American football game.

Take the We Dare Super Bowl Challenge

Did you know that the sex-trafficking industry looks at Super Bowl week like retailers look at Christmas? Men flocking to a big city for a testosterone-filled football game unsurprisingly gives sex traffickers a prime target audience for their “product.” Estimates vary on exactly how much sex-trafficking occurs at Super Bowl sites, but industry-watchers see anywhere from a 30 to 300 per cent increase in online classified ads for prostitution.

Recent reports also cite spikes in online porn viewing immediately after the Super Bowl. Ironically, this has been noticed in both the winning and losing cities. (Note: the porn industry is also highly active in human-trafficking). Again, this is unsurprising, given the often highly sexualized content present in some of the Super Bowl ads (hello, Carl’s Jr. and GoDaddy) and the frequent shots of scantily-clad cheerleaders on the sidelines. Making the Super Bowl “sexy” is a big part of the allure of the event.

That’s why I’ve decided to issue a challenge. Starting this week, I dare you to “starve your eyes” from sexually stimulating material. Not only are advertisers and the NFL trying to capitalize on men’s tendency to be easily visually stimulated, but so is Satan…and he’s wanting to sell you something far more damaging to your life than a greasy hamburger or a beer!

If you want to learn more about the “We Dared” challenge, visit our website here and find out why you should consider this and how to do it. It’s not about being a “prude”; it’s about making a commitment to behave counter-culturally in a sex-saturated world. It’s about giving women the honor due them as God’s creation, not treating them as mere objects for our sexual gratification.

And that may just be a start for you. If you’re like the many men in our culture who’ve lost their sexual integrity and allowed these messages to negatively impact your life and relationships, you can find out about Every Man’s Battle, too.

I’m challenging 1000 men to come forward and commit to the We Dared challenge beginning this Super Bowl week. Starve your eyes. Say “no” to being a participant in the sex-trafficking industry, and say “yes” to regaining your sexual integrity!

Take the We Dared Challenge


Newspaper photo of Donald Trump

How to Take Your Life Back from the Inauguration

By now you know we’ve got a major event happening in our nation this week: the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Now, many Americans are excited about this. They bought into Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” and can’t wait for him to get started. Others, however, are somewhat less than excited.

I understand this is a subject that brings out a lot of strong feelings. That’s really the reason I’m writing this: for all of us, Republican, Democrat, or whatever political stripe, to move beyond what we’re feeling and start thinking about how we’re relating to each other. So whether you think Donald Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or you think he’s the devil in an ill-fitting suit, I’ve got some words of advice for you.

Take Your Life Back, the book Dr. Dave Stoop and I recently published, teaches those who are “stuck” in the pain of traumatic loss that there’s another way to live. We show people the life you want isn’t “out there” somewhere, or dependent on your circumstances, or what others around you are doing. We want people to know that real and lasting change is achievable, not through who is president, but through how we think. Take Your Life Back teaches that no matter what pain or loss you’ve experienced, there’s a rich, vibrant, fulfilling life still to be lived.

To get there, however, we must learn to move beyond the pain of traumatic loss, past all the anger and sadness, into the realm of acceptance. There we can effectively deal with the new reality that faces us. If you opposed Donald Trump, you’re probably experiencing a loss right now. I believe the principles contained in Take Your Life Back can benefit those who are struggling to accept our new president. You can have experience a rich, rewarding life even with a new occupant in the Oval Office. Here’s how to get there:

