Tag Archives: forgive

The Secret Sin of the Church

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Have you ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? If you’ve been or even heard of what goes on there, then I’m sure you’ve probably heard how each person introduces themselves when he or she gets up to speak. “My name is [insert name here], and I’m an alcoholic.”

It doesn’t matter if they quit drinking yesterday or 20 years ago; the introduction is the same.

They recognize that it would only take one drink to get them back into the habit. Only one drink to shatter their lives once more.

Drug addicts are similar in their meetings and understanding of how precarious their sobriety really is. It is said that someone who has been off drugs and begins again doesn’t start back slowly. Oftentimes they start back with even more than they quit with.

I experienced this hard reality when I was in preaching school. A good friend of mine had been clean for years, but with the influence of another student got back into drugs. I didn’t know until I had to go visit him in the hospital because of an overdose. Thankfully The Lord spared us all from having to mourn his death.

There is another addiction people struggle with even (maybe especially) in the church, but no one seems to be talking about it.

My name is Jonathan Dobbs. I’m a preacher, and I struggle with pornography.

The first time I ever saw inappropriate images such as these was the day after church camp when I was a boy. Those images have never left my mind no matter how hard I try to get rid of them.

When I went to Harding University (a Christian university), I got really exposed. There was a computer lab in the physics building that didn’t have a firewall or filters, and a row of computers didn’t face the door. Plus, no one hardly ever went into the physics computer lab at Harding when I was there. That opportunity coupled with the influences of the young men in the dorm all around me allowed me exposure to things that rid me of whatever innocence I had left.

I understand the urge to look even against my better judgement. I understand the feeling of disgust after having participated in such viewing. I know the dark places my mind would go when I went on a pornography binge. I understand the mental gymnastics used to justify such actions. I know that it only takes one weak day to take me back to those places of mental, sinful bondage.

Such things are rarely talked about in churches, yet this particular sin affects almost every young person today and in many generations recently past. We talk often about homosexuality, abortion, adultery and “shacking up” yet many more people are participating in a much more harmful sin. The problem with porn is that it is so subtle in the ways it destroys you that many people believe it’s not hurting them at all.

Porn addicts are much like alcoholics and drug addicts. They need accountability. They need to be away from the temptation. If they fall back into the habit they often fall hard. Porn addiction controls its victim.

As a church we need to be people who understand this problem. We don’t need to shame people for having struggles with this – they feel shame enough. We don’t need to sit in condemnation for their sin is no worse than yours. We need to love them and befriend them and hold them accountable.

As I’ve been in recovery there are a few things that have helped tremendously. First, I immersed my life in the presence of God and his word. I strategically placed key verses around my computer like Philippians 4:8. I made sure that I had purpose for the time I spent on the computer. The most important thing I did, however, was find accountability partners. The most important accountability partner I have is my wife.

This struggle isn’t just for dirty boys. It’s for men and women. It is for singles and married people. It is for young and old. Just this week I read an open letter to Christian churches by an 18 year old girl recounting how her first experience with porn was at age 8. I’ve personally known of children not much older than that who struggle with pornography. Don’t be deceived. It is everywhere, and we as a church need to be a place of recovery.

If you struggle with porn you are not alone. I can help you find resources to battle the temptation, and I am an understanding ear. If you don’t struggle with porn, then present yourself as available and accepting to those who do. You make an excellent accountability partner. I pray for the women and men exploited by this industry. I pray for the church as she learns to deal with this issue in a more open way. I pray for you in your struggle. Please pray for me as I continue to overcome. Don’t keep your struggle a secret. You are not alone. Jesus still loves you, and so do I.


Not Good Enough – A Dilemma

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I’ve grown up going to church. My grandfather and great-grandfather were song leaders in the church of Christ, and my parents had us at the building pretty much every time the doors were open. Church has always been a part of my life.

