Talking about beating lust (the right way!)

The following is an imagined conversation with a non-naturist that doesn’t ever mention naturism. It does, however, assume the lessons that are available to be learned rapidly through the tenets of Christian naturism. In fact, here is a downloadable pdf without any branding or credit given that you can use with non-naturist friends if they aren’t ready to hear about naturism.

Person: I’m going to have to leave soon. I’ve got an accountability group to get to.

Me: Why do you need an accountability group?

Person: Well, you know, every man’s battle?

Me: I’m a man, but I don’t think you should group every man as being in the same type of battle.

Person: Fine, it’s about lust and struggles with pornography, and the group helps us to not do that stuff that most guys deal with regularly.

Me: Oh, we’ll circle back to that, but I’m curious, is it working?

Person: Um, sometimes, I mean I have days and sometimes even months of victory at a time, but then inevitably I fall off the wagon again.

Me: Thanks for being honest. Are you always honest in your group?

Person: For the most part. I guess sometimes we answer only the questions asked and avoid telling the whole truth. The shame we feel helps motivate us. We all struggle with it, so when one person shared their defeat, it’s not as bad when I share mine. But then sometimes it gives me ideas of new ways I can be tempted like the other guys!

Me: That doesn’t sound very promising. And shame should never ever be your motivator. Aside from the support and encouragement, it seems like you all need a breakthrough!

Person: We do! That’s why I said it’s every man’s battle. Don’t you have the same struggle?

Me: Thankfully, no. I used to, but not anymore. Not ever.

Person: How long has it been since you looked at porn?

Me: Is that how we are measuring victory? Avoidance of any visual stimuli?

Person: Well, yeah. Temptation is all around us. If I can avoid seeing something, I won’t fall into temptation! You know, ‘cuz all men are visual.

Me: There you go again with “all men!” What you see is not as important as how you see what you see.

Person: I’m not following you.

Me: OK, so if you see a woman, let’s say, do you automatically lust after her?

Person: It depends whether or not she’s hot or not.

Me: So if you determine that she is attractive, let’s use that word instead, you automatically desire her in a sexual way?

Person: Well, yeah. I have a pulse. All the guys I know are like that! And even the preacher talks about his wife as being “smokin’ hot!”

Me: OK, that’s messed up. Hey, I’m not trying to be holier than thou. In fact, I get it, I used to be the same way. 

Person: Your saying you’re not anymore? And YOU’RE being honest?

Me: I don’t want to objectify anyone. I’d rather die than objectify another human being, even my wife.

Person: Not even your wife? You have to be attracted to her!

Me: I am.

Person: Well, what’s the difference? 

Me: Terms like “hot” or “ugly” are offensive and demeaning. A person is so much more than the sum or arrangement of their parts. They aren’t a piece of meat. They are an individual, made in the image of God, and worthy of love and respect.

Person: Yeah, I know that! But if they are attractive, or good looking, I can’t help myself, you know?

Me: I don’t. Remember, when I said it’s about how you see? I see others as God sees them. Everyone has their own beauty, in their own way, no matter how society has conditioned us to see them.

Person: Conditioned? What are you saying? Some people are just not as beautiful as others. If you don’t acknowledge that, you’re just crazy.

Me: I’m sorry, but you seem a bit obsessed about a person’s physical appearance. That’s what our culture and world does. The standards of beauty that marketers push are not even real, let alone attainable.

Person: I know that, but I just like the girl next door type. Not magazine perfect, but not unattractive.

Me: What if your own wife was disfigured in an accident? Would you be able to look past her scars as see the person you love?

Person: Well, yeah. Absolutely. But I don’t have that relationship with other women, so I can’t promise that with someone I don’t even know.

Me: Why not? Why not see beauty and value in everyone, and reject the notion that only your type is deserving of admiration.

Person: Ah, so you admit that you admire others. You say you don’t lust after them, but you admire their beauty!

Me: I admire that tree over in the distance too. Or the sunrise this morning.

Person: We’re not talking about creation! We’re talking about people.

Me: Are people not the pinnacle of God’s creation? 

Person: OK, yeah, but it’s different.

Me: Is it?

Person: It’s apples and oranges. And it’s forbidden fruit! So when we fall and let our minds wander and do what they do, we have to go confess it to a group of guys and try harder next time. 

Me: Sounds like a vicious cycle.

Person: It is! 

Me: Could it be that you’ve believed a lie?

Person: A lie? What lie?

Me: Well, from what you’ve described, I’ve noticed several lies. That all men are visual and can’t help but react in a sexual arousal manner. That it’s every man’s struggle that can’t be overcome easily. That you have to try harder and have accountability to be pure. All lies. And if you agree with them and believe them, they will continue to control you. 

Person: So what’s the answer?

Me: The truth will make you free (John 8:32). Reject the lies, live as though the truth is actually true, and enjoy the life abundant that Jesus offers and his finished work on the cross secures for you. It’s not by your own power, but by his life in you.

Person: I believe in Jesus, but I don’t see how I can use his power to overcome such urges.

Me: He’s given you a new heart and a new nature. It’s about truth and identity. The new you doesn’t even desire porn, right? It’s not the innocent beauty of the body as the crown of creation. It’s a distortion that objectifies and sexualized what God made very good. You feel trapped and drawn to that which you don’t even want. So agree with the truth, and it loses that power over you. You don’t want that; it’s revolting to you in your new nature. You have no desire or appetite for it. 

Person: That is true. I don’t want it, but I indulge and then feel guilty almost immediately.

Me: The command not to murder my brother is easy to keep because I don’t want to commit murder. This is the same now. I don’t want to objectify another human being made in God’s image, so when I see visual stimuli, it doesn’t faze or tempt me. I move on. The battle is in the heart and the mind. That’s what Jesus was saying. We need to renew our mind and heart. He’s done it for you already. Stop believing the lies!

Person: So you really don’t have this problem?

Me: I used to, but it has vanished and for good! There is no struggle any longer. I don’t need software or anything. It’s like a former alcoholic going down the liquor aisle at the grocery store. If he’s really free, he can do that and not have any trouble.

Person: And your relationship with your wife is better now?

Me: It’s amazing! That’s where arousal is supposed to come from- relationship, not visual. To limit to the visual, seeing or avoiding seeing stuff is to forget about the power of our imagination, anyway. Can a blind man lust? We don’t have to see anything to lust. And when we see something, we don’t have to lust. Arousal based on relationship was God’s original design, and it’s much better and more powerful. Everything else is a distortion and fantasy.

Person: Well, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about! 

Me: And you better get to your accountability group!

Person: I think I’m too late for that. And I’m just not feeling it now. Would you wanna talk to my guys next week maybe?

Review of “Surfing for God”

This is a thorough review of “Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle” by Michael John Cusick. I’ll say right off bat that while I’m often very critical of books that deal with overcoming pornography that are in the Christian “mainstream,” this one was quite good for the most part. It offers a more holistic approach which includes work and care for one’s soul. This component is often missing in the bulk of most books which typically aim at the management of behaviors without going deep to the source of those behaviors.

Normally on these reviews, I share excerpts that I highlighted while reading and notes which were my reactions (often upset reactions) to what I’m reading. In this case, I made many highlights, but few notes. My unique perspective as a Christian naturist is obviously missing, but what was also missing from this book were many of the man-made strategies that deserve serious scrutiny. My own thoughts will be italicized from this point on. 

Location 221 (Kindle): I am tired of the never-ending battle over lust.” A battle that so often leads to defeat. Borrowing from the shampoo bottle instructions, I call it the “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle. First, it begins with getting clean—genuine remorse and sincere repentance. Promising God that we won’t go there again. Then, for reasons we don’t really understand, we go there again. Eventually, when our shame overwhelms us, or perhaps we’ve been discovered, we come clean again. But this time we tell somebody and find an accountability partner. Finally, we commit to a new strategy by redoubling our efforts, trying even harder, checking in more often with our accountability partner, and maybe reading our Bibles more. It’s lather, rinse, repeat—with the emphasis on repeat. And the saddest part of this cycle is that most men see no alternative. We’re seemingly stuck with two choices: either suppress our passions or give in and indulge them. We know in our hearts that porn is not God’s best for our lives. But in the heat of the moment, it seems as if there’s nothing better than porn. We desperately need another way to live.

I would agree. I call this the guilt and shame cycle in a chapter of the book I’m currently writing.

He says in Location 257, Many approaches exist for healing compulsive sexual behaviors like porn addiction. By offering my framework, I am not in any way criticizing other approaches.

I guess I am unapologetically criticizing other approaches. But I’m offering a critique of the strategies (which have been found to be woefully inadequate) not the individuals themselves.

Page 7 · Location 370: Who says viewing porn is wrong when our culture tries to reassure us that it’s natural and normal—in fact, based on popular consumption and the ten-billion-dollar industry it generates, you’re abnormal if you don’t view porn!

This is a sad reality we have to deal with. I offer a different spin on the “Normal vs. Natural” debate in this post.

Location 473: …the compulsion toward porn far exceeds the thrill of orgasm or appreciation for a woman’s body proportions. It involves far more than viewing a new stimulating sexual position or a hotter, more provocative partner. In the same way, overeating is not about food—something else compels the food addict to eat an entire one-pound bag of M& M’s in one sitting. Compulsive shopping is about so much more than needing more stuff to put in our garages or closets. So, too, our sexual lusts and preoccupations with porn point to more than naked bodies or illicit sex.

I don’t care at all for some of this objectifying language, but I get that he’s building a case for a focus on the soul of the struggling man (or woman in many cases). I’d have to wholeheartedly agree that lust is about more than naked bodies. It’s about the heart, regardless of one’s dress or lack thereof.

Page 15 · Location 483: …we seek on the physical level what can only be obtained on a spiritual level, then we set ourselves up for a never-ending cycle that only leads to desperation, despair, and bondage. So if sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical pleasure, then what does that tell us? Almost a century ago, G. K. Chesterton wrote that the man who knocks on the brothel door is knocking for God. If he were writing today, he might say that the man who surfs the web for porn is surfing for God. If nothing else, this truth means that sex is a signpost to God. It also points us to the way He designed us as sexual beings—when we are most aligned with this design and intention, we are most powerful, complete, and fulfilled.

Great quote!

Page 15 · Location 489: Maybe you’ve heard the saying that in a marriage the sexual relationship is a barometer for the relationship in general. When a husband and wife enjoy a healthy emotional, relational, and spiritual connection, most of the time good sex follows. In the same way, a man’s sexual appetite is a barometer for what’s going on inside his heart. Your sex drive consists of more than testosterone and the buildup of seminal fluid pressing for biological release, more than being visually stimulated and feeling aroused. Sexual arousal is an accumulation of your experiences, deep needs, and unconscious beliefs. Your heart shares a deep connection to your body parts. The way you are sexually aroused reflects what’s happening deep in your soul, beyond your sexual organs. Indeed, sex is as much spiritual mystery as it is physical fact. The reality is that your heart needs something, and porn promises to meet that need.

Porn promises intimacy, but fails to deliver. Lust is a cheap imitation of the desire for true love that God instills in us. The master counterfeiter is hard at work to keep us from the real deal.

Page 16 · Location 498 Like all idols, porn promises us something we desire. In reality, it overpromises and underdelivers.

Page 17 · Location 526: What makes pornography so addictive,” wrote John Eldredge, “is that more than anything else in a man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever requiring a thing of him.” 2 The allure of porn is that—contrary to a woman in real life—it makes us feel like men, and it never rolls its eyes at us or rolls over in bed. Porn never reminds us of our failures, flaws, or shortcomings. It doesn’t evaluate our appearances or performances, our net worths or credentials. Porn doesn’t tell us to clip our toenails or put the toilet seat down. Porn doesn’t care if we are sullen, irritable, overweight, selfish—even undesirable. Porn’s only requirement of a man is a pulse—and maybe the click of a mouse.

And a heart that lusts after another person.

Page 18 · Location 537: So in the absence of felt strength, we turn to porn as if it were steroids for our soul. In our minds, porn makes us bigger, stronger, and more desirable. We get our fix and affirm our manhood. The seductive images reliably tell us that we are the man. But as we do with real steroids, we risk porn’s damaging side effects and possible public disgrace. Without this drug, we become just another guy and wonder if we make the cut. C. S. Lewis understood this when he wrote that every time a man masturbates, he chips away at his manhood.

