Luke Zedwick

Luke Zedwick worked for 11 years as a math teacher, church elder, and an occasionally paid minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s spent the last few years as a school principal, husband & dad, and Bible teacher in his local church home group.

Finding God’s Kingdom in Your Story

Dirt Road

I have always believed God has a plan for His people that is much larger than to merely have them suffer through sin until they’re set free in death. I haven’t always experienced this, but I’ve continued to believe it nonetheless.

For many years, I tried an assortment of Christian practices to help me stop looking at pornography (and the shameful lying that often followed). I had seasons where I did better, and seasons where I failed… hard.

Through it all though, I had two truths firmly rooted in my heart:

  1. There was something wrong with me deep inside, and…
  2. Whatever it was, God could fix it.

I found many things that helped—accountability partners, regular fasting, disciplined bible reading, singing worship songs, going to church—but none of them successfully fixed the problem.

Eventually, I discovered my battle was spiritual in nature, and the strongholds of lust and deception I’d allowed the enemy to erect in my heart could only be broken down by a power greater than my own. I could not do this by my own will. I would need to trust God and submit to whatever He asked of me.

I had struggled with not wanting to submit my sin to God, hoping instead to be like God without His help. I eventually realized that was just my foolish pride. Once I began to submit to the difficult and courageous steps God was asking me to take—becoming honest with my wife, pursuing bible-centered counseling, repenting from the lies I had believed about my sin, accepting some hard words from the godly men I trusted—I began to experience significant breakthroughs.

It was in that period of my life when I came across Mid-Valley Fellowship. This unassuming ministry was bringing people to Jesus for the same kind of healing that I had recently found. Mid-Valley wasn’t like the other ministries I’d encountered in my wanderings: programs that assume you’ll always struggle, only now you can do so “victoriously.” These people were looking for a deeper place of healing and genuine transformation that only the Spirit of God could bring.

Last year’s benefit dinner, for example, was particularly moving. Several people shared deeply personal testimonies about the struggles they’ve had (and continue to have) in seeking God’s design for their lives. All of them were in the process of recognizing their true identities as children of God. This gospel truly was good news.

As I heard their stories, I felt my own heart ring with a genuine connection to God’s kingdom. The work of God that had set me free was at work in these men and women too. It was yet another reminder that God wants to do more than just make us disciplined—He wants to change us and make us whole.

He wants to bring His Kingdom deeper into this world through our connection with Him, transforming our lives and leading us into resounding joy.

When Jesus returns, there will be many stories of redemption and restoration to share. But even today, much of God’s Kingdom is being shared through the testimonies of people who struggle in a dark and corrupt world yet have found the power of the Lord when they needed it most.

•••

“You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.”
1 Peter 2:5—

•••

I am learning to see God’s Church as a people set apart from the world, not just people who go to a specific building on Sunday mornings.

I’m learning what it means that God “does not dwell in temples made by human hands.”

And now, more than ever, I am putting my hope in this transforming message of Jesus. As He travelled the countryside in a backwater Roman colony, He kept repeating the same phrase: “Behold, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

As I continue to hear more stories of redemption in those who have trusted Christ, I have to say I whole-heartedly agree—the Kingdom of Heaven truly is at hand.

.

Luke_ZedwickLuke Zedwick worked for 11 years as a math teacher, church elder, and an occasionally paid minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s spent the last few years as a school principal, husband & dad, and Bible teacher in his local church home group.

If you would like to contact Luke, you can reach him here.

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why I No Longer Chase after “If Only”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week, we looked at how God never says If Only… This week, I’d like to look at how learning that truth changed the focus of my own life now that I know He loves me just as I am.

The temptations in this world are all pointing us toward the same thing: If only we could be like God (without His help). When I took up that effort, I became controlling, constantly swinging between feelings of shame and pride, and looking for comfort anywhere but in Christ.

Photo by castgen, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by castgen, Flickr Creative Commons

Sure, I did some good stuff, but my church attendance, Bible reading, and “righteous” deeds were nothing but cheap polish on the clay jar that God made me to be.

Somehow, I imagined that all this effort at perfection would make the Gospel more appealing to others, allowing God’s kingdom to grow. Yet it was all folly.

You see, God never intended for me to polish my own jar, to make the vessel impressive. My self-righteous deeds were like filthy rags before Him. All of the glory I was seeking was for me, not for Him. And all such glory is fleeting.

