story:

“Henry was from a large family, having fifteen brothers and sisters, with their dad being a pastor. Needless to say, Henry grew up in the church. At age fifteen, Henry came out of the closet, so to speak, as being gay. He said he had known since age six that he was gay. He was immediately rejected and ostracized by his family. Henry knew that his lifestyle was wrong in the eyes of God. After he would fall to his vice, he would hate himself and to kill the pain, he turned to alcohol.

One day while driving under the influence, he was in an accident that resulted in the death of a young boy. This served to further ostracize him from his family and the church. In fact, he even received a letter from a major church denomination barring him from ever stepping foot in one of their churches again – ever.

Eleven years ago, Henry got a job at the hotel and has lived there on the premises ever since. Four of his brothers live nearby and have not once come to visit him at his new found home. Since Henry knew he couldn’t escape from God, he asked Him to stay on one side of the hotel and he would stay on the other.

Then, about six years ago, the unthinkable happened. The family who lost their son as the result of Henry’s drunk driving came to the hotel. The mother and father insisted that Henry hold their newborn son. At first Henry could not believe it, but they persisted and told Henry that they had forgiven him for killing their other son. Finally, Henry held their newborn son. The family has since brought their new son back to visit Henry from time-to-time.

Henry told me that he would never set foot in a church again for the rest of his life. But he also told me that he had seen more of God’s grace in that hotel than he has seen anywhere else. He said that just being able to face people from behind the front desk was truly a miracle.”

The fact that this is a true story shatters my heart. Where was the love of Henry’s family and the church? Where was the help that he so desperately needed? Why do Christians and the church consider homosexuality as the unforgivable sin when the Bible clearly teaches that it is not? Why do liars, thieves, the heterosexually immoral, and others get a pass but gays do not? Where is the old adage, “We need to love the sinner but hate the sin”?

The Bible teaches us to love not in word, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18) and we should not just say we love but we should truly love. Perhaps if Henry had received the love and help that he needed from his family and the church, he would not have had to turn to alcohol and thus not been responsible for the boy’s death?

Does Biblical love mean that we as Christians need to learn to accept sin? No, not at all. But it does mean that we should truly love the person and do our very best to get them the help that they need.

What if his family and the church had taken a vastly different approach? Rather than rejecting and ostracizing him, what if they had attempted to understand him and tried to help him? What if they had started a Christ-based recovery group for gays and ex-gays? What if they would have continued to dialogue with him and invited him to their family gatherings? What if Christ’s love, not acceptance of his sin, but real love, had been displayed to Henry?

Thankfully, the grace of God still won out in his story. The hard, real forgiveness that that family chose, displayed Christ’s love to Henry like no one else in his family or church had. Because of that family’s choice, Henry was given hope. Hope that God is love, that He is good, and that He forgives. Hope that there are good people in the world who do care about him. Hope that with God’s help, the help of his counselors, and AA, he can continue to fight the good fight.

Henry told me that he has lived a celibate lifestyle for the last eleven years. Every morning he wakes up and asks God for strength to not fall. Then at night, he thanks God for the day. Sounds a bit like someone I know very well.

#preachinggospeltomyself

 

His son,

Gary Lee Millner

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The Truth About Porn

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Feb 132014
 

I was disturbed by what Meygn Kelly said about porn on the O’Reilly Factor about two weeks ago. She essentially said that there was nothing wrong with human sexuality and that millions of people were watching porn. So, what could possibly be wrong with it?

porn

I go into great detail about the dangers of pornography in our book, Slaying Life’s Dragons and Beasts, but for our purposes here, I want to mention just one. And that is pornography, much like the drug marijuana, is a gateway. It leads to other more dangerous sins, much like marijuana can lead to other more dangerous drugs.

The serial killer Ted Bundy’s life is a perfect example of this. Ted did a final interview with Dr. James Dobson on the day before he was executed. The following is a snippet of that interview:

JCD: For the record, you are guilty of killing many women and girls.

Ted: Yes, that’s true.

JCD: How did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? You were raised in what you consider to be a healthy home. You were not physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Ted: No. And that’s part of the tragedy of this whole situation. I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.

As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighborhoods, and in our neighborhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc., and I want to emphasize this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.

Ted did this final interview with Dr. James Dobson for one reason and one reason alone: “He felt he owed it to society to warn of the dangers of hard-core pornography and to explain how it had led him to murder so many innocent women and girls.”

Right now, you are probably saying, “Well, he was a worst case scenario, and that could never happen to me.” The truth is that this could happen to any one of us. We are all capable of the most horrific kinds of evil. Just look at many of the main characters in the Bible. David committed adultery and was responsible for having an innocent man killed. Moses killed a man. Paul oversaw the stoning of Stephen. I could go on.

The scripture says in Jeremiah 17:9-10:

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”

Of course, everyone who looks at pornography is not going to turn out to be a serial killer, just like everyone who smokes marijuana is not going to turn to cocaine or heroin. Nevertheless, the truth is that many who start out with softcore pornography will end up craving hardcore pornography, bestiality, or worse.

For many, the seemingly innocent play area of pornography will be a gateway that leads them to far worse sins than they had previously thought they were capable of committing.

