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Nervous about leading a small group?
With the start of a new season begins the start of new small groups and Bible studies in your churches and ministries. Maybe you’re a new leader and you feel sick to your stomach when thinking about leading a group. Perhaps you’re scared to commit to leading, yet God keeps calling you to lead. I completely understand. I’ve been there. I felt so inadequate to lead a group. The second semester of my freshman year of college I co-led a Bible study. I was the youngest leader and had never led a study before. Right before our first study I met with one of the other leaders and said to her, “I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it.” Fear crippled my mind and almost stopped me from walking into the building. I feared what people would think of me. What if I messed up? What if they couldn’t relate to my story? What if I didn’t know the answers to their questions?  The leader grabbed my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “Joy, God has given you a powerful story. He is here with you and He will be there with you while you lead the study. I will be there too. You are going to do amazing, because you’ve prepared for this and because I have faith in you.” We prayed together, walked into the building, and relief washed over me. I led my first Bible study, I shared my story, and it felt incredible! God gave me the words to say and took away my fears. He can do the same for you.  As a small group leader, there are some things you can do to have success in your group. God is ultimately in control, but we are His vessels and He wants us to put in the work. Here are 10 tips to remember when beginning your small group: Prepare. Spend time working through the study, chapter of the Bible, or whatever content your group is going through. Start working on it at least three days prior to the study. Planning ahead gives you time to allow the material to seep into your life. Be humble. Your group members will ask questions that you won’t have the answer to. That is okay. Admit that you do not know the answer, and then offer to get back with them in a few days. Reach out to us at Authentic Intimacy, and we will do our best to help you find a resource or Scripture to help answer the question. (Check out our video resource: How to Handle Tough Situations in Small Group) Engage. Start the study with an icebreaker. For example, ask a fun get-to-know-you question like: If you could have any super power, what would it be? Asking easy to answer questions allows group members who may feel uncomfortable being in a Bible study setting to begin to open up. As the group gets to know one another, you can stop the ice breakers and ask, “How was everyone’s week?” As the conversation continues to flow, the group will begin to feel more comfortable. (Check out our video resource: Tips for Your First Week of Small Group) Facilitate instead of teach. In small groups, it is important to remember that you are the facilitator and not the teacher. Your goal is to encourage the members of the group to talk and engage more than you are personally talking. Not only does this build connection in the group, but it takes stress off of you as the leader. Instead of trying to be an expert teacher on the subject, we encourage you to focus on facilitating the conversation and encouraging the group members. Reach out to group members outside of the group. If possible, get together with the members in person. Ask them about their background and life and share stories. Investing in your group members shows them that you want to get to know them personally. If meeting in person or talking on the phone is impossible with your schedule, send a text or group prayer email to show that you care and are thinking of them throughout the week.  Love them. Show them you love them for who they are, not for what they do. If they are unbelievers, show them that you love them just as much now as you would if they accepted Christ. In your group, people may share struggles that you have not encountered or experienced. In that moment, it is important to not act surprised or shocked. Instead, thank them for sharing and trusting the group with their story.  Be open and honest. When you are vulnerable, then they will also be vulnerable. Vulnerability and authenticity takes you off a pedestal and shows them you are imperfect, even as a leader. You are creating a safe place for people to find healing in Jesus. When you share your story, use discernment. It is important to not include graphic details that could trigger someone. We want each group meeting to feel safe for all members, and we often are unaware of what each member has been through. Pray. Pray for the whole group and the specific requests of each person, in the group and out of the group. At the end of the study each week, provide a time for the group members to share prayer requests. Get excited! If you’re excited about the group, they will be too. If you get a few people pumped, others will follow. If you love the study, they will be more likely to love the study. Give out responsibilities. Assign roles to the group members. For example, take turns bringing snacks or have two people be in charge of planning the group social. If your group meets online, encourage one person to be the prayer leader to encourage prayer throughout the week. The more they are involved, the more they will feel like it is their group and will begin to take ownership. Take notice of the people who step up to lead. These people could be future co-leaders or could branch out and lead their own