As you read this, you’re either thinking – “Okay, Holy Roller, come down off your high horse and quit being so judgmental.” or “Amen!” Alright, there’s a secret society of you that are also responding “Yeah, that’s right… [followed by] I hope he’s not talking about me because if people knew what I do when no one’s around…” If you’re in that third category I pray that this post prompts you to action, because you are afraid. You are a coward.
Some Love for my Fellow Cowards
Today, I’m typing this as a guy who – by the grace of God alone – celebrates 10 years of sobriety from pornography this fall. “Sobriety”, because I was hooked. “Sobriety”, because all of my best efforts to turn away from consuming my Consumer failed. “Sobriety” because I nearly crashed my car a few times because I was daydreaming about when I would get my next “fix”.
Only when I acknowledged my own depravity and separateness from God, embraced my Savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit could I set down The Ring of Great Power that had become so prrrrrecious to me, yet weighed me down, drained my resources, and delivered nothing but a momentary high followed by a “continual lust for more (Eph. 4.19)”. This was clearly a supernatural occurrence.
His-story No More Mys-stery
To illustrate my point on cowardice, allow me to refer to the guy who helped me wrap my head around my own cowardice. Casey Sanders has been a discipler of men for nearly 15 years now. He’s been married for over 25 years to the same woman. But, he hasn’t always been faithful to her. Years ago, he obeyed scripture and went public with his “habit” after confessing to his wife that he’d spent a decade watching porn in hotel rooms while away on business trips. Scripture teaches “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph. 5.11).”
“Coming out” about porn was cathartic obedience and evidence of true repentance, but only the beginning of the journey. As he told his story to the guys from Men Step Up Gwinett:
“As I traveled and made watching raunchy movies and self gratification my habit, I believed that what I was doing was not as bad as other guys who were actually sleeping with women outside of marriage. At times, I even thought my actions were a safeguard from doing something physical with someone else.”
When he finally made this confession to his wife, it led to a much longer interrogation, where out of repentance, he answered with full honesty for the first time.
“She kept asking and I kept answering. At one point she said, ‘I wish you had gone ahead and had a physical affair. What you did was Coward’s Adultery!’ ” Moral of the story: the measure of a man’s bravery is the price he’s willing to pay for the things his heart is set on.
Count the Cost, Measure the Man
As he told me the story, I could argue with him no more than he argued with her that night. If I were really brave, I’d have pursued a real, live woman that would consent to sex at the cost of romance and perhaps even commitment. If I were brave and godly, I’d have pursued a real, godly woman that would consent to sex only at the cost of a lifetime covenant of marriage as God details it and commands it in His word. Instead, I jumped over far lower hurdles that demanded little bravery, boldness, and self-sacrifice than obedience would require [and reward].
Over the years, I’ve been greatly encouraged by God Himself [via the Holy Spirit], truth from His word, and the testimonies of repentant and bold men who have shared the trials God has brought them through on the battlefield of lust. This Friday morning (6:30AM sharp), my friend Michael Leahy will very briefly share his story [at ONE TH1NG, at the Cabernet Steakhouse on Windward and GA-400] with about 100 men with the bravest of hearts who are willing to think out loud about the truth and lies surrounding “The War Within”.
I’ve also posted regarding my interview with Michael here on our blog today. I also encourage you, as you explore this issue to watch Andy Stanley’s second message in the “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating” series, linked in that article. Bottom line, we all give our lives to something. It’s time we start doing the difficult stuff instead of settling for the easy fixes. God rewards obedience. Sometimes in the earthly realm, but more importantly in eternity. Consider what price you’re willing to pay as you “take up [your] cross and follow [Him]”.
Michael Leahy’s story is easily Googleable (look, I invented a new form of the verb “Google”). Look it up or watch some of these clips on Vimeo. I won’t go far into his story for purposes of brevity. The short version is this: because of his addiction to pornography decades ago, he lost his job as a very successful software sales exec, his marriage, the respect (and relationship with, for a time) of his kids. Today, he stands as a man restored by God, often on a stage in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of college students, many of which come out to see veteran porn actor Ron Jeremy debate with him.
