The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.

Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Not the righteous, but people who make mistakes.

Not the righteous, but people who went too far in their last relationship.

Not the righteous, but people who haven’t read their Bible since forever.

He came for screw-ups, basket-cases, burn-outs, knuckle-heads, weirdos, the sick, the lame, the miserable. 

For You. Me. Us.

The tragedy is that every time life reminds us that we’re sinners, we feel like maybe we don’t measure up to this Jesus thing.

But Jesus did not come to call the righteous.  He came for sinners.

He came for people who’ve cheated.

He came for people who’ve been too afraid to step out in the first place.

He came for home-wreckers. For people with blood on their hands.  For people with sex on their brain.

He came for addicts, failures, and losers. And even for people who look down on addicts, failures, and losers.

For You. Me. Us.

He came to teach us a new life that isn’t that way.  But he came knowing full well the life we’ve already lived.

Tomorrow, you may fall again.  If not tomorrow, soon.  And when it happens, when you do the unthinkably terrible for the first time, or simply the terribly familiar for the thousandth time, you will be tempted.

Tempted to think that this Jesus thing isn’t for you.  Tempted to think your actions prove you didn’t make the cut.

But in that moment, remember.  Remember that Jesus loves you.  Remember that Jesus wants you.  And, then, remember:

Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Secret Weapons For Your Fight Against Lust – Volume 3!!!

Ok, my friends.  It’s time for another SECRET WEAPON as we figure out how to stand our ground against lust.

Before we get started, here’s what I want you to know: all of us here in Chicago believe in you.  We love you.  We stand with you.  And we know that, day by day, bit by bit, you can walk forward on this thing.

That’s right, I’m talking to *you*.

Ok.  Let’s DO THIS.  It’s time for SECRET WEAPON NUMBER 3!

Finding A New 10 Minute Mood Changer”

The average time spent on a porn website is not even 9 minutes.  (Technically, it’s 8:56.)  Now, forgive me for being a little blunt, but this isn’t a huge surprise.  Those of us who have struggled with porn (that being everyone, everywhere on earth) know how this thing works.  Step 1 is ‘find something on a porn site that gets you all hot and bothered’.  Step 2 is ‘have an orgasm.’  And Step 3 is ‘huh, my interest in this porn website has just dramatically decreased!’

Now, if you talk to people about why they look at porn, what you’ll find out is that many – and sometimes most – of the reasons have little or nothing to do with sex.  Folks look at porn because they’re stressed out, because they’re bored, because they’re lonely…and they want something to make them feel better.  That makes sense.  And, of course, as you probably know, orgasms influence your brain chemistry, so, in a literal sense, the process is making you feel better.

With that in mind, let’s do a thought-experiment.  Pretend with me that you’d never heard of porn.  And I tell you, there’s a thing that, in about 10 minutes, will help you to feel better, whether you’re bored or stressed or lonely or tired.

If you’re like me, you’d say, “That sounds great!  Tell me more!”  And that would be the right response – who doesn’t want to have something they can do in 10 minutes to help them feel better?

The good news is this: porn is not the only thing that can help you feel better in 10 minutes.

Here’s just a quick list of things you can do in 10 minutes that will pretty much always help you to mentally relax and feel better:

  • Get up, walk out the door, and grab a cup of coffee
  • Put on some music real loud and bust out your best dance moves
  • Get out your guitar and sing some of your favorite worship tunes
  • Put on your shoes and go for a quick run
  • Write an email to a friend and tell them how much you appreciate them 

Any of these things can be done in about 10 minutes, and you’ll feel better at the end of all of them.  Whether you’re lonely, bored, stressed – this stuff will help.  Sure, none of these things is a cure for stress or loneliness, but that’s not the point.

The point is that we all need 10-Minute-Mood-Changers in our lives.  (Porn just happens to not be a good one.)  We all need little things we can do to help us relax and get out of a funky headspace. And I bet that you can build on this list.  I bet you can come up with even better 10-Minute-Mood-Changers, and ones that would work really well for you and your situation.

