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June 2012 – Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning in Church

The following is what I might say if given a chance to speak in a church about sexual sin.
Would Blazing Grace on a Sunday morning be too hot to handle?

I grew up in the 70’s, and was a basketball junkie. Sports Illustrated was a natural extension of my interest in basketball, and so I got a subscription. As it does every spring, the swimsuit edition came in the mail; the pictures of scantily clad women with that “I want you” look lit a fire in me for more. I was hooked.

I soon discovered that the local Seven Eleven had no problem selling Playboy or Penthouse to a minor. Masturbation added fuel to the fire, and the beginning of what was to be a 20 year battle with sexual sin began. Except, it would be years before I did any fighting.

From porn and masturbation I graduated to sex with prostitutes, promiscuity, and adultery. I picked up an STD from a one night stand. As a single man I had an affair with a married mother of three children that eventually broke up her marriage. By the time I was 24, I was a depressed, burnt out mess, mainly from the stress from the three year affair with the married woman. Her husband was enraged at me, rightfully so; one night he broke down the door coming after me.

Since my way of life wasn’t working, I decided to return to God. I had been brought up in the church but had walked away from God in my teens to pursue drugs, alcohol and sex. Actually I think it was more that the Lord was reaching out to me; I was in too deep to know which direction was up.

I stopped dating girls who weren’t Christians, started going back to church, and got into counseling, which helped. During one session an incident of when I was molested by someone I trusted in my early teens came to light. Dealing with that event was miserably hard; it would be ten years before I finally forgave them and found peace.

Although I started doing all the right Christian stuff, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t break free from porn and masturbation. I met my wife to be, Michelle, and we dated for a year and a half before getting married. Like most naïve young men I thought that God-sanctioned sex would free me from my lust problem, but I was wrong.

It made it worse.

Throwing a man and a woman together, both with different family backgrounds and expectations of how marriage/family should work does not change a man or woman’s distorted coping mechanisms.  Since my way of coping with life was to binge on porn and self-sex, it wasn’t long after we were married when I fell into it again. I started binging daily; it got so bad that I lost the control to say no to the slightest temptation. I approached Michelle, told her in as few words as possible that I needed a support group for sexual addiction, found one, and drove off into the night. I think she was too scared to ask questions.

I expected to see a bunch of sleezy looking guys at the meeting, but got the shock of my life when 90% of them turned out to be Christians, and not just pew warmers. A pastor and a music minister rounded out the group. It was a relief to finally be able to open up with my struggle, although when my turn came to share when I’d last acted out I lied and said it had been three days. It was more like three hours.

Today I know that my situation isn’t unique, and that at least 50% of Christian men are messing with porn. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real numbers are higher; when I share my story or about Blazing Grace I often hear that the other guy (or a wife’s husband) either has or has had the same struggle.

A month later I went on a business trip to the East Coast. One night, alone in a hotel room, the lust-hunger for “more and better” took over; porn wasn’t enough. Lust never satisfies and it always leaves us hungry for more. I called an escort service, and two hours later had committed adultery against Michelle. The guilt tore me apart; I told her over the phone two days later, and will never forget how it shattered her heart. It was only then that it finally hit me how deeply I’d hurt her and that I was in danger of losing my marriage.

Thus began a nine year journey to break free from lust that included counseling, support groups (both as an attendee and a leader), books, tons of “heal me change me help me forgive me” prayers, and slipping back into the hole.

In December of 1998, I gave up. I’d tried everything man said to do and had gotten nowhere. God was now my last and only hope. In a moment of blatant honesty, I told God that “if you can’t change me, this whole Christianity thing is a crock.” Not long after, the Lord showed me a picture of my heart; it was filled with darkness; there was nothing good, no light. I always had seen myself as being a “somewhat good” Christian who had a few flaws, but the truth wasn’t even close. I was dead inside.

Now that God was my only hope, I started looking harder at what His word says about sexual sin. The twelve step groups had told me I was “sober” if I didn’t have sex with myself, but this didn’t square up with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28 that “everyone who looks upon a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart.” By man’s guidelines I could look at porn or lust at a woman and be “sober,” but either one of these is sin in God’s eyes. It hit me that the twelve step groups had taken me as far as they could.

