Please understand I am in no way saying to buy stock at all. I am simply promoting the financial information from analysts about America and where it is headed.
Is Porn Your Idol? Interview with John Freeman
Wednesday, August 5, 2015 | Written by Luke Gilkerson
Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:29 — 10.1MB)
Men who struggle with porn aren’t just wrestling with sexual sin. Often they are “God haters,” they are “idol makers,” and they are “game players.” What do these labels mean?
We recently shared with you how Covenant Eyes is hosting a fundraiser to support The 2nd Annual Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit.
Because the work the National Coalition on Sexual Exploitation does is so critical, we felt it was important for you to know about some of the recent victories they've had in championing against sexual exploitation.
The National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitatation is also known for their annual Dirty Dozen list, a compilation of leading contributors to sexual exploitation in America.
This work cannot continue without your help. Will you thoughtfully consider a donation to help protect this and future generations?
Simply click here to get started. It only takes a few moments and could change a life forever.
Changing Your Media Diet to Change Your Attitude
Tuesday, August 11, 2015 | Written by Lisa Eldred
I almost rage-quit a video game recently. Not because it was too hard, or crashed too horribly (the usual reasons gamers quit particular games)—no, it was because of the cutscenes.
This particular game was the sequel to an adventure role-playing game (think Final Fantasy). The original game was focused around the usual trope of saving the world, with the occasional joke about which character had a crush on which other character thrown in for character development. The sequel, on the other hand, opened with the mother of the 19-year-old protagonist asking him when he was going to get married. Five hours in, a third of the cutscenes had to do with the actual save-the-world-again plot and the other two thirds were about the hero’s love life, the hero’s younger brother’s love life, or the 40-year-old mentor’s long-dead love.
For a thirty-some year old single, it was a bit much. I turned the game off for the day and finished reading The Yearling instead.
Pop Culture’s Pervasive Lies
The truth is, other than too many clichés about needing to get married Right Now, that particular game was relatively benign. Most people—singles in particular—hear much worse messages every day.
Take, for example, Pixels, Adam Sandler’s most recent box office flop. When three schlubby men and one token Hot Woman team up to fight an alien invasion, the men are rewarded (or at least promised) hot women as literal trophies…and the main female protagonist is herself essentially one of the prizes. Clearly, the moral is that every man deserves an attractive lady by his side, even if one of his biggest life accomplishments was coming in second in a Pac-Man tournament 30 years earlier.
Most music isn’t much better. At the moment, OMI’s “Cheerleader” is at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. In some ways, it’s an uplifting song—the singer is grateful for his girlfriend and promises to be faithful to her. On closer examination, though, the song fails to depict a healthy, strong, male-female relationship. Here’s the woman’s role, as presented in the song:
Here’s the man’s role:
Yes, this is a three-minute song. No, I don’t expect it to contain the same nuanced evaluations of relationships as are present in, say, Anna Karenina. But it’s awfully one-sided, especially when a simple reversal of the chorus could have shown a much better picture of a truly loving relationship. Imagine if, instead of the woman always being the cheerleader, the last chorus were reversed: “Oh, I want to be her cheerleader / Be always right there next to her.”
Now, certainly there is a place for mindless entertainment. In fact, when “Cheerleader” comes on the radio, rejoice that it celebrates fidelity and long-term commitment. But the problem is, these examples are the rule of most entertainment options these days, not the exceptions. Movies, TV, music, magazines, billboards, and yes, even my beloved video games all glorify sexual promiscuity over virginity; they all promote relationships (even unhealthy ones) over being alone; and they play selfish acts in relationships as humorous quirks instead of marriage-harming behaviors.
And the more you listen to these sorts of lies, the more you start to believe them.
How Lies Affect Your Thinking
Shortly before the movie 50 Shades of Gray came out, a fellow Covenant Eyes employee got into a debate with her sister about whether she should see the movie. To us here at Covenant Eyes, it’s poorly-written smut at best and outright pornographic at worst; to my coworker’s sister, though, it’s a compelling story.
Debates about its relative literary merits aside, my coworker refuses and will continue to refuse to watch 50 Shades of Gray or its already-ordered sequels. As she explained, “I don’t want either the sex or the violence in my head. I don’t want them to change who I am.”
My coworker was exactly right, of course. She was echoing what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This doesn’t mean becoming puritanical in our entertainment choices. It simply means being cautious about what enters into your heart and life. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Fill your heart with garbage, and from it will flow garbage. Fill your heart with obnoxious platitudes, and from it will spring obnoxious platitudes. Fill your heart with thought-provoking work or clean hilarity, and from it will spring thought-provoking work and clean hilarity.
Nowhere is this process of mental wearing more evident than in porn. Studies have shown that as few as 3 hours of porn a week results in a marked decrease of support for women’s rights. Porn use also causes demonstrable change in neurochemistry, which retrains your brain to be turned on by variety and not by your spouse. So if you’re married, you’re likely to get bored by your spouse. If you’re single, you’re going to have a hard time finding a spouse in the first place, because your thought process has been changed enough that no one person can meet your expectations.
