Blazing Grace Newsletter, July 2006

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* In the Presence of God
* The Blazing Grace Radio Show
* 27 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference
* Pastors Don’t Need Pedestals
* Prayer Requests
* Final Words

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In The Presence of God
By Mike Genung

On Monday night, this week, about midnight, I wrote a letter to the Lord. I didn’t know where to mail it so I put it in my Bible. And I asked Him, “Lord, You’ve got to do something about my heart. You know a lot of time’s gone by since I met You. And it’s starting to harden up, you know it’s just kind of natural. I want to have baby skin, Lord. I want to have skin like a baby on my heart. It’s starting to get old, and wrinkled, and calloused. It’s not because of anything I’m doing; it’s cause of a lot of things I’m not doing. And I stayed up ‘til about 2:00 in the morning writing this song…

Keith Green, from the introduction to his song Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful.

What happens when you’re alone with God?

I often ask this question of men I’m discipling, and the answers are revealing. Some will say “Well, I read my Bible and pray every morning,” which misses the point. Others say “Nothing happens when I’m alone with God; I struggle with wondering if He’s really there or not.” Some claim that their lives are too busy for God; they intentionally keep the pace of their life at a fever–pitch in order to avoid Him.

For the first 36 years of my life, I had a difficult time being alone with God. I couldn’t stand quiet solitude, because many uncomfortable emotions would begin to surface; emotions I didn’t want to deal with or face, such as shame, fear, and an overall sense of rejection. My “quiet times” in the morning were mechanical, ritualistic, and hurried; devoid of life or joy. Being alone with God seemed to cause me to feel what I really was, and I didn’t want to go there.

I didn’t experience the softening of my heart into baby skin, as Keith Green described it, because I was hiding my heart from Him. This is nothing new; men and women have been hiding from the Lord since the beginning of time.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8

The idea of being vulnerable with God made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want Him to see all my shame, sin, distorted motives, and especially, I didn’t want Him to touch my heart. I was afraid He would get around the walls I’d so carefully built around my heart, and it would hurt so much that I’d be swallowed up in pain.

How blind I was.

Today, I know that by hiding from God I was keeping myself from an immense amount of blessings. I was like a starving man who refused a banquet table full of wonderful food because he was too afraid to eat it. The richest, deepest, most wonderful moments in my life have been spent in the Presence of the Living God. It was here, in His Presence, where I was set free from the bondage of sexual sin. (You can read the story here.)

Let’s take a look at the banquet table He’s set before us.

Jesus meets us where we are. I hated the idea of going into God’s Presence with a dirty, shamed heart; I wanted to clean it up before approaching Him. But I had it all backwards; Jesus was the only one who could cleanse me; I just needed to quit hiding and show up.

The Lord brought Isaiah, a man who cursed like a sailor, into His holy throne room and then purified his lips with a coal (Isaiah 6). He met a woman who’d had five previous husbands and was living in sexual sin with a man who she wasn’t married to (John 4), and revealed that He was the messiah to her. After another woman was caught in the act of adultery and dragged into His Presence, He calmly accepted her in grace (John 8). Jesus met Peter on the beach after Peter had denied Jesus to His face, the last time with cursing, and then gently restored Him (John 21).

Paul, (think about this) was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Lord’s people, when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 26).

No wonder His grace is called amazing.

God changes lives in His Presence. After God cleansed Isaiah’s heart, he eagerly volunteered to be sent out as a prophet, one of the most thankless and dangerous jobs one could aspire to. Not long after Jesus restored Peter, he was used mightily of God to lead thousands to Christ. Paul’s life was never the same after those brief moments in the Presence of the Lord; he took beatings, imprisonments and much more in order to introduce more people to Jesus.

What is it that set these men on fire with love for the Lord?

It wasn’t going to church, reading their Bible, or successful ministry, but being in the awesome Presence of the Living God, and receiving His love and acceptance for them in spite of their sin.

He doesn’t work the same way with anyone.

The timing, method and circumstances for God’s work in each of these men and women’s lives were different.

Isaiah was drawn into God’s Presence unexpectedly, at a time not of His choosing.

Jesus approached the woman at the well when her life was a mess, when she was living with man #6.

The woman who was caught (or set up?) in the act of adultery was dragged to Jesus by the leaders of her church.

Paul was a scholar who’d spent many years studying in the Seminary of the Pharisees; he was allowed to persecute many of God’s people before Jesus intercepted him.

It was after Peter had hung around Jesus for three years and had been granted “the keys to the kingdom” when he was broken by the wretchedness of his failure of denying the Lord three times.

