A couple of years back I was talking to a man who has had great influence in my life. At the time he was in youth ministry and I think he was just pouring some wisdom into me at the time. But he shared a nugget of advice that was hard for me to take at the time. He was explaining that when he and his wife found themselves in youth ministry they had to stop being sarcastic.. At first I was honestly almost offended.. How can one be funny without sarcasm, I thought!?
See if you have known me for any amount of years you will know that I have changed a whole lot.. Or rather, Jesus has transformed my life! (And He is far from being done) See at the time I was offended by this advice because, well I was a very sarcastic person.
In a definition of the word "sarcasm" from dictionary.com it has words like "sneering" or even "cutting". From the Greek roots it literally goes back to being "to strip off the flesh". I don't know about you, but to me that sucks.. This was honestly probably one of the toughest things for me to walk through, so far. You may be reading this thinking I am crazy, because it seems harmless. But I would like to walk through this with you and maybe evaluate it from a different scope. Lets go!
1. Build! Don't cut.
Encouragement is such a HUGE deal in my life. I love dishing it out and just truly making people smile. Call me crazy, I know. But a couple of months back I worked retail with my good friend Ford! Me and this dude have roots dating back to kindergarten, I could go all day how great he is.. But that is beside the point. You see Ford and I share a heart for building, so we attempted to go around and encourage people at work and love on 'em. You know what we received? Laughs and weird looks. That is terrifying. Ford and I realized that our world has become so cynical and cutting that we do not know how to receive encouragement.
As Christians we should look at our brothers and sisters and be devastated by this. We need to encourage and build each other up. I know it doesn't seem like much. But it could change your work, your school, YOUR FAMILY. Oh man.. I get teary eyed just imaging this.
2. Image bearers.
"How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the creator." I read this recently and it hit me hard. We are all made in the image of our loving God, whether that person acknowledges that or not. It is true for every single human. So saying that we are all image bearers, and yet we continue to "cut" and "mock". Who does God say we are? God is love and we can never fully comprehend how much He does love us. But man, every single person around you was made in His image!! See that and act like it.
3. Widen the scope.
We honestly have no idea what each other is currently walking through. I mean we may have an idea but we never fully know. People have insecurities, past hurts, new wounds and when we sarcastically say something you have no clue how they will take it. Even innocent and harmless jokes could really rock someone. I would like us to just take the "funny" thoughts captive and pause for a second longer to analyze.
Now saying all of this, I know that reducing these cutting comments isn't the key to all things. But as I travel from church to church and meet countless new people. I have witnessed the scars from these "jokes" and have seen church leaders buying into these comments. It breaks my heart..
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
It says to encourage! And to build each other up.. Let that soak for a bit. How can we do these things right now? There are so many possibilities to love and to show Christ through our words!
I know this won't be an immediate switch, or if you even agree with this. But my prayer is that is sticks somewhere. As I have distanced myself from sarcasm I look at it with a sadness. I don't know if we say it as a way to escape from our own insecurities or what, but I pray that we can truly build others up. It truly does seem harmless, but it's not.
We live in a visual culture, to say the least . I mean, "seeing is believing" and we are simply obsessed with image. With this idea we have then brought sex to the forefront of images and have tried our hardest to twist it and distort the original intent of sex.
25% of internet searches are for pornography.
That is 1 in 4!! This is our world.. The sad thing is you don't even have to search for it to be exposed to it. Men, women, children, divorced, single, or even married are all stuck in this addiction.
I was about 10 years old when friends introduced me to these images. It took hold of me and slipped lies and false ideas into my everyday life. After struggling with this addiction for years I hope that I can shed light into this darkness and expose it for the disease it is.
Lets expose some of the lies that are tied to pornography.
"It isn't real, so I am okay.."
As you look at pornography and give into this industry you are only feeding it. The lies slip in and it messes with your head. This is a real woman, or a real human being on the other side of the screen. Somehow they found themselves in this "business" (if you can even call it that). Just because pornography is through a screen doesn't mean your mind doesn't connect to it. You are literally training your body for fake sex and a fake relationship that only takes and never gives back.
"No one will ever know.."
For many years I lived a double life. I went to church but was also drowning in this addiction. When I was struggling with pornography it made me a different person. I was distant, angry, and I had a very low self confidence. It stole my true joy.. It ruined my relationships and friendships with people I loved and it turned me into a VERY selfish and sick person.. Lies filled my head and I had very distorted and false view on sex.
"I can stop whenever I want."
For years I actually believed this, until I tried to stop. The truth is I am very weak and this addiction had flooded my mind. The enemy literally convinces you that your addiction is not an addiction.. Whatever you call it, it is stealing away a true life of happiness and joy.
(Side note): It is stealing your creativity! You waste countless hours on these sites. It slowly ticks away the days and like a thief takes precious moments that could be spent on better paths.
If you struggle with lust or pornography then I hope you are to the point that I was at. I was fed up and angry at the way I was living and truly just tired in my sin. And if you are reading this but don't struggle with it then that is truly amazing! I pray that you never experience it.
These are some steps that helped me wake up and get away from this lifestyle.
This is a very dark and usually isolated sin. By that I mean we isolate and this struggle is usually a hidden one. I found true freedom in this fight when I started to speak out. I reached out to men who I love so I could be real with them. You know what I learned? It is such a common struggle! (But there is no justifying the sin) It just shocked me that so many good men have fallen into this, but have also been VICTORIOUS!
So reach out and find someone to speak to about it. I encourage men to speak to men, and ladies go find some awesome women!