  1. See the reality. The first thing you must do is accept the fact that you’ve experienced a loss. Push past the denial and come face to face with the harsh reality that the “story” you imagined you’d be living just isn’t going to happen. For those anxious about a Trump presidency, this can be a hard pill to swallow. But here’s the truth: Donald Trump won the election. He won it fair and square according to the rules our nation has in place and no amount of wishing things were different is going to change that. The alternative is to live (at least for the next four years) in a false reality filled with anger and bitterness over “what might (or should) have been.” That route might be emotionally satisfying on some base level. It might feel good to vent, but it won’t equip you to respond effectively to the events of the next four years. What’s more, that anger and bitterness will likely bleed into your personal life and affect how you relate with family and friends.
  2. Express yourself. Contrary to some on social media who might be telling you to “shut up and accept it,” it’s okay to express the feelings you’re having. This is a real loss for you and a real grieving process. Don’t let anyone convince you you’re just a “snowflake” and need to “get over it.” Don’t get me wrong, though. At some point, you’re going to need to move past this, not for the sake of anybody on Facebook, but for your own well-being. You can’t stay stuck in this part of grieving. But allow yourself the freedom to express the disappointment, regret and even anger that you’re feeling.
  3. Grieve the loss. Once you’ve faced reality and allowed yourself to express the negative emotions, now you’re ready to grieve. For many of you, inauguration day will be a profoundly sad day. Likely, you supported President Obama and are sad to see his term come to an end. You had a vision for a much different future that just isn’t going to happen, at least in the short term. That’s a kind of death to be experienced, so it’s perfectly understandable to feel sadness. Go with that. Have a good cry if you need to. It’s okay. But as with any step in this process, don’t get stuck here either. To do so is to subject yourself to a life of continued sadness and depression. Sadness over loss is a natural part of the grieving process; but if you don’t choose to get to the final step, it can overwhelm your life and your relationships.
  4. Accept the new life and move forward. Notice, I’m not saying “move on.” This isn’t about just aimlessly wandering to tomorrow. No, it’s about coming to terms with the new reality and living in it responsively, not just reactively. It’s about arriving at a place where you can make wise choices for yourself and in your relationships, not based off the negative emotions that control you, but on the new vision for your life you’ve created.

Donald Trump is becoming the next President of the United States. That’s an inescapable fact. His authority doesn’t extend to being dictator of your emotions and your life. You still have control over that and no policy or executive order can take that from you. If the reality of a Donald Trump presidency is robbing you of the peace and joy God wants for your life, then it’s time for you to take your life back.

A note to Trump supporters

To those excited by a Trump presidency, understand that not everybody shares your enthusiasm, probably even some of your friends and loved ones. Understand they’re going through these phases I listed above. If you truly care about them, give them the space to do so.

Getting into political discussions with them or trying to engage them when they’re venting isn’t going to change the way they feel, and it will likely damage your relationship. There’s probably nothing you’re going to say to make them like Donald Trump more. Maybe the best thing you can do is just let them vent and continue to love them.

Even though you’re excited about what President Trump might do for the United States, don’t let that enthusiasm damage important relationships in your life. You’re going to need these people a lot longer than he’s going to be in office.

Find out more about Take Your Life Back, and about the Take Your Life Back intensive workshops being offered in 2017. Resolve to make this year the one you say goodbye to a reactive life and move toward all that God has planned for you right now!

 If you would like to give to New Life and help support our ministry, call us at 1-800-NEWLIFE, or click here to examine all the ways you can help others take their lives back.


Thanks in scrabble pieces

3 Benefits of Taking Your Life Back

Today might be one of those days. You know what I’m talking about. A day where you’re wondering if you could be different, if your life could be less painful and more meaningful. I know how you’re feeling. I’ve had plenty of those days myself.

But walking with giants like Henry Cloud, John Townsend and Dave Stoop, I discovered a different path than the one “nice Christians” were supposed to be on. Dave and I put that path in our book, Take Your Life Back. We also included in there how you can get to that path from where you are now.

What we want you to understand with Take Your Life Back is this is the life God wanted for you all along…before all the hurt, bad choices and shame took over. This isn’t just an improvement on something that’s flawed; it’s the restoration of a wonderful gift God made just for you!

So what’s so good about it? At the end of Take Your Life Back, Dave and I spell out 31 different characteristics of the life taken back. These are all qualities of life that were part of the original “base model” God intended for us to have, but that sin and its consequences have rendered useless. I want to share three of these qualities with you today:

Sharing

When you live the reactive life that comes with pain and shame, you end up looking and acting like a scared turtle. You stay tucked safely away inside your shell. You know too well the danger of letting your real self venture outside into a world that threatens you with more pain and shame.

But when you confront the past and take your life back from all that stuff that makes you reactive, you discover the beauty of living beyond yourself. You discover how much more fulfilling it is to share than to be stingy. You wake up wondering who needs you or who needs what you have and what do you need to do to share the awesome blessings that have come upon you.

