Archive | November 2012

Book review and report of “Surfing for God” by Michael John Cusick

Book review and report of “Surfing for God” by Michael John Cusick

                “Surfing for God” is really amazing book of it kind which tries to find out what it means to be addicted, what are the factors behind a person getting addicted and how to come out of it. One amazing thing I notice in this book is it addresses the issue why many people take decision and why they are not able to overcome it in reality. Also it addresses why porn is so attractive to people. The personal experience of the author adds credibility to the subject dealt with. Also the way he connects story and personal instances with the subject makes the book interesting.

The author starts the book with an exciting quote from Bonhoffer, “The pursuit of purity is not about the suppression of lust, but about the reorientation of one’s life to a larger goal”. In the introduction chapter “What’s better than porn?” he talks how porn is using the deception, the hiddenness, and the damage to our souls. He also says two important statements people talk about porn like “I am tired of how little porn delivers” and “I am tired of the never-ending battle over lust.” Having said this he offers as to how Gospel has the power to free a person from porn. He also promises that one will find knowledge and understanding to help you identify the real issues contributing to sexual struggles so you can offer grace, hope, and guidance. The author puts the book in the plot of a rabbi and his young disciple.

In the first chapter “Getting your feathers back”, He expresses how the efforts of many people which come from deep and meaningful commitments of genuine surrender—only to return to masturbation and porn. He calls this a bipolar struggle. He also says that “identifying this struggle and acknowledging our failure to manage it gives us the hopeful building blocks of a growing belief and true maturity”. Another point he makes vehemently is that porn allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. He says God designed one to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. He says we are created to do something bigger and not to live a life of shame.

In the second chapter “it’s not about sex” he brings out the point your struggles with lust and porn are not actually about sex. The way you are sexually aroused reflects what’s happening deep in your soul, beyond your sexual organs. The point that lures many is that the reality is that your heart needs something, and porn promises to meet that need. He says From my experiences, research, and observations, porn promises fulfilment of five key desires, all without responsibility like: validation of our manhood without requiring strength, sexual fulfilment without relationship, intimacy without requiring risk and suffering, pass ion and life without connection to your soul, promises comfort and care without depending on others and power over women without responsibility and humility.

In the third chapter “Insatiable Thirst” he deals with lust. Quoting scriptures he puts how Desire and thirst are central to Christianity. Every sinful behaviour is rooted in a legitimate God-given appetite. So he first asks the readers to identify and write out fifty deep thirsts or longings in their hearts. He also offers a list which offers a straightforward way for you to begin to put words to what lies below the surface of your life. All the core thirsts are God-given appetites and longings. Once one has identified ones deepest desires, he can begin understanding why pornography is so alluring. One can see beyond the easy rationale of your body’s libido to the underlying longings of your soul. But the problem is Lust Is the Outcome of Disordered Desire. Disordered desire results from desires that are disowned, demanded, or misplaced. Disowned desire usually results from shame or pain. Demanded desire is the opposite of disowned desire because we demand relief from the pain of unmet thirst. When we misplace our desires, we direct our hearts toward something that takes the place of God’s good gifts. He warns that sexual desires expressed outside of God’s boundaries and design  causes damage and destruction.

In the next chapter “Gathering the Broken Pieces” he shows how we are broken men who must live from our brokenness. Our behavior is just the tip of the iceberg. Connecting these deep passions and purposes below the waterline to the behaviors, struggles, and issues above the waterline helps us recognize the cause of our confusing behavior. Understanding ourselves at this level is not about the “what” of our sin (I can’t stop looking at porn), but the “why” (porn promises to meet some need in me). The whys that explain our addictions can be categorized into four interwoven, underlying dimensions: wickedness, weaknesses, woundedness, and warfare. Our brokenness begins with our wickedness, accentuates our weakness, encompasses our woundedness and attracts the enemy’s warfare. The greatest barrier to the life of freedom that God desires for us is not our brokenness. It is brokenness unsurrendered.