While true, one note I had earlier which I did not include was that this book seems geared toward men only. Females also struggle with porn. The solution should be all encompassing.

Page 23 · Location 609: Porn promises power over women another way. Images and scenes of women being humiliated, degraded, and violated for the pleasure of men are now commonplace online. What is this about? Most often, it speaks to the clinical issue of tolerance, the idea that more and more of the “drug” is required to get the same effect. When more of the drug can’t bring about the desired effect, then it becomes necessary to change drugs. In the case of porn, changing drugs means seeking out scenes that are darker, edgier, and even more abusive. I’ve spoken with numerous men who began their online porn career by “innocently” searching for naked celebrity pics, but eventually ended up compulsively searching for violent and repulsive material they never could have imagined wanting before.

I’ve read over and over that this is the case. With me, I never got to this level, thankfully, but even a “low-grade” porn compulsion is destructive enough. We are made for better.

Page 25 · Location 639: Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.—FREDERICK BUECHNER

Page 27 · Location 682: Jesus doesn’t call us to a self-improvement plan. Instead, He appeals to our deep thirsts and desires, even if we don’t recognize it.

Page 31 · Location 747: Jesus addressed the issue of lust. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5: 27–28). The Greek word for “lust” in that passage is epithumeo, which means “to set the heart upon” or to “intensely desire.” Yet when Luke recorded Jesus’ words as He broke bread with His twelve disciples at the Last Supper—“ I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22: 15 ESV, emphasis added)—he used the same word, epithumeo, that Jesus used to describe lust. Was Jesus lusting? Yes. Was Jesus sinning? Of course not. He was deeply in touch with the deep and godly desires in His heart. Through the centuries, theologians and philosophers have referred to lust as disordered desire. Such a definition is extremely helpful in understanding Jesus’ two uses of the word for lust, as well as clearing up our own misunderstandings. Disordered desire results from desires that are disowned, demanded, or misplaced.

I love this. Such a good point!

Page 33 · Location 769: While we try to ratchet down our desires, God invites us to desire even more deeply.

Page 33 · Location 773: The problem with lust is that we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Think about it this way. Suppose you have just finished a hard day of cycling or hiking in the heat of summer. Extremely thirsty, you return to your vehicle and grab the water bottle you packed earlier that morning. You are aware that the water in your container is comprised of countless molecules, each containing two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. For some reason, you decide that you will only swallow the oxygen atoms and not the hydrogen atoms. Despite your best efforts, you can’t do it because the two hydrogen atoms and the one oxygen atom cannot be separated. To separate them would mean you would no longer be drinking water, but something else. A man trying to suppress his lust is like someone trying to drink only the oxygen atoms.

Page 34 · Location 784: When we demand, we leave no room for love because we go from being lovers to consumers. A man compulsively drawn to porn does not have a problem with his desire. God created him with a natural attraction to feminine beauty. The problem is not that he is thirsty but that his desire has become a demand.

Page 40 · Location 881: Our hearts—the containers that hold love—are broken. That is why even when we drink deeply of God’s living water, we are thirsty again. Like clay water jugs with cracked sides, we leak because we are broken.

Page 42 · Location 903: As a man heals from his bondage to porn, he must understand his brokenness and allow it to compel him toward Jesus. Our brokenness is our only requirement for receiving God’s grace.

See, this is all excellent!

Page 42 · Location 913: [Jesus] was not giving an anatomy lesson. In a heated conversation with the religious professionals of the day, Jesus had been discussing what makes a person clean or unclean. The popular teaching was that a person was unclean for not having followed certain ceremonial steps. But Jesus turned this teaching upside down. “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’” Jesus said, “but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’” (Matt. 15: 11). His point was that no matter how many acts of obedience we perform, our problems are internal, not external. Our actions and behavior—what comes out of us—are just the tip of the iceberg.

Page 43 · Location 918: As if Jesus’ impassioned discussion with the religious rulekeepers were not enough, He went on to utter His harshest words yet, to those who believed that God should be impressed with their moral performances. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. . . . First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt. 23: 25–26).

Page 43 · Location 922: What this means for a man caught in the chains of porn and lust is crucial. If you could somehow magically stop looking at porn and exercise self-control in place of lust, you still wouldn’t be dealing with the problem below the waterline. You’ve only cleaned the outside of the cup and dish.

Such good insights!

Page 44 · Location 931: Understanding ourselves at this level is not about the “what” of our sin (I can’t stop looking at porn), but the “why” (porn promises to meet some need in me). The whys that explain our addictions can be categorized into four interwoven, underlying dimensions: wickedness, weaknesses, woundedness, and warfare.

He delves deeper into each of these in the book. Worth the read.

Page 48 · Location 991: …these men initially reported to me that they didn’t have any wounds. Not applicable. Not me. I’m good. None of them intentionally lied or tried to be deceitful. They had simply cut off that part of themselves in order to survive. The problem, however, is that the survival techniques that helped us go on when we were young prevent us from thriving when we are adults. Our solution becomes the problem. Until we realize that we are wounded, we will never recognize how we turn to porn as a balm to heal the injuries of our hearts.

Page 48 · Location 1001: Why, then, do we so often limit Jesus’ ministry to forgiveness and payment for sin? His death on the cross restored our relationship with God and enabled us to receive eternal life in heaven. But the restoration of our relationship with God also makes restoration possible in us. Eternal life doesn’t begin after we die—it begins right now.

Preach.

Page 50 · Location 1037: In the embers of your wickedness, weakness, and woundedness, the Enemy lurks, seeking to throw gas on the fires of brokenness.

Page 51 · Location 1043: The greatest barrier to the life of freedom that God desires for us is not our brokenness. It is brokenness unsurrendered. When we conceal or refuse to surrender our wickedness, weakness, and woundedness, they remain not only out of sight but also out of the realm of healing.

Page 56 · Location 1116: …porn is such a snare to our souls. It sells us a pack of lies by making us feel so alive . . . for a moment. But the “life” it hawks is 180 degrees different from the life Jesus offers. Porn’s “life” is a counterfeit…

Page 57 · Location 1132: When the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, he was appealing to Jesus’ legitimate desire for food. In the case of my knockoff watch, the legitimate desire was a longing for approval and acceptance, born out of my insecurity. With porn, any number of legitimate desires may fuel the lust—affection, comfort, strength, or affirmation. It might help to compare designer gifts with deceiver gifts.

Page 58 · Location 1155: Jonah warned us that we cannot keep both the counterfeit and the real at the same time. We must choose. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs,” he wrote (2: 8). Counterfeit worship renders us unable to receive God’s good gifts.

Page 59 · Location 1160: That’s what porn and lust do to us. They tell us we’re not going to receive God’s provision, that we’ll never be satisfied with His manna, so we’re better off finding our own. But the intimacy we experience in those illicit moments is a counterfeit intimacy. It makes us feel like men without requiring us to be men—until we wake up one day with a cheap imitation of intimacy in our top drawer.

Page 59 · Location 1163: We begin our journey from slavery to freedom when we expose the counterfeits at the root of our brokenness and admit our thirst for the real thing. It involves shifting our focus from the external objects of temptation (i.e., women and porn) and, as I said earlier, taking an authentic look at the spiritual roots under the surface.

This is where the concept of Imago Dei fully understood and implemented really comes into play. Women (and men) are not objects of temptation. It does help to look at the roots, but if you continue to see others as temptation, they will be.

Page 61 · Location 1190: …demonic spirits are attached to these idols (1 Cor. 10: 20). Scripture also warns that when we give ourselves to an idol, it ensnares and traps us so we cannot break free (Deut. 7: 25). We are fooled into thinking an idol is serving us when in reality we are serving it. We have fallen for a counterfeit “god” to worship. Unbelief lies at the heart of idolatry.

Reminds me of Romans 1, worshiping the created instead of the Creator.

Page 64 · Location 1240: What we see is the progression of compulsion. It starts when we turn away from God as our source of life and turn other things into idols that we’re convinced will satisfy our desires. We worship and serve “created things rather than the Creator”—that’s counterfeit worship. Along the way we try desperately to numb the painful realities in our lives—the discontent, disappointment, dashed dreams, or fears often going back decades and rarely related directly to sex. Rather than face what’s really churning beneath the surface, we opt for denial and distraction in fantasy “relationships” that get us off the hook from stepping up to the plate as real men. Our minds become “futile . . . foolish . . . darkened”—that’s counterfeit truth.

Haha, yep, we’re tracking together here!

Page 67 · Location 1283: …while guilt says, “I have done wrong,” shame says, “I am wrong.” Shame is a feeling (which quickly becomes a belief) that we are defective, flawed, bad, or worthless. The lens of shame always focuses not on what a person has done but on who the person is. It focuses on one’s self. The heaviness and torment of shame are unbearable. And the verdict is always the same—that at our core we are inferior, inadequate, or unacceptable.

I’ve said it before, shame is not of God. Conviction is, but it’s tone is kind, and God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God is calling us wayward children home to embrace us (see Luke 15:11-32).

Page 68 · Location 1294: To be naked and unashamed before God meant that Adam and Eve were both free and able to offer to God exactly who they were, without holding anything back or hiding their true selves. They were fully known, just as they were created to be, and they were fully okay with that. This led to an uninhibited intimacy with God and with each other.

Page 69 · Location 1316: Vulnerability, once a blessing, became a liability. Unity, once a reflection of God’s nature, now divided them. Being known, once a gift, set them up for possible heartbreak. So they gathered fig leaves, not just to cover up physical nakedness but also to cover their nakedness of soul. Hiddenness became Adam and Eve’s self-protective strategy of choice in relationships.

Page 70 · Location 1329: Suddenly Adam and Eve were afraid of God. Their shame became a barrier to His offer of mercy, love, and care. Between the fig leaves and running for cover in the trees, they removed themselves from being able to receive what only God could offer.

You said fear and that’s what the text says? Where did shame come in? Why do you and others skip over God’s question of “who said you were naked?” Here’s what you glossed over. Our enemy must have told them they were naked and should feel shame over their bodies. They were married after all. They had no need to cover themselves without this deception.

Page 72 · Location 1351: For the most broken people in Jewish society, Jesus extended mercy, forgiveness, and hope into their sexual messes.

Amen.

Page 72 · Location 1352: This tells us that the voice of shame should never be confused with the voice of God. The voice of shame comes from our brokenness, not from our loving heavenly Father. God never turns away from our brokenness. But in regard to our shame, we have good news: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8: 1).

Page 76 · Location 1425: What are your wounds and weaknesses? They will become the place where the lies of the Enemy become your beliefs. That will also become the place where you take matters into your own hands to overcome weakness or find relief for the pain of the wound. Put simply, we hide, compensate for, or seek relief from our wounds and weaknesses. Our brokenness is also the place where we become vulnerable to the Enemy’s lies.

I do really appreciate the emphasis on the realities of spiritual warfare. I don’t see a demon under every rock, but have acknowledged the gravity of this truth that few talk about. That is why I am also writing a chapter entitled “The Real Enemy.”

Page 80 · Location 1483: Who might be an Eric to you—someone you could invite into your shame who would not be frightened by your nakedness? Who can you trust with you?

The author probably doesn’t even understand the full truth of this statement! This, after a heart-wrenching story and some real vulnerability on behalf of this Eric person. Christian naturism excels in this area by default in ways uncommon or even unattainable to most people.

Page 84 · Location 1524: Each time the cycle concludes and repeats, we descend deeper into a downward spiral that reinforces the previous cycle. In my case, I turned to porn and sex to relieve the pain of my brokenness. But each time I gave in, my shame poured gasoline on the fire, which increased my brokenness, which in turn increased my need to find relief. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Page 86 · Location 1552: External triggers can be obvious—like getting an e-mail solicitation for porn or seeing a beer commercial where an attractive woman bends over a pool table. External triggers may also be less obvious, like being home alone, having unrestricted computer access, or interacting with someone you find sexually attractive. Internal triggers include feelings and thoughts. Emotions such as disappointment, loneliness, rejection, anxiety, anger, and boredom are common triggers. Physical feelings, including fatigue, headaches, hunger, or chronic pain, can also serve as internal triggers. Thoughts can be more subtle internal triggers. A few examples include: I’ve been working so hard I deserve to reward myself . . . My girlfriend is so inattentive . . . My boss never appreciates me . . . If I were a real man, I’d know how to rock climb (or fix my own brakes).