Serving

In the reactive life, there’s nothing to be grateful for. Everything is a mess. You’ve lived hurt ever since you can remember. This awful state of living is either the fault of what somebody did to you, or it’s the result of a long list of bad choices. Either way, you’re stuck in a situation you don’t like, and you’re certainly not happy or grateful for being there.

When you take your life back, you are now able to see beneath all the scars into the beauty that God created. You see that beauty in you! And that gives you a new, grateful heart. You then begin to serve from a grateful heart as an act of gratitude. You want to serve as our Lord served you. You want to leave a legacy of serving. You choose to serve because it is a rewarding proof that you have the power and freedom to choose something rewarding rather than something degrading.

Giving

In the reactive life you have nothing, so there’s nothing to give. You hoard what little you might have because you’re certain that somebody’s going to try to take it from you, whether it’s love or money. You hoard because your “stuff” is all you really have.

When you take your life back, your eyes are opened up to the extreme generosity of God. You now understand the value of your true self and know that exceeds any amount of material wealth you could ever have. So you give…

You give because you are generous. You have matured in this life to a place where you don’t need much and you love to give to those who have nothing or lack something in an area where you can help.

If that sounds like your life, that’s awesome! I’m so glad you’ve taken your life back! Hopefully, you’ve arrived at this place where you can share with those who are in need. This Christmas isn’t going to be stressful for you. You’re not going to worry about what you’re going to get, or whether you’re getting enough stuff for the right people. You’re just excited about the opportunity to give, and to see the goodness flow through you into others.

If that doesn’t sound like your life, then start the process of taking your life back and discover the richness and fullness of life that God wants for you. It’s all right there in the original packaging. You just need to undergo the restoration process to get yourself back in “mint” condition.

 

Find out more about Take Your Life Back, and about the Take Your Life Back intensive workshops being offered in 2017. Resolve to make 2016 the last year you settle for a reactive life and move toward all that God has planned for you right now!

 If you would like to give to New Life and help support our ministry, call us at 1-800-NEWLIFE, or click here to examine all the ways you can help others take their lives back.


Shopping online with credit card

5 Ways to Take Your Life Back from Holiday Debt

When Dave Stoop and I wrote Take Your Life Back, we discussed the difference between reactive behavior and responsive behavior. The latter is what we’re after: making choices and behaving in a way that’s intentional and consistent with our values and plans for life. Unfortunately, too many of us, because of unhealed wounds from the past, merely react to life. We make decisions and behave based on the circumstances so we can avoid opening up those old wounds.

One of the behaviors that best illustrates these destructive behavior patterns is holiday spending. Each year, thousands upon thousands of people spend themselves into tremendous debt for many of the same reasons that alcoholics drink themselves into a stupor or other addicts abuse their substance of choice. These people have one thing in common: To avoid dealing with a painful wound, they behave themselves into worse situations.

Before you jump headlong into another holiday spending spree that will leave you scrambling to pay off your credit cards in the New Year, take a look at these five simple, but meaningful, first steps toward confronting your pain and taking your life back from this piling up destructive debt.

 