He has been featured on 20/20, The View, Fox, Good Morning America, and a whole lot of college campuses, which his ministry “Bravehearts” spends a lot of time and attention raising the awareness of students to the dangers presented by the initial, short term, and even long term use of porn. I’m grateful to know Michael and to call him a friend. I had an opportunity to talk with Michael about my past addiction to porn several years ago when I was only a few years “clean and sober” of it. If you’ve watched his material at any of his events, you may even see his interview with me. Today, I want to return the favor, because if I’ve been meeting with you for discipleship or you’ve been meeting with my wife, Michael has had an indirect impact on our conversation(s). Tomorrow morning (Friday, 02.03.2012) he will give a 20 minute opener to about 100 men as a setup for “microgroup” discussion about porn, lust, and the truth of God’s word. Men will have an opportunity to explore deeply challenging questions and confront clear-cut truths of scripture. “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8.32)” Pray many of these men walk away even more free.
Andy Stanley on Porn
I had a chance to catch up with Michael this summer as local pastor Andy Stanley was presenting a series called “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating”. While it wasn’t a deep exegesis of scripture, Andy does have a way of really “teasing out” the practical applications of the truth of God’s word. For this reason, I recommend the series (specifically, part 2 – “Gentlemen’s Club”) as a great teaching aid when it comes to biblical worldview regarding lust, porn, and what God has to say about the current hyper-sexualized climate of our culture.
While Andy is well known for his ability to simplify the complex, Michael, too brought porn down to the simplest terms. “I start out with just the basic dictionary definition for porn: ‘Any material created for the purpose of arousing you sexually’.” From there, he states, “But, when expanded, that means photo, video, writing, sexting, chat, conversation, and what I wore to school today. It can also mean the conversation with the girl in line in front of me at Starbuck’s – am I being suggestive in my innuendos just feeling her out to see what she’ll say?”
So, What’s the Problem. I’m Just Looking…
Almost every problem we face in this world can be traced back to a lie we once believed. “But, when you’re exposed to porn, especially repeatedly, you’re learning a new belief system”, says Leahy. Pornography is a discipleship – you’re being taught that sex is a commodity, “dehumanizes men – that men are just to be pleased, women are just for pleasure, and, it’s all about getting off”.
For years, prior to my acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior I heard the term “dehumanizing” and denied it tooth and nail. You may have just completely tuned out when I said that term, too. If you did, I respect your choice, but I have a question for you that Michael shared with me in our interview:
“[When you watch pornography] you are not holding a woman in awe for anything more than her sexuality. When’s the last time you did that for something other than her sexuality, Mother Theresa?” – Michael Leahy
When the answer is “no” it’s bold evidence of dehumanization – reducing a person to something far less than their humanity. Does porn encourage you to consider the needs of the performer(s)? Does it spur you on to “love them as Christ loved the church and laid himself down for her to make her holy”? Are we tracking?
If you’re living with porn as your secret or you think it’s okay, my first question is “do you love Jesus and trust Him as your Lord and Savior” or are you counting on the popular belief that without Jesus you’ll get into heaven because you’re “good enough and God should just let you in or it’s unfair”. If you answered “a) Lord & Savior” then you’ve got a different question to wrestle with – “How are you dealing with the voice of the Holy Spirit when he tells you to leave the porn alone?” Second question: “what men are walking close enough to you to help you when you ignore the voice of the Spirit of God that is in you?” Call Michael. Call me. Call my wife.
Get discipled in the truth. Yesterday.
If you’re not a “Lord and Savior” guy, watch Andy’s series (especially part 2) for an understanding of what God has to say about women, their worth, and how He views them and then read the book of John, the book of Romans, confess Christ as your Lord, receive the Holy Spirit, and live by His power. Without His power I, too, would still have hooks deep in my life from pornography. Praise God for freedom in Christ.
I have met with no less than two dozen men who have gotten honest with me about the impact of pornography in their lives. It. Is. Devastating. Sneaky, but devastating. Andy Stanley hits it on the head in one of his messages and I hope this truth sinks in like an anchor in your discipleship of the people around you:
“Every time you sit down and entertain yourself with pictures of naked women, you’re at school. And, in this particular school you’re learning three very important lessons:
1. A real body isn’t good enough.
2. One body isn’t good enough.
3. Your wife’s body isn’t good enough.”
– Andy Stanley
Michael Leahy and Bravehearts Ministries works closely with one of the largest evangelistic college ministries in the country and shared with me some of the most difficult reality slapping I’d heard in a long time. I asked him “how did porn impact your ability to function in your spiritual gifts?” Leahy: “One of the most noticed things about people who struggle with that sin is forgiving themselves. You beat yourself up because you sinned against you. For me, it had a huge impact and barrier to my relationship w/ God. The average rational human being knows when they’re doing right & wrong, and the strength of my recovery is in direct proportion to my intimacy to God. I’m susceptible to sexual temptation when I’m out of fellowship w Him. That’s what sexual sin does. I literally remember praying to God with a gun in my mouth – ‘teach me how to pray again’.