In the fifth chapter “Exposing the Counterfeits” he explains about the counterfeit. Quoting Jesus tempted by Satan he exposes three counterfeits: COUNTERFEIT GOOD, COUNTERFEIT TRUTH and COUNTERFEIT WORSHIP. Then he says how Compulsive sexual sin, porn, and lust operate like our own little Disneyland—our Magic Kingdom—where we can escape our momentary struggles, pains, or boredom. What we see is the progression of compulsion. It starts when we turn away from God as our source of life and turn other things into idols that we’re convinced will satisfy our desires. We worship and serve “created things rather than the Creator”— that’s counterfeit worship. What we see is the progression of compulsion. It starts when we turn away from God as our source of life and turn other things into idols that we’re convinced will satisfy our desires. We worship and serve “created things rather than the Creator”— that’s counterfeit worship. it is never too late to exchange the false intimacy of images and illicit encounters for authentic relationships and God’s gifts. A living encounter with God is the destination. But first, we need to explore the obstacles that stand in the way of such an encounter.

“Shame and Core Beliefs” is the sixth chapter where he explains to us the ways of shame and overcoming it. In this chapter he categorically draws a difference between shame and guilt. “Guilt is the conviction we feel when we have violated some standard, when we have done wrong”. “Shame is a feeling (which quickly becomes a belief) that we are defective, flawed, bad, or worthless”. He goes on to bring out how sin initially brought shame. Whereas erstwhile they could be naked and unashamed before each other. God doesn’t shame us but hiding the brokenness brings us shame. With that he goes on to take the reader examine his core believes which make him to be ashamed like: “I Am Basically a Bad/Unworthy Person, Nobody Would Love Me as I Am, I Can’t Get My Needs Met by Depending on Others, and Sex Is My Most Important Need”. He then gives tips on overcoming the shame by following tips: By Pulling Back the Curtain and seeing us as we really are, “we overcome our shame by identifying the core beliefs and convictions that contradict God’s truth about who we are”, by “learning to practice true humility” (At the core of humility is trust—trusting God, and trusting others with who you are.)

In the seventh chapter “The Soul Snare path” where he explains why we actually take up the things that we renounced at a point of time. Then he explains what he calls as soul snare cycle where he talks about four elements in the cycle naming: soul brokenness—wickedness, woundedness, weakness, and warfare. This will lead to soul preoccupation a stage where passion works toward the pursuit of sexual gratification. Next stage is what he calls as soul snare where desire is put into action. The soul snare cycle then leads us to the soul shame stage. Here he gives a clear explanation as to how our brokenness fuels fire for this soul snare. Then he helps the reader to understand what triggers porn. “Internal triggers include feelings and thoughts. Emotions such as disappointment, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, anger, and boredom are common triggers. Physical feelings, including fatigue, headaches, hunger, or chronic pain, can also serve as internal triggers”. Before ending this chapter he makes aimportant point as to how shame fuels brokenness.

In the next chapter “Your Good heart” he talks about the role of Gospel in making a new heart for a man. Here he explains how our hearts “are bent in a direction away from God”. With the he explains the need for a heart transplant which can be done by the Gospel. He explains how “God has worked in such a way that our hearts that were bent away from God (before Christ) are now bent toward God because of Christ”. This new heart gives us true identity and true core belief as against the older core belief that leads us to shame.

The chapter with the title “The invisible battle” explains the spiritual war. Here he explains as to how satan makes sexuality as one of the targets in this war. Then he explain how he uses idols (an Omega watch or images of naked women, etc) gives satan opportunity in to enter in war after which he uses two important strategies to further deepen our bondage: footholds and strongholds. Then he gives the tips to break footholds and strongholds like: “announce the lie you have befriended”, “renounce the lie” and finally “pronounce the truth”.