 

His son,

Gary Lee Millner

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The Truth About Our Emotions

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Jun 302013
 

I’m writing blog entry to debunk a false teaching that has been propagating around the church. The teaching that [negative] emotions are bad… that we can’t trust them… and that we must avoid them like the bubonic plague. This is simply. not. true.

emotions

It’s understandable how this teaching got started… emotions can lie to us… lies such as I’m unloved, unwanted, not good enough, will never amount to anything, stupid… the list is endless. And, what’s worse, if we act on these emotions (lies) then bad behavior results… and that can hurt us and others.

But… how can we call something that God gives us as part of our soul (mind, will, and emotions)… bad? How can we call something that is part of being made in the image of God… bad? God has emotions, right? Let take a look at a small sampling of verses illustrating God’s emotions:

  • God gets angry. “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them,” (Exodus 32:10).
  • God is compassionate. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,” (Psalm 103:13).
  • God rejoices. “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you,” (Isaiah 62:5).
  • God loves. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
  • God hates. “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates,” (Psalm 11:5).
  • God grieves. “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart,” (Genesis 6:6).
  • God expresses joy. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10).

What about Jesus? He is God and man and He has emotions, right? How did He act on these emotions? Let’s take a look:

“In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, ‘Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!’” (John 2:14-16)

Here, we see that Jesus experienced a passionate [what we might refer to as negative] emotion (most likely anger) and acted upon it in a positive way.

So, what about us? What do our emotions really tell us?

For one thing, they are lie detectors.

Let me give you an illustration. Suppose a person goes into their job one morning only to find that their position has been terminated. How does this person respond? If this person truly believes the scriptures that read “My God shall supply all of your needs” and “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed out begging for bread,” then they will not respond with panic, fear and worry, right?

I submit to you that if a person responds in this way, with panic, fear, and worry, then perhaps that person does not truly believe the aforementioned scriptures? They certainly do not trust that God will provide for them.

I realize that this can be a hard teaching for those who have dismissed their negative emotions as useless. Perhaps we may know cognitively of the scriptures that promise God’s provision for His people, but do we really believe that they apply to us? Do we really believe that we can trust God to provide for us even in the midst of job loss?

I could give other examples as well, but I think the point is well illustrated in the above example.

So, the next time that you experience a negative emotion, instead of just writing it off as unacceptable, worthless, and useless, ask God to reveal to you what that emotion means? Perhaps it reveals a lie that you believe about yourself or others? Perhaps God wants to show you something totally different?

I would love to hear from you! What have you been taught about emotions? What have you learned about them though your life experiences?

Jun 212013
 

[This blog entry is Part 2 of a two part series. For Part 1, please click here.]

testimony

Anxiety:  Hell is the word that comes to mind when trying to describe what generalized social anxiety disorder feels like.  It is a constant, seemingly eternal hell that must be lived through every single moment of life.  There may be short reprieves for a time, but they never last very long.  The hell of generalized social anxiety disorder is always soon to follow.

The anxiety that tormented me was so severe that even while with those whom I considered close friends, I would still experience fear and have heart palpitations.

Afraid of what you may ask?  Afraid perhaps of the following:

  • That if they really knew me then they wouldn’t like me.
  • That they wouldn’t understand the anxiety, depression, or sexual addiction that I struggled with.
  • That they would judge me because of my sin.
  • That they would reject me.

I would avoid individuals, people, crowds, and generally anyone or anything that required me to interact socially.  I would even walk a different route in order to avoid people.

Depression:  In my estimation, I have suffered from moderate to severe depression for about half of my life.  At times, the depression has been so extreme that I have even contemplated suicide.  I have often cursed the day I was born and regretted ever being born as Jeremiah does in the scriptures.  It is no fun to hate living and want to die, but that is exactly what I did off and on for many, many years.

Shame and Self-hatred:  I felt that I was unworthy and unacceptable.  Totally.  It was not as if a few seams in the garment of myself needed stitching; the whole fabric was frayed.  Everyone else was okay except me.  I was flawed beyond repair.  Because I believed that “I” was unacceptable, the natural response was to hate myself.

Anger Towards God:  I had many “good” reasons for being angry with God.  I was angry with God for things that had happened to me in my past – rejection, emotional abuse, etc.  I was angry with God for the present struggles that I had – fear, anxiety, depression, lust, etc.  I was angry with God because I believed that His character was something it was not.  For example, one major thing that I had to overcome was the belief that God was a task-master or slave-driver.  This is the belief that God is not interested in us for who we are but only for what we can do for Him.

I may have even projected my earthly father’s character traits onto God – my heavenly Father.  My earthly father was physically abusive, had a problem with anger, and rarely if ever told me that he loved me (He now tells me that he loves me quite frequently, thanks to God’s healing and restoration power).

I was also angry with God for not giving me certain things, in my timing, that I felt the Bible promised to believers.  For example, I have low frequency hearing loss that resulted, at least in part, from poor choices that I made during my late teenage or early adult years.  This has caused me much emotional pain.

