faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

We Are All Addicts

Everyone is addicted to something. It’s human nature. That’s right. You are an addict. I am an addict.

Popular cultural defines an addict as someone addicted to illegal drugs or alcohol. But an addict is simply someone who is unable to stop some harmful or negative behavior.

Whoa.

Not only does that cover everything from gambling to porn, but also gossip/ drama, food, shopping, sex, TV/ gaming, risky behavior (aka adrenaline junkie), physical appearance/ vanity, internet & social media, your phone, etc. There is also addiction to comfort, control, safety, power, self-righteousness, self-loathing, the list goes on. You can fill in the blank with any negative behavior. It’s really anything that you “must have/ be/ do” so much that if something gets in the way, you will become upset and frustrated. What is the draw for you to engage in any of these activities or behaviors? What “need” does it seem to fill for you?

Maybe you identify some of the items above as being part of your life, but you don’t believe you are actually addicted to it, or you could stop if you wanted to. So what’s the big deal? Geez Chad, leave me alone already!

The big deal is that if you can muster the self-awareness that your behavior includes some addictions that are not healthy, you are already on the way to overcoming those addictions and being the person you were made to be. Free. Free to love, give, serve. Free to have, be, and do what really satisfies. Free from the slavery your addiction held you in. Free to be your very best self – for yourself and those you care about most. And maybe calling your “thing” an addiction may inspire action to change, because you don’t like to be called an addict, right?

In my personal experience, I realized something about my “things,” my addictions, that help me to see them for what they really are. One is feeling like I have to justify or defend my behavior – even if only to myself. Saying to myself things like, “What’s the big deal?” or “It’s not that bad.” or “Others do much worse than me.” If I need to justify (even to myself) that what I’m doing is fine or “not that bad,” then that’s a red flag to dig a little deeper into my motives. Time to ask some questions: What is the draw to engage in any of these activities or behaviors? What “need” does it seem to fill? Is this “thing” what I really want to be about- is it REALLY that important to me? Why?

The second is the truth that people spend the most time, energy, and money on the things that matter the most to them. In addiction, we find hypocrisy. What we SAY is the most important to us is often not supported by how we spend our time and energy. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so I take a hard look in the mirror and reevaluate myself. Regularly.

I promise that if you take a sober self-assessment you can identify some negative behavior in your life that you really struggle with. I’m here to tell you that you (and I) have an addiction that keeps us from being our very best and we can beat it. But how?

There is a simple process to follow, outlined below. Simple, but not easy.

1. Decide

“I can’t tolerate it anymore.” Whatever is the “thing,” you’ve finally come to the end of your rope. It’s not serving you anymore, but rather enslaving you. You will never slay your addiction without this deep conviction that enough is enough. Find your personal compelling reason WHY you can’t tolerate it anymore and lean into it when temptation strikes.

2. Describe & Identify

This is about the trigger. The emotions or circumstances that precede the behavior or activity. It’s usually some form of stressor. For example, you realize that you go to the pantry for comfort when something stressful happens and you overeat junk food to cope. Name your trigger.

3. Make Advanced Decision

This is where it gets real. Ultimately you need to choose your next move the next time the trigger hits. It’s not enough to say, “NO, I won’t go to the pantry when I’m stressed.” Try replacing the action of eating with another positive action, such as going for a walk, or munching on some baby carrots. Having decided your course of action BEFORE the trigger strikes makes it way easier to choose well in the heat of the battle. Best option ever: PRAY! Tell God you are triggered and you need his help to choose well. God loves to hear such prayers, and will be happy to help you if you will trust him to do so.

4. New Reward

Recognize the many benefits of your good choice. You become closer to God having trusted him for help. You made another key step towards your healthy habit, which boosts esteem and confidence. You can do it!

Here are some excellent verses to remember about temptation:

Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself (Jesus) suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I realize this is a heavy topic. Much more can be written for sure. My hope is to have provided a mental exercise for you to consider to help you be your very best. We don’t want to be addicts or hypocrites, so let’s do the hard work to slay our “thing.”

Family, Fortitude, Personal Development

Who's in Charge of Your Marriage?