God’s word takes a no compromise approach to lust in Matthew 5:30 when Jesus said to “cut off your right hand if it causes you to stumble,” so I started to go hard core. I stopped turning the TV on while on business trips. After discussing it with Michelle later, we agreed to shut down all incoming TV channels into our home. If I got hit with waves of lust thoughts that might overwhelm me, I got on the phone and asked for prayer.

I kept going to the twelve step groups because isolation is death when it comes to lust. Proverbs 28:13 says “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion,” and Proverbs 18:1 says that “He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” While I no longer bought into the twelve step group manifesto, it was still a safe place where I could share my weaknesses.

Sadly, I’ve found that the church isn’t always a safe place for the broken to share their failures, especially when it comes to sexual sin. For one, people can barely spit out the word “SEX,” in spite of the fact that God made it, addresses it all over His word, and even made it a major topic in the Song of Solomon. Our culture bombards us with distorted messages about sexuality; we should be just as bold in proclaiming the truth.

Another problem is that some Christians jump on a high horse when you open up. One of the first men I shared my struggles with sexual sin to in the late 80’s was a retired pastor. After I squeaked out the words “I’m struggling with porn,” he glared at me and blew my head off, telling me to “just stop doing it!” Duh. If it was that easy I wouldn’t have needed help. The church should be the first place we go to for help, and the only way that’s going to happen is if it’s a safe place. Shoving a man’s sin down his throat is going to force him deeper into isolation, having justified his fear that he’ll be rejected if he’s transparent.

After I went on my “no compromise” bent, I gained a few months’ freedom from sexual sin… but… there was still a problem: my heart was empty, and the pull to act out lingered. Somehow God put the idea into my head that my heart needed to be filled with Him, so I did what many good Christians do: I started ramping up the ministry work; trying to “do for God” so I could please Him. When a wise counselor told me “I wouldn’t find Him by doing,” the light finally began to break through. I needed to go after God as hard as I’d sought lust, money, women, or sex.

God promises us in Jeremiah 29:13 that “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart.”

Let me ask you, have you ever gone after God all out? Not for your list of needs or wants, or even freedom from some sin or trial, but just to know Him? Have you ever gone away alone at a Christian retreat for an overnight stay, with no TV or gadgets and no other agenda but just to go hard after God?

Jesus was prepared for ministry with 40 days, alone, in the wilderness, and we read that during his ministry He would spend nights in prayer, alone, often in a desolate place. I think that we’ve allowed the messages of the world (do all you can so you can get all you can) and even the church (if you do enough for God He will approve of you) to choke out the time we should spend living out the greatest commandment, which is to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. Personally I think we ought to close the doors of every church at least one Sunday out of the year and make it “seeking God Sunday.” Force people to get out of their “singing and sitting” rut and send them out to the wilderness where they can find God. If Moses did it for 40 years, we can do it for 24 hours.

Within one month of beginning my journey to go after God, He revolutionized my life.

One morning as I was reading through 1st John, I stumbled onto the love verses in chapter four: “God is love,” “In this is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us…”  and “everyone who abides in love abides in God.” I dropped into a hole of discouragment: “Lord, why is it every time I read about your love that I get depressed?” His reply was immediate: “Because you don’t believe it.” It suddenly dawned on me that God had been saying “I love you” all of my life, and I had been saying “No You don’t.” I had been slapping God in the face, which was painful to see… and then… I realized He did love me. A burst of joy filled my heart, and suddenly everything I’d been looking for in lust all of those years was mine. I had the real thing now; sexual sin wasn’t even in the same league. That was June of 1999, and my life has never been the same since.

As we wind down, I want to address three different groups.

At Blazing Grace we receive emails from wives whose Christian husbands refuse to give up porn or sexual sin. They blame their wives for their lust problems because she won’t give them enough sex, or their marriage has rough spots, or the dog hiked his leg on the computer, whatever. In the end, what they’re really saying is “I want porn instead of you… or God.” Their hearts are rock hard with pride and self-absorption; they give their wives lip service when they ask him to do something about their sin. Some have a lot of Bible knowledge and are involved in ministry; these may be the hardest to get through to because they put all their stock in their good works… just like the Pharisees did.

