Your Not Radical. Period.

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Let me say that again.

Your not Radical.

I was speaking to a friend the other day and he said, “Jon, I want to be the sort of Christian that people see and say, ‘that guy is crazy for Jesus…that guy is Radical.”

It’s sort of like that phrase that we throw around describing the type of faith we see in our fellow brothers and sisters and the way they walk our their Christian faith, “They are on fire for Jesus, on fire for the Lord.”

What defines the standard for what it means to be “on fire?”

What defines what it means to be Radical?

We have our own language and culture in the church that we use to elevate and bestow a type of honor and glory upon one another that, in my opinion, should be thought through a little more.

Now before you think this stems from bitterness and an envious life that has turned into a critical view of the Church, think again.

I have been the Christian, “on fire.” I have been called Radical. And I liked it. In fact to be honest if you called me Radical now I would still crack an internal smile hidden by a serious facial expression, and accompanied with a slight nod as if I couldn’t accept it BUT that is because I am a prideful sinner saved by grace working on humility. Lord, humble me.

This is a call to start thinking about the language we use and how it begins to affect our perspectives. Words matter.

Why have I been called Radical you might ask?

Because I pray throughout the day.

Because I share the testimony of God in my life at my workplace.

Because I don’t believe in evangelism as a ministry time but evangelism as a lifestyle.

Because I have traveled the world and lived among the poor.

Because I have shared the love of God and the reality that nothing will stop God from pursuing His people and those who do not know him.

Because I get to teach the Word of God.

We can read about David, Moses, and Paul, we can dance through the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, pause and whisper in awe, ….these men were …. Radical.

Hebrews 11:32-33, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire….37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword…”

……Crazy? ……Radical?

How about answered the call of God, and lived a Kingdom life designed by a glorious, magnificent Creator?

What about the woman who gave all she had?

What about the boy who gave his five loaves and two fish?

What if being Radical was actually how God designed Kingdom life to be?

What if being Radical was actually quite normative in resurrection life?

What if being Radical was answering God like Isaiah did with three beautiful words….”Here I Am.”

So Christians lives might look and should look different from the world, after all Paul paints the picture in 1 Corinthians 4:9,

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.”

The picture here is followers of Jesus, literally on display, on a stage as the whole world watches because there is something about us that is different. God’s Spirit in us. Okay, maybe I can give you Radical when it comes to being contrasted against the world but Radical within Christian circles? No way. We are all on that stage. We are all called to live a life that includes picking up our cross and following Jesus.

What we think is a Radical life, actually is a norm in the Kingdom of God. It is completely normal to share the gospel, teach the Word, love our enemies.

That’s what Jesus did, and that is what He invites us to do, and that should be our response to a debt wiped clean.

The problem with labeling people as Radicals is that it creates a divide and fosters comparison uplifting a particular part rather than the exhortation and encouragement of the entire body. Though it can be challenging, it also creates an unworthiness in those who are not called Radicals but still live a life consumed by Jesus.

Friends, might we rejoice in a Radical transformational life and walk together in a life consumed by Jesus and what He calls us to be… A light in a world of darkness.

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Bread Before Bed: What is your Crown?

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Your three-minute devotional while your tucked into bed.

If you have ever heard of the popular series “Game of Thrones,” (which I would advise not watching due to explicit sexual content) you would know that there are Seven Kingdoms and they are all fighting for a single throne, a single crown. Crowns throughout history have stirred vicious, mindless, slaughtering of innocent people, and families, as everything that the Crown represents, lures the power-hungry man, (and a few women here and there).

The Crown is simply that, everything.

It represents absolute power, ultimate authority, unbridled influence, limitless wealth and uncontested control. Historically, if you wore the Crown, you were portrayed as god on earth. The Crowned defined you.

In Philippians 4:1 Paul in the utmost humility states his own Crown, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

A few verses earlier Paul speaks with tears about brothers and sisters he knew who loved the Lord, now walking as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Paul’s Crown was everything to him.

Paul’s Crown was people.

