On the fourth weekend of April, 117 men and youth from the Minnesota Conference gathered at North Star Camp near Brainerd for the 25th annual Christian Men’s Retreat featuring warm fellowship, delicious food and inspiring singing. Concerns about the weather quickly melted away, as the ice had left Rice Lake the weekend before. Crisp mornings and evenings gave way to the sun peeking through the clouds on Sabbath afternoon, in time for a hike to French Rapids on the Mississippi River.
The event’s main focus, however, was the powerful presentations by guest speaker Bernie Anderson. Some of the men remembered Bernie from Net 98 when he was a student at Andrews University and, along with his co-host Shasta, he
introduced speaker Dwight Nelson each night. More recently, Bernie has become known for his frank communications on the subject of pornography. Sexual addictions have grown to become a major challenge to Christians and their families—a terrible hindrance in their attempts to follow the Lamb wherever He leads them in the final days of Earth’s history.
During his Friday night presentation titled Our Stories Are the Same, Bernie gave his testimony about how a chance encounter with pornography in a closet in a relative’s home at the age of nine grew over the years to the point where it nearly cost him his marriage and his ministry as an Adventist pastor. The depths of the seriousness of his addiction began to sink in one evening when he came home from his work with debilitating back pain, which he later realized was an outward manifestation of his inner struggle. As he slowly made his way down the hall to the master bedroom, his three-year-old daughter called out to her mother, “Mommy, Mommy, Daddy’s broken!”
The first breakthrough came when his wife discovered his internet activities and confronted him about it. After a tearful confession and reconciliation, he felt a glimmer of hope. But there was still a long road ahead to full recovery. After another series of lapses, feeling desperately trapped in his addiction, he determined to talk to someone. Pastor Mike Tucker assured him he was not alone. Mike knew of many who had been going through the same struggle. Together they prayed as Bernie surrendered his sexuality to God.
Eventually Bernie came to the point where he could say with the psalmist, “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the Lord” (Ps. 40:1-3, NASB).
With Pastor Tucker as his accountability partner, Bernie continued on the road to recovery, and now he and his wife are able to help others who are traveling the same road.
On Sabbath morning Bernie shared his story of the past 15 years and what it is like on the other side of “breaking through.” He talked about moving in the direction of wholeness and healing and sobriety, and what it looks like to live that out. He also began the process of taking the men in attendance through the two primary dimensions of the battle: the “air war” and the “ground war.” The air war is the spiritual dimension of the battle, and the ground war is the practical “how to” on the road to victory.
In his third presentation, When Desire Becomes Lust (and What to Do About It), Bernie stated, “What happens in the journey to victory is we get a more beautiful picture of the character of God. He is good, He is for us, and He is on our side. He is reconciled to us through His Son, Jesus.”
Bernie then mapped out the two warfronts on the road to recovery. In explaining the “air war,” Bernie used an acrostic illustrating the way God brings transformation: the B.R.I.D.G.E. to freedom (Heb. 12:1-3).
- Brokenness is the launching pad for God to work. He values nothing more than a broken heart (Ps. 51:16-17).
- Repentance, which is more than sorrow for sin. It’s a change in direction that is evident to others (2 Cor. 7:10).
- Involvement. Passivity keeps us chained to our addictions (1 Tim. 6:12). Join a men’s accountability group, find a pastor, counselor or mentor.
- Discipline. Come under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit in an attitude of submission (Heb. 12:11).
- Grace allows a space of time for repentance (Rom. 5:20).
- Endurance. Life is a marathon in which we hang on with everything we’ve got to Jesus and His promises, guidance and direction (Heb. 12:1).
Bernie concluded with the “ground war” strategy, outlining a number of Brutally Practical Practices to Win Every Day. Some of them are:
- Daily personal devotional time.
- Join and engage in a small group.
- Enjoy Sabbath rest.
- Fast from media regularly.
- Engage in regular physical exercise (golf, fishing, tinkering, etc.).
- Practice on-line openness. Don’t be anonymous. Share phone passwords with spouse or accountability partners. Earn trust.
- Don’t go solo. Get accountable. Get into some relationships and friendships.
- Starve the eyes and redirect the gaze.
- Keep dreaming, but reject fantasy.
- Go to bed with your wife.
The weekend’s presentations (audio) are online at mnsda.com/ministries/men. Bernie’s book Breaking the Silence is available at the Adventist Book Center and other outlets.
Ken Mayberry pastors the Windom, Pipestone, Marshall and Artichoke churches in southwestern Minnesota.