The next chapter “Your brain on porn” is crucial as it brings it to us how brain is one’s most important sex organ. Then he goes on to prove how porn over stimulates our brain which causes brain to change and rewires the brain. Then he gives tips on rebooting our brain. The first step of rebooting as he mentions is defining objective. The objective describes the person he really want to become. Then he talks about 90 days of abstinence. Next step is being careful about cravings and being ready for relapse. He also gives more tips to rewire brain like: “Practice Intentional Thinking”, “Pursue Alternate Passions”, “Employ the Power of Repetition”

In the 11th chapter “Less is more” he deals with inner struggle. Here he tries to help us understand how the porn addict should try to transform his emptiness to listening to God’s voice in solitude. The next chapter “The Soul Care Highway” he deals with dealing with soul snare cycle. Here gives a counter cycle: soul brokenness, soul attentiveness, soul care and soul transformation. Here he gives practical suggestion like “Making the Connection Between Brokenness and Porn”, “Stalk Your Triggers”, “Interrogate Your Cravings” and finding out genuine thirst, “Surf Your Urges” and directing the focus to on one specific area where you are experiencing the urge and carrying tension. Then he asks the reader to ponder on the following questions and help one understand ones’ genuine need: What does my soul really need right now? What Does the Physical “You” Need? What Does the Relational “You” Need? What Does the Emotional “You” Need? What Does the Spiritual “You” Need?. The 13th chapter “Freedom to Live” explains various aspects of being free and focusing on God to have true freedom. The next  “Going under the knife” he talks about circumcision of heart. In the concluding chapter “Becoming the Hero that you are” the author reiterates the need for a fresh vision for life encourages the readers to completely kill the porn that controls a person.

The book is an awesome book of its kind where it analyzes various aspects of addiction including circumstances, emotion, physical and spiritual aspects. The way the author brings the pint with a proper blend of Spiritual insights from Word of God and psycho analytic details. The way the author deals with the topic with lot of real life incident gives credibility the details presented. The way it is presented in the backdrop of lot of allegories and illustrations makes the work interesting to read. In short this book is an awesome book which will definitely help the porn addict to come out of it.

Few important links regarding the book:

Amazon books: http://www.amazon.com/Surfing-God-Discovering-Beneath-Struggle/dp/0849947235

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Memories of My Father

My father.

My father Mr. Velayudan Chella Nadan is a person who influenced my life most. He went to be with the Lord before 10 yrs this same day. He comes from a poor Hindu family. In initial days he does not go to church. I too stay with him. For about 3 yrs I did this. I thank for that years of silence because these days helped me not just follow Christianity because I am born in a family where my mother is a Christian but helped me to think and take a decision for myself.. I am deeply indebted for him for my cultural understanding of Hinduism and socialism which I hold dear till many years. Every year I used to go with him to one particular temple in his village where we see festivals. I admire him for his taste for literature. He always discuss Tamil literature with us. He also amuze us by singing his time favourit cini songd from movies of Shivaji Ganesan, MGR and others. One of the famous song that he sings is still echoing in my heart “varavu ettana, selavu pathana from movie Bama Vijayam (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbNvYE54KPA which obviously portrayed his way of managing finance. My mother used to get irritated on hearing movie songs). That has come into my blood too. He is really a hard worker. Apart from teaching in school he is actively involved in tilling field. He himself tills the ground to plant banana tree, tapioca, other roots, chilli, spinach, tomato, etc. He himself carry water and water them. He is very good in socializing with people unlike me. Every morning he wakes up in the morning @ 4.00, cut vegetables for my mother and then go to have a chat with friends and have a zip of tea in a village shop (of which my mother highly disapproved). He was there to extend help to whomever approached him. I remember him encouraging atleast 5-6 people to apply for government exam. He himself had taken pains to take some of them to interview spots to different pars of Tamil Nadu and today many of them are teachers. He was very thorough with government rules and regulations. Every other days someone will come to our home either to fill some application form or ask some guidance in this terms. All the people in my village hold him in high regard for this. Whenever my strict mother beats me he always come to help me and scolds my mother for that. I remember those days when pappa comes after any out station visit we will be waiting for some ‘pandam’ (some eatable snacks). He wanted me to become an agricultural officer. But I became a Bible teacher. I hope for a day when I can see Him in heaven. I thank God for His help for helping me, sister Benila Bensan  and mummy inspite of difficult times we faced.