The people Paul invested in, who brought him joy, who he thanked, who he loved, these brothers and sisters that he journeyed with were who defined him. It wasn’t glory, it wasn’t wealth, it wasn’t power if anything it was the exact opposite. His Crown was encouraging, uplifting, loving and serving people. His heart was for those to know Jesus and to know Him intimately.

An older couple I know who have been missionaries for over 40 years were asked,  “What would you say is the hardest thing about ministry?”

Their answer was, “Seeing people whom we have invested in, whom we have poured our lives into, walk away from the Lord.”

What is important to us? What do you long for so greatly that you would do almost anything to attain it?

For Paul it was that all might know the unconditional love and immeasurable grace of knowing and following Jesus.

What is your Crown?

 

 

 

5 Practical Steps to Fight the Night

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Anyone who ever struggled with pornography knows that night-time will hit you hard and it seems to be our moment of weakness. Start taking action against it with these simple, easy, practical steps that you can take to start fighting back. These are applicable to all situations, whether you are living with your family or roommate, or spouse. If your living alone and struggle with porn, get a roommate. I know it. You know it. Seriously.

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Charge Your Phone In Another Room

Lets get real. Long ago in a galaxy far, far, away people had desktops in their rooms. Not anymore. Porn is as accessible on your phone as it is on your tablet or computer and you already now, much easier to hold with one hand. Stop the excuses. I don’t want to hear about how you use it as your alarm clock and won’t be able to wake up in the morning. In the same galaxy far, far, away we used something called alarm clocks. They still exist. Invest in one. It is going to help you start walking away from your struggle with pornography. It’s worth it.

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Leave Your Door Open

Sometimes it is the simplest actions that can make the biggest impact. Closing a door gives us that much-needed privacy in any situation, but it also opens the door to temptation and a much harder battle to fight. Suddenly your outnumbered. Open the door and the idea of having people walking by, or being able to see in should give you some more troops in your ranks to hold out the night.

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Leave Your Computer/Tablet With Someone Else

Why is pornography such a big issue today? We all know the answer. Accessibility. What made it accessible? Technology. Computers, tablets, smartphones in every hand making porn quite literally one click away from seeing illicit images or videos. If you were on an island without any devices, you would never look at porn again. If your desperate enough you might try drawing images in the sand but that’s sad. Leave your devices with a friend, parent or in your siblings room, or a friend’s dorm room down the hall at a certain time each night. Remove the part of the equation that will make you stumble.

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Take the Tissue Box Out of Your Room

I went there. I’ll say it. You know exactly what I mean.

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Start Reading Before Bed

Read the Bible before bed. If you don’t want to read that, fine, read something else that will take your mind off of temptation and onto something completely different like kids killing kids (The Hunger Games), or Theology or whatever you want really….except for erotica. But I hope that was a given. Just read your bible. Idleness never ends well.

Lastly…

You have heard it countless times but it is of the utmost importance. Get accountability software on ALL of your devices and pick an accountability partner that will challenge you and help you through this struggle. It is worth the hurt, pain and struggle.

If you struggle with pornography “ACT Now,” and visit wewillriseabove.org to start taking the steps to walk away from porn.

There is Hope, Always.

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I remember leaving my apartment to go to my friend’s apartment one afternoon in May.

I was eight years old. As I was running out the front door, there was an older man and woman that asked if my dad was home. I said yes and opened the door yelling, “Daddy! Someone’s here for you!” and kept going. As I was running off, I looked back to see that both the woman and man had a gun in their back pockets. I sprinted to my friend’s house to tell their dad and a few hours later, my father was being taken to jail with a twenty year sentence.

After that we lived a fairly normal life. Mom was eight months pregnant with my little brother when my father went away but she eventually remarried my an incredible man who became my step-dad and today I am a sister to three wonderful brothers.

2008 was the year that everything spiraled out of control in my life.

