07 May 2020
It is an incredible gift that the Lord would use difficult circumstances like the coronavirus pandemic to graciously give you significant insight into yourself and to change you into the image of Jesus.
You can also read the blog, Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing, which corresponds to this video.
For additional reading, you might consider God, You, and Sex: A Profound Mystery by David White or Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex by John Freeman. When you buy these books from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
In this post, you’ll hear from women and men whom our staff know personally. These brothers and sisters in Christ are seeking to stand firm in obedience during the unusual circumstances forced upon them through the COVID-19 pandemic. They are battling well by fleeing sexual and relational temptations through the daily graces that God provides to all believers. As you read their words, perhaps you’ll be encouraged afresh to flee your personal temptations through the mercies that are yours in the Lord.
“Prayer is being used of God to help me focus on Christ and the hope that I have in him! This slower, quieter, at-home pace of life has meant fewer distractions from prayer, as well as unique need for prayer, and I rejoice to be nearer to him.”
“Instead of seeing my temptations—being afraid and anxious, or finding comfort and security in sexual sin—exclusively as invitations to evil, I have begun using them as signposts to remind me to run to Christ and keep my focus on him. It is easy to forget God when going through the normal rhythms of daily life, but, when life gets tough, the suffering and temptation to sin reminds me of the truth that I need God all the time!”
“During my prayer time, I have been using the Psalms as a guide to help me verbalize the troubles of my heart and to remind me of who my God is. Being transparent with God about how I feel and taking time to think about his character has helped to stabilize my heart during these uncertain times!”
“What’s helped me during this time has been cutting off sources that fuel my temptation: TV, movies, music, social media. I’ve been trying to starve my temptations as much as possible. Also, I’ve been consistent in my time with God, pouring my heart out in worship.”
“Completing my workbook assignments in Sexual Sanity for Women (SSFW) has kept me disciplined and reminds me that I always need to be on guard from the enemy’s schemes. Isolation can lead to destructive behaviors that leave scars on my soul, and SSFW reminds me that I must lean on him constantly and never let go!”
“During this time of forced isolation, it’s important for me to stay in contact with my accountability partners. I have to make a conscious effort to call, text, or video chat with them to bring temptations into the light, because that is where they lose their power.”
“As often as possible, I download Christian teaching from my favorite conference speakers, online sermons, or other edifying podcasts and listen to them while working or on a break. This has kept my mind engaged on the Lord and kingdom-living, rather than allowing my mind to wander into lustful thought patterns and fruitless habits. This has an added benefit of providing edifying material to discuss with my wife and others.”
These dear brothers and sisters are living out practical theology while they draw near to Christ, our true “way of escape,” as Paul beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 10:13-14. My former colleague, David White, explained the beauty of looking to Christ when the battle rages:
“Jesus is the way of escape because he knows your pain specifically! ‘For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18). How was he tempted? Lest you think his experience was different, Hebrews tells us, ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). Listen to that hope! He has suffered the same temptations you experience. Therefore, right in the midst of your battle with temptation, his help is real and substantial. Knowing that Jesus suffered like you, but did so victoriously, is a deep source of strength and comfort. He alone knows exactly what you need, because he alone knows exactly what it takes, having endured the same temptations, but without ever failing.”
Our direct ministry staff team is honored to jump into the trenches with people day after day, pointing them to our Lord Jesus, our ever-present help in every need and every period of history.
If you’ve been helped and encouraged by our ministry, would you consider giving to Harvest USA today? Even during COVID-19, we remain dependent on God’s sustaining grace and the generous partnership of his people. Thank you for standing with us as we joyfully engage the battle for the advancement of God’s kingdom!
16 Apr 2020
I recently googled “coronavirus,” and guess how many links showed up? Almost eleven billion! I’d guess that at least ten billion of those links contain bits of news and stories from around the globe that would provoke anxiety in my heart, so I chose not to take the click bait. I resisted!
In these days of 24/7 media coverage featuring all things COVID-19, where are you looking for comforting news? Many of us move unconsciously from one news source to another with an information lust that just won’t be satisfied! Sensational headlines, riveting pictures, and stories of the latest numbers lure us in. We mistakenly think that just a little more information will make us feel better. Wrong!
It seems certain that Spring 2020 will go down in history as world-changing. Our desire for good news and some shred of hope that the pandemic’s curve will be flattened is understandable.
We Need Real Good News
But what we need is more than rapidly changing headlines. We need Jesus, the one who doesn’t merely post or announce good news. He is the good news! When Jesus began his public ministry, he said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Then [Jesus] closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
(Luke 4:18–20, NKJV)
Did you catch what happened in this scene?! With the eyes of all the men and women in the synagogue fastened upon the Redeemer, who had just read the description of the promised Messiah, the audience hears this humble man say, in so many words, “I’m here! I’m the Messiah!”