Here’s a bonus secret weapon.  Keep a list, on your phone, of your favorite mood changers.  And when you start to feel lonely or tired or whatever – something that’s gonna try and tempt you to turn to lust – open up that list.  Cause you know these are all things that will help.  Then, pick one, and go do it.

At the end of that ten minutes, I bet you two things.  First, you’ll feel better – you won’t be as tired or stressed or bored as you were 10 minutes ago.  And, second, because you’re feeling better, your desire to look at something lustful has gone down quite a little bit.

You can do it.  You can find things that will help you change your mood in 10 minutes, and that will help you stand firm against lust.

We love you.  Keep your head up.

image

Secret Weapons for Your Fight Against Lust – Vol. 2!!!

This is post number 2 in our new series of SECRET WEAPONS to help in your fight against lust.  You ready to ROCK THIS THING??

Before anything else, remember this: You can do it.  You can move forward on this, a piece at a time, and that’s just right.  Nobody’s expecting you to be perfect.  In point of fact, that’s why we need Jesus.  We all struggle with this arena, we all feel tempted, and you’re not alone. 

So, the goal is improvement.  And you can do it.  We believe in you.

With that in mind, here’s SECRET WEAPON NO. 2!

Always Know What Day It Is”

Here in Chicago, we work with a lot of folks coming out of drug addiction.  And for folks in addiction recovery, the most tempting day of the week is…payday.

Think about it: on payday, you’re walking around with a pocket full of money, and so your odds of giving in to temptation go way up, ‘cause it’s so much easier to do.

There’s a similar phenomenon with porn.  Porn sites see more traffic on Monday than any other day of the week. 

Now, that could be because people are bored at the beginning of their week.  And, plenty of people don’t have anything going on during Monday evening, so maybe it’s the free-time.  But, either way, your average person is more likely to look at porn on Monday than any other day of the week.

So, what does that mean for you?  You probably have a most-tempting-day, too.  It may not be Monday, but I bet you have one.  If you think back over the last few weeks, I bet there’s a day each week where you’re more likely to get tripped up by temptation.

Take a second and think about it – and don’t waste any time feeling ashamed.  Just think back and see if there’s a day that sticks out as particularly tempting.

If you found that you have a particular day out of the week where the temptation is strongest, then the next step is to make sure that, as much as possible, you keep that day busy and filled with a lot of good fellowship.

So, say your day is Monday.  Maybe you’re done with school or work around 4, and you just have a big stretch of time before you, and that creates a lot of temptation.  The answer is to fill that time.  Make a tradition to go to dinner with your friends every Monday night.  Make Monday afternoon your bookstore time where you go and find some cool new book or album to check out.  Maybe set-up a little prayer meeting with some buddies late on Monday night.

Either way, if you find the day that you’re most likely to be tempted, and structure it to reduce that temptation, you’ll have just taken a great big step forward in your fight against lust.

You can do it.  We believe in you.

New Series: Secret Weapons for your Fight Against Lust!

A lot of folks who read this blog are struggling with lust.  (There’s no shame – we’ve all been there.  Seriously.  All of us.)

That struggle can get discouraging because, at a certain point, it feels we’re just falling over and over again, with no improvement in sight.

If that’s where you’re at, I’m sorry.  All of us here in Chicago love you, and we believe in you, and we’re praying for you.

And, we want to help.  So, today, we’re kicking off a new series on SECRET WEAPONS to use in your fight against lust.

But here’s the important part – in the spirit of spy movies everywhere, these secret weapons come FROM BEHIND ENEMY LINES!!!

See, one of the largest porn sites in the world regularly publishes a bunch of data about when, where, and how often people access their webpage.  (You don’t have to see anything naughty to get the data – folks like Gizmodo write it up.)

And that data gives us some really key strategies for combating lust more effectively.

Here’s today’s SECRET WEAPON!

“Anything You’re Excited About Will Help Keep You Away From Porn”

Ok.  This will sound obvious the moment I say it, but bear with me.  Anything you’re excited about and putting your attention and focus on will keep you from looking at porn.  I’ll explain.

Have a TV show you’re excited about?  You aren’t watching porn while you’re watching Dr. Who.

Your team made the playoffs and the big game is tonight?  You aren’t watching porn while you’re watching LeBron and the Heat get after it.