Page 88 · Location 1581: Although I have not acted out sexually since 1994, at times the battle with lust can be intense. Recently, I noticed a pattern I had not been aware of. Whenever I would go to the grocery store, I made it a point to walk down the magazine aisle. As I walked past glossy covers featuring celebrities and models, I discovered that my energy and mood lifted ever so slightly. Even though I wasn’t stopping to focus on any given magazine, just walking past those images was like an afternoon shot of espresso. The moment we become preoccupied, our brains start releasing dopamine and adrenaline, our energy levels may increase, and our deflated souls begin to fill and rise like a balloon inflated with helium. I know men who haven’t looked at porn in years but who virtually live in the preoccupation stage. Their minds are constantly on the prowl for sexual stimulation, and they justify it because they aren’t using porn.

I don’t feel that pull anymore, at all, since changing the way of think about the body and the Image of God.

Page 93 · Location 1669: Our hearts are freed from the fixation on porn to be captivated by the beauty of God’s love, all so that our hearts can be given more fully to God and others.

Page 95 · Location 1689: Larry [Crabb]  just looked at me, dead serious, and repeated himself. “If what you really want to do is look at porn and masturbate, then go ahead and do it.” I could tell he wasn’t being flippant, but I also knew his integrity. So I launched back at him, “I know this must be some kind of reverse psychology or paradoxical treatment you’re trying on me, right?” The look on his face, however, told me this was not his intention. “I don’t get it,” I exclaimed. “Why are you telling me to go ahead and look at porn and masturbate?” In frustration, I hit my fist against the armchair and shouted, “That’s not what I want to do!” Larry’s eyes sparkled with delight. “Exactly!” he cheered. “That’s the point. Looking at pornography and masturbating is not what you really want to do.”

Great story. We must grow up and mature. Our identity is of one who does not resort to such childish habits. 

Page 97 · Location 1732: Some years ago a man said to me, “I wish I could go to a hospital and have my sexual addiction surgically removed!” Although he spoke in jest, his desire for healing was intense, and he knew he needed to get to the heart of his problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if a doctor could give us an anesthetic and then extract our sinful patterns—just like a ruptured spleen or an inflamed appendix? Of course, no such operation for the soul exists. And if it did, it still wouldn’t deal with the problem.

That’s right.

Page 98 · Location 1747: Throughout the rest of the sermon, Jesus made the point that obedience to the law begins and ends with the heart. Let’s face it: a blind person is just as capable of lusting as you and I are. Physical surgery won’t cure our lust. Jesus knew better than anyone else that the surgical procedure we needed was a heart transplant, not dismemberment.

Page 101 · Location 1788: The truth is this: God has dealt with sin in your heart. And having a new heart changes everything—including what you do with your eyes and hands and other body parts.

Page 101 · Location 1792: From the teaching I had heard, through Jesus’ death on the cross, my relationship with God was restored and the debt for my sins was paid. As a result, I was forgiven, and I was assured of going to heaven. Little did I know that although these truths were certainly real, the gospel involved so much more. I had no idea that my heart had been made new or what that actually meant. I had no idea that salvation was an absolutely essential door I entered, so that in Christ I might experience restoration.

Page 102 · Location 1811: Your sin nature is not your true identity. It’s not your deepest nature and it’s no longer your controlling disposition, proclivity, or propensity. Sin no longer defines you. Instead, here is the deepest truth about you: your sinful nature has been put off, or stripped away (Col. 2: 11), and you are dead to your sinful nature (Rom. 6: 11).

Yes, yes, yes!

Page 103 · Location 1826: Countless followers of Jesus have lived under a crippling theology that defines them by their sinful nature and a desperately wicked heart. But we must not confuse our sinful nature with our new hearts. Our sin nature was crucified with Christ. Our new hearts are alive with the very life of God beating in us. And our new hearts are good hearts.

Page 104 · Location 1835: If you set a bowl of carrot and celery sticks beside a bowl of potato chips on a table, which would seem more appealing and appetizing? I’ve always known that vegetables are good for me, and that chips may be an unhealthy option. But knowing that fact has rarely made a difference in my appetite. I want the chips! For the first twenty years of following Jesus, I associated God’s ways with the carrots and celery, and my ways with the potato chips.

OK, this is hitting too close to home now! I joke, but it’s true. In the same way I’ve overcome lust through God’s work, I now need to overcome gluttony and take better care of the body he gave me.

Page 104 · Location 1839: The gospel turns all of this upside down. The reality of the new covenant and your new heart is that deep down, your inclination now gravitates toward God’s heart and ways. “Delight yourselves in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37: 4).

Page 105 · Location 1846: Following Jesus is not about not sinning; it’s about releasing His life from within. Like turning on the faucet. The goal is not to turn off the faucet of lust, but to turn on the faucet of trust. Trusting that God has restored my heart, and that my heart is good. Slowly, I began to understand just how much energy I had spent on sin management, trying to repress the cesspool I imagined within and keep the sewage inside from spewing out. As I stopped putting my energy into shutting off the faucet from the cesspool, my real passions began rising to the surface. The pipes in my soul were getting unclogged, and something was starting to flow that I didn’t know was there. I began experiencing what Jesus described as “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 14).

Page 109 · Location 1905: In light of current world conditions, few people would disagree that we are at war. Just look at ongoing problems with terrorism and countless murders from the illegal drug trade. Add to that grim reality the atrocities of genocide, childhood sex slavery, and sex trafficking, and few would deny the reality of evil. But speak of evil in the form of living, breathing personal entities—Satan and demons—and, well, that seems a little extreme to most people. Despite the visible evidence of evil, plenty of skeptics refuse to believe in a source behind that evil.

Here starts a whole section about the invisible battle in the spiritual realm. Again, I’m glad he included this.

Page 109 · Location 1910: And I can certainly understand. Even as a Christian, I haven’t always believed in the influence of evil spirits or demons. Until twelve years ago I held a strong—though largely unexamined—position against the direct influence of the Enemy in our lives. What would people think of me? Would I come across as some religious nut? As a part-time seminary professor, I didn’t want to appear intellectually unsophisticated.

Page 110 · Location 1913: I remained resolute in my beliefs until I encountered man after man in my office who struggled with all kinds of sexual brokenness. One man confessed that every time he looked at porn and masturbated, he immediately heard an accusing voice telling him he would never be free.

When I read this, I shuddered, showed Mrs. Phil, and we were taken back to a time that we fought an eerily similar battle. She heard those same words: “You thought you could be free? You’ll never be free!” With the most evil laughter. We will expand this story in our book. Suffice to say, this stuff is very real. The enemy does not want anyone to be free.

Page 113 · Location 1960: Theologian Christopher West remarked, “If the body and sex are meant to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack? If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look at what is most violently profaned.” 2

I love reading Christopher West. This is a quote I had also included.

Page 115 · Location 1991: And once we grant the powers of darkness permission to influence us, the Enemy uses two important strategies to further deepen our bondage: footholds and strongholds… Paul very well could have said, “In your anxiety, in your lust, in your passivity, do not sin . . . and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Page 116 · Location 2010: Spiritually speaking, certain circumstances allow the Enemy to not only get in the door but also set up camp and stay for a while, all with the goal of conquering the individual.

Page 116 · Location 2011: Paul described the nature of our war against the Enemy’s strongholds this way: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10: 3–5). Notice that Paul began with the assumption that believers are actively engaged in a war. He also reminded us that our weapons in this battle are distinctly different from the world’s weapons. Also, notice that Paul defined strongholds as “arguments” and “pretension”—beliefs and lies—that take root in us, and that stand in the way of knowing God. These falsehoods concern our perceptions about God, ourselves, or others. Lastly, notice the order of the warfare. Strongholds are demolished before every thought is taken captive. Countless men have told me that they cannot control, or take captive, their thoughts. But we cannot take our thoughts captive, or overcome any other sexual sin, until the stronghold has been demolished.

Page 117 · Location 2021: When the U.S. Navy Seals captured and killed Osama bin Laden, they didn’t walk up to his compound, ring the doorbell, and quietly request that Mr. Bin Laden come with them. Instead, they commandeered the heavily defended compound in which he had been living before taking his life. It works the same way in the spiritual sense.

Page 117 · Location 2028: First, you must announce the lie you have befriended. Below are some of the most common ones.

• I will never be sexually satisfied in my marriage.
• Sexual gratification is necessary for my well-being.
• I will always be ruled by lust and cannot change.
• Real intimacy is not worth the risk.
• I don’t really love God or I wouldn’t be struggling this way.
• My heart must be desperately wicked.
• I can never let anyone know my deepest struggles.
• I am not a strong and powerful man.

I have written about agreements in the post Onions Are Terrible.

Page 118 · Location 2045: Next, you must renounce the lie. In 2 Corinthians 4: 2 Paul declared that he had “renounced . . . shameful ways.” He didn’t say that he’d stopped them, or even repented of them. He said “renounced.” Renouncing means to formally withdraw from participating in the lie, like a gang member who renounces his affiliation in a gang.

…You may have believed the lie in your past, but you are deciding—by an act of your will—that you will no longer buy into it.

…Finally, we must pronounce the truth.

Such good stuff here: Announce the lie, Renounce the lie, Pronounce the truth.

Page 123 · Location 2111: Without understanding porn’s impact on the brain, too many men either quit trying to change or carry unnecessary guilt and shame when their spiritual zeal and willpower aren’t enough.

I love the brain stuff. It’s fascinating and important to understand.

Page 125 · Location 2159: If some malevolent being held a competition to create the perfect delivery mechanism to enslave our human desire, Internet pornography would win the grand prize. You must understand that online pornography is fundamentally different from the Playboys or Penthouses of past generations. If the magazines, videos, and DVDs of the past were like the Wright brothers’ plane at Kitty Hawk, then Internet porn would be a supersonic jet.

Page 126 · Location 2167: No one would argue that the orgasm is one of the most powerful physical, emotional—and some would say spiritual—experiences of being alive. Scientists have shown that in those moments of ecstasy and surrender, the release of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and norepinephrine is as powerful in the brain as heroin. 

Page 126 · Location 2171: Internet porn overstimulates the brain. This occurs in four unique ways. First, our brains crave novelty, and the Internet provides an endless variety of novel sexual images. When I was a young man looking at magazine centerfolds, images lost their appeal within a short amount of time. But with online porn, new images are instantly available with the click of a mouse. With each new image, our limbic system releases a burst of dopamine, which tells us we gotta have it.

…The connection between novelty and sexual arousal is well established by what scientists call the Coolidge effect. After dropping a male rat into a cage with a receptive female, researchers initially observed intense copulation between the rats. Eventually, the male rat exhausted himself; even when the willing female rat wanted more, he was spent. However, when the original female was replaced with a new receptive female, the male rat immediately revived and began to copulate again. This pattern was repeated over and over until the male rat was literally exhausted. With the introduction of a novel sexual mate, this process will be repeated again and again until the male succumbs to exhaustion or death.

Page 127 · Location 2185: In food and substance addictions, a person either runs out of the drug or food, or is physically unable to tolerate more. A man can eat only so many pizzas or smoke only so much crack before reaching the obvious limits. With Internet porn, an infinite supply is available.

…And as long as a man has an Internet connection, he can continue to binge. This is why it’s not uncommon for addicted men to stay up all night viewing porn, and even lose track of time.

Page 128: Internet porn overstimulates the brain because it’s available on demand. Again, unlike substances that require the user to arrange for a fix, a man carries a forever stash of porn in his mind without even turning on the computer. Every time the images come to mind, he experiences a burst of dopamine in his neuropathways.