  1. Set boundaries. Christmas is a time of giving, and many wrap themselves in that noble thought while spending money they simply don’t have. While the Bible teaches us to be generous with what we do have, it never instructs us to give what we don’t. The widow who left her two coins at the altar gave sacrificially from what she had! She didn’t pull out her credit card and put herself into debt by borrowing someone else’s money. Set a generous but firm spending budget for holiday gifts and stick to it. And you don’t have to buy for everybody, either. Plan in advance who you’re going to buy gifts for. More on that in a minute.
  2. Don’t use gifts to make up for lack of time spent. Too many people use Christmas as an attempt to make up for a lack of relationship development over the course of the whole year. They think if they buy a nice, expensive gift, that will compensate for all the times they were “too busy” to attend to the people in their lives. They know these relationships are important (otherwise they wouldn’t be buying a gift) and they haven’t invested the necessary time and attention. Here’s the true truth: Cash and things don’t equal time and love shown. If you’ve accumulated relational debt this year, don’t go into financial debt trying to pay it off. Ask for “loan forgiveness” from those you love and resolve to make “regular payments” to those who are important to you in the coming year.
  3. Don’t try to outspend others. Dave and I talk a lot about comparative living in Take Your Life Back. That’s the tendency we have to measure ourselves by what other people do or think. We see this played out at Christmastime every year when somebody tries to take on the role of Santa. They want their gifts to stand out, to be better either in quality or quantity than everyone else’s. It’s an artificial attempt at earning respect. And it doesn’t work.
  4. Used cash you’ve saved, not your credit cards. If you want to ensure you’ll stick to the boundaries you’ve set, adopting a “cash only” policy for gift buying is a great way to go. As Dave Ramsey points out, credit cards allow us to avoid the “pain” that comes with spending. When we use cash, we immediately feel the effects of our hard-earned money changing hands. While credit cards offer us an “easy out” from the budget, cash gives us a harsh reminder of what we’ve spent and what we have left. Getting away from the budget involves several more steps to retrieve more cash, whereas the credit card can destroy a budget with a single, painless swipe.
  5. Don’t give out of guilt. Another part of the boundary-setting discussed in the first point was establishing a list for giving. How many times have we gotten a gift from someone we didn’t intend on buying for? Naturally, this brings on an initial feeling of “but I didn’t get them anything” guilt. The reactive person will immediately go out and buy something, a cheese and sausage sampler, anything to push down that guilt…and there goes the budget! The responsive person, however, has the strength to overcome those feelings of guilt. Instead of a reactive gift, the responsive person will approach the surprise gift giver and have a conversation that looks something like this:

Alan (responsive recipient): Hey, Bill, I really want to thank you for that gift card you gave me. It was really thoughtful on your part. It means a lot to me that you thought of me this year.

Bill (surprise giver): You’re welcome. I know how much you enjoy good food.

Alan: If I’d known we were exchanging gifts, I’d certainly have planned better. I’m working really hard on personal budgeting this year, so I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to return the favor right away. Besides, I’d much rather do something for you later that’s meaningful to you rather than just run out and buy something so I won’t feel guilty. I hope you understand. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I’m really glad to have you as a friend.

Bill: No problem, Alan. I really hope you enjoy it. I’m glad you’re my friend, too.

That conversation only occurs because “Alan” has the strength NOT to act out of guilt. It not only preserves his budget, but affirms a friendship and lets “Bill” know exactly the value he has in Alan’s life. Would a cheese and sausage sampler do that?

Don’t let this Christmas be another year of trying to pay off old “debts” by building up new debt. Get out of that destructive cycle and take your life back. That’s the best present you can give to yourself and to those you love.

If you’d like to find out how to live a more responsive life and break those destructive cycles of reactive living, check out Steve and Dave’s book, Take Your Life Back. By the way, it might make a great Christmas gift, too!


Person using smart phone

4 Things You Can Do to Take Your Life Back from Social Media

Last time I wrote about how we can take our lives back from politics. Today, I want to highlight one of the sources of our political addiction, social media. Most people would agree that our public conversations have become increasingly more divisive. Much of that divisiveness is happening on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These remote, sometimes anonymous channels offer us the ability to say hateful things we’d never dream of saying to someone’s face.

Proverbs 6:16-19 gives us a list of seven things the Lord hates…not frowns upon, but hates! I find it interesting that “a person who stirs up conflict in the community” is listed right alongside “hands that shed innocent blood.” Of course if we read the entirety of the Bible, we know just how important unity is to God’s plan for us. So while shedding innocent blood is a pretty obvious thing to hate, we need to remember that when we use our words to stir up conflict among people, we’re directly opposing God’s ordained plan for His creation. And He hates that!

In the New Testament, Paul tells the Ephesians not to engage in obscenity, coarse jokes, or any kind of “foolish talk.” Instead he says we should be speaking words of Thanksgiving. The preceding verse warns against sexual immorality and greed, and the following verse says that these kinds of people are “idolaters” and have “no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.”

Let the seriousness of those two passages sink in. Playing fast and loose with our words is pretty serious business in God’s eyes!