So now, I’ve set down that desire for self-won godliness, and instead pursue full-surrender to God instead.

But what exactly does that look like? For me, it started with rejecting the impressive things I wanted to do and doing the hard things I knew God was calling me to do:

  • I became transparent and open with some God-fearing friends.
  • I was finally honest with my wife and faced the evil I was doing to her.
  • I began making humble sacrifices instead of prideful excuses.

In reality, though I didn’t do anything. I merely allowed God to finally do what He wanted to do: Pour me out like an old, clay pot so that His life could be what fills me up.

And with His new life in me, I now get to live knowing that He is perfectly pleased with me doing the things He has called me to do, which sets me free from constantly wondering what I could become if only I were doing more…

God Never Says “If Only…”

In the winter of 2006, the church I loved (and simultaneously hated) was crumbling around me, my pregnant wife had developed a growing sense of loneliness that would eventually bring us to the brink of divorce, and my porn habit was still safely wrapped in lies. However, if you had asked me, I still would’ve told you I was on my way to doing great things for God and living out the Gospel each day.

Photo by paolobarzman, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by paolobarzman, Flickr Creative Commons

I didn’t recognize the one thing that was driving all of my pending catastrophes: the selfish desire to focus on the If only’s…

If only my wife’s sex drive had spiked in the second trimester like that book said it would…

If only my pastor would see my potential and hand me the reigns…

If only God would choose me… bless me… anoint my efforts…

If only people would understand that my occasional lust binges were no big deal…

If only I was someone else… somewhere else…

If only sin didn’t have consequences…

I’ve since learned that God never says if only… He never wishes that He had another plan or another Church. He never looks at His beloved like a poorly picked schoolyard team.

No, God chose His children before the world began. He knew us and predestined us for the good works He’s setting before us even now. He doesn’t wish He’d only made you taller, or smarter, or whatever (see Exodus 4:11). God made you a jar of clay on purpose. He wants to put His treasure in you the way you are now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part 1 in a 2-part series. Be sure to check back next week for the second part: Why I No Longer Chase after “If Only…”

Can You Still be a Christian if You Keep Struggling with Sin?

Back when I was looking at porn on a regular basis and lying about it to my wife, I knew I wasn’t right with God, but I never knew how bad it really was.

I would pray secretly to God asking Him to fix me, and I tried to reassure myself that He was forgiving and patient. But I never submitted my secret life to Him or made Him my Lord and Savior.

Photo by Ezra Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

Ezra Wolf, Flickr Creative Commons

In reality, pornography was my god, and I was trying to be my own savior. I was attempting to please God through my hard work, but I still believed deep down I could fix myself. In my honest moments, filled with remorse, I wondered whether I was a Christian at all. I now believe that was the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I was a churchgoer and a Bible-reader. I prayed each day and taught my children about Jesus. I was even an elder in my church for a time, and I repeatedly shared my “faith” with others.

But those things won’t save anyone.

In spite of all those things, I was still a liar. I kept committing adultery in my heart. And the Bible seems pretty clear that you can’t be any of those things and be saved at the same time (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). For that matter, you can’t even be greedy, slander people, or be a thief either.

According to that verse, I was still one of the unrighteous. So how could I have been saved?

•••

I always believed I would know God more once I got my sin under control. Now I understand how wrong that assumption was, because once I surrendered my life to the Holy God, He was the one who got my sin under control.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and struggle with porn (or any sin for that matter). But what I can tell you, is when God changes your heart, sinful things lose their ability to draw you in. You won’t want to go back to the same sins over and over because they will no longer satisfy your new heart. Your new heart will be drawn to God the King.

This is why the Bible follows up its earlier comment about the unrighteous not inheriting the Kingdom by reminding the Corinthian believers that they’ve been changed:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

These Christians used to be liars, thieves, and adulterers—but not anymore. Now, they are washed clean of their sin and set free by the blood of Christ. They are no longer defined as sinners! They are righteous (even though they clearly still struggled with sin).

The same becomes true of you when you meet Jesus Christ and He saves you from the power of sin. This, after all, is what he does.

If you find, however, in your most honest moments, that your deepest desire is still to sin, to fix yourself, to worship another god… then it’s imperative you consider whether you’re trusting Jesus to save you, or if your faith is still rooted in your own goodness.

Are you seeking Him with your whole heart, or are you still trying to save yourself?