Pages 129-130: When dopamine is released in large amounts or for long periods, two things happen simultaneously. First, the receiving nerve cells get overstimulated and start removing receptors. It’s like when someone keeps shouting at you; you cover your ears. But the sending cells scream even louder (more dopamine) until they are hoarse, and can now only whisper (the amount of dopamine sent is below normal). With the receiving cells half deaf (fewer receptors) and the sending cells whispering (less dopamine released), you are left with two options—feeling awful, or finding porn, the one thing that now releases dopamine more than anything else. With porn this is a gradual process, yet it lies at the heart of addiction. Low dopamine signaling that leads to a numbed pleasure response is known as desensitization. It is precisely why men feel so helpless, so powerless, when they try to overcome their sexual addictions.

…Every thought, feeling, habit, skill, or behavior in your life has a corresponding neuropathway that fires in your brain. These pathways are designed to function optimally. However, as the brain’s reward circuitry gets entangled in a tug-of-war, the brain rewires itself for addiction and new neuropathways are created. Every time a man views porn, or eventually even thinks about porn, the burst of dopamine strengthens the connections between cells. The stronger the connection, the easier it becomes for cells to communicate on that path. This idea of the brain changing itself is called neuroplasticity.

Page 131: Our brains can be rewired from their addictive patterns. Just as you can reboot your computer and reset the hard drive, you can reboot your brain and restore the sensitivity of your brain circuits.

Page 132: …begin your first ninety days of abstinence.

Better than the first 90 days of abstinence is the first day of true freedom which brings instant abstinence for life. This is what my experience shows me is possible.

Page 133: Holding on to the idea that you won’t, or can’t, relapse is not only unrealistic; it’s counterproductive. If you fall, get back up. Some people hear the drama of my story and assume that I experienced an immediate breakthrough. But my journey from identifying my addiction to freedom took four years.

Mine was a breakthrough and took much less time (almost instantly).

Page 133: Determine the day you will commit yourself to sexual sobriety. Once you begin, keep a calendar to track the days, weeks, and months.

I did this and accountability. It didn’t work. There is a better way. Better than being sober for so many days or months is being new for the first day of the rest of your life. The author spoke of this being new earlier in the book. This is walking that back.

Page 136: Recent attention has been given to children and adults who suffer from NDD, or nature deficit disorder, as a result of spending too much time online or engaged in electronic media. Avoid this disorder by interacting with the outdoors in the sunshine, fresh air, and natural beauty of God’s creation. Get out and move! Pursuing alternative passions expands your horizons and rewires your brain at the same time.

Amen, and I could say much more about this!

Page 137: So be encouraged. Your struggle with porn is a learned response, in many ways, just like the skills of a pianist or athlete. Your brain can unlearn, and it can change.

Page 145: Modern Christianity has all but lost an understanding of the inner sanctuary. God never intended our faith to be a mere intellectual pursuit. He intended to restore humanity’s ability to walk with God. He calls us to walk with Him from an inward place. When we are disconnected from this place, this center, we gravitate toward anything nearby that gives us a false sense of being centered.

Page 146: I remember speaking with a man I’ll call Mark about facing the emptiness. With great frustration he related his difficulty of being able to sit still, remain attentive, or simply be engaged and present when he attempted to spend time with God. I assured him that his frustrations were a common struggle. Then I asked him what seemed like a totally inappropriate question. “What would it be like if during your time with God you were to imagine the hottest, most sexually appealing woman, and focus on her for twenty minutes? Would that change anything?” Mark smiled impishly. “Well . . . yes, but that would be a sin.” In no way was I encouraging him to sin, or even attempt to do what I was asking. But my hypothetical question allowed our conversation to take an important turn. What we ended up discussing was that he was able to be still, attentive, engaged, and present. The only requirement was that he had to be looking at porn. This was no small insight. With no awareness whatsoever that his brain had become wired for porn, or that he was addicted to his own brain chemistry, Mark had wrongly concluded that he just couldn’t engage and be attentive because he was somehow deficient and unspiritual. Do you hear the lie even here? The lie he came to believe was that he didn’t love God and must not care very deeply about the kingdom. As soon as he understood the basic way his brain worked, he was able to separate his brain rewiring from the novelty of porn from his true heart.

Page 147: Ten years ago I decided that I no longer wanted to live off of other people’s spirituality. I no longer wanted to settle for hearing about other people’s encounters with God, and only teach others what I could glean from the books I was reading. I wanted to experience God as David did. I wanted to dwell in the sanctuary of God and “gaze on the beauty of the Lord and . . . seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).

Pages 149-150: …will solitude and silence, centering prayer, and inward attentiveness really make a difference in my struggle with porn? That’s a very important question. The scientific verdict is in, and the answer is a qualified yes.

I know what did work for me without any qualifiers.

Pages 156-157: Identifying what places, people, circumstances, or experiences trip your trigger is key. What provokes lust, craving, and movement toward porn? No trigger is insignificant if it serves as a cue to lust and craving.

He says to stalk your triggers. With a new heart and redeemed mind, you don’t want or be bothered by whatever used to trigger you. That’s called healing, peace, and renewal.

Page 157: …your cravings do talk to you. They are the physiological expressions of thirst and longing, communicating to you that a legitimate desire is not being met. What is the craving about? What is the longing beneath the urge? What is the legitimate desire? Before learning to interrogate their cravings, I hear men say, “I’m just really horny.” But after learning this method of soul attentiveness, men say, “I’m not horny; beneath feeling sexually aroused, what I really feel is lonely.” Surf Your Urges By now you probably understand that white-knuckling and gritting your teeth is not going to take you to the root of your lust issue.

I can relate to this. This WAS me.

Page 159: Here’s an example of what urge surfing might look like with porn or lust. Say you are home alone and haven’t looked at porn for two weeks. Suddenly, you start thinking about going online and surfing for porn. The first step is simply to observe. Sit comfortably in a chair and take a few deep breaths to help you get centered. Then take an inventory across your body. Where is the urge coming from in your body? Where do you feel it? Is it a feeling in your gut, shoulders, genitals? What is the sensation? Is it emptiness? Is it tingling? Anxiety? Now comes the part that requires a little courage. Speak out loud what you are experiencing: “I’m feeling a craving . . . it feels like butterflies in my stomach. It’s a light, hollow sensation.” Say whatever you are experiencing three or four times out loud. Now that you have observed what the craving is, the next step is to focus. Direct your focus on one specific area where you are experiencing the urge. Notice the exact sensations. Focus on the lightness, or hollowness, or tension. Observe how large of an area the sensation takes up. Is it the size of a baseball? Or is it the size of a pinprick? As you focus upon the sensation, describe it to yourself out loud. For example, “My heart rate seems faster. I can feel my face flush. I feel an energy in my temples.” As an outside observer of yourself, keep noticing the sensations and experiences and describe them out loud. The third step is to refocus. Return again to each part of your body where you experience the urge or craving. Are you able to observe any sensory changes? You may perceive after several minutes of urge surfing that the cravings have decreased or altogether disappeared. It’s important to say here that the point of urge surfing is not to eliminate cravings, but to experience them differently. Instead of running into the wave of craving, you are riding on top of it. Knowing that you can ride even the biggest wave is empowering. In the early stage of recovery, you can practice this until you are so familiar with the urges that they no longer trouble you.

Fine and good, but seems a bit tedious to me. Perhaps that’s me denying my inner feelings, but I would rather think that my former impure desires have all been replaced by pure ones.

Page 160: Of the hundreds of men I’ve counseled about their sexual addictions, not one has told me that after masturbating he felt stronger, more confident, and more vitally connected to the deep part of his soul. Debates over whether or not masturbation is a sin totally miss the point. The crucial question is not whether masturbation is right or wrong. The question is, as it is with any thought or behavior, does it hinder our spiritual, emotional, and social maturity? Does it stand in the way of love?

Page 166: One’s naked self is the self that is hidden and alone. Wicked, wounded, and weak, broken and impoverished. It holds no charm, credential, accomplishment, or status. Henri Nouwen called it the “irrelevant self.”1 It is the self that, apart from God’s loving pursuit, we try to conceal. In order to be ourselves, we each must come to terms with our naked selves.

…In our nakedness there is no pretense of earning or obtaining His love. It’s a gift that makes the gospel more real. Only in our nakedness can we experience the Father’s mercy, tenderness, and healing and realize that we are neither shamed nor despised.

He speaks in a spiritual sense here, but he’s right in more ways than he knows! There is something that happens when you embrace your physical nakedness as well. You can go from a hate relationship with yourself to a loving relationship for the body God has lovingly given you, in his own image.

Pages 167-168: As you embrace this freedom, you can begin to direct your will according to your truest desires. You can make healthy choices and exercise self-control. You decide whether or not you will stare at a woman’s breasts, masturbate to porn, have sex with your girlfriend, or flirt with the woman at your office. This is what the Bible means by self-control.

Nothing accomplished this in me as quickly and completely as embracing Christian naturism.

Page 168: God is concerned with so much more than giving you the energy to keep you from looking at porn. Obviously, He wants you free from any bondage—including porn and lust—that stands in the way of your relationship with Him. But in the big picture, He wants to free you from any encumbrances (related or unrelated to porn) that prevent you from living the life he intended.

Pages 173-174: God passionately desires to transform you from a twig of shame—think Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree—into an oak of righteousness that will display His splendor, His glory—like one of the mighty redwood trees in Yosemite.

Great section in this chapter on Isaiah 61, and oaks of righteousness, over the oaks of idolatry.

Page 178: A friend from AA drove him to the hospital where he began treatment. After a week of extensive mental health assessments, his psychiatrist, a straight-shooting Irishman, announced that he had reviewed the data and made a conclusive diagnosis. My father braced himself for the worst. “Your problem is that you are immature,” the doc pronounced. “You need to grow up, and learn to live without alcohol.” Dad walked back to his hospital room, where he sat for a long time to ponder the doctor’s words. “I decided he was right,” he told me later. “When I walked out of the room, I decided I would do whatever it took to learn to live without alcohol, to grow up.” And grow up he did. Almost forty years later, he still hasn’t had a drink. But even better, his journey of recovery has led him to become the man that one day I hope to be.

I love this story and the life altering decision to grow up. You cannot mature if you think you can never look at people and their bodies differently. The church typically warns against lust and tells you it’s a never ending battle. These two ideas cannot coexist. There are men in their 70s and 80s who never grew up in this area. This cannot be so with us.

Page 179: This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,

circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem. (Jer. 4:3–4)

God told His people to break up their unplowed ground, referring not to soil but to the ground of their hearts. The Israelites’ hearts had grown hard and unreceptive, like parched land that can’t absorb rainfall. The soil of their hearts had become barren and unable to grow anything. In order to yield a harvest, the fallow ground needed to be broken. Their hearts needed to be broken in order to absorb God’s love.

Pages 181-182: In the battle against lust and porn, most Christian approaches stress the importance of accountability. In my experience, however, what we need more than accountability is accessibility. During my sexual struggles, I was held accountable by friends and mentors who were among the most insightful and highly trained men around. But I didn’t have the ability or desire to let these men into my heart.

That level of vulnerability is rare among men. It’s automatically present when we take off our clothes and just are as we were created.

Page 183: It’s about the avoidance of shame. This form of accountability is a gospel of sin management that is all too common, and fraught with problems. The most obvious issue with this approach is that every addict is a master at deception. We lie. It’s what addicts do.

Pages 184-185: In the cardiologist approach we move from accountability to accessibility. We expose our hiddenness, but more than that, we acknowledge our brokenness. Instead of trying to manage our sin, or be inspired to obey, we recognize our need for transformation. We begin to allow God, and a few others, to walk into the messiness of our lives, and we learn that we are more than the sum of our brokenness. Cardiologist accountability does not require a professional therapist or counselor. It begins with the assumption that our whole lives, including our brokenness, are the soil in which God grows us. The only requirements for becoming a cardiologist of this kind are a healthy curiosity, a desire to be a caring friend, and a willingness to grow in your understanding of the process of spiritual transformation.

Pages 189-190: Recently, I heard a Christian expert in sexual addiction suggest that telling men to pray more in order to overcome porn was tantamount to spiritual abuse. On one level I totally agree. Any approach that does not take into account the whole person— emotional, relational, and physiological, as well as spiritual—is incomplete. To emphasize the spiritual at the expense of our total personhood is a reduced gospel.

