Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 23, The Great Smog

the great smogFrom February 5-9, 1952, London had a problem. A prolonged period of windless conditions caused the cities to be covered in a thick suffocating smog. The source was not mysterious, the many coal-burning factories in the area along with personal coal use to heat houses was the source. But for those several days, the wind didn’t take it away.

The problems it caused were numerous. Public transport ground to a halt as driving became quite dangerous except in the subway system. Ambulances stopped running. Film screenings and shows were canceled because even the indoor air quality was so poor that people couldn’t see the stage. In some places, visibility dropped to as low as three feet.

That would mean that I couldn’t see my toes.

The people of London were frustrated by this, but not alarmed. Smogs had happened before and they dealt with it. Smog masks were used by those who could afford them and small charges were placed on railway lines to warn everyone that a train was coming when it hit the charge and they would explode. This was the price of progress and London was willing to pay it.

What London had no prepared for was the days following the smog. The death rate in London skyrocketed. Modern estimates are that about 12,000 people were killed by the smog (4,000 is the low estimate, 25,000 is the high one). That got people’s attention. Much of today’s environmental movement get its spark from those few days in London.

We live in a similar situation today. Pornography is so endemic that it is considered normal. Possibly a little shameful, but it is a private matter. Many people have spoken against it, but the vast majority don’t feel it is a big enough problem to address.

That is until we see the growing consequences of the smog. Today more American children will be born outside of marriage than within it. Japan is facing a demographic crisis because porn is easier to acquire than sex, so there are many young people giving up sex and certainly giving up on the idea of children. American men are increasingly averse to taking responsibility for their family.

We are in the midst of a great smog today and the negative effects of this smog are about to take center stage. It will be our responsibility as Christian men to stand up and call it what it is. The world will not know that children are delightful unless we show them. Young men will not know it is good to serve our wives unless we show them. Young women will settle for marrying losers unless we show them that they should expect more from men. God will not be shown as deeply satisfying unless we stand as a breath of fresh air in a dying, congested world.

-Chip

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Porn and the Christian Guy, Part 21 Set Free to Set Free

prison-cell1To be in recovery means that many men have served me. What a joy that those men invested in me and worked for my delight in God! Recently, I have realized that with that profound service they have provided comes a responsibility. I am to give the grace that God has given me to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 2 Cor 1:3-6

God has provided comfort to me that I am joyfully obligated to bring to others. I find it fascinating that Paul says, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.” I don’t think this simply means righteous suffering, but also suffering for our sins. My affliction which is from my sin can be for the comfort of others.

How liberating is that! Not only is my suffering working out for my joy, but also for the joy of others. I have, in the past, wrongly felt that the only suffering that God could really use was ‘righteous’ suffering from really spiritual people. You know, the Bible Superheroes. This is obviously wrong, but I believed it.

Take, for example, the sin of David with Bathsheba. David suffered terribly for his sin. God killed his son. But then God used that to bring about the birth of Jesus. Talk about redeeming a terrible situation. It doesn’t make the sin less evil. It shows that God is simply that powerful.

What about Paul’s sinful desire to kill the church at Damascus? Talk about evil, his purpose was specifically to stamp out believers in Jesus. Surely God couldn’t redeem that. But Jesus kicks him off his donkey, yells at him, leaves him blind for several days (it took a bit of work to get the message through), and then created the most effective missionary ever. Paul’s sin was used to bring about Paul’s joy and mine.

Now obviously we should not “sin that grace may increase”, that is a special kind of corruption. But I should take comfort in the fact that God can and does use my sins to redeem me. And not just me, he uses my sins to help me be his hand to redeem others.

I am not simply set free to redeem myself. I am not a cul-du-sac of joy. No, I have been set free to help set others free! God doesn’t just let me watch him work. He lets me participate in his work. I am a little boy getting to work with my dad in the garage and “help” him work.

So gentlemen, don’t be content to simply be rescued by Jesus yourself. The deeper joy is being like Jesus and reaching out to others to show them the way. In the context of recovering from porn addiction, don’t be a wall flower. Be active in supporting your brothers who are struggling as well. God has provided special comfort and grace to you. Please don’t keep it to yourself.

-Chip

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 20, What if He Won’t Change?