Vulnerable Campus life; Handle with holiness

Vulnerable Campus life; Handle with holiness

“Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written,
‘You shall be holy, for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:15‐16).

What is Holiness?[1]

The biblical definition of “holiness”:

The basic Old Testament Hebrew word for “holy”, as an adjective, is, , qadoˉs. The noun form describes “holiness” while the verb form means “to sanctify.” The root meaning in the Old Testament is that of “purity which is set apart from impurity,”

In the New Testament, the parallel word is ἅγιος, hagios, which, via the Greek language, heavily draws upon the Hebrew concept, and thus has the closely related meaning of “moral purity, sanctity, consecration, veneration”.

What does Holiness means to a Christian?

Holiness means we have God’s standard of righteousness. The Bible reveals it as “Be holy, for I [the LORD your God] am holy.” (Lev. 11:44; cf. I Pet. 1:15‐16). “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” (Deut. 18:13). Holiness also means the Christian is set apart from that which is alien to the moral character of God. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). “Now flee from youthful lusts” (II Tim. 2:22a). Also the Christian is set apart unto that which is in harmony with the moral character of God, this being positive holiness. Having been saved by “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:16‐17; 3:21‐26), the Christian will have an inclination to live “sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit. 2:13). “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you [Israel] apart from the peoples to be mine” (Lev. 20:26); “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (I Tim 6:11; cf. II Tim. 2:22b).

The campus we have today:

Today we live in times when Godly standards are mocked upon. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude of compromise has held fast the campus inmates. Many innocent students enter the campus with all good standards. But by the time they leave the campus they are completely stripped off from their moral codes and conducts. I was surprised when one of my friends told that more than medicines condoms are sold in a medical store near a renowned Christian deemed University in our nation. I was shocked when one of my students told me that his roommate cannot sleep without drugs (intake as liquid or injection or smelling). Students who held not to smoke as their values start smoking, students who did not know what it means to take drugs become addicts to it during their stay in campus. Another evil that is prevailing in campuses is pornography. Nobody knows what is going. But many students live and die with the guilt of this evil. With the advent of High court verdict that permits gay sex many homosexual and lesbian relationships are going in the campuses. Another vice we see is pre marital sex and live in relationship that is opposed to Biblical standards.

Apart from these there are lot of unholy activities that go on which are directly related to the educational system. Today students do not give very much importance to their projects or researches. Instead of working hard they copy from other works (what is known as plagiarism) and present it as their own work. Another unholy activity which is known to all is cheating in examinations.

What does Holiness means to the inmate of campus:

The times we live is not at all conducive to live a Holy life as I explained above. But then God expects us to live a Holy life in all walks of life. What I primarily mean by living a Holy life is, (as explained above) having a life with Godly standard and abstaining from all defilement of flesh and spirit. It also means we have a holy standard in what we watch, what we speak, the way we relate to our friends, elders, relatives, teachers, etc, and having a holy standard in fulfilling our responsibilities (as a student or lecturer or so on,

How to deal with unholy lifestyle in campus:

Being God conscious: We have an excellent example of Joseph in Genesis where he was given an opportunity to sin but He could overcome it. The key reason is He was God conscious. “…How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Gen 39:9

Reflecting on Holiness of God: In Isaiah 6th chapter we find Isaiah encountering God’s Holiness. At that instant He was cleansed from His sins. Reflecting on God’s holiness helps one to know his sins and take right measures.