Did you catch that? The most overused advice usually given by those in the church is practically spiritual abuse!

Page 194: “Since junior high I’ve fought a war against lust and porn. I finally got tired of putting so much energy into battling porn, so I gave up. Instead, I’ve been putting my energy into becoming a different kind of man. I’m changing the way I do life. I’m starting to see myself and God differently. I’m learning what intimacy is all about. I guess I’m becoming a man who just doesn’t need to look at porn anymore. What it once did for me, I no longer need, because the gaping hole in my heart is gone. I’m pursuing God for who He is and not what He can do for me. I’m focusing on being transformed and discovering that it’s actually starting to happen.”

Page 196: …on a behavioral level you have been surfing for porn, while on a heart level you have been surfing for God.

Hence the name of the book.

Again, this is a book I can recommend without too many caveats. There exists in it an admission of the limitations of many modern man-made strategies that fall short or have loopholes and don’t get to the root of the matters of the soul. The laser focus on our real enemy, and the matters of the heart that are in play was a welcome breath of fresh air.

Addiction or Compulsion?

You often hear of porn issues in terms of being an addiction. Is it really an actual addiction, or is it a compulsion? Or is this merely an exercise in semantics? Does the distinction even matter? Let’s explore.

The case for it being an addiction naturally lies in the fact that it’s highly addictive. In fact, science seems to show that the bonding or imprinting that occurs through pornography is stronger than most drugs in many ways. Steve Pokorny’s book, “Renewed Vision” recounts much of the research on the science behind these questions. He states on page 13, “The chemical reactions set off when a person uses pornography are similar to those that occur when a person uses cocaine. Yet unlike cocaine, a porn user does not need a physical substance to get their high; he (or she) can simply use pornified images to set off a chemical cocktail in their brain and body.” In chapter 3, Pokorny delves into the ways dopamine, norepinephrine, testosterone, oxytocin, vasopressin, and serotonin all come into play in various ways that both hijack and damage the brain. They created strong attachments and dependencies that cause a craving for more. On page 85 of “Clean” by Douglas Weiss (which we shall review thoroughly very soon) he puts it this way, “Your brain is the pleasure center for your body, especially when you have a sexual release. When you release sexually, your brain receives the chemical mother lode of endogenous opiates. These opiates are the single highest chemical reward for anything you can ever do. You can run and work out, but sex is by far the biggest chemical high we get in life.”

What differentiates frequent porn use and actual drugs is the physical dependency. If you are coming off of drugs, your body will go through withdrawal. Coming off of porn also has its own version of detox, yet as stated, no physical substance is needed; it’s primarily mental. In my case, the “addiction” practically vanished overnight.

Quoted in Pokorny’s work are various studies that lobby for “compulsion” as the best classification for an attachment to pornography. Data does not seem to support that the problem is truly addictive. Page 81 tells of a study that was done to measure the late positive potential (LPP) which involves the brain science of emotions. Whereas with a drug addict’s drug of choice, there is a radical increase in these LPP levels, the research found a decrease in LPP levels when viewing sexual images compared to non-sexual images. The lead author of the the study, Dr. Nicole Prause, said “…it would seem advisable to drop the “addiction’ label when talking about people who are having issues regulating their porn use because it does not appear to be accurate.” However, the disclaimer is made that previous research using the term “addiction” should not be discounted. That said, there are many studies in secular spaces, like “Fight the new drug” that show how pornography is one of the most “addictive” “drugs” out there due to their accessibility and affordability and its effect on the brain.

Pokorny states on page 81-82, “As I have seen with some of my clients, many people who are hooked on pornography have a deep-seated belief that they can never be free. They have been programmed to believe that all they’re really capable of is ‘white-knuckling’ the issue and counting the days before their next fall.”

I asked a young man who said he was addicted to porn the following questions, as he was trying the same tired old solutions with no real success. I asked: Do you want to be addicted to porn a year from now? Did you want to be addicted a year ago? I didn’t want to be for 20 years, but I was, until I wasn’t. Almost instantly and effortlessly, I got to where I wasn’t, and I’m still not and I don’t ever see myself going back to that state again. Insanity has been said to be doing the same things and expecting a different result. If you are caught in an endless cycle, it’s insane to stay there and not try something new and outside the box!

For me, the point isn’t so much whether you call it an addiction or a compulsion. The fact is it was a problem. It limited my effectiveness and worse yet it hurt my family. As the father of boys, how could I expect them not to be a statistic when I was a statistic? It was like an addiction and it was a compulsion. When I did the regularly prescribed “Christian” ways of dealing with porn, I got the results you can expect— seasons of “victory” numbered in days, weeks, months, years if lucky, but always with a struggle. Since changing the compulsion and the motivation and my own desire, I haven’t had an issue and I don’t need to be counting either days or years! No more chips every month. No accountability necessary. No filter software or internet blockers. There’s no need for any of that.

Is Jesus cruel? It seems awfully cruel to make 50% of the general population out to be a constant threat of provoking men’s lust. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! (Now I know men aren’t in danger. If anyone is in danger, it’s the women who have to deal with men who think there is only a carnal response available to them.)

Does this idea of God jive with scripture? Not in the slightest! Matthew 11:28-30 ESV says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The ever-present vigilance required to avoid the opportunity for lust when it’s virtually everywhere is not a light and easy burden. I know because I carried it for 20 years. Removing the expectation to lust makes all the difference and exchanges feelings of dread for the joyous living of every moment previously lost.

I made this meme the other day which shows the difference I feel every day. Praise the Lord for a better way!

Our former pastor was once talking about how men are hardwired to respond with automatic sexual arousal at the sight of flesh, and my wife snapped back at him, “No, you’re wrong! That’s what both the world and the church tell us all the time, but it’s not true. I know men who don’t respond like that.” When I believed as this pastor does, I would respond to visual stimuli in like manner. After rejecting that lie, the compulsion is gone and so is the addictive behavior.

Save your money, sanity, and dignity!

Since being made free from my bondage to pornography (something I thought might never happen), I’ve been on a mission to help others experience the same kind of breakthrough. 

It grieves my heart (and probably God’s too) that so many are making a buck off of the freedom business. They promise success for a price. I’m convinced now more than ever that the solutions you pay for aren’t solutions at all, you will remain a paying customer or perhaps struggle less but still not be a fully free individual.

I want to be clear. These are good-hearted people honestly wanting to help others. I’m not against having a calling and a ministry and keeping the lights on. I’m even writing a book (very much a labor of love). I will charge a modest price for it, while the blog remains absolutely free. Some of the prices for learning how to break free (courses, coaching, etc.) are ridiculous! And I have a big problem with the software companies and their subscription based accountability. That’s highway robbery.

It’s something that should be free. There’s not a secret formula. No one should get rich off of another person’s misery.

I also have nothing against professional counseling and therapy. It is sometimes needed and can be very helpful. What I am saying is that my experience (and that of many people I’ve come to know) shows an easy path to freedom that shouldn’t and needn’t cost a dime.

So I want you to save your money. At the same time you’ll save your own sanity and restore your dignity in the process. I hate it when something sounds too good to be true. Often those are just scams. I’m aware this sounds a bit like that one of those advertisements, but it isn’t. I would argue that the others (and the examples shown above) are. Why? Because I’ve tried them and came up wanting. They didn’t work. They are man-made strategies that are ineffective. They are behavior based. They are coping mechanisms. We weren’t meant just to cope! Avoidance makes us hyper vigilant and does nothing to solve the root issues. Freedom is not something you can white knuckle and just try hard through your own will power or through accountability. You can’t be guilted or shamed into freedom.

I’ve read more in the last couple of years than I ever have before. I’ve made it a point to read books that I know do not contain the answers they claim to have, just so I can see what is being put out there to try and help people. Even those that say they are different tend to rehash the same tired ideas, and it breaks my heart!

Compared to my own experience, everything that is suggested by conventional Christian wisdom on the subject is entirely too cumbersome and hard work, which leaves you in another type of bondage altogether. It’s not freedom. The authors or “experts” often concede that you will still have triggers and warn against relapses, even if you follow their plan. If you aren’t truly free you can always find ways to cheat the system. Until you’re free, the best of these techniques will continue to disappoint.

Please hear that not everything in these resources is bad. Many are in fact very good, but don’t go far enough in getting you to think differently about the body and your fellow image bearers. Most still have an underlying deep seated dualism that at the core sees the body as bad and the spirit as good. This goes against the correct view of Imago Dei that has our bodies and souls intertwined. The gnostic heresies of old are back with a vengeance, and many are caught unaware.

Many are starting to speak out about the damages done by purity culture and its teachings, which have even left many with actual PTSD! Others go deeper to explore why you have this compulsion in the first place. They say if you go back in your story or history and learn to be kind to yourself, you can start the hard work of recovery. That could be a good exercise, but the fact is we are broken and need to be fixed, restored, dare I say redeemed. It’s my opinion that tragically none of these offer an ideal solution to bring about healing and bringing about complete sexual integrity. They stop shy of the goal, a renewed mind that sees others as God sees them. When you let God do the work, he finishes the job aside from your own efforts. The result will be zero desire for anything that objectifies another person.

While I may do a series of book by book constructive critique posts, I’ll demonstrate my attitude before obtaining freedom of the grip of lust and porn on my heart to the new way that I experience daily life.

THIS OR THAT

I remember the story at the beginning of “Every Man’s Battle” where the author recounts getting in a car wreck because he was looking at a lady jogging while he was driving. That was a wake up call for him, and an effective hook for the book. I could relate to that as I, too, used to typically feast on whatever visual stimuli was available at any moment. It was my automatic because I thought and was told it was every man’s automatic. Now that my mind has been miraculously renewed, I see the world through new eyes. Noticing is not a sin, nor is appreciating beauty; the sin is a lustful intent, coveting what is not yours, and objectifying another human being.

Today, I may notice a woman who has the body most women would dream of having, but what I focus in on is truly intriguing. Maybe she has some fake eyelashes, and out of love and compassion, I pray for her in my head: “Why do you feel the need to wear fake lashes and such heavy make up? You don’t need this stuff to feel secure!” You better believe that’s a whole lot better than the thoughts I used to have.

Then I may see another woman who has a more normal body shape out running, and my heart goes out to her as well: “Good for you for becoming more healthy, but do you know that you are beautiful just the way you are?” No matter what the situation, I see women as whole persons with a life, and a story, and quite possibly one full of insecurities. Honestly, I hate to admit it, but I used to gaze at others with the look of a predator. I wasn’t technically a predator, but every woman was visual prey- not all the time, but often enough! This is how I was conditioned to be, and I hid it well. I didn’t want to be that way. I felt guilty about it, but I didn’t know how to replace that thinking with something better.

It takes both a realization and admission of this depraved reality to get better. Thankfully, having acknowledged that terrible condition, now I see myself as a protector of all women. Temptation used to be literally everywhere. Now temptation in this area is absolutely nowhere. It may seem over simplified, but here’s what I believe. When you really boil things down, a man is either be a predator or a protector. I don’t normally like to be so binary, categorizing people in their thinking as either a one or zero. Life is more nuanced than that. Not everything can be black or white due to various shade of gray. However, at the heart level, I stand by these two distinctions and say a man is either this or that. Even if he is a passive onlooker, that is predatory behavior, because he is not protecting his fellow image bearers. Hear me. This isn’t discounting the strength of women. It’s protecting the dignity that comes with women reflecting one half of the image of God. This isn’t toxic masculinity. It’s simply a call for men to take responsibility and stop the blame game once and for all.

Protect the dignity of the women around you. It’s what God did with Hagar. It’s what Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery (what ever happened to the man?), and Mary Magdalene. The Lord is a protector of people. He comes down hard against those who would use and abuse others.

Stay tuned for more and further exploration of the woefully inadequate solutions the church is proposing today to address this issue.

P.S. Of course, my go to resource to recommend (aside from this blog) is mychainsaregone, and it’s free too!

Nudity Equals Lust?