It’s not uncommon for me to talk to someone who had worked a program for “freedom from sexual addiction;” they got their sexual acting out under control for a period of time, and later stumbled. Then, they’ll tell me they’re going to go back and “work the program” again. The structure for dealing with the externals that many programs offer is good, but without a changed heart there can be no true freedom from sexual sin.

Jesus changes hearts in different timing, methods and ways; true faith depends on a Person, not a program. You will not find a story in Scripture where the Lord dealt with any two persons the same way.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, `From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “
John 7:37-38

In His Presence, we face our brokenness

When Isaiah was drawn into God’s Presence, his first reaction was “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” Peter said “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” to Jesus after they brought in a huge catch of fish (Luke 5:8). John, who called himself “the disciple Jesus loved,” dropped to the Lord’s feet “as a dead man” (Rev. 17) when He appeared to John in His true, glorified state.

Last month, as I was writing the main article for the June Newsletter, God showed up in a way I’d never experienced before. Without warning, His Presence filled my office; it was so thick, and holy that I started crying. I was sharply aware of the fact that I am nothing more than a broken, clay pot in comparison to the Living God. His Presence was all at once sweet, intense, peaceful, and overwhelming; He left me wanting more of Him—and much less of myself.

Today, I realize that I often avoided true intimacy with the Lord in previous years because I didn’t want to face the pain of the true condition of my heart. Facing our brokenness is the key to liberation from sin; a blessing that opens our heart up to receiving the love, power and life of the Living God. This is the great secret of the Christian faith; what Paul meant when he said “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When we can finally confess that we are ruined; that we like sin, have distorted motives, are selfish, proud and want to glorify ourselves, the valve to our heart rotates to its most open position. It is in this state where the Lord can fill us with His life, love and peace.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
James 4:8-10

In His Presence, we find an abundance of blessings

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalms 16:11

For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked life of You, You gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever. His glory is great through Your salvation, Splendor and majesty You place upon him. For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.
Psalms 21:3-6

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
John 6:35

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
Acts 3:18-21

The life and love you’re hungry for cannot be found in sex, lust, other people, Bible knowledge, ministry, counseling, church, programs, food or money. The deepest craving of every man, woman and child on this earth is for God Himself; to feel His touch; hear His voice, know His acceptance, and be filled with His love… to enjoy sweet, holy communion with Him; to love Him, and be loved by Him.

It is in His Presence where we receive all of the wonderful blessings that come from knowing Him.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.
Psalms 42:1

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. Psalms 63:1-6

If you want the abundant life Jesus offers, no matter how deeply you’ve sinned or where you are today, approach Him. The only one holding you back from God, is you. There’s no need to wait; go to Him, now. Seek Him with all of your heart, and you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

We are to live in His Presence

Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.
Ps 140:13

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
John 15:9

Living in God’s Presence is to be our way of life, not just a one time event. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41) is our ongoing reality. Temptations, snares and trials abound in the culture of lust we live in; we need to soak in God’s Presence every day for the power to live free from sin.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
Ps 42:5

Perhaps you’re living in despair today. You’ve tried to connect with the Lord, but He seems far away. Or forgiveness and grace are mere words of theology to you; “God loves you” is a cliché, not reality. Here are a few points to consider when approaching the throne of grace:

Start with brokenness.

Ask the Lord to show you the true condition of your heart, and bring down every wall of pride, self-sufficiency and sin; these are barriers to receiving grace. When He does, let Him love you; don’t run away and hide.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Psalms 51:17

Go for the truth

Ask God to reveal any lies in your heart that you might have bought into about yourself or Him. He is near (Psalms 139:7-10) and His grace is real. The problem comes when we allow what others have said and done to us to become the core truth of our lives, instead of what God says about us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalms 139:23-24

Talk like a child

When approaching the Throne of Grace, leave all groveling, sermonizing, pious blather, or attempts to impress the Living God at the door. Children speak with gut–level honesty, are quick to ask in the most simplest of terms, and have no qualms in jumping in a loved one’s lamp—or receiving a hug. “Lord, I’m empty, please fill me with You. Show me the lies I’ve bought into. I’m having a hard time believing You love me or that You’re with Me. Reveal the Truth to me.”

Children speak from the heart, without pretense; strive to do the same.

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.
Luke 18:17

Learn the lost art of silence.

Take several minutes to set your Bible aside, be still, and quiet every thought; allow the Holy Spirit to commune with your spirit in silence. Your heart will begin to groan to Him, and He’ll respond by ministering to you in unspoken ways. Silence deepens, stills and strengthens the heart. This takes practice and discipline, so if you’ve never done it before, keep at it. When uncomfortable emotions start to bubble up from within, be still. Listen.

Allow the Holy Spirit the space and time to speak to, strengthen, and minister to you.