When men fail to love their wives because of what they perceive to be a lack of responsiveness, they are allowing themselves to be controlled by the behavior of their wives. In fact, I find that these two things are occurring when this transpires:

1. The man is waiting for permission from his wife to be the man he vowed to be.

When a man bases his love on the behavior of his wife, he is not in control. Whether he realizes it or not, he is being controlled by her negativity not by his conscience, his commitment to the marriage vows, or his God. His is committing the mistake of allowing her behavior to dictate his actions.

This is a classic mistake that spouses make in a troubled marriage. In a sense, they are allowing the dysfunction of their spouse to become the true god of their actions (Romans 6:16), and this is always a problem in that no individual or couple will ever rise higher than the true master of their marriage. We deal with this in chapter 3 of our marriage book.

2. The man becomes a walking contradiction.

What most give off that they are the most is what they are the least.

Bank tellers will tell you that the person with lots of bling and the shiniest car is usually poorer in relation to the man with an old truck and overalls.

The teenager that has to walk with a strut and talk a big game typically has the least confidence. It is the young man that finds but little need to let everyone know how confident he is that is truly over abounding with confidence. (Proverbs 17:27)

In the same way, the man that runs from his obligation to serve his wife yet becomes bitter about her negative responses will often tout how he could care less what she does. But, it should be noted that the man that has to tell everyone how little he cares is usually showing how much he cares. If he did not care, then why does he feel a need to verbalize his disgust.

Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). I know people say that you cannot know someone’s heart, but Jesus teaches otherwise. We typically know what is in someone’s heart by their words as they are heart indicators.

Love Because it is Right

Though I am the first to admit that there are some women that are dissatisfied no matter how much love they receive, men will be wise to love their wives because it is right rather than because it produces the result they desire. In fact, when a man refrains from loving his wife because of her lack of responsiveness he is showing that he is simply a conditional lover.

Conditional Love is Not Love

To say that someone is a conditional lover is oxymoronic. That is, a conditional lover is not a true lover. He or she is merely one that has mastered having good behavior in order to receive a desired result. This is not love as much as a deceptive form of love which is no love at all. (I Corinthians 13:5)

True Repentance

Many men will do well to remember that true repentance is taking total responsibility for the state of their actions and the repercussions of those actions. I have found that men do not even begin to prosper until they stop blaming their wives for their negative behavior and focus more on the lack of love that has caused the lack of good feeling in their wives.

If I neglected to change the oil in my car, I have nobody to blame but myself. I can ignore the warning light, argue with it, or take full responsibility. In the same way, many husbands will do well to accept total responsibility for the state of their marriage and their home and return to their first works.

Man Up

I am finding many men that are balking at taking full responsibility for the state of their marriage. Though I am aware that some women will reject the love of even the best of men, this is more of an exception rather than a rule.

Behind every bitter woman is a man that failed somewhere. That man may be a father, ex-husband, old boyfriend, or current husband. But, mark it down, somewhere out there, a man lacked the strength or the wisdom to pull her outside of herself in a loving way.

I am a firm believer that the lack of responsiveness that we have today from the wives in our society is a reaction rather than a mere action. It is a reaction to the lack of masculinity in our families.

The Demasculinization of America is a Faulty Premise

I say that nobody, including our wives, took it away. We gave it up. Take responsibility for your actions and the negative repercussions of those actions. Do what the scriptures say and “be men of courage.” (I Samuel 4:9 and I Corinthians 16:13)

I often hear people talk about the demasculinization of America. However, as of late, I have been swaying away from using this term. This is because if someone can take away my manhood, then I was not much of a man from the start. In other words, is someone taking away our manhood as a society or are we as men giving it up by walking contrary to the scriptures?

About the Author: Dr. Raymond Force currently serves as a pastor of the Crossroads Bible Church in Ocala, FL. Having served in a number of churches throughout his ministry, Dr. Force pulls from his experience as a pastor and a youth pastor to help others to overcome difficulties in their lives and relationships. Dr. Force has been married over twenty years and he is a father of seven beautiful children. Hitting Home is a family owned and operated ministry that enjoys working together for God’s glory.