All of the videos in the Common Objections series are important to me at a personal level. This is because they reflect they very way that I used to think. I’m certainly not the only one. They are common. I learned them from others. I was conditioned to think in a way that was prudish at worst or close minded at best. This strict upbringing meant to keep me away from lustful attitudes had the very opposite effect on me. These videos exhibit my new learning and what to me (and many others) is a better way of thinking. The lust issue goes away when a new and wholesome way of thinking emerges.

I have written about lust and my dealings with it and how I have overcome this sin at length on various posts. Here are the search results of all the articles tagged with the keyword of “lust.” This video is a short summary of both the problem and the solution:

I’m convinced that the solution to the problem of lust is to see others as God sees them. Last week’s article was about that, in case you missed it. The opposite of lust is love. You can’t be loving others and lusting after them at the same time. I think a big problem growing up with “purity culture” was that the church told us (in not so many words) that we would struggle big time with lust. If you believed that was true, it would become your reality. It was for me. I wrote the following into a sermon and I stand by it today:

I used to have a problem with lust. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. Lots of statistics would say that half of us men right here have the very same problem. It’s no surprise to hear that Catholic priests report this as the most common sin by far in the confessional. Popular Christian books say that it’s every man’s battle. And while I don’t agree with that notion now, I do think it WILL be a battle for you as long as you THINK that it will be. It doesn’t have to be. I once thought it was. I thought I’d struggle with this issue until the day I die. And I would have, if I had left it up to me, myself, and I.  As long as it was ME fighting this war by my own strength, I’d be doomed to fail. I can only have so much willpower. I can do ALL the things the quote unquote experts tell me to do and still be one trigger away from failing again.

It’s defeatist to say all men are visual and can’t help themselves, they’ll always fight this impulse and compulsion. God helped me reject those lies and trust Jesus to be powerful enough to deal with this sin as he does any other sin! When you give it to God, he helps you see other people as he sees them, not like the world sees them, and that changes everything. 

Let me put it this way. Do you struggle with the command not to murder your brother? Jesus tells us not to do that. If you’re like me, that’s an easy commandment to keep, because you have no desire to kill your brother (hopefully!). Jesus also says not to look at a woman with lustful intent. He says that’s adultery of the heart. When it comes to this, we often throw our hands in the air and say it’s hard, if not impossible to do. But it’s not! It’s actually easy! You can let God redeem your mind on this issue like any other issue and the desire will be removed from you. Praise God, I can thankfully tell you that I have no desire to lust after another woman, or even after my wife. Lust is selfish, and the opposite of love, so I don’t even want to lust after my wife. Let me be very blunt, I would rather die than objectify another human being!

Yes, I have other sin to deal with, but this particular sin that used to be a big struggle is over and done, I mean mortified and put to death! And it wasn’t willpower or software or accountability or trying really hard or anything I could do depending on my own power that killed this particular sin at the root. It was God! You have to let God kill the spider, not just brush away the cobwebs of lust prevention as they will surely grow back as long as the spider lives. You can bounce your eyes to death, and try to avoid all temptation, but you can’t. Or you can let God deal honestly with you at the core, the real problem- the issue, not the symptoms. All that is recommended to us by experts to deal with lust is as Dallas Willard calls it “sin management.” They are only coping mechanisms. But we weren’t meant just to cope in life. We’re meant to be responsible for our actions and to love others as God does. The trick was letting God do his work in my heart and mind to completely remove the desire to even be tempted in the first place. Charles Spurgeon said, “The swine rolls in the mire with delight, but the sheep abhors it… He is a new creature in Christ Jesus, and sin is destroyed in its energetic influence over his life.”

I stopped depending on my own understanding. I even stopped depending on the leading experts and what they say to do or not to do. It was complete and total dependence on God to change the way I think, to renew my mind. He did it, without my help. He’s powerful enough to do just that. Now I can thank him for the incredible transformation in my life.

When there’s a real transformation or metamorphosis, a butterfly can’t go back to being a worm (or caterpillar). It can only pretend to be one again and crawl around on the ground again instead of flying. Isaac Watts wrote the hymn “At the Cross” where the first verse says: Alas! and did my Savior bleed and did my Sov’reign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I? People have been offended by that language or “such a worm as I” – they’ve changed the hymn to say “such a one as I” so as not to be so strong. I say keep it as Isaac Watts wrote it! I was a worm! I had this sin that I tried to shake on my own over and over and couldn’t do it. And then I’d hear at every marriage retreat and men’s conference that just about everyone else struggles with this too. They say “boys will be boys,” but I have boys I’m trying to raise to be different. God changed me from worm to butterfly with his power, reconditioning me to see others differently. And now I can’t and won’t go back to how I was before. I can’t go back! It’s so much better to fly than to go around on my belly like the cursed serpent in the garden in Genesis 3. That’s low and it’s dirty. It’s a curse. It’s bondage! God does not want us to stay that way. It’s so much better and it’s God’s intent to let your heart soar. God’s ways are truly better than any man-made strategy, plan, or tradition, or method of sin management. Now, having surrendered it fully to God, purity is easy, and it’s out of pure joy that I keep Jesus’ command.

One question I got was over the bit about not lusting after my wife. I do desire her, more than anything! However I do not want my desire for her to be lust– I want it to be love, and it is, and it’s amazing! I think that will be a whole topic for another blog someday. For more on the difference between lust and admiring God’s created beauty in people see this fascinating piece (What A Beautiful Tree! Is That Lust?) from Fig Leaf Forum’s website.

I don’t love who I’ve been in regard to lust, but it’s still a good quote!

See all the “Objections” series blogs and videos here.

Stumbling Block?

You’ve heard this a million times. Women should dress modestly so as not to tempt the boys to lust. Romans 14 is quoted in support of this claim, at least in part. It’s an often misunderstood passage, especially when it’s not read in it’s full context. A full reading of the text would straighten out many erroneous interpretations! You’ll have to read it on your own to see for yourself!

This short video aims to challenge the assertion that someone’s dress causes others to commit grave sins. It also points out a few of the often overlooked verses in Romans 14:

I used to look at this passage and think the weaker brother was the other person. Surely they are on the other side of an issue thinking, you are the weaker brother. No one thinks of themselves as weak. I thought the point is to accept one another, whether you are the weak or the strong one. We all think ourselves to be strong. Regardless, the instruction to both the weak and the strong is to accept each other. Well, I was wrong!

The weaker brother here is the one who’s conscience does not allow himself to eat food sacrificed to idols. The stronger brother is the one who has the freedom to do so, knowing that idols are not real and there is only one God, and in their freedom they are free to eat anything and answer to God with a clear conscience. The weak and strong are clearly defined. We tend to harp on the stronger brother (or sister) for being a stumbling block to the weaker, in many instances where we should not. For more on this, you can see what my friend, Matthew Neal on his Biblical Naturist blog, has done in a series called “You can’t do that!

We gloss over the even more lengthy instruction to the weaker brother to not pass judgment on the stronger brother who has more freedom. We also forget that these are disputable matters. Any opposing view, belief, or even conviction gets thrown out under the stumbling block excuse. Yes, stumbling blocks become an excuse to stunt growth and keep the weak in faith… weak!

Much has also been written on this passage at www.figleafforum.com. With a free account, you can access the archive and search “stumbling block” or any other phrase to research on your own.

In Fig Leaf Forum, Issue 097, Stumbling Over The Issue Of Stumbling Blocks , Jeffrey S. Bowman says:

We must remember that stumbling is not to simply disagree with the actions of the person. Also, if someone “stumbles” over truth, are they really “stumbling”? Not as I understand it. Should we be silent on the truth because it might offend? I don’t think so. A disagreement of opinion is a totally different issue with a totally different approach. 

In both texts Paul discusses the topics of eating meat offered to idols. He in essence says it doesn’t matter to God if you eat or not. In 1 Corinthians he even goes so far as to say there are no such things as ‘gods.’ They are made up in the minds of the people, so eating meat offered to them is no big deal. However, not everyone has such knowledge. In both places Paul defends the right to eat (or not). This is an often unacknowledged point of the texts. 

…Paul would have been violating his own command if it meant not discussing meat eating with “non-eaters.” He potentially offended the non-eaters by discussing it and then telling them that the meat eating doesn’t matter, but truth is more important than cultural misunderstanding. However, he would not have eaten the meat in front of them. This is the point of not causing your brother to stumble. 

In Fig Leaf Forum, Issue 099, Unexamined Stumbling Blocks, Steve of Colorado Springs CO writes:

Christians often equate all stumbling blocks with evil, but they err when they do this. Jesus Himself was prophesied in Isaiah 8.14 (and quoted by Paul in Romans 9.32-33) to be the biggest stumbling block the world had ever seen, for He tripped up a whole nation: “They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be put to shame.'” Our Lord Himself is the stumbling stone in this text, and He was placed there by His Father.

…So what do you think this implies for us? If you believe that we also will be stumbling blocks in the paths of highly religious, legalistic tares in the Church, just as our Lord was in His day, you are right! In fact, the more we look like Christ—that is, the more righteously we live—the more this will be true. Legalistic tares in the Church will hate us as much as they hated our Lord. 

In this article I quoted the great Charles Spurgeon on his take about smoking cigars to the glory of God, which may sound funny, but read his thoughts on Christian liberty and see if you agree! Romans 14:23 (ESV) is a great way to summarize the whole issue: But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

When it comes to so called modesty, this reigning philosophy actually does great harm. It places blame on girls for not covering enough of their bodies instead of making boys responsible for their own thoughts. As I’ve stated in other blogs the Duggars teach this religiously and it has not prevented tragedy.

Matthew West put out a satirical music video claiming “Modest is Hottest!” which backfired to the point he had to take it down. Victims of purity culture trauma and folks like myself who no longer like to designate anyone as “hot” as it is an objectifying term, saw through the well-done “light hearted” funny video and didn’t appreciate it. I have a great sense of humor. But I also have seen the futility of thinking that modest dress will curb anyone’s lust (which comes from their heart.) Churchleaders.com documented how this attempt at a silly little video fell so flat. It’s baffling still to me, how so many didn’t even see how his video could be anything but funny! I like Matthew West just fine, but I hope he learns from this misstep. It’s one prime and recent example among many as to why this commonly held belief is fundamentally flawed. There is a better way, and a time to grow up…

See all “Objections” series blogs and videos here.

False Modesty

The next installment from the “Objections” video series comes from 1 Timothy 2:9-10. This is an often quoted passage to encourage modest dress in primarily females. But is that the real message in the text? This short video explains our feelings on the matter.

Mrs. Phil and I have written previously on this blog about modesty:

Naked Modesty

Lust, Modesty, and Purity

Undressed for Worship

What passes today for modesty can easily become a false modesty or even a source of pride. Granted many of the proponents of modesty are well intentioned and their motives may be pure, but in our opinion, the general practice is not serving the purpose it claims to address. And with arbitrary standards of what is modest enough, one could go all the way and have a full covering burka, taking that logic to its natural (though unnatural) conclusion.

We have chosen to go the opposite way, because if the logic of the body as obscene is wrong, then the natural conclusion would be that body is and can be right in any state of dress and even undress. This is untenable for some because of indoctrination, tradition, and hyper-conservatism. It takes an open mind and courage to reject lies and embrace truth.

And the truth… sets one free! (John 8:32)

See all “Objections” series blogs and videos here.

Thoughts on that Trophy Wife Sermon

Did you see this? Stop what you are doing and watch this video summary…

As a Christian in the Midwest, I’m saddened greatly by the attitudes of this preacher, Stewart-Allen Clark, from First General Baptist Church in Malden, Missouri. The cringe factor is strong here as this church leader spewed his diatribe for 22 minutes. This wasn’t an off the cuff tangent; these were prepared remarks that he thought somehow his congregation needed to hear. He was talking from his notes, and had a slideshow complete with pictures to go along with each point in his message!