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, while designed to enhance our communication and connection with each other, have been turned into storehouses for the seeds of discord. Many spend inordinate amounts of time searching for just the right image or meme that will “stick it” to some person or group they oppose. Sometimes that’s just some good-natured ribbing, but too often it’s hateful and mean-spirited. Instead of increasing our connectedness, these channels are driving a wedge between people. Instead of being a means for building and connecting, they’re being used to tear down and divide.

Now let me be clear: that’s not the fault of Facebook and Twitter…the blame resides with us! We’re the ones misusing and abusing social media. With that in mind, it’s time for each of us to take stock in how we’re using social media. Is it causing you to miss out on God’s grand provision for you? Here’s a little quiz to help you decide:

1. Is social media owning too much of your time? No matter if it’s discussing politics on Facebook or posting recipes on Pinterest, if social media is actually replacing one-on-one human interaction with your family and friends, then you’re spending too much time there.
2. Has it cost you in a relationship? Have you had to “unfriend” or “unfollow” somebody because of something you or they said? Would that now make you less likely to have a healthy in-person interaction? That’s a problem according to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24. This unresolved disconnect that originated on social media could not only be killing a relationship, but inhibiting the effectiveness of prayer for you both.
3. Is it distracting from your ability to connect and share Christ with others? Does what you say about politics, your favorite sports team, an entertainer, or some other event help or harm your credibility with others. And I’m not talking about just those who would agree with you. Think about everybody who would read your words. Now scroll down your posts for the last week. Would somebody who shares a different viewpoint than you do see Christ in what you posted? Would they be more or less likely to listen to you on matters of faith? If they needed help or support, would your posts make you someone they would trust to reach out to for help?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to take your life back from social media. It’s negatively impacting your ability to be the person God has called you to be. And while you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube with regard to things you’ve already said, there are some positive steps you can take going forward to make things right.

1. Audit your social media and delete any posts you think might do damage. Notice I didn’t say “offend.” You’re allowed to have an opinion. That’s OK. But if you’re not speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) then it doesn’t matter how right your opinion might be. Delete these posts and cut your losses.
2. Set reasonable time limits on your social media consumption. Social media isn’t “evil” in itself. It’s how we use it. Set some time limits that won’t interfere or infringe on your time being productive with family, friends or at work. Strictly enforce them and reward yourself with something else you like to do when you meet your goals.
3. Stop following or mute sources that feed negativity. These are triggers. They’ll not only drag down your attitude, but likely you’ll get drawn into combat there, destroying any progress you make in goals 1 & 2. Instead, choose to follow sources that will build up your faith and equip you to live well (like New Life).
4. Watch what you say. One of the benefits of social media is, unlike face to face conversations, you do have a greater ability to filter your content. Typing your words requires more thought than just saying them out loud, and before you click “send” you have a chance to review what you want to say. Use this time wisely to double check and make sure you’re saying exactly what you want to say.
On this note, the Rotary Club has a time-honored list of guidelines that should govern our words. I think they’re consistent with what the Bible teaches and pretty wise:
• Is it the truth?
• Is it fair to all concerned?
• Will it build good will and better friendships?
• Is it beneficial to all concerned?

Social media can be a tremendous technological advancement that can truly shrink our world and build bridges that connect us. And yes, the First Amendment gives you the right to speak your mind, but as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:23, just because it’s your right doesn’t mean it’s beneficial to everyone.

We need to let that Christ-like value guide our decisions about how we interact on social media, not just the legalistic standard of the Constitution. If we can do that, we can take our lives back from social media, making ourselves and the platforms better for it.

If you’re ready to take your life back from social media, or any other source of pain that’s keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.


2016 US election

Take Your Life Back from Politics

This is being published today, but I'm writing this piece a little over a week out from the election. I’m willing to bet that this is how a lot of people feel this morning: disappointed, tired, anxious about the future…and that’s those who voted for the winner!

We’re now on the other side of what can only be described as an 18-month political “bender.” We’ve made ourselves drunk over the past year and a half on accusations, slander, hyperbole and partisan pot-shots.