Celebrating the Holidays with family or friends? If you’re unwrapping gifts then you’re not…well, you get where this is going.

Check this out – porn usage goes down by about 30% on Christmas Day.  It goes down by about 30% during major sporting events.  Heck, important TV shows (say, the finale of The Walking Dead) can knock down porn traffic by 10%.

What does this mean for you?  One SECRET WEAPON in your struggle against lust is to develop hobbies and interests and a social life - things you’re excited about – and make sure that those are peppered throughout your week.  Because, when you’re busy watching Sherlock with your friends and cutting up and having fun and getting some good fellowship going, not only are you not looking at anything naughty, you’re actually getting built up and getting strength for those moments when you don’t have something fun going on.

So take some time this week to think about the hobbies and events and get-togethers you’re gonna make sure are in your life to give you some breathing room as the Lord helps you get stronger at dealing with lust.

We love you.  Keep your head up.

image

Go Now, And Leave Your Life Of Sin

We’re all supposed to believe that God forgives us.  And, sure, intellectually, we do.  But, for a lot of us, that just isn’t how we feel.

Truth is, we don’t feel forgiven.  We don’t feel “free”.  No, for a lot of us, we feel dirty, used-up, and out of second chances.  We might know that isn’t true, but that knowledge doesn’t change the feeling.

If you feel that way, this is for you.

There’s an amazing moment in the Bible where Jesus comes face-to-face with a woman caught in the act of sinning.  And, I’m talking about big old embarrassing sexual sin, the kind you hope nobody ever finds out about.

Jesus says two things to this woman. First, he says, “I do not condemn you.”  Second, he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (You can read the whole story in John chapter 8.)

Now, the first one - I don’t condemn you - that sounds about right.  I mean, Jesus is supposed to forgive people, so, that makes sense.

But let’s look at that second one.  "Go now and leave your life of sin."

If you asked most people what it means to leave a “life of sin”, they’d say, “Simple!  Stop doing bad stuff!”  But I’m not sure that’s exactly it.

See, sin, at its core, is about selfishness.  It’s a focus on me, and what I think might satisfy me at any given moment, regardless of anybody else.  By contrast, a life driven by God’s Spirit is a life focused on God, what God wants, and what God is doing.  (For more on this, check out the book of Galatians, and especially chapter 5.)

So, then, if our hearts and thoughts are consumed with beating up on ourselves for past sins, and trying to grit our teeth and whip ourselves to resist present temptations, sin is still the thing at the center of our lives.  We’re focused on our jacked-up mess, and what the heck is wrong with us, and how terrible we are.

Here’s what the Bible says about that:

"Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored." (Romans 8:8, MSG)

Whoa.  That does not sound good.  Ok.  So, what do we do instead?

We recognize that leaving a life of sin is about, well, leaving a life of sin.  It’s about putting something else at the center of our thoughts and energies.  It’s about having a life driven by something other than the draw and repulsion of sin.

If you want to leave your life of sin, I’ve got two suggestions for you.

First, don’t wait around for your emotions to agree with what God is telling you. He says you stand forgiven, and you do.  Waiting for 100% buy-in from your feelings…that’s a very long wait.

Second, take the focus off of yourself, and put it onto loving other people. 

It sounds funny to say it out loud, but, people who are hurting, people who are going through a rough time, they don’t care what you’ve done in your past.  The lonely kid in class who cuts himself?  If you’re willing to talk to him and be a friend, he’s not going to double check the last time you looked at porn before accepting your company.  The homeless guy at the soup kitchen who hasn’t eaten in three days?  He couldn’t care less if you went too far physically with your last boyfriend.  It just doesn’t matter.

And when you start to focus on loving other people, instead of obsessing over your sins, you’ll begin to realize, for yourself, that the sins don’t matter in the way you thought they did.  Sure, they were wrong.  Yes, we want to work on not doing them.  But they don’t define you.  They don’t tell you who you are.  And they don’t tell you what your life is about.

Beloved, leave your life of sin.  Leave your life of guilt and shame and introspection and obsession.  Jesus has a real life he wants to give you – a life following Him, a life serving others – and, I promise, it’s absolutely amazing.