I’m glad this went viral and backfired. In an era of virtue signaling that sometimes can be unfounded, this actually IS an outrage. I’m glad he’s on leave and getting counseling. I’m not being judgmental, I actually empathize with the guy in some small way. I do hope and pray that counseling helps him, although I’m not so sure it will- more on that in a minute. This pastor being accused (and rightly so) of sexism is a tragic reflection on how conservative evangelical churches tend to approach the subject of sex. It’s no wonder the unchurched has a bad taste in their mouth of what they perceive it means to be a Christian today. The most appalling part is that it is not an uncommon stance he took in many conservative Christian circles. I’m standing up to say loudly, “WE AREN’T ALL LIKE THAT!” Thankfully there were those in that congregation that would not give their “Amen” to his crazy rhetoric. Praise God, the leadership apparently issued a statement stating that all people are made in the image of God and “should be valued for that reason.” although I can’t find that currently on their website.

The pastor also issues an apology where he assures people that he has secured an accountability partner who he is meeting regularly. This to me is a tell tell sign that he has a huge lust problem. No surprise there after hearing his mindset loud and clear! In his mind, and he said it many times, “He can’t help himself!” Well, allow me to speak on behalf of the many men who believe maturity is attainable and say, YES YOU CAN! AND YOU SHOULD!

Then in his public apology he says he, “made insensitive remarks about women and made statements deemed unbiblical.” No, they aren’t deemed unbiblical. They ARE unbiblical. There’s a lot that was dreadfully wrong with this guy’s ideas. (I think he forgot how to spell misogyny in his apology.) I see this blog as an anti-virus to his type of thinking. Some of the things I write on this blog seem to be very critical of the church. I mean them to be critical of THE TEACHING and unfounded “facts” that are rampant in many churches, which in turn are contrary to God’s heart, as so evident in this example. He is not alone. He is parroting what has been written in some of the best selling Christian books on marriage! This is one example of many, and just the most recent one that has gone viral. I’m deeply troubled by the repercussions of a perhaps well-intentioned, yet highly ineffective and even toxic “purity culture.” I’m over the artificial modesty standards that do nothing to change hearts that are depraved. Even so, I’m hopeful because there is a better way, and it’s not out of reach as many would have you believe. The solution is a surprising one indeed, unconventional to say the least. But first, let’s analyze what this preacher felt he needed to share with these church goers.

I won’t go through all of the insensitive and demeaning comments you saw in the video. Suffice to say his misogynistic and nonsensical Scripture twisting frankly promotes abusive behavior. He outright body shames women calling them fat and ugly from the pulpit! He’s aware that he is no model himself, but claims that doesn’t matter because it’s men who are visually stimulated.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV): “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Apparently this verse and the often misinterpreted (though not in this case) “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 KJV) is missing out of the preacher’s Bible.

He speaks authoritatively as though all men would agree with his general statements, especially that every man wants a trophy wife on his arm. Umm, I don’t. His insistence that Melania Trump is the most epic trophy wife of all time (and featuring a “sexy” picture of her in his slideshow) displays an unhealthy infatuation in his own heart.

Jesus also placed the responsibility for lust in the proper realm of the man’s own heart. He never suggested that women are responsible for their husband’s behavior, or that they need to protect them from their own impure thoughts, as if that were actually possible! This is simply an abdication of personal responsibility and a cop out for the man. We would do well to look at women through the eyes of Jesus, without lustful intent (Matthew 5:28), and see the whole person. Jesus was not tempted by the prostitutes he ate with. In fact, he was counter-cultural and revolutionary in how he interacted with women.

Jesus was not tempted by the prostitutes he ate with. In fact, he was counter-cultural and revolutionary in how he interacted with women.

Is this preacher pro anorexia and bulimia? Does he enjoy causing more body image problems in women than they already have heaped upon them by impossible standards of what’s culturally seen as “beautiful?” In his eyes, they are just participation trophies.

Makeup was a slide in his presentation and the punchline of some terrible jokes. He extols the virtues of these artificial adornments while Scripture’s teaching runs contrary to his conclusions (see 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4). 

Over and over he chided that he (meaning every man) is gonna look, so you (wife) better look good so he (your husband) looks at you and not [forced to look] at “some hottie” on a screen. Umm, your husband is going to want to look at you regardless of your presentation if he loves you and doesn’t subscribe to these lies that say he can’t help but lust when he sees someone who is attractive. This crazy notion of helplessness also forgets the basic fact that men have imaginations and memories. Averting the eyes physically does nothing to the eyes of our heart. A whole renewal of the mind is needed (Romans 12:1-2) which is also counter cultural in that it is not conforming to the pattern of this world. Lust is not overcome by avoidance or trying harder, but rather by true repentance which literally means having a change of mind.

Obligation and duty sex is not intimacy, but rather a relationship killer. He quotes and misinterprets half of the verse in 1 Corinthians 7:4 and downplays the role of the husband and the obvious principle of mutual submission. On page 46 of Our Bodies Tell God’s Story Christopher West point out that in his Theology of the Body John Paul II concludes that a man commits adultery in the heart not only by looking lustfully at a woman he is not married to “but precisely because he looks in this way at a woman. Even if he were to look in this way at . . . his wife, he would commit the same adultery ‘in the heart.’” We cannot respond the way our “pornified” culture does. We are to be different. Instead of lusting after our wives and using them for selfish gratification, we should give ourselves up for them in service, as Christ did for his bride, the church. And let me tell you, it’s such a joy to be free of the shame and guilt that has ridden this purity culture.

I’m far from perfect myself. I was a bit like this guy in some ways. I’ve invoked the so-called “72 hour rule” in my house in the past. I’ve had my fair share of sexual brokenness and porn addiction, as you can read about on this blog. My point is restoration and wholeness is possible, and I am a living proof.

Some of the many comments from all walks of life on this youtube video are very telling:

  • The awful thing is. He’s not a comedian. He’s not telling an “edgy” joke. He’s giving people what he believes to be sound advice. 🤦🏾‍♀️
  • He’s projecting his pervyness. Men like this are just looking to have their grotesqueness validated.
  • WoW the fact this isn’t satire and men like this exist
  • on todays segment of ”What object am I?”, I guess I’m a participation trophy
  • Ah, the famous bible passage: “If thy right eye offend thee, blame your wife”
  • All I can say is this is probable cause to search all his devices.
  • This dude makes my skin crawl bruh. Actually physically cringing. I just feel so awfully bad for all the women in that church that had to suffer through this extremely shameful sermon
  • This was common to hear growing up in church. It’s nothing new to me. 🤷🏽‍♀️
  • The irony is – is that the Bible says the opposite to what he says, he says women should wear makeup and dress well, yet the Bible says the adornment should be the heart and not the outward appearance.
  • I’m not religious but when i read or heard about jesus talking, I dont imagine that he would be fat shaming married women.
  • I’m not even religious and this feels like blasphemy to what God’s really about
  • This is why people are leaving the church

It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find this to have some truth, as those seen as attractive to one person, are not found attractive to another. Proverbs 5:18 says to “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” My wife doesn’t look like the 19 year old I married (Yes, we were so young!). But she’s the wife of my youth. I happen to think she is better looking now, aging like fine wine. The years have taken a toll on her body after 4 kids, but I don’t care about any of that. She’s still the same person I married. No, let me back out of that, she’s a better version of who I married, because now we have 20 years of shared experiences, memories, true intimacy and relationship equity that makes her number one in my book, regardless of anything that could happen to her body. If she had a double mastectomy (extreme example of a body change) I wouldn’t love her any less. It’s preposterous to think that someone would be that shallow. I tell her all the time that she is the standard by which all beauty is measured. But then she asks, “What if I put on weight?” Then the standard changes. It conforms to whatever you are. It’s not even based on and shouldn’t be based on appearance. She is truly beautiful both inside and out, and is the only one who gets my motor going. I tell her, “You’re my favorite everything.” No matter what category is being “measured,” she’s my favorite. This is, to me, a more favorable view than what’s being regurgitated in this trophy wife sermon!

I had the great misfortune of watching all 22 minutes of this nonsense. My blood was boiling and my neck got tired of my head shaking!

Reagan Williams posted it on her Facebook page which put the minister in hot water. I pulled a few direct quotes that didn’t make the edited video shown above:

At the 4:22 minute mark, he said “You can call it juvenile, you can call it immature, you can call it sexist, whatever you want to, but here’s another secret you need to know: Ladies, it’s the way God made us, it’s the way we are.”

Yes, I’m calling it juvenile and immature and sexist, even! I’ll address the immaturity shortly. It sure does sound like he’s heard these accusations before and is disregarding them. That’s a tactic to face disagreement head on and attempt to dissuade it. It didn’t work this time! He is clearly justifying the behavior by claiming God made him like that. Way to throw God under the bus! How convenient is that? I’m really sick of this lie and the damage it creates in its wake. It makes a mockery of our faith giving all Christians a bad rap.

At 7:22, “What’s the difference between a man’s girlfriend and his wife? About 60 pounds. Well, maybe so. How important is this? Let me tell you something. I have a friend. He has put a divorce weight on his wife. That’s how important this is.”

An abysmal joke! Why are people in church laughing at it? And to threaten divorce on this sort of thing? How is that pastoral in the slightest way possible? No wonder he doesn’t do marital counseling anymore. He never should have in the first place.

It continues at 9:49 with him saying of his poor wife, that “One of her favorite expressions is ‘Food never tastes as good as skinny feels.’”

I doubt that’s really her favorite expression. Maybe you’ve manipulated her into saying that it is. So sad. I feel terrible for her.

At 14:35 he makes the mistake of quoting the Bible, which renders his whole message unbiblical and forces him to retract the sacred words he just read. The verse he read is Proverbs 31:30. The verse reads, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” This contradicts everything he’d been saying, so he quickly makes the point again that men still are gonna look, so you need to look good for him! Ridiculous.

At 17:13 “It’s just the way it is. So every man has this need and here’s the deal. We can’t help it. Women spell affection T-A-L-K and men spell it S-E-X.” At 19:20 “We are not lust monsters. Chase you around the bedroom every night. We can’t help ourselves. God made us this way… It’s the main reason he married you.”

Again, the deflection is projection. The reason I know, is because I, too, used to buy into some of these ideas. And I was pretty much a lust monster. It was easy, because it was expected and a given. It’s not. The way out is as easy as rejecting that notion as false. Yes, God gave us a sex drive, and my mine is high, but it doesn’t have to dominate me. Search this blog for “lust” and see many articles about how it doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s definitely not a problem God cannot restore and redeem!

Then there’s an awful story as a conclusion delivered with many dramatic pauses. It’s about a knight that was going to slay a dragon to save a damsel in distress, and got his sword out, but she yelled to him to take this noose and strangle him instead. The dragon dies, “but he doesn’t feel admired. He doesn’t feel adored. He doesn’t feel like he’s done anything because she told him how to do it. Sometimes you just gotta let a man be your knight in shining armor… and sometimes you just gotta stand back and let him do it.”

I don’t throw these terms around very often, but that’s just downright chauvinistic. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him because she told him to do something? For another disturbing article showing how pervasive this type of teaching is, read this shocking piece.

The day I was finishing up this article, I came across a post shared from Alexa Danielle Kolbe. Perfect timing because her writing is so contrasting to that of the oratory skills of Stewar-Allen Clark. She wrote:

“You’ve gained weight” said the doctor at my annual checkup. 

I haven’t weighed myself in over a year, but I can tell you things don’t fit the same. 

I’ve definitely noticed it. 

I see it in pictures. 

I see it in videos. 

I can feel how my clothes fit differently. 

Everything still fits, but it fits differently.

1 Stretch mark has appeared on my abdomen. 

I go over in my head all the comments I believe people think of me. 

“Wow, she’s packed it on.” 

“She’s really let herself go.” 

“Look (friend) she’s gained weight!” 

I mean, the list goes on in my head. 

I believe people think I’m lazy or eat too much. I cry sometimes to my husband thinking over and over in my head these thoughts. Even though they’re not true, I still believe it. 

Wow, the mind is super controlling. 

We bring ourselves down & judge every inch. We praise other people for having positive body image, but we can’t praise ourselves for just taking a small step. 

We are all for others, so why can’t we be for ourselves? 

Childbirth, death, gut issues, moving, heartbreak, abuse, diseases, finances, relationship with food, etc. all affect us in some sort of way, & the stress of it all affects the reaction of each body differently. 