In quietness and trust is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Get caught up in Him

For a time, take your attention off of your self, your needs and your failures, and focus completely on the Living God. Picture Him in Heaven in all of His glory; bright, shining and holy. Read the description of Jesus in Revelations 1 and imagine that you’re in the Presence of this Incredible Being (which, you are). Lift your voice in praise, thanksgiving, and song. Enjoy being with Him. Bask in His light, love and peace.

And when He expresses His love for you, receive it, just as a child would.

Want baby skin on your heart? Enter into His Presence.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1:20-24

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The Blazing Grace Radio Show

Here’s our lineup for July:

July 1 – Shelley Lubben hosted the show, and interviewed Jayson, Rob and myself.

July 8 – Interview with Tom and Lisa Wilkins of Cross Ministries, on ministering to those who struggle with homosexuality, Part 1.

July 15 – Interview with Tom and Lisa Wilkins of Cross Ministries, on ministering to those who struggle with homosexuality, Part 2.

July 22 – Interview with Xan Hood, author of Untamed; Becoming the Man You want to Be, Part 1.

July 29 – Interview with Xan Hood, author of Untamed; Becoming the Man You want to Be, Part 2.

The show is broadcast in Colorado Springs on KGFT 100.7FM, Saturdays at 11:00am. You can download the shows without cost at the radio page, or listen to them in streaming audio at Oneplace.com.

The broadcasts are available as a podcast through Itunes. If you have the Itunes software, the shows are listed under “Religion and Spirituality/Christianity.”

We’re considering getting the show broadcast in countries such as Australia, the UK, Canada, Ireland or Scotland. If any of you from these countries have suggestions on a station to contact, please email me.
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27 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference

1. Pray:

* That churches all over the world would confront the sexual sin that is so prevalent among God’s people today.

* For healing for individuals and marriages that are being shattered every day.

* That the Lord would remove the shroud of silence that keeps so many churches silent about this issue.

* For ministries like this one that are on the front lines and subject to spiritual attack.

2. Join our prayer team. Our prayer team of ladies prays together every Tuesday morning; please email me if you’d like to join them.

3. Tell your pastor or ministry leader about the statistics showing that at least 50% of Christian men and 30% of women are struggling with porn or sex addiction, and encourage him to take action.

4. Start a Strength in Numbers group.

5. Get the Blazing Grace Radio show sponsored in your city.

6. Ask the Lord for another person you can tell about your struggles with lust or porn (or your spouse’s struggle). Many broken men and women are dying to talk to someone who they can relate to with what they’re going through.

7. If you’re from a country outside the U.S., consider partnering up with us and having the Blazing Grace website translated into your home country’s language. There are few resources in other countries for dealing with the porn epidemic, and it’s just as prevalent outside the U.S.. Please email me for more information.

8. Tell another person about this ministry.

9. Start a support group for wives of sex addicts.

10. Sponsor a Struggling with Porn Billboard in your city. This is a great way to increase awareness among the churches in your city of the porn epidemic, and encourage those who are hurting to get help.

11. If you’re a pastor, talk openly and clearly about the porn epidemic among Christians, and show them how to deal with it. This article will provide you with an outline to use.

12. If you don’t have the funds to support a porn billboard, ask your church if they will consider sponsoring it, or raise the funds with other Christians you know who want to see the sexually broken helped.

13. Support this ministry financially. Blazing Grace is a non-profit 501c3 corporation, and contributions are tax deductible.

14. Forward a copy of How Many Porn Addicts are in Your Church? to your pastor and/or members of the elder board in your church.

15. Join our team of women who email other wives for support.

16. Add a link to the Blazing Grace site to your website, so that those who need help can find it.

17. Tell someone at your church about the need to start a Strength in Numbers group.

18. Forward the Blazing Grace newsletter to a friend, someone who needs it, or your pastor.

19. Turn off all TV channel service to your home so that no one in your family can be exposed to a sexually inappropriate program. When you call the cable company to cancel their service, tell them you’re doing so because they’re selling porn, a product that is destroying thousands of lives. Without getting legalistic about it, tell your Christian friends what you did so they can consider doing the same.

20. Contact the religion writer of your local newspaper, and ask him to write about the porn epidemic in the church. The Blazing Grace website has plenty of ammunition that you can point him to.

21. Have an individual or married couple share their struggles with porn addiction before your local congregation to encourage others to get help.

22. Start a support group for women who struggle with sexual addiction.

23. Post one of our newsletters or articles on your website.

24. Start a ministry to women in the sex industry, such as prostitutes, strippers and porn actresses.

25. Stop watching, downloading or purchasing any kind of pornography; this funds the porn industry and perpetuates the rape and abuse of thousands of lost souls in the sex industry, as well as the destruction of families. (Do whatever it takes to break free from lust; get plugged in with a support group, get professional help, etc.)