Brothers and sisters, in every age, and absolutely now in the midst of this deadly virus, Jesus is the author, bearer, and fulfillment of the good news of the gospel. Consider what it meant for him to proclaim that these ancient words of prophecy had been fulfilled for all time. Good news has been brought into our impoverished lives, and healing is available for our broken hearts. Our spiritual state as lost, alienated, hopeless captives has been transformed through the liberty that Christ brings. Our spiritual blindness has been changed into true sight so that we can see Christ for who he is—only in part now, but one day fully. The burdens we carry and the oppression of this scary, broken world don’t have to crush us even as they crash over us. Our Redeemer has come to rescue us and raise us up through resurrection. What fulfillment!
Where Are Your Eyes Fastened Today?
Your financial portfolio? Online sexual experiences? A person with whom you’ve engaged against your conscience? When our desires fixate upon finding an immediate comfort or an easy escape from real life, we are effectively saying, You be my good news; you be my savior; you rescue me from this scary world.
Friends, Jesus is your Redeemer. He truly is the good news you need not only in our COVID-19 surround-sound drama, but also what your heart was created to desire. He was anointed and sent to proclaim the news we all need to hear, and also to accomplish God’s mission to rescue needy sufferers and sinners like you and me. Gently and faithfully, he can shift the gaze of your heart from scary circumstances and the fear of an unknown future to himself and his steadfastness. Will you let your eyes be fixed on him?
02 Apr 2020
COVID-19 has the real ability to destroy lives and families, but, in Christ, our true hope rests in the God who raises the dead. Sexual sin also has the powerful ability to destroy lives. But for all who have experienced the ravages of this sin, there is hope in the God who takes what was dead and makes it alive. No matter how far your sin has taken you, you are not out of the reach of Christ’s redemption.
In this video, Mark Sanders highlights the similarities between COVID-19 and the destruction caused by sexual sin.
To learn more about this topic, consider purchasing How to Say No When Your Body Says Yes by Dan Wilson or Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex by John Freeman. When you buy these resources from Harvest USA, 100% of your purchase will benefit our ministry.
You can also read the blog, Redeem Your Quarantine: Help for Fighting Sexual Temptations, which corresponds to this video.
Hearing brothers and sisters in Christ share their expectations for God’s purposes in this season has been a rich blessing. During global crises like the coronavirus, we Christians have the unique benefit of knowing that God is sovereign, good, and loving through this season of great suffering. We need to maintain the hope in Romans 8:32 that all things are ours in Christ, especially as we love and minister to those who are suffering.
But there is another being striving for his own purposes in this season. The devil, while always restrained by God’s sovereign will, is seeking to destroy many people through COVID-19. Whether it’s marital conflict, impatient parenting, rebellious children, anxiety, selfishness, or all of the dangers that accompany isolation, Satan is trying to take advantage of this moment.
One of his major tactics is to capitalize on people’s loneliness and isolation. The situation in which many people find themselves right now is rife with temptation towards pornography. Loneliness is perhaps the most common circumstance that accompanies pornography usage. To make matters worse, the porn industry sees the coronavirus as fertile ground for greater pornography consumption, and they are making access easier and cheaper while everyone is quarantined.
Brothers and sisters, may we be able to say with Paul that we are not ignorant of the schemes of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan has a crafty plan to use your quarantine as an opportunity for guilt, shame, misery, and destruction, all for the sole purpose of damaging your intimacy with the Lord and others.
So what will you do to withstand these attacks? Will you just take them as they come and hope for the best, or will you, with the Spirit, proactively plan to fight temptation well? Here are nine practical steps you can take to minimize temptation’s power:
One: Take away access.
One of the biggest sources of temptation is availability. I currently have no ice cream in my house, so I simply cannot eat it. But if I did have some in the freezer, my temptation would increase tenfold. Especially if you are already succumbing to temptation, you need to take radical steps to cut off accessibility. This might mean installing filters and accountability software, getting rid of devices altogether, or limiting when and where you use them. The goal is to put as much distance between you and temptation as possible.
In this season, many of you are working from home on work computers with unfettered access to the Internet and no way to install accountability software. While router protection¹ is something to consider, working from home does present a degree of access that might be unavoidable, which is why the second point is so crucial!
Two: Establish accountability immediately.
You might already have someone to whom you are vaguely accountable. Now is the time to step that up! Get a team of people to come alongside you, and check in every day with at least one of them. This is actually a great time for accountability because everyone is available—we’re all at home! Encourage your accountability partners to also share how you can keep them accountable; mutual accountability is always best.
Three: Set up a daily routine.
For most of us, our lives before quarantine had external structure and routine. While some are able to maintain that routine in isolation, many of us have had our daily lives thrown off track. Idle time is a huge enemy in your fight against pornography, so develop a daily routine that allows for planned rest and productivity each day.
Four: Be proactive in caring for others.
Pornography is a fully selfish endeavor. There is absolutely zero love for neighbor involved. In fact, it’s an act of hating your neighbor. Engaging in activities of loving others lifts your spirit and makes acts of hatred more repulsive. Whenever you feel lonely or depressed, remind yourself that others feel just like you do and would greatly benefit from a phone call, text, or even a handwritten letter.