I had just gotten out of a really dysfunctional relationship and had been hanging out with an old friend of mine. I was sleeping on my couch and my phone rang early in the morning and it was my friend’s mom. She went on to tell me that he had passed away the night before and it ended up being from a drug overdose. I had never lost someone close to me before and it hit me harder than I could have thought.

Another friend passed away in February and another in March. I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t want to feel anything at all. I didn’t know how to cope with it. I was atheist at the time, so Jesus wasn’t someone that I turned to rather, I started taking as many pills as I could to just numb myself and get through each day without feeling too much grief.

My life just became something that I could get through on auto pilot as long as I had something to get high…

…but it didn’t take very long until pills satisfied anymore. I found out two of the guys I knew had gotten some heroin and I remember thinking that heroin was something that you saw in movies, not in real life, but that it was supposed to be the ultimate high. I asked them to get me some for my birthday and they hesitated at first, but eventually gave in. I was hooked.

That summer was such a blur, I don’t remember much. In July of 2008, I drove myself to the hospital. I had an abscess on both of my arms and my skin hurt. It hurt just putting on deodorant. I was expecting the doctors to drain my arms and release me quickly, but the doctor said it wasn’t going to be that simple. I ended up staying for nine days. I had the MRSA staph infection and it had gotten into my blood stream. At one point, the internal medicine doctor told my mom to go ahead and start making arrangements for a funeral because he didn’t think I would make it. I needed antibiotics to kill the MRSA, but the antibiotics were so strong that they were shutting my kidneys down. There was no way out.

My mom didn’t know what to do, so she called one of the pastors from her church and he and his wife came to visit me. This is when I saw what it means when people shine Jesus’ love. Anyone that came in to visit me had to wear a gown, mask and gloves and Ben and Rachel, (who were about to have a baby),  still came into my hospital room and prayed for me.

That was something that had stuck with me…the love that those two exuded.

I went to a rehab for about three weeks and then my insurance dropped me for my positive results. But I only lasted two weeks until I relapsed again for another year. Two months before everything crumbled, my boyfriend and I began dating. He didn’t know that I was on drugs and at this point I was just using drugs to avoid withdrawal, until I got arrested by undercover narcotics agents and was taken to jail. My parents made it part of my bond to take treatment for at least 60 days. I spent a week in jail and then went to a place called Teen Challenge.

I was there for six months and had the opportunity to learn about who Jesus really is, what He did for us and to began to build a relationship with Him. I found it amazing that the Creator of the Universe loved me enough, even as a drug addict, to place His hand upon me and re-route my life.

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Jesus. I am alive and well and healed because of Him. My boyfriend waited for me and we have been together for five and a half years. I have been clean for over five years and my relationship with Jesus just keeps getting more and more vibrant. There is hope, always. In any situation that you go through, He is bigger and can help you overcome. Today I use my testimony any chance that I get to help other people. I have a wonderful relationship with my parents and family and even my father who is now out of prison. Since getting home from Teen Challenge, I haven’t stumbled back and I firmly believe that as long as you keep Jesus at the center of your life, everything else will fall into place according to the amazing plans He has for you.

You can always lean on Jesus because even when you are too weary to walk, He will carry you.

See a transformed life. Meet Alexis. This story is just a glimpse of a life redeemed by Christ. Alexis is currently a student triple majoring in Commercial Photography, Graphic Design Print and Graphic Design Web.You can visit her website at www.alexis-benitez.com.

Bread Before Bed: A Boy & His Lunch

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Your three minute devotional while your tucked into bed.

The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle next to the resurrection that is retold in the four gospels. The interesting portion of John’s gospel is that it is the only gospel that mentions a boy. Now why is this important?

Most scholars say that the boy was likely following the crowd trying to sell off this delicious meal. Put yourselves in the shoes of the this boy who ends up giving his “lunch” (for lack of a better term) to Jesus.

This boy offers up his “lunch” to Jesus not really knowing who Jesus is or what He is going to do with it. He isn’t expecting anything, maybe money in return if in fact he is trying to sell these delicious meal. Now picture yourself in the shoes of that boy, your jaw dropping, feet frozen to the ground as you see your “lunch” being multiplied and multiplied and multiplied. You watch as the crowd draws closer together, murmuring about what is going on in the front.