If you’re one of these men, listen to 1st Corinthians 6:9:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

God’s word makes it clear; we can’t have sexual sin and the Lord, just as we can’t have porn or adultery and our wives. You’ve got to choose which one you want. A man’s who’s unwilling to choose between God and sin is choosing sin, and that puts you on dangerous ground with God. I’ll go so far to say there might be a risk you could wake up on the wrong side of eternity if you died today. This isn’t to say that those who struggle with lust or temptation are going to hell, but that those who have not made a choice between God and sin are on dangerous ground. Scripture gives no false comfort to those who won’t.

Now for those who earnestly want to break free but keep hitting a wall. You hate the sin yet freely admit there’s something inside of you that loves it. There’s a war going on inside between your flesh and the Holy Spirit, and it seems like the right side never gets the upper hand. I have great news for you: grace awaits.

Listen to these words from Luke 18:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Let “God be merciful to me the sinner!” be your starting point today, and then obey what we’ve already discussed: stay out of isolation by sharing your struggles with others, cut off the stumbling blocks, and seeking God with everything you’ve got. An experienced Christian counselor can help you sift through the lies that might be keeping you from receiving the love of God in your heart.

One reminder: talking about obedience won’t get you anywhere; you’ve got to put the things God shows you into action. I see a lot of men who struggle repeatedly because they won’t go the distance with what God has shown them, whether it’s to turn off TV service, put porn blocking software on the computer, or trading that smartphone in for a “dumb” one.

Finally, there are the wives. Tragically, the church often hands you the doggy bag in this deal. Even if porn or sexual sin is addressed in the church, how often is the wife mentioned? Is the pain she suffers from her husband’s betrayal and how it destroys her heart brought to light? I saw how my sexual sin could have destroyed my marriage and family; if the wife doesn’t heal, neither will the marriage. Let me leave you with five points to consider for your journey to healing:

1. Do not try to walk this path alone. Find a trusted, mature woman in Christ who can keep what you share confidential and who you can cry and pray with. Don’t tell Aunt Betty the Battle Axe who has it in for your husband; the idea is to heal your marriage, not shred it.

2. Never allow your husband to justify his sin by blaming you. He must bear 100% of the responsibility for his choices.

3. Set boundaries, but don’t try to control your husband. Porn should be off limits in your house, no matter what it takes. On the other hand, he has to be free to choose to walk the path to freedom. If he does it because he’s been manipulated, it won’t last long.

4. In the end, you must forgive your husband, even if he never recovers. To withhold forgiveness is to keep your heart poisoned with bitterness, which you surely don’t want. But, forgiveness and trust are two separate things. Trust is at the core of marriage; if there is no trust, there is no marriage. The only way he can earn this back is with consistent, long term action; going to support groups, counseling, or doing whatever it takes to break free. One-offs don’t get it done. Your husband shouldn’t expect you to open your heart to him if the doors of trust are still closed.

5. Remember that God is in control and He wants to be the first place in your heart; your husband does not come first. Sometimes the Lord will use the pain of betrayal or rejection to help us see that we’ve made people, i.e. husbands and children, an idol. Examine your priorities and see how they stack up compared to Scripture. If God’s calling you to seek Him with all your heart, go for it.

Thus ends my time in the pulpit of the pen today. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

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Don’t Read This If You Don’t Want to Get Angry. 

Morality in Media is a Washington DC based, interfaith organization that opposes pornography and indecency. On May 29, Dawn Hawkins, their executive director, sent out a newsletter describing their experience at a booth they rented at a conference for Christian pastors. Hawkins stated that every pastor she talked to stated that porn is a big problem in every part of the church, yet a majority of the pastors said they were not addressing the topic in their sermons and classes.

This is stupid, insane, and outright blind sighted. Pastors are orating five point sermons on the Bible book of the week, while the church goes up in flames. We’re in serious need of some Jeremiahs, Isaiahs, and John the Baptists who will cut to the chase, confront the truth, and provide answers for the hurting.