What is the point of waiting til marriage for sex if you’ve already had sex in the past?

elleinwonderland asked you:
What is the point of waiting til marriage for sex if you’ve already had sex in the past? I’m trying to do things ‘right’ in my current relationship having done a lot of things I regret in the past - but every time one of my friends asks me this question I hear this little voice in my head saying ‘yeah, that’s a good point.’ Not a voice I want to give into - but how can I explain this, both to myself and to non-Christians in a way that doesn’t look preachy? X

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Elly,

Sis, I totally appreciate your question.  And it makes sense.  And I’m glad you asked.

When God says to save sex for marriage, it’s not because he has a bizarre fixation on people being virgins on their wedding night.  No, he says it because sex forges an emotional bond between the two people involved.  Sex forges that bond because that’s what it’s designed to do.  When that bond is forged between two people who have made a commitment to be with each other, no matter what (which is what a marriage is), then everything works great.  The emotional bond matches the relational bond.  But when that bond is forged between two people who aren’t quite sure and they’ll see how it goes, well, people get hurt.

Whenever God says, “don’t”, what he’s saying is “don’t hurt yourself.”  People can drone on about the idea of casual sex all they want, but as you and I both know, it doesn’t work.  At it’s best, casual sex is hype – the thing you keep telling yourself will be amazing, and keeps being really not that.  And at its worst, it really, really breaks our hearts.

God doesn’t want to see you get your heart broken.  That’s why.  Your heart is really important to him, and he wants you to guard it carefully (Proverbs 4:23).

And, let’s keep it real for a second: there isn’t an orgasm worthy of heartache.  And the fact that you’ve had sex in the past and got hurt doesn’t make it a good idea to do again today, any more than the fact that I’ve had one broken toe implies that I wouldn’t be bothered by a second.  Sex is not a separate category of sin where once you’ve done it, all bets are off.  I deal with drug dealers as a part of my day job, and no one is trying to tell them that since they’ve sold crack before, it doesn’t matter if they do it again.

But I’d like to add one more thing for you to look at.  And that is this: if you want a really amazing, Godly relationship, then don’t waste your time worrying about how wrong it can be and still work.  Start asking how right and good and amazing it can be.  There will come a day (when you’re married) when God will say, “It’s time for sexy time to commence and never cease.”  Between now and then, while there are some things God is saying “no” to, there’s a host of things he’s saying “yes” to – like encouraging each other, building each other up, serving Jesus together – and I’d encourage you to take a hold of those things with both hands.

Church People Hated Me For Loving Gay People

thereareangelsinyourangles asked you:
I feel weird asking this to someone whose blog I just found, but you seem like someone with a good heart & a lot of wisdom. I used to be a “strong Christian” & when I reached out to a gay community without saying “you’re living in sin, God wants you to change”, I was ostracized by my fellow believers, found myself losing a lot of confidence & fell into the throes of an eating disorder. I still believe in God but I’m so caught up in where I am & I don’t know how to get back to where I was.

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Kylie,

Thanks for your note, my friend.  And no need to feel weird – that’s what I’m here for.

I’m sorry that happened to you.  It sucks, and it’s not OK.

You said that you don’t know how to get back to where you were.  I totally hear that.  If you’ll permit me to say so, I think the challenge before you is not to get back to where you were – because you can’t, and I don’t think you’d want to – but, rather, to figure out where we go next.

Before we can move forward, though, we have to deal with the past.  Here’s what we know:

  • Reaching out to folks who don’t know Jesus is good.
  • Jesus was known – and criticized – for being a “friend of sinners”, just like you were.
  • When Jesus told people that they were living in sin and needed to change, he was usually talking to the religious people, who are the very people that mistreated you.
  • When Jesus was talking to “sinners”, He loved on them and told them to hang out with him and just rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

(And, so you know where I’m coming from, I love gay people.  Period.  And anybody that has a problem with that can meet me and Jesus in the parking lot.)

Now, then, if we look at the past, what we see is a young gal trying to follow the example of Jesus, and having a bunch of so-called Christians persecute her for it.  And, sis, I’m terribly, terribly sorry that that happened.