[More poignantly,] porn keeps totally qualified leaders on the sidelines [in college ministry]. The dirty little secret of college ministry is that 80-90% of guys who apply for staff or go on mission trips are disqualified because of this issue. If you were an HR mgr and you had to disqualify 80-90% of your workforce that you want to promote, how big a problem would that be? The top 10 ministries (groups of hundreds of students) have evaporated in a year because these guys witnesses has been so badly damaged by porn. Is it a ministry of Christ followers or a Christian club of “friends with benefits”? [It can make us] impotent in our power for God.
So, think about it. Talk about it. Pray about it. And, listen/obey the Spirit of God. Then decide “what (more importantly who) do you want to give your life to?” Anyone can find something worth living for. Are you willing to find something worth dying for? Would that someone be willing to die for you?
Would you rather give your time, energy, and financial support to an organization that gets children out of sex trafficking or an organization that prevents them from being sold into slavery in the first place? If you heard Andy Stanley’s recent message “An Ounce of Prevention“, you’d know that it’s a trick question – the answer is both, isn’t it?
For years, we’ve been talking to people about the value of discipleship and I’ve personally struggled with the question: “how do we show people the measurable results of discipleship?” As of today, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Why? Because “crisis averted” or “divorce prevented” is immeasurable. From time to time, God has given us measurable items – dollars worth of food distributed to at risk families, leaders trained for DivorceCare, participants enrolled in events – but the primary work we do in one on one discipleship is something I’ve wasted weeks of time trying to measure when it cannot be measured.
I highly recommend listening to this message as soon as you can, but from a discipleship standpoint, let me give you a testimonial: the wisdom, counsel, and biblical truth given to me from my mentors during the darkest times of our marriage, our ministry, our family crises has prevented metldowns, explosions, and generational dysfunction that would otherwise have left a terrible mark on our children and their children yet to come.
Who am I to think I could measure that and report
it back to you with a neat, little bow on top?
Two men got together every week to listen to what God is doing in each others’ lives, point out scripture that deconstructs the lies they believed (about their wives, their boss, their co-worker, their kids, their God, their addictions). Over the course of years their faith was built up, maturity hastened, and perhaps – just perhaps – their marriage was saved from a divorce, an affair, a financial crisis, a lifelong wedge of misunderstanding and hard heartedness. How does one measure that?!
Two women got together over coffee to talk about one’s divorce, the lies and accusations satan reinforced in their self concept, shared truth from God’s word, prayed for each other, and that divorcee found second marriage grace with her new husband, learned step by grueling step how to “blend” families with her new son in law as God healed old hurts, exposed her to new ones, and proved Himself worthy as her protector, healer, and deliverer. Today, her two sons know that while their biological parents are no longer together, their future is secure because God is the head of their new household and Mommy & Daddy now bring all of their baggage to the cross recreationally.
How do you
A husband and wife on the verge of divorce sought counsel and help outside of Seasons of Life, but know the value of what this kind of “personal pastoring” had on their marriage, so they joined us in support at $50 a month. They get it. Many of you do, too. You knew it was coming, right? End of year giving appeal? But, this is precisely the point that I, now with Andy’s help, have been trying to articulate for years now. Prevention giving versus intervention giving.
So, if you’re a supporter of Seasons of Life, this article is for you, too. You’ve understood what Stanley tells us is the difference between “intervention giving” and “prevention giving”. Seasons of Life was born out of the overflow of DivorceCare – clearly an “intervention” environment. But, the Lord, who is the ultimate Interventionist, has used many of you at $20, $50, to $400 a month to “keep the lights on” for others who don’t, and hopefully never will, need intervention.
Bottom line – prevention giving is neither emotional nor measurable, but it’s necessary and far superior to intervention giving. Thank you. If you’ve responded to this call through giving or prayer, we’re so very grateful. I