Fortitude, Personal Development

Life Lessons from Rocky

Our family recently watched all 6 Rocky movies. It had been long enough since I’d seen any of them that I forgot much of the story. Of course I remembered Mr. T as Clubber Lang, Apollo Creed, and Ivan Drago, but I totally forgot about Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips along with much of the good story telling about real life. I was surprised at the positive messages in these boxing movies. I don’t care for boxing at all, in fact I think it’s a barbaric sport, but I can’t deny the positive life lessons taught in these movies. Read on for my insights from these movies in hopes that they will encourage you as they do me.

We Are All Overcomers

A central theme in the Rocky stories is heart or fortitude. Fortitude is the mindset that you will not be defeated no matter the obstacle, sacrifice, suffering, and pain. The body will only go as far as the mind will allow it. That’s why I like to say, “Healthy living starts between your ears.” Rocky had his mind right even if his body was never like that of his opponents. He won because of his heart. He would never give up. That’s mental fitness and fortitude.

You and I are not striving to overcome the physical beating a boxer takes, but we all have our personal battles. Maybe it’s defeating a doubt that we can’t do/ be something. Maybe it’s fear that we will fail, or never measure up. Maybe there’s a bad habit we wish we could conquer. Maybe it’s a bitterness or resentment that eats at us. We all have something to overcome. Rocky reminds us that we are overcomers and when our driving force to “win” is stronger than the excuses and obstacles, we can do amazing things. https://youtu.be/D_Vg4uyYwEk

No Regrets

In the 6th movie, Rocky is old and long retired living a quiet life as restaurant owner in Philly. Without spoiling the story, he gets this “itch” to fight again and he can’t shake it. Fighting is what he’d always done. Boxing is what brought him the most joy and satisfaction, how he was known, how he identified himself. Despite his age, there was still a fire in his belly to fight again. He called this fire “stuff in the basement.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et_Bdct1T0U

It seems strange that he would want to fight again because it really is crazy, but are we any different? I’m not. Life is short, health is not guaranteed, and I believe we all have a secret desire to not have regret. We don’t want to regret NOT doing the thing we always wanted to do, but were too afraid to go for it. We wonder, “Could I have really done X?” Rocky asked this question and he went for it, despite all the odds and obstacles. Despite what other people thought of his goal, Rocky went for it. I believe he is challenging us to do the same. https://youtu.be/KFLgYy2VHV0

What is your “stuff in the basement?” The thing in your heart that kind of eats at you to do, but you keep pushing it back down for all the list of excuses you’ve come up with over the years. Maybe it’s time to “let the beast out.” It doesn’t have to be an audacious physical goal either. Maybe it’s to do your part to restore a broken relationship, or confront a loved one, or to change jobs, or move away. I don’t know what it is, but you do.

Love Fiercely

I was not expecting to learn about marriage and family from Rocky, but it’s in there. Watching Adrian love and support Rocky is convicting and heartwarming at the same time. Man, she loved Rocky fiercely. Despite his flaws, which are many, she was always there to love, encourage, and support her husband. I’m convinced that Rocky would never have won any fights without the knowledge that Adrian was in his corner no matter what.

They yelled at each other. https://youtu.be/SDe3qE_aw8Q They argued. Mostly Adrian was right. But they reconciled quickly and let love rule their relationship. It’s beautiful. I love this quote:

“Adrian has gaps, I have gaps, but together…no gaps.”

Rocky Balboa

He knew he needed Adrian and he loved her deeply, cared for her, and always wanted the best for her no matter what. Marriage is meant to help complete the individual through mutual sacrificial loving. It’s how God designed us. Flawed as they are, Rocky and Adrian demonstrate this love well.

Family is important to Rocky and Adrian. He often talked about “home team” particularly with his son in Rocky V. When Rocky lost sight of his “home team,” Adrian was there to draw him back and the family was strengthened for it. Rocky even loved Paulie, Adrian’s drunken loser brother by forgiving him often when Paulie treated him or Adrian poorly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp80snqeI3w, and even when he squandered their fortune. Because Paulie was family, Rocky did all he could to love him despite his flaws and failures. A great example for us all.