Man using a laptopA recent commenter to the article My Husband is Looking at Porn, What Should I Do asked a very important question. She had tried bringing the problem to her church and it hadn’t helped. She asked, “How on earth does someone (have hope)?” 

I pondered on this for some time. This usually means that I didn’t have a simple answer for her. It also meant that if she asked, there were a hundred women who had the same question. The topic needed to be addressed.

Everything I mention below assumes that you have confronted him about his sin in a gentle and firm way, that you have prayed for him, that you have brought it to your church, and he continues to look at porn. Those are the first steps. But what if those don’t work? It is certainly a complex question so forgive me if my answers don’t apply to your situation. The details matter. I hope to offer some help.

A Brief Theology of Marriage

Biblical marriage is a life-long covenant between a man, a woman, and God. It comes with obligations and benefits. It is meant to somehow present a picture of Jesus and the Church. The connection is so clouded that Paul says “this mystery is profound.” Within that picture, the husband stands in the position of Jesus and is commanded to love and serve his wife in a deeply sacrificial way (see the book of Hosea for even more on that). The wife, in the position of the Church, is to respect her husband and submit to his authority.

The Bible repeatedly refers to a married couple as “one flesh” and Jesus is insistent that God has made it this way. “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” Within that, Jesus does teach that if there is sexual unfaithfulness, divorce is permitted but not required.

One final clarification, despite Jesus’ discussion of lust being adultery (Matt 5:27-28), lust by itself is not a Biblical ground for divorce. The sin in the heart is profoundly evil, but the act of infidelity is the grounds Jesus allowed divorce.

Now, what can a wife do if her husband will NOT stop looking at porn.

Keep Praying

The fact is that God alone can change his heart.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. (1Jn 5:16 ESV)

There can be some debate about what a “sin that leads to death” is, but it would be a small category of sins (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, unbelief, etc…). Pornography on its face would not be such a sin.

So we are left with the instruction to pray for our spouse’s sin. Don’t give up. Sometimes God pushes us to the end of ourselves precisely because he can then be given the glory for what he is about to do. You have a Father who loves you and wants to grant your prayers, keep asking him to bring your husband to repentance.

Be Gentle and Firm

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 ESV)

To correct a husband who is looking at porn and won’t stop, the wife should not be quarrelsome but should be challenging her husband with patient and gentleness. Take note that God is the one responsible to “perhaps” grant them repentance. I love how Paul describes that they “may come to their senses.”

Know that There is Justice for You

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:18-21 ESV)

I have more often heard Christians say, “Don’t get bitter” but then fail to explain why you should not be bitter.

If your husband is not a believer when he dies. He will awaken facing the God of the Universe. He will be accused of every sin he ever committed. The evidence will be certain, overwhelming, and damning. He will look and no one will come to his defense. As he raises his eyes to see the Judge, he sees a deep rage: a profound indignation for every single time he failed to love you. The almighty God of all things will loudly declare to all living things that he is condemned.

He will then be dragged, screaming to a lake of fire. As he stands on the brink of that lake, he will know without a doubt, that he will never escape it. As he falls toward the flaming waters, he feels the dread of his last moments of comfort. The pain of contact will sear him to his bones and as he screams, unable to bear this for even a second, he despairs knowing that it will never, ever end.

I think that is sufficient justice for what he has done to you. God will make sure that every sin is avenged.

If your husband is a believer when he dies, then all of that suffering mentioned above was pour onto Jesus. Jesus was so afraid of this that he begged God for another way. Yet, he loves you and your husband so much, he willingly went to the cross. He endured an eternity of Hell in a few hours. For the only time ever, he was rejected by God. He loves your husband that much.

Your husband was the one who stayed up late looking at porn, Jesus was the one who was declared guilty. Is it fair? Of course not. It speaks to the profound character of God that he would choose to suffer for sinners like us.

If Jesus has taken your husband’s sin away, who are we to say that justice has not been done. It is that same mercy that holds you and I out of Hell as well.

So rest in the fact that justice will be done. At some point, you will look at the depths of Hell or into the eyes of Jesus and say, “that punishment is enough for what he did to me.” Trust God that he is not a wimp but a warrior who will see all of this made right. In that trust, don’t be bitter. Surely God’s justice is so severe that we would have compassion on those who will suffer so much at his hands. God does the justice so that we are free to love.