I had great teachers in bible class as a kid. They taught us wonderful bible stories and the message of Jesus. We even went and competed at bible bowls. But my greatest teachers were my parents and grandparents. They were the ones who not only told me about the messages of the bible but showed them to me in their lives.

Needless to say I grew up knowing about sin and death and love and joy and Jesus and salvation. There was this problem, though. Once I got to Jr. High I knew I wasn’t good enough to deserve that salvation.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t be good enough. I knew all the answers to the bible questions. I was in church every week, but I didn’t feel like I could come to Christ because my sin was still in the way. In fact, I remember going to a church down in South Texas while we were visiting some friends, and I had all the answers in bible class. One of the other students asked me why I hadn’t been baptized since I “knew all the right answers”.

I knew I didn’t know everything – and still don’t – but I knew I needed Jesus.

This was a huge struggle for me. I wanted to be free from my sin, but I didn’t feel like I could stay good enough once I was baptized. I felt like the baptism wouldn’t stick. I’d still be a sinner.

One Sunday morning during my sophomore year I was listening to the sermon, and it dawned on me: I couldn’t be good enough. I needed Jesus to make me good. It was when I realized this that I gave my life to Christ and was baptized.

I’m still a sinner. But now I understand that my baptism was the beginning of a process that would take my whole life – a process to make me look more like Jesus. In the meantime, His blood cleanses me from the sins I continue to commit. I’m a weak sinner, but He’s a tireless Savior.

Paul reminds the Romans of who they were when they came to Christ when he says “while we were STILL SINNERS Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 emphasis added). Jesus didn’t wait for us to be perfect before He came to save us. If we could achieve that on our own we wouldn’t need a savior.

If you’re waiting until you’re a better person before you dedicate your life to Christ in baptism, then you’re going to always be waiting. You’ll never be good enough, but thank God that once you come to Him He makes you good. He declares you worthy.

He’s waiting for you to answer the call, and He’s been calling for a while.


It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

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It was a dark and stormy night, but the storms on this night weren’t in the atmosphere, they were in his spirit. Jesus was there, in the garden, wrestling in prayer for you and for me. The sin of all mankind had been laid upon him, and he was exhausted.

His friends were exhausted too, and they showed it by their inability to stay awake in watch as their rabbi prayed in distress. So many storms.

As he prayed his body trembled from the hematidrosis – an exhausting condition where the stress is so great that the capillaries in one’s skin burst and the blood mixes with sweat so that one literally “sweats blood”. Why was he so stressed? He had just taken on not just the sin, but the guilt of every sin ever committed past, present, and future. He felt guilty for everything that had ever been done and everything that would ever be done. It was crushing him, and he was sweating blood as he cried in anguish and trepidation.

“Let this cup pass from me” was his prayer. Why? Because the God of the universe was about to make Jesus drink the cup of punishment that had been filled with the sins of the masses. Jesus was about to die, and he knew it.

Even though there was such a storm brewing in his spirit that night, it was clear what the choice needed to be. “Not my will but Yours be done.”

Soon after there was the sound of heavy footsteps and the flash of the moon glinting off metal. Soldiers were coming. A whole squad of soldiers and religious leaders were coming armed with swords and clubs and spears. Here is Jesus, unarmed and with a rag-tag bunch of nobodies. Why did they feel the need to come at him so fully armed?

As Jesus and the disciples heard the oncoming ruckus, they stood up with Jesus at the forefront of the group. The leader of the army sent to arrest him? Judas – one of Jesus’ trusted twelve – the traitor.

Jesus calmly asked the group, “who is it you are looking for?”

“Jesus of Nazareth” was their reply.

What happens next can only be explained in context of a previous conversation Jesus had with the religious leaders of the day. They were trying to trap Jesus in blasphemy, and Jesus was accusing them of always getting rid of the prophets. Jesus was trying to get them to see that Abraham prophesied about Jesus, but they wouldn’t listen. Jesus, then, called them out.