The fissures are expanding:
Marriages and familes are failing.
Children are stumbling onto their Dad’s porn stash and getting addicted.
Christian men are being more influenced by the world than the opposite.

By the time they’re 16, 90% of our youth have been exposed to porn.

70%-80% of young people in the church leave it by the time they’re 18.

You can make a difference. If your pastor (who’s probably overwhelmed as it is) isn’t aware of this, you
can help educate him by sharing your story and making him aware of the statistics. Even email him a copy of this newsletter. Or, you can:

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Start a Support Group

Strength in Numbers is our Christ and grace centered support group for men who struggle with pornography, sexual addiction and/or homosexuality. The group provides a safe place for men to share openly of their struggles with lust; pointing all to God’s grace is the goal.

Strength in Numbers is not a 12 step group, nor does it follow a program. Some groups use the book The Road to Grace as a basis for weekly discussion points, but this is not required.

After opening the meeting with prayer, all members are asked to be accountable with any issues involving pornography, lust in the mind, masturbation, sex outside of marriage and/or any inappropriate relationships since their last meeting. The men are invited to discuss how they are doing in their marriages and other key relationships, as lust affects these areas. Mutual transparency and the grace extended bonds the men in a way few experience.

In the last 10 minutes of the meeting time all members pray for each other, keeping in mind the needs and struggles that have been shared. We’ve seen the Lord work miracles in the lives of men and their families, just from prayer alone.

If you don’t have a Strength in Numbers group in you city, please consider starting one. Email us and we’ll email you information on how to start a group, run it, and promote it.

This same format can be followed if you want to set up a group for wives.

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The Road to Grace

The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction is Mike Genung’s book on breaking free from sexual addiction.

Topics covered include:

* Biblical tools for overcoming sexual temptation.
* Healing from shame.
* How to stop a masturbation habit.
* Dealing with the core issues that drive sexual sin.
* Understanding and receiving the love of God in the heart.
* Healing for Wives
* How to restore a marriage that’s been broken by sexual sin and/or adultery.

The Road to Grace is used in support groups, and provides plenty of material for discussion.

For more information and to purchase, visit www.roadtograce.net

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More Reading

Healing a Broken Marriage

How Many Porn Addicts are in Your Church?

It’s Just a Little Porn; I’m no Sex Addict

Masturbation

Sexual Sobriety isn’t Enough

The Answer

The Destructive Force of Adultery
Winning the War in the Mind

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Quick Links

www.blazinggrace.org – Blazing Grace home page

www.blazinggrace.org/forums/ – a community for those who struggle with sexual sin and their spouses.

www.roadtograce.net – Site for Mike Genung’s book The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sex Addiction.

www.2chronicles714.net – Site that focuses on putting 2nd Chronicles 7:14 into action for individuals and churches.

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Final Words
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write : The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Revelations 2:19-20

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Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken and equip the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.

Please feel free to forward this newsletter.

Content from the Blazing Grace Newsletter may be posted on websites or otherwise reprinted for ministry purposes. (Please show the correct byline, and add a link to www.blazinggrace.org when posting any material electronically.) Publication for commercial use is prohibited without written permission.

 

I enjoy reading your feedback.

May God’s grace abound to you.

Mike Genung

 

All material copyright 2012 Mike Genung

2 Responses to June 2012 – Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning in Church

  • Paul Foreman says:

    Thank you for putting to words what I have been feeling for many years. I hope to dialogue more in the future.
    Paul

    • Hedley J Gribble says:

      Hi Michael i’v just read your “Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning in Church ” i thank you for that posting at this time in my life and your complete openess of your struggle in that and how the LORD has brought you thru to this point , i can relate to what you have shared , i have hammered HIM so much on this issue in my life that holds me down to the point that i slipped into a deep depression where i have never been before and never want to go again it has just lifted in the last two weeks thru HIS grace and the glimmer of faith that that was still in me because my hope was not there . i thank you again for your open sharing its as if i can now see the door to walk thru that rekindles my hope i thank the LORD for you as HE says in Jeremiah 29:11>13 on that i will close please keep the dialogue open as at this stage where i am again i thank you