And like the binge drinker who wakes up the morning after a few too many shots, we’re not happy or fulfilled. In fact, we wonder “how did we get here?” We try to piece together the decisions that led us to this place and events just don’t seem to add up. We start to wonder about the choice we’ve made while our faculties were impaired and the reality of what awaits starts to slowly seep in…and we’re terrified!

Well, we can’t change what we’ve done. We’ve got to live with that. What we can change is the kind of thinking and behavior that put us here. We CAN take our lives back from politics, both individually and as a nation. Here’s how:

 

  1. Admit that we have a problem. We do. As individuals we’re far too willing to sacrifice our own wills and decision making to partisan organizations. Those can be the Democrat or Republican Party apparatus, or the media organizations that serve them. We lap up the unhealthy stuff they feed us on cable TV, the internet and social media. We allow our minds to be melted into the “us v. them” mentality that lines their pockets with our cash. We stop thinking about principle and fall in line next to “our guy” (or gal), overlooking obvious fatal character flaws that should prohibit these folks from serving as the local dog-catcher, much less the leader of the United States. But we make excuses because “the other” is dangerous. Our candidate might be flawed, we say, but he/she is the lesser of two evils. Well, that’s still evil.
  2. We turn our problem over to God. The biggest reason we got into this mess in the first place is because we forgot what words get capitalized. We put a “G” in front of government and a “g” in front of God. We thought, “if we just elect the right people and appoint the right judges, we can legislate God’s will into existence." That model just doesn’t exist in God’s Word! If we’re going to recover from our addiction to politics, we have to turn the power back over to God. Only He can change people’s hearts. If America is truly going to be great again, we have to make God great again.
  3. We have to get away from those things that trigger our addiction. Like the substance abuser whose doctor informs him of the damage done by years of abuse, we can’t be all that surprised that we’ve reached this state. We spend countless hours listening to hateful, divisive rhetoric on talk radio and cable TV and compound that by reading blogs and social media filled with hyperbole and one-sided “news.” Is it any wonder after inputting all that garbage that our minds have been negatively affected? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 that we’re to think about “whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy.” Does that sound like political rhetoric to you? If we’re going to take our lives back from politics, we’ve got to make a clean break from the sources.
  4. We have to replace the bad with good. We can’t just walk away from politics altogether though. We can't quit cold turkey. We do still live in a democracy that demands our participation, and that should be an informed participation. So we have to find news sources that aren’t partisan. They’re out there, believe it or not. And we have to start parsing the information we get, not on whether it fits our preconceived partisan ideas about what’s “good” or “bad,” but on whether it fits God’s eternal standards for what’s right or wrong. If a candidate from our party is on the wrong side of God’s standard, then we have to stand against that candidate and insist on better.
  5. Get some balance in what you consume. We can’t binge 24/7 political news. It’s just not healthy. We need to be spending time in God’s Word, first of all. That’s going to give us the spiritual nourishment and basis for wisdom that we need to be good citizens. Then, when we’re looking for other information to “consume,” we need use Paul’s standard from Philippians. New Life publishes positive, uplifting content every single day. Publications and sites that are dedicated to building people up, not tearing them down should be getting all our clicks and hits.

Now I’m sure some are reading this and saying, “Steve, this is a pipe dream. You really think me doing all this will make a difference?” Yes, I think it will make a yuuge  difference…to you! You’ll become a better-informed citizen who makes better decisions come election day (and every other day!); and whatever the results, you’ll not live in fear or anxiety because you know who’s really in control!

And imagine if all the people who call themselves Christians in this country did this, Democrat and Republican. What if the millions of Americans who profess Christ actually demanded our leaders behave in a Christ-like manner? (And no, I’m not talking about a faith litmus test or demanding candidates attend a particular church).  What if we told our candidates, “we expect you, at the very least, to practice the fruits of the spirit. If you want our vote, it won’t be won by how you vote on gay marriage or your position on abortion. Our votes go to the candidates who best demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the public square. Those aren't partisan and they shouldn't be negotiable. Make that the starting point, then we can talk about the issues.

We can take our lives back from politics. And if we do, what a world we can make.

 

If you're ready to take your life back from politics, or any other source of pain that's keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.