He told them they weren’t children of Abraham. In fact, he went further to say that they were children of the devil. Then, he said something even more blasphemous: “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” Their reaction was swift and harsh as they picked up stones to kill Jesus because they remembered another conversation many, many years before.

Moses is watching his flock when he notices a bush on the mountain called Sinai. This bush is burning, but there is no charring – the bush never burns up. Moses approaches and God proceeds to talk to him from the bush. As God calls Moses to a major mission, Moses asks who he should say sent him. God replies, “I Am who I Am. Tell them I Am sent you.”

They had said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth.

“I Am.”

How he said it is not as important as the implication of what was just said. Jesus just used the same terminology as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus just said He is God.

As this statement sinks in quickly through the ranks of the soldiers they fall to the ground – stunned.

Jesus had rendered the mob defenseless with two words, “I Am.”

He knew he was going to die. He knew he needed to die so that all those billions of people who ever lived and ever would live could truly have life, but he was going down on his terms.

Peter got excited and took a swing with his sword but missed his mark. Instead, an ear was cut off, but Jesus healed that too. It was then that Jesus explained things to Peter. “This sword is not our way of doing things. If I wanted to fight they would have no defense against the legions of angels at my disposal.”

Previously, Jesus had said (John 10) that no one would take His life from Him. Jesus had the power to lay his life down, and he was going to raise it back up.

Judas, the traitor finally came up and kissed Jesus on the cheek to signify the betrayal. Judas had just earned his 30 pieces of silver. This betrayal was not necessary. Jesus had already given himself over to them.

Jesus was bound and tried and beaten, and beaten, and mocked, and beaten some more, and eventually crucified. As he was hanging on that cross sin after sin was being dealt with. The justice of God was being appeased through this one act. When every sin had been taken care of Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”

Isaiah 53:4-5
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

What happened next is the power of Jesus. No one dies quickly on a cross. It could take up to 48 hours for a person to die this way. Jesus gave up his spirit and died voluntarily.

He died for you and me – on purpose – of his own will.

Then, that glorious Sunday morning so long ago, he rose from the dead to prove that he really is God, your sins really are forgiven, and you really can have eternal life through him. The one who laid down a mob with two words raised from the dead. He is the glorious first fruits of those who raise from the dead – and that can include you and me.

This is the good news of Easter. May you celebrate this Sunday and every day that the God of the universe cares enough about you to give up everything to save you. May you see where your life is disconnected from God and come back. Jesus has already made the way for you.


Sibling Rivalries and Outside Impressions

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“I don’t love you anymore!”

Whenever I think of these words I hear my daughter’s voice, and it makes me sad. My kids often play very well together. They are 4 and 6 years old, and when my son frustrates my daughter she spouts things like “I don’t love you anymore” and “I don’t forgive you”.

We are working diligently with her on this. She’s saying these things out of an immediate hurt, but she doesn’t really feel that way about him. We can see that in her eyes, but at the moment she doesn’t love or forgive him. Even though these feelings are difficult to process, and she doesn’t mean it permanently, it still hurts my son, and it hurts me too. I don’t want to see them fighting.

“I don’t forgive you.”

We don’t say things like my daughter says now that we are “grown-ups” (at least most of us don’t), but do we often think those very things?

Is there someone you are harboring a grudge against? Are you keeping a record of their wrongs? Do you hold it against them? Do you shun them because of your feelings toward them? Often times we act like my preschool daughter.

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” is how John describes himself in the fourth book of the New Testament. He went on to write three other books ingeniously titled 1, 2, and 3 John. In 1 John he talks about who we are called to be in Christ. He is remembering the words of Jesus from the night he was handed over to trial.

In John 13:35 Jesus tells his disciples that they will be identified in the world around them by their love for one another. This is a selfless love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. It is a defining love – the central characteristic that should describe Christ-followers.

