Taking Account of Accountability (In The Lust Battle)

When my friend Jeffrey’s multiple adulterous affairs were exposed, I asked him how I might help. He told me that what he really needed most was an accountability relationship. Something inside me sank.

Really? Your marriage is dangling by a thread, and you want accountability?

When I asked him what he had in mind, he told me he was hoping for someone who would check in with him regarding his “purity level.” A colleague had given him a list of accountability questions. Would I meet with him every week to review them?

Jeffrey desperately needed accountability. The tragedy is that, like many men today, his understanding of accountability was dreadfully inadequate. (more…)

She’s A Child of God, Not A Whore

For the past two weekends I’ve had the privilege of speaking at events for Anti Sex Trafficking ministries. At each of these events I’ve had the opportunity to meet women–and men, who were trafficked in the commercial sex industry.

What amazing, resilient human beings.

With each new introduction to someone who had been used commercially for sex, I was freshly reminded of the dignity Jesus gave to those who bore the shame or stigma of some type of sexual brokenness.

Whether it was the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, or his friend Mary Magdalene–a prostitute at one point–Jesus love, kindness, and friendship was transforming.

To Jesus, these women weren’t whores. They were persons. They were his daughters. They were his children. (more…)

STOP THE TRAFFIC, A Poem by Gerard Kelly

Lately, I’ve been reading a fair amount of poetry. Seamus Heaney, D.A. Carson, Wendell Berry, and others.

I find myself returning again and again to poems for spiritual nourishment. I like Eugene Peterson’s idea that when we read a poem, we don’t receive more information, we receive more experience.

I benefit, and we all benefit from more experience. It opens up the world, and allows us to experience what we’d otherwise miss.

One of my favorite poets is Gerard Kelly, whose book, Spoken Worship, is simply one of the best reads I’ve come across–poetry or prose. I first heard of Gerard through my friend Brian Newman, who pastored in Amsterdam for many years.

Kelly’s poem below is one of many that move me. The poem I want to share is about Human Sex Trafficking. (more…)

Why Porn Is A Symptom of a Deeper Issue

For nearly fourteen years I followed Jesus—clueless that my struggles with lust, masturbation, and porn were symptoms of  much deeper issues which explained why I couldn’t “just say no.”

Jesus taught that adultery and sexual immorality come out of the heart (Matt. 15:19). But what does this mean?

In his classic book Inside Out, Larry Crabb compares our inner world to an iceberg. The visible tip of the iceberg represents our behaviors, conscious thoughts, and feelings—things people see and feel. The iceberg mass below the waterline represents those things that cannot be readily identified. These include motives, purposes, and attitudes of the heart, as well as painful memories and hidden emotions.

It doesn’t take much to realize that a person can appear morally obedient, spiritually mature, and emotionally whole, yet below the waterline remain self-centered and immature. It is below the waterline, however, in the place of our inmost being, where the gospel is meant to transform us. (more…)

Your Brain On Porn: Part 1

If you were to ask a random man on the street to name his most important sex organ, the answer would be predictable. But sexual desire and arousal do not begin in the genitals. A man’s most important sex organ is his brain.

When changes occur in parts of the brain related to sex, it also changes the nature of our sexual desire and the ability to choose how to act upon it.

In the last decade, the field of neuroscience has exploded our understanding of the human brain. Recent discoveries have led us to understand that online pornography overstimulates the brain for at least four different reasons. I briefly describe each of these below.

Online porn overstimulates the brain by providing nearly constant novelty.

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. (more…)

Your Brain On Porn, Part 2

This post follows Your Brain On Porn, Part 1, where I discussed the four ways in which porn overstimulates the brain. In Part 2, I discuss how overstimulation leads to cravings, out of balance reward circuitry, and diminished capacity for satisfaction.

Every addiction occurs because the brain has adapted to being overstimulated—too much dopamine. As a result of porn use, three troublesome changes occur in the brain.

Overstimulation Leads to Cravings

Cravings occur when dopamine (the “I want it” neurotransmitter) is released. When more dopamine is released, a person experiences cravings.

Cravings usually lead to viewing more porn. Viewing more porn leads to more dopamine being released. More dopamine leads to viewing more porn. (more…)

The Demise of Guys

This morning I appeared on the 700 Club Interactive show to speak about my new book, Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, and how it relates to the enormously popular TED Video “The Demise of Guys” (based upon Philip Zimbardo’s book by the same name).

The premise of of Zimbardo’s book is that guys are” flaming out in school” and “wiping out with women” as a result of the twin arousal addictions of pornography and video games (arousal meaning autonomic nervous system arousal, not sexual arousal, although presumably sexual arousal would occur with porn).

According to Zimbardo, today’s male will graduate high school having logged an average of 10,000 hours of gaming time. That same male will see an average of 50 clips of porn per week.

The result, says Zimbardo, is that guys are distracted and disconnected. They are unable to relate to or perform with a real woman  (research supports that porn addiction can lead to erectile dysfunction in young men, and even teens), and they are increasingly awkward and shy in settings with the opposite sex. (more…)

Sexual Euphemisms Are Numbing

Every group or culture has their own set of code words, lingo, and group-speak. But sometimes I’m genuinely baffled by Christian euphemisms. This is especially true in relation to all things sexual.

When someone says that “Steve and Stacey are struggling with purity issues,” what they really mean is that Steve and Stacey are sleeping together.

When someone says “Ron is grappling with sexual integrity,” what is really being said is that Ron can’t stop masturbating to porn.

Most confounding of all is when someone says that “Pastor _____” is stepping down because of moral failure.”

Moral failure? Wouldn’t moral failure also include things like gluttony, out of control anger, people pleasing, being a workaholic, or just plain selfish? Wouldn’t moral failure include my own too frequent apathy toward social injustice? (more…)

A Plea to Women for Forgiveness

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a wonderful idea, until they have something to forgive.”  The same might be said of the idea of asking forgiveness. It is a wonderful idea. Until we have something for which we need to ask forgiveness.

Today, I am asking women around the world for forgiveness.

I’m not doing so in order to clear my conscience. I’m not doing it as a Fifth Step in a Twelve Step Recovery Program. And I’m not asking forgiveness as some kind of a publicity stunt. So why am I asking forgiveness?

In 1994 I began a journey of recovery from sexual addiction. Prior to this time I lied, manipulated, and used women to selfishly feed my compulsion. I consumed women in an “industry” where women are both precious commodity and raw material. From porn to prostitution, and most everything in between, the common behavioral denominator was an utter disregard for the dignity and personhood of the women before me. (more…)

What Exactly Is Life Changing?

This afternoon I dropped off my vacuum at the repair shop. Displayed rather prominently near the cashier was a vacuum that boasted to be “life changing.”

A vacuum that’s life changing. Really?

In the last few years I’ve heard people tell me their iPhone or iPad was life changing. I’ve heard others tell me that a vacation or a significant event was life changing. To be sure, we live in an age where hyperbole flows like milk at a dairy convention.

At Restoring the Soul we facilitate life changing moments. In fact, for almost ten years our mission statement has been to provide life changing soul care. But what exactly does it mean for something to be life changing? (more…)