group. You are going to do an amazing job leading your Bible study or small group. I’m going to say to you what my leader said to me, “God has given you a powerful story. He is here with you and He will be there with you while you lead the study. You are going to do amazing, because you’ve prepared for this and because I have faith in you.” I hope the tips encouraged you to step out in faith and lead a small group or Bible study. Through Authentic Intimacy, we offer multiple resources for small groups. Most of the studies listed below have additional leader guides, and a few have videos that go with them. If you have any questions about one of our resources or about leading a small group, feel free to send an email to info@sexualdiscipleship.com. Here are a few of the studies we offer: Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters, by Dr. Juli Slattery Sex and the Single Girl, by Dr. Juli Slattery Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love are You Making? by Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery Surprised by the Healing, by Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery Pulling Back the Shades, by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery  
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Why the Church Needs to Address Porn for Women
Pornography impacts men and women, yet when was the last time you heard a sermon on porn in your church? When was the last time you heard it specifically address women? Most female porn addicts feel alone and often feel left out of the conversation. Instead of finding freedom, women live alone in shame and bondage. They begin to think that something must be wrong with them since, “Porn is a man’s issue.” Porn addicts keep their stories to themselves, creating shame and giving the enemy power. To help women struggling with porn addiction, leaders and ministers have to go first and share our struggles. Even if you have never struggled with porn, we must share our brokenness with women in our ministries. Our vulnerability will help other women open up about their addiction and find freedom. Statistics show that women are struggling with porn addiction in our churches. One of the largest porn sites publishes a yearly review with their sites data. In 2019 they saw the proportion of female visitors grow to 32% worldwide, an increase of 3 percentage points over 2018. Pornography addiction impacts the lives of women all around the world. We need to stop shaming the subject and start talking about it. Our women are hurting. Porn destroys their emotions and spirits, causing many symptoms in their lives. Here are a few: Depression. They wake up feeling depressed and think, “Will I ever get over this?” Negative body image. Women look in the mirror and realize that their body will never match up with the bodies they see in porn because porn is fake. Their self-hate leads to shame and turns a woman back to porn for comfort. Negative body image continues the cycle of addiction. She will start to believe the lie that she’ll never be pretty enough for a man to love her. Fear. After watching porn, a woman will feel defeated. She will fear that she will never be good enough for God to love her or to find a Christian spouse. What she does not realize is that a Jesus-loving man will see her through the lens of Christ: forgiven, pure, and blameless. Failure. Because of her addiction, a woman may want to give up pursuing Jesus, stop going to church, or stop reading the Bible. She will feel like a failure and will turn back to porn for comfort. Separation. After not spending time with God because of feeling like a failure, she will feel far from God. Feeling alone and far from God continues the cycle of addiction. Unworthiness. She will begin to feel unworthy of God’s love. After months or years of struggling with addiction, she will think, “How could God love a sinner like me?” Shame. Shame forces a woman to keep her addiction a secret. When she does not share her struggle with others, she may never find freedom or accountability. A woman will keep her addiction to herself because of the fear of how others will react. Other addictions. Eventually, porn may no longer satisfy her inner desires. Similar to drug addiction, the addict will turn to bigger and harder products. The list of sex addictions goes on and on, and all point us away from God’s perfect design for sex. I share this list of symptoms because women need freedom. Women are addicted to porn in our churches and are alone in their struggle. Every Sunday, we preach the good news of Jesus. The redemption of the Cross. Jesus died to redeem lives. He died for these women. He died for porn addicts. Jesus came to break every chain. Every single chain. Even porn addiction for women. Here are 5 things you need to know about the addiction and how to talk about it: 1. Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder. “It’s not about sex at all, but about the desperate search for love and touch and affirmation and acceptance. Those are descriptions of intimacy. God created us for intimate connection with Him, with others and with ourselves. When those connections are broken or absent, women desperately seek a false substitute. Sex or porn is the best stand-in for the real thing.” -Marnie Ferree 2. Sexual addiction is not about changing behavior, it’s about changing the heart. We need to stop condemning sexual sin without first reaching out to help and to understand the issue. Sometimes a woman will admit to porn addiction, and instead of feeling loved, she experiences shame. Offer her the help she so desperately needs. Help her love Jesus more and help her figure out her heart issues that cause her to turn to porn. Love her and point her to Jesus. 