In 1 John 3, he describes how this looks in a bit more detail. He explains that people who don’t do right aren’t children of God, and we get that. I think our world readily accepts the idea that doing right helps your journey to be connected to the Father. But then he adds a caveat that is unexpected. He said that you can’t be a child of God if you don’t love your brother or sister.

Please understand this: he didn’t say you have to say “I love you” to your fellow mankind. He said you have to actually love them. It’s an action, not an emotion. It’s a choice, not a feeling.

He then goes on to explain that if you don’t love your brothers and sisters whom you have seen you cannot love God whom you have not seen. He didn’t say you won’t; he said you can’t. It’s impossible for you.

Loving others isn’t always easy, but it is what we are called to do. If you don’t understand what love looks like then Paul gives a great definition in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Now, take your name and place it in wherever you read the word “love”. Can you be described in this way? Would the world look at you and know you are a Christian because of your love?

If you can’t be described in this manner, then today is a day to seek God in prayer and ask His spirit to develop this quality of love in you. The truth is that we can never spread the message of God’s love through Jesus if we aren’t willing to sacrificially love others ourselves.

What say you? Do you find that the vast majority of the Christians professing Christ are truly loving this way, or are they more judgmental and condemning than the Savior they profess to follow? This is a dialogue that truly needs to be shared.

Feel free to let me know what you think! You can email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or comment on this article at http://www.mrdobbs.org. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

May God show you the areas in your life where you haven’t allowed His love to take over. May you. Be shown love by Christians that you know. And may you fall in love with Jesus who loves you perfectly. God bless you.


I Love Jesus Because… What about you?

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Do you love Jesus? Why do you love Him?

I love Jesus because He is Magnificent!

This week Hurricane Isaac is making landfall in South Louisiana. The force of the winds are nothing compared to His power and might. He makes mountains crumble and forms canyons at His will. He paints the sky with such an array of colors that it takes one’s breath away. He created the intricacies of nature such that we humans are daily discovering new things about His creation. He is Magnificent!

I love Jesus because He is Reliable!

Since I gave my life to Christ, there has never been a time when Jesus has not been near. I may feel like He is distant or that He may fail, but He never does, and it is usually me who has moved away. It is never Him who moves. Many times in my life there has been uncertainty, and time after time He provides exactly what I need. Does this mean times aren’t hard? No! Anyone who tells you that if you come to Jesus you will have an easier life is selling you snake oil. Jesus never promised you that. What He promises is that when the storms hit, He will be right there with you helping you along. If you want His help He is a prayer of faith away. He is Reliable!

I love Jesus because He is Gentle!

As I read the account of the trial and crucifixion recorded in Isaiah hundreds of years before it happened, I see how gentle Jesus was. He took all the accusations and abuse without saying a word. He could have called legions of angels to defend Him, but He chose not to because of his compassion and love for us. He has never shunned me, His child, because of my sin. He doesn’t kick me out at the first sign of insubordination. He gently reminds me through His word and the counsel of others of my need to come back in line with His example of humility and gentleness. He is Gentle!

I love Jesus because He is Liberating!

Many people think that being a Christian will lead to having more and more rules that you have to follow. This is not the case. In Christ there are only two rules: Love God (which is easy because He loved us first), and love everyone else as much as you love yourself (which is much harder because we are very selfish beings). I don’t have to have all my religious rules in place to follow those two rules. In fact, most of the religious rules that churches require their members to follow are merely traditions. Those traditions may help you follow those two rules, or they may not. Regardless, Jesus has not called you to tradition but to love. He wants you to do whatever you want to do. However, when you become His follower, hopefully you want to live in the example that Jesus set for you. He is not going to stand over you and force you to do good or condemn you the moment you do wrong. Jesus is no micro-manager. There is freedom in Christ. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am no longer a slave to unforgiveness or guilt or hatred. I am no longer a slave to anyone but Christ who calls me brother. He is liberating!