Being strong in God’s Word: Being strong in the Word of God is a key to live a Holy life. In Psal 119:1 the psalmist says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When we saturate our minds with that of God’s word when we are about to enter into temptation we will rightly hear a voice which will stop us from sinning. We can also remember the ways Lord Jesus dealt with temptation when He was tempted by satan

Being in a strong fellowship: Being in a fellowship is key to overcome sin. One of the important aspects of fellowship is helping one another. Heb 10:24, 29 says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” .

Personal sharing: Having a prayer partner with whom we can share our struggles (provided the other person is ready to keep them confidently) helps us to live a holy life in campus. Being a mentee is one of the important aspects senior people can consider to guide junior students in living a holy life. Ecc 4:9 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”

Having healthy relationship with opposite sex: We should have a healthy relationship with our friends of opposite sex. We should hold on to Biblical values as key even when we have different cultural values. Matthew 5:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  This applies to the male folks as well. We have to behave with our opposite sex with holy eyes. Each member of the opposite sex deserves respect. Bible also says “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” I tim 5:1,2

Practical tips in Dealing with pornography:[2]

Pornography is the vice that is killing lakhs of students. Christians are no exception. Your friend or any other person may not know about this but you may be burning with guilt and shame inside being unable to come out of this addiction.

Why porn is so compelling?

The thirsts we have when unfulfilled takes us to pornography. Making a list of thirst of one’s soul helps one to understand what triggers one to pornography. Some of the thirsts may be :

• Attention—I long for people to like me. I long for your embrace.

• Affection—I long to be enjoyed. I long to be delighted in. I long for you to take pleasure in who I am.

• Affirmation—I long to know I have what it takes. I long for your blessing.

• Acceptance—I long to belong. I long to be desired.

• Satisfaction—I long for fullness. I long for well-being.

• Significance—I long for impact. I long for meaning. I long to be powerful.

• Security—I long to know I will be okay.

Lust is also the outcome of our disordered desires or failures or brokenness we encountered. Especially irritation, loneliness, reminiscence of the deception you encountered, failed love relationship, etc can lead you to pornography.

 

How to overcome pornography?

  1. Have exclusive fasting and prayer continuously to come out of this evil.
  2. Delete all porn material you have in any form (book, cd, search history, etc).
  3. Identify your triggers (some brokenness, unfulfilled desire or some affection) which lead you to pornography. Having identified your triggers try to find what other way can these needs be met.
  4. Identify some of the circumstances that lead you to pornography. One example may be seeing an attractive wall poster.
  5. Do not browse when you are alone or in your private room. Have limited data pack. Write the objectives and work to do with a time limit before sitting to browse. Do not delete search history.
  6. If needed install softwares that filters porn. K9 security is one good software to filter porn. You can also use accountability software covenant eyes. Both have powerful free versions as well.

Remember sometimes you may have a relapse. Don’t worry fight again. Have a accountability partner and share with him. In a course of time with prayer God will help you to overcome.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Holiness in relation to ones education:

It is very important as believers to have Godly standards in all aspects of our education as well. The way we do our projects, term papers, class tests, assignments, examinations, home works, etc should show to others that Christian students will have a holy attitude in academic aspects as well. In Isaiah and Jeremiah and in many of the minor prophets we find people reap the punishment for wrong standards. God expects Godly standard in the way we relate to our educational system. Same applies to working inmates of campus as well. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. Bile also says “…approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:10-11

Conclusion:

God the holy one who is praised “Holy, Holy, Holy” by the angels want the citizens of the Kingdom of God to have Godly standards and shun from what is evil. This holiness is to be reflected in all aspects of our life. When Daniel was taken to a new situation (a new campus indeed!) he decided not to defile himself. Can we also take this stand as we stay in our respective campuses?

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” Daniel 1:8


[2] Adapted from the book Surfing for God written by Michael John Cusick. Thomas Nelson, Inc publication 2012.