•••

God came to me much like he came to Cain. He showed me that sin was crouching at my door and it wanted to have me (Genesis 4:7). And like Cain, rather than submitting to God, I slayed myself (and my wife) with my lying and my selfish lust.

Through that season though, God never stopped pursuing me out of love. This wasn’t always with soft hands and a warm embrace. At times I felt as if He was haunting me. He would convict me with Scripture and cause my spirit to become restless with the actions of my life. I realized I could never be a half-hearted but happy Christian. I could not escape His pursuit unless I surrendered to Him.

I would like to say that I eventually cried out to God, but the truth is, He came and saved me in spite of my stubborn pride. I had little to do with it.

God rescued me from my sin—and from myself.

God brought me to Himself when I insisted on looking for my own way.

The lesson to be learned from my story isn’t that God can make you into a more upright person. No, the lesson from my life is that God is the one who rescues.

Experiencing how He has released me from the slow poison of my wretched heart, to be free to love Him as my rescuer—that has become the joy of my life.

There’s a Reason why they’re Called “Good” Works

Back in 2011, I had reached a point where my porn habit and the death of my “ministry” pushed me toward the end of my life. I swam in thoughts of adultery, murder, and suicide. I felt that all my good works, and the salvation I was clinging to, were worthless.

Photo by G MacRae, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by G MacRae, Flickr Creative Commons

But now that I’ve come to the other side of that void, I can see the incredible place God designed for good works to have in my life.

Previously, all my good works sat within a framework of attempting to compensate for a perceived disconnection from God. But connection was also the thing I feared most. Connection was dangerous. I had friends, but they all served the same selfish need: to show me that I was really chosen by God. The vulnerability of friendship was too much to handle, but as long as I could be the leader, I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable. In fact, many in ministry told me I shouldn’t be vulnerable…so I chose to pursue control instead.

I could control people. I could control porn. Control was like connecting, only on a diet: all the pleasure with none of the calories. But the more I imbibed in control, the more it ruined my ability for true vulnerability. I became entitled, especially toward my wife. The hassle of tenderness and consideration required far too much effort.

Real connection scared me to death. Real connection was a gamble (and it still is by the way). I was afraid of being known—of being seen as the lying, self-indulgent husband that I was. All my instincts told me to hide. Like the man with the legion of demons, something (or Someone) within me was drawing me to Jesus.

God was making it very clear to me: connection was my only hope for freedom. As they say, there is no way out but through.

I remember the moment when God told me that I had to be fully honest with my wife, even before I had gotten clean. My plan had always been to tell her after porn was no longer an issue, but I just couldn’t seem to manage that first step. “You might not get free if you tell her,” He said, “but you’ll never get free if you don’t.” All my fears (and all my wife’s fears) came true that first time I told her the whole truth.

The second time I told her the truth was worse…and the third time even more so. I kept waiting for her to understand me and accept me for who I was. It took far too long for me to understand how much I was killing her with every glance… every click… every visual pause. But eventually I came to realize this was more than just a small glitch in my character.

There were other stages to my salvation to be sure. A pastor broke demonic holds on me. A friend gave me some bold words of rebuke. I read books and prayed prayers. These all helped in ways large and small. And now, I can honestly say that I walk in the light. But more than that, I walk without the nagging fear that I’m not enough, or that I have to overcome my failures by doing enough good works to compensate. As I’ve said before, I no longer strive to be a better man.

The result of all of this is that now my good works actually feel good. I’m not trying to build my church, please anyone, or prove anything. I’m also not waiting for Jesus to tell me I’m good enough. I know that I’m not—at least not on my own—and I’m okay with that. I’m simply doing the good works He has set for me to do—and that is enough.

Eric Lidell, the Christian runner depicted in the movie Chariots of Fire, said that when he runs, he feels the Lord’s pleasure. That used to seem so foreign to me. But now that God has rescued me from the dominion of darkness, I can honestly feel the Lord’s pleasure in my life. I feel it when I tuck my sons into bed, or play my guitar at church. I feel it when I’m patient with my wife, or when I share the Gospel with a friend.

And because I experience His pleasure, I no longer feel the need to give unhealthy doses of my time to church functions.

I no longer hope that someone will ask me to speak in front of the congregation.

I’m finally able to connect with people without selfish motives.

And, best of all, I’m no longer driven by the need to be in control.

I now see my good works as good simply because they’re what God has called me to do—not because I need them to prove anything to myself or to others.

