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Josiah Northcutt’s Testimony

(Click here to listen. This testimony is used with permission and touches on adult subjects. Please use discretion when playing it and discernment with playing it around young children.)

Howdy! I’m Josiah Martin Northcutt and I love Jesus. Now you may ask Josiah what does that mean? Why do you love Jesus? Those are both valid questions, because without them I’m just another talking head. Those two questions make up precisely why I am up here today. I’m going to answer them by telling you all about me and my story all the way back from the beginning. But Before I begin, I’d like to start by giving out a disclaimer. With what I’m going to be saying throughout the rest of this message you might get the wrong impression of my parents. You might think that they didn’t do enough to help me and you might think that they failed me. Well I’m here to say right here and now that nothing could be further from the truth. My parents were and are amazing and if they had had even an inkling of the story I’m about to tell now they would have done everything in their power to love and support me. The fault is purely on me.

Also I feel I need to warn any parents of young children who may still be in the audience that I’m going to bringing up some mature subjects and you may want to take them somewhere else.

If you came in today not knowing anything about me, well, You’re going to leave knowing a lot more than you bargained for. So…….. Lets begin.

My story starts around the time when I was just 2 years old. Yes, I do actually remember something from way back then. I was 2 years old and naturally like most kids that age I was very curious. I loved experimenting with random things even if didn’t really even know what I was doing. I loved taking my ear and flipping it back and forth, I loved sticking out my tongue and bending it into all sorts of weird shapes, I really loved shaking my hands back and forth so much that my fingers flapped against each other and got going so fast that I could see the blur.  I did that way too often and to honest I’m surprised I didn’t get carpal tunnel. Well I suppose then eventually it was bound to happen. One day I eventually worked my way down to an area of my body that you can probably guess. Now I didn’t really know what I was doing, in fact I didn’t learn until much, much later in life that the act was called masturbation. I was 2! I did it because if felt good, plain and simple. However there was one thing I noticed while doing this that made it different then all the other things I liked to do with my 2 year old body. And that was, naturally, that I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of other people. So when I ever would masturbate, I would go in my room, close the door, and make sure that no one was around to hear or see. Now I didn’t really know why at the time that I felt ashamed of it in front of other people but I did. So I kept it hidden from everyone.

Flash forward a few years and I’m around 12 years old. The masturbation habit has been going steady all this time and while I had been doing this several times a week since I was 2 it hadn’t every really felt like an addiction or anything harmful. But naturally being a 12 year old boy a new dynamic entered the fray. I started going through puberty and my body began to change, and along with those changes also came a new thought process. Now before whenever I would masturbate there was no thought to it, But now I found myself thinking about girls whenever I did it. It quickly became just another layer to the already routine habit I had been building since early childhood. However it didn’t take long until I noticed something about these thoughts that were different. I could never have guessed at that exact moment that this would go on to be the start of the darkest part of my life.

These thoughts you see weren’t that innocent, In fact they were downright explicit. I knew how a man was supposed to treat a women in real life, but inside the recesses of my own mind I told myself that it didn’t matter here because no real person was being harmed. I felt guilty but I didn’t stop it and to be honest I didn’t really want too. I was enjoying letting my mind wander free in lust and even though I knew somewhere deep down that it was wrong I stayed with it. Because after all, I would say to myself, “no real person is getting physically mistreated so no real harm can come of it. As long as it stays like this it shouldn’t be too bad.” But the lust I was feeding had other plans.

At bookstores I began to notice the women in the swimsuit magazines and I noticed something I hadn’t felt before. I found these women attractive and exciting to look at and as I flipped through one or two magazines the sensation of being able to see what I had lusted over in my mind was the straw the broke the camel’s back. Just a little while later I purchased my first internet enabled device. I popped open the image search feature and searched for more swimsuit photos. There was no turning back now as I dove head first into what would become my strongest demon. My addiction to pornography.

Soon after my mind turned into a wasteland. I thought about porn all the time and I grew socially awkward, especially around girls. Worst of all I started entertaining lustful fantasies about people I cared about; family, friends, and loved ones. Family gatherings and school were awkward because I was looking at the people I had violated in my mind. I felt like an awful human being and I swore up and down I’d stop right then and there, only to fall prey to it again and again. Like all addictions the intensity of the porn increased too. What had started out as simply swimsuit photos started to turn into nude women, then some foreplay, and then before I knew it, it was full on graphic sex. I couldn’t believe it. I would find myself watching stuff that just months prior I would have puked at. That’s one of the major issues with porn, the images stick with you and are engrained into your mind. I still remember stumbling across a video of a women being sexually abused by two men against her will. That image is never going to completely leave my mind. Porn is a never ending slippery slope. Once you get into perverted sexual sin there is no limit to what you will seek out and that certainly held true for me. I never got worse than that particular video, but let me tell you there is stuff out there that would make that seem humane by comparison.