Have Hope

Back to the original question, how should we have hope? The answer is that our hope can never be in a husband, child, church, or friend. Those are good things, but if we hope in them, we will be stunningly disappointed. No, we hope in a sweet and kind Father who loves us so much. He will never, ever fail us. Your hope is in your true husband, Jesus, who knows what you are going through and has “been tempted in every way.” He loves you. He will set this right.

Some trust in chariots (or husbands) and some in horses (or friends),
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Ps 20:7,8 ESV)

I know this is hard. God never promised that it wouldn’t be. He just promised that it would be worth it.

-Chip

Count Vicegrim’s Letters: Chapter 4 Fraternity Life

The Count Vicegrim LettersThe Demon Mudpot’s Annual Review regarding the Temptation of the Patient in His 18th Year

Mudpot,

Considering your massive failure last year, I have to say you have bounced back well. Of course, nothing can truly make up for allowing your patient to become the Enemy’s, but you have done well under these difficult circumstances.

That said, let’s get on to your review!

Thing that Were Acceptable

It is quite good that you have gotten your patient into a fraternity. Chi Sigma Lambda serves our purposes beautifully. It is risky to have your patient in a fraternity that might get him in trouble legally as this would be difficult to hide from his parents and home church. This is wonderful, he can be constantly exposed to serious sins without risk of actual immediate harm to him.

When working with a patient in a fraternity, it is important to remember that the purpose of any group of vermin is to provide for the needs met by a church without having them in a church. Loneliness, meaninglessness, and the feeling that one must belong to something larger than oneself, all of these feelings can lead a patient into a church and then into the arms of our Enemy. A fraternity is an ideal counterfeit. It allows for community, purpose, and belonging all while ignoring any substantive parts of those feelings. It is always so delightful to have these men give a hamburger to a poor man, then feel righteous before the Enemy, then go and fornicate.

Be careful to keep your patient busy with video games, pornography, and parties. He needs to be so full of activity that he can ignore the empty feeling in his soul. The Enemy’s Spirit is still there and he is crafty. He can take advantage of the slightest misstep. Be careful.

Didn’t I tell you that the World Religions class was wonderful? Can you believe that those vermin think they are more “thoughtful” and “well-rounded” after hearing that? I have some vacation coming up and I might just have to attend one of those lectures. It would be good for my heart to see them launch themselves into our abyss. The only thing better than a vermin going into Hell is a vermin who smiles as they go!

Finally, I want to say that it was a work of art to see you hold back on sexual temptation for four months. I wondered if you waited too long. But then you hit him so hard that he fell so profoundly back into his love of those naked vermin. You did well. He did what we hoped he would. He was so disoriented by the sudden force of temptation, he doubts whether there is a God. Keep the temptation strong. It is no use to let up now. Keep it coming.

Things that Need Improvement

The Enemy may be a liar, but he was right to say “Pride goes before a fall.” You are way too cocky. You act as though you have won. Not only have you not won, but you have lost his soul. Yes, there are victories to be had, but the most important battle has been lost.

You underestimate how very sneaky the Enemy’s Spirit is. Many a demon has thought they have won only to have that vile Spirit flip everything on it’s head. Some of our most dedicated servants have been turned into some of his most dedicated warriors. Remember the Apostles Paul and John Newton. Their demons were too busy celebrating to see what the Enemy’s Spirit was doing right under their noses. Don’t let your guard down!

I want to equip you with one of the key words for covering up sin. Responsible! We want to promote drunkeness, so we tell them to “Drink Responsibly.” We want them to fornicate, we tell them to responsibly have “Safe Sex.” We want them to murder their babies, we tell them it is “the responsible thing to do.” Surely a baby would rather be murdered than to be poor as a child. Mudpot, make “Resposibility” your refrain. Every time the Enemy’s Spirit is resisting you, try to figure our how to make the sin, “Responsible.”

Overall, this year has been a better one. You have still failed miserably, but this year does some good in redeeming you in my eyes. Keep up your work. Don’t be overeager. The path of destruction is a slow one. Be patient as you walk him down it.

Doubting you always,

-Count Vicegrim

Image created by Cavin and used with permission

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 17, My Battle Plan

chessIn my recovery group, a recent topic was what our plan is for temptation: our battle plan.