Work Works

In all the movies, Rocky’s training plan was old school, fundamental, blood, sweat, and tears hard work. He didn’t have the fancy facilities or equipment, latest techniques or technology, or cutting edge gurus on his team. He didn’t take steroids or chemical supplements to improve his strength or stamina. The guy just worked. Hard. The Russian Drago in Rocky IV had all the stuff and he still lost.

I can’t get past this illustration applying to today’s multi-billion dollar health and fitness industry. All the gimmicks and gizmos, machines, pills, and chemical concoctions that promise to make you look like a superhero with minimal time and effort. Baloney. What really works is work. Doing the hard work consistently over time and having a team around you to support, care, encourage you along the way. Dang, sound a lot like Team Quadzilla. Just sayin’.

So there you have it: My take on the Rocky series and some of what we can learn about winning at life. What life lessons from Rocky resonate with you?

faith, Family, Personal Development

Be Offensive – 15 Ways To Your Best Offense | Letters To My Son

We live in a world where people are being trained to be offended. It appears we live in a time when it’s nearly heroic for people to point out the offenses of another. Maybe this is because we’ve more recently supported social approaches that promote sensitivity, which appears to have escalated into hypersensitivity. Men need to learn the virtue of being sensitive.

However, I wonder if this has led to a culture of men who are over-sensitive in fear of being attacked? I know some men who feel they are on the verge of being attacked for being born male. Which raises the question:

Have we become so fearful of offenses and offending others that we have lost our offense?

Let me be clear; there’s nothing masculine or Godly about being offensive in what we say or how we say it. Sexual innuendos, lewd joking, perverse gestures, or even a “hint” of an immoral action is not appropriate or honoring for a man of God. However, this does not mean we need to forgo some offense. By offense, I mean “taking assertive and positive action.” Offensive action is when we develop an organized and forceful campaign to achieve something. In this culture of growing over-sensitivity, too many men give way to fear that perpetuates more fear. It’s a fear of taking action due to concern about hypersensitive responses. This concern can result in living life overly cautious, hesitant, and indifferent because of undercurrents and trends that have endorsed and reward a culture of fear and passivity. Resultantly, we end up training ourselves to respond defensively or not at all. This defensive strategy leads to tragic results in a man’s life when it continues for too long or when we fail to act offensively. In addition, when emotions like guilt and shame reinforce our inaction, we remain enslaved to non-action. In the Bible, we see tragic examples of this repeatedly; men who were defensively inactive when they should have been actively offensive.

Son, never miss an opportunity for greatness by being overly cautious or supporting any system that does. Sometimes you need some offensive—in word and deed. But do not fail to be sensitive, as every situation does not dictate offensive responses.

My quick list below is a compilation of two things with each point. First, there are activities that you should stop doing that prevent offensive action. Second, you must assume a corresponding movement that is appropriately offensive. I have made mistakes in these areas along the way, and in some other areas, I still make mistakes. Think of this list as being similar to offensive strikes in a sport. They are strategies for bringing the ball forward that move us from being defensive to being optimistically offensive.

My goal is for you to be a greater man than I. If you take action, even with a handful of these suggestions, you should experience tremendous results in your life.

ONE | Reconciliation

Stop giving excuses for the times that you have harmed others with your words or actions; be offensive, and seek forgiveness from others. On numerous occasions, I have failed to reconcile relational issues. Explaining, blaming, and deflecting are defensive strategies. They are not offensive. However, reconciliation is an offensive move.

TWO | Sin

Stop hiding sin. Be offensive by taking action that diminishes the power of sin. Confession, repentance, and accountability work against our desire to protect wrongdoing; rather, they bring it into the open. There are sins that I embraced for too long because I chose to conceal them.

THREE | Leadership

Stop waiting for your leadership moment; it may not come. Choose to be on the offensive and seize the leadership moments before you. There is always a leadership void waiting to be filled. I have made the mistake of thinking that I needed to be invited to a leadership table to be a leader, and this faulty thinking. Influence is leadership, and you have opportunities for influence right in front of you, right now—lead into them.