By the time I was 14 I had hit absolute rock bottom. I hated life, I was depressed, at school I thought only of how quickly I could get home to get off to my next fix. By now I was fully aware of the damage porn was doing to me and I hated myself for it. I hated that the people I loved the most where often the objects of my lust, I struggled with treating girls with respect in class since often times the night before I had just watched something that completely defiled what a female was. And oh how I was bitter towards those women in the videos I would watch. They were the ones causing my problems; if they wouldn’t have existed maybe I would have never had to become addicted to them. It was there fault I was addicted to their erotica and I thought of them as nothing less than objects. But even all that wasn’t the worst of it.

You see I grew up a pastor’s kid. I believed in Jesus, he was my God, and I still remember saying a prayer asking him into my heart when I was 5. But with porn and lust destroying my life I believed in something else entirely.  I believed that Jesus was ashamed of me, that I was not worthy of being loved by his presence, I believed that only when I never viewed porn again would he ever forgive and accept me. I hid my myself from him the whole time. But like all people do I hit a breaking point, the lust, the pain, the shame, the guilt, the hate all finally took me down for good and I was dead.

It was late in the evening one night and I sat in my room exhausted on the floor. With tear’s running down my face and a feeling of hopelessness I knelt down at my bedside and cried out the following words: “Jesus are you there? I’ve always believed in you but I’ve kept my real self hidden all this time. Jesus I’m addicted to porn and it has won. My mind has become filled with lust and I can’t fight it. I don’t know where to go and I can’t change myself on my own. I believe that my sin is stronger than your love. As I gasped through tears I thought of the knife drawer in the kitchen. I fell down and yelled out with my last ounce of strength: “God! If your there, and you love me, please  take me! My soul, my heart, my mind, my body they are yours take them and please help me out of this. AS the knife drawer flooded my mind again, I collapsed into the floor and let out “Because GOD!…..if you don’t take me now……This may be the last time we ever talk again.”

As I lay there on the floor something happened. I began to feel a peace I had never felt before. I closed my eyes and listened. I could feel my soul stir as the presence of the Holy Spirit took it. I began to hear thoughts in my head. They said “I love you, you are forgiven. You are not alone, and I’m stronger than your weakness. I HAVE YOUR SOUL NOW! ” I cried out thank you over and over again and leaped up with a new passion and vigor. Jesus had me now, there was no way that I could lose. Well, Guess what I did one week later? I succumbed to the temptation of porn once again. As I prepared to beat myself up again like I always did something was different. I was disappointed that I had failed again, but the hopelessness wasn’t there. I felt like I had just made a mistake so I bowed my head and prayed again. The voice came back into my head and said“You are forgiven, I love you. Go and sin no more”. From there on out I went through various ups and downs in life. Times when I felt like I had conquered porn and times when I strayed back to it like a dog to it’s own vomit. All throughout this I gained several important things that would impact my life. My best friend turned into a brother in my time of need, I learned that there were countless men AND women just like me who were too ashamed to admit what they were going through,  But most importantly I learned that Jesus wasn’t interested in the perfect person I thought he was. He wanted me the sinner. I could do a whole another sermon on the countless things that Jesus has taught me along the way, but since you’ve already had to endure my talking about porn and masturbation this whole time I’ll narrow it down to two things. Both of these were very beneficial on my road to recovery.

The first issue was my guilt. I felt so ashamed of myself on the inside whenever I was around someone that I had lusted over in my mind.  I was constantly haunted by the words of Matthew 5:28 where Jesus says “But I tell you this, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I prayed to Jesus asking for guidance on how to handle this problem and this is what I learned. Guilt is a natural reaction to something that isn’t good for us. When we’ve done something wrong or we are contemplating doing so, it’s good that we feel guilty. It’s warning us not to go down that path. However, it isn’t something you are supposed to stay with. Guilt is a warning sign to get out, not to stay down there with it. It’s natural to be tempted, we are all attracted to certain things that can lead us astray. I realized that finding certain women attractive wasn’t the issue, I mean after all It’s good that men find women attractive because if we didn’t, we might begin to have bit of a population problem. However we are supposed to love and respect each other with our thoughts. It’s ok to think that someone is attractive but that doesn’t make them yours to lust over. Even if you’ve never read the bible you probably won’t be surprised that when Jesus was asked which commandant was the most important to follow he responded with “Love your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your body, and all your mind.” But do you know what Jesus said next? He said this “There is a second commandment equally as important as the first and that is, that you must love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, we are all each others neighbors and when we love each other we respect each other for who we are. Entertaining a fantasy in your mind that makes another person out to be nothing more than an object, is the opposite of Loving your neighbor. Jesus once told a women caught in the act of adultrey, “I don’t condemn you, Go and sin no more.” So now when I am around people I once had lust for I’m not haunted by guilt anymore because I’ve been forgiven. And now that I’m forgiven I can love them like I’m supposed too, and that has set me free.