And having that perspective feels pretty darn good.

Luke_ZedwickLuke Zedwick worked for 11 years as a math teacher, church elder, and an occasionally paid minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s spent the last few years as a school principal, husband & dad, and Bible teacher in his local church home group.

If you would like to contact Luke, you can reach him here.

10 Lies Men Believe about Porn Preview

Why I Stopped Trying to Become a Better Man

For 25 years I habitually looked at porn, and yet everyday I would still set out to become a better man. Now that I’m two years free-and-clear, I see the Gospel like never before, and I’ve given up trying to become a better man anymore.

Satan came to both Eve and Jesus with the same basic temptation. It was always a question:

  • Are you really God’s son?
  • Is God holding back His best from you?
  • Does He really want you to be like Him?
  • Did God give you what it takes to be great?
  • Will you be manly enough?
  • Will you be someone great?

I call it The Question of Greatness.

*Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

*Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

The Question of Greatness is hauntingly simple. Anyone can take it up as his life’s mission. It lets you pick your own definition of greatness. Total freedom. To choose your own adventure, turn to page 65…

But everyone who pursues The Question of Greatness inevitably becomes its slave. Why? Because the Question is never answered.

The Question is a driver. It drove me for 25 years. At first I planned to be wealthy, a leader of men. After meeting Jesus, I adjusted my greatness to being godly: full-time ministry, a miracle worker, a disciple maker.

All the while I was secretly a slave. A slave to The Question.

I picked up The Question when I was twelve. I remember the day in Social Studies when I suddenly knew that Bryan, the kid with the $200 Air Jordans, was way cooler than me. And once I bit on that fruit, I could never close my eyes again. All I could do was compare myself to others, excuse (or hide) my faults, and protect my strengths. Compare, Control, and chase after The Question.

To answer The Question, I put on the face of success. Pride was sweet but fleeting, and fear of failure drove me to back to The Question after every success. I would pretend everything was fine. I would make my territory safe. I would protect myself from the doubt I knew was on its way.

Then I discovered porn. I still remember how my hands shook as I turned those pages. I’d finally found the leaves to cover my nakedness.

In the dark places where no one—and I mean no one—was invited, the shame told me a different story. The shame was a comparison too, and facing my failures was more than I could bear. I chose to indulge in one of the most pleasurable, reassuring controls that exist.

I chose acceptance and success wherever I could find it, as long as I didn’t risk vulnerability. The pornography worked so well for that. It was the only rest I could find: guilt-ridden, self-loathing rest. I would sit in front of it for hours. I didn’t just stroll through a few stills and a video. I would binge. I would wallow.

Afterwards, I would carefully construct my inward excuses and outward lies. I would set out to improve myself—to become a better man. I would go home to my wife, whom I was stabbing in the heart every lying, prideful, invulnerable day.

I became a pendulum swinging between pride and shame: one side in the light, the other in shadow. My only sanity was to craft my story with carefully phrased excuses that any Christian would consider godly and contrite, myself included. I was telling my tale and answering The Question with each accountability partner and every lonely prayer asking to be set free.

But this poison didn’t come just from the Internet. It came from the pulpit every Sunday as well.

You see, I believed in a false gospel, and so did my church. My gospel told me I was going to make something of myself, and God was my biggest cheerleader. I would make sure God chose me to be one of his special ones.

Every sermon I heard, every verse I read, spoke only to the Question that was driving me toward oblivion. My pastors and mentors all fed the fire. I was one of the promising young leaders in the church. I was sure to make a difference in the Kingdom.

Today, I’m on the other side of this story, with a clearer head and hands washed clean. I live with a wife who is two years into a recovery that will likely take twenty. I am just beginning to see the poison I was swallowing. People say porn destroys marriages, but that’s not the whole truth. Porn also destroys wives.


People say porn destroys marriages,

but that’s not the whole truth.
Porn also destroys wives.

I have more to share about this journey, but the most painful chapter has ended. And I, for one, never believed it would. I’ve given The Question of Greatness to Jesus, and now I set my face toward the author and finisher of my faith.

I am freer today than I’ve ever been. And because I now trust Jesus with my life, I have stopped trying to become a better man.

Luke_ZedwickLuke Zedwick worked for 11 years as a math teacher, church elder, and an occasionally paid minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s spent the last few years as a school principal, husband & dad, and Bible teacher in his local church home group.

If you would like to contact Luke, you can reach him here.