When facing temptation to lust, there are so may opportunities to fail. The consensus was that if you don’t have a plan, you are much more likely to give into temptation when it comes.

Honestly, I sorta kinda might have a semblance of a modicum of a procedure that, when looked at a certain way, could be considered a plan. Now my sorta plan has worked OK, but that makes me think that if I had a real plan, it might work better.

Today, I will make a plan.

I have decided to divide my plan up into the three components of a person: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.

The Physical

Sexuality is a physical drive. Like sleep and thirst, it serve a necessary biological function and has a prominent physical dimension. So my plan includes:

  • Get enough sleep. I am much more prone to all temptations when I don’t get enough sleep.
  • Have frequent sex with my wife. God has given a proper and good place for sex to be enjoyed. I should drink deeply from it, then I won’t be as hungry for things I shouldn’t have.
  • Avoid going to places of previous temptation. I should not park in front of a strip club (even though I have never gone into a strip club, I have been tempted). I should also avoid adult stores.
  • It is important what I look at. My eyes should linger on my wife and should look away from other women. I have come to believe that I delight in what I look at. So I need to be careful to look at what is good for my soul.

The Emotional

Pornography does not simply fulfill physical drives, it also tries to satisfy emotional drives (though in the end, it leaves you unsatisfied). It feels empowering to have a woman looking longingly at you, even if it is just a video. So it is important to address the emotional needs.

  • Spend time with my wife. It is important to enjoy the right place for real community. It helps me see how counterfeit the buzz from porn really is.
  • Spend time with God. He is my Father and he loves me. If I believe he loves me, it is much easier to trust him with he says, “Watch Out! This is dangerous.”
  • Write my blog. Helping guys who struggle with porn is very helpful in my own struggles.
  • Have Covenant Eyes on every internet access. Knowing that my accountability partners will call with any questionable site visits is often enough to help me resist temptation in the moment.

The Spiritual

In the end, no sin is a physical act. It starts in my heart and comes out in my actions. So caring for my spiritual needs is essential.

  • I need to regularly pray. Talking with God has an uncanny power to reduce temptation. I think it is because I am enjoying a better pleasure in prayer.
  • I need to regularly read the Bible. God created a book that ” is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I should pay attention.
  • It is very helpful to me to listen sermons online. there are great preachers out there and it is so good to have the technology that I can listen to them .
  • Regularly attending a recovery group. One of the best ways for me to keep focused on resisting the temptations of pornography is to help other men in their struggle. It is really good for my soul and constantly reminds me what I have left behind.

Now that plan is what I will do before I am tempted, but it really doesn’t address what I will do when I am tempted. Really, when temptation strikes, I will do all of the same things I did to prevent temptation. Leaving a tempting environment, praying, talking with my wife, listening to a sermon; all of these are effective in the moment as well.

So gentleman, I would encourage you to write out your plan. It can help you.

God Bless.

-Chip

Recovery Resources: Every Man’s Battle

It is sometimes difficult to find practical guides for anything in Christian circles. With pornography this can be especially true. Often what you find is a solid theology of how wrong pornography is but not much to help you actually stop looking at it. Enter Every Man’s Battle. This book helped me during a difficult time in my ongoing recovery.

Both of the authors, Fred Stoeker and Steven Arterburn, struggled with pornography. They offer a real and compelling description of their own journeys. There is no punches pulled about the severity of the problem with pornography yet they do speak with a gracious understanding.

One point that the book emphasizes well is that simply failing to look at porn is not a recovery. If I don’t look at porn again but leave my family in shambles, that is not a win. Steven and Fred do a good job of explaining that we must love our wives well.

A good book especially for a guy who is new in recovery. It comes with my recommendation and, if you order in the next five minutes, you can expect to pay nearly the same price as you would in ten minutes.

-Chip

P.S. I don’t make any money from this book. This is just from my heart.

Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 15, A Plea to Pastors

It is with a bit of trembling that I approach the topic of pastors today. Part of me wonders if I am crossing into the territory of those who will be held to a higher standard (James 3). I think so. To be further sobered, that whole chapter is about how the tongue is lit by the fire of hell (or the keyboard, in this case) and that we should not act out of selfish ambition.

But that selfish ambition lives in my heart. It wants you to read this blog and be very impressed by my sacrifice, my boldness, my wisdom. It is not that interested in God getting credit or glory. Oh no, it wants to make sure that all of the honor goes to Chip.