The other issue I feel was key to my recovery was the issue of my own resentment. Naturally I hated porn for what it had done to my life, but that resentment carried over to the people behind the cameras themselves. I blamed them for my issues and I didn’t want to ever think about those porn actresses themselves. Well one day I stumbled across a documentary by a couple ex-porn stars talking about the industry. Now if you don’t know much about the world of porn let me tell you, the men and women who produce it are not in a very safe environment. Many of them have diseases and have been abused both physically and sexually. One particular actress mentioned that if you think of a bodily fluid whether it’s urine, feces, or semen I guarantee you the set we work on is covered in it. I was embarrassed at myself. How could I have forgotten that these actors and actresses were really people too, I was no better than them. They were just as much my neighbor as anybody else. I mentioned before that one of the downsides of porn was that the images stick with you. Well by God’s grace a positive has come out of that. I probably have at least a hundred porn actresses’ names that are always going to be in my head and now when I pray, I make sure to mention their names. I pray for their safety, their souls, and I apologize for not treating them with the respect I should have. One of my favorite reminders about how I am supposed to do this comes from a song I discovered last year. The song is called “Dear Mr. Christian” by Rap artist Derek Minor. In the first verse he raps from the perspective of a female porn actress. I would like to share with you briefly a couple of the lyrics. They go like this:

Dear Mr. Minor are you listening? I know that you’re a Christian
And you got computer programs to block me from your vision
And every time you watch me you say that I’m the issue
Your pastor preaches about how not to let me catch you slipping
But maybe I’m a victim, maybe I’m just trapped in the system
And next time you pray maybe I might get a mention
And Before you talk about me, remember that I’m lost
Because your secret pleasure, is coming at a cost

This is one of my favorite songs of all time and to me it is an excellent reminder of how we are supposed to treat people when we claim Jesus is our Lord.

Well that was my story and to close I’d like to bring this message back to where I began. Everything that I’ve said today comes from my own personal story, But the truth is! the story isn’t mine. The reason I came up here doesn’t have anything to do with myself. I wanted people to be able to come and hear a story of someone they could relate too, someone they felt was honest, someone they felt was real. But if you leave thinking this story is about me you have the wrong impression. This is the story of how a broken man, a lustful pervert, a complete and utter sinner rotten to the core was saved by Jesus. So what do I want you take away from it all? It’s simple really, at the beginning of this service I started with a statement that you couldn’t understand……. so I’ll say it again. I’m Josiah Martin Northcutt and I love Jesus. I hope now, you can understand why.

 

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The Women Who Brought Us Jesus: Tamar and Rahab

(Click here to listen.)

Last week I read the genealogy of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew, and we spoke about who was missing from the church. For the rest of the advent season, we will focus on the women that were mentioned in that text. Today we will talk about Tamar and Rahab with a focus on Tamar since her story is probably a bit less familiar to you.  Rahab you might recall was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. When the Israelite spies came to the city they went and stayed with a prostitute. While that doesn’t necessarily speak well for the Israelite men, the fact that Rahab hid them from her own countrymen says a lot about the way women who didn’t have a support network in Jericho were desperate. Prostitution, contrary to popular belief is not a victimless crime. The women whose bodies are being sold aren’t doing that because they think it is the best option. In fact a vast majority of the women who are being prostituted either in person or through pornography are the victims of the modern day slave trade, being bought and sold as property for the financial benefit of others. In ancient times it wasn’t much different. A woman who didn’t have a family support network was vulnerable to the whims of the society around her and quite quickly became pariahs. Every morning the upright women of the town went to the wells to get water, but heaven forbid one of the unfortunates show up, they had to wait until the women all left before they could get their water or face harassment and beatings. Women who were forced into selling their bodies were also vulnerable to honor killings from their own families, so once they were in, they were trapped. Rahab saw a possible way out and took it, and she was rewarded for aiding God’s people, and God’s people did not castigate her for being the victim of a society that failed the women in it. They may also have remembered the story of Tamar who had been failed by Israelite society, one of Judah’s daughters-in-law.

6Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.” 9But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. 10What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up” —for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

12In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,”14she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. 15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16He went over to her at the road side, and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.” 18He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood. 20When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. 21He asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?” But they said, “No prostitute has been here.” 22So he returned to Judah, and said, “I have not found her; moreover the townspeople said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’“ 23Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.”