Anger Towards People and Unforgiveness:  I had incurred deep emotional wounds and there were many specific individuals who were, at least partially, responsible.

2nd – My Experiences and Changes in Working through CR

Working the 12 steps has helped me in many ways.  I learned that denying my sins and emotions by keeping them hidden was a bad thing.  I learned that “Secrets keep you sick”.  I learned that I was not alone in my struggles.  Perhaps the greatest lesson that I learned, though, was the importance of accountability.  It was here that I met my two best friends and accountability partners.

What I needed the most was to be loved and accepted unconditionally by another human being, whether I deserved it or not.  I got this unconditional love and acceptance from my accountability partners.  For the first time in my life, I began to truly understand God’s unconditional love and acceptance of me because another human being modeled it to me.  From here, God began showing me His true character – His loving, forgiving, and accepting nature.  I began to discover that God was not the task master or slave driver that I had once thought Him to be, but instead a loving Father.

 3rd – The New Me

With regard to anxiety, I no longer have heart palpitations while in the presence of friends.  I believe that God has set me almost completely free.

With regard to depression, God has worked a miracle in my life in this area.  The down feelings no longer turn into depression.

With regard to shame and self-hatred, after feeling loved and accepted by God and others, I am now learning to love and accept myself.

With regard to anger towards God, I rarely curse God or take His name in vain in my heart anymore.  There are occasions where I want to blame God, but He has been gracious to show me that it isn’t His fault.

With regard to anger towards people and unforgiveness, I have forgiven most, if not all, people who have wounded me.  I have learned that forgiveness is extremely difficult but well worth the effort.  I have also learned that it is a continual process because there will always be people who offend you.

 4th – Outreach

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3-4:

“ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Rick Warrens says that “the area of our greatest pain is the area of our greatest ministry”.  Isn’t it ironic that God uses what the world sees as our weakness to actually be our strength?  Perhaps the Lord is calling some of you here tonight to the recovery ministry.  If you have suffered any sort of pain and been comforted by God, then God has uniquely qualified you.

Obtaining the total freedom in Christ that He died to give us is a process.  It does not happen overnight but instead comes overtime as we continually renew our minds and become more like Him.

Please keep this in mind as you are putting the steps in this program into practice.  Inevitably, like learning to ride a bike or learning to snow ski, you will fall down.  So, don’t be surprised if you don’t get it exactly right the first few times.  Most people fall a few, several, or even many times before getting it right.

Get up, brush yourself off, confess your sin to the Lord, accept His forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love, and try again.

“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again…”

Proverbs 24:16

Eventually, with Jesus Christ as your Higher Power, you will be victorious.

I will leave you with one of my favorite scriptures, it is Isaiah 42:6-7 (NLTv1):

“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.  I will guard and support you, for I have given you to my people as the personal confirmation of my covenant with them.  And you will be a light to guide all nations to me.  You will open the eyes of the blind and free the captives from prison.  You will release those who sit in dark dungeons.”

Thank you.

### The above text was taken from our new book #SlayingLifesDragonsandBeasts and sanitized to make it more appropriate for this blog. ###

[This blog entry is Part 2 of a two part series. For Part 1, please click here.]

Jun 152013
 

[This blog entry is Part 1 of a two part series. For Part 2, please click here.]

I’m writing this series of blog entries not because I particularly like airing my “dirty laundry,” but because the Bible says that we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11) and because if they help just one person then isn’t it worth it?

Celebrate Recovery Testimony

Hi, my name is Gary, I’m a grateful Christian in recovery from anxiety, depression, lust, shame, self-hatred, anger towards God and people, unforgiveness, and the list is seemingly endless.

I was a shy, introverted child who was basically a “mama’s boy”.  No one taught me self-esteem or social skills or any life skills for that matter.  I did not learn them at home, at church, or at school.  I was left alone to figure them out for myself.

Perhaps the most damaging event occurred in middle school and came from someone whom I thought to be a friend.  This girl, all of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, called me “ugly”.  I thought that we had a pretty good relationship up until that point, but apparently I was wrong.  Perhaps she was just having a bad day.  I did not respond to this insult but instead just quietly took it to heart believing that it was truth.

This was how I handled these kinds of situations.  I wouldn’t fire back any choice words or try to initiate a fight, but rather I would just take whatever abuse was given and ponder it in my heart asking, “Could this be true?”  Unfortunately, the answer that I concluded was almost always an overwhelming “Yes”.  I never discussed these events with anyone.  I suppose I thought that I was alone in these situations and that no one could understand me or help me.

Sadly, these situations continued throughout high school.  Specifically, I was called “ugly” several more times in high school.  Even once by my own uncle.  This just served to reinforce the apparent truth behind these statements.

The idea that I was ugly just devastated me.  I felt rejected, unacceptable, worthless, useless, powerless, and hopeless.  I already had severe acne and was very self-conscious.  This was all I needed.  The icing on the cake.  The precipitating factor that would drive me over the edge.

In an effort to ease my pain, I turned to many bad, self-destructive, and addictive behaviors.

### The above text was taken from our new book #SlayingLifesDragonsandBeasts and sanitized to make it more appropriate for this blog. ###

[For Part 2, please click here.]