I love Jesus because He is Forgiving!

Jesus came to rescue the world from itself. He came to take away all the wrong you have ever done or ever will do. On the cross all the sins you have ever or will ever commit were placed on Him and nailed to the cross. They are there. We are the ones who want to continue to cling to those sins and continue to commit them. Jesus wants us to let them go so that He can truly forgive us. For we aren’t truly able to live in the forgiveness of Christ until we are able to forgive ourselves. He isn’t standing over us reminding us of all the wrong we have done. Jesus doesn’t shame us into submission. He loves us, and He shows us His love through His willingness to continually overlook our faults. Jesus is Forgiving!

I love Jesus. I hope you do too. Why do you love Jesus? I’d love to hear your story. You can comment on this article at http://www.mrdobbs.org or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net.

If you haven’t allowed Jesus to be all these things in your life, I’d love to begin walking with you as you seek that kind of health in you. I’d love to show you Jesus. Blessings to you, and may His love shine in us as we walk in His footsteps


I Hereby Declare War on all Mosquitos…and other things

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I read in the news today that two more people in the Houston area have died as a result of West Nile Virus. I’m praying for their families.

It’s summer time, and I’ve been waiting all summer to start hearing stories around the nation of people infected with this horrible illness. The other day I saw an article where ten people have died in the Dallas area. This week’s news is the second such story of two people dying from the dreaded virus in the Houston area.

How do we deal with it? We declare all out war on the mosquito.

Have you ever seen a family declare war on mosquitos? They go to the store and buy Cutter and spray their yard. They invest into some sort of glowing blue light that joyously zaps the wretched critters as they fly. They douse their children with liquid bug repellent immediately upon entering the outdoor spaces. Their evening time outside is severely limited.

Cities get into the fight as well as they roam the streets with their trucks spraying noxious fumes out the back in hopes of eradicating these blood sucking annoyances. The city of Houston is going to do some aerial spraying specifically for west nile in the upcoming days. It’s all out war not just on the disease but on the cause of the disease.

Let me set something straight…I hate mosquitos. I champion the war against the critters and even have a Facebook page entitled “I Hereby Declare War on all Mosquitos”.

I also hate sin.

Sin also leads to death, and the statistics surrounding the mortality rate of sin are alarmingly more severe than that of those bit by mosquitos. If I’m bit by a mosquito I’ll probably live, statistically. But if I sin then there’s a 100% chance I’ll die.

The problem is, however, that we don’t treat sin like the lowly mosquito. We don’t put things in place to prevent its occurrence in our lives. We don’t stay out of areas where sin is more rampant. Frankly, we just don’t see it as that big of a deal.

But let me warn you; it is a huge deal.

You were created in the image of God to live for and with Him in a perfect, sinless life. When you sin you are cut off from God. Your world becomes broken, and the great plans that would have been set in place if you’d have remained pure are skewed. Your sin also tragically influences and affects the lives of those around you.

What’s worse? We are cut off from God when we sin. The first time you ever sinned you were cut off, and that sin stained you such that you can never get back to God on your own. You don’t have a detergent strong enough to get rid of that stain. But God does.

God loves you so much that he wants to remove that sin. So he sent Jesus. And for all who come to him and receive His grace and forgiveness, He cleanses their sin. It’s a pretty great deal.

Sadly, most people choose to keep their sin. Even people who have “given their life to Christ” often continue to treat sin like its no big deal. They not only continue to sin but approve of those who do so (Romans 1:32).

You are called beyond that. You are called to hate sin more than you hate mosquitos. Imagine what kind of world we would live in if people attacked sin in their lives like they attack that minuscule bug. When we treat sin with apathy we dishonor the cross of Christ where He willingly suffered for those sins we are so eager to commit.