You said that this shook your confidence and wreaked havoc on some self-image struggles.  And that makes sense: it’s very difficult to have a group of people hating on you and decide that they’re the problem.

But here’s what we need to decide, in order to move forward: they – the church people – were, in point of fact, the problem.  They sucked.  They sinned.  And they were the problem; not you.

Here’s what the Bible says…

“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you… There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!” (Matthew 10:21-23, MSG)

And, one more.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42, NASB)

I think, Kylie, that if we can make up our mind that you were not the problem, then that actually opens the door to moving into something truly amazing.  And that is a relationship with God that’s just you and Him.  Nobody else is invited, and nobody else gets a say.

To grow as a Christian past a certain (very early) point, one must decide that it’s just them and God.  And that keeps a lot of people from growing further, because they want their relationship with God to be decided by committee.  But you, sis, because of this terrible experience you’ve gone through, have the advantage of already knowing that a great number of so-called Christians are completely full of it.

Your walk with God should scare other people.  And when it does, press farther.  They don’t like you loving gay people?  Love gay people harder.  Volunteer at the AIDS hospice.  Get involved with a group like Emmaus that does outreach to gay prostitutes here in Chicago.  Refuse to quit.  Never, ever give up.

Along the way, you will find a (small) community of fellow believers that get you, love you, and have your back.  And that is a great blessing. 

One more quick thing.  God is with you, Kylie.  He loves you desperately, and he is torn between sorrow for the way his daughter hurts, and anger for the way she was treated.  He’s not giving up on you, and he’s not ashamed to be your Dad.  No matter what’s happened in the last bit of your life, he’s not deterred in his love for you.  And he’s not scared of the hurt and confusion inside of you.  I’m betting that His strongest desire is for you to get all of that out in the open with Him so he can tell you this: “They were wrong.  And I love you.”

You are your Father’s daughter, Kylie.  You have his heart, sister.  I know, because I can see the family resemblance.  Don’t give up. 

89 plays

Happy Sunday, y’all!  

Here’s a song about when Jesus healed a guy that was really sick with a terrible disease called leprosy (check out Mark 1:40).  I was thinking about that story, and it reminded me of how much that’s the exact thing Jesus has done for me.  So I wrote this song.

I Want To

Yeah, and nobody would touch me
Nobody wanted me in town

I had to tell them I was dirty
If any of ‘em ever came around

Then I said you know you can heal me
Then I said you know you can

And you said I want to, I want to, I do
So I’ll touch you, and I’ll make you like new
Because I love you, I love you, I do

And I had nothing going for me
I had no future, none at all

I was dying more than a little at a time
Yeah, even more than we all are

Then I said you know you can heal me
Then I said you know you can

And you said I want to, I want to, I do
So I’ll touch you, and I’ll make you like new
Because I love you, I love you, I do

Why Is Sex Before Marriage Wrong?

Anonymous asked:
I know that I’m not supposed to have sex before marraige, but I’m not sure I really understand why. The boy I’m with is christian too, and we try and follow the bible in other ways but with sex- I’m the only one to question it and often say no. His argument is always ‘we’re going to get married anyway so it cant be a problem’. I don’t know how this stands biblically. Can you help me? Thanks Jed, love your blog

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Anon,

Thanks for the kind words – I’m really glad you dig the blog.

Before we go any further, you deserve an apology.  See, you wouldn’t need to ask this question if people who called themselves Christians hadn’t made a total mess of marriage.  If the folks who came before you had lived up to God’s idea of marriage, you’d be able to readily see that sex in a Godly marriage is beautiful and comfortable and passionate and satisfying in ways that it cannot be outside of one.

But I know folks haven’t modeled that for you, and, so, you’re made to wonder what the point in waiting is.  And that isn’t fair to you, and, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

As it turns out, there’s a huge difference between sex as it is commonly practiced in our culture, and sex as God intended it.    In our culture, sex is just bodies.  It’s just two bodies coming together and doing what bodies do.  And, really, outside of the health implications, how is that different from a friend giving you a backrub?  I mean, both sex and backrubs involve your body and giving and receiving pleasure.  And, I suppose if your friend has the flu, you could get sick from the backrub, too.