2. RUN for your life!!
2 Timothy 2:22 spoke into my life. "Flee from the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." The first word in this verse is FLEE. I don't know about you but when I hear flee I hear action taking place. I don't hear "sit there for 5 more minutes and see where your searching ends up." NO! Get up and run for your life.
You know, God could have easily taken this struggle away. Because He is able. But He is also our loving Father who doesn't want to just hand us everything. He wants us to fight and to work through things together. For me it took me getting down on my knees and literally saying, "God, I can't stop. I can't, but you can." You know it is hard to fight alone but if we seek God through everything it gets better! He is there with you, just reach out!
4. Captivate the mind.
Take every single thought captive. Don't let your mind wander down dark paths. When the sin comes tugging at you wanting you to give in, DON'T! Take that thought captive and know that is not of God. For me it took me physically speaking out loud saying "get behind me satan." It may sound crazy but it helped!
It is not an easy battle at all. But I hope it becomes an easy decision.. Someone once asked me "you know what is better than porn?" He then told me in the most serious tone "righteousness." And he is right! Pornography attempts to divorce sex from marriage. Our culture is taking sex out of commitment. Pornography tries to pull you in and rip you away. Do you truly want this screen, or do you want to love your family, your spouse, your friends, and those around you the way they deserve.
I am praying for your battle and your walk. If you have any questions please do no hesitate at all to reach out. The link to my Facebook page is at the top and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I love you guys! And I believe in you and I know you can quit because I know the God in you! Get up!
"Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."
I want to let you in on a secret about me! Well if you know me it is pretty well known and actually not as exciting.. But regardless here it is. I love sweets! All kinds! Cookies, brownies, cakes, cookies, chocolates, and cookies! No matter how much I eat or what I have done throughout the day I always have room for dessert.
As I was thinking about this I realized something about myself. I could be eating the most wonderful meal, and yet I am thinking about dessert.. Okay so maybe that's not you but I guarantee a good amount of us always look forward to Friday or Saturday.. Why is that?! No matter how good things are we always look for what is coming next.
It isn't bad to have an idea of our future or to have goals but I think it is dangerous if we are always looking for the next step when you're walking through something else. As I have stated before I travel with a worship minister and I just love it! Tyler Murphy is just an awesome dude and I am truly blessed to be partnering with him in ministry! But even with these experiences sometimes I find myself worrying about the future or what is next..I understand that I might not travel with Tyler for the rest of my life, but what if I did? Why is it that when God is using me and opening doors and really guiding me I still fear and look for the future..
"Be here." I constantly have to remind myself of this truth.. I always have to bring myself to the Lord and just rejoice in all the blessings I have now. Too often I look forward for things that I don't need to know about. I need to live for Wednesday and I shall enjoy the entree.
I once heard a speaker say "God's word is a lamp to our feet, not a flashlight to our future." How true is that?! God has us in the perfect spot. He has placed us here with our gifts and abilities exactly for today.
"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."
"Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you're part of a team." For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, the quote is from one of the best movies ever! I mean this movie is full of action, creativity, missing pants, Batman, and teamwork! It is from The Lego movie and no matter what age you are I recommend seeing this classic!
For those of you who have seen this movie, you might be sitting there thinking I am being sarcastic. Well let me tell you.. I am not. So there. But, for real, that song is super catchy and I am almost 83% sure no one truly knows any lyrics besides that part. But who cares that is all you need to truly know about it.
Within these past couple of years I lost my community. It wasn't anything I did on purpose or intended to do. I mean, I got busy and traveled and lost my friends. And I don't blame them for giving up on our friendship. But you know what I learned? Living out of community is exhausting and extremely lonely..
Community is extremely awesome... and biblical. First off God is a God of community. The Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has lived in perfect unity since.. forever! In Genesis 1, God created Adam and in verse 18 says, "It is not good for the man to be alone.." Jesus, in His ministry always traveled with His bros and they had an awesome community!
Well you might be saying , "Andrew, that is good stuff, but I am divorced and no one gets it." Or "I am just too busy to go out of my way and spend time with other... people." Or "I am plugged into a community but it is more work than any reward." Well let me just state maybe some steps to take, and what that might take.
It seems extremely cliche.. Well yeah. That's because I know in my life I often have things that I feel I need to pray about and I don't wholeheartedly do it.. If you feel alone, or stuck, or just like you don't have a place I would like to encourage you to spend some time at the Lord's feet. Pour out to Him, but don't run off too quick. Sit and listen.
This goes right along with prayer. ACTUALLY LOOK. And when you get tired of looking, keep looking. Reach out. Talk to people. (I know such a crazy idea, right?) If you are plugged into a church look and see if they have a home group or some kind of community that fits what you're looking for.
It will be hard. You are going to have to be out there and open. Yes, you might even have to go to a group where no one knows you and meet new people. But I cannot stress enough how awesome this could be! I would also like to challenge you to keep going back to a community if you have no real reasons to leave. It may not be the group that is off it may be a root issue in your heart and it might take a great group to help you through it.
You know, I really hope I am not just speaking at you.. Because if anything I need this too. Community is a very crucial part of our walk where you can get new insight and even hear completely new ideas. If you are in a community but you're in a leadership roll I would really like to make sure that you're being poured into just as much from a different avenue.
My prayer is that you find a good team. There is a team out there who needs your specific gifts and ideas. I pray for the strength in your life to be open and get out there.
About a year ago I had this crazy thought and I think it ties in with this.. So we are created in God's image right? So that should make you extremely excited to get out there and meet new people. Because it is like every time you meet someone you are seeing and experiencing new characteristics of God.
"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20
My name is Andrew Berry! I am just living my life chasing after Jesus and trying to point others to Him.