Five: Don’t settle for false comfort.
In the pit of loneliness, fear, and despair, we all seek relief. In those moments, God freely invites you to take and eat of his goodness and comfort (Isaiah 55). While turning to false comforts will only leave you feeling empty, more depressed, and full of regret, the God of all comfort opens his arms to embrace you.
Six: Set goals to fill your extra time.
Some examples might be studying a second language, learning a musical instrument, finishing a house project, reading a specific book, doing something creative, calling a friend or family member every day, or memorizing a whole book of the Bible. Incorporate these goals into your daily routine. Pick goals that you can work towards each day and perhaps will continue to pursue after quarantine.
Seven: Consider how you will further your relationship with God.
Even if you’ve been cut off from all physical human contact, you are not separated from God. He says to you in Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Every moment of your quarantine is an opportunity to be near to God. He invites you to enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with him through Jesus Christ.
Eight: Find a psalm that resonates with you, memorize it, and pray it to God every day.
Scripture provides a psalm for every experience you can possibly endure, from isolation and depression to fear and anxiety. A psalm that speaks to our hearts gives amazing comfort because it shows us that God understands what we’re going through. Moreover, he invites us to speak these painful experiences to him. We all know the healing that comes from sharing hard things with others. These are but signposts to the healing and comfort that God gives when you pour out your heart to him!
Nine: Invest in heavenly treasures.
Many people I talk to are more concerned about the economy than the virus. If there is anything we can learn from this pandemic, it is the utter frailty of our earthly investments. This is a special moment, when God has captured our attention and made it undeniably clear, that “fading is the worldling’s pleasure.”² Don’t squander this window of clarity. When things go back to normal, we will again be tempted to trust and hope in things that are wasting away. Use this season to invest in heavenly treasures that can never fade, spoil, or perish (1 Peter 1:4).
You can also watch the video, Invisible Destruction: COVID-19 and Sexual Sin, which corresponds to this blog.
¹Router protection refers to products such as “Circle” and “OpenDNS.” These products block content at the source of the router itself, so that any device connected to your Wi-Fi has a degree of filtering.
² “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (No.345) in Trinity Hymnal (Rev.ed.) (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission Publications, 1990).
19 Mar 2020
Friends, we’ve prayed for you as a staff. We recognize that along with so many unexpected upheavals to schedules, responsibilities, and life dynamics, the unknown future may tempt you to find a particular solution for your anxieties. You won’t find it mentioned in the mainstream media. It’s the temptation to run toward our idols.
Fear, uncertainty, and unwanted change trigger most of us to crave and seek out immediate comfort and relief. Our hearts can go into an inward spin cycle that sends us toward familiar but false saviors that may give temporary relief, yet they will only bruise our souls and enslave our desires. When forced into circumstances in which we feel out of control (and we are!), grabbing for some form of autonomous power seems life-giving. But it isn’t.
RESIST! Remember that Jesus is still the same loving, holy, delivering Lord who is your refuge in the midst of COVID-19-prompted temptations. You may be working from home now without online filters, or hindered in reaching out to your accountability partners, or tempted to reach back out to people who are dangerous to you… to your soul, friendships, marriage, thought-life, and more.
Remember, dear sisters and brothers…
Jesus is still your Rock and Refuge to whom you can cry out today, right now. “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the ends of the earth; I cry out to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to yourself, Lord, for you alone are the rock that is higher than I, for you have been and are my refuge, a strong tower against my enemies.” (Psalm 61:1–2)
Jesus is still your way of escape when temptations are either fierce or soft and seductive. “Lord God, you are faithful…you won’t allow any temptation to come near to me (even when a pandemic is happening) that isn’t common and for which you won’t be my escape! Help me to cry out to you and trusted others, Lord, and to persevere through these cravings to seek comfort in sinful ways!” (1 Corinthians 10:13–14)
Jesus is still your constant companion in the midst of quarantines and isolation. “Lord, this house, my apartment, my room feels extra lonely; help me, Lord, to believe and know that you are God and that you are with me. God, use this forced retreat from being with people to create an intimate sanctuary for you and me. Help me to abide in you, Lord, to go to your Word and to be nourished with the Bread of Life!” (John 14:23–15:11)
Jesus is still your merciful, compassionate God when fear overwhelms or sin has been pursued. “Jesus, I’m afraid, really scared with what is happening. Help me hear you saying, ‘Take heart dear one, it is I! I’ve not forsaken you. Come to me and find rest for your soul.’ Yes, Lord, help me rest in your compassion. I did pursue sin, Lord; you saw me when I turned from you to sin, back to porn, back to him/her, back to food or alcohol or ______. I name it, Lord, and ask for your strength to stand up, engage the battle again, and walk as your loved son, your loved daughter. Thank you for receiving me with love and grace.” (Mark 6:45–51; Matthew 11:28–30; 1 John 1:5–10; Colossians 3:1–17; Hebrews 4:16–18)
Jesus is with you, friend, and he loves you. He is for you and will not abandon you. Ever.