I am not fit to preach or to lead the church. I want my own glory too much. But I don’t think that means I have no contribution to make. By the grace of God, I hope to encourage the church. To God be the glory.

I want to approach the pastors today. You are men called by God to lead his people. This is a heavy burden and I fear I am going to add to it today. I don’t want what I am about to say to discourage you. Quite the opposite, I want to encourage you.

As my recent posts have pointed out, there is a crisis in the world and the church. Sexual sin is disintegrating our homes, communities, and churches. The gateway drug for this sexual sin is pornography. It starts and fuels most of this destruction. So, pastors, I plead with you.

Confess Your Own Sexual Sin

Somewhere in the range of 1/3 to 1/2 of pastors have recently looked at pornography. If this is you, you must confess this sin to God and to another believer. It is useless to fight this without the church helping you. Don’t think that because you are a pastor that you are above the need for support and community. If anything you need it more than your people because you are being held to a higher standard. God is watching you and he expects you to lead well. Confess your sin to another believer.

Also, look at your heart. Are you emotionally drawing close to a woman in your church? When you preach, who are those girls that you always know where they are sitting. You need not look are porn to lust. Confess this sin to another believer as well. You need to be “in the light, as he is in the light.” Otherwise, don’t be surprised that you are living in darkness.

Now, go flirt with your wife.

Have a Ministry in your Church for Sexual Sin

If there is no forum for discussing sexual sin in your church, then you are overlooking an area of huge need. Around half of your men are regularly looking at porn and maybe a quarter of the ladies. If they were snorting cocaine, you would say something. Have a place for these people to go to have the gospel speak to their addiction. Maybe you partner with another church’s ministry, but you need a place for your people to get support for their sexual sin.

Be Ready to Address the Spouses of Porn Addicts

I struggle to recommend this because I have never known a group for spouses that I thought was really helpful. But part of the problem is that groups for spouses are quite rare. For almost every porn abuser, there is a struggling spouse. If you don’t have a plan for what to say to them, you will say something stupid. I have seen way too many pastors put the addiction back on a spouses shoulders. It’s not that these pastors meant harm, they just weren’t prepared. Be prepared.

Be Biblical, not Victorian

If you haven’t read my article Porn and the Christian Guy: Part 2, How Did We Get Here, then please take the time. I explain how many of our views of sex are not biblical, but cultural. We have overly stigmatized discussing sex and that has meant that the only people who are talking about it are the sexual sinners. Satan was very clever to set us up like that. Until we get over our reluctance to talk about sexual sin, we can never expect to overcome it. No one in the Bible is shy about it, why are we?

You Must Address Sexual Sin from the Pulpit

I don’t mean that you should occasionally mention sexual sin. I mean that you should be specific and be ready to address specific questions. There is a whole book in the Bible about how great sex is in marriage (Song of Solomon). Jesus had a three year ministry and had several specific and controversial teachings on sexual sin (Matthew 5:32, 15;19, and 19:9). Paul had several letters read from pulpits that were very specific about sexual sin and commanding sex in marriage (Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 5, 7:1-3, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The author of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:4) and Jude (Jude 1:7) both discuss sexual sin and the judgement that comes with it. Finally Jesus comes back to John in Revelation and has specific sexual sins at specific churches that he addresses (Revelation 2:14-21).

So, I will argue that if you are not being specific about the sexual sins that your congregation is facing from the pulpit, you are not loving your people well. You are not being biblical. You are more afraid of the critics in your congregation than you are in serving that mass of people who need you to have the courage to address their sin.  Be bold, dear brothers, be bold.

I do have a couple of good examples of this. Pastor Kempton Turner at Bethlehem Baptist did a wonderful job of facing sin and proclaiming the cross. He did a seminar called Pure Pleasure and he is an example to us all of how to approach this issue. Also, Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church has spoken on sexual sin numerous times, but I like this one the best of them all.

Be Encouraged

I don’t want to add burdens to you. I want you to be fruitful. This article may be discouraging to you. Please, know that I love you and I want you to be successful. God has given me this grace and I want you to share in it. There is a fountain of joy for both of us, but obedience is necessary and I believe God is calling us to boldly correct sexual sins of all kinds.

Brother, I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.

-Chip