Brothers and sisters let’s take up a new cause and allow the Spirit of Christ to truly eradicate sin in all areas of our lives. May we hate sin in our lives (Romans 6:1-7). May we be changed and allow the righteousness of Christ to shine in us (2 Corinthians 5:21). May we give honor to the sacrifice that was made, once for all, by the Son of God Himself.

If you want to know more about allowing Christ to rid you of your sin, please feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon,net or via my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God will bless you – He already has.


Fixing a Flat the Wrong Way

I was angry today.  Very angry.

I went to the tire center at Walmart.

That sentence kind of explains it all, right? I got there around one in the afternoon and didn’t leave until after four.  I went in to get my tire fixed.  The attendant there came back after an hour and told me that my tire had dry rot, and he was not willing to risk airing it back up again for fear it would explode on him.  My only option was to get a new tire.

I never only buy one tire, so I asked him the prices of the tires, and he assured me that there was enough tread on the tire to get a pro-rated charge on the new tires.  I finally agreed to two new tires and began my waiting process again.

At 3:15 my car was finally outside, but they hadn’t called me.  I went up to the counter and asked if it was ready, and they showed me the sheet of what had been done.  The charges were almost one hundred dollars more than I was told to expect.  I was not prepared to pay that kind of money today.  I went in expecting to get a free flat repair and ended up with an over two-hundred dollar bill.

I was not happy.  They had not pro-rated the tires, and this whole idea of my tires being dry rotted did not set well with me.  My wife had gotten the tires checked just last week by the dealership, and they said the tires were fine.  Tires don’t get dry rot in five days.

They decided to call the manager.  At about four o’clock she finally showed up, and I explained my dilemma.  Fifteen minutes later she finally decided what to do.

I want to stop there for a minute.

Did I have reason to be angry?  I had been there three hours for what was supposed to be a flat repair. My expectations were shattered.  I had been given false information and over-charged for services rendered.  I felt like I had every reason to be angry.

In the process of this, though, there are so many things to consider.  First, what was my conduct like?  Did I keep my head or lose it?  Am I showing them love even when I’m angry?  Is it possible to show love when angry?  What would Jesus do (the old cliche fallback)? Why was this all happening to me?

I don’t like being angry.  It doesn’t make me feel good, and it doesn’t help those around me either.  Nevertheless, I find myself at various times caught in the trap of selfishness where I am consumed with myself and become angry.

The bible doesn’t say that anger is a sin.  It is what we do with that anger that is the sin – or not.  If I had started throwing a temper tantrum, then that would definitely be in the sin range.  Fortunately, I didn’t go there today. Had I become hateful or rude beyond normal explanation of my side of the argument that would have been over the top.  If, however, I can control my tongue (and the rest of my body) when I’m angry then I can be angry and not sin.

This is what we are called to do.  Jesus never asked us to not become angry.  He asks us to not sin when we become angry.  Let me tell you, it’s not always easy to do.

Back to my story.  The manager showed up and found out both sides of the story.  It turned out that the guy that gave me all the quotes is the newest member of their team.  He gave me bogus information.  The tire wasn’t dry rotted, but it was in need of replacement.  The manager overrode the price, and she gave me a hefty discount to ease my mind.

As I look back at the events of today, I can’t help but see how God worked in this situation to make all things work out for my good.  I got two new tires (which I needed) for much less than even had originally been quoted to me because of the fiasco surrounding this situation.  I didn’t really need to be spending that money today, and God helped me out financially.  I just had to persevere through the rough time to see the benefit.

I still don’t like going to the tire shop at Walmart, but I am grateful for that manager.  I am grateful that God helped me keep my cool today.  I am grateful that He worked this out for my good (Romans 8:28).

If you’re going through a rough time where you constantly feel angry about your situation, pray to God for new perspective.  May He show you the good that is being done all around you FOR you.  And may you not sin in your anger but be a shining example of Christ to those around you.  We aren’t perfect, but thank God that through Jesus we’re forgiven.

If there’s anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at 245-1611 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net.  God bless you!


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