Porn is obvious, but other media choices can have more subtle impacts as well. Let’s take video games for a minute, as an example that’s near and dear to my own heart. Obviously, I’m not going to suddenly say that all video games are evil. There are, however, certain lines that I’ve had to draw for my own mental health. I enjoy first-person shooters, but if I’ve been playing too many of them I find I’m more likely to react to frustrating situations in anger or swear (usually in my head, at least, and not out loud). If I’m feeling particularly self-aware, I’ll take a break from video games for a bit. Usually I don’t realize the impact on my mood until I’m halfway through the next game. I’ve tried to balance the violent games with puzzle-based ones, but I suspect they wear at me more than even I realize.
Whatever media messages you consume regularly are eventually normalized. Watch 50 Shades of Grey on repeat, and you’ll normalize consensual sexual violence. Watch Adam Sandler movies, and you’ll normalize crude and misogynistic jokes. Play too many violent video games and you’ll normalize anger as an acceptable response. Everyone will have a different threshold for what they consider morally acceptable—a friend and I already have plans to watch Pixels during a bad movie night for the express purpose of heckling it, for example—so my point is not to impose legalism where we have freedom. But it is important to be mindful of how your entertainment choices may be influencing your behaviors.
Using Positive Media for Healing
The corollary to ditching bad entertainment options is to surround yourself with good ones. After all, if negative examples in the media can change your acceptance of social behaviors, then positive examples in the media should help reset them. By the way, ratings are not always the best indicators of positive messages. The misogynistic Pixels is rated PG-13. Meanwhile, Mad Max: Fury Road (rated R) fights against harems, digital or otherwise, and Inside Out (rated PG) values the roles of parents and puts women in leadership roles.
Finding wise entertainment is especially important when you’re feeling stressed and depressed—emotions that often lead people to watch porn to feel better. It’s easy to say the correct response to these cravings is to read our Bibles and pray, but in the middle of the struggle, it can be hard to convince yourself to do so. Instead, especially early in recovery, the better solution may be to turn on the radio or pop in a movie—do something to give us a sensory replacement of watching porn without the sexual aspects.
There’s a biblical basis for this. Saul, the first king of Israel, suffered from literally demonic bouts of depression. When the then-unknown David came and played the lyre for the king, “Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (1 Samuel 16:23).
Music, it makes you feel good, makes you feel understood,
Songs and movies have helped me on my own journey. They have helped me name my emotions and needs; they have helped me weep when tears wouldn’t otherwise come. There have been seasons where I’ve put a particular song or album on repeat, because that particular music has helped me channel and interpret my circumstances. In some cases, the songs have reminded me that my own struggles aren’t unique.
Over the years, some favorites have made it onto mix CDs and playlists, often revolving around some form of life change. One such playlist centered around my rocky transition from grad school to the professional world; nearly all the songs included a theme of uncertainty and instability (such as Ben Folds’ “You Don’t Know Me”), but the CD ended with Switchfoot’s “This is Home” from the Prince Caspian soundtrack; every time I listened to it, it brought me on a musical journey from doubt and fear to faith and belonging—a journey that roughly mirrored my own, and led me to deeper trust in God.
The trick is to actually pay attention to the message of the music you listen to or the movies and TV shows you watch (you internalize them, even if you don’t actively listen to them). Then surround yourself primarily with the messages you want to hear. Let the music or the movies or the TV shows or the video games reflect your own self-doubt, yes; but let them lead you to a place of hope.
The Grace of God and the Porn Addict
Monday, August 10, 2015 | Written by Dave Jenkins
I remember when I was struggling with sexual sin in my own life and how it was all I could think about. I lived in a world where guilt and shame reigned supreme. Instead of living in God’s world, where there is forgiveness and grace, I lived in the opposite world.
I lived in a world of false repentance where I said I was “sorry” for my sin, but nothing ever changed. True repentanceis not only being sorrowful for your sin, it is also turning from sin to Jesus. Our Lord died in the place of sinners for their sin so they would put their sin to death.
Whether today you are struggling with a sexual addiction, or you’ve long since given up the addiction, there is hope. As Christians, we need to focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the One we need to look to instead of ourselves.
Good Shame. Bad Shame
Many pornography addicts, in my experience, live in a perpetual state of guilt and shame. Now, guilt and shame can be good when they lead to godliness; but they’re not good, however, when they are driven false guilt and shame. With godly guilt we see our need, whereas with false guilt we feel condemnation, which results in being introspective about our sin. Instead of forgiveness, false guilt promotes only despair. This is why true repentance is liberating and false repentance is enslaving. This is the cycle of the porn addict.
I remember going through this vicious cycle in my own life until, one day, as I sat in a church in the Seattle area in the early 2000s, listening to the pastor’s sermon and started to think only about my sin instead of Jesus. I started beating myself up again for screwing up once again earlier in the week. After a few minutes, I began to think of some questions about why I would continue to do this.