Before long the crowd of five thousand (whom some scholars say is just the men, and does not account for women and children) is completely fed and the disciples bring back twelve baskets of leftovers. Following the leftovers the crowd starts to shout, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

What are you thinking? What are you feeling?

Jesus took all that this boy had, and used it to feed thousands. Did the boy know Jesus was going to do that? Not a chance.

I can see the boy immediately sprinting home to tell his family, of what Jesus had done. The news too great to keep to himself, welling up inside him like a spring of water.

God surprises us. If we give Him all we have, if we give Him our lives, He will surprise us in a way that we cannot keep it to ourselves. We have to run. We have to share.

Give God your lunch, and He will feed thousands.
Give God your life, and you will never be the same.

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Will You Fight for Her?

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AND I mean really fight for her. 

I have seen plenty confident men, good friends of mine absolutely melt when they find that girl that flips their world upside down, and if they haven’t found it, I can tell you they are constantly dreaming about who she is.

That girl, the one he finally lays eyes on, suddenly becomes everything to him, as he strives to win her and fight for her. He sacrifices when he never used too, he gets regular haircuts and trims his beard. He grabs flowers and takes her on dates as if money is no object, why? One word. Love.

No wonder they say, “Love is a socially acceptable form of insanity.”

It changes the most barbaric men into silly putty in the hands of a three-year old. So men three questions.

Will you stand up for her?

Will you protect her?

Will you fight for her?

Yes. Yes. YES! I can hear the deep roar as I sit in my quiet home.

Will you give up pornography for her?

Now I’m not saying this is THE reason why you have to stop. I’m not saying that if there is no girl, you can look at porn freely. What I am saying is that your porn addiction or struggle doesn’t just affect you. And she deserves your best.

Because simply put, you’re not truly fighting, you’re not truly protecting and you are not standing up for her. Those robust chants of yes are nothing more than empty words if you are not taking action and doing everything you can to walk away, to resist temptation and to rise above your struggle or addiction.

After four years of not viewing pornography, I felt the weight of fighting for the one I love, against lust and pornography, on my wedding day. More so than I had felt even dating. The Lord has given her to me and I am going to continue to fight with everything I have not for myself anymore, but for both of us.

For all you single men out there who think your exempt. Think again. You will find her, you will lock eyes across the room, start to stumble, stutter and spill some food on your shirt. You will date, you will be in a serious relationship and the vast majority of you will be married one day with a family.

If you have not met her yet, then it must be true to say that she is out there, waiting.

And if that is true you better be starting to fight back against your struggle or addiction now, and be taking appropriate proactive steps so that it won’t happen again.

An Intimate View

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 We all crave intimacy. We all need intimacy. But we have been lied too.

It’s how God designed us. He designed us for more than what meets the eye. More than the shallow waters that many dip their toes in yet few know how really deep the waters go.

We have an innate desire, woven into the fabric of our humanity, to be known, to be heard and to be loved; for who we truly are.

In a world of instantaneous gratification, a plague of our generation, we want things now. We demand things now. And the world has capitalized on our ability to be impatient, selling us sex and pornography. We have bought into the lie that pornography and sex will meet one of our greatest needs – intimacy. Meeting our requirements for the instantaneous, pornography is now more available than it has ever been. It is literally one click away.

We mix our instantaneous wants with false intimacy and before we know it we are caught in a cycle of viewing explicit material, reinforcing it with pleasure, allowing guilt and shame to drive us to secrecy and loneliness (intimacy has not been met) which demands an escape thus restarting the cycle over and over and over again.

But the truth is we have fatally believed that intimacy in its entirety revolves around sex. But the truth is, sex plays a very small role in intimacy. Yes, it is an intimate act, a very intimate act and something that you will share only with your spouse and no one else (Read A Redeemed Life: Purity). But God wasn’t just talking about the physical when He said, “The two will become one flesh.” He is taking about much more than that. And that is true intimacy.