26. Contact the talk show host of your local Christian radio station, and ask him to do a show about the porn epidemic in the church.

27. Run a “Struggling with Porn” ad in your local newspaper.

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Pastors don’t need Pedestals

I was forwarded a link to an article on Christianity Today recently called Does Ministry Fuel Addictive Behavior. It’s an excellent, if not depressing article that was written by a former pastor’s wife which I encourage you to read. I say former pastor, because he was a sex addict who committed a felony offense. Among other things, the article addresses what celebrity obsession among the body of Christ is doing to our pastors. The following is a small excerpt from the article:
“Religious culture has a hard time with pastors and pastor’s families who have flaws. Of course, the healthiest congregations do not expect their pastors to walk on water, do not put their pastors on pedestals. But in my experience, such congregations are not the norm.

Thousands of pastors serve congregations that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, expect their leaders to maintain (at least for public viewing) near-perfect marriages, near-perfect families, and near-perfect lives.

While it may be fine that their pastor forgets to take out the trash, is hyper-addicted to football, burns the toast, or consistently forgets his wife’s birthday (all endearing foibles that make good fodder for sermon jokes), he’d better not have any serious bouts of depression, credit issues, children who get caught selling ecstasy, or a wife with a drinking problem.”

I receive emails from pastors and their wives that, sadly, reinforce the truths written about in this article. We should all remember that our pastors are flesh and blood; they’re broken men who have families that need them like we do—and they need the same grace and love we do when they fall into sexual sin.

Pedestals are for statues, not shepherds.

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New Prayer Requests:

The following are a few of the prayer requests received this past month. When you have a moment. I encourage you to pray for a few of those who are there. These are real people with real marriages and families on the line.
Please pray for me and my husband. We’ve been married just over a year and our daughter’s only two months old. He’s addicted to porn and has come frighteningly close to actually cheating. He’s promissed to stop half a dozen times, but has been dishonest and hiding the fact that he keeps returning. I always find out and each time it hurts more and more. I just want the man back that I thought I had married. I want a Godly, Christian leader for my household. A man of faith and a man of prayer. Mostly, for myself, I want to be married to a truly faithful man. I can’t say that I am right now. Please pray for our marriage. It’s seriously a torture trap now for both of us, and we need help to survive and to heal.  Bear

Please pray that God gives me the strength to persevere thru this struggle. I am 39 and have suffered this evil since I was about 13. I never realized how much it would affect me in life, but now that I understand, it is a crushing, devastating realization. I feel I am not the man who God planned for me to be, and wonder just how much this sinful behavior altered my personality. I have never married and believe that my involvement with porn retarded my natural socialization process with women thru the years. I often worry that I am unqualified to deal with a mature relationship because of my lack of meaningful relationships thru this time. I have not dated much over the last several years, don’t feel proper heading into it when so depressed, insecure. On a good note, I have started therapy about 6 weeks ago; I made it through a month without looking at porn and masturbating, and then backslid. I knew this was going to be difficult, but it really hurts to be so powerless over lust when the urge just won’t leave. I am going to continue the fight; I have no choice. Please pray for me as I pray for all of you and may God in His infinite mercy free us from our demons and lead us to true love in Him, and hopefully a loving wife in my case. Greg
Please pray for my husband, that he will realize the damage that his porn use has done to him, and his family. Because of porn, he has lost his children, and we are still separated due to the anger/abuse that his porn use has caused. The damage to myself and the children has been great, yet we still love him very much, and would like him to get help with this addiction! Thanks for all the ways your ministry blesses families in need! Cheryl
Please pray for my husband and my family. I think my husband is addicted to sex and women. He also had an affair and expects me to be friends with this woman. We are suffering a lot (the children and myself). He is a wonderful person but this addiction to sex and women is destroying our family and our marriage. I don’t know how much longer I can continue. Please pray that he can give his heart to God. That he will be cured of this addiction and that his heart will soften for his family and that he can meet the right friends that can influence him in a positive way with good moral values.Thanks, Rolene

Please pray for my friend MD, he has been just left by his wife few days ago without being warned in advanced. She left him their son 17 yrs old and their daughter (16 yrs old). Please pray for him to have strength in this moment to lead his children, to lead the church (he is an elder) and to manage to keep his ministry (a local Christian radio station). Please pray also for her to go back home repented and ready to have a new beginning with her husband. Antonello

Please pray for me. I’ve been struggling with masturbation for several years now, so far unsuccessfully. Please ask God to strengthen me so that I might succeed in overcoming this habit that’s hurt me and everybody I know for so long. Thank you.  John

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Final Words More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phillippians 3:8-11

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I enjoy reading your feedback.

May God’s grace abound to you.

Mike Genung

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