FOUR | Speaking Up

Stop being quiet when you see injustice. Be offensive and discover the power of speaking the truth in love. I have made the mistake of turning a blind eye to injustices happening right before me. While their action was wrong, my inaction was worse.

FIVE | Transparency

Stop repressing your feelings, passion, and ideas; this can turn into aggression or depression. Be offensive by being appropriately transparent. Keeping your feelings to yourself will stunt your emotional growth and delay your relational maturity.

SIX | Opportunity

Stop complaining about not getting opportunities. Be offensive and create an opportunity where there is none. I have made this mistake, and it causes us to embrace a victim mentality.

SEVEN | Saying Yes

Stop saying “no”; be offensive and say “yes” to more new opportunities. I have missed a few fun opportunities because of this.

EIGHT | Saying No

Stop saying “yes” to everything, be offensive and say “no” to the right things. Make a good decision against yourself. I have said yes to way too many things and found out I could not keep all of the commitments.

NINE | Persistence

Stop wussing out, when something is hard, be offensive by being persistent than others. I have found much of life is learning to be committed longer than others.

TEN | Asking For Help

Stop aimlessness. When you don’t know something, be offensive, and ask for help. Men make the mistake of living in hidden ignorance because they arrogantly refuse to invite help.

ELEVEN | Women

Stop waiting for the right girl to approach you, be offensive, and approach her. Women like offensively minded men. That’s how your mom and I met. She made a snarky remark to men, and I thought it was attractive, so I turned on the offensive.

TWELVE | Spiritual Habits

Stop believing spiritual maturity happens by accident, be offensive, and build discipline now. Regular prayer, bible reading, worship, and journaling are good habits that will pay off for you down the road. I wish I would have built healthier spiritual habits earlier in my life.

THIRTEEN | Character Flaws

Stop letting that one character problem hold you back; be offensive, and manage your character issues. It takes a while to learn how to handle them effectively. If you start now, it’ll benefit your relationships with respect to play, school, work, dating, marriage, and family. I have made the mistake of maintaining the same character flaw because I never learned how to manage it effectively. This required a lot of reconciliation along the way. Therefore, defeat the need for excessive reconciliation with offensive character adjustments.

FOURTEEN | Vulnerabilities

When are you most vulnerable, be offensive. Cancel that appointment, subscription, event, or meeting. I have made the mistake of staying committed to harmful patterns and destructive relationships for too long. If it makes you vulnerable to sin, act quickly.

FIFTEEN | Accountability

Stop avoiding accountability. Be offensive by inviting other great men into your life who will drive you to be better. The longer you wait to develop these relationships, the further behind you will be in your development as a man and man of God. Men need brothers; never forget this.

In the end, life is not a spectator sport. It also is not intended to be only played defensively. We must engage as men. Be offensive.

I love you, son—Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 16 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org

faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

My 2019 Book List

It’s that time of year again. The annual book list and review. You know I enjoy reading. I prefer to read to learn something versus reading for entertainment. I’m always on the lookout for a solid read from a respected author. I’m not one to plow through a book a week because some of what I read needs to be taken in small portions so I can digest it. See what I did there with the play on words?

So here is what I read in 2019 with a few notes about each one. I’m not saying you MUST read everything that I read, but if you are in the market for quality content to nourish your mind and soul, these have been impactful to me. And if you missed my book list from 2018, you can find it here.

By the way, if you have a book you think I’d like to read, please let me know.

Eyes Wide Open – Steve DeWitt

It is our nature to quickly judge literally everything as good or bad. We tend to see everything through our own lens of perspective and experience. This book suggests we open our eyes to God’s perspective and see things as he does. To see people as he does. To see nature, art, and science as he does. DeWitt has a clever writing style that challenges our perspective on this beautiful world around us.

31 Prayers for My Wife – Aaron & Jennifer Smith

This is a devotional style book that helps to focus my prayers. It’s a nice resource to keep bedside or wherever you normally conduct your business with the Lord. You can learn some things your wife struggles with that she may never say. Praying specifically for your wife will bless you both. FYI there is also a book for wives to pray specifically for their husbands by the same authors.

