It’s 2014 already?!?!

I always enjoy the space between Christmas and New Years. Reflecting on the year that was, dreaming about the year to come. And for the first time in a couple years for Heather and I, we really did feel free to DREAM about 2014. We typically ask the Lord for some milepost words for the year to help us dream, plan and interpret what’s coming. Heather heard “renewal” and I heard “the year of us.” Both of these really hit our hearts with anticipation, hope, and wonder. We’re dreaming about a year of adventure together as a family – camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, and travel. And being in one house and one community for the entire year (that’s happened once since 2007!)

For my part, I am also sobered in realizing that the man/husband/father my dreams will require is a key part of my journey for 2014. Becoming that man will no doubt require much of me, and demand a greater intimacy with the Father and relationship with Jesus. A year of us, indeed.

——

A brief thought about new years resolutions…

Several years ago, I heard a financial advisor whom I respect say, “If you only have $3,000 extra in a year and you have to choose between funding your IRA and taking your family on vacation…go on vacation.” At the time, I was in a place where part of me scorned that sentiment. My internal dialogue was pretty self-righteous and most certainly used the word stewardship to shame that advisor. Today, I couldn’t agree with him more. I see so many people paralyzed by the lure of retirement and what they think that means.

A friend recently shared this blog with me. Check out #7:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/better-resolutions/

While I’m not generally a minimalist advocate, this list really resounded with my heart’s cry for the year. A year of us! A year of creating memories, of living out what we want ‘family’ to mean. Amen to that.

If you haven’t invested time yet in dreaming for 2014, I encourage you to make it a priority. Let your heart go, give in to desire. What would you love to do? To see? And what kind of man or woman will that require?

Words for Unbound…

We also pray and ask the Lord for words to help Unbound Ministries navigate the year.

“Offer more” is a theme we first heard last year and we felt strongly that it is to continue throughout 2014. The sense is that what God would have us do is make Unbound available – “offer.” Without the pressure of “go sell this” or “book x number of events, etc.” But simply….offer. And so we are offering what God has given us to others. Many of the relationships that God has put in my life in the last couple years have been with other ministry leaders. And so we’re hopeful and anticipating some opportunities to share the message of Unbound with their communities.

And the sense with the word “more” is also just that…more healing, more freedom, more real life, more hope – not just the rule-following offers of behavioral management that continue to be preached by so many of those offering help.

One of the phrases that we would put to the last few years is learning that waiting on the Lord is the exact opposite of passivity. Waiting on him actually requires much more of us WITH him as opposed to us running with our own ideas and programs. And so we will continue to wait on him in that regard, walking closely together, fighting off the temptation to “go big” with the message, and simply making ourselves available as he moves.

- Ezra

November Updates

Here are a few things we’re looking forward to in 2014:

Southeast Trip. It’s been a tough couple years, but we are in a season of experiencing the favor of the Father like we never have before. We have come to a place of deep peace about whatever direction the Lord would have us take. And in the midst of that, it’s absolutely wonderful when He makes it perfectly clear in a way that we could never orchestrate. Recently, Ezra received an invitation to speak at a ministry college in Atlanta. Last week Heather was invited to participate in a women’s retreat in Tennessee in March where Ezra was also invited to participate as an intercessor. And then just a couple days ago Ezra was invited to put on an Unbound weekend for a church in Virginia. So we are praying through a Southeast trip in March/April of next year. We also have some dear, dear friends in GA and VA that we have not seen for many years that it would be a delight to visit!

Connections around the US. God has been connecting Unbound with other like-minded ministries for men. In particular, He’s put us in contact with quite a few ministries who offer retreats and weekends in a similar format to a Wild At Heart boot camp. In the past two years, I (Ezra) have become friends with leaders of ministries in Oregon, Michigan, Georgia, California and Idaho. Not only has this been a huge gift for me personally in relationships, but it’s also opened up some huge ministry opportunities. Many of these ministries want to be able to offer their men a message of hope and freedom from porn. And they particularly love Becoming Unbound because it’s written in the vocabulary of their ministry! We sense that 2014 will be the year that we start to engage alongside these existing ministries, offering freedom to men together.

Colorado Community. We are coming up on three months in Palmer Lake and already the Father has put us into some amazing fellowship. Both Heather and I have found the beginnings of what we hope and pray are some really deep friendships. We’re overjoyed to be in a place where we are among a fantastic group of like-minded people! In the past couple months, we’ve both had the opportunity to attend retreats where the Father has moved deeply in our own hearts…restoring, healing, renewing, and taking us deeper. We’re so excited to see where He is taking each of us personally and how He plans to use us to further the message of hope and freedom through Unbound Ministries!

—————————————————————–

Thanks, friends and allies, we couldn’t do this without you!

Real freedom. Really possible.

“I love how you actually talk about freedom in your book. I don’t know of any other resource for men in this area that talks about freedom. Everybody spends so much time on behavior management, rules, and programs.” -a Christian counselor I met recently

Friends, it’s no accident that real freedom, really possible is the tagline of Unbound Ministries.

A man who struggles with porn believes that he will always struggle. I know, I believed that for most of 20 years. Every single man I have ever met who struggled with pornography or other sexual sin has shared a remarkably similar belief. And unfortunately, it usually becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Even in seasons of victory, each man “knows” deep down that he’ll screw up again. And so, inevitably, he does. A man simply cannot act in a manner inconsistent with the way he sees himself. If he really truly believes that he’s a pervert, then over time he’ll act like one, even though it’s not really true.

Virtually every other offer/program/resource out there that purports to help men is based on results. 12-step programs (which make up about 80% of what’s offered to men) define men by their actions – the number of days of sobriety they’ve experienced. If you go to one of those meetings, you’ll hear “I’ve been sober for 3 days” or 97 days or whatever. I have a friend who is a gifted counselor, a good Christian man who worked part time for one of these programs. In his words, “I remember the day that I knew I needed to quit. I was on a follow up call with a group of men. One of them had been on this particular weekly call for almost three years. He was saying, ‘I’ve been sober for 1000 days as of today’ and I knew I had to find a different way to help these men…because even though he wasn’t looking at porn, he was the same asshole as the day he started in the program.”

Is the message of the gospel simply a change in behavior? Or is it freedom? When we talk about transformation, is it just in the way we act or is it actually in who we are? Jesus had some pretty strong words for the religious leaders of his day who “…[appeared] to people as righteous but on the inside [were] full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:28) Just two verses before that Jesus gives us the recipe, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25 NIV)

What we believe deep down informs our actions, without question. But I’ve met too many men who were trying to ‘gut’ their way out of addiction and watched them fail to know that real transformation at the level of the heart is the only path to freedom. Unbound Ministries is committed to helping men find relationship, not simply results.

In Galatians 3:3, Paul, says to the church, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” In other words, why on earth would you think that you could triumph over any issue through your own flesh? It requires the engagement and counsel of the Holy Spirit! And a few verses later, Paul gives a recipe for finding freedom from porn: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16 NIV).

We want everything we do at Unbound Ministries to be Spirit-led and Spirit-focused. We want to walk with a man as he finds his own unique identity in Christ Jesus and then be in relationship alongside him as he walks that identity out. It’s messy, painful, authentic, and available to every man. Real freedom! Really possible!