But here’s what’s missing from that equation: trust, vulnerability, and intimacy.

See, in God’s idea of marriage and sexuality, sex is about far, far more than the body.  Sex is the ultimate human answer to the question, “Here I am – do you really want me?”

I bet that, when you were little, you knew somebody who had a crush on somebody else, and they wrote a note that said, “I like you. Do you like me?  Check one: [ ]yes [ ] no.”  Well, see, we, as humans, don’t ever truly grow out of that.  Romantic relationships are, at their core, the process of revealing more and more of yourself to your beloved and daring to ask, “Do you still want me?”

This process of ever-growing trust, vulnerability, acceptance, and resultant intimacy reaches its peak with sex.  You are, in a literal sense, presenting yourself naked before your spouse, and posing the question, “Here I am completely unguarded.  Will you accept me?”

Well, see, in the context of a Godly marriage, you can pose that question with complete confidence, because you know that the answer will always be, “Heck yes!”

In a Godly marriage, you know that your partner accepts you mind, body, and spirit, and has promised to do whatever is necessary so that that will always be true.  They have promised, “You can trust me, no matter what.”  And that trust gives you the freedom to be utterly vulnerable.  And when we’re vulnerable and accepted, that leads to real intimacy.  And real intimacy that leads to sex (instead of vice versa) is basically the most awesome thing ever.  It is also – I promise – the best sex you can have.

Outside of a Godly marriage – which, unfortunately includes a lot of real-life marriages – you don’t have that promise of unwavering trustworthiness.  You have how I feel about you today, and maybe how I feel about you tomorrow.  And that’s it. 

Well, see, true trust can’t exist in that context.  And without trust, we can’t have real vulnerability.  And without vulnerability, we can’t have real intimacy.  And without real intimacy, all we’ve got is bodies being bodies.

But the problem, Anon, is that, despite what our culture says, our brains can’t accept that sex is just bodies being bodies.  Our brains are convinced that sex goes with intimacy, so, when we have sex, our brains decide that there’s intimacy there, whether there really is or not.  And then things don’t work out - which no one promised they would - and we get really hurt.

So that’s why.  Sex is meant to be both the celebration and the outcome of a lifelong, committed relationship, which is what marriage is.  Sex outside of that is just a pale shadow that, health concerns aside, only sets us up to get our hearts broken.

Sunday Morning Boxing

Tomorrow, the odds are, you will show up for church.  And when you do, I bet there’s part of you that looks around at all the neat, tidy, squared-away people in that sanctuary and thinks: “What am I doing here?  They all have this Christian thing figured out so much better than me.  I’m barely pulling it off.  And I don’t belong here.”

If you’re feeling that way, for what it’s worth, I understand.  And so does God.  But, he doesn’t agree.

The Bible says that “all have sinned”, and that means that, tomorrow, when you walk into church, there’s nothing but sinners.  There aren’t some really holy folks and some really terrible evil people.  There’s just sinners.  Which means you fit right in.

The truth is, church is a place for people who have made mistakes.  Church is a place for people who regret things they’ve done in the past week.  Church is where you go when you’re barely holding on.

But here’s the thing about feeling like you’re barely holding on, like you’re barely pulling it off…that isn’t something to be ashamed of.  In a boxing match, when they ring the bell to end one round and boxer dude gets a break, he staggers over to his coaching people, to his corner, with blood all over him, barely able to see straight.  He’s barely holding on, and his people aren’t looking down on him for it.  They understand: he just got the crap beat out of him.  That’s what boxing is.

Well, see, when you show up for church, that’s your break from the boxing match of your life.  That’s your corner, where your coaches are waiting to give you rest, encouragement, strategy, and everything you need to go another round.  You might feel like you’re hanging by a thread, but, baby, you’re there.  Sure, you took some blows to the face.  And we’ll figure out how to keep our guard up a little better for next week.  But you made it through the round, and that’s the victory.

So hold your head high.  Walk through those doors knowing that you fit right in, and that this time is there to equip you, strengthen you, and give you what you need to go another round trading blows with the devil and the world.  You might walk through those doors bloody and bruised, but if you’re walking through them, you’re a champion all the same.