The Holy Spirit (who had been working on my heart in this area for quite a while) used those questions to reveal quite plainly to me what I knew in my head, but not in my heart. I was an idolater. I was attaching value and worth to something other than God. My identity was wrapped up in being addicted to porn. Instead of my worth and value being found in Christ, and fleeing idols as the Apostle John described at the end of 1 John 5:21, I had a full blown idol in my life.
As the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin and showed me the horror of my sin, He also showed me, once again, the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice for me. Jesus died a brutal bloody death for idolaters and adulterers, then rose again to give them new life.
Monitoring Your Affections
One of the questions I often ask those struggling with sexual sin is, “How are your affections towards God doing?” Recently, while having a conversation with another man, I asked him this question. He didn’t even have to answer the question, since I already knew the answer, although he didn’t. I let him finish telling me about his negligence, and then told him he was in the danger zone. He needed to be extra vigilant in his fight for purity because he was about to be tempted.
In seminary, I learned an acronym: H.A.L.T. It stands for Hunger, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. This means when I’m hungry, lonely, angry, or tired I’m more prone to be tempted to despair or be discouraged. In these moments, we must turn to Jesus and lean upon His strength.
As I continued talking with my friend, I instructed him to preach the gospel to himself until he believed it in his heart. He needed to have his affections warmed at the altar of God’s grace. He needed to preach to himself what Christ did for him. Often addicts only ever focus on the awfulness of their sin. They are so “sin-focused” that they never look to Christ for forgiveness and grace. The end result is always an overwhelming feeling of guilt, despite the fact that there is forgiveness and freedom available to sinners at the Cross. This is why false guilt always leads to condemnation. Paul says to Christians in Romans 8:1, “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” This means we shouldn’t want to live however we want, because when we do, we will come under divine discipline.
This means we need to look to Jesus at all times. He is utterly sufficient for all of our needs. Before Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about her sins, He told her about Himself(John 4). This Samaritan woman had no eyes to see or ears to hear what Jesus was saying to her. She had no idea the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords was right there before her.
You might not have eyes to see your sin right now, or the horror of it at this time. You might think that your pornography problem is just between you in the privacy of your own house. But there is an all-seeing God, who is with you in your room, looking over your shoulder as you look at that graphic video and image. He knows all of your deeds, He knows your heart, and He also knows what you need. His offer isn’t for you to live however you want, by your own standard of goodness—His offer is freedom. He died in your place, for your sin, so the eyes of your heart would be opened to the glories of Christ. The perfection of Christ is for this reason: Christ is the sinless Savior who we not only look to, but also live by. He empowers His people through the present ministry of the Holy Spirit to cling to Him. He convicts us of our sin and shows us our ongoing need for Himself.
The Gospel Overcomes Our Shame
How are your affections toward God today? Are they lukewarm or cold, my friend? Or are they white-hot? I encourage you to think about that question today. And, as you do, don’t wallow in your guilt and shame anymore. Instead, look up in the midst of your struggle. Don’t be like the prodigal son, stuck in the muck and mired of his own sin. Instead, be like the prodigal son as he ran to his father.
This is what God the Father desires for His wayward children—to come running to Himself. When they do come to Him, God the Father throws everything to the side, and comes running to them, ready to help them see their need for His Son. He adopts rebels through Christ’s blood, and makes them His sons and daughters. This is the good news; this is why you and I don’t need to be stuck in our false guilt and shame. Instead, we can look and cling to Christ. Christ is holiness personified and personalized. His death made possible holiness in our lives since He gave us each a new heart with new desires and affections. Preach that truth to yourself until you believe it, and then keep preaching it until your life is set ablaze by the Holy Spirit. Preach the gospel to yourself when you’re facing temptation. Preaching the gospel to yourself will help you to ward off the temptation to look at pornography. The gospel is the fuel by which we go in the Christian life. The gospel is the power of God to save, sanctify, and glorify His people.
The gospel is the only hope for your addiction. This is why you must hear Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in John 4 and find Jesus to be all-satisfying. As she stood before Jesus, little did this woman realize that she was being instructed by the King of Kings; but He alone offered her living water that would satisfy her soul. He offered her cleansing and healing from her broken past. Jesus’ offer is the same to you. Stop drinking from the wrong well, and start drinking from the Well of Life. Find in Jesus your satisfaction.
Instead of being sin-focused, start being Christ-focused. Put the focus of your thoughts, affections, and desires on Christ and His Word, then your addiction will fall away. You won’t continue to drink from the putrid water of sexual sin—instead, you’ll drink from the streams of Living Water in Jesus. Jesus will use you for His glory. He’ll use your testimony to help others that are as you once were—entangled in the lie of sexual sin. Turn to Him; stop saying you’re sorry to Jesus, and instead, turn from your sin. Look to Jesus, and focus on the grace of God. He is all you need and He loves you, even when you don’t deserve it. Take the first step toward healing and freedom, and—with true repentance—know the His gift of grace.