3. Sexual addiction can’t be covered up with a religious band-aid. Telling a woman to pray more or do more will not fix the heart issues. You are trying to fix the behavior, and this band-aid won’t last forever. It will fall off and the wound could be even worse. For women addicted to porn, porn is her coping mechanism. If we fix the outer behavior of watching porn and ignore the heart issues, then the woman will create a new coping mechanism or a new addiction. If we ignore the heart issues, the cycle will continue. 4. Sexual addiction could be caused by unhealed family wounds. Help her to understand the roots that formed the foundation of her sexual addiction. No family is perfect, but her family could have played a role in her addiction. If her family system told her to avoid uncomfortable topics, emotions, or life events, one of these reasons could have caused her to turn to porn. Help her work through her childhood and family relationships. Encourage her to find a counselor. Encourage her to check out Focus on the Family and their network of Christian counselors. This is a great resource to help find a counselor in her area.  5. Sexual addiction could be caused by abuse. Patrick Carnes, PhD, is an internationally known authority and speaker on addiction and recovery issues. In his book, Recovery Start Kit Therapist Manual, he lists statistics of women who struggle with sexual addiction and their past of abuse. 81% have been sexually abused. 72% have been physically abused. 97% have been emotionally abused. Dream with me leaders. Imagine what would happen in the lives of our women if the church started to talk about porn addiction. Imagine the freedom they would feel. Contagious freedom. Women would explain to friends, “Jesus changed my life and the church was a part of it! You have to go with me next Sunday!” Talking about women and porn in your ministry will not only change lives, but your words will grow the Church.   Additional Resources for Porn Addiction Recovery: Fight the New Drug Pure Desire Ministries No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction, Marnie Ferree* Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction, Debra and Mark Laaser* Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's Heart,  Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh Covenant Eyes – Internet Accountability and Filtering* *This is affiliate link; AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases.
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How to Choose a Wise Counselor
All your own efforts and gumption, your prayers and advice-seeking, your reading and research—you've tried it all, and still your struggle persists. You've reached it: the point at which you know you need help. You need a counselor. Maybe a loved one has died suddenly. Or maybe you and your spouse can't communicate without hurtful words. Or perhaps memories and pain from the past seem to be seeping into your everyday life. Maybe your teenager won't listen to a word you say. Or maybe you can't stop binge eating. You've tried many avenues of help—books, advice from friends, asking for prayer—but you're still stuck. You're so stuck that you realize it's time to take the plunge into counseling. But where do you go from here? How do you find the right person to help you? After all, this is your life we're talking about! You need more guidance than just a quick Google search. Here is the truth about counseling: the only tool that really matters is the counselor himself or herself. All the counseling training and experience in the world actually mean nothing if the counselor is someone who lacks wisdom and maturity. The fact that a social worker or psychologist is on the list of your insurance company as an "approved provider" also means next to nothing. And, unfortunately, the label "Christian counseling" may not mean much either. Choosing a counselor is a very important decision. The wrong advice, even from a well-meaning professional, can result in tremendous harm and damaged relationships. So where do you start? What should you really look for in a counselor? 7 Traits of a Wise Counselor Proverbs is essentially a book about how to live wisely, and it's a great place to begin your journey of selecting a counselor you can trust. Let's take a look at some of Solomon's advice for finding wise counsel. 1. A wise counselor fears the Lord People often ask, "Is it okay to see a counselor who is not a Christian?" It may seem impossible to find a Christian who is covered by your insurance or who lives within a 60-mile radius. This also may be an issue if you are seeking a very specific type of counselor. (For example, your son has Asperger's syndrome and you want to find him a counselor with that specialty.) You may use an accountant or a cardiologist who is not a Christian and it doesn't make a huge difference in the advice given. However, counseling usually involves moral and spiritual decisions. A person's worldview concerning right and wrong, the meaning of life, and so on, will inevitably find its way to the counseling room. Proverbs tells us, "Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom" (9:10). Fearing God means acknowledging that he is the One who defines right and wrong—that we ultimately will bow before a God who is greater than we are. Whether or not a counselor is a Christian, it is imperative that he or she respects your desire to honor the Lord. If you are seeking counseling on an issue that clearly involves moral or spiritual elements (such as sexual abuse recovery, marital struggles, suicidal thoughts, sexual identity issues, and so on), your counselor should be a mature Christian, equipped to give you wisdom that represents the truth and love of Christ. It is worth driving the extra 30 minutes and paying the "out of network" fee! 2. A wise counselor has a good name Proverbs reminds us that "A good name is more desirable than great riches" (22:1, NIV). If someone asks me how to find a good counselor, my advice is typically to ask around. Ask your pastor, ask your friends, and ask your doctor, gathering recommendations from people you trust. Counselors develop a reputation based both within their professional field and the Christian community. If you hear the same name recommended two or three times by people you trust, that's a big plus. 3. A wise counselor is willing to "wound" you While they provide affirmation and encouragement, at some point, wise counselors will speak hard truths. "Wounds from a sincere friend are better than kisses from an enemy," Proverbs 27:6 tells us. A counselor is more than a glorified buddy; he or she ought to be someone who actually counsels. After several visits with a counselor, there should be some uncomfortable conversations, such as questions that make you squirm, perspectives that challenge you to see your contribution to a problem, or "homework assignments" that ask you to step out of your comfort zone. There are some bobblehead counselors who are happy to give you a weekly dose of affirmation for the rest of your life. If you want someone to always agree with you, save your money and just get a dog! 4. A wise counselor encourages a team Proverbs 15:22 says that "Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success." Does this mean that you should be seeing two or three psychologists at a time? Of course not. However, you should always have a team of counselors and advisers. Your family physician can help with hives, but probably knows little about a brain tumor. Your pastor can help you with spiritual questions, but probably isn't equipped to help with an eating disorder. Wise counselors know their limits. They will encourage you to depend upon a multitude of advisers. They won't try to be your mentor, friend, spiritual director, financial guru, parenting expert, and nutritionist. A counselor who nurtures dependence or gives the air of a know-it-all is a big red flag! 5. A wise counselor's words are life-giving "The tongue has the power of life and death," Proverbs reminds us (18:21, NIV). Further, "the words of the wise bring healing" (12:18) and "encourage many" (10:21). Can you discern life-giving words? They aren't necessarily fluffy, happy statements. In fact, sometimes the truth hurts. Whether the occasion calls for encouragement or a rebuke, a wise counselor promotes life. Ask yourself the question, "Is this counsel building life and vitality into my marriage, my friendships, and my relationship with God?" 6. A wise counselor does his or her homework "Take a lesson from the ant, you lazybones," Proverbs 6:6 urges us. "Learn from their ways and be wise!" You may be wondering what studying ants has to do with getting good advice. Solomon was encouraging all of us to study creation and to learn principles for wise living. Similarly, a counselor or psychologist has chosen the profession of studying how we live and interact in order to pass on wise advice. Being a spiritual person and a good listener is no excuse for ignorance. The person you trust for advice should always be a student, dedicated to learning about how to more effectively minister to those seeking counsel. 7. A wise counselor knows the limits of human wisdom "My daughter died of cancer a few months ago. She was only 8 years old." How ought a wise counselor respond to such a devastating statement? There are no explanations or rationalizations about why God would allow such tragedies to happen. Sometimes the wisest counselor will just be silent and cry with a person in such deep pain. Many things in this life that are beyond our understanding. Proverbs 20:24 (NIV) observes, "A person's steps are directed by the LORD. How can anyone understand their own way?" While we grapple with the whys, true wisdom always knows its limits. God can comfort the broken-hearted without always explaining himself. As a clinical psychologist, I cannot heal the wounded. I cannot restore a broken marriage. I cannot make sense of tragedy. But I can compassionately lead someone to the true Counselor who can do all of this and more. What About You? So, what about once you've gleaned Solomon's advice and have picked a wise counselor? Does that guarantee that you will come out better on the other end? Not necessarily. While I have listed seven criteria for wise counselors, I will only give one for a wise student (or client): A wise student is open to reproof. Proverbs 15:31–32 reminds us, "If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding." The number one reason why counseling can be a waste of time and money is that the person seeking counsel doesn't want to do the hard work. He or she is hoping that someone with a bunch of fancy degrees on the wall will waive a magic wand and make the pain go away. The person is hoping for the inspired advice that will undo years of fighting and foolish decisions. Yet, as with much of life, you will get out of counseling as much as you are willing to put into it. Great counseling will require something more than your checkbook. It will require you to be courageous in facing pain, steadfast in choosing wisely, and humble in seeing your need for God's truth and grace.