Our bodies do so much for us. It fights for us, protects us, & can do just about anything as long as the mind & it agree. It’s so beautiful, & we judge it’s capability by its appearance. 

I believe this weight gain has been a fighter response for my body. Deaths, moving, career change, & healing my relationship with food from restriction has all been what my body has gone through this past year. With all this people would say “you’re so strong” but my mind thinks all people are saying is “you’ve gained weight.”  

I’ve learned most people don’t “let themselves go.”

Most people are just going through something that we have no idea about. 

We need to give each other grace. 

Darling, you need to give yourself grace. 

Gaining weight could be a reflection from the weight life brings. 

A good book isn’t defined by its cover, but the life it gives when it’s read.

Someone commented on this post, “Beauty is the Godly characteristics of a woman – in the end its how much Love we gave and freely received – my grandmother used to say what most people judge as “beauty” is only skin deep and will fade with age .. as I’ve grown more mature, that is so true! It’s who you are ; your character that makes for beauty at any age, size, skin tone ect … love is the key. and from it all other beauty traits flow.. kindness, goodness, patience, tolerance for others, grace. We are an eternal beautiful being,in a temporary “ earthsuit” having a temporary journey on earth .. but we are all created by God individually and majestically created .. because he apparently likes variety just look at all the flowers.“

I agree wholeheartedly. And I’m sorry for this unfair treatment.

A new song from The Choir, one of my favorite Christian bands, would convey my sentiments to any lady (daughter of the Most High King) who is hurt by these attitudes:

Never mind, never mind yesterday’s night
Step outside, turn your gaze to the sky
Feel the morning light
never mind yesterday’s lies
Please realize you’re even more wondrous in my eyes
When the sun shines bright
Illuminating your scars
I adore the wounded creature you are

Are you troubled by your own reflection?
Searching for a friend to trust?

Does it feel like forever won’t be time enough
to heal your heart from the deepest cuts?
Child, you are love, you have always been loved
May one divine kiss be enough to heal your heart from the deepest cuts!

Never dread, never dread tomorrow’s sun
Let it come when it comes
This glorious night has just begun
Never cry tomorrow’s tears
Right now in here, shut your eyes, open your ears
Listen closely, a spirit stirring song is playing
And you’re beautiful, that’s all that I’m saying

Made-made methods have never worked in my experience and that of many others I know. And they won’t ever work, not fully, that is.

I really don’t think the traditional ways of dealing with lust and objectification of women is gonna help this guy. Made-made methods have never worked in my experience and that of many others I know. And they won’t ever work, not fully, that is. Here’s a big twist! While I do own and have taught from many of these best-selling Christian books that are indeed very harmful, how did I break free from the clutches of this toxic view? Simply put, I rejected the lie and I began to see others as God sees them. What served as a catalyst for this redeemed view came from the unlikeliest of places- Christian naturists with their ethical naturist philosophies. This may come as a complete surprise to you and stir up more rage inside you, but hold on a second. I get it! I used to think that family friendly Christian naturists were perverts and pedophiles trying to justify their wrong beliefs. I’ve since learned and also experienced first-hand that the exact opposite is true.

Naturism is freedom and body positivity carried out to its natural extreme. If a mature purity is indeed possible, then when pushed to its limits, that truth should remain true. The respect and dignity with which it approaches everybody is healthy, wholesome, and even godly. Aside from the many physical and emotional health benefits, naturism demystifies so much of what culturally has ensnared us, as evident in the case of our wayward pastor friend. The many resources on this blog help to provide a theological framework of what is a better way, both on paper (theoretical) and in the experiential practice of those beliefs.

There is a hundred year old book on “gymnosophy” by Maruice Parmelee entitled, Nudism in Modern Life. One century ago, this volume made the following observation: “It is true that childbearing is prone to injure the figure. The swelling womb distends the skin of the abdomen, and after delivery has taken place and the abdomen has sunk to its usual size the abdominal skin may remain flabby and wrinkled. Mother’s milk distends the breasts and sucking elongates the nipples, so that after nursing has ceased the breasts are not so firm and may become pendulous. But much of the injury done by childbearing could be averted by a healthier mode of life… In a more humane age men will overlook these physical marks in remembering the valuable service rendered by these women and in honouring them for it.

Did you catch that word? Humane? The opposite of dehumanizing. Honor over objectification. Love, not lust. Relational and physical intimacy, not marital rape (yes, I said it). I’m advocating for mature purity over artificial modesty and immature excuses. 

I’m advocating for mature purity over artificial modesty and immature excuses.

David L. Hatton laments on page 47 his book entitled, Who Said You Were Naked?: “One group of topless women in Mali, upon hearing about the fascination American men have with women’s breasts, fell down rolling with laughter, saying, ‘You mean, men act like babies?’ If these women heard this breast-fascination being religiously taught as intrinsic in men, they might stop laughing and start suspecting its preacher of being a pervert and his religion of being a deception. False doctrine in this area isn’t funny. It’s profoundly sad… My culture had fed me a despicable lie, and that falsehood came most insistently from the same lips that preached God’s Word. Indeed, we really have acted ‘like babies!’– not with a silliness that made bare-breasted women in Mali laugh– but with such utter immaturity that we should be shedding tears.”

Many are starting to see and speak out against this epidemic. However, there are not many solutions given beyond identification of the toxic behaviors. I’m not saying that the philosophy of ethical naturism is the answer, but it was certainly the catalyst for me that eradicated any semblance of these terrible ideas in my own life. Naturism in its pure form (and not the misconceptions of its practice) is antithetical to the attitudes on display in this sermon. They are in agreement with God’s intent at Creation and in the restoration of all things. Innocence can be restored, just as any other sin that twists and distorts a good gift. Seeing yourself and others as made in the image of God is a viable solution to all the ills of society, not on a large scale as not everyone will properly adopt this view (which would be a utopia), but on an individual basis. Imago Dei is the better way. I’ve lived it and it changed everything. It would even change Stewart-Allen Clark if he were brave enough to believe.

Undressed for Worship

The main focus of this post will be the following video. We, at Aching for Eden, have produced this video to share a very important point regarding the practice of naturism as a Christian. I will leave it at that, and let you watch the video, and then I’ll discuss some more.

The premise of this video is simple. If you were to play the sound clips for any practicing Christian, they would be able to identify the sounds of worship to God. As soon as they learn that everyone in the audio was naked, their knee-jerk reaction will be to protest. To them the two notions are incompatible: one cannot be naked in mixed company and worshiping God at the same time. However, does it sound any different than any worship service in any church anywhere? At face value, if we did a blind test side-by-side could you tell the difference between Naked worship and clothed worship? No! They are the same. More importantly, God accepts them both as worship.

Well this begs the question: can people lust in a naked worship service? The answer, is yes. My follow up question is: Can people lust in a clothed worship service? The answer is also yes, absolutely! Do they? That depends entirely on the person. No external factor should be able to cause a human heart to lust or not. A lustful person will lust. A person whose mind has been redeemed on the issue of lust, who has been healed from the sexual brokenness of our world will remain mature, innocent, and pure in any and all settings. The depraved mind cannot control itself. The redeemed mind cannot be controlled. 

I’m not saying we can be perfect, or that we will never sin. But I am saying that I used to struggle with lust a lot over a span of 20 years, and now I don’t anymore (Praise God!). I mean it’s a night and day difference, to the point that I can even worship freely with others of a like mind even completely naked and not fall into sinful thoughts or behavior.

That’s becuase it’s a mind and heart matter. Jesus and Paul seem to agree with that statement:

“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Mark 7:15 ESV

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” Titus 1:15 ESV

In my experience in various nude worship gatherings, my brothers and sisters are simply worshiping the Lord. No one is there for any purpose other than to worship in that moment, and after that moment, they lead lives of worship. The thought that this concept is so radical and an impossibility is no more than a projection of one’s own imagination, and proof that the objecting person has not worked through the issues regarding the body that plague so many today. I’m so grateful to have this tremendous healing and be able to enjoy a mature purity. Does this come across as arrogant? It may, but I hope it doesn’t. I do not mean to boast in anything but the love of Christ. I would hope rather that it comes across as an invitation to see there is a better way to live, free from the sexual hang ups and brokenness that abounds in the world and frankly in our church pews. I’ve often said I would wish this upon my worst enemy, if I had any. It’s my wish that all who are exposed (no pun intended) to these truths prayerfully consider them and overcome the traditions of men in favor of the mystery of God revealed in our very bodies.

I love the way Christopher West sums up his fascinating book, “Our Bodies tell God’s Story” and this too is my prayer for you dear reader:

Perhaps we’ve been caught up in a thousand lies about the meaning of our bodies and our sexuality. But it doesn’t matter how dyslexic or even illiterate we may have been in reading the divine language of the body up to this point in our lives. As John Paul II boldly proclaims, through the gift of redemption there is always the possibility of passing from error to the truth; there is always the possibility of conversion from sin to sexual purity as an expression of life according to the Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, come! Convert our hearts from lust to love. Impregnate our sexual desires with divine passion so that, loving as God loves on earth, we might one day rejoice in the consummation of the marriage of the Lamb in heaven. Amen.

That’s a great place to end, but if I could throw one more grenade of unorthodox truth in the mix, it’d be this one. Frank Viola and George Barna (non-naturists) have in their book “Pagan Christianity” a whole chapter devoted to “Costumes: Covering Up the Problem.”They conclude:

What’s the big deal about “dressing up” for church? It is hardly a burning issue. However, it is what dressing up for church represents that is the burning issue. First, it reflects the false division between the secular and the sacred. To think that God cares one whit if you wear dressy threads on Sunday to “meet Him” is a violation of the New Covenant. We have access to God’s presence at all times and in all circumstances. Does He really expect His people to dress up for a beauty pageant on Sunday morning? Second, wearing attractive, flashy clothes on Sunday morning screams out an embarrassing message: that church is the place where Christians hide their real selves and “dress them up” to look nice and pretty. Think about it. Wearing your Sunday best for church is little more than image management. It gives the house of God all the elements of a stage show: costumes, makeup, props, lighting, ushers, special music, master of ceremonies, performance, and the featured program. Dressing up for church violates the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems—real people who may have gotten into a major-league bickering match with their spouses just before they drove into the parking lot and put on colossal smiles to cover it up! Wearing our “Sunday best” conceals a basic underlying problem. It fosters the illusion that we are somehow “good” because we are dressing up for God. It is a study in pretense that is dehumanizing and constitutes a false witness to the world. Let’s face it. As fallen humans, we are seldom willing to appear to be what we really are. We almost always rely on our performance or dress to give people a certain impression of what we want them to believe we are. All of this differs markedly from the simplicity that marked the early church. Third, dressing up for church smacks against the primitive simplicity that was the sustaining hallmark of the early church. The first-century Christians did not “dress up” to attend church meetings. They met in the simplicity of living rooms. They did not dress to exhibit their social class. In fact, the early Christians made concrete efforts to show their absolute disdain for social class distinctions. In the church, all social and racial distinctions are erased. The early Christians knew well that they were a new species on this planet. For this reason, James levels a rebuke to those believers who were treating the rich saints better than the poor saints. He boldly reproves the rich for dressing differently from the poor. And yet, many Christians are under the false delusion that it is “irreverent” to dress in informal clothing when attending a Sunday morning church service. This is not dissimilar to how the Scribes and the Pharisees accused the Lord and His disciples of being irreverent for not following the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:1-13). In short, to say that the Lord expects His people to dress in fine clothing when the church gathers is to add to the Scriptures and speak where God has not spoken. Such a practice is human tradition at its best.

The practice of naturists runs contrary to this and puts everyone at the same level so to speak. It humanizes more than most anything I know. It makes us appreciate the real person, not some facade. Naturists interpret modesty as it used to be defined, as an attitude or state of being, not what we wear or how we adorn ourselves.

I realize God does not show favoritism and accepts all who approach him. But may I be as bold as if to say that those who worship him literally and figuratively uncovered and laid bare (Hebrews 4:13) may be more effectively  honoring God over those who dress up in their Sunday best to look good for worship. It’s all in the motive. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe there’s some truth there.

What are your thoughts on the matter?