This post is not appropriate for children
At What Cost?
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?
Jesus did. Your thoughts?
I saw a billboard (actually from our home church) that says “Who Needs Church, Anyway?” This comes on the heels of a conversation I was having with a friend of mine who 1) considers himself a believer in Christ 2) doesn’t go to church, yet 3) is frustrated about the condition of the world today and how far from God people are. I know, some of you are already connecting dots. When I pressed him for a reason, he confessed that church always makes him feel “convicted” or emotional. I understood. It’s kind of like saying “lifting weights always makes my muscles ache”.
Yeah, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Well, one of them, anyway.
As the conversation went deeper, I could smell something in his story that was just a bit sour. This was a guy who, like many of us, had made the entire church experience about Jesus. Okay, no, not at all. Like many of us, he had made the whole experience of “going to church” all about himself. Yet, a car is not all about the wheels, any more than a body is all about a pinky or a chest. Neither is the body of Christ about one member (or even many members).
As I read the account of the church’s growth in Acts and as we talk about our love for the church against the backdrop of the many modern day maladies plaguing it, we can’t deny the fact that the believers had everything in common, sold their stuff to help those in need, even launched a relief effort because of a prophetic vision (Acts 11.29) before text messaging!!! Some guy sold his property and donated the money to help the poor. Jesus had told them all before He left the planet that He had a new command (Greek: kainos: fresh, unprecedented, uncommon, new) love one another. At no time was the church about “what’s in it for me”.
Are we tracking together?
So, this week, a great topic for conversation could be – what do others have to get out of church? What do I bring to the table? What unique gifts, perspective, or large leaning shoulder do I bring with me that could benefit someone else?
This week, at ONE TH1NG, Jesse Whitfield will be setting up a discussion for some brave guys to chew on at the tables around index cards and golf pencils – what does someone else need in the current economy that you could bring to the table? See also Samuel 23.16 ”
And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.
What is it about a wise man that he knows sometimes you just have to be a go to the guy guy? Sometimes, it’s about being available, being present, just showing up. Paul wrote to the church in Rome about how he longed to be with them so they could be mutually encouraged by each others’ faith. What is it about being present? What is it about being brave enough to be humble that can help strong men grow stronger in their faith, their walk, their Lord? If you’re wise, prudent, brave, or just desperate for truth, we’ll see you at a table at the Cabernet on Windward at 6:30 AM.
I’m staying out of the bloglight this week again by posting something that someone else has already said better than I can. I hope some of the men out there will join us as we think out loud at ONETH1NG this Friday morning. Bring your kids to school late or just keep them home so they can talk all day about what you heard on Friday and think about what’s coming up on Sunday.
Without further ado, I pass the blog to Jesse Whitfield:
The Ultimate Act
Have you ever heard someone describe something as the “ultimate”? I remember years ago there was an often-used catchphrase that got added to everything that was at the peak of it’s popularity. “It’s the ultimate!” I can hear it now reverberating through the commercials. Slowly but surely the word ultimate just didn’t have the same impact when we heard it. Marketing and culture had once again cheapened a word that previously held significance in our day to day language. Kind of sad for a word that means the best, the most extreme, the utmost or the final point.
In our current age I have somewhat of a difficult time thinking of anything we could purchase that we might refer to as ultimate. There’s always a more advanced this, an updated version of that or a faster model of something else, right? What you thought was the ultimate turned out to be the best for just that moment in time. So is there anything that lives up to the “ultimate” description? Fortunately for us there is something that truly ascribes itself to being ultimate. It was the ultimate act that has yet to be surpassed.
This week we find ourselves meeting together on what we refer to as Good Friday. While we may refer to it as good there were many in Jerusalem during that time that saw it as anything but good. Here was their friend, their rabbi, their Messiah…hanging from a cross as His earthly life slowly faded from His body. Not nearly a week ago He had arrived in what was deemed the triumphal entry. I’m sure they thought that finally the day had come where the Messiah had come to rule. Yet here they were, watching in disbelief and wondering what was next. Trust was replaced with fear & happiness replaced with sorrow. How soon they had forgotten His words only days before. Right before their eyes they witnessed the ultimate act. The ultimate sacrifice.