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How We Love Each Other
I grew up in a family of six kids, all very close in age. My position as “number five” out of six is probably a huge part of why I became a psychologist. My earliest pictures are often of me in a playpen observing family life. As teenagers, my sisters and I became good friends. We stopped fighting and began to really appreciate one another. My father one day said to us, “When you girls get along and look out for each other, it helps me understand how God feels when His people love each other.” “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s always been a challenge for God’s people to live together in unity. Perhaps this is why the Bible highlights the importance of how we treat one another. God really cares about how we love. The night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed for His disciples. His prayer is recorded for us in John 17. What’s really cool is that Jesus prays for His future disciples – that’s us! The one thing He emphasized in His prayer is that we would be united in Him as He is with the Father. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus said something to His disciples that is absolutely profound. The proof of a person’s status as a Jesus follower would be found in how we love one another (see John 13:35). True unity is impossible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In our own flesh, we will never love each other well. Those who led the early church (Paul, Peter, John and others) understood two things about Christian unity. They acknowledged that we would have differences and that we should diligently work to treat one another with love in the midst of those differences. In recent days, I’ve witnessed Christians genuinely striving to do what they believe is the right thing, the wrong way. No matter the cause, Satan always wins when Christians attempt to solve problems in their own wisdom and strength. We become self-righteous, defensive, accusing, judgmental and divisive. This can happen in a larger context (church/ministries) but also in family relationships. Fortunately, the Bible is very clear in teaching us how to avoid this snare. Unfortunately, we rarely put these well-known teachings into practice. We sometimes point to Matthew 18 as the “go-to passage” of how to resolve conflict in a Christian manner. In this passage, Jesus instructs us to go directly to someone who offends us. If that doesn’t work, we take one or two witnesses and then bring the matter before the Christian body. While this is an invaluable passage of instruction, seldom do we apply it while also keeping with the further instruction of Philippians 2: 1-11, James 1:19-20, Colossians 3:8-17, Ephesians 4, Galatians 5:13-6:1-5, II Timothy 2:22-26 and others passages like it. Within these letters, the early church leaders were clear in telling us not only to stand on what we believe to be true, but also to do so in a manner that honors Jesus as Lord. The passages I cited above are somewhat repetitive, which makes it convenient for us to summarize and apply. Here are five questions I am learning to ask myself when I am in the midst of conflict: Will I humble myself?  I always think I’m right. I think I’m the one with the answers and the insight no one else has. I believe that conflicts and problems result because of what someone else says or does. This is human sinful nature. God tells us to resist this natural tendency and to humble ourselves before Him and people. Humility means admitting that my view of the world is flawed and that I very likely contributed to a problem as much as the other person. Humility says, “I’m sorry.” Humility seeks and accepts feedback even when it hurts. Am I understanding?  One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people is to “seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Covey didn’t invent this principle, but expounded upon age-old wisdom that is found in the Scriptures. James wrote, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” In conflict, rarely do we determine to truly listen and understand the other party’s perspective. God has given us different personalities, experiences, strengths and weaknesses. Through understanding, we become unified and our differences reflect the complexity of God’s amazing character. Am I kind?  When is the last time your heard a sermon on kindness? Yet, I cannot think of a more important word to describe how God wants His children to treat one another. In my work in Christian ministry, I’m sad to say that I rarely see kindness. We can disagree and be kind. We can work for positive change, yet be the kindest people on the planet. Yes, there are times to draw boundaries and to confront, yet Paul urges us to do so with gentleness and in the spirit of love. Am I patient?  When we resolve to be kind and understanding, typically that resolution comes with an expiration date. We give our spouse three days to apologize or the other party in a dispute a week to get their act together. Once we’ve given kindness a chance to work, we shift into attack mode. Patience means that there is no expiration date on our love for each other. It means giving God time to work and to move and recognizing that true change rarely happens quickly. While God is working on the other person, His slow timetable usually means that He is also working on me, exposing my pride and desire to control the outcome. Do I seek unity? It grieves my heart that the Christian church and family are often places of dissension, slander, resentment and anger. I can’t imagine how deeply it grieves God’s heart. Jesus said that we would be known by our love for one another, not first and foremost by our written creeds and spoken convictions. Absolutely there are times to take a stand for truth within the Christian body. Yet we must also recognize that our enemy will use any opportunity (even a righteous cause) to prompt us to “bite and devour one another.” As Paul wrote, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” Remember that a righteous cause doesn’t give us an excuse to treat one another poorly. It’s not enough to stand for what the Bible teaches. We must also do so in a spirit with which we honor Christ our Lord.