24About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again. Genesis 38:6-26

I ended my last sermon with the query “Who in God’s family might we be leaving out?” When Tamar’s second husband died she was left out of her society, and sent back to live at the mercy of her father’s house. She was sent back with nothing and was viewed as a woman that it was unlucky to be with, she was not a candidate for another marriage in the society of the time, not only because of the deaths of her husbands, but because she was still considered to be the property of Judah’s family, her next child would be Judah’s heir and would promote the line of Judah rather than anyone else’s. The second son didn’t pull out just to be mean, but because if Tamar didn’t get pregnant he and his line stood to inherit. Is it any wonder that by the time Judah’s next son was old enough, Tamar might have been a bit desperate? Judah’s family had failed her, and she had no better option than to seduce her father-in-law whose wife had died. Let’s be honest here she didn’t exactly have to work hard at it, Judah sought out a prostitute. Some might say that this was acceptable at the time, but if so why did Judah send his friend from another tribe to go make the payment? From the perspective of these scriptures, women are in bad situations like these not because they made bad decisions, but because their community failed them. We may want to fool ourselves by thinking that the women and men in those pictures, that I used to look at on a daily basis before my friend and I became accountability partners, are there because they want to be, but the truth is that nobody who has any better option chooses that life. Tamar and Rahab were both desperate and in neither story were their actions condemned. In fact they were noted in the lineage of our savior, these women who, even in their own time faced death and worse every day.

Now I know that this is uncomfortable ground, but I firmly believe that anything we don’t drag into the open and hold in the light gains disproportionate power over us. According to statistics by the various organizations including the Barna Group, Pew, and Focus on the Family, at least 70% of the men in this country, in church and out, are looking at online pornography on a regular basis, and depending on the survey between 20 and 40% of women are as well. If we include certain kinds of romance novels that number might just come close to the men’s. $40 million a day is spent on prostitutes in the US. Friends, we have a problem and it is a crisis of community. Portland is a hub for sexual slavery on the West Coast. Right here in our community girls are being failed. And I do mean girls, according to a recent article in the Oregonian:

the average age of victims was 15.5 years when they were first referred to DHS and the Sexual Assault Resource Center. The youngest of them was 8 years old. Sixteen percent of all the victims have had a baby.

Nearly one in five has a family history of exploitation, and 11 percent were exploited by members of their own family.

Slightly more than 49 percent of victims have an affiliation with gangs, which have discovered that exploiting children for commercial sex acts is more lucrative than running drugs or guns.[1]

I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks for these children, and it is time for us as a church to honor the women through whom Jesus came to us, the women who Jesus spent time with, the wives, mothers, and daughters around us and not fail them. Friends, if you have a problem with this area of life like I did, be it soliciting prostitutes, looking at pornography online, or reading salacious or degrading writing I invite you to begin with a pledge to stop, followed by seeking out an accountability partner to help you overcome this addiction, because we can’t do it on our own. I couldn’t do it on my own. In the late 90s when the internet was really taking off, I developed an addiction to looking at pornography online. A friend who was also struggling came to me and suggested that we become prayer and accountability partners to help each other overcome. We both installed software on the others’ computer and that software reported everything we viewed to our partner. It took two years for us to get the upper hand on that addiction, and I am very careful about what I watch on TV, in the movies, and what websites I go to online now, so that I don’t relapse. Having other’s to hold me accountable is what it took, and let me encourage you that with God’s help and our brothers’ and sisters’ accountability we can overcome. We are forgiven because of the Jesus who came to us through women, like those I used to view, who were in tough situations. Let us repay those women and that Jesus by allowing him to change us.

As community of faith we need to discern what actions we can take to let the women around us know how deeply valued they are, not because of beauty, or attractiveness, but because of the image of God they bear. God did not create anyone to be used as a sexual thing, and we must be careful to steward the people we are in community with. We need to affirm the gifts we see in all of us, so that together we can be the people God has created us to be. Up on the screen is the text of the pledge from Shared Hope International,

Today, I am making a commitment in my life to demonstrate the following before my family and friends:

  • I will not purchase or participate in pornography, prostitution or any form of the commercial sex industry.

  • I will hold my friends accountable for their actions toward women and children.

  • I will take immediate action to protect those I love from this destructive market.[2]

and I am calling on every man in the church to go to shared hope’s website and take the pledge with me. Jesus came to us through women that polite society looked down on, let us all remember to look at each other with new eyes, eyes that see the beloved children of God, saved by grace to give grace and work towards the wholeness, the shalom peace of Jesus’ upside down kingdom. As we enter into our open worship, let us remember that we come into the presence of the Holy God to live in communion with Him and the whole of Christianity, past, present, and future. Let us listen for his voice.