The Cross Centered Life – CJ Mahaney

This book is a treasure worth reading regularly. In college I learned this principle: “Major in the majors and minor in the minors.” It means to focus my energy and attention on the central, important, main things in life and faith and not fuss to much over the little things. Keeping the cross of Jesus Christ at the center of my life and faith is liberating. Doing so helps me avoid my common pitfalls of performance based, legalistic behavior. This is a book for every Christian.

21 irrefutable laws of leadership – John Maxwell

Among the bestselling leadership books ever written, this one is a must read for those who lead others, or aspire to do so. It’s practical, easy to read, and has interesting illustrations to make the principles come alive.

Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey

Oh my goodness, this book is heavy. Literally and figuratively. It is several hundred pages in hardback weighing five pounds and the content can only be absorbed in small doses because it is so rich and deep. Pearcey distills a lifetime of research through all of human history to break down the existence, reality, and reasonableness of truth. It’s quite academic and she even admits so saying there is a caution to the reader to not leave this study with mere information about truth, but to live it out in the way we believe and behave.

Convictions – Vince Miller

Here is a shorter book aimed at men who wrestle with the age old issue of knowing what you should do, but not doing it and doing what you know you shouldn’t do. How do we manage this ceaseless struggle and be the man we were made to be? Read this book to get unstuck from feeling convicted and live with conviction.

The Mysterious Island – Jules Verne

An old school classic adventure story. My teenage son read it first and thought I’d like it. He was right. This is a great story. Island castaways surviving with minimal supplies and their clever wits. The detail spun in Verne’s narrative puts you in the middle of the action on every page. You feel like you are on the island with them, feeling every emotion and sensation. Spectacular writing.

Surprised By Joy – CS Lewis

Author of many excellent works including The Chronicle’s of Narnia and Mere Christianity, Surprised By Joy is the story of Lewis’s early life. Witty, fascinating, and pretty deep sometimes. His journey to faith from atheism is pretty interesting. And his childhood is quite odd. I won’t spoil it, but it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of Lewis.

Reflections on the Psalms – Lewis

Here Lewis digs into the meaning behind the ancient poetry of the Psalms in the Bible. He writes his observations as I imagine he would write in his own personal journal; a bit raw and conversational with humor sprinkled in. Some of his analogies are hysterical. This book makes a pretty good study guide for those interested in a deep dive into the Psalms.

The Four Loves – Lewis

I have all 3 of these CS Lewis classics in one volume. It took a few months to get through all of it. This book is a through study on the four types of love humanity experiences; affection, friendship, Eros, and charity. He challenges us to work on all forms of love in our own lives and reasons how each form helps to explain God and draws us closer to him.

Kingdom Marriage – Tony Evans

If your marriage is awesome, I recommend reading this book. If your marriage could use a tune up, read this book. If your marriage is struggling, read this book. OK, if you are married, read this book. It’s that good. Tony Evans breaks down marriage in simple terms with stories and illustrations everyone can relate to. He pulls no punches, telling it like it is and just how we need to hear it. No psychology mumbo-jumbo, no fluff, no super spiritual rules or condemnation. This book will challenge your thinking about yourself and how you view marriage and its purpose in your life.

Sein Language – Jerry Seinfeld

A silly reprieve from the learning books I like to read. I received this book as a birthday gift in college. It’s a collection of Seinfeld’s early material, much of which you might recall from his TV show. It’s funny, clean, and super-fast to read. His observations on the everyday are hilarious.

He Loves Me – Wayne Jacobsen

The depth of God’s love for me (and you) knows no bounds. We will spend a lifetime to understand it and still not be able to grasp it all. God’s love is unconditional which is hard to fathom. How can someone love me perfectly and fully regardless of my past, my mistakes, failures, fears, and annoying quirks? Well God does, and his love compels us to seek him more, trust him more and love him in return. This book dives deep into the relationship God desires us to have with him, explaining plainly the beauty, wonder, and benefits of receiving God’s gift to us. This is not a hard read, but I marked up the book thoroughly to highlight insights in every chapter that I can quickly refer back to. This is encouragement for your weary soul. I offer my highest recommendation to any who just want to be loved and live loved.