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God Says Not To Judge... Right?
Whenever I write a blog on a controversial sexual issue, I typically hear from people who remind me that God says not to judge other people. Whether I’m teaching about pornography, Fifty Shades of Grey, living together outside of marriage, divorce or homosexuality, some people simply write off what I’ve said because they think I’m being judgmental. The “who are you to judge?” question has curtailed countless conversations (and even relationships). In fact, some pastors are nervous about teaching on sexuality because they don’t want the label “judgmental.” Over the past few months, I’ve taken time to study what the Bible actually says about judging. I have learned a few things that help me discern when to stay silent and when it may be time to “speak the truth in love.” Although this isn’t an exhaustive study (what blog could ever be exhaustive?), it may help you to sort through what the Bible says about how we should engage in conversations that involve moral and ethical choices. Here are seven things to keep in mind: 1) Speaking the truth is not the same as judging. I think this is perhaps the most important distinction to understand. If we interpret “do not judge” passages as keeping us from ever talking about God’s standards of right and wrong, we have a Christian church that would never confront greed, theft, selfishness, heresy, or even the sin of being judgmental. One of the primary purposes of the body of Christ is to proclaim His love and His truth to one another, so that we may be set apart as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Talking about God’s moral standards is not judgmental. Let’s look at an example we can all relate to. Let’s say your friend is driving you to the airport. She is going 85 in a 60 mph zone. If you were to say to her, “Just want to be sure you know that the speed limit is 60,” that may cause an awkward silence, but it would be perfectly understandable. That’s different than saying, “Um, you know you’re going 25 over the speed limit, don’t you? You’re speeding. You deserve a big fat ticket.” Can you see the difference between the two? We should continually hold up God’s truth as a standard of living. The importance of teaching God’s Word is emphasized throughout both the Old and New Testament. Moses encouraged the nation of Israel to remember the Law of God, impressing it upon the hearts of our children, talking about it every day, in our homes and on the road (Duet. 6). Paul encouraged the Christian church and pastors to “teach God’s Word in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), to keep the pattern of “sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ (2 Timothy 1:13) and for each of us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). The writer of Hebrews says that the constant use of God’s Word will help us to discern right and wrong (Hebrews 5:14). For you or me to say, “I believe the Bible teaches that a homosexual lifestyle is sinful” is very different than telling your gay neighbor, “You’re a sinner and you’re going to hell.” Teaching a moral standard from God’s Word is not the same as taking the liberty to judge people with that standard. Their choice to ignore or abide by God’s Word is between them and God. 2) We should not judge each other’s choices of “conscience” or personal opinions. There are some things in the Christian life which are unclear (grey areas). This is the context of Romans 14 where Paul wrote, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Here, Paul is answering disputes the early church has on topics like whether one day is more sacred than another day and dietary restrictions. Paul says that these are not issues of morality (clearly defined guidelines for holy living) but are issues of conscience. We are to respect each other’s consciences in these grey areas. Issues like these for Christians today might include what you wear to church, whether or not you drink alcohol, and whether or not you use social media. The famous Olympian Eric Liddell was convicted that he would be sinning if he competed on a Sunday. Does this mean that every Christian NFL player is sinning in his job? No. This is an issue of conviction and conscience, not clearly an issue of morality in God’s Word. Related to sexuality, I may have a conviction about a grey area. For example, it may be my conviction that a couple shouldn’t kiss until they get engaged. I should never hold anyone else to my conviction or opinion. Some of the “no judging” passages relates to these types of situations. 3) We should never judge a person’s motives. “Now it is required of those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (I Corinthians 4:2-5). While we can see a person’s behavior, we can never understand their motivations. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind…” We are not in position to ever comment on someone’s heart before God. I may disagree strongly with someone’s sexual choices or their teaching on sexuality. While I may comment on points of disagreement, I am never in the position to pass judgement on that individual. 4) We cannot make an eternal judgement about anyone. Jesus said, “Judge not and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Jesus is teaching that none of us is above our brothers and sisters. We are all equal, needing grace and forgiveness. God is the judge that can both condemn our souls to hell and forgive us of our sins, granting us eternal life. Putting yourself in the place of judging someone else’s actions or salvation will result in a stricter judgement for you here on earth and before God. Someone else’s soul before God is none of my business and mine is none of theirs. 5) We should confront brothers in the spirit of love and humility. Proverbs reminds us that the wounds of a friend are faithful and can be trusted. In fact, the wise person seeks a rebuke from a friend and looks for people who can bring loving correction. Our friendship and love for a person earns the position to speak truth to them. We must also remember that confronting a friend sometimes means that they will confront right back for your lack of empathy or perhaps for your part in a disagreement. Are you humble enough to receive feedback? If not, you are not ready to confront. We should never confront anyone with an arrogant, self-righteous attitude. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Jesus taught that we will judged by the same standard we judge others. This means that we should be careful in examining our own hearts and failures when tempted to “cast a stone” towards anyone else. 6) We should soberly remind each other of God’s judgement. “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13). Part of our responsibility as loving each other is to remind each other of God’s holiness and coming judgement. While I won’t judge my brother or sister, I am a good friend to speak often of God’s discipline in my life and the truth that we will each stand before God one day. The author of Hebrews wrote, “The Lord will judge His people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30). Paul encouraged the Christians in Philippi, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (Philippians 2:12). 7) Christian leadership should apply discipline for those who wander from biblical teaching and behavior. In the Western church, we don’t talk much about church discipline. It is usually pastors who are scrutinized by the congregation rather than leaders shepherding their flock. God has set up a “balance of power” in His Word. Teachers are accountable to elders (I Timothy 3:1-7), people are accountable to their spiritual leaders (I Timothy 5:17-25) and all are accountable to God (Ephesians 1:22). Christian leaders are charged with the task of taking care of those in their spiritual care; this includes discipline. Just as I lovingly discipline my children when their behavior is inappropriate or immoral, spiritual “parents” should gently discipline their “children” according to God’s standards of holy living. We see Paul’s instruction on how to do this in I Corinthians 5:1-13 when he challenged the church to confront a specific sexual sin. Here is one more thought to consider. How we walk out these principles will differ depending upon if we are interacting with people who claim to be Christ followers and those who don’t. Paul specifically writes about this in I Corinthians 5:12. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” We shouldn’t be surprised when people who don’t know Jesus don’t live by His teaching, and we certainly are not going to draw people to salvation by judging their lifestyles. When interacting with unbelievers, we are to show kindness, mercy and grace, sharing with them the hope Jesus has given us (I Peter 3:15). The passages in Scripture that encourage us to “speak truth in love” refer primarily to how we confront sin among the body of Christ. While I have just shared a lot of Bible verses with you, this is a very practical question that requires discernment in how we react to issues like homosexuality and cohabitation that have become hotly debated among Christians. Understanding biblical teaching on judgement also helps us know how to respond to greed, gossip, dishonesty, betrayal, and every other moral issue we face. God is very clear that He is the Judge. He knows the heart and motives of every person. Only He fully understands good and evil. Even at the heart of the choice to forgive someone who has hurt us, we are challenged to leave judgement to God. Each of us will experience awkward moments of wondering how to respond to a friend or loved one who defends or embraces behavior the Bible calls sinful. We are familiar with how we remind each other of truth in many arenas of life. This should not be a mystery or stumbling block related to how Christians talk about sexuality.