Despite the horrific nature of what Jesus Christ endured the truth is that He voluntarily gave up His life. In John 10:17-18 He says this:
“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
The Bible tells us He gave up (or dismissed) His spirit. In other words He voluntarily yielded it to the Father. He remained sovereign over the affairs of men right up until the very end. It was the ultimate sacrifice. The final sacrifice. It laid the foundation for His resurrection on the third day. This subsequent event would become the lynchpin of the Christian faith.
So, right next to ultimate is another word we have watered down – sacrifice. Could any of us even imagine this level of commitment? How does sacrifice look in your life as a man? At what level is your sacrifice in light of His sacrifice?
I don’t know where you are in your walk with God or even if you
celebrate the Easter holiday. What I do know is that you have probably experienced sacrifice at some level in your life. Do you remember the feeling?
Whatever you did give up it either became a positive or negative memory for you. What was the immediate effect? How did that affect your current outlook today?
Please join us Friday morning [at the Cabernet Restaurant from 6:30AM to 7:30AM] as we explore sacrifice both in what it has meant to us and what it can mean to us in light of this special day. Please invite a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker. I look forward to our time together.
Well spoken, Jesse. – AP
We had a great time this morning at ONE TH1NG, with Ron Dunn. Around 6:30 this morning, over 50 guys gathered at a local restaurant to think out loud about issues of substance from a biblical standpoint. Currently, we’re talking about “IMAX Moments” from the bible – floating ax heads, outmanned armies overcoming nations, walls falling at the sound of trumpets, etc. This time, we talked about something that seems so small compared to the other more miraculous events, yet has a miraculous impact on you and I every (hopefully) day: encouragement.
Barnabas was a great encourager of the first century church. In fact, his name means “son of rest” or “son of encouragement”. In examining some of the guiding verses this morning, the guys at my table all concluded that encouragement is both an event and a process. In the battle against a dead man who seems to be tied to us like a rotting corpse, and against a world that lies to us constantly, and
against an enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy, encouragement is the breath of fresh air that we need often and fully. It is the rest we desperately need in times of weariness, so it’s not a one time need or a long term fix. It’s not Jesus, but a reflection of His love.
|Thanks, to Ron Dunn for the quote.
Now, try this:
Say the word “encourager” and who are the first 3 people who come into your mind? Who, in your life, speaks life into you on a regular basis?
Next question – and ponder this one carefully – everyone has a short list of encouragers in their life. Whose list are you on? Are you first on other peoples’ lists?
The danger here is that we can easily get lost in the comparison game. Remember, God made you unique and just because encouragement is not your primary spiritual gift doesn’t make you lesser in His eyes. But, encouragement shows up about 35 or more times in the new testament, often as a command. So, we are both not to ignore opportunities to encourage nor are we to stand condemned if we’re not naturally great at it. One thing is certain: we are to encourage. Discipleship is often little more than a Barnabas spurring on a young John Mark, a middle manager encouraging an up and comer, a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church. [This is in italics because I know that once I’ve written it, there’s a good chance I’ll need to remember it when I see my wife in a couple of hours.]
So, how can we pray wisely about this? What if we were to ask the Lord to give us specific insight into the life of someone He wants us to encourage? What if we were clean in our heart and listened to His prompting about He would have us say or do to encourage this person? Yesterday, we had a couple on our couch who just lost a 23 year old daughter. I [Aarron] recently lost my Dad, so I understand what it means to lose someone. But, I had no clue how to look at a 60 year old guy and truly empathize with him losing his daughter – Praise God, I’ve never lost one.
The beautiful thing is – God knows that guy better than I ever will and when I asked Him to help me “be available”, He delivered. When they left our house, they looked like they had lost 35 lbs each. Still sad, yet noticeably encouraged. This is not because I’m anything special nor a master encourager. Rather, it’s a testament to the God of all good gifts, who knows this couple and their greatest need in any moment, and how He would bring them joy in the darkest season they’ve known in a long time.
So, be encouraged. Can you trust today that God is with you always? Can you trust that He knows your need before you even can think it? Will you give Him your greatest care and burden and listen for His word – through audible voice, through His word, or even through His church, the body of Christ? But, also, be a son of encouragement. Know that around you are thirsty and weary soldiers in the making. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God loves dearly. These are your soon to be brothers and sisters who are stuck in sin, bonded to death, who will soon know Jesus and will need to know the comfort, encouragement, and leadership of their Lord. Will you be available to Him as you spur them on to love and good deeds?
in it with you,
P.S. We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve recently had to encourage others – if you’d like to help us keep it up, go to our new page “Speak Life“.