Intimacy takes time. It takes work. Intimacy takes vulnerability. Intimacy says,

“I’m not afraid of what you will find because I know no matter what, you will love me more today than you did yesterday.”

Intimacy is letting someone into the very depths of your heart and soul and also the opposite is true. Seeing someone for who they truly are, their opinions, their passions, their struggles and choosing to love more tomorrow than you did today. God wired us for more. He wired us for intimate, true and deep relationship with one another. Do not be fooled by this world into thinking what it has to offer will meet that need.

Sex alone cannot fulfill it. Pornography can’t touch it. Pornography destroys it. It won’t come easy, and it won’t be instant. But we are not of this world are we?

A Redeemed Life: Purity

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Years ago, when I was a single, wide eyed (partly because my contacts were uncomfortable) young man, freshly saved and learning who Jesus was, I was really hung up on the “What if?”

I wrestled with the Lord in my heart, asking the question, “What if the girl I end up marrying has had sex already?” Not for feeling lack of inexperience but quite the opposite, not being able to share that intimate act with only each other. It was a deep fear of mine, not being able to share that gift mutually with my future wife whoever she was.

I remember sitting in one of my first “man nights,” talking about Godly relationships with a bunch of bros, and mentors, not being able to get over the fear of falling in love with someone who had a sexual past. Was it even possible? For years even before I was a Christian it had always been in the back of my mind when it came to finding “The One.” That was a deal-breaker for me. That was the non-negotiable I had with the Lord.

So I was quiet as we starting talking that night about purity, and God’s intention for relationship and sex. At the end of the night when it was question time I remember just spitting it out, I had to know, I needed the answer….”What if?”

Much to my surprise it was something that others had thought about as well. And as I have gotten older, I have found that there are a lot of us out there feeling the same way.

What if? What if your future spouse has had a sexual past? What if your future spouse has lost their virginity? What if your future spouse can’t offer you what you can offer them?

It’s hard. And it will take time. Let’s not minimize it. It is a spiritual (two becoming one), sacred, intimate act that no one else should get to partake in except for two people within the covenant of marriage. It is a gift. And it is something that you will have to pray about and work through together.

But what if? What if Christ purchased you out of slavery and gave you your freedom? What if Christ died and rose again, conquered sin and invited you into resurrection life? What if through Christ, you are made whole? What if because of Christ, you are pure once again?

That’s the most beautiful what if in the world, because Jesus says, “It is finished.” It is done.

The answer was simple.

Jesus saves. Jesus redeems. Jesus restores. Christ died and rose granting us new life, a life full of faith, hope and love. A life that can permeate and sanctify everything we do.

Ephesians 4:23-24, “..Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The author reminds that we are created in the image of God. If God can change the hearts of kings, the lives of heroine addicts, heal the blind and cause the lame to walk, you must know what God calls you.

HE CALLS YOU PURE

Let’s just say God changed my heart. Let Him change yours.

50 Things Jesus Says About You

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Friends, I pray you would know these truths and that they would stir your heart and affections towards Christ and His Word.
 

You are a son/daughter of THE King.
You are co-heirs with Christ.
You are a citizen of heaven.
You are forgiven.
You have been redeemed.
You have been restored.
You have been transformed.

You have been healed.
You are pure.
You are holy.
You are a Saint.
You are loved. And not what you know to be love. 
You are WORTH IT.

You are not alone.
You were never alone.
You will never be alone.
You are NOT your past.
You are NOT who people say you are.
You are a NEW creation.
You have something to offer.
You have a purpose.
You have gifts.
You are significant.
You are valuable.
You are beautiful.
You are the pinnacle of creation.
You are absolutely a crucial part in God’s plan.

Your debt has been paid.
Your slate has been wiped clean.
Your record has been cleared.
Your chains have been broken.
You are innocent.
You are justified.
You have been washed clean.
You have defeated death through Christ.
You have been SET FREE.

You are not of this world.
You are the light of the world.
You are an alien.
You have been adopted as God’s own.
You are God’s temple.

You are worth dying for. 
You are worth fighting for.
You are NOT invisible.
You are known.
You have a voice.
You stand out.
You are wanted.
You make Him proud.
You are a friend of God.

Be blessed.

5 Truths About Porn

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1. Pornography doesn’t just affect you.

It is not just about you. The majority of things that you do whether negative or positive effect more people than you would ever want it too. Whether it is an instantaneous ripple effect or something that influences and shapes your behavior down the road, both can be said of pornography. Pornography is a fire that will consume you and burn everything you love to the ground. It will affect your relationships, it will affect your perspective, it will affect what you do with your time which all affects the people you interact with daily. Whether you share your struggle or not, your mindset and attitude began to change. Spouses for example, can feel the equivalent of having been cheated on, the complete obliteration of trust and struggling to understand why their other half would trade in what is real and tangible for false, pre-recorded, airbrushed, virtual realities that exploit men and women and redefine generational thought. Think about the ones you love the next time you think about porn.

2. Pornography is the ultimate illusion.

A-list celebrities are good at what they do. Why? They are able to adopt a different personality, a different character, a different voice and make the audience believe that what is happening in a movie is real. Why does it surprise us when some celebrities commit suicide and overdose on drugs? They have convinced us over and over again, in front of the camera, that the life they lead is perfect.

Porn is not so different. Porn looks perfect but it’s nothing more than an act. You can take a quick read through Matt Fradd’s free new book, “The Hardcore Truth,” (an interview with an ex-porn producer) to realize quickly that behind the veil of pornography is a world filled with drugs, alcohol, abuse and a great many people who are hurting and broken. Let me clarify who I am talking about. You know the beautiful women and men on various explicit videos that you are watching… Behind the videos on your iPad that provide you with instant gratification are sons and daughters broken, hurting and trying to numb the pain. Don’t believe me? Take five minutes and read through Matt’s book, but be aware, it is not an easy read.

3. Pornography changes your brain. Literally.

Dopamine is a chemical that is released in your brain and is responsible for your reward system. If you do something you enjoy, like going for run, or having a banana pancake, dopamine is released and simply put, makes you feel good. In the same way, constant pornography triggers great amounts of dopamine that flood your brain. To deal with this surplus of dopamine, almost as a defensive mechanism, the brain removes receptors that receive the dopamine, causing current viewing habits to no longer satisfy the need that it once did. This in turn propels the user on the search for more stimulating content that usually is a more intense version of pornography. Coupled with endless novelty (the constant state of being new, different and interesting), porn wins the battle over and over and over again. This starts a change in your brain that begins the cycle of addiction. Read more about how it changes your brain at Fight the New Drug.

4. Pornography redefines your expectations of sex.

Hand in hand with the second truth, pornography sets you up for false expectations of what sex is and what it is not. Just as we are influenced by the people around us and our environment, we are influenced significantly by what goes into our mind. What we see starts to lay the groundwork for what we believe. And what we believe sets us up for expectations that in our mind, are completely fair and valid. The way sexuality is portrayed in movies and on television, (not far off from explicit online content), begins to only solidify assumptions and reinforce our idea of what sex looks like and what to expect. But it couldn’t be any more wrong. Unmet expectations cause disappointment and disappointment can quickly lead to various degrees of depression, straining relationship. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

5. Pornography makes you think you’re in control.

It’s hard and downright offensive to think that we are addicted to anything. “It can’t happen to me,” “I can stop whenever I want,” “Don’t worry about it.” Pornography has this way of making you feel like you’re in control when in fact your hands have been chained to your computer longer than you could remember. The reality is that porn is more addictive than any kind of drug. Heroine? Check. Meth? Check. Why? Pornography is mental, it invades your memory, compiling everything you’ve seen into files that can be opened on demand or triggered by something you didn’t mean to see. And those memories take time to go away. The truth is every website, every dirty picture, every explicit video controls you. You’re the mouse caught in the trap. You’re the train running out of track.